Now that the yelling has subsided somewhat, and I think that it is at least possible that I might be heard by people outside my little corner, I wanted to make a few points about the Trump years. I want to register some gratitude, make some observations, and offer some criticisms, and in that order. Having done that, perhaps in somewhat summary fashion, I want to encourage culturally and politically minded Christians by pointing to the only solution.
The first point of gratitude is that God used the Trump years to highlight my blinkered limitations as a political observer. If you go back to the archives of this blog, back to the time of the 2016 primaries, you will there read the observations of a man who was not reading the larger story. I don’t feel like I was sinning in my opposition to Trump then, because I think it was reasonable, given those circumstances. But at the same time, it highlights nicely the limitations of reasonable conservatism. God was intending to mess up America’s hair, and I didn’t think that was a good idea. But it was.
The second point of gratitude is that Trump prevented Hillary from becoming president. When Trump won, despite the fact that I hadn’t voted for him, a wave of relief washed over me—Hillary was one, two, three, not it. The Clinton corruption machine was not going to occupy the White House again. True, we now have the Biden corruption machine, which is every bit as vile, but not nearly so competent. But a corrupt people are going to have a corrupt government, and Trump gave us a four year breather, a one-term hiatus.
The third point of gratitude is that Trump kept his promise with regard to federal judges. He made three appointments to the Supreme Court, and hundreds of appointments to the federal judiciary. I am confident that there will be numerous occasions in the coming years where we will feel that gratitude wash over us again.
Fourth, I am grateful for the peace deals that he arranged in the Middle East. On a related note, I am grateful for no new wars, particularly the endless kind. We will no doubt now go back to our usual custom of making a hash of things over there on the other side of the world, but in the meantime the peace deals he arranged illustrate that the thing is possible—but not through the “received wisdom.”
And last, I am eternally grateful to Trump for the way his presence in Washington revealed to us the massive corruption of “the swamp.” Trump’s manners and tactics were the kind of thing that could not be disposed of in the usual ways, and so the evildoers had to resort to the unusual ways. But those unusual ways were naked and open, and right out where we could all see them, and so it is useless for them to pretend now that it didn’t happen. We all saw.
Closely related to this point is the fact that Trump’s tenure revealed the stark reality of “two Americas.” And the division goes far beyond what might be described as mere bruised feelings in a hotly contested election. No, we have two cultures, each one deeply alien to the other. Whatever the end will be, it is unlikely to be very pretty.
That same division also runs straight through the evangelical world. It turns out we have our very own swamp. On the one hand, we have a great mass of disoriented evangelical believers, sheep without a shepherd. Then on the other hand, we have a host of well-paid shepherds, busy in their self-appointed task of gathering wool off the pigs. Whatever else happens, we need to recognize that we are in the same kind of jam as the rest of America, only with our own little foibles mixed in.
When I say that Trump exposed the corruption of official Washington, I am not engaging in whattaboutism. I am not arguing that Trump should get to tweet mean and petty things because his opponents did thus and such. Neither am I saying that the behavior of official Washington in any way justified Trump doing this thing, or perhaps even that thing. I am not talking about anything justifying anything. I am talking about what was revealed to us in this whole affair. I am talking about what we all know now.
And what we all know now is that respectable Washington is a sink of manifest corruption. To reapply a great observation from the past, official Washington is like a dead mackerel on the beach under moonlight—it both shines and stinks. With all the “respected” officials now coming back into positions of power, the official line will try to be “the adults are back in charge.” But the Russian collusion hoax was one of the great scandals of American political history, and was in fact a slow motion coup attempt. Our intelligence agencies under Obama were turned on a domestic political opponent—and this long before Trump did anything whatever in office—and the astounding thing is that nobody is going to pay for it. One FBI agent, who falsified evidence, got probation. And the chief culprits from that whole fiasco could very easily find themselves back in positions of influence and power. And when that happens, there will be no outcry.
There will be no outcry because a certain kind of Republican has signed a peace treaty with the corruption. You will be able to tell this kind of Republican because he is the one who exudes a sense of moral superiority whenever he is in the presence of a conservative who actually sees the extent of the corruption.
There will also be no outcry because those attempting to raise one will be de-platformed and shadow-banned and exiled. They will be dismissed as die-hard Trump supporters. “Let it go already.”
