Six Months After Election Day 2016: Life Goes On

I last posted four weeks before Election Day. When a post goes viral, it becomes even more difficult than usual to publish another post. 

I purposefully stayed quiet until after Election Day. I wanted my words to stand on their own, without any misconstrued sound bites, or being used as a political pawn. Some may argue that I made myself a pawn for Trump’s opposition simply by speaking out how I did. Others have told me that I wasted an opportunity to gain national fame and to promote my views even further. I admit, I had moments when I myself wondered how I was able to turn down interviews with the BBC, nearly every national cable news outlet, and every major Iowa television, radio, and newspaper outlet. 

At the end of the day, I firmly believed that I said my piece on this blog, and that was enough. I never anticipated for J.K. Rowling to like my tweet or to be a headline on Politico. I simply wanted to do the right thing and be a voice of reason. I was still committed to my day job of working for down ballot candidates and causes. 

Once Election Day had come and gone, and I left my full time job in politics, I thought I would have a lot to say. However, the words have been tough to piece together. Of course I was disappointed in the presidential election results. Nevertheless, I wanted our new president to surprise me and do well. At the same time, I felt for the protestors in the streets. What did we expect to happen when we elected someone who had gone out of his way to put down so many groups of people? I would never condone violence, but I do support everyone’s right to speak out in the hopes of finally being heard.

I have found myself to be in the middle of the polarized ends of this nation’s politics. I am still a Republican and do not plan to switch parties. I agree with a lot of what John Kasich has to say on this topic. While I am fully aware of how the game of politics is played, and it is all centered around the power now in Trump’s hands, I am disappointed that very few have offered a different way forward for the GOP.

On the positive side, this last election activated so many people who were fairly complacent before last fall. I love this new activism and believe some good will come out of the crazy election.

Speaking out against Trump was life changing. I strained and ended a few relationships with my words. I also made new friends from all across the United States – people who reached out to a complete stranger to say “thank you,” or “way to go.” The positive comments and messages far outnumbered the negative. I even heard from people I had not talked to in years, a few who defended my honor on the news sites where people who never met me were saying nasty things about me. I will be forever grateful to everyone who reached out to me with encouraging words. 

Prior to this post, I have done three post election interviews: a Dutch newspaper, part of a panel on Iowa Press, and a forthcoming interview with German Public Broadcasting. I will let you check out those pieces if you want a more in depth look at my views nowadays. And perhaps I will elaborate here on my blog as I continue along my journey as a somewhat rogue Republican and feel the need to speak about various topics.

In the meantime, life goes on. I returned to working at Target Optical in December and love it. I also bought a new vehicle – named Rosa Parks! – in December and moved to Des Moines in February. In addition, I have found new avenues for political involvement, including being on the board of 50-50 in 2020. My puggle Percy was “with her,” and my cat Jag is disappointed that Trump has not yet built a wall to keep all of the dogs out. 

I sometimes wonder what life would be like had I not posted my last post or resigned from the Iowa Federation of Republican Women. While I would have kept others happy, I most definitely would be feeling regret right now. Call me emotional, selfish, attention seeking, or whatever else you want. I know in my heart that I did the right thing, and for the right reasons. I prayed about the decision, talked to close friends and family, and then asked myself what I wanted to tell people when talking about the 2016 election years from now. I thought specifically of my nephew and nieces. Regardless of their future views, I know I can look them in their eyes and say that I stood for what I thought was right. And if I can do it, anyone can. That’s how we start to make the world a better place: one person at a time.

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Ending this bad and unhealthy relationship

I have finally had enough with falling in line with my party and trying to support Donald Trump for President. Perhaps it’s because things finally hit close enough to home and my world experience to resonate. Or perhaps supporting Donald Trump has been a bit like being in a bad and unhealthy relationship. Part of the problem with getting out of the relationship is that you keep convincing yourself that things are going to get better. While they often briefly get better, they continue to get worse until the downs are lower than one ever thought possible.
In the meantime, you lose yourself and you lose who you are just to try to keep the peace and not rock the boat.
As President of the Iowa Federation of Republican Women, I was publicly neutral during the caucus to convention process. While there were times that I really disagreed with things Trump or even other candidates in the Republican Party said, I (mostly) kept quiet. There was the Carly for America “Faces” ad when I broke rank a bit, and I am more proud of that today than ever.
While I had my own opinions (which did not involve caucusing for Trump), I wanted to let the process play out. I had faith in the process, our party, and our people and was confident everything would work out for the best.
When it became apparent that Donald Trump would secure the nomination, I decided it was time to speak up. I did not want to do it publicly on social media and instead wanted to go through the appropriate channels. So I agonized over what to say and emailed my concerns to the president and a few in leadership positions of the National Federation of Republican Women on May 5, 2016. I told them that while I had pledged unity at our spring meeting in March, I was having grave concerns about our future nominee. As someone who has rarely voted for the nominee early on and is accustomed to voting for another choice in the general, it wasn’t an issue of me not being able to lick my wounds after the caucus and primary losses. It was something fundamentally larger than that. I simply wanted to start a conversation, and I was hoping that the Trump campaign would do some outreach so we could overcome a few of the obstacles and right some of the wrongs that had had occurred thus far.
A few questions I posed in the email:

– What do I tell my six-year-old nephew who saw Trump on TV a few months ago, turned to his mom (my sister) and said, “Mom, he is a bad man. He says bad words and wants to blow things up.”? What do I say to my sister, who was at a loss for words (and is a strong Republican)?

– How do I reassure my mom – and moms of all of our men and women serving our country – that Donald Trump will speak wisely and not get us into more conflicts with his off-the-cuff remarks?

– What do we say to women across the country who are mortified at Trump’s comments on the Howard Stern show discussing women’s breast sizes? How about so many of the other things he has said that objectify women? What message does this send to young girls?

– How do we respond when our presidential nominee has stereotyped an entire religion?

– Trump has openly insulted John McCain’s service to our country and has blamed George W. Bush for the 9/11 attacks. Are we OK with that?

I received a couple of responses basically saying to work hard for the down ballot candidates, pray for our nominee, and we are confident that he’ll turn it around and behave going into the general election. I was also encouraged to read Governor Bobby Jindal’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal a few days later. So that’s what I did.
Then fast forward a few weeks later to a nonpartisan women’s leadership conference. I was giving a presentation about balancing work and personal life and I talked about how balancing our public life with a personal life can be tough, especially in politics when things can intertwine. I mentioned Carly Fiorina’s ad and said that I stood behind that ad and at the same time I was prepared to support Trump if he was our nominee. A few women were visibly upset with me.
And I know many more were silently upset with me for saying that I could support a candidate who had done so much wrong, even by that point at the end of May 2016. I went back to my hotel room that night and I have to admit that I had a good cry. I felt like a horrible person. I reached out to a couple of my Republican peers, and they reassured me it would be OK. I was emboldened by knowing that I am a caring individual and thought I could support Trump without necessarily condoning his words or behavior.
So I continued on and for a while – in my world at least – it went a little better. Then Trump picked Mike Pence as his running mate. While Pence is more conservative than I am personally, I met him a couple of years ago and feel good about him as a person. So that reassured me that maybe everything would be OK.
Then Kellyanne Conway became Trump’s campaign manager. I thought, “Finally, a woman is in charge! Maybe now Trump is going to apologize, and he’s going to do the things that need to be done to right the ship.” The first week with Conway in charge showed me that perhaps things were getting better.
I worked at the Iowa State Fair GOP booth on the day Mike Pence visited the Iowa State Fair. I was asked repeatedly by a staffer to wear a Trump – Pence shirt instead of my IowaFRW shirt for his arrival. After about eight times of being reminded, I put the Trump – Pence t-shirt on. I admit, it felt weird. But I thought, “If I’m going to be a team player, I have to be all in. I can do this.”
The overall response from fair goers at the fair booth was good. Toward the end of the night though, a few women came up to me and asked how I could support Trump after all of the terrible things he had said about women. I didn’t have an answer, and so in true Trump fashion, I attacked Hillary. After they walked away, I asked a couple of other people at the booth what they would’ve done. They said that I could always bring it back to the Supreme Court and electing someone who will appoint conservative justices. And I thought perhaps that was a good argument to make.
Then the debates were coming up and I thought, “OK, Hillary is going to throw everything at Trump. Here is his chance to really reset for the general.” And during the first debate, when Trump asked Hillary how she wanted to be addressed, and then said he wanted to make her happy, I was on my last thread. He was continuing his sexist behavior, right there in front of my eyes.
Still, I was hanging on, if only by a thread. It was down to a day by day roller coaster. One day, I would say that I could jump on board the Trump Train. And then the next day, I would realize there was no way I could be a team player any longer.
So when Mike Pence gave a solid debate performance, I was back on a high. Only 35 days to go. I could do this. Yes, I still had those nagging feelings. But once again, I thought, Trump is going to get better. He still has time to show us he is worthy of our party’s nomination. The first presidential debate was a warm up. Kellyanne will kick him in the rear for the next one.
And then the tapes. Ugh. I could not even process all of that for a good 24 hours. I was immediately angry. I was angry at Trump, but I was even more angry with myself. It should have been no surprise, given everything else we have been shown about Donald Trump. Nonetheless, it shocked me. I was sick to my stomach and could not see straight. Luckily it was the end of the work day, so when it was time to leave the office, I decompressed in my car for about an hour, grabbed some coffee, and wandered through a book store before driving home.
This was the final straw. I had finally taken all I could. Then I saw how people were responding on social media. I was proud of our elected officials who stood up against him.
At the same time, I was dismayed by so many strong women who were pointing fingers at Hillary and saying at least it’s not as bad as what she has done. Now I find myself making similar judgments about Trump supporters that those women from the leadership conference made about me when I said that I would support him. Now that it’s personal to me, I don’t see how someone could stand by a candidate who is saying such horrific things about someone like me. So to those women who confronted me during that evening in late May, I apologize and I thank you. I already apologized that night and I told them that it was a tough decision, as I was still struggling with it every day. But now I finally get it.
I ask you this: Who are we if we defend ourselves by saying, “Wow this is horrible, but not as horrible as that over there?” Regardless of your party or your opinions on issues, we need to have candidates who can stand on their own merit and be honorable.
This is also not an isolated incident from a decade ago. This is one of way too many times where Trump has used unacceptable words and actions. That is what makes me so sad for my party.
I should have spoken up long ago. I do not like attention. I did not want to rock the boat. I wanted to honor my commitment in my role for Republican women.
I’m not trying to excuse the multiple chances that I gave to Donald Trump. I am telling you what was going on in my head, right or wrong. I honestly thought at some point we would turn a corner, things would get better, apologies would be made, and it would all be OK.
I was wrong, and it really pains me to have to say these things less than 30 days out from the election. I am not going to talk about any of the Democrat, Independent, Green, or Libertarian Party candidates because this is not about them. This is about who our Republican nominee for President is and what we as Republicans will stand for.
I will work my heart out out for our candidates down the ballot who deserve our support. However, I cannot pretend to support our presidential nominee any longer, and I also cannot be silent. That is why this evening I have submitted my resignation as president of the Iowa Federation of Republican Women:

“To the IowaFRW Executive Committee, Board of Directors, and members,

It is with a heavy heart that I submit my resignation as your state president today. Since I cannot support Donald J. Trump for President, nor can I advocate for his election, I feel that I cannot adequately fulfill the duties of my position. While I am still a Republican and plan to work hard for our down ballot GOP candidates, I cannot fulfill our mission ‘To elect Republicans at all levels of government’ with Trump as our party’s nominee.

Additionally, I cannot support the National Federation of Republican Women President Carrie Almond’s statement (http://www.nfrw.org/news-releases-20161010) that was released yesterday on behalf of Republican women nationally, as I do not support Donald J. Trump.

I will do all I can to ensure a smooth transition in leadership, and this is truly a last resort for me. I cannot in good conscience lead this organization or look at myself in the mirror each morning if I do not take a stand against the racism, sexism, and hate that Donald J. Trump continues to promote.”

I am saddened that I even have to make this choice because I want to support all of our Republican candidates. I truly intended to do that when I was elected as president.

However, I am not being true to myself if I don’t speak up and and say something. The first candidate I worked for full-time as paid staff was Elizabeth Dole for President in 1999. Elizabeth Dole ran for president over 16 years ago, and during that campaign we fought a lot of sexism. I vowed that I would always remember the lessons that I learned from that campaign. I can never condone sexism.
I don’t claim to have the moral high ground, and I don’t claim that any of our candidates are perfect. However, there is a clear line that has been stepped across when candidates fuel racism and sexism and the darkest parts of our minds – over, and over, and over again.
I look forward to working diligently for our many fine Republican candidates and issues this year. I will not be advocating for Donald Trump or voting for him.
This is not about being conservative, moderate, liberal, establishment, or anti-establishment. This is about common decency as Americans.
As I mentioned previously, I was immediately outraged when I heard the tape. I made myself wait to respond though. I needed time to process it all, and I wanted to speak rationally. Quite frankly, I have been through so much of a roller coaster already, that I figured another couple of days to engage in a few more conversations and think through things could only help me become more at peace with my decision.
And even during my waiting period between being done with Trump and announcing it, I have been dismayed by Trump. In the same breath as saying he is sorry for what he said on the tape, he continues to defend his words as locker room banter, and then point the finger at the Clintons. During the last debate, he also made the outrageous statement that had he been President, Captain Kahn would still be alive.
So I am ending this bad and unhealthy relationship right now. I am done making excuses. I am done hoping for a change. As Condoleezza Rice so eloquently stated: “Enough!”
And since it is not good to jump into one relationship right after another has ended, I am not going to use this post to speak about whom I may vote for on November 8th. For now, I need to be single and find myself. I will decide in 28 days who I am voting for. Until then, I am going to respect everyone’s opinions and I hope you respect mine.
When I look back on this election years from now, I want to be proud of taking a stand for what I thought was right, even if I cut it a little close on the deadline. Decency transcends party loyalty. I still believe in an America where we can elect decent and honorable people to lead us.

