For many conservatives, this election has been a Pyrrhic victory. Reading the publisher’s letter by Joel Alicea ’10 after Obama ascended to the Oval Office in 2008, I was struck by some of the lines he used in his article in reference to Obama that refer equally well to our current situation. See below for a select few:
“As we wage war against a ruthless and determined enemy in two theatres and face the most consequential foreign policy decisions since the end of the Cold War, the Commander-in-Chief is to be a man whose statements on these issues are dangerously naïve and foolhardy, a man no person could reasonably claim has the experience to handle such challenges.”
“Conservatives were willing to handcuff themselves and their party to a man who few of them felt represented their values in an effort to keep a far more menacing candidate out of the White House.”
“At the same time, we must reflect on how the party has gone astray and how to retake it for the cause of conservatism, and we must admit the costly mistakes and delusions that led us to this point. The time for sulking is over. Now is the time to rebuild.”
Donald J. Trump has spoken to an audience that many Princetonians, even conservative Princetonians, are not really a part of. The working-class voters of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin turned out for Trump in a movement that turned some of the states red for the first time in decades.
For both liberal and conservative Princeton students alike, the time is now for us to engage with ideas, some of which we will inevitably disagree with. Yet we ought also recall well that Trump was not the only victor on election night; many other influential conservatives such as Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, and John McCain will be shaping the GOP from their respective offices over President-elect Trump’s first term.
But as Alicea wrote eight years ago, despite our many misgivings about the results of the presidential election, we are bound to respect the democratic process of the country by which it has come. H. L. Mencken once wrote that “as democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people.” Though he believed this would lead the White House to “be adorned by a downright moron,” so long as we have democracy, we have the responsibility to shape our own individual souls and those of the people around us toward virtuous ends. May we remember that the next time we vote, and certainly for the next four years.