Monday, May 9, 2016

Don't Endorse the Evil of Two Lessers

It's time for America's evangelical voters to put up or shut up.

I've resisted the groundswell of #NeverTrump up until now, but today Trump provided the straw to break that camel's back.  He tipped the needle over the line.  He nudged the cart over the precipice.

Up until now, Trump has been "the lesser of two evils" for holdout evangelicals exasperated about choosing between him and Hillary.  Up until now, the plethora of conventional warnings from theologians and moralists about how spiritually and emotionally unfit Trump is for the presidency have carried little weight with the legions of religious conservatives who insist that political incorrectness is all Washington needs these days.

Up until now, Trump has been the celebrated schoolyard bully of this election season, dropping vulgar innuendos about the only Republican female contender, and snarking away on Twitter with juvenile jabs at other contestants who, one by one, have pulled out of the ugly race.  He taunts and belittles others while unabashedly boasting about the greatness he plans for America - even though he hasn't provided any detailed plans for achieving that greatness.  In any other election, his public package of empty promises, sound-bite insults, and incessant vanity would be considered bad politics, but this year, his followers cheerfully describe Trump and his schtick as refreshing.

It's the bully-fication of America, I guess, thanks to years of pugnacious right-wing talk shows, the dumbing-down of American history by the religious right, and thinly-veiled anger and confusion over the economic stagnation that casts a pall over a sprawling cross-section of voters.  Traditional conservatives remain adamant that America's One Percenters, despite their extreme wealth, really don't manipulate their assets to the detriment of the rest of us.  Meanwhile, ironically, this manipulation by the One Percenters has helped Trump attract an unprecedented amount of support from labor unions and other traditional Democrats; "liberals" tantalized by a so-called Republican who says he's fed up with all of the corporate cost-cutting, down-sizing, and offshoring of jobs that have eroded our standard of living.

Somehow, having an egomaniacal developer who leveraged his father's rental apartment business in one of the world's most expensive real estate markets into a multi-billion-dollar company represents America's last great hope of greatness.  Even though he's never run for any public office in his life.

And yeah, maybe it just might work, having a political neophyte win the White House without having to solicit campaign funds from a plethora of donors looking for taxpayer-funded handouts.  But what happens when that political neophyte holds anybody who doesn't embrace him in as much contempt as Trump does?

He calls people who don't want to vote for him "losers."  He delights in calling people "wacko," including Ted Cruz and Glenn Beck.  He's called Carl Rove a "failed Jeb Bushy."  He described Lindsey Graham as "one of the dumbest human beings."  And voters are drinking it up as entertainment.

Indeed, immature voters may giggle and guffaw at such petty insults, yet isn't that what the impotent, scared kids on the playground do when a bully is swaggering about, shooting off his mouth?

And when it comes to Trump's infamous insults, this isn't even the tip of the iceberg.  The New York Times is keeping a running tab of them - hundreds of them, regarding at least 210 people, places, and things - just from Trump's Twitter account.

Trump has made a name for himself of demeaning the names of so many people he doesn't particularly like.  And that's a good temperament for a president?

Add that to Trumps' mocking of a handicapped reporter.  How about his lusting after his own daughter?  How about his affairs... or is sexual infidelity so provincial now?  How about his multiple bankruptcies, or is he entitled to break a few eggs while making his omelette?

How about his weak flip-flop on abortion?  Or his ambivalence about freedom of religion?

He's still better than Hillary, even after all that?

Up until now, for many conservatives, he has been.

Then today, after the Baptist theologian Russell Moore refused to back down from his personal #NeverTrump stance, the Donald unleashed on one of the most popular and prominent evangelicals of our day:

"Russell Moore is truly a terrible representative of Evangelicals and all of the good they stand for.  A nasty guy with no heart!"

Now, I don't agree with Moore on everything, but I'm not sure anybody (except Trump) can point to anything Moore says or does that makes him a "truly terrible representative" for us evangelicals.  Moore is almost certainly not "a nasty guy" by any stretch of the imagination.  And it's downright goofy to say he has "no heart."

If Trump is entitled to his opinion, isn't Moore entitled to his?  So doesn't Trump's belittling of Moore in such a fashion say more negative things about the presidential candidate than it does the Baptist advocate?

It also raises a deeply troubling question:  For evangelicals to say that Trump is the "lesser of two evils," is this the type of president you'd want interacting with leaders within our evangelical sub-culture?  Barak Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders - none of them have said anything even remotely as negative about any leading evangelical figure as Trump did today.

Sure, liberals in the public eye may think all sorts of nasty stuff about Moore and other prominent evangelicals.  But they usually think twice before publicizing those private opinions.  And that's because there's a greater power in thoughts that are publicized.  It's one thing for a public figure to think negative things about somebody else, or even discretely share them within a tight group of close friends.  But to unleash such negative things for the entire world to consume - especially as consistently as Trump does regarding his opponents - should be deeply troubling to the rest of us.  Such careless open vitriol bespeaks not only Trump's political incorrectness, it more than suggests a temperament of hostility, narcissism, and immaturity that would disqualify anybody else from virtually any leadership post in any organization... except the United States presidency?

Um... No.  Today Trump erased any benefit of the doubt regarding his being the lesser of two evils.

If you consider yourself an evangelical, and you've been willing to vote for Donald Trump, today is your day of reckoning.  I don't think I'm making too big a deal out of this, since, as I've been saying for months, it's virtually impossible to embrace the teachings of Jesus Christ and Donald Trump.

No, we're not electing a pastor.  This election is about the presidency of the United States.  And yes, Hillary has a lot of unseemly baggage that makes her a distinctly dubious choice as the leader of the "free" world.

But if you think people are wrong to vote for Hillary, then you should also understand why it's wrong to vote for Trump.

As the saying goes, there's such a thing as "the evil of two lessers."  If two candidates are wrong for the job, don't choose either of them.

It's not who you don't vote for that matters.

Update 5/10/16:  Anne Graham Lotz claims she's voting for Trump because "he can change."  With all due respect to Lotz and her family pedigree, "he can change" is not a Biblical reason to vote for anybody.  Hillary can change, according to that logic, so why not vote for her?  Anybody can change, right?  Shucks, as far as banking on somebody to change, Trump could change into something even worse than what he is now.

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