My biggest criticism of Trump is that he got rolled on the pandemic. Anything that contributed to the year 2020 being “quite the year”—by which I mean the pandemic, the masking orders, the lock downs, the riots, the race for a vaccine, the whole enchilada—was part of a concerted effort to make it impossible for Trump to gain a second term. Everything. All of it. The whole thing. And when Trump made the fatal decision to try to become the best pandemic president ever, he was trying to assume command of the mob that was coming to lynch him. It simply was not going to work, and it didn’t.
Second, because Trump is no fiscal conservative, he had no reason not to go along with, and to cheer, the fiscal insanity of the stimulus payments. And because the Republicans capitulated on this, they will now have absolutely nothing to say when the first Biden Budget arrives, with trillions appropriated for federally subsidized unicorn farts.
Third, over the course of his term he was not successful in keeping his conflicts focused. Donald Trump was a man in whom the personal and the principles all blurred together. Thus it was hard to see what was a merely a personal spat, and what was an actual threat to the republic. There were plenty of the latter, but Trump’s behavior frequently obscured them from view. This had the result of Trump losing support from a hitherto unnamed group, the #MaybeTrumpers.
Then, fourth, on the stolen election. As I have argued before, I do believe that fraud in this election affected the outcome of the election. That is my conviction, but that is not the point here. The point is that someone in Trump’s position was likely in possession of far more evidence on this than any of us on the outside. I think it was likely, but in any case, he either had it or he didn’t have it. And this is the point of my criticism. If he had it, he should have done far more with it. If he didn’t have it, he shouldn’t have done as much as he did.
For example, for Trump to put any pressure, and by implication blame, on the vice-president in the counting of electoral votes, was an effeminate failure. He was demanding that Pence do something that Pence didn’t believe was right, while at the same time refusing to do himself something that he did believe was right. We can leave out of this whether Pence had any additional alternatives because that is not the point here. The point is what the basic alternatives were, given Trump’s claims.
So I am not saying that Trump should have done something like declare martial law—I am simply illustrating the logic of the competing claims. If Trump had declared martial law, and then laid out “all the evidence” for the whole world to see, then we would have needed to come to only one of two possible conclusions. One would be that the evidence was clear and compelling, and that Trump had prevented a coup, and the other would be that the evidence was lame and halting, and that Trump was guilty of perpetrating a coup. But in either case, Trump would have pushed all his chips to the middle of the table, and he would have won or lost the bet.
But as it stands now, Trump is an outside former president, and he merely has the rhetoric of “stolen election.” This will be sufficient to keep everything inflamed, but it will not be sufficient to bring any healing to America.
The Only Way
Christ is the answer. Every evangelical knows that. Christ is the answer.
But what is the question? What is our problem?
Our problem is that we have become a fetid sinkhole of corruption. I have used that word corruption more than once here, and I am using it in the sense of diseased. It is the opposite of healthy. And the corruption is so advanced that we are forced to confess that there is no political solution. No election can fix it. No stolen election can fix it. No stolen election prevented can fix it. We are in a bad way, and there is no healing to be found in the false doctrines of secularism.
Secularism is the god that has failed us.
Not only is secularism the god that failed, it is the very name of our failure. It is the name of our rebellion. It is the name of our corruption. It is the dead mackerel by moonlight.
If we are to be saved, as a people, as a nation, it will have to come in the form of a massive reformation and revival. This means real Christians catching fire, nominal Christians becoming Christians and catching fire, false Christians confessing their life of lies, becoming Christians and then catching fire, and then having all the non-Christians come to watch us burn.
The fire will need to be a gospel fire—which is to say, the death, burial and resurrection of the Son of God, coupled with a recognition of the implications of His death, burial, and resurrection. The implications are straightforward, and if we do not grasp them, then it should be apparent by this point that we are utterly lost.
There are three implications that I should mention here. The first is that if Jesus rose from the dead in this world, then it follows, of necessity, that He is the king of this world. He is in charge of everything—because He rose from the dead.
The second is this. If He rose from the dead, after having been crucified for sinners, then He has the authority to forgive our sins. That forgiveness is in the palm of His hand, and it is extended, offered to us. Offered to all of us.
The third implication is that if Jesus is Lord, and if Jesus is Savior, then He has the authority to tell us how to live. He has the authority to require America to do things. Moreover, He has the authority to tell us to stop doing things. Among those things—and the name for this is repentance—we must abandon our sexual licentiousness, repudiate our blood lust, and turn away from the absurd notion that we have any idea how to govern ourselves apart from a transcendental and objective reality—seated at the right hand of God the Father.
So Christians should know what to pray for—a gospel-driven reformation, a Christ-honoring revival, and a complete end-run around the secular state.