We are now in the 12th hour of the conservatism’s life in this election cycle, which means it is as good a time as any to revisit the question of how I plan to proceed through American political life over the next four months.

For those who don’t want to read further, it is hard to find a more succinct or accurate distillation of the development of my thought than that offered by Ben Sasse’s spokesman after the Senator met with Trump this week: “Mr. Sasse continues to believe that our country is in a bad place and, with these two candidates, this election remains a dumpster fire. Nothing has changed.” I heartily agree.

There are no conditions at this point under which I could possibly vote for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

The Problems with Hillary

Let me address, very briefly, my disposition toward our former Secretary of State.

Perhaps I can distill my assessment of her fitness for office by confessing that the day James Comey announced there would be no indictment I was briefly tempted to join the Burn It Down movement and vote for Trump. Trey Gowdy’s exchange with Comey is as damning a piece of political theatre as I can remember in my lifetime.

I mean, it is not often in our political life that lifelong Democrat lawyers feel obliged to write 7500 word defenses of the criminality of their party’s nominee. Seriously, read through that link. Every word. And then tell me that the failure to indict is not a gross miscarriage of justice.

From my standpoint, Hillary’s systematic lying through this process *alone* would disqualify her from the office. But that her emails are almost certainly in the hands of America’s enemies would seriously compromise her ability to negotiate on matters of foreign policy. And I haven’t even mentioned her record as Secretary of State, or her position on abortion. With all due respect to my friends in the party, Democrats should be congratulated on nominating the one person that could cause otherwise sensible people to look favorably upon Donald Trump.

The Problems with the Donald

So, no, I won’t be voting for Hillary. Trump, then? No, not him either.

I have heard every argument defending voting for him over the past six months. I remain as convinced as I ever have been that there are no grounds on which it is permissible or morally licit for a conservative Christian to lend their support to Trump by voting for him.

In fact, I think it is obvious that no one should vote for the Contemporary Falstaff. However sophisticated the rationalizations for Trump become, they do not overcome the single, basic fact that he has done nothing in his personal life nor his professional career to demonstrate that he is fit for the highest office in the land. I take it as a given that nominating an unfit person to such an office would be a grave danger to American security and interests.

So there is no world where I will think that the political calculus and rationalizations add up to making voting for Trump permissible, save the world where Jesus appears in the flesh and tells me it is. And that is not this world, despite the earnestness with which many Trump supporters have assured me it is.

Of course, it is very hard to prove obvious truths to those who doubt them. But I have given it a sporting go over the past six months. Among the various reasons I have set forth I would include his manifest lack of integrity, his overt courtship of racists, his instability, his braggadocious sexual licentiousness, his authoritarian impulses, the fact he never seems to have read the Constitution, the fact that he would deliberately work with small contractors to steal from them, and so on. Let’s just say it’s a really long list, ermkay?

The Dumb and Dumber Case for Trump

And yet, here we are. The pro-life movement is signing up with The Donald. Why? The main reason, as best I can tell, is what I have dubbed the ‘Dumb and Dumber’ argument. Voting for Donald Trump on the chance that he will elect conservative justices to the Supreme Court is perhaps the most prominent way pro-lifers have justified their capitulation to Trump. As the argument goes, Trump’s interest in placating his conservative base, in winning a second term, in working with Congress, and so on justify the conclusion that there is a chance he will appoint better justices than Hillary Clinton. When set within this comparative context, conservatives are justified in voting for Trump.

There are a variety of reasons I think such claims are wrong. I have critiqued it at various points, and I will not rehearse those arguments in full here.

Instead, I’d note that the argument invariably reduces to a blind assertion of faith that such a chance exists. Any evidence or arguments that purport to show the odds of Trump appointing conservative justices are miniscule are met with a shrug. We know, it is said, what Hillary will do. Trump is at least a wild-card. (Hence my name for this line of reasoning.)

There are good reasons to think that the odds of getting conservative justices are, well, not very good: Trump won’t even say he’s interested in actually being President if he wins a first term, much less commit to a second. So it is highly unlikely that he’ll govern with that aim. The logic and rationale of his candidacy — Burn Everything Down — gives Trump a convenient excuse to not work at all with Republicans, and then to blame whatever failure he faces on their recalcitrance. That is how he ran as a candidate; we can presume that is how he would govern as a President.

In short: Donald Trump does not seem to care about whether the Republican Party is behind him. His self-described “movement” means he has all the leverage. Paul Ryan and other Republican leaders may be able to frustrate his aims (if R’s win the House and Senate, that is). But I suspect he would find enough Democrats willing to pass what will almost certainly be much more moderate, if not fully progressive, proposals than those he has offered to his base. He has shown such a disinterest in becoming the Republican nominee that prominent conservatives are openly endorsing the idea that he is, in fact, a Democratic plant. That sort of logic just reinforces that if he wins, he won’t need the Party: The Party will need him, and bow accordingly.

Never mind. Evidence for what Trump might or might not do does not matter at all to the Dumb and Dumber case. The only claim that matters is that however miniscule it is, we have better odds of getting conservative justices from Trump than we do from Hillary. It is an article of faith, impervious and impenetrable to rational assessment.

But it is wrong.

