This article has been making the rounds and a friend recently asked what I thought. The author makes some valid points and has obviously put a lot of thought into what he wants to say. His argument at first appears persuasive because it is so long and covers so much, which is why my rebuttal is also lengthy:
“A good candidate with flaws” – Technically speaking, all good candidates are “a good candidate with flaws”. Romney and McCain had their flaws. So did Reagan, Lincoln, and Washington. No one’s disputing whether Trump has flaws, but whether or not he’s a “good candidate”.
“There is nothing morally wrong with voting for a flawed candidate if you think he will do more good for the nation than his opponent. In fact, it is the morally right thing to do.” – I’ve heard two schools of thought in determining what to do in this election. The first goes something like this: we have two candidates who are flawed, but I have to choose between them. Therefore, I’m going to pick the one I believe is less flawed. While Trump and Clinton are strikingly different in approach, rhetoric, antics, and background, they are equally undesirable in the sense that neither is a “good candidate”. I don’t mean to imply they are equally unfit or evil or not-so-nice, but that comparisons are difficult, if not impossible. Supposing we could say for certain that Trump was only 89% unfit/dishonorable and Clinton was 91%. I’d say, “OK. I don’t understand why that means I have to support someone who’s 89% unfit/dishonorable?”
Which brings me to the second school of thought: there are two candidates who are so unfit for office, offensive to decent society and good governance, and dangerous that I can’t actively participate in supporting either one. I lean towards this school of thought, but I don’t fault someone for opting for the other.
“Sometimes he blurts out mistaken ideas (such as bombing the families of terrorists) that he later must abandon.” – I would be most curious to know what the author thinks of Trump’s “mistaken ideas” that he has repeatedly refused to abandon. Why be so selective about Trump? Couldn’t we say the same of Hillary or ANY other candidate? Sure, they says things that are mistaken ideas, but we’re just hopeful they doesn’t actually mean them and that they’ll eventually abandon them. It’s concerning when a candidate spews so many “mistaken ideas”. It’s beyond concerning when he refuses to acknowledge the mistake.
“His many years of business conduct show that he is not racist or anti-(legal) immigrant or anti-Semitic or misogynistic” – Uh…how? Were slave owners not “racist” if their plantations were successful? I don’t mean to call Trump a racist directly (a bigot perhaps) but I’m not certain how a successful business proves a person’s character. As an auditor I can attest there are plenty of crooked, successful businessmen.
“I think he is deeply patriotic and sincerely wants the best for the country.” – It’s not difficult to conceive of someone who wants the best for their country being an incredibly poor choice for President.
“He has raised remarkable children.” – So have dictators. And some of the best parents on earth—through no fault of their own—have some of the worst children imaginable.
“But the main reason I call him “a good candidate with flaws” is that I think most of the policies he supports are those that will do the most good for the nation.” – OK, fair enough. I disagree (discussion to follow) but this is a far less flimsy way to vet one candidate over another.
“Should Christians even try to influence elections at all? Yes, definitely.” – I agree wholeheartedly.
“If this election is close (which seems likely), then if someone votes for a write-in candidate instead of voting for Trump, this action will directly help Hillary Clinton” – Sadly, yes.
“Can I in good conscience act in a way that helps a liberal like Hillary Clinton win the presidency?” – It is an unfortunate lack of imagination that limits a person’s political perspective to that of a sliding scale. If Hillary is more liberal than Trump, then Hillary is worse than Trump the thinking goes. Isn’t Bernie Sanders to the left of Hillary? Is Sanders worse than Hillary? What if a candidate with a solid conservative worldview but complete psychopathic tendencies were elected? Would we be better off if he sought to lower taxes and then launched a nuclear missile at Amsterdam a month later? I’m not implying Trump would do so, just that it’s a woefully inadequate approach to reduce political decisions to a simple sliding scale of left vs. right.
“Some may feel it is easier just to stay away from this messy Trump-Clinton election, and perhaps not even vote. But the teachings of Scripture do not allow us to escape moral responsibility by saying that we decided to do nothing.” – Sure some may feel it is “easier”, but most of us who’ve publicly expressed we don’t intend to vote haven’t exactly been spared opposition or outright attacks from our peers. If this is “escaping moral responsibility” it sure seems a lot harder than the alternative of falling in line. The truth is, voting isn’t the only way Christians can “seek the good of the nation”. I strongly believe in this rather unique circumstance NOT voting is doing precisely that. When a national candidate loses an election there’s fierce debate within the party as to why. If Trump looses I want the answer to be obvious.
“The Supreme Court” – The author presupposes a lot we simply don’t know. Playing the guessing game with a Supreme Court justice has rarely worked out well (Kennedy, Roberts, and Souter were all appointed by Republican presidents as supposed “conservative” justices by Presidents Reagan and both Bush’s—one wonders how Trump’s questionably abrupt conversion to conservatism would avoid similar mistakes).
