The Corner

Religion

No One Really Likes to Be the Lesser Evil

President Donald Trump attends the National African American History Month Reception at the White House in Washington, D.C., February 21, 2019. (Jim Young/REUTERS)

I agree with every word of Jonah’s post below about Glenn Beck’s truly bizarre endorsement of Donald Trump’s masculinity. But let’s go just a bit deeper. There are theological implications to Trump rationalizations — especially in a movement so thick with Christian conservatives.

The redefinition of good character that we so often see on the Trump right reminds me of the powerful words contained in the Southern Baptist Convention’s 1998 resolution on the moral character of public officials. At the height of the Clinton scandals, the Baptists rightly declared, “Tolerance of serious wrong by leaders sears the conscience of the culture, spawns unrestrained immorality and lawlessness in the society, and surely results in God’s judgment.”

The interesting question is how does tolerance of wrong sear the conscience? The answer lies deep within human nature. It’s easy to justify a one-time event like a vote as a defensible choice between the lesser of two evils, but few people can stomach being a part of a movement that’s simply “less evil.” People want to be a part of something good. We want to be a part of something that we’re proud of, and we’ll go to great lengths to rationalize that movement even when its leaders turn out to be bad — especially when we see no way to purge those leaders and replace them with better men or women.

Older conservatives can’t forget the extent to which many Democrats not only defended Bill Clinton on the legal merits of the claims against him, but also the extent to which they attempted to change public attitudes about sexual morality. Having a mistress was suddenly no big deal, and parts of the cultural elite purported to long for the greater sophistication of the European public — where wives and mistresses could allegedly even know and respect each other. Younger progressives who’ve grown up in the era of heightened awareness of sexual power dynamics would be stunned at the arguments of their parents.

This same impulse is now at work on the Right. Republicans want to be proud of their president. They want to believe their movement isn’t just better than the Democrats, but that it’s actually good and decent and virtuous. And so they rationalize Trump. They make excuses. Make no mistake, there are many, many decent Republicans doing heroic work across the country and who see Trump clearly, but there are also too many Republicans who are busy trying to transform Trump’s vices into virtues. They’re rejecting the “lesser evil” by redefining it as good, and they’re damaging their credibility and Christian witness in the process.

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Most Popular

White House

Trump and the ‘Racist Tweets’

What does “racist” even mean anymore? Racism is the headline on President Trump’s Sunday tweets -- the media-Democrat complex assiduously describes them as “racist tweets” as if that were a fact rather than a trope. I don’t think they were racist; I think they were abjectly stupid. Like many ... Read More
White House

The Trump Steamroller

As we settle into high summer and the period of maximum difficulty in finding anything to fill in hours of television news, especially 24/7 news television, two well-established political trends are emerging in this pre-electoral period: The president’s opponents continue to dig themselves into foxholes that ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Ilhan Omar Is Completely Assimilated

Beto O’Rourke, the losing Texas Senate candidate who bootstrapped his way into becoming a losing presidential candidate, had a message for refugees who had come to America: Your new country is a hellhole. The former congressman told a roundtable of refugees and immigrants in Nashville, Tenn., last week: ... Read More
Sports

We All Wanted to Love the Women’s Soccer Team

For the first time in my life, I did not root for an American team. Whatever the sport, I have always rooted American. And if those who called in to my radio show were representative of my audience, many millions of Americans made the same sad choice. It takes a lot for people like me not to root for an ... Read More
U.S.

The ‘Squad’ Gives a Gift to Donald Trump

On Sunday, Donald Trump gave the Democrats a gift -- comments that indicate he thinks native-born congresswomen he detests should “go back” to the countries of their ancestors. On Monday, the four congresswomen handed Trump a gift in return, managing to respond to the president’s insults in some of the most ... Read More