Too Ironic to Resist: An “Establishment” Republican on Trump

It’s a good thing I don’t write this blog in order to make my four readers happy. If I wanted to make you happy, I wouldn’t write the word “Trump” ever again.

So, here in this vale of tears, someone named Peter Wehner published a nicely-written article in the New York Times pointing out that he and his fellow evangelical Christians shouldn’t support Trump. It’s hard to disagree:

This … man humiliated his first wife by conducting a very public affair, chronically bullies and demeans people, and says he has never asked God for forgiveness. His name is emblazoned on a casino that features a strip club; he has discussed anal sex on the air with Howard Stern…He is a narcissist appealing to people whose faith declares that pride goes before a fall.

Mr. Trump’s character is antithetical to many of the qualities evangelicals should prize in a political leader: integrity, compassion and reasoned convictions, wisdom and prudence, trustworthiness, a commitment to the moral good.

When Bill Clinton was president, evangelicals ranked moral probity high on their list of leadership qualities. Supporters of Mr. Trump, a moral degenerate, justify their support by saying we’re electing a president rather than a pastor. Why a significant number of evangelicals are rallying round a man who exposes them as hypocrites is difficult to fathom.

Part of the explanation is that many evangelicals feel increasingly powerless, beaten down, aggrieved and under attack. A sense of ressentiment, or a “narrative of injury,” is leading them to look for scapegoats to explain their growing impotence. People filled with anger and grievances are easily exploited….

Enter Donald Trump, alpha male.

Mr. Trump’s evangelical supporters don’t care about his agenda; they are utterly captivated by his persona. They view him as the strongest, most dominant, most assertive political figure they have ever seen. In an odd bow to Nietzschean ethics, they respect and applaud his Will to Power. And so the man who openly admires tyrants like Vladimir V. Putin and praised the Chinese crackdown in Tiananmen Square because it showed “strength” has become the repository of their hopes.

Set aside the fact that Mr. Trump is a compulsive and unrepentant liar. Set aside, too, that he has demonstrated no ability for statecraft or the actual administration of government and has demonstrated much incompetence at business to boot.

Bracket for now the fact that Mr. Trump has been more erratic, unprincipled and proudly ignorant when it comes to public policy than perhaps any major presidential candidate in American history.

What stuns me is how my fellow evangelicals can rally behind a man whose words and actions are so at odds with the central teachings of our faith. They overlook, rationalize and even delight in Mr. Trump’s obsessive name-calling and Twitter attacks, his threats and acts of intimidation, his vindictiveness and casual cruelty (including mocking the disabled and P.O.W.s), all of which masquerade as strength and toughness. For some evangelicals, Christianity is no longer shaping their politics; with Mr. Trump in view, their faith lies subordinate.

Aside from his misreading of Nietzschean ethics (Nieztsche would presumably regard Trump as a dangerous buffoon, not an Übermensch) and his misguided attack on Planned Parenthood (which I deleted), Mr. Wehner makes a pretty good case. Trump is more antichrist than Christian. 

But getting back to Mr. Wehner. According to the Times, Mr. Wehner, the professed Christian, “served in the last three Republican administrations”.

The last three Republican administrations? That would include Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush! Talk about three men who lackedintegrity, compassion and reasoned convictions, wisdom and prudence, trustworthiness [and] a commitment to the moral good”! Who exposed evangelicals as hypocrites and exploited people’s feelings of anger and fear! Who demonstrated a lack of interest and competence! Oh, brother.

Wehner rightly refers to the following as “Trumpism”:

[It’s] a purposeful effort, led by a demagogue, to incite ugly passions, stoke resentments and divisions, and create fear of those who are not like “us”…

Yet it’s the modern Republican Party, which stopped being the Party of Lincoln decades ago, that has succeeded in poisoning our politics with a strategy built on inciting ugly passions, stoking resentments and creating fear. The top Republicans are masters of demagogy and division.

Looking back on his long career serving Republican Presidents, Wehner should know all about making his faith subordinate to his politics. In embracing the Republican Party, he and other professed Christians “are doing incalculable damage to their witness”. Trumpism is Republicanism writ huge.

(While you’re here, check out John Oliver’s campaign to make Trump “Drumpf” again: might make you happy.)

Update:  Or if happiness is out of the question, read “Trump Might Not Be a Fascist, But He’s Merrily Leading Us Down That Path”, originally posted here. It’s long, but important, especially the second half or so.