I am going to make a concerted effort next week to turn to other subjects in this blog, but for today, I feel compelled to make a heartfelt appeal to those I count as friends or colleagues, and to a multitude of former students of mine who appear to be supporting Donald Trump.
Please lend me your ears. I come not to praise Trump, but to expose him.
But I’m sure you already know that.
When Trump first announced his candidacy, which seems like an eon ago, I immediately viewed it as a joke. After watching his debate “performances,” that view only strengthened. Nothing he has done since has changed my mind, despite the fact that he is now the Republican nominee. The joke is now on us.
My first real indication that something was going terribly wrong was when I went to speak to a Tea Party group here in Florida. This was in early February, prior to the vote in Iowa’s caucuses. The group conducted a poll of its members and Trump won by an astounding margin. The man who spoke right before me was a Trump surrogate who assumed everyone was on his side, and judging by the response, he was correct.
Frankly, I was stunned.
Since the Indiana primary, it now seems as if nearly everyone in the Tea Party and/or 9/12 movements in my area has come out enthusiastically for Trump.
In January of this year, I spoke to a large gathering of Republican women from across the state. My talk, which was about my book on Reagan and Whittaker Chambers, went over so well that I was besieged afterwards with invitations to come speak to various local Republican clubs.
That has not yet happened. Neither was I invited to speak to our local club this summer, even though I always have done so in recent years. I understand. My vocal opposition to Trump makes that rather untenable.
One of my regular readers, a man who has been active in Republican circles in another state but who also has chosen not to endorse Trump, wrote to me and said he has never felt so isolated from fellow Republicans and that he has been treated pretty much as an outcast.
I’ve also noticed that a good number of friends, colleagues, and former students who used to “like” my blog posts regularly have fallen strangely silent lately. Of course I know why; they have decided to back Trump, even though many, I’m sure, have come to this decision with deep reservations.
If you are part of that group, let me tell you that I do understand your frustration with the way things are. I’m also interpreting your silence as a measure of respect for me, not wishing to publicly come out against my position.
The most bothersome thing to me is that most of us all want the same thing, but we disagree on how to achieve it. Rest assured, your difference of opinion on Trump doesn’t sever our relationship, but it does sadden me.
Why? Well, in the case of former students, in particular, I had hoped that all I’ve taught so fervently these past decades would help ground you in principles. I’m not saying you aren’t principled—you continue to stand firm for all those things we believe in with respect to the rule of law, religious liberty, the proper type of education, etc.—but you somehow think that Donald Trump will protect and preserve what we all cherish.
That’s where I think you are violating your principles.
I’m especially disturbed by those who would say I am part of the establishment, and that’s why I oppose Trump. Good heavens, would anyone who really knows me say anything like that? I ask you, who is in bed with the “establishment” right now? Isn’t it Trump himself? Didn’t the “establishment” cut off all opposition to his nomination? Why are you now siding with the very people that have so angered you all these years?
After the Republican convention, an organization called Conservatives Against Trump came out with a statement that accurately conveys where I stand and why.
Let me share some of those comments.
The statement makes it clear that the goals of this group are what “we” have always encouraged: limited government, religious liberty, freedom of speech, the sanctity of life, and a strong national defense. It goes on to note,
We see no small irony in the fact that the Republican Platform Committee produced one of the most deeply conservative platforms in modern electoral history, but nominated a candidate who has taken positions contrary to its central tenets. Donald Trump is a contradiction to most everything the Party states as its core beliefs.
Abdication of principle is not the problem of those who oppose Trump; that abdication is found within the party that nominated him.
Then there is this reminder of where Trump has stood on policy and his previous political commitments:
Trump begins as a liberal Republican, arguably more liberal than any other Republican presidential candidate in recent memory. He repeatedly praises Planned Parenthood. He has donated significant money to liberal politicians – including Hillary Clinton.
He wants the government to run health care. He opposes entitlement reform. He supported the Obama stimulus spending plan, the auto bailout and the banks bailout. He opposes free trade agreements. Trump is much closer to the Democratic Party than the Republican. He is a man whose deepest creed is himself.
It continues with commentary on his character, which should be a primary concern of all real conservatives, and Christian conservatives in particular:
This pretend Republican has preyed on misunderstandings, ignorance, and sometimes violence and rank bigotry. He has been vulgar, coarse, demagogic, and cruel. He has mocked disabled people, lauded dictators, and insisted that military leaders would follow his lawless orders should he attain the Presidency. He has been slow to condemn racists – the very reason the Republican Party was founded. He has praised torture as a form of punishment and promised to extend retribution to the innocent.
But what about the Supreme Court? Even if everything else I’ve said about Trump is true, we can’t let that slip through our fingers, can we?
Some of our fellow conservatives have argued that the Supreme Court vacancy compels them to vote for Trump. We respect them and their reasoning, but we do not agree. We do not trust that Trump would appoint a good Justice or, if he does, would fight for a conservative jurist against an adversarial Senate.
The statement correctly notes that the Supreme Court is only one part of the government and that a Trump presidency would probably be just as disastrous to the whole concept of our government as a Hillary presidency:
Furthermore, we would be gambling on a good Supreme Court nomination at the price of constitutional integrity – and this coming from a Republican President leading a party that prides itself on originalist jurisprudence.
We do not trust Donald Trump to bow to the authority of the Constitution or the laws of Congress. He is running on a platform of strength and action, and our Constitution was formed to hobble not just quick lawmaking, but the very kind of strongman governance Trump embodies, despite the angry clamor from a justifiably frustrated electorate.
The antidote is not to seek a “strong man” who will force everything to go the way he perceives it should. Recall Trump’s words at the Republican convention when he said only he can solve the problems of the nation. Really? That’s been the attitude of a steady stream of dictators throughout history.
So what is the solution?
The antidote is to put forward leaders who will appeal to our reason and virtue, not our instincts and vices. We are committed to the principles of the Republican Party, not because they belong to the Party but because we believe they are right and just. We are conservatives before we are Republicans.
We believe that politics is about the art of the possible. We have often been in a position of supporting the lesser of two evils. But Donald Trump appeals not to our better angels but to our baser instincts.
The statement then ends with the following declarations:
We will not compromise core principle for the sake of Party allegiance.
We will not allow vulgarity to stand in the place of virtue.
We will not allow Trump to be the face of the nation to the world – not with our votes.
We will not sit by idly and allow conservatism to be hijacked by a man who shares none of the values of Reagan and Lincoln.
We will support conservative candidates down-ballot.
We will vote our conscience because we believe such a vote is our right and duty as citizens and is never wasted — whether that be voting for another conservative candidate or a write-in.
We will continue to speak out on issues important for our nation. We will seek to impact the newest generation of voters and educating them on the Constitution, the role of faith, family, and freedom as the basis of limited government.
I am in agreement with every one of those declarations. I appeal to all of you—friends, colleagues, and former students—please rethink your support of a man who is just as much a threat to our government and our culture as the horrible candidate put forth by the Democrats.
It’s time to see Donald Trump for what he really is, not for what you hope he will be.