Politics & Policy

National Review, Donald Trump, and Moral Bank Accounts

(Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty)

National Review’s special issue, “Against Trump,” was courageous and important.

There is no way to do good in this world without risking making enemies. That National Review was prepared to do that — among its own readers, no less — in this day of great financial challenges to newspapers, magazines, and news and opinion websites, was an act of courage.

In opposing Donald Trump for president — as it happens, I opposed Trump’s candidacy in a column I wrote four years ago — I face the same issue among some in my radio audience. I receive e-mails from listeners who say they can no longer listen to my show because of my opposition to Trump (though I do regularly distinguish between Trump and his supporters).

There are two issues: the listeners and readers who will no longer listen to or read anti-Trump Republicans whom they have admired for decades; and the important reason Trump is unfit to be president. Interestingly, they amount to the same thing.

It is something vitally important in life — the concept of the moral bank account.

EDITORIAL: Against Trump

Every human being has one. The moral bank account is identical to a monetary bank account, with the obvious exception that one measures moral activity while the other measures financial activity. We make deposits and withdrawals in each account.

“We” is every one of us. We all make moral deposits and withdrawals. We hope, of course, that our balance is always in the black, meaning that we have done more good than bad.

This rule applies to the personal as well as the political. If a person in our lives — a spouse, a friend, a family member — does something that angers or disappoints us, and we don’t take the person’s whole moral bank account into consideration, we would lose every important relationship in our lives.

#share#I have explained this to listeners on a number of occasions during my more than 30 years as a radio talk-show host.

The vast majority simply understand that at some point on some issue, I will disappoint them, but they continue to both respect me and listen to the show. Others don’t. They write, “I can no longer listen to you,” because I took a position that troubled them. Some of them note that they have been listening for many years, even decades. But in their eyes, my one withdrawal from my account with them was enough to close that account.

RELATED: Conservatives Against Trump

A personal example in the other direction: I have been an admirer of George Will for decades. One week he wrote a column in opposition to the death penalty. As one who is deeply committed to retaining the death penalty for some murders, I was disappointed that a moral hero of mine took the opposite position. But his moral bank account with me was so large that this “withdrawal” had no impact on my respect for him, let alone on whether I would continue to read him every week.

That is how admirers of National Review who support Donald Trump should react. In their view, National Review, that magnificent defender of conservative values for all of its life, made a withdrawal. But so what? Should that deplete National Review’s moral bank account with them?

In fact, conservatives who support Trump should do something else — ask themselves why nearly every conservative they have admired for so long is opposed to Trump.

#related#Finally, the moral-bank-account concept should also apply to the candidate himself. In terms of conservative values, Donald Trump either has no moral bank account or it is in the red. He has made very few conservative deposits, but has made a fair number of significant withdrawals (support for nationalized health care, support for the Clintons, support for partial-birth abortion, opposition to free trade, personal defamation and mockery of political opponents, among others). For a Republican candidate, that is saying something.

Nor do I have confidence that he would nominate conservatives to the Supreme Court — perhaps the most important thing the next president will do. Nevertheless, I will vote for Trump if he is nominated — because I do not believe he will do nearly as much damage as another Democratic president. But he must not be nominated. Moral bank accounts matter.

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