Wayne Grudem. James Garlow. Wayne Allyn Root. James Patrick Riley. An anonymous pastor’s wife. Jefrey Breshears. Over the course of the past few weeks, I’ve read “open letters” (or the equivalent, if not so named) from each of these folks (all “Christian” of some stripe), all with the same theme: Donald Drumpf is a flawed candidate, but he’s better than Hillary, so we have to vote for him. These letters range from the somewhat-skeptical-but-still-very-supportive (Grudem, Garlow) to the downright creepily-worshipful (Root). What they all have in common, though, is that they urge Christians who are reluctant to vote Drumpf to get with the program, because Hillary Clinton is incredibly worse (Garlow says she is “100% wrong”). The suggestion has been floated even that it’s “immoral” not to do so. Ergo, “An Open Letter to the Writers of Open Letters”:
Dear Writer of an Open Letter in Support of Donald Drumpf,
I appreciate your passion for this country, your desire to do the right thing, and your commitment to attempting to influence others as an active American citizen. There are too few like you in this regard, and since I try to be the same type of person, I commend you. You have taken the time to pen letters to fellow Christians who are reluctant to support Mr. Drumpf, and I sincerely appreciate your willingness to engage in the discussion. That said, having read several such letters, I have yet to find one that has been particularly compelling in causing me to reconsider my position.
There are several common mistakes I see in your writing, and it is these which I hope to address briefly.
* You trust Donald Drumpf.
I personally believe that this is the crux of the matter. For reasons we cannot fully comprehend, you seem to, at least generally, take Mr. Drumpf at his word. We, on the other hand, find no compelling reason to do so. If nothing else is clear to us from this campaign, it is this: neither of the two major party candidates have demonstrated anything by their words, demeanor, and behavior that give us cause to trust them. It’s not that Mr. Drumpf hasn’t done or said a few good things–choosing Governor Pence, for instance, was a solid choice–but we see how often, how unrepentantly, even how apparently unknowingly he has vacillated, flip-flopped, and changed his mind back-and-forth, and we find nothing to give us confidence that he in sincere in the things he says. The reason this is so critical, of course, is that everything else hinges on it; little the man says in speeches can be taken as given, because his word cannot be trusted.
* You minimize Donald Drumpf’s shortcomings.
You’ve tended to focus primarily on the things Mr. Drumpf says, and some of you agree with us that often, his words are loathsome and indefensible. While we don’t believe you place enough focus on character issues (see below), some of you are candid enough to admit that he’s done some pretty shady things, and that his lack of repentance about them causes you discomfort; all well and good. But what I see none of you doing is addressing some other very, very important issues, at least not with any seriousness if at all. I do not hear many talking about the man’s temperament, whether in this way he is suited to be president. To many of us, the thought of Donald Drumpf with his finger on the nuclear trigger is downright terrifying (and for me personally, on this one very, very narrow issue, I’d rather have Hillary’s finger there than his, and it’s not even close). You either fail to say a word about his lack of governing experience, or you suggest that his time running his companies is either equivalent or even superior; we find that some level of executive experience in the public sector, particularly, is a good thing, and that being President of the United States is a lot more dissimilar to running Drumpf Enterprises than it is similar. You overlook his tremendous ignorance of the Constitution and our system of government (that’s not meant to be pejorative; it’s a simple, regularly-demonstrated fact). He has shown over and over again that he has a woefully-deficient understanding of how our government is supposed to work–and yet we hear little of this from you. Finally, the man cannot be described–with a straight face–as a conservative; his policy positions are all over the map. Granted, some of them are to the right of Hillary Clinton, but some are actually to the left (see: trade). Now, some of you point out that he has laid out in recent weeks some positions that can be described as “conservative”, and we will stipulate to that–will you stipulate to the fact that, as noted above, his continued vacillation over the course of this campaign with regard to policy issues should give people significant pause as to whether or not to believe him? In short, sure, he’s rude and egotistical, but if this were all he were, most of us, myself likely included, would find a way to swallow some of those types of things, but on a variety of fronts, this candidate falls short.
* You believe that Donald Drumpf will be able to accomplish more than he will were he to be elected.
Some of you have written long lists of all the things that Donald Drumpf will do. We would simply remind you that a president–unless he resorts to unconstitutional means–must work with Congress in order to get things done. Look, I want to undo the damage of eight years of Barack Obama as much as anyone, but to read some of you, Donald Drumpf will wave a magic wand and everything will be all better, with sprinkles and chocolate syrup, by early February.
* Your best argument always seems to come down to “Hillary Clinton will be worse”.
