I watched Paul Ryan’s town hall on CNN this week for a number of reasons, not the least of which is my slight crush on the House Speaker.
Beyond that admittedly shallow fact, he is the most important Republican in the country, not simply because of his political clout, but also because of his mission: save the party of Lincoln from both the rogues attacking “the establishment” and the progressives who want to go all nuclear on the principles of personal responsibility, limited government and sobriety.
Listening to Ryan respond to questions from the audience, I had immense admiration for his ability to embody all that I wish the GOP still was, and all that I know the Democrats will never be again. Those things, in no particular order, are: earnest, accountable, visionary, critical-thinking, cognizant of history, respectful of tradition, compassionate, individualistic, unabashedly patriotic. His answers to questions about immigration, religious freedom, civil liberties, poverty and Donald Trump were masterful, particularly the response to a young Republican who criticized the speaker for endorsing the “bigoted” presumptive nominee.
Ryan said what I have been reduced to saying, namely that Trump will not harm the country as much as Hillary Clinton. He didn’t exactly say it in those terms, but his meaning was more than clear. Trump will not elevate us, but he will not destroy the foundations of the society we hope to salvage from the ruins of the Obama years. Clinton will continue the transformation, until conservatives no longer recognize the country, its institutions or our fellow citizens.
As we await the circus in Cleveland, replete with political strippers and con men and glittery prime-time shell games, filled with a Frankenstein platform that will please no one as it tries to appease pro-lifers and gay capitalists, I wonder what will happen to me if Trump is elected or, worse horror, Clinton ekes out a victory.
As a person who finds the rhetoric of the left repellent when it feeds me such things as “a woman should have the choice to control her own body, the one that sometimes happens to have an extra set of DNA – not to mention legs and arms – floating around in it,” I will never again be able to call myself a Democrat. Contrary to popular belief, I have officially have been a member of the GOP only since March 26 of this year, hoping to put John Kasich over the top in Pennsylvania (yeah, that worked). At 18, I registered in the party of Kennedy, and voted for . . . Carter.
But I have never been fully accepted by the Democrats, who not only embrace abortion as a right, but who also take our racial and cultural differences and use them to divide us for political gain. Believe me, they don’t want your election-year sympathy, you in the party of the president whose great failure is not presiding over immigration reform.
Yet it’s conservatives who don’t know a damn thing about immigration that are shamelessly exploiting the death of Kate Steinle, who was killed by an illegal immigrant in the sanctuary city of San Francisco.
Listening to Paul Ryan this week and recognizing the agony he is going through in having to support Trump and walk the fine line between the rhetoric of both parties, I had the crazy thought that maybe one day, I will be able to vote for him at the top of the ticket.
That is the party I could truly embrace, one that sees poverty as neither a badge of honor nor a sin, one that respects both unborn life and the lives of kindergartners staring down the barrel of unnecessary guns, one that doesn’t look at regulation as a blessing, or a curse, but a useful tool in moderation.
That is a dream worth clinging to, as the nightmares unfold this month, in Cleveland and in my own hometown of Philadelphia.
Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, and can be reached at [email protected]