Donald Trump has released a list of conservative justices that he would consider appointing to the Supreme Court were he to be elected president. The list is an obvious attempt to win-over conservatives who are reluctant about his candidacy. But this list does not alleviate the concerns that many of us have about his candidacy.
First, Trump did not commit to pick anyone from the list! In fact he said he might pick someone who is not on the list. So the list means nothing. It’s no different from what he has previously said. And we are again being asked to trust the judgment of a man who changes his positions daily and who is a liar. Add to that his open support for Planned Parenthood and his total lack of interest in the Constitution, and it is not difficult to see why so many remain skeptical. How can he be trusted to appoint a solid justice?
Second, Trump’s would-be SCOTUS appointments do nothing to alleviate the larger issues with his candidacy. His character, temperament, and authoritarian tendencies suggest that he would be a menace to our Constitutional order. Robert Kagan explains in provocatively titled piece, “This is how fascism comes to America”:
The Republican Party’s attempt to treat Donald Trump as a normal political candidate would be laughable were it not so perilous to the republic. If only he would mouth the party’s “conservative” principles, all would be well.
But of course the entire Trump phenomenon has nothing to do with policy or ideology. It has nothing to do with the Republican Party, either, except in its historic role as incubator of this singular threat to our democracy. Trump has transcended the party that produced him. His growing army of supporters no longer cares about the party. Because it did not immediately and fully embrace Trump, because a dwindling number of its political and intellectual leaders still resist him, the party is regarded with suspicion and even hostility by his followers. Their allegiance is to him and him alone…
What [GOP enablers] do not or will not see is that, once in power, Trump will owe them and their party nothing. He will have ridden to power despite the party, catapulted into the White House by a mass following devoted only to him. By then that following will have grown dramatically. Today, less than 5 percent of eligible voters have voted for Trump. But if he wins the election, his legions will comprise a majority of the nation. Imagine the power he would wield then. In addition to all that comes from being the leader of a mass following, he would also have the immense powers of the American presidency at his command: the Justice Department, the FBI, the intelligence services, the military. Who would dare to oppose him then? Certainly not a Republican Party that laid down before him even when he was comparatively weak. And is a man like Trump, with infinitely greater power in his hands, likely to become more humble, more judicious, more generous, less vengeful than he is today, than he has been his whole life? Does vast power un-corrupt?
This is how fascism comes to America, not with jackboots and salutes (although there have been salutes, and a whiff of violence) but with a television huckster, a phony billionaire, a textbook egomaniac “tapping into” popular resentments and insecurities, and with an entire national political party — out of ambition or blind party loyalty, or simply out of fear — falling into line behind him.
Trump’s authoritarian tendencies, I think, are what caused Senator Ben Sasse to press Trump just last night:
Let’s drop the name-calling & get specific. In particular Q 5: Will you commit to rejecting exec. unilateralism? https://t.co/f2F9D0easW
— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) May 19, 2016
An answer from Trump has not been forthcoming.
Earlier this month, Ross Douthat put a fine point on the issue:
But above all it is Trump’s authoritarianism that makes him unfit for the presidency — his stated admiration for Putin and the Chinese Politburo, his promise to use the power of the presidency against private enterprises, the casual threats he and his surrogates toss off against party donors, military officers, the press, the speaker of the House, and more.
All presidents are tempted by the powers of the office, and congressional abdication has only increased that temptation’s pull. President Obama’s power grabs are part of a bipartisan pattern of Caesarism, one that will likely continue apace under Hillary Clinton.
But far more than Obama or Hillary or George W. Bush, Trump is actively campaigning as a Caesarist, making his contempt for constitutional norms and political niceties a selling point. And given his mix of proud ignorance and immense self-regard, there is no reason to believe that any of this is just an act.
Trump would not be an American Mussolini; even our sclerotic institutions would resist him more effectively than that. But he could test them as no modern president has tested them before — and with them, the health of our economy, the civil peace of our society and the stability of an increasingly perilous world.
