Getting hit in the face with a hammer has a few unexpected benefits. It’s a great story. You could use worker’s comp to live on pizza and Netflix binges while your injury heals. It’s also highly symbolic if you despise all forms of Marxism. The people’s tool injuring one of their own is just too good of an economic analogy to pass up.
Getting hit in the face with a hammer also has a number of expected negatives. You might forget some things. It hurts. It may disfigure you. You may regret getting hit in the face with a hammer and ardently wish you could change that one event in your life.
The 2016 election could be seen as a choice between two hammers. One is a sledgehammer that will crush your visage into a pug-ish disaster. The other is a ball peen hammer that won’t so much flatten your beloved facial features as slowly deform them. Sure, the sledgehammer presidency provides great entertainment and maybe even a sadistic pleasure as someone finally calls the stuck-up Washington lawyers a mean name. The most surprising pro of a sledgehammer presidency, however, is that it finally shows us a clear vision of what the American electorate likes.
On second thought, maybe that’s a con.
If you haven’t guessed, Donald Trump is the sledgehammer. His personality, his chosen profession, and his message are things of brute force. He’s like a political berserker, wildly swinging the axe, which many (his nomination suggests most) conservatives have been grinding for the past eight years. Yet, let’s step beyond Mr. Trump’s wild rhetoric. While Donald is ducking his latest political foul, or fowl, we can get a surprising amount of sanity out of the silence. We might begin to ask the question, how did we get here?
You might start answering that question with the way we entertain ourselves. Take Deadpool for instance. It’s very violent and very vulgar. Almost all of our comedy movies are. We love a good UFC fight, watching two men beat each other until one has been knocked unconscious, bleeding from his forehead on the ground. Our Facebook posts and tweets are full of sarcastic derision, calling those we disagree with names we wouldn’t dare say around our mothers. Our celebrity roasts are an evidence of our cruelty. We enjoy watching a room full of people insult and devalue another human being while we make school campaigns against bullying.
Therein lies the problem. We have an appetite for domination, for putting people in their place, and for forcing our own agendas. So, his Sledgehammerness rises to power, and it shouldn’t surprise us that Donald Trump has become the Republican Nominee. He’s the culmination of our power-driven, wealth-driven, and ego-driven culture.
Yet the conservative movement has a hypocritical relationship with authoritarian leaders. President Obama is called a tyrant because of how he’s used executive orders. Yet Trump has cast an equally authoritarian vision, promising to deport thousands of immigrants, force Mexico to pay for a border wall through coercive use of the patriot act and tariffs, and generally make Congress “do things.” All these promises are followed by an assuring, “believe me, they will do it,” and a few sideways hand gestures. I can’t see any significant difference in the two ways of acting, except that Obama is patently liberal and Trump patently conservative.
It’s easy to bash Trump, but he isn’t wrong on everything. I find the litigation against Christian companies for refusing to provide abortions in their healthcare plans disturbing. I also find it unsettling that Christian-owned businesses could be forced to pay exorbitant sums of money for refusing to participate in LGBT weddings, which go against their deeply held religious beliefs.
Trump does have a fair point on the fact that we have made disastrous deals with belligerent nations like Iran. The conservative movement saw the Iranian Nuke Deal as a bad idea and a deal which I think we’ll soon regret making.
Then there is the question of the Supreme Court. Doubtless if Hilary Clinton is elected, she will elect more left-leaning judges who will issue decisions contrary to the conservative ethic. Donald Trump could keep the court balanced.
These few areas of agreement, however, don’t negate the constant stream of ignorance and vitriol that have come from Trump’s mouth. There’s a very good reason that Republican leadership has received Trump like he had a contractible disease.
It’s a conundrum that the American right now has to deal with. Do we elect the most undisciplined, distasteful man to ever seize the Republican nomination and risk giving a fickle, immature adult the command of our nation’s armed forces? The only alternative seems to be a woman who advocates a number of positions that are in direct opposition to conservative principles (a number of which are social issues).
The conservative movement’s insistence on taking harder and harder stances has in a large way created this dilemma. How could we get anywhere else when any cooperation with the Democratic Party is seen as heresy? The simple fact is that we conservatives have stopped listening a long time ago. In our anger with the corruption we see in government, we’ve closed our eyes and ears to the perspectives of our fellow Americans. We’ve shut down the government, filibustered, and shouted most bipartisan efforts to death. In an attempt to find integrity, we’ve instead found an insane loyalty to an ideology that can’t and won’t fix the multifaceted issues that our nation faces. We aren’t the only ones to blame, but we conservatives need to take a deep breath, lower our fists, and start listening. Maybe a sledgehammer to our collective political faces will force us to peek out of our foxholes and start a genuine, open conversation about how to heal our hurting nation.