A Defense of Evangelicals Who Support Trump 

Ross Douthat, a New York Times columnist, wrote: “Whether the subject is the debauched pagan in the White House, the mall-haunted candidacy of Roy Moore or the larger question of how to engage with secular culture, there is talk of an intergenerational crisis within evangelical churches, a widening disillusionment with a Trump-endorsing old guard, a feeling that a crackup must loom ahead.”

Jared Wilson wrote on the Gospel Coalition’s website: “From the same believers who raised us to believe that standing for the truth was more important than anything, that being persecuted for your integrity was better than compromise, that morality was not relative, that ethics are not situational. And now these same teachers are wanting us to believe that a little ‘R’ by a man’s name covers a multitude of sins.”

.. Robert P. Jones wrote in USA Today: “White Evangelicals . . . are, in many ways, a community grieving its losses. . . . Thinking about the white evangelical/Trump alliance as an end-of-life bargain is illuminating. It helps explain, for example, how white evangelical leaders could ignore so many problematic aspects of Trump’s character.”

.. I believe these attacks are not biblical, moral, or wise. Religious Christians and Jews who support Trump understand that the character of a public leader is quite often less important than his policies. This is so obvious that only the naïve think otherwise. Character is no predictor of political leadership on behalf of moral causes. I wish it were. Then, in any political contest, we would simply have to determine who the better person is and vote accordingly.

.. If you are conservative, religious or secular, would you vote for Jimmy Carter over Donald Trump?

.. Do you believe that Hillary Clinton has a finer character than Donald Trump? For the record, I believe his character is superior to hers.

.. Whom should pro-Israel voters support: an anti-Israel activist of fine character or a pro-Israel activist of dubious character?

.. If they were to have cancer, would any of the Evangelicals’ critics choose an oncologist based on character? If not, why not?

.. One of the few moral heroes of the Holocaust was the German industrialist and member of the Nazi party Oskar Schindler. He personally saved more than a thousand Jews’ lives. He was also a serial philanderer. I suspect many leading Nazis never cheated on their wives. Character is a complex issue.

.. Evangelicals realize that the moral good of defeating the Left is of surpassing importance. It can feel good to oppose the president, but religious supporters of the president are more interested in doing good than feeling good. On issue after issue —

  • religious liberty,
  • the unborn,
  • Israel,
  • he American flag, and
  • free speech,

to cite just a few — the president and religious Americans have made common cause.

.. Like Evangelicals, I look to the Bible for moral instruction. I also look for wisdom. And in that book, God chooses, of all people, a prostitute (Rahab) to enable the Israelites to enter the Promised Land. There’s a lesson there.

The Omen of Alabama

Doug Jones’s defeat of Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate special election is yet the latest signal that the accommodators of Donald Trump, those who have normalized and bolstered him, the gutless, schismatic conservatives who abandoned principle to follow a pariah, will have hell to pay in 2018.

Yes, Roy Moore was defeated, but it can never be fully erased from history or memory that he was endorsed by this president and supported by the Republican National Committee. All of Roy Moore’s sins are their sins, and they will wear that scarlet R straight into the midterms.

.. Moore still won the Republican vote and the white vote and, yes, the “white born-again Christian” vote. These people contorted their faith to support a man accused of unthinkable transgressions.

They made a mockery of Christian faith and moral fidelity.

.. they are motivated and insistent that the past will not defeat the future.

.. black voters, particularly black women, have been summoned to save America from its worst impulses and to establish that they are the most loyal and crucial constituency of a Democratic Party that still doesn’t grant them enough respect or deference

.. The Resistance has its own Southern Strategy.

.. It proved that Trump was a fringe candidate who tapped into an American ugliness and rode it to a fluke victory with the help of a foreign adversary.

.. Republicans must brace for the reckoning. If the Resistance can maintain its intensity — and there is no sign of it weakening — the midterms may well amount to a purge.

For Trump, a Moment of Defeat but Maybe Not Recalibration

Behind the scenes, some advisers hoped the loss would persuade Mr. Trump to stop listening to Stephen K. Bannon, his former chief strategist who has vowed war against the Republican establishment. But Mr. Trump talked with Mr. Bannon for 15 minutes by phone on Tuesday, aides said, and seemed disinclined to cut the adviser from his circle.

.. For Mr. Obama, the special election forced a strategic re-evaluation. Some aides advised him to trim his ambitions for health care and seek a narrower bill. But Mr. Obama opted to push for his original, more sweeping legislation. Ultimately, he pushed it through without Republican backing, but it never developed bipartisan support and remains a target of efforts to repeal it.

