So Donald Trump has announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination, and this sets up any number of miscomponderables. We shall have to think this through, you and I.
The fact that I am going to say what I think—straight, no chaser—should not be taken as an indication that I am going to say it in an agitated manner. No, no, not at all. It is possible to state the facts, and to exhibit the implications, and all while aping the demeanor of the Buddha contemplating a collection of lilies in a Japanese Pond Garden. Just watch. And yes, aping is the verb I want.
I am going the calm route instead of the rant route because in addition to the points I wish to make I also want to illustrate an interesting development in ethical theory. It used to be thought that vile behavior was when you engaged in vile behavior. Now vile behavior is anything that causes someone else to engage in vile behavior. Since we are dealing with a certain kind of person, this can always be arranged. Just watch.
One thing to remember about all of this has to do with the strategic importance of personalities, not to mention the huge, excuse me, yuge impact of at least one personality.
For those moderate Republicans—and I use the phrase advisedly—wrenching at their heads over the fact that Trump is running again, and I am speaking here of the NeverNeverNeverTrump contingent, the time has come for these unhinged opponents of Trump to consider their complicity in all the events that have brought us to this point.
I am talking about the clear preferences that the Fastidious and Pure Ones (FAPO) among us display for manifest and rancid corruption over against the obstreperousness, petulance, and pugnacity of Trump. They would rather be ruled by criminals than by a boor.
Anyone who thought that a good way to get a man like Trump to step gracefully aside—and doing so in a speech filled with fulsome praise of Ron DeSantis—by heaping buckets of vituperation over his head, is someone who should never be allowed to write a novel or short story. They do not understand character motivation at all.
These are the kind of people who can sit on a teevee-punditry-panel about politics, and in the same segment discuss the Russian collusion story, the Mar-a-Lago raid, and the DOJ’s appointment of Jack Smith as special counsel to investigate Trump (immediately after he announced, in a massive coinkydink, who would have thought it?), right alongside their chuckling dismissal of Trump’s claim that the 2020 election was rigged. Ho, ho, ho.
Trump could secure the Republican nomination, and the very next day Biden could green light a raid on Mar-a-Lago with an assemblage of federal agencies that looked like the finale of The Blues Brothers, and these people would act like this was a “separate issue,” urging us all to let “the process work its way out.” They clearly needed to use armed force like this against a political opponent because it was possible that Trump was thinking about a coup. And anyone who believes this kind of raid is “interference” with a presidential election is clearly a conspiracy nut, and needs to be hauled off to Conspiracy Nut Readjustment Camp.
A Glance at the Scoreboard
But still. Trump has declared, and so we should think dispassionately about his record, and what we are going to do now. So during his tenure as president, what did Trump accomplish or reveal? And we should take a look at both positive and negative.
We have to begin by recognizing the sad fact that, despite herculean efforts, he was unable to get gas prices anywhere near the levels they now comfortably occupy. This should be granted on all sides.
Okay, seriously. What did Trump accomplish on the positive side of the ledger? And what should we put on the negative side?
At the very top of this list, we would have to say that he kept his commitment on federal judges, particularly with regard to his nominations for the Supreme Court. Because of this, the Dobbs decision was made a possibility, and the grotesque legal reasoning that went into Roe was deservedly consigned to the place where the worm does not die. It would be difficult for me to overstate what a monumental accomplishment this was. Other Republican presidents had nominated justices who created the possibility, but Trump was the closer, appointing and sticking by three justices who got the decision overturned. And I can think of a lot of Republican politicos who, when it came to that point, where it was going to happen or not, would have choked. This is the one great thing that I would put on the positive side of the ledger. There were other things that I liked—no new wars, low gas prices, deregulation, and so on—but the demise of Roe was something Trump did that pleased the Lord. On that ground alone, if he were to become president again, I would be content.
