During the long presidential primary season, I would have preferred that the Republican party nominate anyone on its massive slate of candidates over Donald Trump. But Trump vanquished them all. Then, during the months of the general election campaign, I saw many reasons to be critical of candidate Trump, even to the point that, for the first time in my life, I chose not to vote for the Republican nominee for President (nor did I vote for the Democrat, nor have I ever done so, nor will I ever do so unless that party undergoes massive changes). And, in spite of my expectations, Trump vanquished Hillary Clinton and will tomorrow be inaugurated the 45th President of the United States.
In the two months that have passed since the election, as I have watched the Trump transition at work, my optimism for the future has grown. Here are several reasons why:
- As flawed as Donald Trump is, it seems he is a far better choice for President than the alternative we had this year. Hillary Clinton is one of the most transparently corrupt politicians in history. And, had she won, it would have been a foregone conclusion that leftist entrenchment in the massive organization of our federal government would have only grown, leading to more liberal policies on abortion, further curtailing of religious liberty, the permanence of Obamacare, and a continued push for cultural accommodations to LGBT concerns. Though I did not vote for Trump, I fully understand why many Christians did, and I think it is unfair to criticize them for choosing what appeared to be a bad option, when bad options were the only options on the table.
- As flawed as Donald Trump is, it is important to keep in mind that we are now emerging from eight years of an Obama administration that has been a wretched one. For eight years he has governed from the far left as a globalist and presidential imperialist. And now, at the end of his presidency, Constitutional government is virtually in shambles, left-wing ideology has permeated our federal government, our foreign policy is an incoherent mess that has led to a less stable world, and the list goes on and on. Having been through the Obama years, it is hard for me to imagine a President doing much worse. And by all accounts, it looks like Donald Trump will pursue policies oriented in a different political direction.
- As flawed as Donald Trump is, he has assembled a very strong administration, signaling his desire to pursue conservative policies in many areas of government. I am thrilled to see, for example, Betsy DeVos, an advocate for school choice, heading to the Department of Education. I expect Trump’s Supreme Court nominees will also be good ones. So far, Trump is making good on his promise to surround himself with solid, competent people. I believe, as the saying goes, that personnel is policy, and so the transition that Governor Pence (himself a solid pick for VP) has overseen gives me reason for optimism.
Of course, we cannot be naive. President Trump is very likely to continue the kind of imperialist presidency for which Barack Obama set a new precedent. On social issues related to marriage and sexuality, I don’t count Trump an ally. I don’t know that I have ever heard Donald Trump articulate a philosophy of government that comes close to resembling the Constitutional structure of checks and balances. It is regrettable that true conservatism wasn’t on the ballot in November 2016. I fully expect that the Trump presidency will help further the coarsening of our culture, that he will pursue some policies that will require convictional Christian believers to oppose him, and that under his leadership our national debt crisis will likely get worse.
And yet, all things considered, this is a scenario that is better than the alternative I envisioned. The hard push to the left that we have seen over these eight years has been arrested. The bleeding has been staunched. That doesn’t mean the whole body is healthy, but if you were expecting to bleed to death shortly, it’s certainly a reason to be thankful.
I am approaching the Trump years with cautious optimism, praying for our new President, hoping he will come through on many of his worthy campaign promises, but standing ready to oppose him when I must.