.. “The reason I originally endorsed Luther Strange (and his numbers went up mightily), is that I said Roy Moore will not be able to win the General Election,” he wrote on Twitter on Wednesday morning. “I was right! Roy worked hard but the deck was stacked against him!”

.. For the rest of the day, Mr. Trump solicited the opinion of almost every adviser he encountered, asking what they thought of his tweet or whether he had made a mistake supporting Mr. Moore

..Mr. Trump is a reactive politician who relies on the sights and sounds of his rallies. With fewer such events these days, he is left more reliant on the reconnaissance of others.

.. Mr. Bannon serves as something of a human shield, absorbing criticism that otherwise might be directed at him

.. Mr. Stepien, who worked for Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and was a figure in the bridge-closing scandal, is well liked by most of the White House employees and seen by some as an unfair straw man for larger problems.

Jeff Flake’s Defiant Surrender

Republican politicians throughout the age of Trump, and again and again they have chosen to die in the dark.

This was true of Trump’s strongest primary-season rivals, who fought him directly and concertedly during exactly one of the umpteen debates and then, finding open war hard going, chose to lose and bow out as though Trump were a normal rival rather than the fundamentally unfit figure they had described just a few short weeks before.

It was true of the party functionaries, the hapless Reince Priebus above all, who denied the residual Republican forces resisting Trump the chance to fight him one last time in the light of the convention floor.

..  It was true of Paul Ryan; it was true even of John McCain.

.. It was not true of everyone. Mitt Romney and John Kasich declined to fall on the sword of party unity; so did George W. Bush and his father; so did some governors and a few junior senators, Mike Lee and Ben Sasse and Jeff Flake.
.. while they refused to make the quietus, to strangle their own convictions in Trump’s ample shadow, they declined many chances to keep up the fight openly as well.
.. The nomination of a figure like Trump, a clear threat to both the professed beliefs of his party’s leaders and to basic competence in presidential government, is the sort of shattering event that in the past would have prompted a real schism or independent candidacy.
.. But Romney couldn’t talk Kasich into being that independent candidate, all the other possibilities demurred
.. Now, almost a year into the Trump presidency, a similar dynamic is playing out. There is a small but significant Republican opposition to Trump, but its leading figures still don’t want to go to war with him directly, preferring philosophical attacks and tactical withdrawal to confrontation and probable defeat.
.. To the extent that there’s a plausible theory behind all of these halfhearted efforts, it’s that resisting Trump too vigorously only strengthens his hold on the party’s base, by vindicating his claim to have all the establishment arrayed against him.
.. In the end, if you want Republican voters to reject Trumpism, you need to give them clear electoral opportunities to do so — even if you expect defeat
.. an anti-Trump movement that gives high-minded speeches but never mounts candidates confirms Trump’s claim to face establishment opposition while also confirming his judgment of the establishment’s guts and stamina — proving that they’re all low-energy, all “liddle” men, all unwilling to fight him man to man.
.. If Corker really means what he keeps saying about the danger posed by Trump’s effective incapacity, he should call openly for impeachment or for 25th Amendment proceedings
.. If Flake really means what he said in his impassioned speech, and he doesn’t want to waste time and energy on a foredoomed Senate primary campaign, then he should choose a different hopeless-seeming cause and primary Trump in 2020. George W. Bush should endorse him. So should McCain, and Corker, and Romney, and Kasich, and Sasse, and the rest of the anti-Trump list.
.. They should expect to lose, and badly, but they should make Trump actually defeat them, instead of just clearing the field for his second nomination.
.. And not only for the sake of their honor. The president’s G.O.P. critics should engage in electoral battle because the act of campaigning, the work of actually trying to persuade voters, is the only way anti-Trump Republicans will come to grips with the legitimate reasons that their ideas had become so unpopular that voters opted for demagoguery instead.
.. A speechifying anti-Trumpism, distant from the fray, will always be self-regarding and self-deceiving — unwilling to see how the Iraq War discredited both the Bushist and McCainian styles of right-wing internationalism, incapable of addressing the economic disappointments that turned voters against Flake’s Goldwaterite libertarianism and Romney’s “trust me, I’m a businessman” promises.
.. Only in actual political competition can the Republican elite reckon with why it lost its party, and how it might win again
.. I think the G.O.P. is more likely to be renewed by someone who currently supports Trump or someone not yet active in politics than it is by the men resisting the president today.