I think all of the Democrats running for president are far more personally decent than the jackass who made fun of Debbie Dingell’s dead husband the other day. But all of them are for keeping it legal to exterminate the unborn, and to compel religious institutions to accept gender ideology. Nope, I’ll take the personally corrupt short-fingered vulgarian, and won’t apologize for it.
Rod Dreher stakes his claim in the "CT/ET" controversy. And the stake is: it all comes down to personal preference.
For a guy, especially, who claims to be an "orthodox Christian," and who claims there are higher authorities to which we must bend the knee (metaphorically, at least), this is a remarkably flexible moral standard. What Trump did to immigrants, what Trump wants to do to anyone who is not his "friend" (mocking Debbie Dingell's husband was not a frolic for Trump, it was an exercise in vindictiveness), how Trump is using the power of the Presidency, how Trump is even using "religion" ("The fact is, no President has ever done what I have done for Evangelicals, or religion itself!"), the immorality, the hubris, none of this matters. What matters is what pleases Rod Dreher: being against abortion, and being against a chimera. That's enough. That's all it takes. Donald Trump pleases Rod Dreher on two issues, one of which is not likely to fundamentally change anytime soon, one of which is a conspiracy theory, so Donald Trump fit to be President, contra the CT editorial.
Huh. Like the GOP Representatives who never, ever, mounted a defense of what Donald Trump did that warranted impeachment, this is a pretty thin excuse for maintaining the status quo. And as a matter of putting morality ahead of all other concerns, which is supposed to be the standard of morality (or ethics, for that matter. If Trump's behavior is accepted as ethical, God help us all.), Dreher doesn't make an argument at all. Dreher sucks up to power. Power is getting him what he wants. That's all that matters.
Dreher casts his argument in quasi-Niebuhrian terms (though I think he'd hate that observation):
I am very sure that I would prefer to have a drink with any of the candidates on the Democratic stage last night than with Donald Trump. I’ll likely vote for Trump, but only because abortion is very, very important, and so is religious liberty, and so is stopping the laws the Democrats want to roll out on sexual orientation and gender identity. And so is immigration. I think Boris Johnson is a million times more appealing than Donald Trump, but if I vote Trump, it will be because I look at the Democrats and see Jeremy Corbyn.Although how Jeremy Corbyn is the Democrats as a whole is beyond me. What is important to Dreher is religious liberty (which is not threatened, except as he imagines it should be upheld. Dreher is fretting about the "ministerial exception" and a recent 9th Circuit ruling he doesn't like, because the Court declined to extend Hosanna-Tabor to non-ordained church employees). Oh, and Dreher doesn't want people treated equally; he wants to allow discrimination against people based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Need I say these are hardly moral stances, but it explains why he can so easily vote for Donald Trump.
Dreher is free to vote for whom he pleases, for why it pleases him to do so. But it's a remarkably flexible idea of Christianity he employs to do so. His Christianity is more a cudgel to be wielded against those he disagrees with, and the grounds for his disagreements are those things it pleases him to be argumentative about. It's not exactly a moral stance, although he's taken those before. Indeed, he's of the group condemned by the CT editorial. His argument in favor of his position is, again, that it's all about Rod:
I used to hold the Christianity Today/Evangelical view that personal morality in presidential politics was paramount. The George W. Bush administration cured me of that. In my opinion, President Bush was, and is, a decent and good man. I respect him a lot. But that decent and good man also led this country into a disastrous war — and he did it in part by following some of his good and decent instincts.He's been disappointed by "decent men," so why not stick with the indecent guy this time? After all:
Jimmy Carter was probably the most decent man to inhabit the White House. He was also one of the worst presidents of the 20th century.
A lawyer guy I know told me that he’s been watching closely all the federal judges that Trump has been appointing, and that the GOP-controlled Senate has been confirming. My friend knows how strongly I feel about religious liberty. He told me that these judges are going to be the only line of defense for people like me in the years to come. It’s not a joke. He was Trump skeptical before, but having watched the judges this president has appointed, and having come around to the belief that the country is going to start voting a lot more liberal as the Boomers die, he’s on the Trump train for 2020.
I almost want to ask if this "lawyer guy" is a big, strong man who came to Rod with tears in his eyes. The idea that religious liberty is under threat is a "joke." The idea that religious liberty is whatever Rod Dreher cares about, is the nightmare.
Mark Galli has a really good point when he says, in his editorial, that at some point, Christians can’t keep accepting this deal: exchanging votes and support for judicial appointments. What’s solid about his point is that there has to be some line in the mind of Christians that Trump could cross, at which Christians would say, “Enough — that’s too far.” In my mind, given the stakes for the long-term future of the things I care about most, I have not seen that line.
Dreher has not seen it, because Dreher cannot see beyond what most concerns Dreher. The beam in his eye has blinded him. He has not moral claims; he merely knows what he likes, and he thinks that's what is most important in the world.
Greg Sargent sums it up this way:
I'm going to reiterate how hilariously un-self-aware this is.— Greg Sargent (@ThePlumLineGS) December 21, 2019
Trump's response to Christianity Today's harsh moral critique is transactional: I'm giving you a good deal, so shut up about my corruption!
I wrote about the deeper significance of this here: https://t.co/39zGJKUnFe https://t.co/KvJVjWdShu
There are stories about power in the nativity stories of Matthew and Luke. The people on the side of power are not the people we remember on Christmastide.