For one, the argument treats treats gaining conservative justices as so important that they trump to any other end or goal. The reasons for this judicial myopia are deep and important within the pro-life world. No pro-lifer can say that Supreme Court opinions simply do not matter, for reasons that are obvious. But ironically, shouting “The Judges!” as a political clincher deepens the very doctrine of judicial supremacy that Roe and other similarly bad rulings have exacerbated. Pro-lifers should play a role in deflating the Supreme Court’s singular power over American political life: The use of such power to enact social change has exacerbated tensions in American society, and undermined the conditions for long-term stability and peace.

But the claim also rests upon a highly contentious and narrowly selective account of the consequences of getting the justices we want.

What do I mean? Let us think for a moment about the effects of a Trump/pro-life alliance beyond the Courts. For one, supporting Trump means that every Republican candidate going forward need only offer the thinnest of overtures to pro-lifers to win their support, and that there will be nothing conservatives can do if such candidates do not deliver. If Trump were to be nominated and fail to appoint conservative justices, the logic of the “Dumb and Dumber” argument would mean that there could be no reprisals. The idea that there is a chance the Republican nominee elects better justices because he says he will do so is impervious to any kind of falsification, and as such, eliminates any kind of meaningful political reprisal against the party that fails in its pro-life duties.

To put the point differently, it is reasonable in our political system for minority factions to offer their support only in exchange for meaningful attention to their interests and concerns. By supporting Trump, pro-lifers make it astoundingly clear what kind of price the party has to pay to win their votes. The value of the pro-life vote has plummeted, given that Trump’s nominal outreach efforts seem to have worked. But the only way to raise that price and extract more meaningful concessions from Republicans in the future is by refusing to do business with them. If pro-lifers really believe that the Republican party is the only vehicle that they have in American political life to reach their ends — which is what the “Dumb and Dumber” argument rests upon — then they should absolutely refuse to support this candidate on the grounds that abstention is the only way of keeping the value of their vote up in every subsequent election.

On one level, I really get it: Having deep and abiding moral commitments to the cause of life might mean an irrational, utterly foolish willingness to continue to be abused in such manner by the only party who will at least invite you to their cocktail parties and fundraisers. But pro-lifers lose every ounce of their future leverage over the party by accepting Trump.

In normal conditions, I could easily see pro-lifers voting for non-optimal candidates on the basis of the likelihood of political pressures making them more pro-life than their instincts might otherwise lead them to be. This was, for what it’s worth, a huge part of my argument for supporting Mitt Romney in the general election last time around. There were many questions about the depths of his pro-life commitments: I defended him on the basis that, even if he himself had intuitions that I disagreed with, he clearly wanted to be a two-term President and needed pro-lifers desperately.

But Romney also was (and is) clearly an incredible family man. His early pro-choice policies were worse than his own personal life. And the importance of that cannot be understated: Romney gave pro-lifers the chance of justices and the rest of it in a package that fundamentally endorsed the cultural conditions which we think are essential for minimizing abortions, namely, stable families.

Trump’s life demonstrates his lack of commitment to the pro-life cause.

This case is clearly different. Trump is a walking-anecdote for the various cultural ideologies and trajectories that the pro-life movement opposes. Specifically, by voting for Trump, they endorse someone who in his personal life has not merely lived in, but reveled in the moral atmosphere and commitments that stand beneath our abortion culture.

If abortions happen because of the breakdown of marriage, then there is nothing ‘pro-life’ about electing someone who is at best a serial monogamist. If the abortion culture has anything to do with the wider degradation of our society’s sex and morals — as pro-lifers have argued it does for as long as I have been alive — then there is nothing pro-life in endorsing a candidate who has bragged about the number of his sexual partners. It matters that Trump is unwilling to answer whether he personally has funded abortions. It matters a great deal.

Let me be as explicit as possible about what pro-lifers supporting Trump means: It means lending their aid to someone who (with Bill Clinton) was friends with Jeffrey Epstein who was eventually convicted of pedophilia. And Trump knew of it and commended Epstein. I mean, look at this glowing endorsement: “I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it — Jeffrey enjoys his social life.”

Think about that for a second: Conservative evangelicals and other pro-lifers have rushed to find any justification they can think of to vote for a fellow who almost certainly knew of pedophilia occurring, and, for all we do know of him, did nothing to prevent it. At the very least, he was not the one who went to the police about it. That pro-lifers have been reduced to this beguiles the mind, to put it gently.

And now Trump himself has been named in a second lawsuit alleging that he engaged in rape of a minor. This one claims to have a witness. That would be incredible for such a case, but would also not be unlikely given the nature of Jeffrey Epstein’s parties. I have no position on whether Trump is in fact guilty of such charges: I only know that if we vote for him because “there’s a chance” he’ll give the world conservative justices, then we should also include in our political calculation that “there’s a chance” such unspeakably wicked events happened. In this instance, pro-lifers do not have time to await the justice system to act: We face a vote, both next week at the Republican convention, and in November. We must instead assess whether the strength or weakness of the purported victim’s claims justifies the risk of throwing our support behind someone who has been accused of such horrendous acts.

I will confess at this point that it is hard for me to get beyond a raging anger at the fact that pro-lifers are throwing their support behind someone for whom such allegations cannot be treated as naked, political attempts to destroy an otherwise good person’s character. Think of it: if it turned out that such allegations are true, would anyone be that surprised given Donald Trump’s life and what we know of how sexual immorality works (namely, that it breeds more immorality, not less)?

