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Keith Koffler Time for conservatives to accept Trump's imperfections and learn how to work with him

Supporting Trump is not quite the profound moral dilemma it's been made out to be.

We live in Trump’s world, not the imaginary world.Joshua Roberts / Reuters
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It’s time for conservatives to do something none of us want to do. It’s time for us to accept that President Donald Trump is who he is, and that’s okay.

For conservatives, Trump is both the wrecking ball that destroyed the movement and the answer to its prayers. Most conservatives either admire Trump but make excuses for him, or have joined the #NeverTrump movement after finding themselves unable to stomach his leadership and values.

But both these cohorts need to realize the reality of the situation and learn how to work with Trump to further the conservative agenda — which by the way he’s already doing on his own.

First, those who support but want to sanitize Trump to avoid hypocrisy must understand that every time you clean him off, Trump jumps right back in the mud.

This viewpoint is exemplified by recent comments from Franklin Graham. “I believe at 70 years of age,” said Graham, son of the late Billy Graham and a strong Trump supporter, “the president is a much different person today than he was four years ago, five years ago, 10 years ago.”

For conservatives, Trump is both the wrecking ball that destroyed the movement and the answer to its prayers.

Seriously? Are you very different than you were five or 10 years ago? Is anybody? This excuse strains credulity, particularly for a septuagenarian creature of habit like Trump.

Then there are those who argue Trump’s just “imperfect,” or who assert: “He wasn’t running for Pope.” At the annual CPAC gathering of conservatives in February, the audience reportedly cheered chairman Matt Schlapp's argument that Americans didn't elect Trump because he was a perfect person, they elected him because they knew he would be a fighter.

This is a whitewash. Trump is less than a “not perfect person.” He’s a deeply flawed man who, most likely given the preponderance of evidence, has acted abusively toward women. And who, given a cursory review of his statements on any given day, lies constantly. There are positive aspects to Trump that go unrecognized, including a sense of compassion and an ability to discern the correct policy. But he cannot be viewed as a “good person.”

Conservatives view themselves as battling for traditional values. Trump’s mores are admittedly not the ones we were raised to follow.

For the #NeverTrumpers, who still disdain the president despite sometimes grudgingly admitting he’s running the most conservative administration since President Ronald Reagan, this identity crisis is too traumatic. Embracing Trump would also mean ceding the moral high ground from which they joyfully threw dirt on the Clintons for their moral failings — and on President Barack Obama for his false promises and anti-democratic statism. (This is to say nothing of the criticism stalwart conservatives heaped on John F. Kennedy and Teddy Kennedy, who were called libertine and worse.)

Conservatives view themselves as battling for traditional values. Trump’s mores are admittedly not the ones we were raised to follow.

On the final day of CPAC, conservative columnist Mona Charen denounced Republicans who are “hypocrites about sexual harassers and abusers of women” — i.e. Trump supporters. "There is nothing more freeing than telling the truth," Charen later wrote. "And it must be done, again and again, by those of us who refuse to be absorbed into this brainless, sinister, clownish thing called Trumpism."

Well I’m glad she feels the lightness of liberation. But I’ve watched the likes of Charen pontificate for decades as the country deteriorated, with Washington either failing to stop the decline or abetting it.

Elite conservative thinkers like Charen fail to recognize what the “rabble” who put Trump in office understood better than their “betters:” The stakes in the 2016 election were just too high.

America, Trump’s most avid supporters feared, was becoming unrecognizable. The government was exerting far too much control over our lives. The judiciary was acting like the legislative branch. The culture was being destroyed by moral relativism and diluted not by immigration per se, but by too much immigration — a substantial amount of it illegal. These numbers cannot easily be absorbed and acculturated.

Meanwhile, the U.S. economy wasn’t expanding even as inequality was. Wages weren’t rising. Enemies were popping up all over the world while President Barack Obama let the military atrophy.

Someone had to do something.

That someone was a person who is in certain ways immoral, but who also possessed something the likes of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush did not: A solid backbone and a contempt for others avid enough that he didn’t feel the need to be liked by the Washington establishment that has been presiding over America’s decline.

Conservatives have been praying five times daily in the direction of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., lamenting the lack of available space on Mount Rushmore and hoping for the return of their Messiah.

I have news for them. He’s dead, and he’s not coming back. What they have is Trump.

If conservative voters had known during the primaries that there were so many allegations of sexual misconduct, one would like to think they’d have settled on Texas’ Sen. Ted Cruz, who has certainly demonstrated a willingness to stand up to Washington. But by the time the allegations were fully revealed, voters were faced with a choice between Trump and Hillary Clinton, the enabler of her husband’s flagrant transgressions and the bearer of her own moral failings.

Supporting Trump should not have been quite such a profound moral dilemma for conservatives.

Elite conservative thinkers fail to recognize what the “rabble” who put Trump in office understood better than their “betters:” The stakes in the 2016 election were just too high.

Keep in mind, Trump is not our first moral compromise. Several of our Founding Fathers, whom the right reveres, were licentious. Benjamin Franklin once advised a young man that if he couldn’t simply get married, he should at least sleep with wiser, older women. Yes, that Benjamin Franklin.

The sainted William F. Buckley, whom I admire, wrote a piece in his early 30s that sounded a lot like white supremacism — though his views have surely evolved. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich remains a conservative star, despite having cheated on his second wife with his third and being reprimanded by the House of Representatives for an ethics violation.

Trump, bad a character as he is, has rolled back federal regulations and Obama’s administrative fiats, withdrawn the United States from the Paris climate accords, managed to dramatically decrease the number of undocumented immigrants caught trying to enter the U.S. illegally, cut taxes, stimulated the economy — which grew at a faster pace in the last three quarters of 2017 than any similar period since 2014 — presided over an ongoing stock market rally, put Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court and started taking tougher stances toward U.S. enemies and rivals like North Korea, Syria, Iran and China.

He is not a “good” person. But he is the one the country needed. We live in Trump’s world, not the imaginary world. Deal with it.

Keith Koffler is the editor of White House Dossier and the author of Bannon: Always the Rebel."

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