Originally Published: Columbus Dispatch Chris Gagin, Guest Columnist rise@operationgrant.org


MAGA friends, I need your help. I need help explaining Donald Trump’s America to my daughter.

My daughter turned 5 this month, and in between her princess videos and animated movies, she listens and learns. She sees strife in the streets, hears concern in the voices of her parents, and she knows that her kindergarten class ended early last year due to the “virus.”

She doesn’t yet understand issues like the nation’s exploding debt; our ongoing struggle for racial equality; America’s loss of trust among her allies; or our trade war with China, which is killing Ohio family farmers. But she knows she can’t see her friends as often as she wants to “because of the virus.”

So, please. Tell me how to explain Donald Trump’s America to my daughter.

Like so many of you, I voted for Donald Trump in 2016 despite all the warning signs, including Trump’s treatment of women in the “Access Hollywood” tape.

But I thought once he was behind the Resolute Desk, and the weight of the free world was upon his shoulders, the name-calling would end. The pettiness on Twitter would end. The cozying up to Vladimir Putin would end. Mexico would pay for his big, beautiful wall. His self-interest would be replaced with our national interest. Draining the swamp would proceed according to schedule, and the judges — oh, the judges — the judges would make it all worthwhile.

I could tell my daughter that a “businessman” had taken on Washington and won. The problem is … that didn’t happen.

The truth is this: America is unrecognizable after 3 1/2 years of Donald Trump’s presidency. More than 179,000 of our fellow Americans are dead because of his lack of leadership during the pandemic.

Tragically, the president claimed COVID-19 was a Democratic “hoax” when there was still time to save American lives. The truth is the budget deficit was exploding under President Trump to the tune of nearly $1 trillion per year prior to COVID-19 bailouts. The truth is we are no closer to replacing Obamacare today than we were in 2016.

And how do I explain our commander in chief’s failure to protect all American citizens’ rights to vote by refusing to support the U.S. Postal Service in its role to promptly deliver absentee ballots for military personnel and American citizens who live both here and abroad?

As I teach my daughter that all people, regardless of race or creed or religion, are children of God and worthy of her respect, how do I explain the president’s repeated overtures to white nationalists? You know: that there are “fine people on both sides.”

MAGA friends, please help me square these different strands of intolerance, incompetence, ignorance and ineptitude so it will make sense to my beautiful little girl. Help me so that when she sees the Stars and Stripes, she will someday feel the pride of American Exceptionalism as I do and see America as Reagan’s “shining city on a hill.”

Because I can’t. I can’t see that in the absurdity of Donald Trump’s America. I can’t see that in the personality-cult driven Republican Party of 2020, even though I remain a registered Republican. I can only see the need to restore core American values to today’s Republican Party, and I can never see America as great again with Donald Trump as its president.

I joined Operation Grant to help Ohio Republicans and conservative-leaning independents put country over party. I voted for Donald Trump in 2016, but will not make that mistake again. My vote goes to Joe Biden this November. Though I don’t agree with his agenda, I intend to teach my daughter that decency, honesty and competence matter most in an American president.

Chris Gagin is a former Belmont County GOP Party chair who resigned his position over President Trump’s behavior with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. He is a member of Defending Democracy Together and a team leader at OperationGrant.org.

Email Operation Grant for Ohio: rise@operationgrant.org