Sunday, October 9, 2016

Another Trump Post

First, I have a comment on the politics of what happened Friday. On the one hand, a video surfaced that showed Trump making crass remarks about women. On the other hand, something came out about Hillary saying that politicians need to have both a private and a public opinion. And both of these things came out on the same day, just two days prior to the second presidential debate. This is all part of the political game that’s being played.

Personally, I think Trump’s apology was a political apology more than anything. I suppose it might have been sincere to a degree, but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Trump continued to talk and behave this way in private settings.

It does puzzle me that many people act as if these remarks somehow add something new to what we know about Trump. But it’s not really surprising that Trump made unguarded comments like these in a private setting eleven years ago, when the prospect of running for president likely wasn’t even on his radar. Frankly, I’m a little bit surprised there aren’t more videos out there like this one (although thirty days is a long time). My point is that we already knew Trump was crass. We already knew he said offensive things about women. We already knew he was sexually promiscuous, if not now then in the past. And those things are just as morally reprehensible as they’ve always been.

As is often the case, however, some of the mud that’s been slung does need to be cleared away. A lot of people are describing this latest disgrace in terms of “abuse” or “assault” on Trump’s part — some are even referring to him as a predator — but that’s not a very honest assessment. Trump’s comments were obviously derogatory, but speaking crassly about women to your guy friends in private is not the same thing as abusing or assaulting them.

Furthermore, Trump’s remarks make it pretty clear that he was speaking about women who let him make such advances. In our cultural crusade to denounce anything and everything that might possibly be perceived as misogyny, we sometimes forget that women are themselves more than capable of being perfectly wicked. And I don’t doubt for a second that Trump has been involved with those sorts of women — married ones even — who gladly allowed him to do whatever he wanted, just like he described. My only point in saying this is that those kinds of situations ought not be called abuse or assault. That’s just consensual depravity.

It is depravity nonetheless. Which is why my vote in this election, more so than in any other, truly does feel like a choice between the lesser of two evils. At the same time, the release of this video doesn’t magically make an illogical inference logical. As I observe the reactions of never-Trumpers, the reasoning appears to be the same as it’s always been: if Trump is sexually immoral, then that means he wouldn’t do anything good for the country as president. And I’m running out of ways to express how manifestly illogical that is.

But for other never-Trumpers, I think this is simply a matter of being principially unwilling to vote for someone who has bad character, even if that person would do wonderful things on all the issues that Christians care about. Doug Wilson exemplifies this perspective in a post he wrote a couple weeks ago (scroll down to the last several paragraphs). With people like Wilson (assuming I’m reading him correctly), I don’t have to waste my breath trying to establish that Trump is likely to aid the pro-life cause, because Wilson still wouldn’t vote for Trump even if it were virtually certain that he would do wonderful things for the unborn. That’s a breathtaking admission, but I appreciate the fact that Wilson is honest about it (again, assuming I’m reading him correctly).

I do want to try and avoid saying the same things that I’ve said many times before, so let me offer a thought that I don’t think I’ve fielded yet. When it comes to this thing called voting, I think it stands to reason that a person’s vote means whatever he says it means. For example, when I voted for Mitt Romney in 2012, it was my prerogative as a voter to determine that my vote was not an endorsement of his Mormonism. And by the same token, when I vote for Donald Trump, it’s my prerogative as a voter to determine that my vote is by no means an endorsement of his personal immorality. And get this: since I say that my vote is not an endorsement of his immorality, that means (like, by definition) that it isn’t. So all of the never-Trumpers who keep saying “You vote for him, therefore you endorse his character” really need to put a sock in it. You don’t determine what other people’s votes mean.

Along the same lines, a lot of never-Trump evangelicals are stressing out about Christians “losing their witness” by voting for Trump. But this falsely assumes that a vote amounts to condoning everything a candidate has ever said or done. Votes have never meant that. Why have they suddenly started meaning that now?

I recently made a comment on Twitter in regards to so-called “principled” voting, and a friend of mine said it was compelling and deserved to be elaborated on. So that’s what I’d like to do now.

In my experience, some of the people who care the most about “principled” voting also speak of their vote as a protest. They say that a principled vote — for a third party or whoever — is a way of letting the government know that we’re not going to be bullied into voting for the lesser of two evils. And the idea, I assume, is that a large number of principled votes will perhaps in some measure motivate politicians to straighten up and be less evil. But that rationale is itself pragmatic to a degree, and not purely principled. If you’re truly committed to a pure-principle standard of voting, then you ought to vote that way regardless of whether anyone ever sees or takes note of who you voted for.

