Donald Trump is our president, and I’m horrified. As an Ohio Republican who couldn’t bring myself to vote for my party’s nominee or Hillary Clinton, I thought I would wake up annoyed by the smugness of the Clinton supporters celebrating her victory. Instead I am going to bed sickened.
This election presented me an ideological dilemma like none I’ve ever faced. I’m a fiscal conservative, moderate on social issues, a fervent supporter of small government who’s never voted for a Democratic presidential candidate. Even when I’ve disagreed with my party on how they’ve handled the latter two of those issues, voting blue has never appealed to me.
But then Trump happened. I hated his lack of seriousness and his lack of conservative convictions. I hated the way that no one—not the media, not his GOP primary opponents—could figure out how to slow his momentum. I hated that an election that should have been the biggest gimme since Reagan beat Mondale was going to slip away. And when I stopped to consider that he could win, I hated the idea of the America that he would create.
I was a voter without a candidate. I spent the summer exploring my options. I considered writing in Mitt Romney (because he would have been a fantastic president, and he was right about Russia and Obama, and the media should be ashamed of how they treated him). I had a brief dalliance with Gary Johnson, because I would like the Libertarian Party to be on the main stage (Bill Weld ruined that one).
In the end, I wrote in independent candidate Evan McMullin. Call it a protest vote. Call it wasted. Call it irresponsible. Blame me for Trump’s win. I will not apologize. Left with no appealing choices, I voted my conscience. McMullin is a principled conservative who cares about America’s place in the world and with whom I agreed on most issues. When I stepped into the voting booth today, I had no second thoughts.
Yes, I have many regrets about how the election turned out. I never, ever, ever wanted Trump to win. His victory is terrible for this country, unimaginable even. I cannot think of a single issue that I look forward to him addressing. I am terrified at the thought of him appointing a Cabinet, making an inaugural speech, addressing a foreign-policy crisis, hosting a state dinner. I don’t even particularly care for Mike Pence, so the idea that Trump is only in it for the title and Pence will govern is not comforting.
At the same time, the idea of a Clinton presidency was not something I could warm to. Faced with the looming threat of Trump, maybe I could have voted for a Democrat with whom I differed on policy. But the Democrats chose—and even put their fingers on the scale—to support a divisive, unlikable, hypocritical, possibly corrupt, contemptuous Hillary Clinton. And she spent the general election campaign batting away one scandal after another—scandals that became outsized because she refused to address them.
Clinton opted not to reach out to those who, like me, were conflicted. She did not moderate her position on abortion or offer hope on her Supreme Court appointees or clarify her contradictions on trade. She did not express the remorse that could have helped her put the email scandal behind her. She gave no indication that she might possibly need votes beyond her base.
There were few good options for actual conservatives this election. Those of us in swing states who opposed Trump faced more difficult decisions. But we’re not the problem. We’re the symptom, not the disease.
There’s a lot to ponder right now. An economic collapse, international shunning, the mainstreaming of the alt-right and ethno-nationalism. I did not vote for Hillary Clinton, but I am scared about those things too. Don’t blame me. Work with me.