Editor’s Note: Quin Hillyer is a senior commentary writer for the Washington Examiner. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion at CNN.
You probably don’t know me, but a number of your aides and close supporters have known me personally for decades as a Republican ally.
As an original “NeverTrumper” cited numerous times by major media for opposing you during the 2016 primary season, I may not be somebody you even care to know. But let me introduce myself anyway. Maybe you, in return, can reintroduce yourself to the American public as someone with some empathy, someone not always in attack mode, someone interested in unity rather than division.
I introduce myself not to hold myself up as a paragon, but to provide one example to humanize those you call scum. Others whom I know or have known as NeverTrumpers include some of the finest human beings anyone will ever meet – thoughtful, faithful, patriotic and generous.
As for me, I’ve been a fierce critic of yours. But I have gone out of my way, numerous times to try to find things for which to praise you and your team, sometimes as one of the few people at a major publication to do so. I’ve also insisted repeatedly that House Democrats owe you a fair and transparent impeachment process, and that they have not been providing one.
I learned the importance of fair process and finding good in others from my late father, a pioneer in the conservative movement beginning some 60 years ago. He was at the famous Sharon Conference at the Buckley family estate in 1960, was a key Reagan chairman in Louisiana, a 25-year member of the Republican State Central Committee there, and the state’s Republican National Committeeman for more than four years. He was president of the New Orleans Bar Association, and a noted local spokesman on legal ethics.
I was a Reagan White House appointee to the Veterans Administration, a Louisiana Young Republican state chairman, at least a semi-prominent leader in the effort to block neo-Nazi David Duke’s rapid political rise in 1989-91, a leadership staffer during the “Gingrich Revolution,” and I have been a conservative columnist in good stead for more than 20 years.
In sum, for two generations the Hillyers have worked in the trenches for the things your conservative allies value most. Meanwhile, as I’m sure many other original NeverTrumpers have, I also have spent my whole adult life deeply involved in volunteering for church, charity, civic organizations, and community projects. When I believe in certain principles, I act sincerely on those beliefs. Likewise, when I write as a columnist opposing your behaviors, your violations of small-’r’ republican norms, or your policy stances on spending, trade, foreign affairs, ethics, or expanded executive authority, I try to call on those wells of conservatism and community, and to build my contentions on verifiable facts.
And, again, I’d truly rather be praising my president, which is why I try so hard to do so despite my distaste for most of your style and substance. Likewise, I try repeatedly to find common ground with those on the left side of the political aisle – eagerly hoping that good will combined with American commonalities can unite us all in a sense of shared purpose.
I certainly have flaws, but I know I’m not scum. I don’t think very highly of you, Mr. President, but I don’t think you’re human scum, either.
More than that, I hear in my memory the voices of fellow NeverTrumpers on lengthy phone calls in 2016, voices of people who also have spent decades working honorably and avidly for conservative policies and solutions. They were voices of people motivated not by personal gain (I know not a single one who profited from opposing you) but by love of country and real concern that your brand of politics represents a perilous path for the America they treasure.
You may resent that they still feel that way about you – but you must admit you invite, indeed provoke, such reactions. You do it aggressively. You hurl insults almost indiscriminately, attack when you could be welcoming new allies, divide even when there’s no need to conquer. If you stop doing those things, then these good, kind people who are neither dangerous nor scum might draw on their own wells of experience and grace, and enlist with you in some common cause.
I assume those other NeverTrumpers feel as I do that your generic insult is not occasion for strong offense or even hurt feelings. What’s painful is not that you said it about us, but that any president besmirched the office we revere as the symbol of a great and good nation, by saying any such thing about fellow Americans merely for exercising their rights as citizens. It grieves us to see the presidency abased.
Get our free weekly newsletter
So, now that you know me a little, and know my testaments to the fine character of other NeverTrumpers, perhaps you can give us reason to know you as someone other than the man who belittles POWs, insults the looks of adversaries’ wives, sics foreign governments on your political opponents, and urges your followers to beat up peaceful protesters.
Introduce us – all of America – to a new Donald Trump. One who can provide some disinfectant for this nation’s once-cherished civic realm.