Moreover, it seems to me that regardless of what names end up on the ballot, there would virtually always be someone else out there who better aligns with your personal principles. So here’s my question to anyone who’s planning to vote third-party out of a stated commitment to vote their principles: Is there really no one else in the entire world whom you think would be a better candidate than the third-party guy you’re voting for? And if there is someone else out there who aligns more with your views, then wouldn’t a pure-principle standard require you to write that person in?

The rest of this post will be a running commentary on some of the things I’ve seen on Twitter over the past couple days. First is this comment from David French:
Honestly, pro-Trump evangelicals, in future elections don’t try to argue that character matters. Just don’t.
Character matters just as much as it always has. But for French, character doesn’t even matter enough for him to do what he can to help the candidate with the least atrocious character get into office. For anyone who’s thinking realistically, this is a binary election. You have two choices. Barring an act of God, the winner of this election is going to be either Trump or Hillary. This being the case, you can’t talk about Trump’s character without comparing it to Hillary’s.

It seems to me that, for some reason, we’ve practically limited the concept of character to matters of truth-telling, personal manners, and sexual conduct. But am I being crazy to suggest that if someone promotes and celebrates the systematic destruction of millions of babies, then that kind of amounts to a character problem, and a rather severe one at that? Why does it feel like abortion has become so taken for granted in our society that individuals who promote such atrocities can still be viewed, even by Christians, as having decent character?

What is more, not only does Hillary’s abortion-consecration amount to a severe character problem, but it’s also the kind of problem that will have a direct and massive impact on the nation as a whole — far more so in my judgment than would Trump’s character problems. So as admittedly repulsive as Trump’s character is, I still feel obligated to vote for him. Because it’s a vote against Hillary, whose character I find to be not only more atrocious, but also far more dangerous to the nation.
@LoveLifeLitGod (Karen Swallow Prior)
A winning election for abortion either way. With one candidate you get supply. With the other, demand.
Never-Trumpers are fond of punchy one-liners that have the appearance of wisdom, but are actually quite simplistic and unhelpful. It’s true that sexual immorality and the abortion industry are interrelated on a macro level. But again, Hillary’s radically pro-abortion values would directly impact the direction in which she takes the country on that issue, and I simply can’t see how Trump’s personal immorality, repulsive as it is, could have the same impact. The vast majority of pro-choice voters are backing Hillary for a reason, and it’s because her election would be a palpable victory for abortion as opposed to a conceptual, ethereal, or theoretical one.
@drmoore (Russell Moore)
The damage done to the gospel this year, by so-called evangelicals, will take longer to recover from than the ‘80s TV evangelist scandals.
Moore has been unimpressive to me lately, but even for him this was a surprising statement. Does he really think the gospel is so weak as to be seriously damaged, or damaged at all really, by this stupid election? Talk about dramatic.

Perhaps Moore only means to say that the church’s witness will be damaged. I still say that’s dramatic. But if the church’s witness (at least its witness at the politico-national level, where Moore resides) is damaged at all, it won’t be due to the fact that many Christians chose to (begrudgingly) vote for Trump. Rather, it’ll be because of the Christian leaders who have admittedly been far more gung-ho for Trump than they ought to be. I readily grant that people like Jerry Falwell Jr. and James Dobson have gone off the deep end in trying to paint Trump as a baby Christian. That really needs to stop.
If you have a daughter and plan on voting for Trump then you should listen to that audio with them and explain to them why you are able to
That would be the easiest conversation ever. The opposing candidate wants America to keep killing millions of babies.
It is now time for Donald Trump to step aside and let Mike Pence be the Republican nominee. It would be a delight to support Pence.
A lot of people seem to be calling for this, but I don’t see it happening. I like Pence a lot, and would obviously vote for him gladly. But I do wonder what effect that would have on electability. Would Pence be able to beat Hillary? If that isn’t likely, then Trump should stay put.

One concluding thought: As I consider the policies of Donald Trump and Mike Pence, and as I read the party platform that they represent, it seems obvious to me that they are most likely, considering the opposition, to take our country in the right direction. So I have no problem giving them my vote, because I want to see that happen.

But let the record show that I think it’s certainly possible Trump would be a disaster as president. And just for fun, let’s imagine that’s what happens. Let’s imagine that he wins the presidency, keeps none of his promises, and basically takes the nation down the same path that Hillary would have. Even if that were to happen, I’d still feel that I had good cause to vote for him, based on the knowledge that I had at the time.

And down the road, if an unbeliever ever says to me, “I don’t want your Christianity if you voted for Trump,” then I’ll just know that I’m talking to a supremely unreasonable person.

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