In sum: It would be possible to justify support for Trump if he merely promised a period of chaos for conservatism. But to support Trump for the presidency is to invite chaos upon the republic and the world. No policy goal, no court appointment, can justify such recklessness.
I’ve said to my conservative friends that support Trump, since spring of 2015, that Trump could be the “Strong Man” of “The Road to Serfdom”. I feel more strongly about it than ever. Trump is no conservative. I ask each of them, “You see how Trump treats his enemies. You are his enemy on a lot of core conservative issues. What is going to happen if Trump is elected and those issues percolate to the top?”
Regarding why we have Trump, it is only partly the Republican party. For Star Trek fans: “There is an old Vulcan saying: Only Nixon could go to China.”
It was about timing.
Likewise, what gave us Trump is two Obama terms with an ineffectual Republican minority, and then majority. We are in a perfect storm. And to be clear, this is not really just a US centric time of crisis. The world is at a precipice. The only thing I can think to do personally to protect myself is threefold:
1. Pray earnestly
2. Buy relatively safe rural property (did that in 2008 and moved there in 2011)
3. Buy guns and ammo.
Any student of history can see the similarities between the world today and the world of the late 1930’s. The similarities are, quite frankly, shocking. And this time even the US has brown shirts.
Is #3 a spin off from “trust in God and keep your powder dry”?
Trump is no conservative, period. It’s a shame that those of us who tend to lean that way will not have a ‘decent’ candidate to vote for in November. The bigger question is- do we find some obscure 3rd party candidate to vote for on the ballot or abstain from voting in the presidential election out of principle and disgust?
I sincerely hope that people finally realize that their hope is not found in politicians (this rings true for conservatives) and they direct their focus to Christ.
Unfortunately, It looks like I may be able to eventually say to my conservative friends who like Trump, “I told you so.” But I don’t want to be in a world where that is true. It will be a very ugly place.
I’ve been voting since 1972. This may be the first time I’ll vote libertarian. I don’t know. If you were a Jew, who would you vote for, Hitler or Stalin?
I think the correct response is “move”.
If you don’t feel smiley, there’s always WILEY.
NeverTrump et al: Wiley Drake looks like your man? Would probably get more votes than Ben Sasse huh?
a reminder: Obama is the Commander-in-Chief of the greatest military force the world has ever seen. Our military are honorable people. I’m fairly sure you are NOT referencing our serving military as ‘brown shirts’, but please know that most Americans support our men in arms and trust them to defend our country, not attack it internally to destroy freedom. My family has three serving members and many retired military. They are the best people I know. No ‘brown shirts’ there, no. May it never be that we will have a president who attempts to command them to be dishonorable. Our military deserve the finest leadership. We need to vote with them in mind also.
When I mention brown shirts, I’m speaking of a large subset of Trump supporters. I’ve worked with the military. They HATE Obama.
I want to point out that some of our country’s vulnerability to fascism springs from the behavior of Obama. In fall 2009, Obama attempted to ban Fox News from press briefings at the White House. People wrote about it, including this report:
And do you remember how a few months ago, when a Trump presidency seemed more unlikely, how people began thinking what the government can do today to improve checks on the president’s unilateral power in case it would be Trump in 2016?
This writer includes talk about G. W. Bush’s expansion on that power as well during the War on Terror.
I wholeheartedly agree with people who begin to see American politics as no place for hope. But I think that there are some things we can do to preserve America and protect our neighbors, and I think it starts with understanding the problem.
When I saw Obama’s supporters in action in 2008 it reminded me of the German brown shirts in the early 1930’s. It reminded me of an after school special aired around 1980 that was based on a true story. It’s called “The Wave” and answers the question, “could it happen here”. In our current political environment, it is quite frightening.
Also, regarding preserving america, I pose this question: In the early 30’s, the smart German Jews (and non-Jews, for that matter) were the ones that caught a boat to England.
