Each of us wants to believe that if we were tested in some fundamental way when the chips were down — morally, spiritually, or physically — that we would pass the test.
But we do not really expect to be tested. That sort of thing only happens to people we see on television and read about in books, heroes and such. And if we were tested, surely we would know it. How could a literal moment of truth in our lives go unnoticed?
The answer is Normalcy Bias. That’s the sense that this day, this problem, or, in the instant case, this election is pretty much like any other, different only in degree, not in kind, that everything will be alright, notwithstanding overwhelming evidence to the contrary, because everything has always been alright before.
We analyze, rationalize, and temporize until we fail the test by not taking it.
Make no mistake, we Republicans stand on the threshold of a fundamental moral test in the 2016 presidential election, a challenge so serious as to be existential. As Ronald Reagan said in 1964, it is a time for choosing, and the choice, while clear, is one Reagan could never have imagined.
Hillary Clinton on the one hand; Donald Trump on the other. Scylla and Charybdis. The Devil and the deep blue sea. Or so it would appear.
But appearances deceive. Hillary Clinton is in the minds of many conservatives an ethically challenged liberal, hatred of whom has become a reflexive part of Republican liturgy. But as flawed as she may be, she is different only in degree from past presidential candidates. She is business as usual concealed by a little progressive smoke here and a few populist mirrors there.
Donald Tump, on the other hand, is different in kind, and dangerously so.
On a personal level, Trump is a boor, a bully, a carnival barker, and an embarrassment. Politically, by intent or instinct, he is a neo-fascist — a nativist, an ultranationalist, a racist, a misogynist, an anti-intellectual, a demagogue, and a palingenetic (sorry) authoritarian to whom clings the odor of the political violence he encourages.
He appeals to our fears, preys on our anxieties, and exploits our ignorance. A worse candidate to sit in the Oval Office for the next four years cannot be imagined.
And he is our responsibility. We spawned Donald Trump; now we must stop him. We must deny him the presidency by not voting in the presidential election at all or voting for Hillary Clinton if conscience permits.
A drop of a few percentage points in the Republican vote for Trump will be enough, which is why the pressure to conform, to toe the Party line, will be enormous. We cannot depend on our elected leaders to lead us. They, for the most part, will fold like cheap lawn chairs, cowed by fear and fueled by ambition.
It’s up to us. Each one of us is being tested, and the choice each of us makes matters, for ourselves, for our grandchildren. As bad as the cure for Trump’s Caesarism will be for the Party and for the country, it will not be bad as the disease, and both will survive.
So if anyone asks you, “Et tu Brute?” answer proudly, “Damned right.”
John “Mac” Stipanovich is a Republican lawyer and lobbyist who served as Gov. Bob Martinez’s chief of staff.