Again: I am not saying anything about whether these allegations are true. In the court of law, there is a presumption of innocence. But in the assessment of a person’s character…past performance leads to future results. Pro-lifers who support Trump can dismiss these allegations as entirely baseless: But on what grounds? Certainly not because of Trump’s life history. Or they will have to consider such allegations in assessing Trump’s fitness for office, and tell a complicated story about suspending judgment while the judicial process does its thing. I am not the brightest of bulbs, but it sure seems that when explanations are complicated, things are not going well.

Once again: I am not assessing the guilt or innocence of Trump: I am suggesting that the fact that it cannot be instantly dismissed as an unreasonable possibility is itself damning for any political movement that pretends to care a single iota about sexual mores, as the pro-life movement must. Even if Trump is exonerated of these charges, or wins on legal technicalities, their plausibility says as much as anyone needs to know about what kind of baggage supporting Trump might bring upon the pro-life movement.

The pro-life movement must accept a degradation of itself as a movement in order to support Trump.

Having to treat these sorts of questions as real possibilities is the kind of cultural corrosion that the pro-life movement must accept in exchange for voting for Trump. The moral gap between Jeffrey Epstein and Donald Trump is smaller than one might think: If Trump does not explicitly approve of Epstein’s actions, he also clearly did not object to the point of turning Epstein over to the police. But it is hard to hear Trump’s comment about Epstein as anything other than an astonishingly cavalier acceptance of Epstein’s ‘preferences’. (No, Trump does not use that word. But that seems to be his position.) Accepting such a nominee’s character as a permissible side-effect of the chance of getting pro-life judges eliminates any interest in anything besides the law from the pro-life movement’s political reasoning. It indicates that pro-lifers are willing to accept personal and cultural decay of our leaders for the sake of conservative judges and legal opinions.

Such a stand bifurcates the pro-life movement into two, allowing technical, legal rationality to come apart from the broader cultural conditions pro-lifers are trying to establish to end abortion. Such a bifurcation represents a kind of legal triumphalism that views the law as the paradigmatic and final means of social change. I think the law changes things: you’ll hear no platitudes about “hearts and minds” from these quarters. But if such opinions are not minimally reflective of the broader moral fabric of a society, they will not have the effect intended.

Additionally, setting forth such laws without the cultural conditions necessary to support them might even engender a backlash, and undermine the fragile gains pro-lifers have already made. This is one of the lessons from Roe, which was not at all reflective of our broader cultural mores at the time. It created incredible social divisions and galvanized the pro-life movement. Disconnecting the legal from the cultural allows the pro-life movement to do the same, except in reverse. But if the recent history of morals legislation in this country is any indication, such a strategy does not work well over the long term. Judicial myopia leads to, in this case, cutting off the pro-life movements cultural nose on the slimmest of hopes of saving its political face.

Suggesting that the thin hope of conservative justices on the courts justifies accepting such cultural consequences also seems to rest on either naivety or hubris. It is hard to know which. Pro-lifers will not be able to distance themselves from Trump’s shenanigans, though they will try: if he is their candidate, they will be made to own everything he does if he is elected President. Political action has a symbolic character: it sets a narrative, and that narrative matters as much for the long-term future of a particular movement as do the judicial opinions that result from it. In this case, it is a ludicrously easy story to tell: Pro-lifers are willing to accept misogyny, divorce, racism, and so so on for their political ends.

Pro-lifers will protest that voting for Donald Trump does not mean endorsing everything Trump does. And they would be right. Yet I say it’s either ‘naivity’ or ‘hubris,’ because the pro-life movement hasn’t exactly been stellar at framing its own identity. The cultural and media headwinds they face go a long ways toward explaining the struggle. But in this case, they add to those the fact that their critics will have a serious and legitimate point. Voting for Trump means treating everything else he does as acceptable *on the condition* that he also promises — merely promises, mind you — conservative justices. The pro-life movement can justify supporting Trump only by viewing his character, his known sexual vices, his unrepentant history of supporting abortion, etc. as acceptable side-effects that, in this case, are the cost of their hope for conservative justices.

Note that I say ‘the hope’: Accepting such side-effects if we know that Trump will appoint conservative justices is one matter. I still think it’s obviously bad to do so. But if conservatives don’t even know whether the good they are aiming at will come to pass, but are gaming their acceptance on the brute grounds that ‘there’s a chance’ it will, their position looks even worse.

What other consequences come with supporting Trump?

If we want to assess voting for Trump on the consequences for the pro-life movement, we cannot simply ignore the symbolic, social, and cultural effects. Such consequences are doubtlessly ‘softer’ than the sharp-edged, definitive nature of Supreme Court opinions. But if we want such opinions to save lives, they need a society that will welcome and support them. I am not proposing that pro-lifers simply wait to pursue legal strategies until that society exists. I am instead proposing that, in their prioritization of such legal efforts, they not endorse candidates who have flagrantly and grossly acted in ways *contrary* to that society and the morals it needs to flourish. If justices really worth *any* cost to the pro-life movement, now is the moment we will find out.

Let us reflect for a moment, in this light, upon what I take to be among the hardest questions our society: What sort of injustices are we are willing to allow in the short term for the sake of long-term social stability, peace, and well-being? In attempting to defund Planned Parenthood, pro-lifers ask others to shoulder a serious and grave social cost for the sake of eliminating a gross and systemic injustice. And I think it is permissible for them to do so.

