When Donald Trump said it’s time for us to “put America First,” I don’t think he ever expected for me to agree with him. But, on this point, Donald Trump is absolutely correct ― just not for the reason that he could comprehend. It’s time we put America first and allegiance to party somewhere right above astrological sign. More damage has been done to the Republic because of party affiliation than any piece of legislation in history.
Party affiliations have caused Republicans to attack Obamacare like rabid dogs, instead of acknowledging all of the positives that have come out of its enactment or attempting to fix its shortcomings. Party affiliation has caused Republicans to shamefully defend the words and actions of Donald Trump when it’s clear that they disagree. Party affiliations have left one-time respectable politicians like Paul Ryan and Chris Christie morally twisted like pretzels, afraid to be the voice of dissent in a reprehensible administration. Yet, they somehow have the gall to repeat the phrase “put America first.”
Blind obligation to party over country is not sustainable and antithetical to everything the framers intended. This is why in 1796, in his farewell address, George Washington said of political parties:
[T]hey are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.
What we are currently watching is the political unraveling that Washington warned us about. What we are enduring is a direct result of the over politicization of governing. Politicians are public servants, it says so in the word itself. The word “politicians” comes from the Greek word “politikos,” meaning, “of, for, or relating to citizens.” The role of politicians is to put America first; to serve. It is not to become subservient to poll numbers or the daily ebb and flow of electability. Ensuring that Americans have access to healthcare, clean water, and a good education shouldn’t be a political football tossed around as if innocent lives don’t suffer when the ball gets dropped. Unfortunately, that’s exactly where we are.
The political courage that this nation so desperately needs is nowhere to be found. Instead of putting America first, Paul Ryan flippantly dodges reporters’ questions about Donald Trump’s religious/immigration ban. Instead of putting America first, Sean Spicer walks into the White House, the peoples’ house, and unapologetically lies to the American people. Instead of putting America first, Reince Priebus repeatedly attacks the media by labeling it “fake news,” while engaging in a misinformation campaign of his own.
What’s most ironic about the phrase “put America first,” is the fact that the people using it are single-handedly ensuring long-term damage to America. There is nothing patriotic or American about restricting immigrants fleeing persecution, solely on a religious basis. There is nothing patriotic or American about demonizing an entire group of people and stoking the fears of xenophobia and racism. There is nothing patriotic about dividing Americans along the lines of race, income, and geographic location.
I’ve witnessed Americans from all walks of life dedicate themselves to the betterment of society, for little to no money or praise, actually “putting America first.” The Republican Party should be careful who they get into bed with, because not every sickness can be cured overnight. There will be a cost for embracing Donald Trump and the snake oil that he sells, and only time will tell what that cost is.
What we can be sure of, is that failing to speak up or speak out will not be forgotten by Americans, and certainly won’t be forgotten by history. Time has a way of shining light onto darkness and exposing even the most uncomfortable truths. Those who have been entrusted with great power only to use it for personal gain are not immune from father time. By defending Donald Trump and legitimizing his disgusting behavior, Republicans are complicit in his destruction of accepted norms. By turning a blind eye and staying silent, while authoritarianism becomes an American reality, Donald Trump supporters are accessories to the dissolution of American decency and exceptionalism.
Our current climate is what the Republican demi-god Ronald Reagan was talking about when he said:
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
Over party, over geography, and over all of our petty differences, America must always come first. It’s how the Framers intended and the only way our country will endure. On that, Donald Trump and I can agree―just not for the reasons he could comprehend.