BY: B. Keith Plunkett @Keithplunkett
A friend and I emailed back and forth a bit earlier in the week. He was from Mississippi originally, but no longer is here due to work elsewhere. Ironically, he and I got to know one another after he had left the state. He paid me a very friendly compliment on one of my policy commentaries a few years back and we began communicating regularly. He’s worked in and out of politics and done other non-profit work for years, much as I have. He’s very passionate about community and tradition and faith and family, much as I am. He’s someone who, for as long as I have known him, has always been level-headed and almost always been spot-on interpreting human behavior (it’s a field he’s worked in for a while).
I had confided in him how troubling it was to see otherwise good, small town Mississippi folks, people I considered to be salt-of-the-earth, seemingly so willing to walk off a cliff for an provably dishonest, bombastic and very UN-conservative candidate like Donald Trump, a guy who supports doing what we as constitutionally minded conservatives have for years spoken out against. I couldn’t understand how people so generationally connected to their faith and their land like here in Mississippi could fall so easily under the spell of a womanizing, self-promoting, clownish figure from New York, of all places.
Other times before I’ve asked for my friend to respond and happily received his opinion. His reply wasn’t as easy to digest this time.
When he sent me an email on Wednesday morning I was a little taken aback by what it said.
His response? “You’ve got to burst the bubble. Even if they are your friends and family, even if you’ve fought alongside them in the trenches before, you’ve got to give them some tough love and a taste of their own medicine. Hold up a mirror and show them how ugly they have become.”
So much of the advice he had given in situations before was just the opposite; “don’t get in the mud with them”, “don’t stoop to their level”; that kind of thing.
But, this time is different he said. “Before, you have dealt with people who were against you for who you were and what you stood to take from them. You were challenging their power with facts and evidence. They were fighting to keep power and money or to remain a member of ‘the elite club of special people’. Now, you’re up against people who once stood with you and have been tricked by a false prophet, a slick salesman; or people who have been enticed by shortcut opportunism to be a ‘winner’.”
“They aren’t engaged by right reason,” he told me. “They have been fooled into being the polar opposite. They’ve been enticed by being momentarily happy at the opportunity to set the whole house on fire. They are entranced by the flickering of the flames. They’ve bought into a worldly view that ‘might makes right’, and they think they’ve been given the power to create something new and innovative. It’s ethereal greatness. It doesn’t exist and it never has. It’s fantasy.”
And he added, “If you trust in what you know, and you have faith in what is real and what is right, you have to wake them up, and waking people up from a dream they want desperately to believe can be disappointing to them. People react emotionally to seeing their own ugliness reflected back.”
I didn’t share the exact message above with the rest of the Mississippi for Cruz Leadership Team. Instead I shared a message that he had forwarded from someone else regarding how they thought Senator Cruz should handle the debates Thursday night. But it was in the same vein, basically to hold up the mirror to Trump and his followers.
Anyone who has followed me on social media or read my articles over the years knows I love to discuss policy and data driven politics and how present realities fit within the long line of conservative wisdom. It’s a passion I have had for years when I decided a long time ago to get serious about understanding and communicating why I believe what I believe.
The problem is any communication of policy or proposals, the rule of law and the Constitution, or the Republican Party Platform and it’s conservative foundation with Trumpsters is almost exclusively met with ridiculously cartoonish meme’s and conspiracy theories about global governments and such. Reality and history does not apply. Few on the Trump train cared to have the serious discussions we need to be having.
My friends advice to act just as childish as I have seen so many others be was troubling to me. I’m always willing to be outspoken for the truth, especially when presented with a lie, and many take that as harsh. But to be insulting just for insults sake seemed–well it seemed to be doing the very thing that a principled conservative with a grasp on his belief system shouldn’t be doing–shouldn’t have to do. It felt like stooping to the level of Trump, which is exactly the advice I had been given.