This may be true. It also may not be true. We certainly are not convinced of that, at the very least. Possibility of accomplishing some more conservative things? Sure, I’ll take Drumpf. Finger on the nuclear button? I’ll take Hillary. Trustworthiness? I’ll take a double, bartender. Yes, Hillary Clinton is the devil we know (and we can predict some things she will do–though some of the predictions I’ve seen from some of you seem far-fetched). Drumpf is the devil we don’t–and it seems that point is lost on some of you. Yes, he might fix Obamacare, but he might also bomb Saskatchewan. We have no reason to think that anybody knows with certainty what Drumpf might do–and some of the signs we’ve seen scare us to death, frankly. For instance, I don’t know if Donald Drumpf is a fascist or not, but he sure plays one well on TV (and which is worse?), and join me briefly on this thought experiment: if a true fascist were to run for President, how differently would he conduct his campaign than Mr. Drumpf has conducted his?
OK, OK, I’ll entertain the Supreme Court argument, because I will confess that if there is any issue that gives this neverTrump guy pause, it’s this one. Some of you have written as though this thought has never crossed our minds, like somehow we’ve magically forgotten that appointing Supreme Court justices is the job of the president, that several current Justices are fossilizing rapidly, that the next president could name as many as five (note: no president ever, ever names as many as the worry warts fantasize; it just doesn’t work that way). Some of you seem to think that we just need reminding of this fact in order to swoon before the Great Hairdo. And yes, we are aware that he has created a list of the “types of people” he might nominate (are you aware that he said his sister would make a great Justice?). For all we know, he might nominate Judge Joe Brown (I guess he could do worse). But let’s think about his real judicial philosophy for a second…constitutional conservatives would likely point to the Kelo case (regarding eminent domain) as the most egregiously-unconstitutional decision of the last twenty years. Drumpf slathers himself in the beauty products of eminent domain. Citizens United, on the other hand, is the contemporary decision liberals rail against the most. Drumpf, in the words of the inimitable George Will, “repeats the strident rhetoric of its liberal detractors”.
Further, there are several common themes that we’ve seen from some of you with regard to those of us who are “neverTrump” (and, of course, “neverHillary” as well, it should go without saying). One is that our opposition to Drumpf stems primarily from the fact that he “uses bad words” or that he “isn’t nice”, that he’s a casino owner or that he’s had the proverbial “checkered past”. Well, Chris Christie is known for his use of colorful language and political incorrectness, but at least before he began to plant slobbery wet kisses all over the Orange Candidate, I’d have supported him against Hillary without a second thought. Now…character matters. We have long believed this, written and spoken upon the subject, and voted accordingly (as have some of you–in the past, particularly when the candidates in question were from the other major party). We are puzzled that you seem to think that there is some exception in the case of Mr. Drumpf. Who among us hasn’t said bad words, insensitive words, inappropriate words from time to time? Who among us is without sin? Who among us wouldn’t like to have a few “do-overs”? Who among us isn’t a desperate sinner in desperate need of God’s amazing grace? But there is a difference–and we are surprised that this doesn’t seem to be more obvious to you–in acknowledging these things on the one hand and, on the other hand, continuing to act in these ways, doubling down time and again on them, justifying them, seeing no need ever to ask forgiveness for them, treating them effectively as morally neutral at worst. Is there no minimum “character standard” for the office of the presidency? Has it all come down merely to pragmatism, to “fixing” Washington, to “getting the job done”? Let us be clear: none of us believe a president has to be sinless; none of us believe that certain moral transgressions in the past disqualify a person from the presidency; for goodness’ sake, please cease with this blather that “we aren’t electing a pastor”, because I promise you from the depth of my soul that none of us believe that nonsense either. But we do believe for a host of reasons that moral character is one important quality in a prospective leader, and we further believe that neither of the two leading candidates for president comes anywhere close to that standard.
Here’s another one: we neverTrumpers need to “get over our ‘pride'” and vote Drumpf. One writer even suggests that we are “chock full” of the “Pharisee spirit”. Of course, it’s usually not explained why we are the ones who are prideful, whilst apparently, the supporters of this massive egotist are the humble ones. I suppose that some of us are prideful–just as I am certain that that same character deficiency exists in many Drumpf supporters. But why are we said to be the ones who need to “get over our pride” and board the Drumpf Train; is it not equally possible that some of you need to get over your own pride and disembark? Does refusing to support Drumpf equate, de facto, to pride? Would then repentance from said pride require supporting Mr. Drumpf come Election Day? We have reasons–which we believe to be substantive and solid–that cause us to come to our conclusions; we trust the same is true for you. Why, then, do ulterior motives have to be ascribed to us–when hopefully you can appreciate that, were we inclined to do so (well, some of us are, I’m sure), we could speculate as to plenty such ulterior motives in you? Why can we not all just argue our points and positions without becoming splinter-seekers (I trust you catch the reference)?
