Among conservatives, those committed or resigned to voting for Donald Trump in November have been highly critical of the concept, which has resulted in each its own hashtag, known as #nevertrump, most commonly attacking it as disloyal, impractical, and even immoral. I would like to provide a defense of the choice many of us in the conservative camp have made to refrain from voting for Mr. Trump.
It goes without saying I view Hillary Clinton as a terrible choice for president, and have no plans to vote for her in a million years, a view which has proven to be shared by many of my friends in the progressive camp as well. She has demonstrated herself to be a thoroughly dishonest, unethical, and ruthless authoritarian. From a conservative perspective, her views on multiple social and religious liberty issues have proven particularly concerning, especially considering many of them frankly are clearly politically motivated. I am quite unnerved by her prospective presidency.
It would additionally be naïve to pretend that support for Trump, primarily among uneducated blue-collar middle-aged whites, was occurring completely in a vacuum. They have legitimate grievances regarding increased economic disenfranchisement that has left them behind in society, and given that I have now lived for over five years in a very white collar, highly educated area dominated by left wing politics, I can tell you from experience that the disparagement of the white working class and poor is quite widespread. Moreover, they have essentially become the only group of people in the current climate who can be mocked and humiliated in the media and in any discourse in progressive-dominated areas without the slightest fear of social, educational, or conversational repercussion. In that respect, I share their anger.
However, the rhetoric from some of the Trump-supporting contingent has been highly colorful, in some cases they have even, like David Barton, insinuated that Christians who don’t vote for him will be judged by God for it. I have outlined below my reasons why I do not buy this, and why I will not be voting for him come November.
The first reason is foremost; my Christian conscience simply does not allow me to cast a ballot for this man, because I am pro-life, and when I say that, I speak not only regarding the issue most commonly associated with the term, although that one is important, but regarding an ethic of life that seeks to foster human flourishing at any opportunity. A truly pro-life orientation takes into account many diverse situations in which human life must be fostered, and in so many respects, Mr. Trump fails miserably. He has voiced an avowedly pro-choice stance regarding the issue of abortion. He has made sweeping calls for bans on Muslims victims of the Iraqi and Syrian civil wars being admitted to the United States, essentially making mockery of one of the greatest humanitarian crises of our time, and comically oversimplifying the otherwise legitimate concerns regarding terrorist migration. He has stirred up the most vile manifestations of bigotry towards Hispanics. He has made multiple offensive comments towards blacks and trivialized their grievances towards law enforcement. These all point to a trend of a complete disregard for the concerns of other people, and exploitation of the latent hatred in the hearts of many of those within his support base. Even in spite of his incredibly shaky credentials on social issues, the fact that many still insist on voting for him for the sole reason that he MAY be better on those issues than Hillary. However, this mentality serves, frankly, as a scathing indictment of the current state of white evangelicalism in the United States, in that they prioritize their own pet moral issues without giving any consideration to the justice concerns of evangelicals of color, many of whom being otherwise quite conservative in their outlooks. Trump is exploiting the underlying hatreds found in the hearts of so many.
Secondly, I cannot support Trump because the conservative movement, which I hold dear, depends on rejection of this type of bigotry. Admittedly, we have spent decades stroking these types of bigotry and fear, but Trump has (hopefully) proven to be the culmination of it, and has become almost an outright parody of lowbrow conservatism. This type of conservatism must die, and must be replaced by a thoughtful conservatism understanding its roots in the thought of great intellectuals such as Edmund Burke and Alexis de Tocqueville that is rooted in notions of strong community, sensible tradition, and ordered liberty. Given his past statements, it is completely reasonable to assume Trump has no idea of the actual principles involved in being a conservative. When principles have been completely and utterly compromised, there is no reason, to be honest, to continue supporting a member of an entity. There is additionally merit for pro-lifers to consider longer term strategy of mobilizing candidates who are truly aligned with us in this arena.
Thirdly, I protest the contention that many have made that we have an obligation to vote for Trump, not matter how awful he is, simply because “we have to stop Hillary.” There comes a certain point in which one must ask the question, “How terrible can someone be and yet one is still justified in supporting them strictly because they are ‘the lesser of two evils.’?” If Adolph Hitler was running against Chairman Mao, would we nonetheless be obligated to vote for Hitler simply because he killed fewer people than Mao? As noted by Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention, “When Christians face two clearly immoral options, we cannot rationalize a vote for immorality or injustice just because we deem the alternative to be worse. The Bible tells us we will be held accountable not only for the evil deeds we do but also when we “give approval to those who practice them” (Rom. 1:32).”
Fourthly and finally, I would like to respond to those who have condemned #nevertrump as a self-righteous movement. Some have even gone so far as to condemn Max Lucado and other Trump critics as like the Pharisees. I protest this as well. There comes a certain point in which someone has done and said such heinous things that critique is the response of any sane, morally conscious person. And to be frank, when I hear people bring up the Pharisee accusation, I am reminded of when Jesus spoke to the Pharisees and chided them for having neglected “the weightier matters of the law.” When people turn a blind eye to the demagoguery of people such as Trump, but then condemn as evil those who call him out for it, they are neglecting justice and mercy in favor of condemnation of mere (possible) name-calling. And on the subject of the Pharisees, Jesus called them out for hypocrisy, and on that front, it’s interesting to note how many evangelicals considered Bill Clinton unfit for office due to his sexual indiscretions, and yet they have no problem with Trump being a womanizing divorcee or with him saying he doesn’t need God’s forgiveness.
Trump preaches a gospel of demagoguery, self-centeredness, idolatrous nationalism, vague machismo, recklessness, and disregard for human dignity across the spectrum. As a Christian, I seek Christ’s message of redemption, kindness, compassion, and freedom. I reject Trump’s false gospel.