In 2016, on these opinion pages, I explained why, as a conservative, I could not vote for then presidential candidate Donald Trump.
I was, like many, deeply disturbed by Trump's temperament and character; but I also doubted that the supposedly born-again Republican would act like one if elected. My former fears proved justified, but the latter apprehensions were admittedly misplaced.
Aside from its precarious penchant for deficit spending, the Trump administration's policy record is in many ways impressive. The president deserves credit for his critical tax cuts, ambitious reforms of an overly burdensome domestic regulatory regime and superb nominations to the federal bench.
Nevertheless, an important part of presidential leadership is conducting oneself with dignity, honor and respect for America's institutions and citizens. In this regard, the 45th president failed miserably, and the people fired him as a consequence.
Republicans would be wise to accept that decision and move on.
Following last month's competitive — but not that narrow — national election, there was consensus in Republican circles that the president should be allowed to pursue recounts and legitimate court challenges without comment, to ascertain whether those efforts might, however unlikely, change the electoral outcome. That made sense to me. Since then, however, the president and his legal team have hijacked a once-justifiable legal strategy and corrupted it with lies, conspiracy theories and even threats of violence. This kind of contemptible conduct should be easy for Republican leaders to condemn, and they should do so now. It is not only the right thing to do for a country in need of hope and healing, but also would be a prudent political fresh start in a post-Trump Republican era, one in which I believe the GOP and conservative ideas can thrive.
While the president conveniently claims this year's voting trends evince fraud, what the data show is that the country — center-right as ever — simply rejected him and his unhinged style. Competent Republican candidates who ran conservative, pro-growth, pro-free market campaigns did well all over the nation and here in Minnesota. But voters rejected the party's top of ticket because they were tired of Trump's infantile and toxic leadership.
We Republicans need to remember that this presidential election was absolutely winnable. Supporters of the president unhappy with this campaign season's ending have only one man to blame for it: Donald Trump.
Republicans have no reason to abandon any of our core conservative principles. This year's results evince that they are more attractive to more segments of the American people than ever before. But conservatives have a problem with Donald Trump as head of marketing, and now is the time to instead raise up impressive Republican leaders such as Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa, Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, to name a few. Instead of having to constantly defend indefensible ranting and raving tweets from the White House, Republicans can now be free to speak solely about how our time-tested principles of limited government and greater economic freedom can make a better future for all Americans.
The same is true here in Minnesota, where nasty Trump-style politics turn off moderate voters, but once-blue regions are growing redder each election cycle. Instead of concerning ourselves with the hurt feelings of a lame duck president who lost, Republicans should focus now on regaining the majority in the state House, where we have extraordinarily capable leaders, and on winning statewide again. We have the right message; we just need to express it a little more calmly. Imitating Trump has not worked well for Republicans here.
Electing Trump to the presidency produced some substantial conservative policy accomplishments. There is no question about that. But 2016 proved to be a political anomaly — a year when the country was starving for candor and chose the loudest voice of all. But if Republicans want a resident in the White House again and statewide victories here in Minnesota, we must continue to fight hard for the values we believe in, but with the decorum and class Donald Trump destroyed. We can get back on that path by rejecting the president's shameful postelection behavior and turn the page on the ugliness of Trumpian politics for good.
Andy Brehm, of St. Paul, is a corporate lawyer, former press secretary to U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman and a lifelong Republican.