Decision 2016: The Aftermath

Well, the election is over. Donald Trump has won. Some people who are particularly upset by this outcome are protesting, but it won’t change anything. The votes have been tallied and he won, so there’s nothing left to do but move forward. This election has been confusing, divisive, emotional, and in the end surprising. So I thought I’d try to collect a few thoughts and make some sense of it.

It’s disheartening that things have come to this. After 8 years of a sluggish economy and the electorate being tired of Obama, the GOP always had a good shot at winning this election, but most of us thought the chances of that went out the window with the nomination of Trump. There were many better, more qualified candidates in the primary (ie, all of them), but somehow it came down to Trump . And yet, astoundingly he managed to win the nomination and the general election without the support of a significant portion of his own party. Several prominent party leaders, including George W. Bush, Mitt Romney, and John Kasich, flatly refused to support Trump, and those that did support him, like Paul Ryan, gave the most tepid endorsements possible.

After Romney lost in 2012, the party performed a postmortem and determined the GOP needed to make more efforts to appeal to minority voters (Romney got 57% of the white vote) and younger voters. That is what is necessary for the party to survive. The 2016 election was a good opportunity to pursue that goal, but instead they went in exactly the opposite direction and nominated an old white man with a history of saying racist things. It seems clear at this point that the party leadership has chose not to evolve, but to bury their head in the sand and ignore the changing demographics of the country. Perhaps the greatest tragedy of the election is that this strategy worked, and will only encourage them to continue using it. If this trend is not reversed very soon, I daresay the party of Lincoln is doomed.

On the other side, the Democrats certainly played a sizable role in their own defeat. They insisted on nominating the second (only to Trump) most unpopular candidate in American history. An uncharismatic, uninspiring choice with a long history of scandal and duplicity. Yet, the DNC was caught coordinating against the Sanders campaign to ensure Clinton got the nomination. Clinton’s campaign went on to be plagued with unforced errors, like needlessly concealing her bout of pneumonia and saying she wanted to put coal miners out of business, while at a town hall in the coal-producing swing state of Ohio. Then there was the endless email saga.

Suffice it to say, the state of American politics lately has been pretty sad and frustrating. However, we have gotten through the election and arrived at a victor to be our next president. God help us. Despite my severe reservations about a Trump presidency (which I’ve written about before), it appears that it’s going to happen. So I am trying to choose to be open-minded and optimistic, and to give Trump a fair chance. Furthermore, 1 Tim. 2:2 says to “pray for kings and all those in authority that we may live peaceful lives.” So, despite my own doubts, I pray that Trump will prove to be a wise and effective leader for our country. I hope is is receptive to good advice and proves to be a better president than I have expected.

My reservations about Trump have not changed. He’s still racist, sexist, vindictive, and a pathological liar and narcissist. None of that has changed. What has changed is that he won an election, and he’s going to be president. There is nothing else to be done but move forward, deal with problems as they arise (they definitely will) and hope for the best. After all, we are all on the same ship here, and we will sink or float together. Thankfully, our founding fathers were wise enough to put in multiple layers of checks and balances on presidential power, so the damage a single president can do is limited.

Politics is a fickle business. The tide of public opinion will sway back and forth. There will be other elections. Eventually Trump will be gone, and someone else will take his place. So we will get through it and life will go on. However, more distressing to me than that outcome of one election is the inexplicable support of Trump from the Christian (mostly “Evangelical,” whatever that means) community.  Trump won Protestants 58-39% and white evangelicals by a whopping 81-16%. More than 4 in 5.

This is appalling. I cannot begin to describe the incalculable damage this election has done to the Christian witness in this country. A handful of Christian leaders have denounced Trump and called on the church to distance ourselves from him (Thanks to Jesus for leadership from Russell Moore and others here) but sadly most of these voices went ignored. I have seen such tortured efforts to twist Scripture into a justification for supporting Trump from the likes of James Dobson and Wayne Grudem that it’s sickening. These false teachers could pursue careers as contortionists at the circus.

It is deeply upsetting to see Christians throwing out any moral clarity or principles of decency to support a man who is a lying, avaricious libertine. And for what? What have we gained for sacrificing our integrity? We get to say “our guy” won an election, rather than letting a Methodist Democrat into the White House. Plus maybe a few more seats in Congress. This is such fleeting success. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, but forfeit his soul? It seems to me that particular bit of wisdom has been forgotten.

I hope that the church comes to its senses about Trump. While I do hope Trump turns out to be a decent president, it is imperative that the church and Christian community be willing to rebuke him and speak out for the poor, the downtrodden, and the marginalized. It will be difficult to undo the damage done by supporting him during the election, but that painful healing process must start sooner rather than later. We must stop compromising our message of Christ’s love and redemption when it is convenient to score a few political points. God is always in control, and he does not need our help to maintain a majority in Congress for two more years. The funny thing about elections is that there is always another one just around the corner. Political success is so temporary; it really should not be of much importance to us as Christians. We should be much more concerned with eternal matters for the eternal kingdom.

Psalm 146:3-5.

Do not put your trust in princes,
    in human beings, who cannot save.
 When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
    on that very day their plans come to nothing.
 Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord their God.

Psalm 118:8-9

It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to trust in princes.