In the official platform of the Republican Party, curtailing abortion is mentioned 35 times. It is obviously important to Republicans that abortion be severely limited, and eventually banned. So why has the party nominated someone for president who was, for most of his life, “strongly” pro-choice? Earlier this year, Donald Trump, our “pro-life” candidate, held five different positions on abortion in three days. Trump’s nomination has weakened, and will perhaps sink, the Republican party.
The party that nominated Trump is pro-life and pro-trade, and certainly pro-national defense. Trump is, arguably, none of these things. Either there were no better options, or the Republican party has given up attempting to be a truly conservative party, or the Republican party is slowly collapsing. Unfortunately there’s a strong case to be made for the latter.
In our lifetimes, the GOP has aways been divided four ways: between the wealthy, socially liberal defenders of the status quo, like George H.W. Bush, the “movement conservatives” like Newt Gingrich, the “Tea Partiers” like Sarah Palin, and the devout religious conservatives like George W. Bush or Mike Huckabee.
The GOP has only ever been a marriage of convenience between these warring factions. In other countries, they might have formed four different parties. But for decades the Republican Party has played the role of a “big tent,” a partnership of cobelligerents against cultural leftism, high taxes, etc. Now it seems that the big tent is coming apart.
Donald Trump’s nomination reveals a desperate party bereft of ideas, leadership, or passion.
Trump’s main asset to the GOP is that he is newsworthy in both traditional and new media. He is a Kardashian to them, creating instant clickbait in a country at once attracted and repelled by his antics. What is he going to say next? Who is he going to slur now? These are the questions you ask about a shock jock radio personality, not a president. But the 24/7 Trump media circus keeps him at the front of people’s minds, and the old adage that there’s no bad publicity except your obituary rings true: he is trailing Clinton, to be sure–but not nearly as much as he would be if his support were based on his policies instead of his entertainment value.
The smart money predicts the election won’t be close. Republican leaders have been wringing their hands for months about the effect of Trump’s loss “down-ballot,” that is, in state and local elections where thousands of more palatable Republicans will appear on the same ballot as Trump and may suffer the effects of Trump’s likely defeat.
Here’s the problem. I say “more palatable,” but many of these Republicans have cravenly endorsed Trump, against their convictions, for fear of backlash from the Trump-loving base. In fact, only a few prominent Republicans have come out against Trump, although they include big names like Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, House Majority Leader Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the Bush family, and six–six–former chairmen of the Republican National Committee.
And this leads to an unpleasant question: did Republican voters settle on Trump because there were no other good options? Or do they genuinely share his views and believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that he is qualified to be president?
Unfortunately, all evidence points to the latter. Donald Trump elicits deep and abiding enthusiasm among a large part of the Republican base: older white men without a college degree, and in almost no other demographic group.
- The Republican party gets its smallest vote share among Millennials and its highest vote share among voters aged 69-86 (the oldest measured group).
- The Pew Research Center reports that “…Democrats hold an 80%-11% advantage among blacks, lead by close to three-to-one among Asian Americans (65%-23%) and by more than two-to-one among Hispanics (56%-26%),” while Republicans “hold a 49%-40% lead over the Democrats in leaned party identification among whites.
- The GOP’s advantage widens to 21 points among white men who have not completed college (54%-33%).”
All of these trends portend bad things for the Republican party: its voters are uneducated, getting older, and they will be demographically outnumbered by growing Hispanic and Asian populations. Unless something changes, the party is headed for a long spell in the wilderness, unable to gain meaningful majorities at the polls or enact its policies at the national level.
But more than demographics, it is those policies themselves that are the problem.
The Republican party has been conservative, championing traditional values and policies, ever since anyone can remember. This has been a great strength, and a weakness. The same party that fights tooth and nail for upholding the Constitution as the framers intended it, and for the rights of the unborn, was slow to embrace civil rights, and as always harbored a disinclination to help the poor and downtrodden. The party stands for a strong national defense, but concomitant with that it advocates dangerous and expensive intervention in foreign conflicts. I could go on — there’s a whole laundry list of Republican policies that aren’t really conservative at all.
Of all the groups within the Republican Party, the “religious right” has to bend over backwards the most to fit in. A party that disdains the poor and advocates for unjust wars shares little in common with the Church of Jesus Christ. And yet if the American Church continues to be joined at the hip to a party that uses it cynically for votes, it will lose its way.
There’s a saying: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. The Republican party has fooled religious conservatives time and time again. Russell Moore, a Southern Baptist luminary, thinks it’s time for the “religious right,” the once-powerful political arm of faithful right-wing Christians, to fade away. Other respected Christians aren’t so sure. Both Moore and Susannah Black, whose posts are linked above, would agree that there is a third way. They would disagree about the specifics, but I’ve come to my own conclusion.
I’m done with the unceasing cries to “reform the GOP from the inside.” I’m done with the forced dichotomy of the two-party system. I’m done with craven politicians pandering to the religious vote. It’s time for Christians to start thinking for themselves, to stop holding their noses and pulling the lever for the guy with the (R) after his name. It’s time for us to prayerfully consider each candidate and each policy, not according to any worldly standard, but according to Biblical principles and the doctrine of the Church. I’m not the first to say it, and if faithful Christians had been more consistent in our political witness I wouldn’t need to say it now. But here we are.
So I’m pleased to announce that I’ve found something better. In my next post (which is up HERE), I will introduce you to the American Solidarity Party, and perhaps convince you to join me in voting for them. It’s something bigger and better than a protest vote for me–I’ve found a political home. Maybe the ASP can be a home for you, too, in this political wasteland.