Confessions of an Almost Never-Trumper
In 2016, I was almost NeverTrump. I voted for him reluctantly. What choice did I have? I thought he would lose. If he won, he’d betray pro-lifers and supporters of religious liberty.
Today, I’m ready to go door to door for him. He is on track to being possibly the greatest president of my lifetime. Greater even than Ronald Reagan.
Why I Opposed Trump
Why did I feel that way about Trump? What turned me around? And why is he now at the top of my personal pantheon of presidents?
When Trump took his famous ride down that escalator in June of 2015 to announce his candidacy, I was incredulous. He had run before, in the Reform Party, to little effect. He was treating the highest office in the land as if it were an entry-level position, having never been elected to anything before.
And, well, he was … Trump. He had been in the public eye for thirty years by then, often in unflattering ways. I could recall salacious headlines about him from as far back as the 1980s.
By March of 2016, the Hartford Courant quoted me in a front-page story thusly: “Peter Wolfgang, chairman of the Family Institute of Connecticut, said he’d likely sit out the presidential election for the first time in his adult life if his only choices were Clinton or Trump.”
I got punchier. “Donald Trump is an authoritarian strongman with no actual principles guiding him,” I told the newspaper. “He talks about killing the family members of terrorists and he praises Putin. … Are we really going to elect a man who says those types of things?”
That was the closest I ever tip-toed to being a NeverTrumper. But I wasn’t one. I had given my life to the pro-life and pro-family causes. I knew a Hillary victory would mean the end of both and of religious liberty too.
What Turned Me Around
So in an article the same month as The Courant interview, I came out against the Never-Trumpers. And I threw down a marker. Trump should release a list from which he would choose Supreme Court nominees in exchange for pro-life support.
To my astonishment, Trump actually did it. Still, I had to be dragged kicking and screaming to take “yes” for an answer. I temporarily quit the Republican Party in May, the morning after Trump clinched the nomination by winning the Indiana primary.
Not until the middle of July, when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg attacked him, did I conclude that I would vote for Trump. When even the Supreme Court is implicitly saying the election is about the Supreme Court, well, eventually you have to join the team you’re already on.
Then, to my astonishment, Trump won. To my further astonishment, he delivered.
Last month, Trump became the first President ever to address the March for Life in person. And I, a former almost-NeverTrumper, was one of a small group of activists who was honored to meet with him backstage right before he spoke.
Trump the Pro-Life Hero
By the time of his appearance at the March for Life, Trump’s pro-life record had completely turned me around on him. In a recent column, Marc Thiessen laid out that record: “Trump will be greeted as a pro-life hero, because he is one,” he wrote.
The president “put two outstanding conservative justices on the Supreme Court and has appointed a record number of federal appeals court judges. He has allowed states to defund Planned Parenthood, defunded the pro-abortion U.N. Population Fund, and restored and expanded a ban, known as the Mexico City policy, on taxpayer funds for groups that perform abortions overseas.” He protected groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor against oppressive Obamacare rules. He supported the nuns in their Supreme Court fight.
That’s not all. Thiessen noted that “the president recently delivered the biggest blow to Planned Parenthood in three decades when he implemented the Protect Life Rule, which prohibits Title X family-planning funds from going to any clinic that performs on-site abortions.”
Thiessen contrasted Trump’s record with the increasingly radicalism pro-abortion Democrats. He also contrasted it to previous pro-life Republican Presidents. They accomplished far less for the unborn. And unlike Trump, they often gave in to establishment Republican disdain for pro-lifers. They kept us at a safe distance. Trump embraces us wholeheartedly.
After the March for Life, I shared the Thiessen column on my Facebook and asked how any pro-lifer can still be NeverTrump. One prominent Never-Trumper said that abortion would not be “the most pressing moral issue a decade or two hence” because of new technological developments. In “ten to fifteen years the landscape will look way different,” he said. “In the longer run, most of the victories you’re celebrating will seem trivial, while Trump’s role in branding religious conservatives as bigots and hypocrites, may turn out to be pretty crucial to progressive plans.”
Another said “the end doesn’t justify the means.” A third blamed Trump for inciting “extreme racism and violent actions.”
They still talk as if the sort of predictions I made to The Hartford Courant in 2016, like Trump being authoritarian strongman, came true. But they didn’t come true. As the Wall Street Journal recently noted, Trump has not been the dictator his foes claim.
And it is hardly news that abortion leads to other social ills. I’ve been fighting it since I was a teenager. But I spent most of my thirties fighting same-sex marriage and most of my forties fighting assisted suicide and attacks on religious freedom. (And who has forgotten the fight over embryonic stem cells?) Pro-lifers are well aware of how the abortion issue can metastasize.
The Left’s disdain for pro-lifers, too, hardly began with Trump. If anything, the Left helped pave the way for Trump by treating pro-lifers with disdain for decades. By the time Trump came along, the supposed threat to our reputation in polite society rang hollow.
The Greatest President
But this gets to why Trump is on track to being the greatest president of my lifetime. He doesn’t care what polite society thinks of pro-lifers. He will come to the March for Life. The president will come to the Susan B. Anthony List’s banquet. He will overturn Roe vs. Wade, if he can. Donald Trump is all-in for the pro-life cause.
Up until now, I considered Ronald Reagan the greatest president of my lifetime. He won the Cold War without firing a shot.
But it was Harry Truman (A Democrat) who first stood up to the Soviets. Truman and Reagan are the presidential bookends of the Cold War. It was Reagan who guided to victory the noble cause begun by Truman.
Likewise, Reagan and Trump may be to the Culture War what Truman and Reagan were to the Cold War. If Trump really does give us the U.S. Supreme Court Justices that overturn Roe vs. Wade, he will have guided to victory the noble fight begun by Reagan.
That is why Trump has jumped to the top of my personal pantheon of presidents. It’s not something I would have predicted in 2016. But I have never been happier to have been so wrong.
Peter Wolfgang is president of Family Institute of Connecticut Action. He lives in Waterbury, Conn., with his wife and their seven children. The views expressed on The Stream are solely his own.