Trump, Principles, & Conscience

When I first began this blog eight years ago, it didn’t take me long to decide on a title. My life and teaching have always focused on Biblical principles. My desire was to share those principles and to apply them to what we experience in this trek through a sinful world. That’s how the name “Pondering Principles” came about.

With that name, though, came a deep responsibility to remain true to the principles I believe the Lord has ordained. I’ve thought a lot about what I want to say right now with respect to the upcoming presidential contest. What I’m going to say will not sit well with many, but I will say it because it comes from that commitment I made to speak and write from those principles.

I’ve always voted Republican, no matter how much I’ve disagreed with the chosen nominee for president. Despite some misgivings over George Bush, I believed he was a good man, trying to do what was right. The John Kerry alternative gave me nightmares.

When John McCain got the nomination, I sighed and dutifully fell in line because I knew Barack Obama would be the most radical president in American history and would attempt to undo every constitutional precept that he could. At least McCain had shown remarkable courage as a POW and could be counted on for some conservative policies. There really was no comparison between the candidates.

Mitt Romney was, for me, a step further away from genuine Republican principles. After all, it was his health plan in Massachusetts that provided the blueprint for Obamacare. Neither had he been solidly pro-life. But the alternative, of course, was another four years of Obama, and I did believe Romney was a decent man who could be prodded in the right direction by conservatives in the party.

Now, in 2016, I don’t have a decent man to vote for on the Republican side. And that’s really what it comes down to for me. I have a lot of reasons to decide not to vote for Donald Trump, but the most basic one is that I see him as a totally despicable human being who may do irreparable harm to both the Republican party and the nation.

Please stay with me.

For those of you supporting Trump because he is an outsider, consider his personal history. He has been on the inside his entire life, using all his political connections for personal gain, often to the detriment of others. This is something he and Hillary Clinton have in common: they have used the system cynically and corruptly for their own advancement.

Crony Capitalists

Clinton’s corruption is clearly seen in multiple ways, but the investigation into the use of a personal e-mail server and the funneling of funds through the Clinton Foundation are the real icing on this half-baked cake.

Trump’s corruption is in how he has bilked people over the years (interesting, isn’t it, that the trial for the fake Trump University has now been delayed until late November), how he has attempted to use eminent domain to take private property away from an elderly lady to use for his own purposes, and how he has cleverly used the bankruptcy laws to stay on top while throwing others out of work.

Yes, they are a dynamic duo.

Bratman

On policy, he is all over the place, promising whatever will get votes. Now that he has the nomination all but sewed up, he’s tacking clearly to the left, saying he wants to get the Bernie Sanders voters.

This is our Republican nominee?

He claims to be pro-life now, but has always supported abortion, even the infanticide of partial-birth abortion. Even now, he hasn’t really opposed Planned Parenthood. It pains me to read of some pro-life leaders now being swayed into the illusion that he won’t be that bad on this issue after all.

I could go on about all his other “policies,” but the real issue for me is Trump’s character.

Unlike some people who only glance at headlines, I am a student of politics and government and the connection with character. I’ve watched Trump carefully for the past year, hardly believing what I’ve seen.

He has no dignity. His main avenue for personal opinion is insulting tweets. He has mocked and ridiculed his fellow candidates mercilessly. He is beyond rude; he is an arrogant, condescending, unprincipled mess of a man.

He is the classic spoiled child who never grew up. Putting him at the head of this nation, in my view, would be tantamount to elevating into power someone with the emotional maturity of a third-grader.

The planted fake story in the National Enquirer about Ted Cruz being an unfaithful husband is ironic, given Trump’s blatant immorality. The photo he used of Heidi Cruz is what a middle-school guy might do in a pique of adolescent rage.

And then there are the conspiracy theories he seems to delight in: Obama’s birth certificate (sorry, but I never bought into that one, as much as I would have liked to); George Bush somehow behind 9/11 and deliberately lying to get us into a war with Iraq; Cruz’s father as a co-conspirator in the JFK assassination.

Really, Republicans? This is your standard-bearer?

And after all of this, you call upon me to support this man for the sake of unity?

Time for Unity

And then you have the nerve to lecture me that if I don’t vote for this awful person, I am, in effect, casting a vote for Hillary?

A vote is a vote for something or someone. If I cast a vote for Donald Trump, I am saying I am for an unrepentant serial adulterer (possibly a rapist—that accusation is out there and not too hard to believe) who has always championed leftist causes with his donations, and who, even now, is pulling the wool over the eyes of his starry-eyed minions.

No, I cannot do this.

If Hillary Clinton wins this election, I place the blame on those who ignorantly raised this reality-TV “star” into a credible candidate when the joke of his candidacy should have been apparent to all. Those of us who sounded the alarm all along are not the ones who deserve the blame for his ascendancy.