Nevertheless, let’s suppose one were to try to play the guessing game. If one takes the view—as I do—that the most likely way for the Republicans to retain a majority in the Senate is to not have the Republican brand smeared any further with Trump’s offensive rhetoric, then I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say that the best way to block liberal justices is making sure Trump never becomes President (the opposition party historically gains seats in mid-term elections). Obama’s picks have been decidedly left of center, but Kagan and Sotomayor are significantly further left than Garland. Why? Because Obama now has to deal with a predominately Republican senate. Let’s keep it that way.
Much ado has been made about Trump’s list of 11 judges (including the fact that one of those judges has openly been mocking Trump on Twitter for many months). I am endlessly confused why my Republican brothers and sisters believe the version of Trump that claims he’ll appoint conservatives over the version of Trump who said he’s “very prochoice” and would appoint justices like his sister (a prochoice liberal). Touting the “list” isn’t so much an argument as it is a willingness to ignore certain facts over others.
Let’s cut to the chase: the real issue with the Supreme Court isn’t left vs. right, but judicial activism vs. Constitutional restraint. We wouldn’t be having this discussion if it weren’t for the fact the court continues to broaden its powers to the point it’s nearly the most important “issue” in deciding a future president, and certainly Clinton would seek to expand the courts even further. But there is nothing in Trump’s rhetoric that would suggests he understands or appreciates Constitutional restraint. What he has pledged to do is use the power of the government to force us to behave in the manner he feels is best. What kind of a Supreme Court justice do you think a person like THAT is capable of appointing?
“Abortion” – The homosexual movement has made significant strides because it sought cultural revolution alongside political/judicial change. In some respects, the prolife movement has done the same (there are fewer abortions today than a decade ago). Since we don’t live in a dictatorship, these issues are usually decided when both the culture and the electorate are in harmony, and not because “our guy” got elected and is just going to tell us how it’s going to be. That kind of heavy-handed approach will almost certainly erase the gains made by the prolife movement. Trump’s presidency will set us back because the alternative to the prochoice agenda will be an offensive bigot who continuously says hostile things about women.
“Religious liberty” – I’m uncertain how a man who says he’d like to expand the power of the government to sue people who say things he disagrees with could be taken seriously when discussing issues like religious liberty. That’s not religion and it’s not liberty.
“Christian schools and colleges, Churches, Freedom of speech, Criminalizing dissent” – Let’s assume we could know that the terrible things this author mentions would come to fruition for Christians if Hillary had her way and appointed a decidedly left-of-center Court. I don’t want to suffer any more than the next guy, but is the desire to avoid suffering the only factor here? We’re being asked to side with an authoritarian who’s (overlooking the fact he’s a chronic liar) pledged to be on “our side” instead of siding with an authoritarian who’s not on our side. I say, “OK. Why do I have to side with an authoritarian? Shouldn’t I value liberty more than the avoidance of pain?”
“How can we know that Trump won’t change his mind?” – My bigger concern with Trump is that there are many areas in which he WON’T change his mind. I don’t disagree that we can “never know the future conduct of any human being with 100% certainty” and that the most likely result is that “Trump will do most or all of what he has said” (which version of what he has said notwithstanding), but what comfort is there in that? I strongly disagree that Trump “continues to move in a more conservative direction”. If anything, the party continues to move away from conservatism to fall in line behind Trump. If conservatism could be reduced to a list of checkboxes then this might make sense. But, if that were the case, we would say that someone is “more” conservative on an issue like tax cuts by murdering and imprisoning the opposition then enforcing conservative tax policies. But that’s not how worldviews work. One does not accidently govern as a conservative while behaving as an authoritarian.
I think the biggest question isn’t whether or not Trump will change his mind (which is laughable given the ridiculous number of changes he’s had as compared to any other presidential candidate that comes to mind) but WHY he keeps changing his mind. Did he pick Pence because he suddenly became the very conservative he’s spent most of his life railing against? Or was it because it was the politically expedient thing to do? Over and over I think the evidence bears out that he’s perfectly willing to change his mind when it works in his favor. Tell me again why I should support this man to lead us?
“Taxes and jobs” – As a conservative I don’t deny that Trump’s tax plan (while deeply flawed) is superior to Hillary’s. The far more important issue of ever-increasing deficits is something that neither candidate is seriously talking about (Trump simply alleges that he’s somehow going to get rid of all the fraud and abuse to make up the difference). Tax cuts can spur an economy. They can also create deficits that damage an economy. Not all tax cuts are equal and they should be properly vetted and studied beyond the familiar bumper-sticker phrases that get thrown around in these kind of discussions. We’re not talking about a “good” plan here, but one that’s perhaps a little better than the alternative.
“Minorities” – I am uncertain how expressing a commitment to solving problems solves problems. When Trump gets around to providing actual details and shows actual resolve we may be able to have an actual discussion. Until then I don’t see a value in trying to understand what “we’re going to love each other, believe me. Believe me.” may or may not mean.
“The military” – Like guns, the military is a Republican boogey man argument. I don’t deny that certain liberals (Clinton among them) desire to cut or redefine the military in a manner that’s dangerous to national security, but so is staggering debt. And a President who’s unwilling to include the military as a possible source of governmental waste is a President who isn’t serious about addressing the debt. Trump may say he’s pro-military, but has Clinton said she’s anti-military? What does Trump saying he’s pro-military actually mean? I would suggest that a man who threatens to order the military to murder the relatives of suspected terrorists in violation of international war crimes is anything but pro-military.
