Can we please establish something regarding the debate within conservatism over Donald Trump and whether we should support him? Trump will be in office at most just under six more years. Trump will be 73 years old in June. This means he probably has 20 years to live, and maybe 30 at most. That really is the batting of an eye, historically speaking. The Republican Party and the conservative movement will be around long after Trump is dead. I am sorry I had to be so morbid, but I am saying this to underscore how stupid it is to permanently splinter the Republican Party and/or the conservative movement over one man.
This brings me to a tweet by David French:
You’re putting a high philosophical gloss on a decision that was made out of raw fear.
I have said this before, but I did not vote for Donald Trump in 2016. I do not regret or apologize for that. I have close friends that voted for Trump. I do not condemn those people. They made a decision based on the political landscape at the time, and despite Trump’s checkered past they decided he was a safer bet than his opponent. (I will vote for Trump in 2020, and you can find my explanation in the archives.)
And let’s be clear here: Every single time you vote for someone, you are compromising. I have voted in 18 general elections, and there have only been three times that I have voted for someone who I agreed with 100%. Each time, I voted for myself. Even then, I knew I was voting for someone who needs to be better in his personal character, because I know my own sin. The decision conservatives had to make in 2016 is whether Trump’s flaws were too great to overcome or whether they could vote for him in spite of those flaws, especially given the alternative.
This is not to say that Trump voters were motivated entirely by fear, or that Christians displayed a lack of faith on voting for a man with deep personal flaws. French has suggested that in the past. It is incredibly arrogant to assume that Christians who voted for Trump acted out of fear and lack of faith in God. It is uncharitable to millions upon millions of fellow Christians, many of whom prayed and thought deeply about the vote before they cast their ballot for Trump. We should not be condemning people of sincere conviction and assuming sinful motives because they come to a different conclusion than we did. That is the sin of pride.
(Note this does not absolve cult-like devotion to and worship of Trump. I have damned this evil idolatry many times, and will continue to damn it, because it is so destructive.)
I also do not judge conservatives who, out of sincere principle, steadfastly refuse to vote for Trump in 2020. I may disagree with them and try to argue against them, but I do not see them as morally flawed or “traitors” to the Republican Party or the broader conservative movement. Trump is a divisive figure and people of good faith can disagree about supporting him. Viciously personally attacking someone and calling him names because he disagrees with you says a lot more about you than the target of your wrath.
Perhaps I have a unique perspective because I refused to vote for Trump in 2016, but plan to vote for Trump in 2020. I have been on both sides of this argument. The attacks lobbed at principled #NeverTrump Republicans and Trump supporters are things I have had lobbed at me – from both sides. But if our devotion to or opposition to one man who (let’s be honest) is in the last years of his life means that we’re willing to do permanent damage to our party or our movement (or even toss aside decades-old friendships) then we need to step back and get some perspective.