But a similar argument can be run against the pro-life defense of Trump: The democratic character of American political life might simply require that they accept ongoing injustices for the sake of longer-term goods. Paying for conservative justices means being saddled with and further mainstreaming Trump’s moral corrosiveness. (What happens if he pulls a version of the ‘Claire Underwood’ and admits while President that he paid for an abortion, and that he doesn’t regret doing so?) Repudiating such cultural degradation by not supporting its political representative might mean more abortions in the near term: But even if Roe were to be repealed in the next President’s term, where will people turn for political guidance if pro-lifers have deemed Trump’s decadence as acceptable? Dividing the political and cultural logics of the pro-life movement by treating Trump’s character as an acceptable side-effect undermines the integrity of the movement and will eviscerate its ability to speak with power on cultural matters for long into the future.

As I see it, the choice pro-lifers face is whether they are willing to sacrifice their political lives in order to save their cultural and moral soul. I wish I had more confidence that they would choose wisely.

This is a gratuitous link to a sketch that came to mind at this point in the essay: Make of that intrusion what you will. Enjoy it. Laugh! It is funny! Good times.

Hope for Chaos at the Convention.

But we are here at the twelfth hour! Must we not vote for one of them? No. Absolutely, unequivocally, unhesitatingly no. First, we should hope and pray for total, unmitigated chaos at the Republican Party’s convention.

The odds of Trump being elected are incredibly high. But, well, am I saying there’s a chance? I am, I am indeed. Angering Trump’s supporters, many of whom do not care about pro-life positions, will happen if the party nominates someone else. But given that Trump simply is not fit for the office, alienating such voters seems like the unhappy cost of doing the right thing. For a major political party to nominate someone who at least half of its constituents do not trust with the nuclear codes would be a palpable failure.

So, we should hope for a rules committee that releases all the delegates, for floor protests if they do not, for delegates voting with their consciences even if it breaks every rule and gets them kicked out of the party. We should hope for decent men and women who have served the party to examine their consciences and determine whether they really, genuinely believe this man can be trusted with the highest office in the land.

We should even hope for Ted Cruz going off script and announcing in the strongest possible terms that no one should ever vote for Donald Trump. I’m no fan of Senator Cruz. But I would write him in for President in a heartbeat if he did that.We should hope for a Republican party that, at the last hour, saves itself the humiliation of nominating the only person in the country who might not be able to beat Hillary Clinton.

Do I have any confidence that Republicans will do the right thing? No! None whatsoever! Not a shred! I have as much confidence in that as I do that Trump will nominate a conservative justice. I mean, we shouldn’t overlook the fact that we are talking about a party that mocked Obama for being dependent upon a teleprompter, and that now praises their candidate because he manages to follow one. It’s a cruel and hilarious irony, really. They have become a parody of their past criticisms.

In recent years, Republicans have been more than willing to engage in political entertainment at the cost of acting responsibly for the common good. Which means Trump really is a creature of their own dysfunctions. So, no, I don’t have any confidence that the party will remember their courage and nominate a President we can trust with the nuclear codes. (We clearly can’t trust Hillary: She’d probably store them on a private server somewhere.)

I only have hope. Delusional hope. I cannot but help believe that there are yet ten righteous men and women within the city who could prevent the judgment that is upon us. I am prepared to be sorely disappointed. That is precisely what hope means: an unabiding commitment to the right when the situation is hopeless. (Thanks, Gilbert.)

And if the Republican Party nominates Trump?More mischief.But first, lest you be teetering on edge of despair, I present as an interlude David Brown, the chief of Dallas’s police department. Seriously, watch that. Do you have hope for our country again? I certainly do. Watch that and tell me again that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the best we can do. There’s a theory of democracy in there, a deep understanding of the limits of police work, a palpable sense of courage. If he did not have other important work to do, I would write his name in for President in a heartbeat. I still might.

Okay. Is there any path besides the write-in candidate?

No, probably not, but let’s consider one anyway. We should hope that within 24 hours of Trump’s Teleprompter-Reading Masterpiece, Mitt Romney finally listens to his children and announces a third-party bid. Or if not Mitt Romney, someone else with some name recognition who might steal a state or two. I don’t know who this group of ‪#‎nevertrumpers‬ has found to put on the ballots, but if they have a pulse and can plausibly claim to be pro-life, I’ll almost certainly vote for them.

(As to Gary Johnson…If the Libertarian Party had wanted to be anything other than useless in this cycle, they should have nominated a pro-life candidate. It was the most obvious thing they could have done to be a genuine threat to overturning the two-party apple cart. I would have sung their praises and signed up in a heartbeat. As it is, they are something of a joke, and given that our society’s treatment of babies in the womb doesn’t exactly put me in a laughing mood, I’ll pass, thank you very much.)

Don’t get me wrong: I might still vote for a candidate who doesn’t have a chance of winning the nomination. If it’s not the Better for America candidate, I’ll consider the Constitution Party. Or if not them, I’ll write in Ben Sasse or David Brown. Or my mom. She keeps unruly highschoolers in line, which is more than Donald Trump has ever done.

