An interview with “Nightline” about a candidate who is outside the normal bounds of unacceptability

Last week, I did an interview with Terry Moran of ABC News about the presidential election. It aired last night on “Nightline.” Ed Young, Jr. and Katelyn Beaty also appear. My part is at the very end–about the last minute and a half or so. You can watch it above.

I stand by all of what I said in the interview (although I said much more than what actually made it to air). I do not believe that either of the major party candidates are qualified for the office that they seek, and I cannot vote for either of them. I do not do public endorsements, but I do think it is important for Christians to speak with moral clarity about the alternatives before us. 

Nothing over the last week or over the course of this campaign has changed my opinion of the Democratic candidate. Secretary Clinton supports the legal right to kill unborn humans throughout every stage of pregnancy. Roe v. Wade has presided over the legal killing of nearly 60 million such persons since 1973, and Secretary Clinton wants to expand this regime through tax-payer funding. Even if I knew nothing else about her, that issue alone would disqualify her from my vote. But she has many other disqualifying traits, many of which have come to light only this week. Others we have known about for a long time. She is not qualified for the presidency, and I won’t be voting for her.

The unacceptability of Secretary Clinton is a no-brainer for most pro-lifers and social conservatives. The real question is whether the GOP nominee is an acceptable alternative. I do not believe that he is.

I knew five years ago that Mr. Trump was not an acceptable choice for those who care about the pro-life cause. And his stance on abortion did not improve with time. In October 2015, I observed that “on the life issue… Trump fails miserably.” Why? Because during his current run for the presidency, he has supported funding for Planned Parenthood, has favored the “health” exception that makes abortion-on-demand legal, and has pointed to his partial-birth-abortion-supporting sister as an example of the kind of judge who would do well on the Supreme Court. He has also supported the Roe v. Wade status quo while running for president.

It is not clear that Trump ever supported the pro-life cause before running for president, but it is clear that he supported legal abortion including late-term abortion before he ran. It is true that he has had to walk-back each one of these pro-abortion statements. But that’s just the problem. I see no evidence that he can be trusted to champion the pro-life cause, but I do see evidence that he is saying whatever he thinks he needs to say to get pro-lifers to vote for him. Ross Douthat and Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry have both written must-read pieces this week about why pro-lifers should not vote for Trump.

In addition to this abysmal record on the abortion issue, Trump pledged to direct our military to commit war crimes, has stoked mob-violence at his political rallies, has appealed to to racism, and has bragged about committing sexual assault. He embodies a host of other character flaws, any one of which by themselves would be disqualifying. His authoritarianism, demagoguery, and ignorance of the law render him a unique menace to our constitutional order. I have heard him advocate foreign policy positions that could conceivably provoke a nuclear exchange with North Korea. In my view, he is outside the normal bounds of unacceptability.

So where does that leave us? For me, it means that I cannot vote for either of the two major party candidates. It also means that it is more important than ever for conscientious Christians to show up and vote this Tuesday. There are down-ballot elections that will determine who controls the United States Congress, and Christians who care about the sanctity of human life need to make sure that they support House and Senate candidates who will stand for those issues.

There are some “evangelicals” who have defended or minimized the character flaws of the GOP nominee. I think that is inexcusable. But that certainly is not the attitude of every evangelical who may be deciding to cast a reluctant, regretful vote for the GOP nominee. Many of them are simply trying to do “damage control” in light of two bad alternatives. I disagree with that calculation for the aforementioned reasons, but I understand it.

I have many friends and loved ones who are going to cast a mournful vote for the GOP nominee. They care about the unborn and religious liberty just as much as I do. They have no illusions about what the GOP nominee is. They do not wish to endorse his character, and they aren’t making a public discrediting defense of the indefensible. They too are dismayed about the alternatives before them. But they are making a prudential judgment about the best way to do damage control with their vote. As I said, I disagree with their decision, but I understand and respect them.

I also wish them to know that the last thing I want is to be divided from them on the other side of this election. The GOP nominee has presided over the most divisive campaign I have ever seen. If he somehow were to achieve a lasting division among Christians who should otherwise be together, his rout would indeed be complete. I for one have no interest in letting him achieve that.