#NeverTrump vs. #TrumpOverHillary: The Anguished Divide for Conservative Christians
This presidential election is an acid in my life. Some things it dissolves. The things it doesn’t dissolve, it leaves marred.
I was a Marco guy with strong sympathies for Ted Cruz. (Why Cruz? I think that few understand the original constitutional design as well as he does.) I was a conservative who appreciated Jeb Bush. Though he was often pilloried as a sell-out squish, I knew he hadn’t governed that way in Florida.
Trump v. Clinton
I saw Trump as a novelty candidate. I called him the guy who says all the stuff your uncle drives everyone crazy with at Thanksgiving. When he criticized John McCain for getting captured, I was sure he was done, but he continued to climb. In every debate I saw a boorish performance by a man unprepared to talk about policy who just blustered his way through.
Of course, he won. I committed myself to supporting him in the general election. The reason is simple. I know Hillary and her plans. She is a pro-choice, secular, collectivist. The best thing about her is that she is a much worse salesman for her views than President Obama has been for his.
Others will emphasize her record, on Benghazi, on the email scandal, on leveraging the Clinton Foundation. They argue that she represents a generational threat for two reasons. They fear that she will embrace an immigration policy that will fundamentally reshape America’s electoral balance and change the Supreme Court, setting back the causes of life and religious liberty for decades. It is the continued development of U.S. policy in a direction I think of as hostile to true liberty and the marginalization of unborn human life that troubles me the most.
Compared with the threat of a Clinton presidency, I saw Trump as a wildcard and an amateur. I thought (and continue to think) that he would cede most governing to his vice-president and would mostly be a sloganeer and an image maker.
Goodness help us, we have tried to do what we thought was right.
But I cannot deny the points that friends ardently opposing Trump have made. They view him as a faux-Republican, a non-conservative, a man of wealth without a moral compass, and a political opportunist who must not be trusted. They argue, especially after his recently-revealed comments which suggest he’s committed sexual assault, that he lacks even a baseline of character that we should expect of a president.
Is There Any Point?
I have many friends in both camps. I have tended to be closer to group one than group two because of my worries about the court. I figured that a blustering dilettante with no government experience could scarcely do the harm that a master of the process could do. For that reason, Donald Trump the candidate has seemed to be worth the anguish (if just barely in our binary system).
But with the latest revelation, and knowing more is likely to come, I have had to ask myself whether there is any point at which I must deny the candidate my support, even in the face of an awful alternative. (There must be such a point. There must be.)
My #NeverTrump friends don’t understand how hard this election has been for me and others. We haven’t been blind to the problems with the Republican candidate. But we have also seen the problems with the Democratic candidate and thought she represented the greater danger to the things we believe in. But now … we mostly deliberate and suffer.
#NeverTrumpers look at me backing away from Trump and say, “What has changed? Didn’t you always know this about him?” In truth, probably so. All I can say is that when you decide to persevere in a cause you think is good, however flawed the people, you can withstand the stacking of a great many straws before your knees start to buckle.
It is hard to be a conservative, a Christian and/or both who faces the electoral decision before us. There is no truly pro-life Republican or Democratic candidate at the top of the ticket. There is no true religious liberty Republican or Democratic candidate. There is nothing approaching an actual conservative in serious competition for the White House. There is no one in this race likely to become president who genuinely shares our values, our spiritual commitments, our way of life.
Creatures of Washington and Manhattan
We have before us a creature of Washington and a creature of Manhattan, one whose wealth was made through auctioning government access and another who made money selling vice and paying off politicians.
Our situation is bad enough. We can scarcely cast any vote with the certainty that it is the right vote. The least we can do is to stop tearing each other apart and to stop treating one another as though we no longer recognize whatever good once drew us together. Goodness help us, we have tried to do what we thought was right.