During the 2016 presidential campaign I made no secret that I wasn’t voting for Trump. I even joined the #NeverTrump cause (although I declared I would never vote for him before the movement really started). And sure enough, come November 8, 2016 I didn’t vote for Trump (or for Hillary). I had two primary fears about the reality-TV star. First, I thought he’d govern as a liberal, little different from Hillary. Second, I believed his lack of character would make him a terrible example and an awful influence on the culture.
After his election, though, I didn’t join the ranks of the childish and asinine #NotMyPresident movement. Trump won fair and square, even if Hollywood celebrities and college professors who wouldn’t know the Constitution if it smacked them in the face didn’t think so. I want no part of the anti-Trump derangement crowd, who show less maturity than the average 5-year-old (a useful test: If you find yourself cheering Keith Olbermann, go to your nearest therapist…or exorcist). I wanted to give Trump a chance. After all, I could be wrong; it’s been known to happen (just ask my wife).
After a year of the Trump Presidency, I find I was both right and wrong about Trump. My first pre-election fear has greatly abated, but my second fear has only increased in intensity. I feel like we have a Tale of Two Trumps—Good Trump and Bad Trump.
Good Trump: The President
I was convinced that campaign-Trump was lying through his teeth when he promoted a conservative agenda. He’s lived his life as a New York limousine liberal, and I saw little evidence he’s had any type of conversion to the conservative cause. And it’s not like you can trust Trump, at least not when he opens his mouth. However, it’s now apparent that he governs as a conservative…or at least as conservative is defined in 2018. His appointment of Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, the tax bill he pushed through Congress, his attitude toward the UN, and his pro-life executive orders all paint a picture of a conservative-leaning Republican president. In fact, when it comes to policy, he’s not much different than a President Cruz or President Rubio. So my worst fears haven’t come to pass.
Of course, that doesn’t mean his policy decisions are perfect. He could do far more to enact pro-life legislation; for example, he could use his influence to push more strongly for defunding Planned Parenthood. His foreign policy could be less neocon and more truly conservative. He could encourage less spending by Congress. But I wasn’t expecting President Ron Paul, or even President Rand Paul. So, all in all, he gets passing if not stellar grades from me in regards to his policy decisions.
Bad Trump: The Person
When Trump first entered the Presidential primaries, my initial reaction was visceral. I immediately disliked him on a personal, almost unspoken level. Here was someone I could never trust and never like (ironically, I had the same reaction to Hillary Clinton when she came on the scene in the early 1990’s). And I was right: I still can barely tolerate to even listen to him speak. To me, he comes across as an insecure, preening, highly narcissistic, immoral, lying, contemptible person. He is everything I never want my son to be, and everything I want my daughters to avoid when dating. I realize all politicians are incredibly flawed human beings, but Trump takes this to another level. And his year in the presidency has only confirmed my worst suspicions of his character. I could give a hundred and one examples, but let me mention the most recent, which is minor on the Trump Narcissism Scale, but it’s instructive. On February 8th, he tweeted (and you knew his tweets would come up in this article):
Will be heading over shortly to make remarks at The National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. Great religious and political leaders, and many friends, including T.V. producer Mark Burnett of our wonderful 14 season Apprentice triumph, will be there. Looking forward to seeing all!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 8, 2018
So Trump is attending the National Prayer Breakfast—great! But he simply can’t help but make this about himself. He has to include something that promotes his brand, even when the topic is prayer. This one tweet exemplifies the Good Trump/Bad Trump phenomenon quite nicely.
Why does this matter? If he’s a good President, who cares if he’s an a-hole? I think it matters in a whole host of intangible but important ways. I remember when social conservatives were strenuously arguing that Bill Clinton wasn’t fit to be President because his immoral private life. The argument was that if his wife couldn’t trust him, how could the country? That argument has validity, but it’s not even the primary issue.
For me, the problem is the example he sets; specifically, how Christians have become compromised by making him an example to follow. When Trump’s planet-sized flaws come to the light—for example, the revelation that he slept with a porn star soon after his third wife gave birth to his son (read that line again)—most of his Christian supporters either look the other way or even excuse it. The impact might not be immediately noticeable, but there’s an impact nonetheless. It says to young men that you can lie, cheat, and steal your way to the top and it doesn’t matter. It says to young women that there’s nothing wrong with being treated like dirt. What are the long-term consequences of this dancing with the devil? No one can say for sure, but it can’t be good.
Unfortunately, we’re stuck with both Good Trump and Bad Trump. We have a decent President who isn’t a decent person. For the sake of the country, let’s hope that’s good enough.