We’re in the waning hours of the Trump Presidency, closing a tumultuous chapter of our country’s history. If you follow me on Twitter, you know that there’s no shortage of my opinions of Donald Trump. His (lack of) leadership and virtue has driven me out of the Republican party, rendering the conservative movement into a caricature of moral hypocrisy.
During the Trump era, I refrained from blogging much about him – partly because my blogging output isn’t what it used to be – but also in large part that I used Twitter as a release value for my political frustrations. I also felt that national politics weren’t as pertinent to our everyday lives, and would much rather debate local issues and policies that affect my community.
In our immediate family, we largely avoided political conversations. My daughters were 3 & 1 when Trump’s term began and throughout his Presidency we were careful to shield them from political discourse. We didn’t see any need to expose our kids to that level of tribalism and negativity. Rather than have to explain Trump’s immoral, incompetent, and unethical behavior, we just didn’t discuss him with our kids. It worked pretty well over the years, up until last fall.
Windsor is a largely conservative town, and with the election in full swing last fall, Clara started to notice all of the Trump flags and yard signs on our way to school. Combined with the second-grade social studies curriculum, she became aware that the election was coming and started to ask questions on the way to school.
“Dad, are you going to vote for Donald Trump?”
Oh crap. “No, I won’t be sweetie.”
“It seems like a lot of people are going to be voting for Donald Trump.”
“Yes, it looks like it.”
“Why won’t you vote for him?”
“Well, sweetie, Donald Trump is a bully. He does do a lot of things that people like, but he also likes to say mean things about people he doesn’t like, and treats those that don’t agree with him very poorly.”
“Do you like Joe Biden?”
“Yes. I might not agree with everything Joe Biden thinks, but I don’t think that he thinks people who don’t agree with him are bad. Sometimes people just have different ideas about what’s the best way to do things, and it’s okay to disagree.”
Since the election we’ve seen Trump’s darkest tendencies play out, perpetuating the lie that the election was stolen from him, culminating in the tragic events at the US Capitol. This has led to more conversations with my kids about the importance of accepting the truth and being gracious in the loss. I’m counting my blessings that I was able to still filter this conversation for my kids, and hope that they didn’t pick up on my own fear about this dangerous rhetoric.
I’m not naive enough to expect our politicians to be saints. I realize that every President says things that enrage and galvanize their political opponents, but the toxicity that has seeped into our political system is not sustainable. Trump’s unique superpower is his lack of shame. The ambition of most people is kept in check by their fear of being shamed for their behavior, but this never impacted Trump. Whether that makes him a unique figure or a harbinger of darker times in our nation, remains to be seen. For the sake of my children, I hope that it’s not the latter.