Many Republicans are now falling in line with the reality of a Trump nomination. They are dutifully remaining loyal to the party.

Next Trick

I will not put party loyalty above principle. In the end, I don’t give an account to Donald Trump, Paul Ryan, Reince Priebus, or Trump supporters who will try to convince me to change my mind.

In the end, I give an account to God only, and my conscience must be clear before Him.

There are people I love and respect who will disagree with me today. That doesn’t alter my love and respect for you.

If your conscience doesn’t bother you by voting for Trump, that is your decision. But please don’t call on me to violate my conscience. I simply won’t do it.

The Republican Obituary

I toyed with the idea this morning of writing nothing but Scripture passages. I will get to those, but I have to say a few words as well.

The Republican voters (and for the sake of brevity, I’ll just assume most were Republicans) have decided that a man who rejects nearly every line in past Republican platforms will be their nominee for president.

Republican voters have concluded that morality, integrity, the rule of law, and the Constitution must be discarded in their headlong dash into an angry reaction against all politicians, even someone like Ted Cruz who has fought the good fight for Biblical and constitutional principles all his life.

In doing so, they have brought this nation to the brink of near-total collapse. No matter who wins in the fall, Republican or Democrat, Christian values will be subjected to even greater governmental suppression. No matter how Trump fares in the general election, the very fact of his nomination is a dismal indication that whatever honor and principle remained in the Republican party is now in the past.

This photoshop going around this morning may be accurate:

Republican Tombstone

Resurrection of the Republican party depends on whether it comes to its senses once this debacle is over. Until then, while I will vote for good Republicans down the ticket, I will not associate myself with the man at the top of the ticket. I am now publicly declaring my political independence from the Republican party.

I’ve always said to Republican groups when I’ve spoken to them that I am first a Christian, second a constitutionalist, and third a Republican—and that I will remain a Republican only as long as the party remains true to my first two identities.

The voices have already begun: but if you don’t vote for Trump, that’s a vote for Hillary. I reject that argument, but I won’t address it today. There will be plenty of time in the coming days to explain why I cannot, in good conscience, support Donald Trump.

For now, I’ve been directed, I trust this is by God, to certain Scriptures that, to me, describe our current situation. In II Thessalonians, chapter 2, in the context of what will occur in the endtimes, the apostle Paul explains that many will be willingly deceived, and he ends with these words:

For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.

I honestly believe that many have been deceived by Trump. I don’t think this verse applies to Trump specifically, so don’t misunderstand my point. But there is a principle here that does apply. When people are so willing to believe a lie, God allows them to follow their own evil hearts into destruction.

The bigger problem, of course, is that the rest of us are dragged down with them into the consequences of their foolishness.

We’re also admonished in the third chapter of II Timothy,

But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers . . . ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power. Avoid such men as these.

I look at that list and see the man who is now the presumptive nominee for the Republicans. His lifestyle is pretty much drawn from this description. And you are telling me I am supposed to vote for him? I will instead take the instruction of that final sentence: avoid such men as these.

Finally, I go to Romans, chapter 1, where in a passage the deals directly with the sin of homosexuality (yes, I said sin, so I might expect some societal blowback for that), Paul then goes on to say,

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; . . . strife, deceit, malice . . . insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil . . . without understanding, untrustworthy. . . . And although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

Are we really at that point in our society? It’s no cliché to say that we need to pray now more than ever. Our only hope is to cry out for God’s mercy. Consequences will come first, but we hold out for mercy in the end if enough people awaken to the truth and realize we are on the path to destruction.

This hasn’t been a very uplifting post today. There are times for messages of warning and judgment. This is one of those times.

The Trumpian Path to Oblivion

Today’s vote in Indiana could well determine whether Donald Trump gets anointed as the Republican nominee or whether Ted Cruz can successfully overcome the false narrative being promoted by the media and emerge as the logical alternative.

If only Trump supporters would actually listen to everything Trump says, they might have second thoughts:

Tells It Like It Is

Yet, as the above cartoon indicates, there is almost a cult-like willingness to overlook any and all discrepancies in their preferred candidate. Never mind that he is not really the “outsider” who is going to shake up politics. Never mind that he has given thousands upon thousands to Democrat politicians. Never mind that John Boehner is his texting and golfing buddy.

If Ted Cruz had all of that baggage in his background, do you think they would ever support him? But since it’s Trump, who cares? He’s our savior.

The System

Yes, the system is indeed crooked, but that system has worked for Trump throughout his life and continues to work for him today. He has garnered a far higher percentage of delegates than the percentage of his vote in all the primaries. How is that fair?

