I WATCHED Paul Ryan's town hall on CNN this week for a number of reasons, not the least of which is my slight (OK, significant) crush on the House Speaker. He is a decade younger than I am, and more geek chic than GQ, but I still have a button that says, "I Heart Paul" from his ill-fated run as Mitt Romney's vice president, which I wear when I want to annoy the liberals at Starbucks.
Beyond that admittedly shallow fact, he is the most important Republican in the country, not simply because of his political clout, but also because of his mission: save the party of Lincoln from both the rogues attacking "the establishment" and the progressives who want to go all nuclear on the principles of personal responsibility, limited government and sobriety. He was mentored by the legendary Jack Kemp, he of the great hair and greater heart.
Listening to Ryan respond to questions from the audience, I had immense admiration for his ability to embody all that I wish the GOP still was, and all that I know the Democrats will never be again. Those things, in no particular order, are: earnest, accountable, visionary, critical-thinking, cognizant of history, respectful of tradition, compassionate, individualistic, unabashedly patriotic. His answers to questions about immigration, religious freedom, civil liberties, poverty and Donald Trump were masterful, particularly the response to a young Republican who criticized the speaker for endorsing the "bigoted" presumptive nominee.
Ryan said what I have been reduced to saying, namely that Trump will not harm the country as much as Hillary Clinton. He didn't exactly say it in those terms, but his meaning was more than clear. Trump will not elevate us, but he will not destroy the foundations of the society we hope to salvage from the ruins of the Obama years. Clinton will continue the transformation, until conservatives no longer recognize the country, its institutions or our fellow citizens.
Yes, that is apocalyptic language or, if you prefer, histrionic. I've been accused of being a drama queen who focuses too much on abortion, on the Supreme Court (and, thanks to Justice Ruthie, I'm on it like a dog with a bone,) on bigotry (otherwise known as religious freedom,) on the irrelevancies of emails and dead ambassadors.
On the other hand, I've been attacked by those who think Ryan doesn't like Trump enough, for not believing in the righteous necessity of a wall subsidized by pesos, a blanket ban on Mohammed, Fatima and their kids, policy papers issued in 140 characters or fewer, and a man who appeals to the basest form of populism. Saying I will vote for Trump does not mean that I don't cover the mirrors in my home so I can avoid my reflection in the morning.
So, that is where I am. Longing for the party described by Ryan on TV, but realizing it's probably lost forever. Even if Trump wins, which is possible, he will bring neither the intellectual firepower nor the philosophical integrity that this party, more than my old home among the Democrats, represented for decades, if not centuries.
And as we await the circus in Cleveland, replete with political strippers and con men and glittery prime-time shell games, filled with a Frankenstein platform that will please no one as it tries to appease pro-lifers and gay capitalists, I wonder what will happen to me if Trump is elected or, worse horror, Clinton ekes out a victory.
Excuse me for navel-gazing, but this is my column and we are a society that has raised Facebook to the level of illuminated manuscripts in the level of cultural importance, so if you've come this far, you might as well stay for the rest of it.
As a person who finds the rhetoric of the left repellent when it feeds me such things as "a woman should have the choice to control her own body, the one that sometimes happens to have an extra set of DNA - not to mention legs and arms - floating around in it," I will never again be able to call myself a Democrat. Contrary to popular belief, I have officially have been a member of the GOP only since March 26 of this year, hoping to put John Kasich over the top in Pennsylvania (yeah, that worked). At 18, I registered in the party of Kennedy, and voted for . . . Carter.
But I have never been fully accepted by the Democrats, who not only embrace abortion as a right, but who also take our racial and cultural differences and use them to divide us for political gain. It makes me sick, me with my melting-pot orientation and immigration cred, to hear people such as Jim Kenney, Ed Rendell and Katie McGinty, good Democrats all, exploit immigrants for their critical mass as "victims." Believe me, they don't want your election-year sympathy, you in the party of the president whose great failure is not presiding over immigration reform.
Hearing that, the GOP will cringe in horror, and hope, perhaps, that I will be shot by one of those vicious illegal criminals like the one who killed Kate Steinle, a woman whose death is being shamelessly exploited by conservative pundits who don't know a damn thing about the immigration system and why that ship is taking on water.
Listening to Paul Ryan this week and recognizing the agony he is going through in having to support Trump, I had the crazy thought that maybe one day before I am as doddering as a certain bespectacled Supreme Court justice, I will be able to vote for him at the top of the ticket.
That is the party I could truly embrace, one that sees poverty as neither a badge of honor nor a sin, one that respects both unborn life and the lives of kindergartners staring down the barrel of unnecessary guns, one that doesn't look at regulation as a blessing, or a curse, but a useful tool in moderation.
That is a dream worth clinging to, as the nightmares unfold this month, in Cleveland and in my own hometown.
Christine Flowers is a lawyer.