Now that the Mueller report has been turned in, and it does not appear that any new heads will roll, and we are witnessing a reprise of Election Night Horror with leftists sobbing, I thought that this would be a good time to present my thoughts on Trump that have been gestating for some time now, thoughts I have teased and promised on various occasions. What on earth are thoughtful Christians supposed to do in the upcoming presidential election of 2020?
I ask this question on the supposition that Trump will run again, and that one of the likely Democratic candidates will obtain the nomination. We do not yet know who that will be, so let us use the placeholder name of Some Commie (SC).
To set the problem up, I believe the honorable options to choose from would be 1. To refrain from voting for president at all; 2. To vote third party or a write-in candidate; or 3. To vote for Donald J. Trump. Given how the Democrats have made the slaughter of infants their bloody and non-negotiable sacrament, and how pride in sexual perversion is highlighted on the front of all their political brochures, I believe that for any Christian to vote for the Democratic nominee, regardless of who it is, represents a deep moral confusion, compromise and failure.
But for the Evangelical Kool Kids it won’t look or feel like deep moral confusion, compromise, and failure, and because the #3 option that will be chosen by most evangelical voters will look to them like deep moral confusion, compromise, and failure, I thought I should outline my thinking now. I say this as I have come to the decision that—if things remain largely the same as they are now—I will be voting for the president.
And so here’s my thinking. I would really like to have a discussion on this one, so I am going to leave comments open on this post. Have at it, but behave yourselves.
In the interests of full disclosure, I need to say at the outset that I did not support Trump through the primaries of the last round. Not only did I not support him, I would say it would be fair to say that I strongly opposed him, and if you want to rummage in the archives of this blog for some of that opposition, it will not be all that hard to find. I supported Ted Cruz through the primaries, and in the general election I wrote in a candidate for president, someone who wasn’t running, as a protest vote. Not only so, but given what I knew and believed, I think I did the right thing.
I did this because, to use the short form, character matters. Proven character over time is the best indicator of what is reasonable to expect from someone in the future. This is a preeminently biblical rule of thumb. I did not trust Donald Trump to do what he was promising to do. I flat out didn’t believe him. If a man doesn’t keep promises to his wives, for example, why on earth would I expect him to keep his promises to a solitary voter in Idaho?
All my life, Republican presidents have been running to the conservative right, and governing to the middle. Trump was running to a sloppy and inchoate right, and so I fully expected a New York liberal to emerge from the smoke of the campaign, if he were in fact elected. But contrary to my expectations, Trump has been the first president in my experience to be governing to the right of where his campaign made me think he would.
So when he was running in 2016, I had no expectation that he would, for example, appoint a boatload of Federalist Society type judges. But now, coming up on 2020, I do have an expectation that he will continue to do so. And that is what creates our situation.
One other thing that needs to be included in the review of the last presidential election, and which should certainly affect the reader’s evaluation of my bandwidth as a pundit. It has to be said that I completely misread the mood of the country. I mean by this that I thought that Trump’s initial primary successes were a fluke, or a joke, or some kind of flukey joke. I was among those who thought that an actual Trump presidency was not in the cards at all. There was no way, thought I, that the American people would actually elect that man to that office. So factor that missed call in if you have any inclination to give undue credence to my thinking now.
In Tucker Carlson’s recent book, Ship of Fools, he makes the extraordinarily insightful comment that a happy people do not elect Donald J. Trump president, but that a desperate people do. I was focused on the inability of the electorate to see or identify Trump’s flaws, which were and are manifest, and which is what I thought was going on, and not nearly focused enough on the ABILITY of the electorate to see and identify the flaws of our shuckin’ and jivin’ respectable establishment types. That was my central miscalculation.
A Metaphor to Make Sense of It All
I am currently reading a very capable book by Victor David Hanson, a classics scholar and intellectual, who has written The Case for Trump. This is not a rah-rah election year book, or a flattering puff piece at all. Hanson does not in the least overlook the tawdry details of Trump’s business past, or his bombast, or his unhelpful tweets, or his lurid sybaritic past, the way he vents his spleen, or his fourth-grade level expressions of his political intentions. Hanson sees all that, and notes all that, and provides us with the most helpful metaphor I have heard in any of the discussions of it. Hanson uses a metaphor, almost in passing, that explains what is happening here, and which in my view explains it almost completely.
So Trump is chemo-therapy. The way chemo works is by poisoning the patient, with the doctors doing this rash thing in the pious wish that the poison will kill the cancer at a faster rate than it will kill the healthy tissue. But everyone agrees that it is poison, and that it negatively affects the healthy tissue. The point, however, is to kill the cancer dead before killing the patient dead. The healthy tissue can recuperate at leisure later. That’s what a Pence administration will be for. Pence would be a great bed rest president.
I have previously used the metaphor of Trump as a wrecking ball, but a wrecking ball just takes the whole thing down. It doesn’t discriminate between the parts of the building you want to save and the parts you want destroyed. But in the hands of wise doctors, chemo does discriminate, provided that the cancer dies more rapidly than the patient does. But the intention is to discriminate.
The Actual Debate
So the debate should not revolve around whether Trump is a good or a godly man. The actual debate has to do with whether or not our normal political establishment is in fact normal, or whether it is, as I believe, riddled with disease. Trump can be toxic, and still not be the cancer that is killing us.
And this is where Hanson’s book provides much needed context. If anyone was in need of a thorough review of how wicked the deep state is, and how real it is, and how dangerous it is, Hanson’s book provides that context.
Not only does Hanson’s book provide this damning indictment, but with last week’s utter collapse of the Russian collusion narrative, and the coming shambolic aftermath of that slow motion failed coup attempt, should reveal to every thoughtful observer that the respectable establishment is anything but respectable.
Way More to Discuss . . .
So God’s standards for civic rulers remains what it was. We should want godly rulers, and in every situation where we are given that option we must take that option.
“Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens” (Ex. 18:21).
I don’t have time to develop it here, but I do want to note in closing that this is not an “end justifies the means” argument, and it is not a call for some authoritarian fascist to make our trains run on time. To represent what I am urging here in those terms is to completely misrepresent what is going on. I do not want a strong man to seize control of a chaotic situation. The question is whether we should want more of what has actually been happening—counter-intuitive sanity arising from a most unlikely source.
And so this is, in my view, simply a recognition of God’s mercy to us. And the choice we will face in the 2020 election will be a choice between situations, or a choice between two different conditions. Should we vote for four more years of chemo, or should we vote for the cancer to come roaring out of remission?