Four years later, I wish I had been wrong

Dear readers and friends,

Recently, the Georgia Asian Times approached me about the opportunity to pen an article post-election, perhaps to “… address the critics who may have questioned my judgment 4 years ago.” Sometimes, like when I am rooting for the LA Dodgers in baseball or Jordan Spieth in golf or the Georgetown Hoya basketball team, being right at the expense of others being wrong can be a fun exercise.

Unfortunately in this particular instance, I am not gloating. My heart is leaking at this critical moment in the American Experiment. In fact, I wish I had been wrong; at least I would have been the only one penalized for poor judgment as opposed to witnessing the fabric of our democracy crumbling around us today. In addition, being right has meant the needless deaths of hundreds of thousands and the millions of jobs lost, just because the President of the United States could not bear to ask his countrymen to wear a mask.

Where do we start?

I still get emotional thinking of the patriots like Captain Humayun Khan, who threw himself at an oncoming truck filled with explosives so that the men and women under his command could live. I look back and ponder “…that could have been my middle brother Ky… (who had served as a Naval Intel officer 2 decades ago).” Then-candidate Trump mocked and questioned the intentions of Captain Khan’s family 4 years ago. Maybe we have come to commoditize terms like “patriots” and “heroes” nowadays, casually throwing them around like a cheap suit. In my mind, the Captain Khans are the real heroes.

Before 2016, the term “Never Trump” did not exist in the lexicon of American society. I considered myself to be a proponent of fairly traditional Republican orthodoxy of free trade, strong national defense and open markets. On the social issues side, I often took the libertarian tack, always careful to pass judgment on who others choose to love or how they should live their lives. I also believed in America’s leadership role in promoting democracy and human rights. I abhorred corruption and cronyism at any level and believed our elected leaders should possess sound character and integrity, as well as being able to tell the truth. Simple enough, right?

What Happened?

Four years ago, the millions of Americans tuned in to watch the inauguration of Donald J. Trump were treated to a surreal spectacle, an event that former President George W. Bush had some choice words of description for on that cold January morning. Aside from his inauguration having the “biggest crowd ever,” Donald Trump also used the term “American Carnage” to describe the state of the country prior to his elevation.

Four years later, after billions of dollars from his supporters have been squandered on promises to Make America Great Again, not to mention lining the pockets of his family and his cronies, we are bearing witness to an American Carnage in real time brought to you by the King of direct-to-consumer reality TV himself.

In the past year alone, over 300,000 of our fellow citizens have succumbed to an apparent hoax of a virus. Millions have lost their jobs, unable to feed or provide shelter for their families, all while the soon-to-be former President continued divide the nation and distract the public from his irresponsible leadership throughout this pandemic. Donald Trump lied and whined while America simmered and burned.

It has been nothing short of a full frontal assault on American Democracy these past 4 years. This past week, in hopefully his final act of grievance as President, the Kraken King incited an insurrection before sneaking back into bed in his pajamas, after suggesting to his followers that he was going to march with them.

If there is a teaching moment from all of this, it is that we simply cannot afford to be mere spectators in the process of democracy. Our collective complacency have led us to this moment. As a Vietnamese-American whose birth country has not had a free election in 45 years, I've always cherished the sacred right to vote afforded every adult American. My family, like millions of others over the years who reached America’s shores, voted with their feet in fleeing Communism and Totalitarianism. Believe me, my fellow Vietnamese-Americans know a little about Socialism and Communism.

To my Republican colleagues I merely ask “Was this all worth it?”

Since 2016, those who have clung on to Donald Trump saw this past election as an ideological clash between capitalism and socialism. Nothing could be further from the truth. Donald Trump is no more of a Republican than Joseph Biden is a Socialist. This consequential election was about defending democracy against the crony autocratic intentions of a wanna-be dictator. A vote for Joe Biden was a vote for decency and decorum and a vote AGAINST a narcissist, one devoid of leadership skills and empathy, and who was willing to lie and cheat in his thirst to remain in power.

Over these past 4 years, I made a conscious effort to not stand idly by while the President pressed on with his baseless lies and attacks on our democratic norms and institutions. I have watched in horror as millions of my fellow citizens, many of whom were perhaps my friends or relatives, fell under the spell of a petulant grifter and his promises of lost glory. Truth is, many Republicans continue to be in a state of denial, buying into his every lie.

How is it that half the country has succumbed to our worst impulses manifested in a chicken warrior RINO who avoided the draft, shirked personal responsibility time and again, denigrated our military heroes, cavorted with dictators and adult film stars, avoided paying taxes AND incited a riot within the hallowed halls of the world's democratic beacon?

A Time for Choosing: A Party of Ideas or a Party of Grievance and Cults of Personality

American Conservatism was never about going back to the Dark Ages. It actually was about restraint, moderation and a slow march forward. In fact, it was Edmund Burke, regarded as one of the founding fathers of conservative political philosophy, who asserted that “Change IS the means for our preservation.”

Donald Trump's warped interpretation of conservatism has only elevated the flat-earth anti-science movement, one that blatantly refutes science’s role in the progress of humankind for centuries; ironically, a big part of this movement is led by the religious zealots whose shared religion with Donald Trump is MONEY, not God. The high priests of religion today engage in self-dealing to profit their ministries and are all ready and willing to propagate conspiracy theories to keep the faithful angry and submissive.

To paraphrase Abe Lincoln, when we stand for nothing, then we will fall for a con artist. Rather than competing on ideas and principles, the soon-to-be ex-President and his Presidential parrots have assaulted the power of the people through numerous attempts to suppress the vote or discredit the elections process. As a long-serving Board of Elections member, I will continue to speak out while the hard-working poll workers, volunteers, elected officials and elections officials are wrongfully attacked by sycophants who have succumbed to the manipulations of a narcissist full of grievance and empty of morals.

If we truly think that our ideas of a compassionate form of capitalism and limited government are truly better than our competitor's ideas, then we must use the art of friendly persuasion to achieve success, not through violence and intimidation. We are losing the current political battle for the hearts and minds of our best and brightest because of our thirst for short-term political gain.

Our nation's challenges demand that we have a healthy and lively discourse. I continue to hold out a shred of hope that the Republican Party will be putting America First by extracting the malignancy brought forth by Donald Trump, draining the swamp and restoring honor and integrity to our American Democracy. If we continue down this path of destructiveness, then the Party of Lincoln and Reagan and Bush will be dispensed to Ronald Reagan's ash heap of history.

– Baoky Vu

Baoky Vu formerly served on George W. Bush’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders. An investment professional by trade, he was appointed by Governor Nathan Deal to the Technical College System of Georgia in 2015 and re-appointed in 2020 by Governor Brian Kemp. Vu serves as Vice-Chair of the DeKalb County Georgia Board of Elections. In 2016, Vu stepped down as a Republican Presidential Elector after voicing opposition to then-nominee Donald J. Trump.