Jim Merrill: Country over Party
By Jim Merrill | February 11, 2021
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- Jan 8, 2021
IT IS HARD to be heartbroken and infuriated all at once.
As a conservative Republican who has tried to be balanced concerning President Donald Trump, the recent events in Washington, D.C. that saw a violent mob occupy and damage the Capitol building are heartbreaking and infuriating.
I wrote an op-ed after the 2016 election encouraging people to give Trump a chance. I did so because even though our choices in that election were far from ideal, he was elected president and for the good of our republic he had earned the right to be given an opportunity to succeed.
I am not writing about what the president has done with his opportunity during these past four years. Some of what he has done on policy I have supported. Other policy decisions I have found fault with. And always, his demonstrated lack of personal character coupled with his clear autocratic tendencies have troubled me.
And so we come to the outrageous events of Wednesday, the result of nearly two months of baseless and inflammatory accusations of a stolen and rigged election.
Baseless accusations that recount after recount have proven false. Baseless accusations that have been rejected by dozens of state and federal courts, including judges appointed by President Trump.
Baseless accusations that the president’s own Attorney General Bill Barr, Republican governors, legislators and officeholders have found lacking and without merit.
Baseless accusations that Republican Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz — self-described “constitutional attorneys” scrambling for a seat at the 2024 primary table — have shamelessly used to justify Congress ignoring the U.S. Constitution and nullifying the certified electoral votes of individual states.
I realize some truly believe the election was stolen from President Trump. We will have to simply agree to disagree. I have consulted GOP campaigns for many years. I have helped run legal operations in campaign war rooms, been a polling place observer and worked recounts. Does fraud exist? Absolutely. More than most Democrats acknowledge, but less than many Republicans believe. There is simply no credible evidence of a multi-state voter fraud conspiracy to thwart President Trump, which of course would have occurred at the same time other Republicans on the very same ballots were winning across the country. Politicians telling you to “Stop the Steal” are not being honest, content to prey on your fears and your wallet.
It would be easier to remain quiet, because speaking up in this highly-charged environment invites disproportionate attacks in response. I have friends who strongly support President Trump for many reasons, and I do not write this to hurt or offend them. I have explained to my friends who are Democrats how offensive and myopic it is when the media and others use a broad brush to negatively define Trump supporters. It is part of the problem created by social media in recent years — too many of us live in bubbles where we only hear what we want to hear, rather than challenging our preconceived notions about people or policy.
It is easier to remain quiet, but I cannot because the inflammatory words of a Republican president of the United States led to this shameful and dangerous moment in our country’s history. Character is destiny. Over the past two months, President Trump has provided the kindling, lit the match and stoked the fire leading to a violent mob taking over the U.S. Capitol, disrupting an essential constitutional process and shaking the foundations of our republic, all because he cannot accept the simple fact that Joe Biden won and he lost.
He does not speak for this conservative. Joe Biden is our president-elect, and he will be our next president on January 20th. I do not agree with Biden on most policy issues and I expect I will work on behalf of a Republican candidate for president seeking to replace him in the lead up to 2024.
But in the meantime, too many people spend too much energy hating or distrusting one side or the other. How about working together? What about finding common purpose? Stay true to your principles. Exercise your First Amendment rights. Organize and fight for what you believe in. But never at the expense of our shared values. Violence — either by the left or right, wherever it occurs — is an attack on every one of us, the values embodied in our constitution and the country we love.
Jim Merrill is an attorney, government and public affairs strategist and longtime Republican consultant who has advised the presidential campaigns of George W. Bush, Mitt Romney and Marco Rubio. He lives in Manchester.