A Speech in Search of a Candidate

Nashua, New Hampshire

Good morning, my name is [TBD]. I’m here today to announce my candidacy for the Republican nomination for president of the United States.

After four years, we can no longer be under any illusions about Donald Trump’s character, competence, or values. Ignorant and indifferent to our history, and unappreciative of our laws and cultural legacy, Donald Trump has ripped at the fabric of our democratic culture. He cannot insult, bluster, lie, or tweet America to greatness; instead, he has left us divided and isolated.

It is time to make America Good Again.

I’m under no illusions about how difficult this task will be and I cannot promise you today that I will succeed in this campaign, but what I can promise is an alternative for Republicans of good will, members of the coalition of the decent, who want an alternative to the corruption and cruelty of this president.

I stand here today because I love my country too much to stand by and let this president continue to tear it apart and debase its values.

We desperately need to change the arc of our politics, but this cannot happen if the Republican party does not change its direction.

Americans deserve a president who won’t lie to them, embarrass them, or divide them for political advantage.

At the beginning of a bloody civil war that had tested what it meant to be an American, the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, made a plea to his fellow Americans. *“We are not enemies,” he said, “but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

But this is not a president who appeals to our better angels.

From the Muslim ban to his reckless demagoguery over immigrant caravans, Donald Trump has not missed an opportunity to pit us against one another, or prey upon our fears rather than our shared aspirations as Americans. This is not a formula for national renewal; and it is not what the American story ought to be.

Of course, we must secure the border, but Americans do not build walls. We build doors and bridges. Ripping children from their parents and using our troops as props does not make us more secure.

The American people deserve honesty—which is why truth matters and why character matters. Frankly, we need a president who can be a role model for our children, not a cautionary tale. Parents should not have to turn off the television when the president comes on. America deserves better than a president who pays off porn stars, fudges his taxes, and mocks POWs, Gold Star families, and Navy SEALs.

Instead of draining the swamp, Donald Trump has refilled it with cronies, and conflicts of interest, and used his high office to enrich himself and members of his family. Instead of upholding constitutional values, he has undermined the rule of law by attempting to obstruct legitimate investigations into foreign interference, his campaign, and his own personal conduct.

Donald Trump has also failed the basic tests of leadership. It is easy to shout “America First,” but isolation makes us no safer today that it did in the 1930s. America should lead, not sulk in the corner. This president has insulted and alienated our closest allies, substituted bluster for statesmanship, sparked self-defeating trade wars, and groveled before blood-soaked autocrats.

This does not make us great. Instead, we have lost the respect of much of the world; it fears us for the erratic behavior of this president and mocks us for his absurd pretensions. Instead of being the leader of the free world, Donald Trump has embraced a cynical transactional nationalism that knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

We also cannot borrow our way to greatness. American needs at least one major party that believes in fiscal prudence, but the explosion of the deficit and debt under this president poses an existential threat to this country’s economic future.

There is nothing normal or conservative about this. We support conservative judges precisely because we support the rule of law and, critically, the principle that no man is above the law. Donald Trump does not share this view.

Admiral William McRaven has said that the president’s attack on the media is the greatest threat to our democracy in his lifetime. And I agree.

Much of the case against this president will, of course, be made by our friends across the aisle. But I believe that in 2020, we also need to give Republicans a choice as well. Too many Americans feel that they are political orphans today; and I want to say to them: you are not alone. The loudest voices may dominate the debate, but there are millions of men and women of good faith who share your horror at what is happening to our politics.

Ultimately, this contest will not be about Donald Trump or me, but rather about who we are as a party.

My fellow Republicans: we can cut taxes, confirm judges, grow the economy, and protect the nation without surrendering our soul.

Republicans must make it clear that we reject bigotry, white nationalism, xenophobia, and misogyny. The challenge is both political and moral. Politically, our party cannot survive if it continues to insult and alienate women, young people, and racial minorities. Morally, the embrace or tolerance of hate and inhumanity threatens to be an enduring stain on our character.

We cannot be the party of character and embrace Donald Trump; we cannot be a party that values the Constitution, and sit by and watch the undermining of the rule of law; we cannot be a party that claims to be fiscally responsible, and then preside over the reckless expansion of our national debt, and we cannot be a party that values education, while joining in the dumbing down of our political dialogue.

But there is an alternative.

Conservatives should strive to preserve the values that have built this country, including fairness, decency, civility, prudence, honor, compassion, and respect.

But most important: we want to preserve and expand the promise of America; this is the heart of what it means make America Good Again.

In his farewell address to the nation, Ronald Reagan explained what we meant when he described America as a shining city on a hill. It was he said, “a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.”

That is a vision of national greatness and of goodness. Of strength and decency. And that is a vision that Republicans need to embrace once again.

The pundits will give me little chance to unseat a sitting president and I think we know what we can expect from the president and his media allies. I also understand why so many others have been reluctant to venture out into this political no man’s land. But nevertheless, here I stand.

As that first Republican president said, “The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise—with the occasion.”

I take inspiration from his challenge:

“As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”

Now it is up to us.