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By Allan Stevo
In a high income New York City zip code, from which high dollar political donations are sent all over the country, is a club that can be so much more than it is. The best we currently get from that club is an occasional, poorly run campaign in which 15% or maybe even 30% of the vote is achieved, by some fear-filled candidate pretending not to be a Republican, nonetheless even attempting to stand for any principled position. Running on principle is one kind of victory. Winning a race is another kind of victory. Doing them both is the ultimate victory. This club gets the pleasure of neither.
That is the setting of the Metropolitan Republican Club where I’ve been a member these last five years. Sometimes it is a place to be social with friends, sometimes it offers an opportunity to gather with those seemingly valueless folks who might be called “Republican In Name Only,” for they do not even share basic values with any of the various stripes of people who proudly consider their own approach to politics as principled rather than flexible.
There is nothing inspiring about a place like that.
Except, two years ago, a core group of members started to get together and do something truly special, and with a shared vision. Tired of all the losing, tired of all the lack of principle they moved to build our club into one that would have national prestige and could attract national speakers. Where national campaigns could be run and financed from, where people passionate about their values could gather.
Areas as wide ranging as the tech sector, functioning families, or the marketplace are areas where amazing happenings are the norm daily. They are truly special areas of life. In sharp contrast, it is not common for something special to come out of the political sphere – maybe one or two inspiring events can be expected in a very good decade – and yet in the year of Trump, a year that will long be remembered as transformative in American history and likely world history, I felt like I was around a second example in a single year of something uniquely special taking place in the political realm, as this core group was reforming the Metropolitan Republican Club.
When Donald Trump, a native son from New York joined the race for US President, so much more energy was injected into that move to reform the club. The reformers inside the club fell along the same fissure as reformers nationally – they loved the change Trump brought in his shakeup-style campaign and had hope for what a national shakeup might bring.
The more traction Trump got, the more tension there was on the board of our club. There was correlation and maybe also causation. Trump was inspiring and Trump was divisive. And though some would get down on Trump for his ability in being divisive, divisive is exactly what one should aspire to be as a public intellectual, for you inspire your own supporters to further agree with you, while helping those who disagree with you refine their ideas for why they disagree. Agree or disagree with him, the divisive intellectual creates value for anyone being honest, and in that ideal situation where everyone is being sincere about the process; divisiveness can be a true gift. It is only when people do not approach that gift of divisiveness with authenticity of belief, intellectual honesty, and self-reflection that divisiveness becomes so potentially negative.
Fascinatingly, those on the board who pushed for higher standards of success at the club were the board members who were pushed out in a putsch on January 31, 2017, just a week after the Inauguration. What followed was the most vocal and public support of Trump that I’ve ever heard from the board. It continues with great silliness. The story of the Trump Five was recounted in these pages of The Libertarian Republic, being referred to by some as “the Trump Five,” because five of us – Georgia Palmieri, Alain Palmieri, Michael Javelos, Sandra Chase, and I – were pushed off the Met Club board by a group of people who were generally anti-Trump, and had to hold their noses to deal with the populist stench of a change candidate like Trump. The charge was led by President Deborah Coughlin, former President Peter Hein, the son of a former President Robert Morgan III, Secretary Jeff Charles Goolsby, and Chairman Ian Walsh Reilly. In addition to being vocally anti-Trump for so long, several Chuck Schumer donors were among the group of Republicans that removed the Trump supporters from the board, which perhaps illustrates the folly of considering the establishment interests of the two parties as distinct.
As hard as it sometimes is to believe, there really are people in the world who really want more Jeb Bush and more Hillary Clinton. I sat on a Republican Board with some of them over the past year. Luckily middle America had a little more sense than that. And I understand there are no guarantees – Maybe Trump proves himself to be an amazing President; maybe he doesn’t, only time will tell. But so much benefit has already come simply because the American dinner table had a candidate barnstorming through the country on their behalf, saying precisely what seemed to be on the mind of so many gathered around the American dinner table and who then made it to the Oval Office against great odds.