I know that would not help anyone today, but it is why I bought a small farm in central KY two weeks before the 2008 election and moved there (from Seattle, my home for 45 years) in 2011.
The fall of our country is not going down exactly the way I anticipated, but generally speaking, it is what I expected. And keep in mind, the speed with which it falls is exponential. i.e. you ain’t seen nothin’ yet, but you will real soon.
Our hope is in no man, but in the Lord only.
You can find “The Wave” on Youtube. I highly recommend it.
“In fall 2009, Obama attempted to ban Fox News from press briefings at the White House.”
That would not be fascism. Or even violate the 1st amendment.
Robert Kagan was one of the most forceful proponents of the war in Iraq. The toppling of Saddam Hussein has proven to be an unmitigated disaster for the Iraqis and the broader Middle East. George W Bush could never put Iraq on the back burner and focus on other policies – and in 2006 the Republican Party lost Congress partly due to the disaster that was Operation Iraqi Freedom. .
Kagan’s war is one big reason why the Republican Party is so weak that Trump was able to dispatch solid conservatives like Rick Perry and Scott Walker. Neither Jeb Bush nor Marco Rubio could bring themselves to say the war was a mistake – and both men even seem to favor continued military involvement with “boots on the ground.”
Kagan’s war is the gift that keeps on giving and as he strolls toward Hillary Clinton he’s leaving others to clean up the mess caused by his vision of a democratic Iraq filled with freedom-loving Iraqis.
Republicans and conservatives will be cleaning up Kagan’s mess for a very long time.
I must confess that the only think W did that I agreed with was the War in Iraq. However, my position at the time was that we needed to put a permanent base there much like we did in Germany and Japan after WWII to keep the Jihadists in check (and give them a place to fight and be killed by the US).
The failure was what happened after he left the presidency – we pulled out.
I’m thinking the failure had something to do with being wrong that Iraq posed an imminent threat to the US or its allies or that it had anything to do with the 9/11 attacks. It was an immoral war of choice and I’m glad that most of the GOP candidates that ran this cycle were able to admit to the public, unlike many of the original supporters, that the Iraq war was a disaster and epic failure of foreign policy. We got rid of a dictator but destroyed a secular state which led, ultimately, to the creation of ISIS.
Lastly. the pullout that happened after Pres. Bush left office was in accordance with an executive agreement signed by Bush with Iraq. Look it up so you don’t fall for the partisan propaganda. Google US-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement 2008.
I’m not being partisan. I know Bush signed the agreement. I was against it. But I also thought he would find ample reason to just never find the situation right for enforcing that part of the agreement.
The ONLY reason I wanted us to go there was to have a permanent presence in the middle east to use as Jihadist flypaper and keep the rest of the Jihadi wannabees in check. And in a political environment after 9/11, Saddam gave us ample moral reason to take him out, which we did in short order. I remember the impact it had on the will to fight of the Jihadi Muslims. All they respect is power, and we crushed their “tough guy” without blinking an eye.
Take him out, set up permanent base, mission accomplished.
Unfortunately, that is not what we did. We left. Nature abhors a vacuum.
Rob, didn’t mean to imply that you were but the spin from those that still support that war is that everything was going swimmingly until Bush’s successor messed everything up. This is a convenient trick that evades any responsibility for getting us in that mess and any accountability for the other mistakes that were made, such as sending the Iraqi military home or ordering the CIA to torture.
Basically, the Iraq war strengthened the jihadi movement. In Bin Laden’s heyday jihadists were at most a few hundred with little to no claim to territory. Now they have an army and territory.
I see that you have a different take on what we should have done in Iraq. I think the last 15 years of incompetent foreign policy has shown that we are incapable of achieving anything like the successful occupations of Germany and Japan given today’s rules of engagement and the fact that we were not at war with the entirety of Iraq or its population. Our policymakers, from both parties and the bipartisan foreign policy establishment, are mediocre compared to the quality we had in decades past.