Brother Mitch is HOME!

Brother Mitch is HOME!

Unless you never read a thing that I post on Facebook and Twitter, by now you know that my brother Mitch is back in Iowa after being deployed with the U.S. Navy. I went ten months without seeing my baby brother. And I was not alone. His friends and our family, as well as his girlfriend, endured the same length of time without seeing Mitch in person.

baby4A lot can happen in ten months:

  1. My sister Sarah became pregnant with baby number four.
  2. Our dad retired from his sales and marketing job of 19 years.
  3. I crossed off a bucket list item when I appeared on the Today Show on Caucus Day.
  4. Nephew Gabriel and Niece Lucy completed another year of school.
  5. Gabriel, Lucy, and and Niece Amelia all grew a ton. I feel like they grow too much when I haven’t seen them in a couple of weeks. I can’t imagine how different they are after ten months!
  6. Numerous terror attacks took place across the globe.
  7. Iranians fired missiles at my brother’s carrier.
  8. My brother’s carrier was featured on CNN for setting a record number of bombs launched against ISIS.
  9. Mitch’s deployment was extended by one month.
  10. As if I wasn’t emotional enough in my normal state, I now get teary eyed around anything patriotic, having to do with the armed forces, etc.

Mitch Navy ProfileMitch shared some amazing photos and videos with us during this past week. The views were breath taking, and the sleeping quarters were insanely small. They provided a unique glimpse into my brother’s new life as a sailor.

Hannah MitchWe only have a few more days with brother Mitch before he goes back to base. This time he is taking a piece of home with him though – girlfriend Hannah. So, while this big sister is fighting back tears, I will be so excited for the new adventure ahead for the two of them together.

troopsThank you SO MUCH to everyone who has offered words of encouragement, given hugs, and simply let me babble (happy babble, interchanged with the-world-is-going-to-end babble) on and on and on and on. We know there will be another deployment, and I will always need my tribe to talk me off the ledge and then hand me a glass of wine.

The Paperless Quest Continues

I am SO excited for the Jobs movie to hit theaters. Our Iowa boy Ashton Kutcher plays Steve Jobs and recently made us extra proud with his Teen Choice Awards speech. Wow.

Before the Ashton thing though, I was looking forward to wrapping my mind around the “i” phenomenon. Last year I read the Walter Isaacson biography and immediately knew I needed to finally purchase an iPad. I had the iPhone 4, and of course it was not enough.

Ten months after joining the iPad world, I am still discovering new features and apps and trying to completely wean myself from my netbook. I most recently discovered the Google Drive and Adobe apps. Now I just need to find a way to master Constant Contact and SendOutCards from the iPad. Oh, and I need to get a wireless printer. And, full confession, I need to get better used to this WordPress app. (My last post published multiple times when I thought I was merely saving drafts.)

And then there’s my whole “going paperless” thing. Easier said than done. I love, love, love the Evernote app. It’s just getting everything in there and not clicking the print button, three hole punching papers, and placing them in my secure three ring red binder that is the multi-faceted problem. Old habits do die hard, especially when you randomly stumble upon a cute Vera Bradley “Lime’s Up” Miller bag at the Aurora outlet mall. The bag to paper/binder is like a dealer to crack. Seriously, so cute!

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And I think I might have just published this post, unfinished nonetheless, while uploading the beautiful photo above. I am a work in progress. On with the quest to go paperless. I will keep you all posted!

Downtown Davenport Adventures: People – City’s Nature

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During my two years and almost six months of living in Downtown Davenport, I have witnessed a lot of change in this small city. Most recently, this change has involved looking out my windows at night and seeing – gasp! – neighbors right at my sixth floor level across the street in nearly every direction.

