To Trump or Not to Trump? Why I’ve Landed Where I’ve Landed
“Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.”
Four years ago I posted much of what I am about to say again. This time, I’m saying it against a backdrop of national madness and volatility that makes 2016 look calm, and that’s an impressive achievement.
I’m also saying it with a keener sense of urgency than I had four years ago, along with a desire to explain what some of my friends find unfathomable, and others find inevitable. I will be voting again for Donald Trump.
Since blogging affords a chance to explain your position on issues that matter, and since this one unquestionably does, let me explain why I’ve landed where I’ve landed.
There are four points I weigh when I vote in a presidential election:
1. The principles and policies the candidate promotes
2. The principles and policies of the party the candidate will elevate
3. The appointments the candidate will make, particularly in the Supreme Court
4. The general trajectory the candidate will take the country if elected
Based on those four considerations, I’ve decided that my vote and support will go to Trump. Let me take each of these four categories and explain why he’s my choice.
Principles and Policies of the Candidate
A candidate’s principles on questions like big versus limited government, American exceptionalism, immigration reform, national defense, taxes and personal liberties, will guide her or his policies.
Those two items — Principles and Policies — carry more weight with me than the temperament, character or personality of the candidate. Temperament and character matter, but to me, the governing policies and principles of the candidate matter even more.
Now, if I were choosing a pastor, then character, like sound doctrine, would be a non-negotiable. In that case, if both candidates for the pulpit were of questionable character, I’d say “forget it” and find another church. Within the Body of Christ there’s no excuse for leadership which is not high in both character and competence.
But while I’d prefer any leader — City Councilman or Police Chief or Governor or President — to be godly, dignified and gentlemanly, I won’t demand those qualities in secular leadership. Nor will I even place them above policy, because ultimately, I believe the policies of the president have more lasting impact than her or his temperament and character.
More plainly put, if someone is steering a ship I am on, I want him to be steering it in the direction I want to go. I would also prefer the man at the wheel be a good man. More than that, though I want him to be the man who will get the ship to the right destination.
(Mother Teresa was, after all, a woman of immeasurable character and temperament. I’m not at all sure she would been an effective Commander in Chief. It’s a president we’re electing next week, not a saint.)
Give Him This Much At Least
Which is not to say I view Trump’s entire character and temperament as problematic. There are times his words make me cringe; other times I say, as Ben Shapiro did recently, “The Good Trump showed up.” The night of the 2016 election I saw that Good Trump, humbled but assured, calm, reasonable. Over the last four years, he has often been that. (Case in point, the last debate.)
But he is also, and often, painfully wrong in the words he uses and the tone he resorts to in public. I won’t concede that he is, as some like to insist, a raging narcissist, but I will say plainly that I’m against the name calling and sarcasm we too often hear from a man who should both know and do better as a Christian, an adult and our president.
That said, I’m also not about to demonize a man who’s demonstrated competence and gotten results in areas I care deeply about (economy, appointments, national security). Nor will I paint his character with a broad brush, whether positive or negative.
Speaking of which, I’ve got to give him this: Trump was doing just fine in life before he took on the presidency. He was a comfortable and successful billionaire who could have coasted pleasantly into his later years. Instead he took an unpaid position that’s subjected him to daily stabs from a media and cultural elite who’ve been positively rabid in their obsessive anti-Trump efforts, foaming at the mouth at the mere mention of his name. So yes, I admire him for plowing ahead and accomplishing what he has under unprecedented opposition.
Fellowshipping with the Carnal?
At this point, I’ll bet some folks just got off the bus. I understand. I’ve heard from many close friends and associates who say that my voting for what they consider a blustering, quick-tempered, multi-married hothead is akin to being in communion with the unrighteous.
But my concept of being in communion is more about the believers I interact with inside the Body, my own congregation especially, and less about the secular leaders I vote for in society.
Which raises the oft-quoted “lesser of two evils” phrase, a concept I’ve always felt a little silly when choosing a president.
When we go to the ballot box we choose what we consider the be the better of two choices, not the lesser of two evils. I doubt any of us consider our choice to be perfect while the other is irredeemable. That’s why I also laugh when people refer to Trump voters as “Trumpists” or as people who see him as our Messiah just because we want him in office.
Come on, now. Supporting a candidate is hardly an act of worship. It takes a serious absence of thought and maturity to say otherwise.
Indeed, the most enthusiasm I ever felt at the ballot box was generated by Ronald Reagan. Yet as a supporter I was also aware of his wife’s unrepentant practice of astrology. I loathed Mrs. Reagan’s willingness to engage the occult, much as I loathed Mr. Reagan’s quiet acquiescence to it. But personal shortcomings, however blatant, couldn’t diminish my conviction that his governing principles and policies were in the best interest of the country.
To put it more plainly, my question to any candidate is more “How will you run the country?” and less “What sort of person are you?” Both are important; one is non-negotiable.
Principles and Policies of the Party
I am not just voting for an individual, but for a party platform as well. On that point, while not finding the Republican platform perfect by any means, I strongly prefer it to the alternative.
On the issues raised above — national defense, immigration reform, taxes and personal liberties — I have more confidence in my own party and its goals. Conversely, this past year has underscored my lack of confidence in the Democratic Party, almost beyond repair.
In 2020 Democratic leadership has shown itself to be supportive of, or consenting to, the most loathsome elements of organized anarchy. Some Democratic leaders have openly supported Antifa or Black Lives Matter, some have openly supported unlawful and violent takeovers of American cities. Some have called for public harassment of Trump’s Cabinet Members, some have resorted to personally and publicly intimidating citizens they disagreed with (even if they were young girls expressing a simple pro-life view). And many — way too many — have been silent or lukewarm in their response to the domestic terrorism we’ve seen on the nightly news. (Click HERE, HERE, and HERE for example.)
