I voted for the very first time this year. I looked down at my ballot, read my selection of "Donald J. Trump" for president, and felt certain I was voting for the person who would best represent my views and values as a conservative. Despite some apprehension, I was elated.
But something in me shifted on election night. I wanted Trump to win, but I'd begun approaching the whole thing with a sense of pessimism. I'd always believed that if I made a definite proclamation about something, I'd look the fool somewhere down the line if I was wrong. So, I maintained quiet hope that Trump would pull through, but sensed more than anything that Biden might steal a win.
That grim possibility has started to look more and more likely as the hours drag by. States continue to make impossible and gut-wrenching calls about how they will count ballots, and truthfully, I never thought I'd be the kind of person to put so much stock into an election.
But this time is different. And somehow, being a conservative in today's increasingly progressive world feels worryingly isolating without a man like Trump standing out in front to shield us from the barrage of hatred so often hurled at people on the right.
I say this not seeking pity for us, but rather to honestly describe the state of politics— the polarizing division that has only grown over the last few decades, pushed forward by an increasingly biased mainstream media, radical politicians and a devastatingly liberal education system indoctrinated with identity politics.
But on a cusp of a potential Biden presidency, an important question— and an important answer— remains for me: what happens when there is no more Donald J. Trump and Make America Great Again?
I'd argue that, for many of us, MAGA provided a home for an entire political movement that didn't feel accepted anywhere. That, like a wounded animal, had been relentlessly browbeaten and pushed aside.
The educational system, over the past several decades, has been swallowed up by authoritarian, liberal agendas. Where once open discussion was encouraged, conservative students are now alienated by the 'sit down and shut up' mentality that runs rife in the academy. The mainstream media, too, continues to mount a significant assault on language and universal truths, repackaging subjectivity as objectivity to sell "news." This signaled the death of not only accuracy, fair reporting and truth-telling as core tenets of journalism, but marked the frontline in a new war against freedom and the western way of life.
In only the last few years, racist anti-white rhetoric has exploded. White people are continually demonized as the single barrier to social progress— the one group brazenly keeping down minorities. Men, similarly caught up in the throes of an increasingly gynocentric society, have been taught to hate the very qualities that often define them as men - taught to reject and abhor these things about themselves. Seemingly, the only path to redemption for the sins of their entire sex is paved with self-loathing.
Donald Trump allowed us to feel like maybe we weren't crazy for rejecting this blatant attack on our values. That restoring the deep, patriotic love for the United States was not out of the question. Suddenly, we were able to come together, regardless of age, race, sex or creed— and share in the fact that maybe, for the first time in a long time, someone was out there fighting for us.
But as we near the conclusion of the 2020 election, conservatives have one crucial thing to realize:
It's no longer about Trump. And we don't need to hang all our hopes and the preservation of our values and freedoms on the shoulders of one man. Not only is that unfair to him, but it is unrealistic.
Trump and his message gave us the ability to not only find one another and to build a community, but to find a sense of self again in our values— and in turn, he gave us strength to fight for them.
In watching Donald Trump endure years of relentless attacks— against him as a person, his family, his businesses and importantly, his integrity— it gave me, like so many others, the drive to stand against attacks in my own personal life, at work and university. It taught many on the right that we can and should stand against the bullying and mobbing that is so common in today's political battleground.
Trump and the MAGA movement was only ever temporary. But the fight for our values— the fight against misandry, racism, and regressive radicalism— is ongoing and will continue long after Trump leaves office.
The ideas shared by those of us on the right wing transcend immutable characteristics like skin colour or sex. The strength of Trump's message and leadership demonstrated that, much as identity politics has a hand firmly clasped around the throat of the issue. This movement reminded people that they aren't slaves bought and paid for by one particular ideology. MAGA showed us that what connects us politically can also connect us as people, and no president—on the left or right— can ever take that from us.
The heart and soul of not only America, but the Western World, depends not on who represents us in office. But whether or not we're prepared to fight like hell for what matters to us most. The last four years equipped us. Now it's time to fight on our own.
No matter the election outcome, there is a simple pleasure in knowing we will press on, armed now with the artillery to fight back and most importantly, carve out a world in which conservatism stands a fighting chance. And for that, we have Donald J. Trump to thank.