But, really, we should hope for Romney. And then we should hope that Bernie Sanders sticks a fork in the Democratic Party’s eye and takes up the Green Party’s invitation to run as their candidate. Why? Because it seems plausible that if Romney and Sanders played their cards strategically, they could between the two of them pick off just enough states to keep both Donald and Hillary below the 270 electoral college threshold.

Yes, that’s right. This possibility has not been spoken of nearly enough in this cycle, not for my liking.I haven’t crunched all the numbers to figure out exactly which states Romney, or Romney and Sanders together, would need to win to keep Hillary and Trump below 270, because no one is paying me to write this essay. But someone needs to put together this kind of map, and quickly. It would be an easy way to fame, and it would contribute to the narrative that ‘Trump or Clinton’ is not our inevitable future.

At that point, the House of Representatives would choose the nominee. My understanding is that tradition indicates they would choose from the top three candidates. Suppose Romney is in the mix: Is there anyone in the House who would rather have Donald Trump be President than Mitt Romney? I bet there might be a small contingent of Democrats who would support Romney over Hillary for the sake of the rule of law. Even if Democrats win the House.

See, I can have nice thoughts about Democrats sometimes. I am large; I contain multitudes.

Those are my hopes for the next month, at least.

You don’t have to vote for either of these candidates.

And if none of that comes to pass? I will happily write in the person I think most fit for the office (probably Romney, Sasse, or David Brown) and revel in my moral purity for the next four years. Oh, will I revel. I will be positively insufferable, I assure you. It is a dangerous thing, standing on principle. It goes to one’s head, which is why it is occasionally worth doing. It clears the air, and reminds one of which way is up.

And you can join me, too. You don’t have to vote for either of our two candidates. There is no political calculus that adds up to supporting either one. It is almost certainly false that America deserves better: She deserves the major party candidates she has. But that does not mean clear-headed people should accept them. The grace of living in a democracy is that the only judgment we receive from our leaders is the one we bring down upon our own heads. But there is no rule or line of reasoning that requires Christians to vote for the Barbarians because everyone on our block is.

Trump could also simply resign the nomination, too, if he wins it. And Christians should pray for that to happen. The argument for doing so has its own twisted logic: He could be the single most powerful person in American politics for the next twenty years without ever having to face the gut-wrenching decision of whether to send American lives into battle. By being President, he risks his brand and his fortune: Whether Americans die because of his action or inaction will have a considerably more profound effect on his legacy than if his casinos go bankrupt. Maybe Trump will follow his native Falstaff all the way, and imperil the lives of real human beings. But maybe he’ll look at the risk as a businessman, and think that it does not add up.

If that happens, well, we will have our chaos. We like to think his base would be incredibly angry. But basically everyone has been wrong so far about what would hurt him with his constituency, so who knows whether they would care if he voluntarily stepped down? They seem to treating the whole business as a highly entertaining but ultimately inconsequential show. That would be a fine twist for ratings and the inevitable launch of the Trump Political Media Network.

I do not know what the next four months of America’s political life holds. However, I am rooting for turmoil and intrigue. Were one of our contemporary novelists writing this story, they would throw in a sharp set of twists that no one could see coming. That is precisely what I am eagerly hoping for. And if it is November 11th and Hillary and Trump are still our own major candidates, then I want to see men and women of principle everywhere make their opposition to our two major candidates known far and wide by throwing their vote away on candidates who deserve our support, even if they’ll never win.

The only rule of this election is that almost no one saw it coming: I get why we are all now expecting things to follow their normal course of events, but the predictive powers of our Opinion Leaders don’t exactly inspire confidence these days. I am cheerfully prepared to drink the cup of chaos to the last possible drop. It is going to be a terribly exciting road ahead, whatever happens. Here’s hoping America survives.

Feature image via https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/24394211100

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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.


  1. Thanks for writing this! I’ve kinda stopped engaging with the political stuff because the options are all so depressing, but, this actually in a weird way made me more hopeful. Even though I’m still deeply frustrated by all the blindness that leads people to think Trump is a viable option.


    1. And Hillary is a better option?! That’s just nuts!


      1. “Not Hillary” shouldn’t be the bar for Christians.


  2. There is NO case for Donald Trump, especially if you say you’re a Christian.


    1. And Hillary is the pillar of sainthood…. Wow!!! Are you serious? There are only TWO choices here. Trump or Hillary! Pick one! I pick the one who is Pro-Life. I pick the one who will nominate a pro-Constitution Supreme Court Justice. I pick Trump.


  3. One of the best, well-reasoned cases to not support Mr. Trump I’ve read in quite a few months. I’m glad Mr. Anderson has the fortitude to be bold on this point. Not only should Mr. Trump not receive my vote (nor Mrs. Clinton), the fact that he was allowed to be the nominee and wasn’t squashed by the GOP from the beginning adds to building evidence that the party has lost touch with reality and its constituency.

    Then, there’s the logic of voting for the lessor of two evils. Not only, as others have pointed out, do you still end up with evil in our highest office, but we perpetuate a degrading class of people elected into public office and only attracting a similarly degrading class of potential candidates who want to be associated with those in office. Now, avarice is at the heart of all this. But, the continued practice of voting for people just because they are of a party or because you don’t want the other candidate to win is terrible, TERRIBLE citizenry. That logic puts, and will continue to put, the wrong people in office even if of the same party. The collective result of which is a federal (or state) government that is devoid of statesmen and filled with people who have wrong motivations for seeking and holding office.