Two sets of neighbors have rooftop patios, which I really want. They are small patios sans pools or gardens, as my dream patio would include. Yet they are still pretty cool. One even has tiki torches. And then at night time, I realize all of the downtown construction has yielded people in higher level lofts whose televisions I can see. Hmmm….if I can see them, they can see me. I am not a super risqué gal, and yet I should probably close the blinds during certain points of the evening and early morning.

Today I was reading the May issue of Vogue – love the magazine yet am perpetually two months behind with reading it – and one of the columnists stated that people are city’s nature. So true!

When I first moved to the downtown of “my small city,” as I like to call it, I was refreshed by a few weirdos here and there. I love walking around during the day time and especially on Saturdays. However, during weekday evenings and on Sundays, my small city can sometimes feel a bit deserted. So I welcome the new apartments and businesses with open arms. I need more action and somewhat crazy people, even if it does mean feeling obligated to close my blinds once in a while.

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On My Energy Soapbox

This is not a political blog.  I repeat, this is not a political blog.  I feel we have plenty of those.  I enjoy reading them, especially from the pure hack-ish behind the scenes perspective.

While I don’t work in politics for a paycheck anymore, I find it always seeping into my life here and there.  And I will always be involved at some level, since one can never really get out of it once you have the bug.  The last time I discussed anything political in Mel’s Musings was during Trump’s flirtation with a presidential run.  So, having the bug, the political is bound to sneak into my writings now and then.  I’m trying to limit it to three times a year max.  So far, I am right on track.

Yesterday I went to a Romney event at LeClaire Park in Davenport.  And it’s fun to attend these events as the average joe standing in line, waiting to go through the metal detector, watching the staffers scurry about.

While at an event as large as this one, it is tough for me to stop analyzing the play by play of the advance team and staff long enough to let myself really think about the issues.  Elections are supposedly about issues, right?  So now, I step out of my box and onto it…..

One of the issues that I have become increasingly passionate about is energy.  I was a bus captain for one of the Iowa Energy Forum buses at the Ames Straw Poll last summer.  I sported a bright orange shirt all day long that day.  Since I hate wearing the color orange, this wearing of the orange shirt shows just how much I care.  🙂

The energy issue seems pretty simple to me:  If we have resources here close to home, we should use them.  With all of the advancements in technology, we have cleaner and safer ways than ever before to make the most of our resources.  I was ecstatic when Mitt took a moment to talk about energy yesterday and remind us that our leaders should focus on taking actions that promote economic recovery and job growth, not impose punitive tax schemes that hurt us all.

Opening up new areas for energy exploration will produce good jobs for many Americans who are struggling.  That in turn will help our economy.  And I say this as someone who likes to hug a tree every now and then.  Energy exploration and protecting the environment are not mutually exclusive. (I feel I could leave it there a la The McLaughlin Group and say, “Discuss.”)

On the flip side, we had President Obama visit our great state just before Memorial weekend.  And of course, as with any good presidential event, this was a great photo opp.  This time we had the wind turbines a-going.  Wind is great.  But wind can’t do it all.

While Obama was chilling with the wind turbines, I was enjoying the wheat field on my dad’s farm in Northeast Iowa:

Ta-da!

One of the reasons I stay involved in politics is because I feel like too few people stand up for what is right, or even what they perceive to be as right.  I am tired of class warfare and the expectation of a zero sum game.  Energy producers are already some of the highest taxpayers in the nation.  In order to lessen the price at the pump, boost our economy, and get families back to work, we should look favorably upon the contributions of our energy producers.  They are not villains.

And, harnessing our own fuel sources domestically would allow us to become more energy secure and create a greater national security in the process.  I am tired of messed up situations abroad.  While using energy at home wouldn’t get rid of all of the crazies in the world, it would sure help us deal with them a lot less than we do now.

While this energy thing is a political issue – especially during an election year – it is more importantly an independence issue.  Summer is the season of red, white, and blue.  We are in between Memorial Day and Independence Day.  When I see the flag, I am reminded why I get on my soapbox every now and then.

Fridays with G and L: 11-11-11

G and L treated 11-11-11 just like any other day.  They were their usual creative selves, always surprising Aunt Mel with new skills.

G had fun with Scotch Tape.

Notice the vacuum cleaner hose a.k.a. the fire hose. Perhaps G is taping off the disaster scene.
Very focused.

L decided she would like to fill in as Secretary of the Scott County Republicans.

My assistant secretary!

And not to be outdone, Lucy had plenty of random smiles for the camera on this particular day.

Going for the iPhone - just like her brother. 🙂

11-11-11 was yet another great day with G and L.