My John Edwards Moment: A way out for Trump supporters

(disclaimer: I am typing this all from memory for a reason.  I did not go back and look at the events as they unfolded.  It’s my memory of these events that is important, not what actually happened.  So if there are factual errors, timeline mistakes, or just flat out fantasies, I accept them sheepishly.)

As we roll into August and all of the candidates who will appear on the November ballot have been chosen by party convention, primary elections, or petition, we can get serious about what might actually happen.  No more “Clinton would beat Trump but not Kasich” or “Sanders would beat all of them” or “Cruz would lose to everyone except his mother”.  We know it’s going to be Clinton versus Trump and the stakes are as high as they have ever been in my lifetime.

As Trump continues to massacre American values each time he speaks, and as he continues to prove his unfitness for the job in his nationally televised statements regarding Russia, the Ukraine, Brexit, nuclear weapons, etc., many mainstream Republican voters are going to have to find a way to graciously bail on the president’s race and spend their time and resources on other spots on the ballot.  But it’s very hard to admit you were wrong about a candidate.  Once you’ve spent the time engaged in the process and you have sincerely settled on someone, admitting you were wrong is a difficult social exercise.

During the just completed Republican race for the nomination, I watched as friends (some of whom have unfriended me) went on Facebook to profess their love for Paul, Carson, Fiorina (yup, really), Cruz, etc. in a bewildering succession of self-deprecating pronouncements.  It was great sport for me to point out the confusion caused by watching someone’s political acumen going up in flames as candidate after candidate exited the clown car for the last time.   It had to be tough.

But now they are left with Trump, who while certainly not the worst of the GOP hopefuls, is definitely the most unprepared and disliked major party candidate in history.  (You can look it up.)   A few of my GOP friends have publically announced that they will not support Trump.  This is the brave thing to do, but it leaves them with not much to say on the presidential race.  I don’t see them voting for Clinton, though as I have written earlier, she might be the most solid Republican to run for President in a very long time.

But I digress.

I, too, had to admit my mistake in latching on to a candidate from whom I had to back down as the campaign progressed.  I call it my “John Edwards Moment.”  In 2008, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards emerged as the leading contenders for the Democratic nomination.  Each had won a primary or two and of the three of them, I was a relatively enthusiastic supporter of Edwards.

It wasn’t just that I felt Barack Obama was jumping the gun on his run for the White House.  He was an impressive young man with ideals that appealed to me.  His story was remarkable, and he seemed unfazed by the step he was about to take.   I saw him as a great candidate for 2016 when he would have made his mark in the Senate and built the coalitions he needed to succeed; and as Americans we’d be eight more years removed from the Civil War and the idea of allowing a man of color to lead us would be less reprehensible.

It wasn’t just that I was angry with Hillary Clinton and with Bill Clinton. While most of my Democratic friends were in awe of Bill, I blamed him for allowing his presidency to go up in flames because he simply couldn’t stand in front of the country and say, “Yes, I let that woman, Monica Lewinski, give me a hummer in the Oval Office.  It was disrespectful to the office, and I am deeply sorry.  I will work very hard to erase the stain of that incident if you would just please forgive me.”

Boom.  It would have been over.  But he dragged our country into years of hearings, an impeachment, and he wasted some great opportunities to save our country from the scourges of the Reagan administration.  He also so pissed off Al Gore, that Gore refused to ask for Clinton’s help in the 2000 election.   Most people look at Florida as the state that turned the election.  I look at Arkansas.  It is not beyond the scope of reason that Bill Clinton could have carried his home state if he was allowed to try.  That would have been enough to secure the election for Gore and our world would not have had to suffer the consequences of the George W. Bush years.

I saw Hillary Clinton as being complicit in Bill’s decisions to not own up to his misdeeds.  Right or wrong, I blamed her as much for GWB as Bill himself.

But beyond my reservations for Obama and my disdain for Clinton, I really liked a lot of what John Edwards said, and more importantly, how he said it.  Leadership in the United States is a lot of things, but if it’s going to be leadership that is truly progressive, the leader must be charismatic. Edwards was youthful, good looking, articulate, and had enough of a southern drawl to be less of a threat to those south of the Mason-Dixon.

Heading into Super Tuesday that year, it seemed that Edwards was about to sweep through the South and grab the momentum on his way to the nomination and the Presidency.  But he dropped out.  Looking to many as the odds-on favorite to be the nominee, he simply dropped out of the race.  It made no sense to me (and I imagine millions of others.)

It didn’t take long, of course, to find out that Edwards’ public persona masked a pretty heartless man.  His affairs and the treatment of his mistress(es?) and his wife were downright shameful.  Like Gary Hart before him, Edwards disgraced the message he had sold to many people like me who saw a real shot at effective change.  His inability to be faithful to his wife was not the issue.  His horrendous dealings with his infidelities, like Hart and Clinton, made him unfit to serve.

I took a lot of guff from friends about Edwards; as well I should have.   I had hitched my horse to an asshole.

So that was my John Edwards Moment.  It was painful, and it was the cause of a lot of self-examination.  But in the end I did what a critically thinking voter has to do.  I unhitched my horse from the asshole, and found a better person in whom to put my faith.

Here we are in 2016, and I invite everyone thinking of voting for Donald Trump to have such a moment.  You know Donald Trump is a deeply flawed candidate in too many ways to list here. Unhitch your horse from the asshole and find a better way to spend your emotional and intellectual energy.  I promise I won’t say a word.


2 Comments on “My John Edwards Moment: A way out for Trump supporters”

  1. Marcia Pontoni August 4, 2016 at 2:27 pm #

    Another gem!


    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Erica Herd August 4, 2016 at 2:27 pm #

    I, too, was very impressed by John Edwards. What a shock that he turned out to be such an asshole.

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