What were Trump’s failures? I am not talking about character failings, although those are related, but rather asking about policy failures. In the front rank of disasters, Trump got completely rolled on COVID, vaccines, lockdowns, and all the rest of that buffoonish charade. This was the mechanism chosen to run him out of town, and he tried to get out in front of the mob and make it look like a parade. He was going to develop the best vaccine EVER. All other vaccines were losers, the worst.
Another big problem is that Trump has dunked on Pence for not putting a stop to the ratification of the Electoral College votes. Pence should have, according to Trump, used all the formal power of his office to put a stop to the travesty. Granting that it was in fact a travesty for the sake of the discussion, this is one of the grossest things that Trump ever did, actually. Trump still had the formal power of office himself, and for him to refuse to use his power to put a stop to something he actually believed was an unconstitutional injustice, while at the same time expecting Pence to do something about it when Pence did not believe it to be that sort of injustice was and remains a display of real cowardice. And if Trump claims, in his defense, that for him to do such a thing in such a moment would have ushered in a constitutional crisis, then Pence can say the same, and the point remains.
This means that if Trump loses the nomination to another conservative candidate, one who could continue to drive the establishment crazy but without the nation having to deal with Trump-fatigue, I would be most content. But depend upon it, if any other conservative candidate wins the nomination, he will be demonized in about ten minutes, and we will soon be dealing with DeSantis-fatigue, or whoever-fatigue.
What I Intend to Do About All of This in the Meantime
Apart from watching it all unfold with a bemused objectivity, I intend to wait and see what happens. Everybody is talking as though this will be a Trump/DeSantis match-up, and are already placing their bets. But there are quite a few other Republican politicos who are not getting any younger, and are just as ambitious as ever they were. So there are all kinds of reasons to believe that others will intrude their integers into the equation.
But no matter what happens, Trump will have his base of die-hards, and so any others who enter the race are far more likely to take votes away from DeSantis, say (if he runs). Trump is the front runner, in other words, and if the Republican Establishment rallies around anyone else, or even looks like they are rallying around someone else, this will be the wind beneath Trump’s wings, which is quite a word picture.
This may have been the reason for Trump’s swipe at DeSantis actually—done to provoke the Establishment into rallying to the side of DeSantis, in order to discredit him. But that would just be Machiavellian and déclassé, instead of fearful and déclassé.
That Pink Stuff
I have argued before that Trump was the nation’s chemotherapy. He is toxic, and you wouldn’t ever want to inject him into a healthy body, because what would be the point of that? But the logic of chemo is that a body riddled with cancer is already dying, and the toxin is introduced with the purpose of killing the cancer faster than it kills the healthy body. That’s the theory anyway. Trump was like that. Trump was introduced into the body politic, and there was a marked coarsening of our public discourse, as in, mean tweets. But at the same time, after two years of him, the tumors were one quarter the size. I am not trying to damn Trump effect with faint praise here. This is true praise, although the Trump effect is to be distinguished from Trump the man.
During this process, the worst thing about our diseased body politic is that it was constantly preening itself about how health conscious it was, and was constantly treating cancerous skin splotches with spray tan. The previous size of the tumors had become a matter of pride for them, actually. We were then in the position of having the cancer lecture us incessantly about how toxic the chemo was.
But let me change the analogy to make another related point, and please note this is not something that Trump himself has done, but rather something that the presence of Trump has revealed.
And so here it is. Another valuable service that Trump performed was that of helping out the evangelical world with an MRI scan. You know, when they make you drink a quart of some pink stuff, and then shove you in a big tube to determine what parts of your body get lit up by the pink stuff? That kind of thing?
When Trump revealed the presence of some deadly compromises in the conservative Christian world, he did not do this because of his insightful analysis, but rather because he was the pink stuff, and certain parts of our body, like David French, got lit up by the pink stuff. It was just a chemical reaction, you know? What I mean is that the pink stuff enables us to see the central incoherence of Christians attempting to support secularist pluralism.