And all that talk about being the best “unifier”? The childish insults that emanate from his mouth betray the lie of being a unifier:

Unifier

His supposed major foreign policy speech last week was so canned and programmed, it was painful to watch. The segment I viewed had him pronouncing the word “says,” not as “sez,” but as “saze.” That mispronunciation made it obvious that he was reading a script. He was the puppet, repeating what someone else wrote for him.

Others have pointed out another embarrassing mispronunciation of the nation of Tanzania. His knowledge deficiency is earth-shaking.

How to Pronounce

Yet what do we witness? A rising tide of support from within the Republican establishment for this pseudo-candidate, all because they think he is inevitable. What a sad spectacle.

Join 'Em

This kind of sellout on principles is what will doom us as a nation.

We have had our first black president. We may have our first woman president, particularly if Trump is the nominee. If, by some weird freak of the vote, he should actually win the presidency, we will have—as one of my Facebook friends noted—the first third-grader as president.

Indiana, please don’t make that path to oblivion any easier.

The Trump Titanic?

Here’s the ideal political world: each candidate, out of sincere love of country and its people, rises above pettiness, lays aside ego, bases a campaign on issues, treats opponents with respect, and does his/her best to be a statesman for the good of all and not merely a politician out for personal glory.

That’s the ideal political world. This is what we see instead:

Make America 8 Again

Also in an ideal political world, the media would be careful to present each candidate fairly, showing favoritism to none. Yet what do we find now?

Got a Temper

Rather than treating someone who is all bluster and insults and no substance as an embarrassment, that which is painfully obvious is ignored by many:

Black Hole

When asked what the role of government is, this candidate, with nary a nod toward constitutional authority, offers opinions unburdened by such constitutional qualms:

Top 3

And untold numbers of supposed conservatives, who should know better, aid the cause, not realizing it will ultimately lead to their own destruction:

Gangplank

There are signs, though, of an awakening. What started as a ball-of-fire campaign that surprised virtually everyone, may end in a ball of fire itself if this candidate goes to the convention not having locked up the majority of delegates:

Greatest Landing

If he fails to win the nomination, the nation will have dodged a YUUUGE bullet, and perhaps the Republican party will come out of it wiser . . . perhaps . . .

In the Long Run

May the Trump Titanic sink quickly. May we all regain our common sense just as quickly.

Establishment: What Does It Mean?

The media keeps throwing around the word “establishment.” In the almost-immortal words of The Princess Bride, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

What is the Republican establishment, and once we have identified it, does it really hate Donald Trump?

The problem is that the Republican party is particularly divided right now, and analysts keep insisting on confusing different groups who have different concerns.

Divided Elephant

They insist the “establishment” is trying to deny Trump the nomination. By that, they mean the power brokers in the party, the leadership of the Congress, and the donors. Perhaps they are trying to dump Trump, but I’m not entirely convinced. I think they are all too ready to be won over to his side simply because they are beginning to believe his Trumped-up claims of being a winner.

Yet those same analysts seem to lump into the establishment people like me. I fit into their predetermined classification of establishment because I’ve always gone along with whoever was chosen as the nominee, no matter how disappointed I’ve been with the picks.

But I’m not that easily categorized. You see, I will never be bought off like the established establishment might be. My concerns for the Republican party are secondary. Instead, I vote primarily for who most closely corresponds with the principles I believe in.

And if the Republican party crowns a nominee that undermines those principles, I will be AWOL.

So there are two different groups within the Republican party that are concerned about a Trump nomination. The first seeks power and influence above all, and if convinced Trump will allow that power to continue, no problem.

The second, to which I belong, says that if that power will corrupt constitutional principles, it would be immoral to lend support to anyone who will advance that corruption.

So, please, mainstream media, don’t lump me in with the first group. I am motivated differently. My concerns are not identical with those more devoted to party than principle.

As I’ve been saying in previous blogs and will reiterate here, I identify as a Christian principled constitutional conservative. That is who I am, and that identity will determine my vote.

Short Takes on the NH Debate

I’m just going to offer a few thoughts on last night’s GOP debate in New Hampshire, taking the candidates in alphabetical order.

New Hampshire Debate 2016

Jeb Bush: I do believe this was his best debate, particularly when he challenged Trump on eminent domain. For the first time, he didn’t seem cowed and overwhelmed by Trump; he more than held his own. It’s probably too late for him, though.

Ben Carson: Unfortunately, he took Iowa personally and it shows. My opinion of him as a fine Christian man is unchanged, but his campaign is virtually over. Eventually, he will have to face that fact.