    No, I believe a dedicated citizen should take no collective action whose result will be harm to the nation (especially, to spite those of the opposite polemic). Our actions as citizens should be to improve our nation, not do harm. And, voting for either of these candidates will harm this nation in a host of ways. As billpkrt wrote here, “There is no case from Trump.” I agree and have had no good argument presented to me from redeemed believers to vote for him.

    Now, those of us wanting to change the nation or prevent those of the opposite polemic from changing the nation, we have a much more logical means to do so. You’ll find it in Matt. 28:19-20, Mark 16:15, and Act. 1:8.


  4. ChevalierdeJohnstone July 12, 2016 at 1:41 pm

    While I definitely won’t be voting for Trump, I’m confused by your argument against voting for him. It seems to me you are making the case that (i) anyone who makes past mistakes is forever damned by them, (ii) nobody’s heart is ever changed by redemptive grace, and (iii) under no circumstances ought we forgive someone their past mistakes and allow them the opportunity to make good on them. I suppose I was confused because I thought you thought of yourself as a Christian. But by your arguments here you are very obviously a run-of-the-mill secular atheist.


    1. I won’t speak for Mr. Anderson, but I certainly didn’t read it as you did ChevalierdeJohnstone. Here’s my response that’s only worth the time it took to compose:

      i) Mr. Trump was not described as damned, he is simply not worthy of a vote for highest office based on his past
      ii) Mr. Trump’s heart may be changed, but his actions and rhetoric (true measures) are not reflective of a change
      iii) The Oval Office is certainly not the venue in which Mr. Trump should be given grace to make good on his past mistakes


      1. ChevalierdeJohnstone July 14, 2016 at 12:17 am

        (i) All the political leaders most remembered as great leaders and good men throughout Western history all the way back to the Hellenic Greece have overcome personal moral, ethical, and often-times physical, mental, and emotional struggles, picking themselves up after a fall or even repeated falls into sin and iniquity. This trait isn’t limited to political leaders of Western civ but also includes Abraham, Joseph, Elijah, Moses, Joseph, and all of the Apostles. And not only is this true of our historical heroic leaders, it’s even true of all of our fictional heroes as well. Thus your argument, and Mr. Anderson’s, has no basis in historical reality.

        (ii) Trump has been consistently anti-abortion throughout the entirety of the campaign. The SCOTUS justices he’s hinted at appointing area all anti-abortion. He hired Mashburn as his policy director. Not only is Trump both more vocally and actively pro-life a candidate than Clinton, Sanders, or any of the most-discussed third-party candidates, there really isn’t much he could do to be more pro-life without being elected to office. Thus your argument, and Mr. Anderson’s, willfully misrepresents the present facts.

        (iii) Why not? Do you know anything at all about the U.S. Presidency and the past occupants of that office? It certainly seems that you are ignorant of historical and present facts. And, secondarily, of course that is why the American system puts candidates through a rigorous election process. That process is supposed to indicate whether the candidate will be the same person in office that they promise to be. This process cannot possibly work if voters refuse or are incapable of performing the mental task of actually thinking about who would do a better job, instead of using the election campaign as a means of selfishly virtue-signaling their effete nobility of intent.

        I applaud your and Mr. Anderson’s decisions not to vote for any candidate; clearly you aren’t ready for such a responsibility. If more people like you would acknowledge their inability to make a rational decision, I might actually be tempted to cast a vote.

        My reasons for not voting Trump (or any other candidate) are as follows:

        (1) Trump is the most gifted, pro-American candidate we have seen in the lifetime of anyone alive today.
        (2) Trump is clearly capable of delivering on a good many of his promises to save America from the spineless progressive cafeteria-Christian conservatives who collude with progressive atheistic liberals to willingly destroy America for personal gain.
        (3) Given the state of American society today this effort would ultimately fail, because no number of political victories will stop the infection that spreads in American society; this infection must be combatted from within by ordinary Americans who evangelize a real hope and idea of a real American restoration, which will take a lot of prayer, effort, and time and cannot be fast-tracked simply by electing a particularly good and capable candidate. Instead, electing such a candidate will put to sleep many of those who might otherwise be willing and capable of evangelizing American restoration to their fellow citizens, since even they are prone to laziness if it looks like someone else might do their job for them.


        1. Just to (i) … yes, they did, but I would vote for them AFTER they made their μετάνοια, not before. Truly, only Jimmy Carter could pull out “I found my life’s calling after leaving the White House”.


  5. Perhaps the best that can be done is to decline to vote in the Presidential while concentrating one’s time and energies on the down-ticket candidates. Representation in Congress or in the State House can provide some off-set for policies in Washington, and if nothing else, provide a seedbed for future national leaders.

    I think it wise, too, to pick up the theme of God’s Sovereignty. God does rule the nation, raising up one, putting down another. In that light, a lament like this may also be a recognition of judgement; unrighteous rulers are a punishment. Yes, that is somewhat quietistic, but it also frees the Evangelical church to do the work that is close at hand, to speak for the weak, to raise up, to proclaim. In doing so, we may find the greater truth of Phil 2, of emptying ourselves in service rather than being trapped in the noise (and distraction) of politics.