It’s an interesting hypothetical though. No one in the Bush WH anticipated the jihadist insurgency in Iraq and no one expected Al Qaeda to take root there but that’s what happened. We went in there without a plan for the day after and with too few troops to prevent an insurgency from breaking out.
I was surprised that Trump was able to get away with truth-telling about the Iraq war. That’s when I realized he was going to win because the righteousness of the Iraq war used to be a shibboleth for the right.
Yeah, One of the reasons I left Bush and the Republican party was how he handled it once we “won”. I don’t put it all on Obama. My current lack of health care insurance I put on him, but that is a different issue.
And yes, I’ve learned that you are exactly right regarding this:
“I think the last 15 years of incompetent foreign policy has shown that we are incapable of achieving anything like the successful occupations of Germany and Japan given today’s rules of engagement and the fact that we were not at war with the entirety of Iraq or its population.”
We will never win another war without going nuclear. And I believe that is next.
I don’t think that the Democrats ‘own’ the coming of Trump to power, although I do see many people are claiming this. I think this time, we have to look at the joyful embrace of many conservatives of Trump’s ‘birtherism’ charges, which did not hold up under examination . . . didn’t matter, ‘Trump said it, it must be true and even if it isn’t, we approve anyway’ . . . an attitude that Trump reckonized and moved ahead to encourage for his own benefit successfully, yes.
People should own their own behaviors. It’s a mark of integrity. If folks ‘enjoyed’ Trump’s birtherism treatment of Obama and ‘went along’ with what Trump was doing, they CAN take some ownership in encouraging Trump to move forward.
I would say Trump was mightily encouraged. And now is the time of reckoning with honesty, who exactly played a part in that openly.
Yeat’s poem is being quoted much these days by people who are fearful of what may come from allowing Trump credibility as long as he was trashing their nemesis:
‘. . . and what rough beast, it’s hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born’.
Trouble ahead? Not like we didn’t see the warning signs, folks.
Denny: The real question at this point is a simple one: is a vote for Trump sinful? If yes, then no Christian should vote for him. If no, then it’s a matter of conscience for each person to decide in their own mind. I’m not a Trump guy for many of the reasons you have suggested. That said, neither you, Ross Douthat, Kagan, or any other commentator can see the future. Is it not possible that God can work through Trump in ways that none of us is capable of foreseeing? Perhaps committing ourselves to vigilant prayer that Trump will not be what so many think he will be is a better strategy than constantly knocking him down? If voting for him is a matter of conscience, then constantly bashing him starts to look like we’re unreasonably burdening the consciences of our brothers and sisters who wish to vote for him. If, however, we can properly designate voting for him as sinful then let’s say it boldly and be done with it (I find it very difficult to believe you or any other reasonable Christian would say it’s sin to vote for Trump).
Gus, who told you that these boys were “reasonable”?
Scott: Frankly, I’m not sure I follow you. I would be glad to address whatever you mean more fully, if possible. If you are suggesting that Christians cannot be reasonable, however, I can offer no argument that will likely satisfy you and will, thus, offer none. If you are speaking to specific persons being unreasonable, perhaps there is room to talk.
I don’t believe voting for Trump is sinful, but one has to truly examine themselves and determine why they are voting for whoever they do.
My real issue with Trump doesn’t even come from a Christian perspective. It all boils down to him really not being a conservative. Plain and simple. It doesn’t even come down to him not backing up his plans with actual data. He’s just not a conservative. His body of work does not reflect the principles or values of those that consider themselves on the conservative end of the spectrum.
In a lose-lose scenario like we are looking at within the two main parties, I do not believe it would be sinful to vote for a 3rd party candidate who has no chance in winning or abstaining from the presidential election in this instance. There’s always a 3rd way. But I’m not a theologian…..just my $.02
Ian, You and I are in complete agreement, right down to the nuances. You reflect my position on Trump precisely.
I’ll add, though, what really makes me nervous about him is his supporters. I actually got “temp banned” on my favorite conservative political site, of which I’ve been a member since 1998, for simply posting a lucid counter argument against Trump. The vitrol any “non-trump person” receieves on that site for ANY negative comment about Trump is very concerning in a very real brown shirt way.
