For the first time ever, in any election, I voted for Donald Trump today. I’m sure the reactions among my friends, regular readers, and new readers who are seeing my writing for the first time will range from shock, to disappointment, to eye-rolling, to “welcome aboard the Trump train!” With this, I hope to offer some level of rational explanation of why I did what I did, and why you should value your vote at least as much as I did mine.
First, you should know (and many of you do) that I have street cred as a Never Trumper. I was about as close to “in the room where it happened” as anyone who attended the August 6, 2015 debate watch party at the Redstate Gathering in Atlanta. That was the first time when Trump appeared on stage with the top tier of Republican candidates, when Brett Baier’s first question was to ask any candidate unwilling to support the eventual nominee to raise a hand, and, looking around seeing none, Trump hoisted his. It was also when Trump made the truly awful remark about Megyn Kelly, “you could see there was blood coming out her…”
That night, Erick Erickson called the Trump campaign seeking an apology, or at least a good explanation, for the decidedly un-family friendly comment. He received the phone equivalent of a shrug, and then decided to disinvite Trump from speaking at the event’s after-party (Trump had already decided not to speak on stage with the other candidates).
Immediately, Erick’s inbox filled with the most vile comments, ill-wishes, and threats. In fact, he decided to send his wife and kids home to keep them out of the so-called line of fire. Anyone who opposed Trump became the target of these online threats, and harassment extending into their personal lives and those of their families.
Erick had to hire private security to protect his home after being met on his lawn by angry Trump supporters. His family was met with scorn at their own church and chided at the grocery store. Thus Erick joined (led, or gave the most prominent voice to, depending how history views this) the movement that became known as “Never Trump.”
I myself was subjected to none of that level of vitriol, because I’m relatively unknown. But I did leave a fairly good paying writing gig because they only wanted saccharin-sweet praise for Mr. Trump. I was unwilling to bend to those wishes.
In the past five years, I’ve written at least 100,000 words about Donald J. Trump. Most of those words describe a man obsessed with himself and news coverage of himself. Some of them describe a man whose personal morals metamorpihize based on his personal transactional gain. Some of them describe a man unafraid of smashing through such niceties as social taboos against cruelty, bullying, and cheating (at golf, at politics, at love, at life).
Many of my words describe a deeply flawed man, who, if, as a Christian, I trust to deliver me safely across a river, will find myself in the place of the frog riding the scorpion’s back. Just four days before the 2016 election, I wrote a piece titled “With Christians For Trump, Who Would Want To Be A Christian?“
For the record, I stand by my words, and I also remain a committed Christian. I’m sure this raises the question in your mind, “How could you vote for such a man, and remain true to your beliefs?”
I’ll answer that question, first in simple terms, the same way a psychiatrist answered me when I asked him how he could be a committed Christian, and also a doctor engaged in the most secular and godless of medical specialties. He said he was a Christian before he was a doctor.
I was a Christian before Donald Trump took the political stage, and will remain one when he’s long gone from it.
My longer answer is based in finding more common ground with conservatives and other Christians. David French’s Sunday essay titled “The Spiritual Blessing of Political Homelessness” (subscription required) is as good a starting point as any.
More and more, thoughtful (mainly young) Christians say to me, “I’m pro-life, I believe in religious freedom and free speech, I think we should welcome immigrants and refugees, and I desperately want racial reconciliation. Where do I fit in?” The answer is clear. Nowhere.
And that truth is a blessing, if you embrace it.
Like anything in life, organizations with which we have a more than passing affiliation must be treated with the greatest of thoughtfulness. We first must honor our family, and those to whom we owe the burden of responsibility–our kids and dependents. We must also honor the physical representatives and organization of our God, the church, its leaders, and our pastor. We should honor God’s commandments to tithe and love our neighbors, and to respect the authority of our government.
We must be careful not to allow the blessing of political homelessness, the independence gained through the liberty of the Gospel, to sever our earthly relationships, our bonds of love to our fellow earth-dwellers. Many of them don’t deserve to be judged by their own external decisions, political or otherwise.
In David French’s life, I’m sure he would not be so fast to sever himself from Harvard University, or to condemn the legal education, friendships, and open doors he gained from it. I’m also sure he would not do the same with the U.S. Army, where he forged battle-buddy relationships borne of danger and the smell of death.
Politics does not, and should not, occupy that level of importance in anyone’s life, but these days, absent other more pressing influences, for many, especially those “inside baseball” pundits and talk show regulars in whose orbit folks like French find themselves, it’s a difficult battle to keep the political gas from filling every crevice of life. Because it’s a burden for French, and others in his tier, to fight the political takeover of their lives, doesn’t mean it’s the same burden for me, or for you.