Oh, and one more: one open-letter writer suggests that some of us don’t support Drumpf in part because “our candidate didn’t win the nomination”. I guess that’s possible for some; I can only speak for myself. There were 17 candidates running on the Republican side, and Lindsey Graham was right near the very bottom of my choices. I would crawl over shards of broken glass to vote for Lindsey Graham against Hillary Clinton. I would volunteer for his campaign. I’d consider donating money. I’d write regularly in support of Lindsey Graham. In short, I’d do everything within my power to help the man defeat Ms. Clinton and I’ll bet, if that were offered as an option, most of my neverTrump friends would as well (as much as we’d have to hold our noses as we did in ’08 and ’12). . Satisfied?
But let me not merely curse the darkness; let me offer you some help. Want to get my attention? Want to have any slim hope of me changing my mind?
* Begin an open letter this way: “I sincerely and humbly apologize to Bill and Hillary Clinton, Anthony Weiner, Eliot Spitzer, Barack Obama, and any other Democrat politician about whom I’ve said or written that ‘character matters’. I have changed my mind; character schmaracter.”
* Next, do this for me: take out that letter that you’ve written, use the “replace” function in MS Word, and for every time you wrote “Donald Drumpf”, substitute “cowardly neophyte Fascist con man”. I’m not saying that you have to agree with this assessment, but please understand that many of us have reached this, or a similar, conclusion about Donald J. Drumpf. Would you write your letters if you made this substitution? No? Then please understand that you are speaking about Donald Drumpf in a different light than many of us see him; try to convince us, then, that these things aren’t true of him. Glossing them over accomplishes nothing.
* Then, don’t describe Donald Drumpf as a “good candidate with flaws” (Grudem; this description defies comprehension). Instead, write something like this as a conclusion: “Donald Drumpf is a profane man of poor character, whose word cannot be relied upon. His politics is moderate, his temperament volatile, his experience largely irrelevant. He has shown himself to vacillate more than any politician in memory, changing his position in some cases more than once in a given day. His every non-teleprompter-given speech consists largely of verbal flatulence. He is rude, crass, and demeaning to women. He’s more than politically incorrect; he’s obnoxious. He has little understanding of the many complex issues that will present themselves to him as president, and he shows little interest in learning these. His commitment to the Constitution is, at best, very suspect. He deigns to “make America great again”, but he gives little evidence that he can articulate those things that made America great in the first place. He is a person whose candidacy we rightly laughed at from its inception, and it has not disappointed, proving itself at most turns to be a huge joke. We are terrified of handing the nuclear codes over to Donald Drumpf, and we would rather have almost any other person as the Republican nominee besides this man. However, even with all this being true, he is at least marginally better than Hillary Clinton, and therefore we urge our fellow Christians to, with understandable reluctance, cast their vote for this man.”
Craft a letter than incorporates these types of elements, and you might get my attention. Much less, and you’re wasting pen and paper.
Now, I’m going to concede something at this point: it’s very possible, probably likely, that of all the things that I fear about Mr. Drumpf, some of them are unfounded. I doubt that all of the things I fear about him as president would come to fruition were he to (miraculously, at this point) be elected. Which would, and which wouldn’t, I have no idea (and the same is true for what Ms. Clinton would and would not do, doomsayers notwithstanding). I readily concede this; at the same time, I would hope that writers of open letters would be honest enough to acknowledge that the likelihood of all the good things they envision happening under Drumpf actually coming to pass is nothing more than a pipe dream. I have no doubt whatever that he would disappoint on many such fronts.
When it’s all said and done, though, the fact is that it doesn’t matter if every single otherwise-Republican-voting neverTrumper is converted to the “wisdom” of voting Drumpf, because this man is about to lose and lose “yuuuge”, and it won’t be because a relative handful of us cannot swallow the incredible myriad of stuff we are being asked to swallow and thus pull the lever for him. It will be because Republicans have nominated a man who, for his impressive prowess in securing the nomination, simply cannot win the general election, for a myriad of reasons that are obvious to most of us. If Hillary Clinton is elected president, the fault will lie with Donald Drumpf, period, over and out.
How will I sleep the night after the election if Hillary Clinton is elected? Not well–but not because of any guilty conscience. I will know that I have done everything in my power to keep corruption, fascism, progressivism, and irresponsibility out of the White House, first by attempting to use whatever powers of persuasion I could summon to attempt to deny the nominations to the eventual nominees, and then by casting a vote for neither of the two major party candidates.