Trump and his voters should stop talking down America. Even Joe Biden can’t ruin it that fast

·4 min read

To hear Republicans say it, America is facing a dystopian future, an apocalypse-now moment that rivals a Hollywood blockbuster.

At CPAC, the hard-core conservative gathering held last week in Dallas, a lot of rhetoric was filled with doom and gloom catchphrases and came from anxiety-ridden panel discussions. And much of it drew applause.

What happened to the kind of conservatism that said America is great regardless of who holds office?

The Conservative Political Action Conference is admittedly not a microcosm of the entire GOP but rather a small percentage of highly active politicos. And yet the rhetoric was decidedly depressing. Sure, a woman blasted out “God Bless America” and there were plenty of cowboy hats emblazoned with the words “Trump Won,” in happy pinks and reds, but many panel members and politicians bemoaned the state of the union before selling former President Donald Trump as the only savior.

Former President Donald Trump reacts as he leaves after delivering the final remarks during Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022. (Shafkat Anowar/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
Former President Donald Trump reacts as he leaves after delivering the final remarks during Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022. (Shafkat Anowar/The Dallas Morning News via AP)

It’s hard to tell what was more depressing, that the crowd sounded bummed despite a superficial show of pomp, or that they thought Trump would be the best fit for the party and country yet again.

On Saturday, Trump said he was “always being persecuted.” On Friday, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene claimed she was the most hated person in Congress. On Thursday, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said America desperately needed healing, comparing her to the Israelites during Solomon’s time.

Far-right conspiracy theories were whispered from Steve Bannon’s “War Room” TV podcast and from panelists on stage, along with references to communism and fascism as if President Joe Biden were a vicious dictator rather than the guy who fell off his bike standing still. Trust me, if the US Democrats were actual fascists, nobody would be sporting a hat labeled “Fire Pelosi, Save America.”

To be sure, the Biden administration is struggling, and one way to amp up enthusiasm in the out-of-power party is to point that out. The president’s approval ratings have tanked. His domestic policies, from gas prices and inflation to COVID response and monkeypox, are a mess. Foreign policy is no better.

Even for a Democrat, Biden is doing worse than Democrats hoped. When you lose your own party, you’re not doing well.

But Republicans weren’t just attacking Democrats’ policies to showcase the fruits of conservative ideals. They suggested that America is approaching worthlessness and directionless because her leader is doing a poor job. Since when is that the case? America is not simply a reflection of the commander in chief, no matter how poor the economy is doing.

A Democrat has been in power two years, folks — relax.

America is an idea and not a fickle one. It’s built on complex concepts no other country on earth had previously tried. Like anyone in life, the country too goes through seasons of success and struggle. We’re on the struggle bus now — but we won’t remain here.

It’s unwise for Republicans to bemoan the state of the union constantly to flip votes. Conservatives have struggled the last few decades to give their ideas broad appeal. Make Conservatism Sexy Again isn’t exactly MAGA.

Personal responsibility, limited government, lower taxes and a robust free market economy are ideas America was founded upon. She functions best when governed by those policies.

Both sides do this of course, primarily because as a fundraising mechanism, fear is a powerful tool. The bases of both parties have convinced their peers the opposing political view is evil and dangerous. The right thinks Democrats have turned America into a communist hellhole in two years and before that, the left was convinced America had become a racist, sexist, walking MAGA ad.

Liberal policies hurt the country, and Biden’s tenure is a great example. But that doesn’t mean Republicans’ message should be full of doom. Republicans aren’t being persecuted; they’re just not in power. Big difference.

It’s easy in a 240-character Twitter universe to label some ideas as a path toward socialism, but we’re nowhere near Stalin’s Soviet Union and to say so — or to say the Jan. 6 hearings are akin to his show trials — is bizarrely somber rhetoric unfit for this “shining city on a hill.”

Likewise, America doesn’t need “saving,” and if it did, Trump would hardly be the best candidate for such a task. What she needs are common sense conservatives to get her back on track. America is far from perfect. Biden’s policies are hurting. But can Republicans stop sounding like Eeyore?

Living in America is a privilege and a gift. Part of why a lot of conservatives didn’t like the MAGA slogan at all is that they didn’t think America needed to be made great again by a crybaby who can’t lose with grace. America was — and remains — great. It’s why so many people are fighting for her so hard.