“Borders” – Yes, I believe Trump when he says he’ll secure the borders by building a wall. Quick question: where do the majority of new illegal immigrants come from? If you guessed crossing the border you’d be wrong. They came here legally then overstayed their visas. And what are Trump’s policies regarding the broken visa system? Anyone? Anyone? Hmm…it’s almost as if he’s more interested in talking about building a wall than actually addressing illegal immigration.
“ISIS and terrorism” – When Trump tells us how he plans to get tough on ISIS and terrorism we might have something worth discussing. Until then, I feel comfortable suggesting he has no plan. Yes, a continuation of Obama’s policies via Clinton would be disastrous. I don’t know that it would be any more disastrous than a “make this up as we go” approach.
“China and Russia and Israel” – The author seems to have a decent knowledge of politics and a respectable knowledge of religion and has done a respectable job writing this piece. Which is why it’s odd he seems so woefully uninformed about foreign policy. His assertions about Trump and these nations are so off base I find it hard to respond without sounding petty. One could be forgiven for believing Trump would actually side with Russia based on the things he’s said. Those who know bullies know that they very much can be bullied. A secure person doesn’t feel a need to bully or constantly talk about how tough they are.
“Energy” – Sigh…I hate it when I’m in the position of defending the Democrats but, one could easily take out the names “Trump” and “Hillary” and replace them with “Romney” and “Obama” and have a pretty good 2012 commercial. So…have fuel prices skyrocketed during the Obama administration? I’m not defending the President’s energy policies, but this kind of mindless alarmism is precisely why the Republican Party has a difficult time at national elections. No one wants to be associated with the side that constantly says the world is going to end.
“Executive orders and bathrooms” – Every President issues executive orders. The question I’m interested in is which candidate intends to work within their Constitutional limitations in issuing executive orders? What comfort is there in knowing Trump will rescind orders that supposedly follow a liberal agenda if he has repeatedly stated he will invent new powers of the Presidency to follow a Nationalist or Populist agenda? I’ll take bathroom gender issues over forcing companies to only build factories within the US any day.
“Health care” – Trump will work to repeal Obamacare? As opposed to…who exactly? I thought that’s what the Republicans in Congress where busy doing? Oh, right. They’re all a bunch of liars. Good thing Trump is honest. The truth is repealing legislation of that size takes more than a snap of the fingers.
“The unprotected” – This is kind of like saying Trump will cause the oceans to stop rising and the planet will heal. Aside from being astoundingly free of evidence or specifics most of this reads like an election brochure from the locate Democrat party.
“Does character matter?” – “I think Trump’s character is far better than what is portrayed by much current political mud-slinging, and far better than his opponent’s character.” This is undeniably false. No other presidential nominee in modern history has introduced such imbecilic, asinine, offensive, or childish rhetoric to a Presidential campaign. The Republican primary was a circus chiefly because Trump made it so. Trump has consistently character assassinated, equivocated, and lied more than any other major presidential candidate in either party for at least as long as I’ve been alive. It may be that, in some sense, Hillary’s character is worse. She’s not bombastic, but she is conniving. She not self-aggrandizing, but she is power-hungry. Whether she’s worse than Trump is not for me to say, but I don’t think that prevents us from making a judgment on whether or not Trump’s antics are fitting of higher office. The author seems to have no qualms about indicting Hillary’s character or motives.
And here’s what the author doesn’t cover. Monetary policy: Trump has indicated he’ll either “print more money” or “default on the national debt”, either would lead to severe economic stagnation. Trade policy: Trump’s eighth-grader understanding of how free trade works and terrifying rhetoric strongly suggests he intends to start trade wars with most of our closest trade partners. You won’t find an economist (liberal or conservative) who thinks this is a good idea. Foreign policy: Way too much to cover here, but suffice it to say Trump indicated he will only support our NATO partners against an aggressively expanding Russia after reviewing their contributions to NATO. If he would bother to actually check he would find it is precisely those NATO countries closest to Russia that are contributing the most to NATO. Trump is either too arrogant and foolish to realize this or too friendly to dictatorships to care.
The most important issues are the issues no one ever talks about. No one was talking about 911 when Bush ran against Gore or the 2008 housing market collapse when he ran against Kerry. And we weren’t debating the best approach towards the Arab Spring, ISIS, or the Syrian refugee crisis when Obama defeated McCain. Most of us can’t remember the specific issues that were discussed during the debates nearly as well as the actual events that occurred during the president’s term in office. That’s why issues of policy—which are important—pale in comparison to leadership, strength, character, ideology, consistency, and experience.
But the number one reason I oppose Trump is this: it’s far easier to oppose a bad idea coming from the opposition than from within the party. We don’t even have to wait for Trump to get elected to see that this is so. How many leaders, pastors, congressmen, think tanks, media personalities have abandoned their principles to get on the Trump train? When speakers talk of equal pay or minimum wage increases or Trump himself says “I alone can fix this nation” to thunderous applause at the RNC I ask you, where are the people who still believe in limited government supposed to go?