Why I Changed My Mind on Trump
But even before Donald Trump entered the race, I wondered if voting for the (R) was the right thing. The last three republican presidents (Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II) had both been spotty at best on the Supreme Court picks. Reagan had appointed the solid Scalia and Rehnquist but then also appointed Sandra Day O'Connor (a pro abortion judge) and Kennedy (inconsistent). Bush I had appointed Clarence Thomas but also appointed pro abortion Souter (and he also appointed future SCOTUS pick Sotomayor to a district judge position). Bush II had appointed Alito but also the inconsistent Roberts.
These failures to appoint good judges were the reason Roe v Wade continued to stand and they were also the reason we had Obergefell (Kennedy supported). I was frustrated and wondered if maybe my loyal support for the GOP was a failure. Maybe the idea that we could change things through the courts was a losing battle. Maybe a withdrawal from politics might be a better strategy. Or, perhaps, I should start supporting third parties that were more ideological and consistent (but sure losers). I was not sure but I was also the least certain I had ever been.
Then the GOP nominated Trump.
I had serious concerns about Trump. Trump was not a social conservative (had previously supported partial birth abortion and gay marriage). Trump was not even a true economic conservative (was not articulate on the value of free markets). Further, Trump didn't seem to understand the courts and had joked about appointing his (very liberal) sister (a judge) to the court. In short, I saw Trump's nomination as my greatest fear. The GOP had finally nominated a candidate who was not even pretending to want my vote.
Sort of. Trump of course gave lip service to abortion (he changed his stated views to pro life) and to judges (he claimed that he would pick from a list recommended by the conservative Federalist Society). But I didn't believe it. I had been fooled by Republicans for too many times and I fully expected Trump (the 'deal maker') to cave when he was elected.
If he was elected. Which I highly doubted.
Another reason I was concerned about the nomination of Trump is that I thought it meant a sure loss. The polls showed that he was the absolute worst pick to run against Hillary. Ted Cruz was polling better against Hillary than Trump.
Great, I thought, the GOP has just nominated someone that is not a conservative who will surely lose to Hillary.
Last thing, I live in a blue state that consistently has gone to democrats for 20 years. I realized that my vote sure as hell would not matter this time.
So, I figured, now as the time to protest the GOP. Support a third party. Cause the GOP to lose by 20 (rather than the 5-10% the polls showed) and maybe it would be a wake up call that conservatives would not tow the line if they are going to nominate such a bad candidate. I didn't want Hillary as president but I thought it was inevitable so I thought a protest would be the best course.
So..... I realized two things in this election:
1) I should never bet on politics because I would have bet my whole 401k that Trump would lose
2) I was very very wrong about Trump
I Was Wrong About Trump
You know the story with Trump's election. I sat, like most people, shocked in front of the television as the liberal commentators went from their Hillary-Coronation mode to sadly reporting that Trump had won battle ground state after battle ground state.
Trump even won my blue-Midwestern state. I am just glad my protest vote didn't matter (it was that close).
And I was so wrong about Trump as president. I expected him to cave and compromise with democrats on abortion and the courts but he has been the most consistent Republican on both.
Trump is arguably the most pro-life president since Roe v Wade. He has appointed solid judges (sticking by his promise about the Federalist Society list). He has stopped federal tax dollars going to overseas abortions. He has helped states defund Planned Parenthood. And so much more. I am not sure I could do better on this issue if I was president.
So, on courts and abortion, Trump has been an almost dream president.
But, someone might say, you are a Christian, what about the other stuff. What about his rhetoric? What about his treatment of the kids at the border? What about his crazy foreign policies that are alienating allies?
I have a few thoughts. First, on rhetoric, I am old enough to remember previous republican presidents and I know that the press likes to twist everything any republican says to make it sound as terrible as possible. I remember when Bush II was talking about terrorists and said something like, "bring it on," and the press went into melt down mode (clutching pearls at the idea that Bush would encourage terrorists to attack our soldiers.... as if that is what he meant). The normal state of things in the last 30 years has been for Republican presidents to say something, have the press intentionally misinterpret in the worst possible light, and then have the president have to apologize. I think most (not all) of the Trump rhetoric can fall in this category.
Comedian Norm MacDonald did a great job of explaining how Trump has a humor to him that many on the left miss. And I think a lot of the things he says (asking the Russians to hack Hillary's lost emails, calling himself a stable genius, etc) are jokes that go over the heads of people that hate him. I think a bunch of the things that Trump says that trigger people are actually jokes. But, I acknowledge, some of the things Trump says are legitimately wrong (not misinterpreted or facetious).
Would I prefer a president whose rhetoric was more Reagan-esque (able to stand up for conservative beliefs while also looking dignified)? Sure. Of course I would. But given the choice between a president that says some regrettable things but generally reflects my will in his actions and a president who speaks in a way that I like but governs in a way that lets me down, I would take the former every day of the week.
On his actions on the border, I have mixed feelings. Trump is probably not handling it as well as he should but I also don't think the Democrats are providing viable solutions. Further, I think that Obama had plenty of misteps on the issue (including family separation) that few if any complained about. In short, I think this is certainly an issue we could be better on but not a deal breaker.
On foreign policy, his critics complain of his words. He speaks well of Kim Jong Un. He speaks well of Putin. They complain that he threatens and talks about bombing countries. But I think it is probably much better to look at his actions. Which, I would argue, have been pretty good. He has avoided the needless wars that both Obama and Bush I and Bush II engaged in. He has actually been pretty strong against Russia and has at least brought North Korea to the negotiating table. Again, not perfect, but overall not bad.
And so, I have changed my mind. I am glad Trump won in 2016 and I pray he wins again in 2020. I plan to vote for him.
Important Caveat: We need to be careful about clinging to any 'king' other that Christ. Politicians can and do let you down if you lean on them too heavily. We need to be ready to change course when appropriate. If tomorrow, Trump starts betraying conservatives, I will post a retraction of this note. I support him based on what he has done so far not because I am a 'Trump fan' or a 'Republican'. I am neither. I am a person who cares about certain issues and will vote for politicians and parties only if I think they will advance those issues. Everyone should support politicians and governments with a very loose hand. It is fine to cheer them when you think they are doing good. But do not support them out of loyalty when they are doing bad.