I have always sought to avoid political engagement on my digital media channels. There probably isn’t a forum more ill-suited to nuanced discourse than social media, and all it does is serve to annoy friends and family with differing views. And I prefer to keep my blog light, with fun anecdotes and remembrances that appeal to a wide audience.
Eventually, however, there comes a time and/or an issue on which it is necessary to declare, “Here I stand, I can do no other. God help me, amen!” In this case, I feel obligated, nay, compelled to make my “Luther moment” and speak out a in a strong yet hopefully winsome way against the presidential candidacy of one Donald Trump.
I do so as a Christian, as a conservative, and as an American.
As a Christian, I object to Trump’s wrapping himself in the trappings of an ill-defined faith in order to insulate himself from criticism. I see someone who makes grand claims about his faith (“I read the Bible more than anyone”) that would strike anyone who has actually read the Book as contradictory and self-serving. His statement that he has “never asked [God] for forgiveness” reveals an understanding of Christianity that my three-year-old son could easily refute. And his constant lowering of the discourse by referring to those he opposes as “losers” (and worse) while bragging about his accomplishments is antithetical to pretty much every word Jesus ever spoke. It doesn’t take a theologian to recognize Trump’s newfound religiosity and clumsy adaptation of Christian culture and language as a callous attempt to endear himself to an important voting bloc. That some religious leaders have embraced his shallow show of piety is disturbing on so many different levels.
As a conservative, I find every position Mr. Trump has recently taken to require such incredible levels of salt to be taken with it to render them unpalatable. The (likely) financial and verbal support he has given to Planned Parenthood over the years (we don’t know how much because he refuses to release his tax records—most likely for that very reason, among others), the glowing endorsement of his sister (a radical pro-abortion judge) for a seat on the Supreme Court, and his not-all-that-long-ago statements that he was “very pro-choice” and opposed to banning partial birth abortions all make me less than convinced of his newly adopted pro-life stance. His tough (read: insane, immoral, and impossible to enact) immigration position is belied by his repeated and habitual use of illegal immigrants for construction projects. And I can’t take seriously any talk of fiscal responsibility from a man who lives in such wretched, tacky opulence, and has filed bankruptcy four times. In short, the only cause I believe Donald Trump is passionate about is—Donald Trump. When future objectives require different allies, I fully expect Trump will develop new convictions in a hurry.
As an American, I worry about having a man who has shown no evidence of tact, decorum, or statesmanship to be the standard bearer for U. S. diplomacy. His recent quoting of fascist Italian dictator Benito Mussolini on the campaign trail would be disturbing if taken in isolation, but is downright frightening when one takes into account how he regularly embraces the use of governmental authority to squelch opposition. He has spoken admiringly of the “power of strength” Chinese authorities used to put down the Tiananmen Square uprising, and has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin as being a “strong leader.” His threats to sue anyone who speaks ill of him sets an ominous tone for those of us who embrace First Amendment freedoms. Professor Paul David Miller argues that Trump is an “American fascist” in the Mussolini mold—a charge that gets harder to refute with every passing moment.
To be clear, I am by no means a fan of either of Mr. Trump’s potential opponents in the general election. Hillary Clinton would likely continue—possibly accelerate—many of the most disastrous policies of the last eight years. Bernie Sanders would almost certainly be a lame duck president the moment he took office, considering he wouldn’t be able to get Democratic congressional members to support his policies and tax increases, let alone what is likely to be a Republican majority. But one could at least reasonably assume both Clinton and Sanders would work within the constitutional framework, and would not be tempted to start a war in a burst of braggadocio and machismo. While a Clinton or Sanders presidency might well be a train wreck in the making, I fear a Trump presidency would be a one-way rocket ride to the heart of the sun, with middle fingers extended while hurdling to our doom.
Trump is an American Silvio Berlusconi—a media celebrity with little or no political experience, supported by a populist wave of disenchanted voters, who promises to bring his own business acumen and success to the nation writ large, however exaggerated those claims to success might be. Appealing to political outsiders with tough talk and colorful language, Trump, like Berlusconi before him, uses skirmishes with the media to hide a lack of understanding on the most basic of issues.
Berlusconi ended up being elected to the presidency of Italy. It did not end well.
Trump is the one presidential candidate in my lifetime who actually has the potential, if not to entirely dismantle the Republic, to at least alter it permanently and beyond recognition. The populist soup he has created has echoes of Weimar-era Germany, with calls for “change” drowning out any question as to what kind of change might be occurring, or if the cure might not be worse than the disease.
I could go on, but I wouldn’t be saying anything that isn’t being said and re-said all over the internet. The scary thing is, I’m not sure it makes much difference. For Trump’s die-hard supporters (and they are legion), nothing is going to dissuade them. He could decapitate a puppy at the next debate, and his supporters would faun that no other politician would have the guts to do such a thing.
To all those who are supporting, or are thinking about supporting Donald Trump in the upcoming election, I urge you to reconsider. While I understand the frustration with the current state of affairs, not all change is beneficial. Listen to what Trump is saying—and not saying—and ask if he actually has answers to the issues about which you care. Consider the importance of statesmanship for someone serving as both lead diplomat and commander-in-chief. Think about the principles that have guided this country for over 225 years, and ask if you are willing to sacrifice those on the altar of celebrity.
More than any other election in the last 150 years, the fate of the Republic stands in the balance. Here I stand, I can do no other. God help us all.