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I have plenty of reasons to thank Donald Trump

Presidential candidate Donald Trump holds a plane-side rally

Presidential candidate Donald Trump holds a plane-side rally in a hangar at Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport in Vienna, Ohio, on March 14, 2016. Credit: AP / Gene J. Puskar

Enough ink’s been wasted trying to convince 30-some-odd percent of my fellow Republicans to reject businessman Donald Trump at the polls.

It’s never going to happen.

Trump’s like that mystery dress that befuddled the world a year ago: Some people inexplicably thought it was blue and white when clearly it was white and gold. Arguing about it became pointless after a while.

But for all I’ve criticized him, I do need to thank Trump for one thing this year. He’s forced me and many other people I know to dig deeply into the core of our convictions, both as human beings and as Republicans. That wouldn’t have happened to the extent it has without Trump’s presidential campaign. And for that, I offer him my sincere gratitude.

What I found is that manners mean a great deal to me. I had lost touch with that in recent years working in the rough and tumble of electoral politics, but I never will again. I remembered this year how much I admire the qualities of humility and grace in people and recoil at vanity and conceit. Hearing cruel and hurtful things said, especially in public, knocks me totally off kilter. It makes me want to say equally cruel things back.

I learned that I’m a true conservative this year, and that being a conservative has nothing to do with being angry, which, in truth, I already knew. Being conservative is simply about standing by a set of tried-and-true principles and practices that you believe will help the greatest number of people live safe, stable and prosperous lives. It’s about eschewing radical impulses.

A lot of people calling themselves conservatives today, including prominent radio and television figures, clearly don’t get that. They value personal fame and power more than principle, even when it means stirring dangerous discontent. Some of them, I’ve belatedly come to realize, are outright national poison.

I’ve come to fully appreciate, for the first time, what a rare and precious gift our national stability has been all these years. I’ve foolishly taken it for granted throughout my life.

Never in a million years would I have thought that a significant number of my countrymen would gamble with that blessing. Now I know better. Now I know what to truly fear, and so, hopefully, do my children.

I cherish the Constitution more than ever now, and understand that it was designed to protect us from whim and demagoguery. What extraordinary insight its authors had into human frailty. What incredible foresight they demonstrated.

Trump taught us this year that the most cynical and fed-up Americans can fall fastest and hardest for the biggest lies and most fantastical promises. It’s a paradox that’s made me rethink 20th Century history.

No need to elaborate.

I’ve also discovered, as have millions of others, just how few true leaders are out there, and how important they are as beacon lights in uncertain times. True leaders — people who know who they are — don’t blow with the wind. And they don’t always win.

Perhaps most important — and this one is hardest to reconcile — I’ve come to realize that those of us on the political right who have been resisting Trump this year, and all he represents, are probably going to lose. All we can do is keep speaking out, and leave the results up to God.

William F. B. O’Reilly is a Republican consultant.