So then, take a gander to your right, and you will see how David French was expressing himself pre-pink stuff, and how he was doing so post-pink stuff. The contrast is remarkable. This is why expressions like volte-face are so necessary. Taking his first sentiment, as I do, as a good representation of where we were and still are, I can only take the second expression as plain evidence that French is in the process of capitulating to the other side.
That is not how he sees it, and of course not. In the linked article you see how French is still fighting on the legal front for the religious liberty of Christians. Sort of. But there is still something deadly here. French is changing with the times.
“LGBTQ Americans now enjoy more rights to form their own family and greater protection from workplace discrimination than at any other time in American history. That’s how pluralism is supposed to work. It is possible for people with profoundly different worldviews to enjoy both individual liberty and freedom from workplace discrimination.”David French, in the linked article
David French is now celebrating the fact that the alphabet people can “form their own family.” He has made his peace with Obergefell. But at the same time, I would invite you to please note that he has committed the thought crime of leaving the + sign off his celebration. Whence the hate? Why should the + sign groomers have to face the hostility of workplace discrimination? And why is French fighting for the free speech rights of a small business web designer, and not the free speech rights of Christians who work for some big corporation in the midst of their big June rainbow frenzy? For such a man to witness to a homosexual colleague would, for French, be a violation of the truce that the middle-of-the-roaders are trying to work out for us. But no thank you.
On issues like this, we are not supposed to change with the times. It is all right to change with the times if what you are talking about is dropping your landline, and making your cell phone your main number. I have done that. It is all right to move with the times if you now navigate around an unfamiliar city by listening to a female bot telling you when to turn. As opposed to the older method of buying fold-out paper maps at gas stations. But we are not supposed to change with the times such that we celebrate same-sex unions provided we are in the workplace.
And so all this could be a sound argument for another round of Trump. Look around at the evangelical world of principled capitulations, and it seems evident to me that we need another MRI. We need to drink another quart of that pink stuff.
More NQN Stuff
A big part of what we do here in November is that we give stuff away. As in for free. This helps offset the impression that our refusal to qualify assertions during November proceeds from a churlish heart. Rather it comes from a heart brimming over with generosity and open-handedness.
So at the bottom of every NQN post, look for the current offers, whatever they might this week. Please note that these are different from Weeks One, Two and Three.
I want to exhort you to take advantage of these giveaways. We have already busted all previous records for free books going out the door—numbering in the tens of thousands, actually—and it would be really fun to lap ourselves a few more times.
1. This week’s links to free Kindles include THREE free books, not just two. The first is The Lord’s Service, which is a great explanation of covenant renewal worship. The second is my book on building Christian community. It is called Gashmu Saith It, and the documentary that drops this week is a companion to this book. The third book is The Case for Classical Christian Education, in case you were wondering about this key element in our program. These are all Amazon affiliate links.
2. Also November, anyone can get one free month of Canon+ using the code NQNQ. This only works for new subscribers—sorry, it doesn’t work for existing or annual subscriptions. If you do this, you will be able to watch my new documentary over Thanksgiving, and to do so for free. The name of the doc is “How to Save the World (in Eleven *Simple Steps).” That would be simple steps, not easy steps. Critics should be sure to watch it in order to confirm their suspicions about the apparent megalomania of the title, but which will turn out to be a dud. Since disappointing my critics has become something of a hobby of mine, I do encourage critics to take advantage of this free offer.
3. And this November, current subscribers can give a year’s subscription of Canon+ for just fifty bucks—$49.99 instead of $95.88. That way you can get that pastor, friend, or enemy the Canon+ content they’ve been so wishing for.
4. And in addition to all of that, from my quaint little Mablog Shoppe, over the course of this coming week (Nov. 21-25), you may obtain my collection of tweets that I have sent aforetime out into the void. That book is called No Artificial Tweeteners, and is free below.
No Artificial Tweeteners
Okay, so I do tweet things from time to time. And over time, they accumulated, so when they got to the depth where I thought I should shovel the sidewalk, it also occurred to me that if they were all put into a book, it might make a book. And if it were refrigerated, to stay with the metaphor, it wouldn’t melt.