Interpreting the Election Results

Once again, I have proven myself a terrible political pundit. I saw an outside chance at a Trump victory, but it looks like we have ended up with a Trump (and Republican) landslide. I have conflicted thoughts on this day after. I see reasons for both encouragement and caution.

The Upsides

(1) The Supreme Court could possibly be saved from what would have been a certain progressive majority that would have lasted for a generation. With both houses of Congress behind him, President Trump has no excuse not to keep his promise and nominate originalists to the court. The impact cannot be overestimated here. It will have massive implications for the future of abortion policy and religious liberty in particular.

(2) Obamacare now ought to be repealed. It was forced on us by a narrow partisan majority and is more unpopular than ever. It is killing jobs, destroying the health insurance market, and imposing ridiculous mandates and regulations, such as contraception coverage for nuns (!), that simply need to go away yesterday. The Republican controlled Congress has no excuse not to repeal it and work toward a better system.

(3) Numerous Obama executive orders can now be undone. If you live by executive order, you die by executive order. The Obama legacy has been thoroughly repudiated, which is definitely good news.

(4) Border security might finally be taken seriously. I seriously doubt that Trump is going to deport millions of illegal immigrants. I further doubt that he will have Mexico pay for a wall. But he does have a mandate to enforce border security, which is a prerequisite to fixing our broken immigration system. Nothing else matters until that first step is taken. We will probably work toward a compromise solution on how to address the large numbers of illegal immigrants living here once the problem that got us to this situation in the first place–lack of political motivation to enforce immigration laws–is addressed.

The Downsides

(1) The strong identification of evangelical voters with Trump has already stained us publicly (whether fairly or not), and if we find ourselves making excuses for inexcusable behavior in a Trump administration for the sake of political ends, we will only degrade ourselves further. No one really knows what a Trump administration will look like at this point, but evangelicals must be prepared to oppose him where he needs to be opposed. Being too heavily invested in political power is one of our besetting sins, and I fear we are now set up for four years of particular testing in this regard.

(2) Although the heavy-handedness of the Obama administration’s push for universal conformity to the LGBT agenda seems to have been checked, that does not mean that we should consider Trump an ally here. My read on Trump is that he supports same-sex marriage and the transgender identity movement, though it is doubtful he will seek to punish dissent on these issues as Obama has done. But, as noted in the point above, evangelicals may find themselves susceptible to incremental movement in the direction toward LGBT normalization if “our” President leads more subtly in that direction. Peter Thiel’s speech at the Cleveland convention this past summer, which downplayed the significance of this culture war and summoned enthusiasm and applause from the audience, is a prime example of the danger here.

(3) Racial divisions have deepened in the last eight years, and this election cycle has cut them deeper. Christians came to different conclusions about the best way to steward their votes in this terrible and unprecedented situation. Many decided to hold their noses and vote for Trump, which was really a vote against Clinton. Many others decided to hold their noses and vote for Clinton, which was really a vote against Trump. And others (including me) chose to vote for neither. These different approaches to voting often fell along ethnic lines, owing to different perspectives by which different ethnic groups view this country and the political process. We have reached a point where our ability to empathize and understand the motivations of others outside of our “tribe” is being severely tested, and we must work hard to make sure we stand together as disciples of Jesus even if we came to different conclusions about this political cycle. To this point in his time in the spotlight, Trump has been a polarizing, rather than a uniting, figure. I hope that changes, but we don’t know at this point.

(4) Donald Trump is a coarse and vulgar man. He is not a role model for our children, but he will be President of the United States. He has strong potential to degrade what little public virtue we seem to have left. It is not hard for me to imagine him presiding over a thugocracy, much like the one that will come to an end this coming January 20, only it will be a thugocracy with a different list of enemies. I certainly hope that will not be the case. I pray it won’t be. But I’m not naive enough to assume it can’t happen. Of course it can. Donald Trump has a charming side that he could use in hopes of uniting the country in support of him. But we have also seen plenty of evidence of an oversized ego that pushes him toward personal vindictiveness. Which Trump will be President Trump? For that, we must wait and see.

For now, we must pray for him while we continue to seek first the kingdom that will stand when all the kingdoms of this age are no more. We must honor the President of the United States, but we must reserve fear for God alone (1 Pet. 2:17).

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