I mulled it over for a couple of days, I consulted the Cruz MS Leadership Team to let them know where I was headed, and then on Friday morning via Facebook I stepped into the flame that is the Cult of Donald J. Trump with this:
The response was immediate. The first responder of the Trumpsters shared a bible verse (Matthew 5:22) about how I shouldn’t call others fools. Before long others were joining in with how I lacked ‘class’. Others described it as “how Cruz followers act”. I received pictures of myself painted with orange hair and described as foolish. All of this from Trump supporters without any sense of irony that the things they were now defensively accusing me of were exactly in response to what they and their leader have been doing to everyone else for months.
Of course, there were the broken records, the birthers, the ‘liar liar’s’, the stupid pictures of Trump with an eagle on his shoulder; all the same stuff we’ve come to expect from adults turned kindergarteners.
But, there was also opportunity. Once the disappointment had set in by some friends that I would lower myself to such a cheap stunt to insult others, it opened many of these same people up to a conversation, a real conversation about what we OUGHT to be talking about instead, and how we OUGHT to be treating one another instead. In a couple of instances it actually led to a conversation about policy proposals. I even got a private message from a few Trump supporters who apologized for their silliness and then talked about how much they had always been a big supporter of Ted Cruz and how excited they were when he announced his candidacy.
Two of them told me after these conversations, once they fully comprehended why I had acted so out of character, that they were leaning towards switching their support to Cruz.
One Trumpster ridiculously argued that 95% of Trump’s book ‘Art of the Deal’ provided a template for how the country should be run. I replied that the rule of law and the Constitution provided 100% of the template already.
Some ridiculously argued for MORE central government and reducing the autonomy of the states, to which I showed them the Tenth Amendment.
One actually wrote this: “Giving authority to the states is redundant.”
It’s not all based on right reason, nor is it based on current reality. It’s certainly not based on what Trump has said. But at least it was a conversation absent profanity-laced hyperbole.
So, to all my friends who I’ve yet to communicate to about this and who couldn’t possibly understand why, now you know. Sometimes you have to punch a bully in the nose. And sometimes the bully ends up deciding he’d rather be your friend. Even if he doesn’t, he may decide it’s better to have an honest discussion than a barroom brawl. Sometimes that conversation yields results. Sometimes it shows you’re not communicating with a person who understands anything about cause and effect and reality.
It turns out, my friend was right. Tough love can work. Holding up a mirror can be a good thing.
If you are truly a conservative Republican then you know that we are ALL for less government intrusion in our lives, more freedom to live by the sweat of our own labor, and more control in our own communities to do those things necessary to keep society vibrant and striving towards something greater. But, that requires a conversation and an engagement about the actual challenges we face, and what history has already shown us works and what doesn’t. It requires applying the test to some of the ideas espoused and coming to the realization that mankind has already made many of these same mistakes before. Finally, as painful as it may be, we must realize after these tough conversations that some of those who are being the loudest and most obnoxious in this campaign season aren’t conservatives, at all.
Conservative author Dwight Longenecker probably put it best when he recently wrote:
“We get the leaders we deserve. The presidential candidates are us. Are they corrupt, greedy and base? We are too. Do we shrug and yawn at their adulteries and not-so-secret affairs? We are open about ours. Do we dismiss their hidden violence, their cutthroat ways hiding and sliding behind their smooth exteriors? We do that. Do we admire their boasting about themselves and their roasting of their foes? We like that. Do we believe their strutting ways, their pious phrases, their self-righteous airs, and their lofty promises? We believe all the lies we tell ourselves.
“If we do not preserve what is best from the past we should not be surprised if the future is even worse. For the better part of the past half-century we have demolished and distorted the morality, the law, the principles, and the faith of our fathers.
“Now the past being abandoned and broken, the present is our curse.”
I whole-heartedly agree with him. Crashing the train won’t get it back on track. So, now that some of you are awake and talking, can we make this a conversation between adults?
Keith Plunkett is the Mississippi Co-Chairman of the Cruz 2016 Presidential Campaign. He lives in Flora, MS. with his wife and two sons.