If Hillary is the Democratic nominee, Donald J. Trump is likely to become the next president of the United States. Paul Ryan’s little Kabuki-theater piece demonstrates that the GOP establishment either has made, or is about to make, its peace with Trump.
The organization I work with, the American Principles Project (APP), is now pro-Trump. Many good people, faced with what one of them called the “binary choice” between Trump and Hillary, have no problem choosing Trump. As I wrote last week, Trump has positioned himself as a social conservative. He has promised to appoint good justices and to sign a ban on late-term abortion. I’ve voted before for Republicans (Romney, McCain) whose social conservatism was mostly nominal. What’s different now?
Why won’t I join Team Trump?
1. The first reality is that the world has changed: President Obama has put in place throughout the federal government the regulatory infrastructure to redefine as the equivalent of Jim Crow racism the understandings of sex and marriage that are held by traditional Christians (and others). He is using the power of the federal government to impose his morality on the whole American people. Huge parts of the GOP are either joining the Left or standing down. This is not a battle about one issue; it’s a battle to make orthodox Christianity illegitimate and unacceptable in America, to punish and stigmatize it. The courage to fight this framing and this infrastructure is priority number one for me. I don’t see how I can tell people they should elect a Republican willing to surrender.
Donald Trump’s supporters tell me that he fights political correctness and they assume he will fight this, too. But he has signaled pretty strongly his unwillingness to fight anything the Left deems “anti-gay.” Trump learned, in the days when he threw Carrie Prejean under the bus, the power of this movement to hurt his core business interests. He’s just not going to take that fight on. He said as much when he was asked by APP, the Heritage Foundation, and the Family Research Council in January whether he would prioritize passing the First Amendment Defense Act in his first 100 days of office. He said, basically, no, he would leave it up to Congress. Watch him say he’s for traditional marriage and then change the subject. He’s clear and honest about the fact that this is not a hill he’s willing to die on.
After five judges in Obergefell imposed gay marriage, to name one example, Donald Trump issued no statement, wrote no op-ed, and basically didn’t seem to care about the issue at all. During a CNN interview, Jake Tapper asked him about it. He said he’s for traditional marriage, and that he has a great wife. That’s about it.
Here is the Donald when he doesn’t want to talk about a controversial issue:
Jake Tapper: Let’s talk about same-sex marriage. You said, a few years ago, that you were evolving on that issue. Where are you?
Donald Trump: I’m for traditional marriage, it is changing rapidly.
Tapper: But what do you say to a lesbian who’s married, or a gay man who’s married, who says, “Donald Trump, what’s traditional about being married three times?”
Trump: Well, they have a very good point, but, you know, I’ve been a very hard-working person, I’ve had, actually I have a great marriage. I have a great wife now. And my two wives were very good, and I don’t blame them, but I was so — I was working, maybe like you, 22 hours a day –
Tapper: I’m not asking you to explain your divorces, but –
Trump: No, I know, but I’m just saying, it was — I blame myself because my business was so powerful for me, I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
Tapper: But what do you say to a lesbian or a gay man who are married, and say –
Trump: I really don’t say anything, I mean, I’m just — Jake, I’m for traditional marriage.
When a man signals he doesn’t want to butt heads with the Left on their number-one priority, believe him.
Meanwhile, throughout America, people are in danger of losing their livelihoods for the thoughtcrime of opposing gay marriage — the latest being Ruth Neely, a judge in Wyoming who faces ethics charges and dismissal merely for saying she wouldn’t personally perform gay marriages.
2. On economics, Trump is not the next Ronald Reagan, he’s the next Herbert Hoover. Trump won in part because, unlike virtually any other Republican candidate, he named the reality that our system is now rigged against the average middle-class family, which has not had a pay raise in almost two decades. Trump told voters the system is rigged against them and the reason they are hurting is Mexico and China. He will close the borders and threaten a trade war to get a better trade deal and they will be great again.
He gets credit for naming the problem, explaining a reason for it, and proposing a solution. But Trump’s zero-sum view that our economic stagnation is caused by foreigners is simply false. Mexico is not the reason growth has virtually ground to a standstill here, and neither is China. The next president has to come through for the American people on the economy.
3. Trump is a dealmaker whose promises cannot be counted upon. “Unprincipled” usually means “bad principles,” but in truth Trump does not see himself as bound by any principles. He has certain heuristic rules of thumb he lives by, like: Generally don’t attack unless attacked; when attacked, annihilate the critic. He has certain instincts, many of them good, like: People who are close to their children are happier; America’s leaders should put Team America first. But he sees himself primarily as a dealmaker, and the characteristic of that role is that the deal is always open. Those who think Paul Ryan and a conservative Congress can somehow rein in Trump haven’t been watching the man. If you don’t follow his lead, he will turn on a dime and offer a deal to the center Democrats in Congress.
Trump, this week, again promised to appoint a Supreme Court justice who would overturn Roe v. Wade. It’s the single best reason to join Team Trump. As the GOP fades as a political vehicle to make, well, anything happen on any major issue, the judiciary becomes our last best hope. Trump has yet to name, as he promised he would, the list of justices he would choose from. But it doesn’t matter, because even if he gives us a list, that’s a proffer — not a promise — that can be withdrawn at any time. His judges are likely to be better than Hillary’s, that is true. As I said, it’s the best reason to vote for Trump. But it’s uncertain how he will deliver.
4. Joining Team Trump is just too degrading. Watching pastor Robert Jeffress defend Trump’s attack on Russell Moore is just the latest in a long line of reminders: Trump prizes loyalty above all else, including decency. If you join Team Trump, you have to swallow not just what Trump has done and said but the next thing he will say or do. Truthfully, I think he lost me in March, when all it took was just a little prodding from little Marco to get the man to discuss his genitals on national TV. I don’t know what insulting, immoral, gross thing he will say next.
#related#I also know that, as Peggy Noonan predicted, Trump’s victory shows that America has changed. I live in a bubble of relative decorum, less than I was raised in but probably far more than the average voter, judging from the number of times I have to tell my husband to turn off the TV. Call it girly of me, fine; but the degradation is certain and the possible benefit so remote, and the crisis we face so urgently clear, that I simply cannot back the man. Will an independent Republican emerge to give me a different choice?
I’m just a girl with a pen. I have no power but the truth. Trump is not going to worry that he doesn’t get Maggie Gallagher’s vote. A lesser daughter of great sires am I, but still I have no need to bow to Wormtongue.