I would like to ask Republican primary voters: Which of the following lines would you cheer for? What are the values you stand for, which is different from the policies you prefer?
Last month in Tampa, I attended the national convention for the U.S. Special Operations Forces. I enjoyed being in the midst of heroes whose No. 1 priority is keeping America safe. There were a few terms that were spoken time and time again during the convention. Words like partnerships, alliances and allies. But perhaps the concept I heard the most was “shared values.”
Our Special Operations Forces list the following as their values. Honor: Earn the trust of the nation by doing what is right. Courage: Be steadfast in the face of physical and moral danger. Excellence: Commit to achieving the highest possible standards. Creativity: Seek innovation and novel solutions to the hardest, most complex problems. Respect: Treat our teammates and partners with the highest regard.
As an awards dinner was in progress, former President Donald Trump participated in a CNN town hall in New Hampshire, hosted by Kaitlan Collins. There are too many quotes and lies from the appearance to mention here, but a few stuck out to me as a stark contrast to what I listened to and applauded for in Tampa.
Although the comparisons may not be fair, since the military is apolitical and Trump is the epitome of politics as the titular head of the Republican Party, the values expressed were what warranted contrast. Let’s revisit the values:
Honor. The Trump-friendly crowd applauded when Trump said he would be “inclined” to pardon many of the Jan. 6, 2021, rioters who have been convicted of federal offenses.
Courage. Collins questioned Trump about his role on Jan. 6: “One person who was at the Capitol that day, as you know, was your vice president, Mike Pence, who says that you endangered his life on that day. Do you feel …”
Trump interrupted her with, “I don’t think he was in any danger.”
Collins continued, “Mr. President, do you feel that you owe him an apology?” Trump responded, “No, because he did something wrong. He should have put the votes back to the state legislatures, and I think we would have had a different outcome. I really do.” The crowd in the town hall cheered.
Excellence. Collins asked Trump if he ever showed the classified documents that he took from the White House to anyone. He responded, “Not really.”
Creativity. The crowd laughed again after Trump minimized the impact of the U.S. defaulting on its debt. “Well, you might as well do it now because you’ll do it later. Because we have to save this country. Our country is dying. Our country is being destroyed by stupid people, by very stupid people.”
Respect. The day after Trump was found liable of sexual abuse and defamation by a jury, he said the following: “What kind of a woman meets somebody and brings them up and within minutes you’re playing hanky-panky in a dressing room? I don’t know if she was married then or not.” His comments were met by laughter from the audience. Trump also lashed out at Collins and called her a “nasty woman” and again the audience cheered.
There will always be 25 percent to 28 percent of the GOP base that is Always Trump. I want to believe those were the people who cheered and applauded Trump that evening. But there is a majority of Maybe Trump and Never Trump voters. It is that group that should take back the power within the party and espouse their ideals. They can do that by voting for one of the other 2024 Republican nominees in the GOP primary election.
I will go back to my original question to Republican primary voters, what would you stand up and applaud for? Then turn that into a vote.
Lynn Schmidt is a columnist and editorial board member of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.