I was privileged to spend this last weekend with several hundred regular readers of this site in Denver, Colorado at our annual RedState Gathering. The mood was decidedly different from any RedState Gathering I have ever been a part of – much more somber. Much more reflective. Even at our first RedState Gathering in 2009, when Obama and the Democrats held the Presidency as well as a Senate supermajority, the attendees felt hopeful and optimistic about the election.
At this Gathering, there was very little hope for a November win. Most attendees felt that even if Clinton loses, that doesn’t qualify as a win. So on the one hand, there were many people I met who were bewildered that an election could come to this. I met many people who were first time attendees and who found RedState this election year, despite having never said it before. They told me, with desperation in their eyes, that RedState has become their daily touchpoint for sanity. Much of the discussion dealt with the best ways to mitigate the damage the upcoming election is going to cause.
I also spent time and talked to a lot of people who were engaged in quiet self-reflection about how we can make sure nothing like this year’s debacle ever happens again. I saw Glenn Beck give a news conference and lament that he felt responsible for having created Trump by inadvertently ratcheting up voter anger too high. I heard many conservative speakers and panelists talk in shockingly frank ways about how our messaging has failed and some ideas need re-examination.
And yet, through all this, this weekend also brought me plenty of reasons to hope. At the RedState Gathering, I saw a few “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN” hats and a few Trump/Pence hats/shirts. Seeing them there made me glad and hopeful for the post-November future. Other than one very minor incident, tempers between Trump supporters and non-Trump supporters was completely nonexistent. Some speakers said from the stage that they were supporting Trump in the general, and some Trump supporters politely clapped. Other speakers said they would not, and the NeverTrump folks politely clapped. No one confronted me angrily (or, really, at all) about my refusal to support Trump and none of the pro-Trump speakers were heckled.
Doubtless, the wounds from this primary will run deep and some of them will never truly heal. And maybe that’s a good thing. Certainly, the more odious elements of the Trump coalition (like the charmingly racist “alt-right” movement in its entirety), but there remains a great bulk of Trump supporters with whom reconciliation will at least theoretically be possible. And if you care about any election beyond 2016, that’s a good thing.
I also have reason to hope because I saw panel after excellent panel of informed, substantive discussion about the future of the movement – and I saw an audience that was engaged and intent throughout. I saw crowds that were just as large and attentive as they were for our keynote speakers. I saw them line up and wait patiently to ask questions – questions which for the most part were informed and thoughtful and almost none of which were angry or accusatory.
I have hope because I learned that there still are people who care deeply about the principles of limited government, personal liberty, and constitutional restraints on government power. Those people have not been driven permanently underground by this election, and that’s a good thing. As long as the impulse lives on in America, it will continue to prevent our descent into fiscal and societal chaos at the hands of liberals.
And that’s why I have hope.