In other words, having not been in the U.S. Army, I would have less of a problem condemning the whole command structure, should another Mỹ Lai massacre or Abu Grahib prison event occur. French, on the other hand, would be less amenable to that, and more likely to support some kind of reform from within. I don’t begrudge him that, in fact I applaud it because a principled stand by a member of something is of more value.
I do believe that Christians in today’s party landscape are politically homeless. I also believe homelessness is a blessing, but not only to oppose your former “team,” but also to join with them, in a principled stand, one made without shamefully casting about for influence, fame, or money.
I believe the GOP has earned itself the fate it is inheriting. The GOP has been looking in its own grave for years, and has now allowed itself to be consumed by a man who cares nothing for it or its petty platforms. Trump cares for the things Trump cares for (mostly, himself). But that doesn’t mean that Trump doesn’t care for America. It doesn’t mean he can’t see the forest for the trees, how China is attaining wealth and influence at our expense. How many of our allies have grown complacent, using Uncle Sam as a pillow while they lie recumbent at the feet of those like Vladimir Putin.
Trump’s amours with Putin and Kim Jong-un are repulsive. But that doesn’t mean they are meaningless, or without value in motivating others to take up the “bad cop” role where Trump is seen to be the “good cop.” I may be giving Trump more credit than he deserves, but I’ve always believed he is the “Mary Poppins” of presidents, boldly declaring “I never explain anything.” So we’re left to guess.
Were I to base my vote, and my condemning the whole of the GOP for the actions of one man on my EQ (emotional quotient) and how he makes me feel when he says or tweets something ugly, I would never vote for him. If I were, conversely, to throw out Trump because he fails the character test of a Christian, I’d also have to throw out some Christians with him.
I prefer to remain homeless, yet instead of standing against the one man and tut-tutting those who continue to defend him, I would rather stand with many of them based on our shared interests, without defending Trump. This means, yes, putting my vote where my mouth is.
In order to throw out Trump, I’d also need to throw out the GOP for allowing itself to be conquered by him. I’d also need to throw out Sen. Ted Cruz for his switchback from being vehemently anti-Trump, enduring boos while telling Republicans to “vote your conscience” at the 2016 RNC convention, to endorsing the man he condemned in September of the same year.
I’d also need to throw out Erick Erickson, who I consider a good friend, for his principled stand to call balls and strikes on President Trump, while coming around to supporting the president.
If I were to be consistent in throwing out Trump, I’d need to take the position of the Lincoln Project, and vote against any Republican who dares to accept Trump’s endorsement. But I did vote for Sen. David Perdue. I also voted for Karen Handel.
I don’t need to “send a message” to Trump supporters that they are somehow defective and deserve a rebuke in the form of handing our federal and state offices over to the most radical, anti-Christian, anti-liberty Democratic Party ever to seek power. That’s not rational to me, nor is it thoughtful.
It’s also not in the spirit of what David French suggested when he wrote that being politically homeless is a blessing. Should I trade one political master for another who demands just as much loyalty and fealty as the one I reject?
Lastly, I am not responsible for the outcome of this, or any, election. Neither are you. I remember a local election campaign in which I was deeply involved. I was with the “dark horse” candidate in a race where the incumbent was widely believed to have an enormous advantage, with a well-known, experienced challenger also running. Yet, weeks before the election, the incumbent died in office, and the whole race was thrown into disarray. That wasn’t anyone’s doing, but we lost only by the smallest margin in the end. God holds the outcome, not us.
All you and I hold is our vote. And I can vote for Trump–and did–with a clean conscience, knowing that God can use Trump for good just as he uses despots to bring people to Christ in nations where Christians are persecuted. I know Trump has done some amazing things for Israel, and America has also benefitted in the blessing of the “apple of His eye.”
I know that the markets enjoy seeing Trump’s optimism, and that companies feel more confident investing when they know a president is pro-business versus pro-regulation and government takeover. All Joe Biden has known his entire life is government. With all his faults and character failures, Donald Trump does know business and what motivates businessmen to sign checks. From this, I think we all benefit.
Regardless of the man, I don’t put value on Trump’s (or Biden’s for that matter) ability to lead spiritually. But I do believe others can see things truthfully, and Christians will act with grace when they see the truth of things. Those Christians who don’t act this way, need correction, but not from the White House, or from politics. Nobody elected me pastor of your church, and I can’t tell you who to vote for.
But your vote has value, as does mine. All I can ask is that you be as thoughtful and rational as I have been in my decision. I voted for Donald Trump, and I leave the outcome of the race, who wins, and how that person governs, to God in His sovereignty.
Stopping Trump, as a goal in itself, has always seemed a shallow enterprise. I’d rather not be part of a movement that deeply condemns others, while blaming one man for division after laying down the bloody knife that cuts the baby in two. I find more value in walking with those with whom I agree, regardless of who they voted for. I only hope others feel the same way.
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