Last night, a good friend criticized me for going too easy on President Trump and not appropriately resisting him. Many friends, especially academics, view that as a personal failing.
I have been pretty clear about my disapproval of Trump’s rhetoric. I have never thought, nor said, that he is presidential, nor that he edifies the American people with his words. I do not think he does so. It’s clear his messaging does not make anyone better.
Second, my friends who criticize me ignore that I led an entire journal symposium, Perspectives in Political Science, and wrote a long essay for Modern Age on the idea of a Christian Democrat Party (the kind we see in Europe) as an option for American Christians. It seems to me that American Christians could get to a point where neither party is a good place to stand.
All of that thinking was occasioned by my reaction to Trump as the Republican nominee. For that matter, the first time I ever spoke to a crowd as a candidate, I expressed my disappointment with Trump as the GOP’s standard-bearer.
I regularly give a lecture on Christian statesmanship where I make clear that Trump-style rhetoric does not promote good political culture. I likewise indict the other side on that score. If you think Trump is immoderate, look at what Democrats said about Robert Bork, Clarence Thomas, and even Brett Kavanaugh before his accuser even made a public case.
Still, you might protest, “Hunter, you don’t write those David French-style pieces about how Donald Trump’s latest tweet is a moral outrage. Why don’t you do that?” I will tell you. One reason is that I think those pieces are a dime a dozen and have been done to death. With this latest tweet about the Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez-led squad going back to where they came from, I braced myself for more of the same earnest, handwringing columns. I refuse to get caught up in that fruitless cycle.
There is a scene in the film “Cinderella Man” where Russell Crowe’s character (Jimmy Braddock) is shown fearsome footage of an opponent he is soon to face. The promoter’s goal is to dissuade the fighter for fear he will be killed or maimed.
Braddock watches the short film and responds, “So what are you trying to tell me, something like boxing’s dangerous?” That’s how I feel about these endless pieces about Trump’s intemperate language. As my daughter often tells me, “I know that already.”
You can take it as a given that I disapprove of Trump’s Twitter feed. But you should also understand that I’m not suddenly going to freak out about Trump’s choice of words when I live in a culture that regularly assumes a person is absolutely acceptable—even welcome—when they promote the dehumanization of the unborn child.
Yes, I know I’m guilty of so-called “whataboutism.” But we act as if the worst thing that can happen is when Trump sounds jingoistic, chauvinistic, or racially insensitive. I live in a culture where people actually believe it is perfectly fine to frame pictures of ultrasounds and simultaneously support killing the same beings depicted in those images. I refuse to act as if Trump’s Twitter is the most outrageous thing going.
You listen to Trump and ask, “What has happened to us? How did we get here?” I respond, “I’ve been incredulous long before this, buddy.” I’m not taking my eye off the ball, either.
I think Trump has governed better than he has spoken. His governing success is probably a combination of the United States’ general robustness and his policies, with credit to him being somewhere between 15 to 60 percent. We can quibble about that. I am focused on what he does versus what he says.
I agree that presidential rhetoric is important, but this constant chorus just ends up being a banging gong, striking the same note over and over. I don’t have a column deadline. Trump will not be a convenient source of content for me.
You’ve seen the things I protest. I protest the killing of unborn children and the state running roughshod over the sincere religious beliefs of people who are harming no one other than perhaps offending sensibilities.
The second I see Trump actually mobilizing the power of the state against people, I will be the first to protest. I won’t shut up about it. But excuse me if I hold off on serving you the 32nd portion of moral outrage pie over the president’s Twitter feed.