I don’t need to go into details, but there are plenty of them.
I’ve been voting since 1972. I’ve NEVER seen anything like what we are seeing today.
since our votes were paid for in the blood of all who died to secure our right to vote in this land,
then I think we have to realize that we owe much to their sacrifice, and I think we must see our votes as a kind of ‘stewardship’ of what those young people died for . . . would it be a ‘sin’ to turn your vote over to a demagogue? . . . or would it just be an abandonment of the reasons those young men and women died in service of their country?
I’ve been on Navy ships and Coast Guard vessels as a visitor when some were in port. I’ve seen the young people come aboard, and I’ve them salute . . . they don’t salute their captain or high command, no . . . they turn towards the flag and they salute the flag, they do this with a respect that goes beyond what is expected of them.
I can’t understand anyone turning their votes over to someone who will take the seat of power . . . someone who has ALREADY promised to turn our country over to evil . . .
or abandonment of our responsibility as citizen-guardians?
I suppose each person must confront what is before them and conclude if their hatred for those who are different has clouded their judgment about a country that is better than hatred.
Christiane: Your last line is precisely the kind of statement which concerns me. If you feel so strongly about Trump (which seems apparent) and yet are unwilling to say it’s sin to vote for him, then my point is we ought to back away from such rhetoric. It unfairly and unbiblically burdens the conscience of those who have reasons they feel are acceptable in voting for him. We can debate those reasons and seek to persuade, but it ought to be based on why Trump is such a bad candidate not by implying people who might vote for him are harboring hatred.
I think all of us have our likes and dislikes. For some of us, these dislikes can grow into irrational hatreds for what is different from what we feel comfortable with, and there will always be those who try to tape into this hatred so that they can manipulate those who harbor it. Trump is very good at this. So were some fairly recent examples of hate-mongers who reeked havoc on civilization and finally on their own people. We know the play book. We’ve seen it before.
Are there those who manipulate others into sin? I don’t think so. I think that sin is a person’s conscious personal choice. Recently, a wild-eyed unkempt man was arrested for killing people at an abortion clinic. He wanted to ‘save the babies’. He was unstable and likely is mentally and emotionally unable to be held legally accountable for his actions. Only God came judge the heart of this poor creature. Was he manipulated? YES. And I would lay the ‘sin’ at the doorsteps of those who know vulnerable souls are out there who will do their bidding if those unstable people can be ‘used’.
‘Sin’ . . . the source of the evil is not always obvious, GUS. Hatred is a sickness and it can be manipulated. That is why the political world is not something Christians people can enter into without great concern for their own integrity. ‘Manipulation’ requires puppets, who turn their will over to the puppet-master.
Maybe the ‘sin’ was harboring all that hatred within us in the first place?
Christiane: I had prepared a much longer response but I’ll boil it down to this: As a Southern Baptist, I am particularly concerned that leaders of my denomination are laying burdens on their followers that go beyond any clear Scriptural mandate. It’s one thing for these leaders to say “Donald Trump is A, B, C, and D and you should carefully consider these issues before voting for him. I cannot in good conscience vote for him.” It’s another to continually imply, without saying it directly, that to vote for Trump is somehow sinful. I believe there are people of good conscience who may have reasons to vote for Trump, despite his massive flaws. To suggest these folks are not acting in good conscience is a gross oversimplification and utterly unfair to them.
For what it’s worth, Gus, I hear you. I recognize that good people may come to a different conclusion than I have about Trump. And it’s not necessarily because they agree with racism or fascism or whatever. They think that given the alternatives before them, he’s the lesser of two evils. I get it. I think they are horribly mistaken, but I don’t think they are necessarily acting high-handedly against what they know to be right.
Having said that, there is room for some people’s consciences to be formed in a more biblical direction. Also, some people certainly haven’t seen him for what he really is yet. As knowledge on those two counts increases, I think his support will decrease among people of conscience. That’s who I’m trying to persuade.