  6. […] There is no Pro-Life Case for Donald Trump – “We are now in the 12th hour of the conservatism’s life in this election cycle, which means it is as good a time as any to revisit the question of how I plan to proceed through American political life over the next four months. For those who don’t want to read further, it is hard to find a more succinct or accurate distillation of the development of my thought than that offered by Ben Sasse’s spokesman after the Senator met with Trump this week: ‘Mr. Sasse continues to believe that our country is in a bad place and, with these two candidates, this election remains a dumpster fire. Nothing has changed.’ I heartily agree. There are no conditions at this point under which I could possibly vote for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.” […]


  7. A choice between two turds is no choice at all. (Sorry for the crudeness, but hey… I’m from the Bronx.)

    The fact is that we as a nation have turned from the God whose blessings made this nation what it is. In fact, we have been riding on those blessing’s fumes for some time. The fact that our choices are between Trump and Hillary is only a reflection of the nation’s moral compass. …We are so lacking in principles that we turn to one who is so openly corrupt, so openly pandering, and who is willing to lie so outrageously to our faces, and we knowing full well that it is a lie, will praise her for telling us the truth; and another who has spent his entire life building a personal empire by any and all means crowned with his name is gold plated finery, whose character/moral failings are the stuff of headlines for decades, and we clamor at his feet and hail him the savior of the Republic and a man of the people. …It’s the stuff made for a bad, off-Broadway play. It’s pathetic.

    No… Trump and Clinton are reflections of our national character. (Generally speaking.)

    But, as believers in Jesus we know the direction the world must take in the last days, and I expect the insanity we see before us now is only a taste of things to come.

    On Election Day I will kick my feet up and drink my coffee and thank God for the life I have, ask for his grace and mercy on the lives of my children, and I will pray for the return of His Son. But I won’t vote.

    You know, on second thought… since it is Election Day maybe I’ll make that a latte.


  8. Is there any reason why being “pro-life” inevitably boils down to enacting laws aimed at restricting access? Perhaps it would do the pro-life movement well to focus on persuasion rather than punishment.


  9. I am not an US citizen, so this is not even Monday night quarterbacking, but let me just say the current situation is the dire example of one-issue politics and its outcomes. Does not being a conservative mean a little bit more than abortion? Isn’t it for example important that your great Constitution (no smirk intended, I am serious) was created “to the end it may be a government of laws and not of men”? So why the one and only topic of decision about the Presidential election is question which nine aged guys (and gals) should we idol-worship? And let me not start on whole Lawrence Lessig and Rootstrikers (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mw2z9lV3W1g); isn’t it a profoundly conservative issue as well?


  10. […] [*] The pro-life argument against Trump has been made on a couple other occasions. Here’s one if you are interested. Mere Orthodoxy. […]


  11. It appears that apart from some great act of Devine intervention we will be left with a choice between two evils. Staying home and having a latte or writing in a candidate that meets your reguirements will only result in the evilest of the two running, assending to the highest office in the land. A lot is at stake but sticking your head in the sand because you don’t like the smell will only get your butt kicked.
    I watched Hillarys speech at the DNC and when she mentioned women’s health it was clearly prochoice. I was amazed that a few sentances later, when talking about race issues she said they feel disposable. If you are prochoice, lives are disposable and in reality, No Lives Matter, so all the BLM movements do not surprise me and are only a outcome of our own indeference
    As a society we have lost the respect for life, and God and both were thrown out the window in 1973. I did not watch the entire DNC convention but I did not hear anybody say “we will protect the unborn” it is not part of their platform. I did hear Trump say it at the RNC convention. I will be voting for a candidate that at least has a chance of winning and a flicker of light in their platform, so should every other citizen in this country.
    We the people don’t work if we saty home.


  12. You have to win first. If you don’t win, you lose. We’ve had all kinds of candidates – but NONE were flawless – FEW were attractive. Most were more flawed than your average hooker. But we voted for them. All the pundits and all the king’s men went all out to get out the vote – for better or worse.

    Anyone who voted in the US national election during the last 70 years and will NOT vote now is a Hypocrite For Hillary.


  13. i CAN SINCERELY AND HONESTLY AND WITH GREAT ADMIRATION, MATHEW… SAY , THANK YOU ! Being a faithful and long time pro life advocate in every sense of the word… the difficulty today is


    1. So you’d rather Hillary to win?


  14. Matthew, your “moral high ground believing that you’re better than all Christians” is truly pathetic! It will be non-votes for Trump, 3rd party votes, and write-in votes that will put Hillary in the White House! Matthew YOU ARE BLIND and POMPOUS!


  15. […] and emphasis that were not in the original post for your reading pleasure) Here is one more bonus article that, IMO, does a very good job at addressing the SCOTUS argument in great […]


  16. […] ideas behind it. As evangelical writer Matthew Lee Anderson put it in July in an essay titled “There Is No Pro-Life Case for Donald Trump,” Trump is “someone who in his personal life has not merely lived in, but reveled in the moral […]


  17. […] ideas behind it. As evangelical writer Matthew Lee Anderson put it in July in an essay titled “There Is No Pro-Life Case for Donald Trump,” Trump is “someone who in his personal life has not merely lived in, but reveled in the moral […]


  18. The case has only gotten weaker. With the exposure of Trump’s bragging about sexual assault, it’s clear he’s an active participant in a toxic sexual culture that relies upon abortion.