I see no future for America governed by leadership that will green-light, through approval or passivity, a socialist revolution which considers itself morally superior to its opponents, and entitled to steamroll them in any way, at any cost.
The Church is Next
As a believer, I also have a growing fear of the open hostility which will be leveled towards the Church under a Biden administration.
I don’t think that’s because of personal animosity on Mr. Biden’s part, who identifies as a Catholic taking his faith seriously. I’m not about to judge such a claim. If he says it, I accept it.
But his party is largely beholden to groups whose commitment to silencing the Christian influence is unyielding. Antifa, BLM and the LGBTQ movement in particular, along with the more radicalized facets of the feminist movement, have already shown their hand brazenly around the world, and certainly in our own nation, as groups intolerant of opposing views and more than willing to punish individuals and institutions promoting values different than their own.
Especially the Church, a fact which can only be denied by ignoring countless incidents of lawsuits, threats and sanctions and both current and proposed legislation.
Mr. Biden himself has already lumped “religious condemnation” of homosexuality along with police brutality and social isolation. It’s sentiment I’ve no doubt he will translate into legislation. Combine this with his unwillingness to state whether or not he will pack the Supreme Court with extra justices and you have two serious reasons for serious concerns.
It Matters to the Church
Some Christians shrug this off, suggesting that even if the Church in America should suffer censorship and limitations, it will only make for a purer church. Hardship refines Christians, no doubt, so that argument has some merit.
But it misses a larger point: If our ability to speak truth is crippled, we may indeed become better believers. But our potential hearers, now unable to receive a message which has been muted by endless statutes and limitations, will be that much harder to hear. If we lose our voice, those who would benefit from it lose much more. Is there any virtue in letting that happen?
The early Church was birthed in an environment unfriendly to the faith, but the same cannot be said of the American church. It thrived for centuries in a nation celebrating religious freedom, and if modern believers, through poor decisions, timidity or laziness, forfeit those freedoms, let’s not call it persecution. Let’s call it failure, one which we’ll answer for both to future generations and to the God we serve.
A President’s legacy is felt largely through his appointments, and nowhere is that legacy more keenly felt, often for decades, than in the Supreme Court. That’s where more and more of America’s future is being decided, and on this point, I find it simple to support the candidate who I consider more likely to appoint non-activist justices who view the Constitution as an authority, rather than a friendly, optional guide.
For obvious reasons, then, I’m awfully proud of the fact that the man I counted on in 2016 to appoint wisely has done so not once, not twice, but thrice.
That’s because domestic issues are less than ever in the hands of the voting public, and more than ever in the hands of unelected judges. Our liberties, then, can be secured or decimated by a select group with significant powers.
It matters less to me whether that group’s dominated by left or right leaning justices, and more whether it’s dominated by people who commit to interpreting laws rather than imposing or composing them. Trump’s choices in this matter have been, to my thinking, far safer.
I’m way past believing that any candidate will, if elected, fulfill all promises made. But while looking at specific “I Will Do Such and Such” commitments stated during a campaign, I also look at the general trajectory the candidate or incumbent seems to be going and will, if empowered, take the rest of us.
So I ask myself:
- Is the presidential aspirant someone who moves towards expanding government powers or reigning them in?
- Will he consider the protection of current Americans to take precedence over the benefits available to non-Americans wanting to enter the country?
- Is our safety important enough to this person that he will take an unmistakably aggressive posture towards any ideology, group or nation threatening us, domestically or internationally?
- Does he believe in the fundamental greatness of America and take a generally positive view of our history and accomplishments?
- Will expression of personal conscience and religious liberty thrive or wither under this person’s administration?
Don’t Throw It Away
Answering those questions helps me decide. But what about Christians who have not decided, who wonder if they can in good conscience vote for either candidate?
They may be tempted to say “None of the above” when they review their ballot. But if I preferred the policies of one candidate yet loathed his personality as well, it would still be difficult for me to see any virtue in withholding my vote — and thus granting one to the candidate whose policies I don’t support — just because my party’s candidate doesn’t pass my character muster.
Because while it’s true that I can leave my church if there’s no godly leadership available there, I cannot just pack and leave my country.
Someone is going to sit in the Oval Office, and it will only be one of two people. If I choose what some call the lesser of two evils (I don’t consider Trump to be that, but some do) I am also choosing the better of two options. I see that as both reasonable and responsible, and I feel that throwing my chance to influence the future leadership of my country away out of distaste for the options available would be a poor stewarding of my responsibility to vote.
Let’s Say Grace Afterwards
After this election, some of us will have to forgive some of us.
Trump critics, should he win, may be angry with those of us who supported him, feeling we reelected an unqualified blowhard into the highest office. Should he lose, those of us supporting him may be angry with fellow believers who, we may feel, helped plunge us over a cliff.
Either way, grace is certainly going to be called for.
But let’s not wait until November to show it. Disagreeing is fair, and as adults we should be able to do so without questioning each other’s integrity or sanity. I am persuaded to vote according to my conscience, as are you. So I promise I will assume you have made your choice carefully and prayerfully. Please assume the same of me, because I think you and I both deserve that courtesy.
Here we go again, prayerfully, with fears and hopes in equal measure. God have Your way. And may God bless, and have mercy on, America.
Joe Dallas is the Program Director of Genesis Biblical Counseling and a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors. His daily blog is Joe Dallas Online. He is the author of Desires in Conflict, The Game Plan, and When Homosexuality Hits Home. His latest book is Five Steps to Breaking Free from Porn. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeDallasTGP and follow The Stream @Streamdotorg.
Originally published at JoeDallas.com. Reprinted with permission.