Chris Christie: He took on Rubio forcefully and made his point about robotic answers when Rubio seemingly couldn’t break away from his pre-programmed response. However, Christie leaves me cold with his rudeness. That may work in New Jersey, but not across the nation. Then his belief that a child conceived in rape should be killed absolutely killed any positive thoughts I might have had of him. Take the life of an innocent child who did nothing wrong to be conceived? Sorry, but I don’t want a president who believes that.

Ted Cruz: Handled another public apology to Carson quite well, although some thought it was awkward for him. I disagree. I’ve seen opinions that he was “flat” in his answers. I disagree again. If you were listening at all, you heard well-informed, crisp policy comments. His personal testimony about his half-sister dying from a drug addiction was the most poignant moment of the evening. Some didn’t like it, but I consider it a high point. In my opinion, he was presidential in his manner and knowledgeable in his responses.

John Kasich: Yes, I get it that he has done some successful things as governor. He tells us continually. Yes, he sometimes makes valuable points. But there’s the other side: he wants to be conservative-Republican-light, rejoicing in a New York Times endorsement. Also, he still comes across as the kid in the room who wants to get the teacher’s attention. Bottom line: I find it hard not to be annoyed with him.

Marco Rubio: This was his big moment to shine, but in his exchanges with Christie, he stumbled badly. Did he not realize he was making Christie’s point by constantly repeating a memorized speech, no matter what the question was? He missed every opportunity to hit Christie on his real record on such matters as appointing judges. Why, oh why, did his advisors not prepare him for what was coming? It should have been obvious what Christie was going to do. Later, he settled down and gave some sterling answers when he got away from his talking points, especially about abortion, yet you have to wonder if those who saw the beginning of the debate saw the strong finish. This was Rubio’s moment, but, sadly, he wasn’t up to the challenge. I say “sadly” because I like him and hope he will learn from this experience.

Donald Trump: For a while, he was steady and unflappable, but then the real Trump showed up in the eminent domain argument. His criticism of the audience was either bold or stupid, depending on one’s perspective. His final comment about Cruz taking Carson’s votes was snarky, especially as it immediately followed Cruz’s final statement when he had no chance to respond, but that’s no surprise; that’s classic Trump. Those who say he won the debate apparently have no concern for his general answers that provide little in the way of policy other than boasts of making everything “great.”

One more point: Trump may have been right about the nature of the audience when he said it was bought and paid for, in a certain sense. I was struck from the start that the audience seemed to wildly applaud everything Bush and Christie said while remaining silent or offering tepid applause for the other candidates, no matter how solid their answers. A packed audience for those particular candidates? It’s worth asking.

On Tuesday, we’ll find out if this debate made any difference.

Walker’s Withdrawal

Scott Walker SuspendsWisconsin governor Scott Walker last night withdrew from the GOP presidential nomination race. All things considered, it is understandable that he did so, but I believe it says a lot of things—mostly bad—about our current nominating process and the expectations of the electorate. I’ll explain in a moment.

First, I want to examine Walker’s comments in his withdrawal statement. They say a lot.

One of the points he made was how disappointed he was that this entire campaign “drifted into personal attacks.” One candidate, in particular, has excelled in doing so, and that is Donald Trump, who has disgraced himself by the way he has handled legitimate criticism from the other candidates. Walker is correct about that.

Then he said that the best way he can show leadership at this moment is to help clear the field “so that a positive, conservative message can rise to the top of the field.” He called on other candidates with little support in the polls to follow his example “so that the voters can focus on a limited number of candidates who can offer a positive, conservative alternative to the current front-runner.”

With that statement, he made it abundantly clear that he does not consider Trump to be a genuine conservative who deserves the Republican electorate’s support, and that the only way to stop him is to coalesce around someone who can give him a true run for his money. Most surmise that Walker is encouraging his supporters to make Rubio that challenger, and indications are that his top people are already moving in that direction.

What to say about Walker’s failed candidacy? First, it’s sad that two governors with superb credentials as fine leaders with courage—Walker and Perry—are the first to drop out. In the rush to thumb their noses at anyone who has held office, far too many voters are looking for any alternative, no matter the consequences.

It is the height of foolishness simply to lash out at anyone who has experience in government. Walker has a stellar record as a courageous conservative in a blue state who has accomplished pretty much all he set out to do. His demise is grievous to me.

I’ve read a number of autopsies of his campaign, and I agree with some of the criticisms leveled at him for how the campaign was run. Neither did he help himself by the debates, where he failed to shine.

Yet that is another issue for me: voters are looking for charisma and audaciousness more than competence. That does not bode well for the Republican party or the country.

I admire Walker and pray the best for him as he continues to lead Wisconsin, knowing that his foes will now redouble their efforts to smear him and overturn the advances he has made there.

May those efforts fall flat, and may his reputation as a Christian man of conscience repair whatever damage this presidential bid may have done to his reputation. He deserves better.