  19. […] ideas behind it. As evangelical writer Matthew Lee Anderson put it in July in an essay titled “There Is No Pro-Life Case for Donald Trump,” Trump is “someone who in his personal life has not merely lived in, but reveled in the moral […]


  20. […] ideas behind it. As evangelical writer Matthew Lee Anderson put it in July in an essay titled “There Is No Pro-Life Case for Donald Trump,” Trump is “someone who in his personal life has not merely lived in, but reveled in the moral […]


  21. You are absolutely correct. I do not believe he cares about the pro-life movement. He accepts it because it in the profile of the conservative candidate. He is a power monger and will focus on war and confrontation if he gets in office. He could care less about something that, to someone like him, is a soft issue. The only alternative here is to fight ourselves out of the two party corner and vote for Evan McMullin. evanmcmullin.com


  22. […] ideas behind it. As evangelical writer Matthew Lee Anderson put it in July in an essay titled “There Is No Pro-Life Case for Donald Trump,” Trump is “someone who in his personal life has not merely lived in, but reveled in the moral […]


  23. Those who accuse Trump of his language 11 years ago and who are judging Donald Trump. I’m glad you are perfect people without sin. Please stop spreading lies about Donald Trump until you are perfect and without sin. I will remind you all that Donald Trump has apologized for his comments and in God’s sight that is “ALL” that is required. I will remind those who judge Trump of a few verses.

    Romans 2:1-3 – You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3 So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?

    John 8:7 – When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

    Matthew 7:5 – You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

    Hillary and Bill Clinton, Tim Kaine, Michelle and Barak Hussain Obama, #MSNBC, #CNN, #WashingtonPost, #NYTimes, and the #CBC have, in my opinion, deliberately taken the side of leftist liberal values in North America. In my opinion, they are all purposely focusing on issues to try to derail people from the real issues that will determine the countries future.

    Look at the real issues and not the leader. Do you support Abortion and the killing of babies? Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine do. Do you support the dismantling of family values? Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine do. If you want to elect Supreme Court Justices who will support the values of Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine then, in my opinion, America will continue to decline in morality. Don’t let the media sway your vote and take your eyes off of the really important issues that will determine the future of the country.

    The Media pretends it is unbiased but we know full well it is not. I ask people to please not believe a word you hear from the media as it is extremely biased and untrue.

    Do not be deceived by the media’s tactics. Remember Donald Trump has apologized for his actions. I Pray that you will make your decision based on facts and important issues of morality, not on the gossip of the media. I pray people will not be deceived because the future CAN and WILL get a whole lot worse if a leader with immoral values and selfish ambition becomes the next president.

    God Bless!


  24. […] ideas behind it. As evangelical writer Matthew Lee Anderson put it in July in an essay titled “There Is No Pro-Life Case for Donald Trump,” Trump is “someone who in his personal life has not merely lived in, but reveled in the moral […]


  25. […] ideas behind it. As evangelical writer Matthew Lee Anderson put it in July in an essay titled “There Is No Pro-Life Case for Donald Trump,” Trump is “someone who in his personal life has not merely lived in, but reveled in the moral […]


  26. […] ideas behind it. As evangelical writer Matthew Lee Anderson put it in July in an essay titled “There Is No Pro-Life Case for Donald Trump,” Trump is “someone who in his personal life has not merely lived in, but reveled in the moral […]


  27. […] The most pro-life argument for Donald Trump revolves around his promise to appoint conservative Supreme Court justices, who would at some point find some way to overturn Roe v. Wade. But in the words of Leon Wolf, “If you believe that Trump has actual pro-life principles or that he will honor any sort of pledge to only appoint pro-life justices, then you have to be one of the most monumental suckers who has ever lived.” Trump’s promises to the pro-life movement are as worthless as a Trump University degree or one of his previous marriage contracts. There is simply no pro-life case for Trump. […]


  28. I absolutely loved the well reasoned analysis of the argument that Trump would nominate more conservative Supreme Court justices in the [Dumb and Dumber] section. “Blind assertions of faith”, evidence-based reasoning…

    The irony here is stunning, given that the author and intended audience are believers in the supernatural. This should be a case study in cognitive dissonance.


  29. […] clear evidence shows that this point is moot at best and misleading at worst. As many have argued, there is no “pro-life” argument for Trump. Not only do we have little to no evidence that he is actually pro-life himself, the point is moot. […]


  30. […] been well explained as well. Along with the above pieces, these ones by Rachel Held Evans and Mere Orthodoxy specifically explain why a vote for Trump is not a pro-life […]


  31. […] point I am about to make is not original; Matthew Lee Anderson and Pascal Emmanuel Gobry have both versions of it. I am not sure how it relates to Catholic moral […]


  32. […] risk to embrace an awful man who we have no legitimate reason to believe will do anything for us (see Matthew Lee Anderson)? If we become permanently tied to a man to whom the concept of universal human dignity is foreign […]


  33. […] writer and academic, who in 2016 labeled the pro-life justification for voting Trump the “dumb and dumber” argument. Of course, given Trump’s record on federal court appointees, the dumb-dumbs […]


  34. Guess you were wrong on this one. Trump has been the most pro-life President we’ve had in modern times. He’s done the babies good.


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