Here are my thoughts on last night’s debate and where things stand as far as the presidential race is concerned. Also, a brief word of gospel encouragement:
1. Donald Trump has debased himself and has lowered everyone who is forced to stand on stage with him. Senator Rubio was wrong to tell the “hands” joke earlier this week with the offensive innuendo. Having said that, Trump’s vulgarity last night was off the charts and beneath the dignity of the office he seeks. He has lowered himself. I hate to say it, but he has made the men on stage with him look smaller too. The candidates opposing Trump would do well to remember the ancient proverb: “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Or you will also be like him” (Proverbs 26:4).
2. Donald Trump doubled-down on the idea that innocent women and children should be targets in war. Don’t let that gravity of that be lost on you. A candidate for President of the United States says that he would order our armed forces to commit war crimes. When challenged whether our military would obey such an unlawful order, Trump said that he would force them to do it anyway. This is beyond the pale. It is a flouting of just war principles and an abomination to everything that our country has stood for. Our military commanders would be put into the situation of having to disobey their commander-in-chief. What happens to a Republic when military commanders decide that they cannot obey the lawless orders of their commander-in-chief?
3. The Republican Party is breaking apart. That result is inevitable at this point. The only thing that remains to be seen is how it will break. The most likely scenario is that Trump wins the majority of delegates needed to clinch the GOP nomination. If that happens, you can expect social conservatives and the establishment (represented yesterday by Mitt Romney) to bolt. That would result in a third party candidacy. My hunch is that Mitt Romney would be the candidate. Another scenario is that Rubio, Cruz, and Kasich capture enough delegates among them to force a contested convention. Trump could still come out on top at a contested convention. But he might also be shut-out with one of the other candidates or Romney emerging as the GOP nominee. If that happens, then all of Trump’s supporters would bolt, and Trump himself would likely pursue a third party run.
4. There is no scenario in which a united Republican party faces the Democratic nominee this Fall. That ship has sailed. Unless Secretary Clinton is indicted (which is still a possibility), there really is very little prospect for a Republican victory in the Fall. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth opposing Trump. He is a Mussolini-in-waiting, a demagogue who is a threat to our constitutional order. If you love your neighbor and your country, I believe you are duty-bound to oppose him. He really is that bad.
5. I’ve done a lot of writing in recent days about the presidential election—in particular about the GOP race for the nomination. I have done so with increasing urgency because of the unraveling that is happening before our very eyes. The Republican Party began with Abraham Lincoln in 1860. It is about to be no more. That by itself makes this an historic collapse. But I am more concerned about the implications of this collapse for our national life going forward. Our traditions and institutions of government are based on a two-party system. What happens on the other side of this? I don’t know. I do know that once the GOP is gone, so too is the one party that has stood for the sanctity of human life, marriage, and religious liberty—the issues I care most about. Will a new party emerge that cares about those issues? That is by no means guaranteed.
6. Even though our current political moment is a dark one, I am hopeful. The Bible teaches that the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5). For those of us who are Christians, our marching orders haven’t changed. We are to be in the world, not of the world, for the sake of the world (John 17:14-21). God has made us for this moment. Our mission field is before us, God’s power is in us, and we will march in His triumph (2 Cor. 2:14). We may be facing a situation of contracted religious liberty, but our prospects for faithfulness and fruitfulness for the gospel haven’t dimmed at all.