I do understand the case against Trump, and I documented it thoroughly in Evangelicals at the Crossroads: Will We Pass the Trump Test?
Over the last 5 years, I have read article after article and book after book castigating the president as evil, dangerous, reckless, irresponsible, unfit, and even mentally ill. And I have listened carefully to friends and colleagues who cannot in good conscience vote for Donald Trump. (For the record, none of them, to my knowledge, will be voting for Joe Biden.) Yet I choose to vote for Trump.
But before I explain my reasoning, allow me to present some of the case against Trump.
The New York Times editorial board recently stated that, “Donald Trump’s re-election campaign poses the greatest threat to American democracy since World War II.”
That was the opening line.
According to historian Jonathan Alter, of all presidents in our history, Trump “did the most damage to our ideals and values.”
These are serious accusations.
From my perspective, some of the charges brought against Trump are exaggerated while others are downright false. Yet other charges are on point and undeniable.
The Trump presidency has exacerbated our national divisions, even to the point of deeply dividing some of our homes (think George and Kellyanne Conway). Divided we certainly fall.
He has alienated some of our long-term allies.
He has abused his position by attacking individual citizens (such as journalists) and has been irresponsible in his public comments about people like Michigan’s Governor Whitmer. (Remember, we’re talking about the most powerful man on the planet stirring up already angry crowds. This is very dangerous.)
His vulgarities have helped to further degrade us as a people, as we have become nastier and more profane. (Again, this is my perspective, but it feels as if his behavior has given others the license to follow his lead.)
Worst of all, to the extent we evangelicals have become apologists for the president, we have hurt our gospel witness. The consequences of this are massive.
Yet, while I voted for Trump with hesitation in 2016, I will vote for him now without hesitation.
That’s because I was aware of the damage he could do when I voted for him in 2016. But I didn’t know if he would deliver on his promises and keep his commitments.
Now that he has delivered on his promises and kept his commitments in a way that few presidents in memory have done, it is easy for me to vote for him for the second time. I can weigh the positive against the negative, and in my view, the positive prevails, despite the reality of the negative.
Not only so, but if I was voting against Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Platform in 2016, much more am I voting against Joe Biden (and Kamala Harris) and the Democratic Platform in 2020. Much, much more.
Interestingly, in two September editorials in the Washington Post, Danielle Pletka and Alexandra Petri laid out their issues against Trump – and they had some very serious issues with him.
Pletka wrote, “I don’t need a bumper sticker or a lawn sign to convey my distaste for Trump — his odious tweets, his chronic mendacity and general crudeness. . . . I fear Trump’s erratic, personality-driven decision-making. . . . And I fret that his bizarrely isolationist attitude toward international trade will hurt the U.S. economy and splinter the global trading juggernaut that over the past half-century has brought the world amazing prosperity, lifting hundreds of millions of people out of extreme poverty.”
Yet Pletka’s op-ed was titled, “I never considered voting for Trump in 2016. I may be forced to vote for him this year.” What do you know.
As for Petri, she wrote, “Over the past four years, Trump’s ominous shadow has devoured everything that was precious about America, chewed on it and spat out only bones and gristle.”
And this: “Do I think Trump has the attributes necessary for governing? Absolutely not! He is a dangerous man, and every day we spend under his leadership is a day we lose a precious share of the world’s respect that we may never regain. There’s definitely not a ‘But!’ coming after such a strong and overwhelming condemnation of his leadership.”
Yet the “But!” did come, and her editorial was titled, “I can’t believe you’re forcing me to vote for Trump, which I definitely didn’t already want to do.” Did I already say what do you know?
This is similar to the reasoning of Dr. Albert Mohler who did not vote for Trump in 2016 but will do so now. He considers Trump a “huge embarrassment” for evangelicals but finds the alternative “unthinkable.” Mohler speaks for many others who now share his perspective.
In this view (which is also mine), the issues we are facing in America and the world are of an existential nature, from abortion to the attack on our freedoms and from an encroaching Marxism to tyrannical world regimes. In each case, I find Trump and the Republicans to be on the right side and Biden and the Democrats on the wrong side. (The most recent case in point is the failure of a single Democrat to vote for Amy Coney Barrett. Again, this does not mean all Republicans are good and all Democrats are evil. I’m simply comparing policies and platforms.)
When it comes to the very real damage Trump does, I can do damage control. I can be a peacemaker and a bridge builder. I can distance myself from his bad behavior. I can try to set a better personal example. I can preach Jesus, not Trump. And I can explain, in non-emotive terms, why I feel a vote for the president is justified.
In other words, if someone is willing to have a rational discussion with me, I can explain how I, as a conservative, faith-based, “values voter,” can vote for Trump without compromising my faith.
My vote for the president is pragmatic, similar to hiring the best available person to do a particular job. In no way should it impinge on my gospel witness.
On the other hand, if the Democrats are elected and empowered to implement their agenda, it will be very difficult to work against that.
Just think of Biden’s pledge to make Roe v. Wade the law of the land if the Supreme Court overturned it. I cannot simply distance myself from it, like I do from Trump’s unrestrained language.
Or imagine an empowered cancel culture. Or an energized mobocracy. Or a government-backed, anti-God Marxism. These are much harder to combat, and that’s why many Never Trumpers from 2016 are casting their ballots for him in 2020.
In sum, I really do understand the case against Trump, and it is very strong. (Obviously, I have only touched on it here.)
But I believe the case for him is stronger.