This whole country’s just like my flock of sheep! Rednecks, crackers, hillbillies, hausfraus… They’re mine! I own ’em! They think like I do. Only they’re even more stupid than I am, so I gotta think for ’em. — Lonesome Rhodes, A Face in the Crowd
The final Republican debate will be airing on FOX tonight, but Donald Trump has taken his ball and gone home, citing moderator Megyn Kelly as the reason why. As per his usual practice of boldly, graciously engaging with his detractors, he has done so only after trying to browbeat FOX into removing Kelly instead. That is, if you believe FOX’s own press report, which I do, partly because it’s not the first time Trump has reportedly engaged in these kind of backstage intimidation tactics. While he was at it, why didn’t he just make Miss Kelly an offer she couldn’t refuse? I say this as somebody who’s not even a big fan of Kelly myself. But she does not deserve this kind of treatment from a man who can only be described as a boor, a coward and a bully.
If Republican America cannot wake up to this fact now, then I fear they never will. But what I am about to say must be said, and it must be said loud and clear, even to those who do not support Trump now but would doggedly vote for him in the general, because “at least he’s better than Hillary or Bernie.” So hear me now: No. He. Is. Not.
How do I know? Let me count the ways. Shall I enumerate the laundry list of Democratic positions he has held right up until mysteriously doing an about-face just in time to make his Republican presidential bid? Shall I name the Democratic politicians upon whom he has heaped praise and money with equal lavishness (especially Hillary Clinton)? Shall I recount the times he has proven himself unable to handle criticism without resorting to childish insults and whining? Shall I list the many creative ways he has found to mock everyone from women to the disabled, pointlessly and spitefully? Shall I point out his many and sundry extra-marital affairs and ex-wives, for which, among his other sins, he has proudly declared that he “doesn’t need forgiveness”? Shall I point out his inability to navigate through two sentences in one of his speeches without referring to himself in the third person? Shall I discuss the fact that he can’t talk articulately or substantively about any issue of import, for the simple reason that he doesn’t really know what he’s talking about, whether he’s trying to talk about Jesus or Vladimir Putin?
Finally, shall I talk about the utter contempt in which this candidate holds his very own supporters? Only last week, he was boasting that he “could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot someone,” and he wouldn’t lose voters. “It’s, like, incredible!”
Incredible, indeed. And sickening, too. Perhaps Matt Walsh has been most articulate and eloquent in detailing the many reasons why Trump is a walking disaster. He has also not minced any words in addressing Trump’s ostensibly Christian supporters. The most ghastly recent example of this was Trump’s appearance at Liberty University, where he received a dumbfoundingly glowing introduction from none other than Jerry Falwell, Jr. I can only imagine that Falwell, Sr. is rolling in his grave. Walsh speaks for many of us who have watched this whole unreal spectacle unfold as you would watch a ten-car pile-up on the highway: with horror, through your fingers, unable to look away and wishing you could.
Indeed, many Christians have fallen for the Donald; there’s no way he could be doing well in Iowa without them. The melding of Trumpianity with Christianity has been among the more awkward and grotesque phenomenons I’ve ever witnessed in my life. I watch it unfold feeling like a guy whose best friend just started dating the town floozy. I try to tell him that she’s sleeping around, she’s betraying him, she’ll break his heart, but he’s too smitten to hear me. I fear many of my brothers and sisters in Christ are making the same mistake, and the spectacle is causing me an immense amount of emotional and spiritual pain.
And yet, I personally know people who seem to take it as a matter of course that Trump would be better than the Democratic alternative. May I ask why? The man is devoid of integrity, devoid of humility, devoid of all semblance of decency or statesmanship. One minute, he’ll slap you on the back and say he thinks you’re “terrific, just great,” the next minute he’ll defame you and throw you under the bus. At least Lonesome Rhodes was finished once his true character was revealed at the end of A Face in the Crowd. With Trump, he doesn’t even bother to disguise it. He flaunts it. Furthermore, we have nothing but his bare word that he really, truly has changed his mind on most of the liberal positions he held less than a few years ago. (And on some, he isn’t even claiming to have changed his mind.) His response to such doubts is to compare himself with Ronald Reagan. This is the part where someone needs to say, “Mr. Trump, I knew Ronald Reagan, Ronald Reagan was a friend of mine, and Mr. Trump, you are no Ronald Reagan.”
Look, I had my disagreements with Mitt Romney, I did not cast a vote for Mitt Romney, but Mitt Romney had class. Mitt Romney behaved himself like an adult, and I believe Mitt Romney truly cared about people other than himself. I could disagree with people who pressured me into voting for Romney by saying it was equivalent to voting for Obama (it wasn’t), but I could also understand their position. But Trump is the ultimate absurdum at the end of this reductio. Over and over, we have heard the refrain, “better than the Democrats, better than the Democrats, ANYBODY but a Democrat,” and now we have Donald Trump. Donald Trump is the anybody. This should be the part where Republicans realize this reasoning was bound to lead to complete, nonsensical chaos. Yet, strangely, it has only caused them to double down. At least, many of them.
But some of us know the truth, and the truth is that even if Trump captures the nomination, he will lose in a landslide to any Democrat. There are still enough conservatives who will not drink the kool-aid, more so than I think and hope there were unwilling to vote for Romney. Meanwhile, talented candidates with actual integrity and engaging ideas like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are being edged out of the conversation. These are men who could actually defeat the Democrats, which was supposed to be the whole point of this whole thing, right? Right?
Yes, let’s talk for just a moment about this cohort of sell-outs and back-biters otherwise known as “the Republican establishment,” because one day they will answer for their part in this tragedy. With Trump and Cruz neck-and-neck in Iowa, establishment Republicans are re-doubling their attacks on Cruz while suddenly making favorable noises about Trump. Perhaps this surprises some of you, but it shouldn’t. Yes, Donald Trump is distasteful, yes, he is unexpected, but the establishment knows that they can still work with Donald Trump, because Donald Trump has no principles. But you cannot “cut deals” with Ted Cruz, because Ted Cruz is the closest thing to a Mr. Smith that Washington has ever had. For that, men with a tenth of his integrity despise him, and they will hand the keys of Washington to Hillary Clinton before they see him in the President’s chair. Do you really want to be anti-establishment? Vote for Cruz, not Trump. (Not that Cruz is the only solid candidate, merely the one with the best chance of catching Trump at this time. We could also discuss the disgraceful and downright stupid way that the establishment has attacked and withheld funds from Marco Rubio for daring to upset their plans of a Jeb Bush nomination, when Rubio had six times Bush’s momentum and would have made an excellent nominee.)
Now, I have been heartened to see that at least some big-name pundits like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck are saying out loud that this emperor has no clothes. This is especially encouraging to see as Sarah Palin hitches her wagon to Trump’s star, thereby finally forfeiting her right to be taken seriously by anyone, about anything. Perhaps all hope is not entirely lost.
I would not go quite so far as Matt Walsh, who says that we should vote only for a Christian for political office. But I can say unequivocally that you, Christian, are being played for a fool if you give this empty shell of a man your vote now, and you are still being played if you give him your vote in the general election. The dream has become a nightmare, even if you don’t realize it yet.
It’s time to wake up, before it’s too late.