Perhaps you’ve heard: Donald Trump is running for president. (It’s been mentioned on the news a couple times.) Not only running, in fact, but consistently leading the polls by significant margins over his competitors in the Republican primary. Despite his awkward answers when asked about his faith at the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa–he doesn’t ever ask God for forgiveness, he explained, but he does “drink my little wine” and “have my little cracker” in church–he leads among Christian voters as well as other demographics. This is embarrassing. Voting wisely is part of loving our neighbor, and Christians ought to be doing better than supporting a man who is basically the incarnation of the biblical definition of a fool.
Put aside the political question of why Republican primary voters would support a man who once described himself as “very pro-choice” on abortion, including partial-birth abortion; who once advocated universal healthcare and praised single-payer systems in other countries during last week’s debate; who used to actively support Hillary Clinton; and who was a registered Democrat until 2009. Perhaps he has simply changed his political views. All of them. Be that as it may, I am more interested in the man himself because, ultimately, a presidential election is not about a binder of policy positions–it is about a person.
And it would be hard to design a person less deserving of being trusted with the presidency than Donald Trump. Now, I realize that some of Trump’s “supporters” aren’t really thinking in those terms at all. They simply want to stick a thumb in the eye of the Washington in-crowd, and they do not especially care whose thumb does the sticking. If that describes you, I cannot express how strongly I sympathize with the sentiment, nor how strongly I believe you ought to resist it. It is easy to forget amid all the hubbub of politics, but your vote is still an expression of who you are asking to be your neighbor’s president. It truly is a sacred responsibility, not because the Constitution gave it to you, but because God did. The edifice of American democracy may be crumbling and dirty, but the Lord didn’t put you in charge of the edifice of American democracy. He just gave you one brick–your vote. Don’t cover it in graffiti.
But many American voters honestly support Trump because they think an unconventional candidate is necessary to fix the unprecedented disaster that is our American government. It is those voters who I hope will hear me out, because they have picked the wrong unconventional candidate. When I listen to Trump supporters, they offer a common refrain: we need an outsider with business experience who isn’t afraid to tell it like he sees it. The problem is that Donald Trump fits that description in all the wrong ways.
The Wrong Business Experience
Trump backers say he understands the system. Yes, exactly. And he has manipulated it to his own benefit for decades. During last week’s debate, Trump defended his company’s four bankruptcies by explaining, “I’ve taken advantage of the laws of this country, like other people.” In other words, by declaring bankruptcy, Trump was able to avoid repaying lenders who he dismissed as “total killers… not the nice, sweet little people that you think.” Meanwhile, he bragged, “I built a net worth of more than $10 billion.”
That is not financial acumen. That is a willingness to use the law for his own advantage. If Trump would go that far while he is a private citizen, how much further would he go with the levers of power in his hands? We have had six years to learn how little the law or Constitution will restrain a president bent on disregarding them. What evidence do we have of a moral compass which would compel Trump to treat the law with greater respect if he oversaw it than when it oversaw him? “Ah,” you may be thinking, “but a President Trump would be on our side.” If so, first, shame on you as a hypocrite. And second, shame on you as a naive hypocrite. When has Donald Trump ever been on anyone’s side other than Donald Trump’s?
“But Trump understands politics,” some will argue. “He knows how to get things done.” Yes, he does. He knows exactly how to get things done: money and cronyism. During the debate he explained, “I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And do you know what? When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them, they are there for me.” Trump says that his own proudly confessed corruption just illustrates how broken the system is, and he is doubtless right. But his critique would be more compelling if he had done anything other than use that broken system for all it was worth to him.
Perhaps you think Trump really will be more trustworthy as a politician because he’s too rich to be bribed. But when have you ever heard of a rich man who thought he was rich enough? And is money the only way to bribe? Might attention, praise, or honor possibly have some appeal to Mr. Trump? If he was willing to trade millions for political influence, what might he be willing to trade political influence for?
Running the executive branch is actually rather different from running a business, but even if they were just the same, Donald Trump’s business experience tells us to expect a president who disdains the law and is more interested in manipulating a broken system than fixing it.
You Are What You Say
Apart from Trump’s business experience, our only other way to evaluate him is his words. Fortunately, we have quite a few to choose from.
Trump’s supporters like his willingness to pick fights, and it’s true–sometimes he even picks them with the right people. On the other hand, one could wish that his idea of a fight extended beyond schoolyard invective. But rather than focus on his skirmishes with others, I am more interested in what his words tell us about the candidate himself.
Is it fair to say that Trump holds himself in fairly high esteem? The man cannot open his mouth without talking about how rich and successful and smart he is, while anyone who disagrees or objects is “stupid,” a “moron,” or, for variety, an “idiot.” This isn’t just an amusing or ridiculous habit; it actually tells us a great deal about how a President Trump would govern.
Do you believe Donald Trump is smart enough to solve every policy problem, foreign and domestic, at first glance? Because the man whose secretary was afraid to bring him bad news has given no evidence that he is interested in, or even capable of, hearing anyone who disagrees with him. Having spent six years complaining about a president who disdains his opponents because he thinks he is the smartest person in the room, are we really considering nominating the one man in America who is even more convinced of that?
He’s a Fool
I’ll close by offering the following experiment. First, consider the following verses from Proverbs regarding “the fool.”
The vexation of a fool is known at once,
but the prudent ignores an insult. (12:16)
A fool gives full vent to his spirit,
but a wise man quietly holds it back. (29:11)
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
but a wise man listens to advice. (12:15)
Then go read Donald Trump’s Twitter feed and draw your own conclusions.
Apart from his own boundless self-congratulation, what does Donald Trump have to offer?