This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
I spent the past few weeks tramping through the ruins of lost empires. There's a Planet of the Apes surrealism to ancient Corinth, and it's hard not to see parallels between the Delian League and NATO. Delos, Ephesus and Mycenae are the rubble of once-powerful civilizations.
It's impossible to survey the deserted landscapes and not ponder the causes of decline and collapse. Natural disasters made their unique contributions, but military/political strategic disaster and ruler ineptitude play out again and again. Scipio Africanus is said to have wept as he inflicted Roman vengeance upon Carthage because he foresaw a similar fate for Rome. Americans like to think we are exceptional, but that's a fraught assumption.
An airport layover in Dusseldorf left me with some time to kill. There were a couple of women sitting nearby reading German newspapers, which prompted me to ask them what they thought about the American election and Donald Trump. Their responses were carefully measured, but here's the gist: "Why would your country elect such a dangerous person not just such a danger for you, but such a danger for the rest of us?" "He's just not a serious person; he doesn't seem to know much about the rest of the world." "He is a crazy man."
I've been an active Republican for all of my adult life. That this venerable political party, once home to visionary thinkers and leaders, could hand its presidential nomination to Trump, who seems not to know how much he doesn't know and could not care less, is unfathomable to me. It is unfortunate that so many of those who claim to be leaders of the congressional and presidential wings of the Republican Party have long since made their Faustian bargains and are actively endorsing a totally self-centered know-nothing who behaves like the caricature of a banana-republic dictator.
That only shows that there are no Republican leaders of Lincolnian stature. It is especially dissonant when they have to distance themselves more than once per week from the outrageous statements of a man who even disparages the sacrifice of a heroic Army officer's Muslim family. There's a point where this failure to withdraw an endorsement becomes a self-indicting embrace of a demagogue's values.
Trump is riding astride the Four Horsemen of Calumny he has resurrected from an earlier and equally dismal Republican playbook: Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry and Smear. Then-Sen. Margaret Chase Smith, R-Maine, coined the phrase on June 1, 1950, as the first in the Senate to oppose Sen. Joe McCarthy. Smith's "Declaration of Conscience" laid out four fundamental American values that McCarthyism and now Trumpism seek to trample: (1) the right to criticize, (2) the right to hold unpopular beliefs, (3) the right to protest and (4) the right of independent thought.
Some retired military flag officers, for whom I have high regard, contacted me about endorsing Hillary Clinton, which I've agreed to do. There's irony here, because 98 percent of them are either Republicans or unaffiliated voters. That they feel so strongly about this election says a lot.
We see this as a matter of high stakes when it comes to national security and which candidate has the temperament to make critical decisions about war and peace. Trump revels in being a bull in a china shop, but that mentality scares seasoned national security hands to death.
Elections are always gambles; candidates are rarely perfect. George Washington came as close as perfection gets; few would have guessed that Lincoln would become a giant. The nation has been blessed at critical junctures with presidents of good heart even though there have been a lot of clay feet.
Most Utahns loathe Trump, for admirable reasons. Yet we live a political reality that unless Hillary Clinton gets more electoral votes, Trump and his tweeting fingers will be moving into the White House, where the nuclear codes also reside. There have been Utah voices urging Utahns to either not vote or vote for a third-party candidate on "principle" but it's really a binary choice.
It's entirely possible that this election could turn on Utah's electoral votes. Recognizing that reality, every Clinton vote is crucially important. A nonvote or a Johnson vote is a vote for Trump.
David Irvine is a Salt Lake City attorney, a former chairman of the Davis County Republican Party and a former Republican member of the Utah House of Representatives.