Denny: I appreciate your response. You have previously convinced me about Trump so I’m not speaking out of concern for myself. As someone who is ministering to others now and preparing for pastoral ministry in the future, I am trying to carefully think through how to respond in situations like this. I don’t see the political landscape getting any easier to navigate in the future, unfortunately.
I also hear you. And I am grateful for your responses, as well as DENNY’S . . . there is much to consider in what both of you have said here, and I am indebted to be included in the conversation.
I think we must consider the advice of the Church in matters of faith and morals (including ethics), but even in my Church which trains us up to ‘consider our consciences’ and ‘avoid the near occasions of sin’, we still are expected to look at the reality of our own situations, and to examine our own consciences . . . and when we come to a decision, it is expected that we will have prayed for the guidance of the Holy Spirit before we decide and act on our conscience.
I don’t know the process for Southern Baptists, but there must be something similar for coming to decisions that do not go against conscience . . . in the end, a Christian person cannot act without charity for others, nor can we claim that we acted ‘because authority demanded it’ when the voice of our conscience knows better.
I am always sympathetic with any person who struggles to do the right thing in a world as complex as ours. Keeping our eyes ‘on Christ’ does require vigilance, humility, and God-given grace. In matters of avoiding sin, there is no answer but Christ and Him crucified, GUS. Be faithful.
Christiane: Thanks for your kind words. This is a very troubling time and I am deeply concerned for many I know who are struggling mightily about what to do here. For myself, I have already concluded Trump is a bad actor whose bark I am hoping is much, much worse than his bite should he become president.
You raise some good points here that I largely agree with but on these grounds can there even be a basis on voting for a candidate that would be sinful? I regret going Godwin but presumably some well meaning Christians in Weimar Germany likely had similar thoughts. If you can’t say that voting for Donald Trump is sinful then you can’t say the same about someone like Hillary Clinton either.
I’ve been thinking about this some more. Since Trump isn’t a reliable defender of Christian values and traditions what does it mean that most Christian conservatives are willing to look past his unrepentant deviations from Christ-like behavior? It seems that tribal identity and common cause are stronger than purely Biblical values, even for Christians. That’s been the case for many Christians on the left for some time but now we can see clearly that its the case for Christians on the right as well.
Ezra: I don’t know enough of the specifics about the history of Hitler’s election to know how obvious it was he was going down the path he took before he was elected. I’m sure there were signs but they may well have been imperfect and unclear, much like with Trump. In hindsight, no doubt, any Christian who voted for him regretted it. I’m not sure I agree that being unable to say a vote for Trump is sinful means one cannot say voting for Hillary Clinton is sinful – she is a staunch advocate of abortion despite the holocaust it has caused since 1973, especially among the black community. Voting for her is an undeniable vote for a continued holocaust. How is that not sin? Only history will tell us if a vote for Trump is sin. We already know with Hillary Clinton.
You’re voting for the person, Gus, not just the policies. I think you know his character by how he has lived his life.
I just find it odd how we draw lines.
I, too, find it odd how we draw lines. We had a governor of our state who was (we thought) pro-life. Republican. He was elected by people who trusted that. But then he closed down funding for a major pediatric hospital that has an important neo-natal center for babies . . .
so we learned the hard way that people will claim openly to ‘support life’, but then, they act to the contrary. I wrote that we had this governor, but no more. No more.
What policies to supposed ‘pro-lifers’ support that can injure people at risk ? Drawing lines is not so simple anymore. But some candidates are so openly problematic towards ALL human life on Earth that we need to be extremely vigilant if we value human life at all.
C.S. Lewis is credited with the quote, “A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line”
The best part is how the list included Don Willett who has for the past several months been mocking Trump on Twitter.
“The rule of no realm is mine. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, those are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail in my task if anything that passes through this night can still grow fairer or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I too am a steward.”
(J.R.R. Tolkien, LOTR)