Opportunistically, so many in the Republican Party, after Trump’s victory over the establishment of both parties will say that they are a Trump supporter in very public venues where the media is present, yet behind closed doors there are still those Republicans who say that it is just a matter of time before Trump gives up or is impeached. This story of Trump’s imminent failure is what I’ve been hearing in various versions for 21 months now about the seemingly unstoppable energizer battery that is the 70 year old Donald Trump. If ever challenged on this in the media, they give strong pro-Trump statements because they fear retribution. Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt, said some clever wordsmith once.
They fear retribution from average people who “wouldn’t understand,” they fear retribution that results from media attention; they fear retribution from reduced support – financial and otherwise. They fear retribution from their constituents. And, after being so weak-willed for so long, and welcoming the amassing of power in the hands of the executive, they might also fear retribution from the President himself.
In a city like DC or New York or San Francisco where so few want to talk about the bread and butter issues, Trump is the ultimate troll sent by the American dinner table.
I watched the establishment in our club and in our local party hold a Never Trump position early on and some of these somewhat prominent Republican officials even continue to talk about how Trump is not long for the White House. They were Jeb Bush supporters early, then migrated en masse to John Kasich, they learned to accept Ted Cruz, and after it was inevitable, cheered blandly for Trump at the proper moments, then kept their fingers crossed for Hillary. Yup, into the autumn of 2016, there were prominent Republicans in New York City who so abhorred change that they kept their fingers crossed for Hillary. Eventually, and in varying stages, the opportunists came along to support Trump. This is no surprise to many, for those veteran enough to have been around the capital city for several presidents know “Nothing attracts like power in DC.”
In general, I’ve observed in this contentious year that the more a person needs to try flaunting their Trump supporting bona fides, the more likely it is that they were not a Trump supporter when it mattered most. As soon as she came under media scrutiny, I watched Met Club President Deborah Coughlin make this an issue about how much she loves Trump days after removing us from the Board, I watch New York County Republican Committee Chair Adele Malpass do the same. The issue is that with one hand they use the weight of their office to throw out the Trump inspired change makers, while with the other hand they replace us with whitewashed Jeb Bush supporters who will alternate between wearing a Lincoln Pin, Trump Pin, or Pink Hat when expedient.
The vigorous change-makers were replaced with low energy observers, merely watching the show without nary a reaction.
This superficial praise that accompanies a deep cleansing of the changed-makers from the board is a timeless maneuver. It is the difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. The difference between the superficial and the authentic. The letter of the law has never been the spirit of the law – one of the first intellectual distinctions I remember thinking as a child in Sunday School as my dear old teacher told us about the rabble-rousing Jesus and the entrenched Pharisees. The letter of the law was not then and is still not today the spirit of the law. He who misses that important distinction misses much.
The role Trump has played in pushing Americans to evaluate their values is a beautiful role, for it can be divisive and in the face of honesty, the divisive offers clarity. It encourages people to say where they stand. It has done that in America, and it has done that in my club, where the NeverTrump vote shared the same fissure as the NeverAudit, NeverChange, NeverWin, NeverValue hidebound fixtures. Those fixtures were uninspiring and stunk of failure. It was time for middle America to feel a win again and hoping for the inspiring victory of the risk taker is where so many placed their support when Election Day 2016 arrived.
Even before that victory on Election Day, Trump changed America from the inside of airplane hangars and by Tweets from Trump Tower and now he is encouraging change in America not only from the Oval Office, but through the many change-minded supporters of his who run businesses or are in parties, in clubs, on boards, in local offices, in the media, who are parents, who are in academia, and who are intellectuals and activists in many more widespread venues. The spirit of change can be felt all the way to places like the Metropolitan Republican Club and the more the powers that be hold on, the more divisive that change is certain to be, because no one can stop an idea whose time has come.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Allan Stevo is a five year member of the Metropolitan Republican Club and a recently removed Executive Committee member. The story appeared on The Libertarian Republic, The New York Post, and GotNews.com. The views expressed are those of the author, and they are not representative of The Libertarian Republic)
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