Sunday, February 28, 2016

Time for the Definitive "NO"

For the first time in my life I find myself genuinely scared for the future of our country. Despite my predilection to read dystopian sci-fi, I never before lived in fear that any of those things could come true here. I never actually believed that I would be compelled to select the lesser of two (or three or four) evils when I went to the poll. If I honestly didn't like one of the two candidates most likely to win, I felt safe casting a vote for a third party, writing in a name, or even in choosing not to vote. I believed that I should vote my conscience, even if that candidate was not likely to win. I accepted that even if someone with whom I profoundly disagreed got elected president that it was not the end of democracy as we know it. They were not likely to actually be evil incarnate and even if they were, our system of government would keep them from doing too much damage. I believed that our system of checks and balances and that mutual respect for the processes of government would keep things functional.

I no longer feel that way. If Donald Trump wins the Republican nomination, I feel a moral obligation to vote for whichever Democratic candidate wins the nomination. I feel a sense of disgust that I must use my vote to vote against someone. I am not a party loyalist. I have voted for candidates I respect from a variety of parties. I have a problem with Hillary Clinton's atrocious interventionist foreign policy. I also have a strong suspicion that she is going to continue the status quo with regard to economic policies that favor Wall Street based on the amount of money she has received from Goldman Sachs. A few months ago, I swore if she won the Democratic nomination that I was voting third party. But that was until I saw the absolute nightmares that the Republican party has put forth as prospects for becoming president. I realized with horror that going nowhere is better than going backwards. And when I say backwards, I mean back all the way to a time before this country became a constitutional republic.

What I find absolutely terrifying about Donald Trump is not actually any of his despicable ideas. In fact, it is absolutely pointless to have a discussion with his about the particular merits or lack thereof about his proposed policies. This is because he has a complete inability to receive feedback in any meaningful way and also possesses utter disdain for the processes of government itself. These two character flaws alone should disqualify him from being elected to anything whatsoever. And these two character flaws are what make him a very threat to the stability of our country.

A president has to have the ability to select a cabinet of trusted advisors that will speak up and tell them when they might be wrong. That means that a president has to be able to set aside their ego and listen to feedback they might not want to hear. They can't just say, "you're fired," every time they hear something they don't like. If someone's ego is so fragile that they cannot remain in relationship with people with whom they disagree or receive criticism in any meaningful or thoughtful way, then they have demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are going to fail to select a cabinet that will make their administration effective. No matter how high or how white their horse, they will have an abysmal presidency. Donald Trump has such trouble with feedback, that he even threatens freedom of speech by wanting to make it easier to sue newspapers that say things he doesn't like. More on just how frightening this could be will come later.

 A president also can't be so certain that they are doing the will of God that they start to confuse their ideas with God's ideas. Confusing one's will with God's is certainly easy to do if you've never actually had to ask God for forgiveness. Donald Trump has also almost thrown money in the Communion plate, hasn't been to church in so long that his professed church can't even find evidence of his that he was ever a member, and reads the Bible so little that he actually said "Two Corinthians" in front of a group of Christian prospective voters. I'm certainly not of the belief that being a practicing Christian is a requirement for assuming the Presidency. But when Donald Trump tells a group of deeply religious people that he will protect them from persecution and abuse by the state and then proceeds to demonstrate such ignorance of that religion's beliefs, practices, and holy texts if not downright contempt and mockery for them while at the same time showing a complete and utter disregard for the Constitution and the rule of law, you have to wonder if what he means by "protect Christianity."

Trump already wants to completely ban one religion from entering the country and even shut down some of their existing places of worship, a blatant violation of the first amendment. If he were to actually succeed in closing mosques, then what checks and balances could possibly exist to keep him from shutting down Christian places of worship that don't conform to his completely warped misunderstanding of Christianity? What checks and balances could possibly exist to keep him from even silencing and closing the churches of the growing number of Evangelical pastors including Max Lucado, Jim Wallis, and Russell Moore who have started to speak out against the possibility of his presidency? Donald Trump brought up real examples of Christian persecution in Syria in his speech at Liberty. Yet the very reasons, those cannot occur at the hand of our government is because we have a constitutional amendment protecting religious liberty coupled with a system of checks and balances. If you threaten that amendment or eliminate the system of checks and balances, you fling open the door to real and genuine Christian persecution.

Donald Trump is a threat to our existence as a constitutional republic because of the way he is able to convince his followers that he is better suited to run our country than the very processes which serve as a foundation for our government. For America, our foundation is the Constitution. Now, there are varying disagreements as to how to interpret the Constitution and when and if it should be amended. That's okay the Constitution actually has a process that makes amendment slow and difficult, but certainly not impossible. However, if we cannot submit ourselves to the process of government outline in the document that is the source of its legitimacy, we could very well experience the complete breakdown of society including chaos, violent revolution, civil war, a military coup, or dictatorship. I fear all of these things if Trump is elected president. Some military leaders have already declared that they would be unable to follow some of his orders as commander in chief should he follow through on his campaign promises. If those are not the seeds for a military coup, I don't know what is.

Donald Trump's most damning act of hubris is that he has claimed that he could stand in the middle of a crowded street and shoot someone without losing supporters. Trump has declared that he could commit murder in public with witnesses, the most flagrant disregard of any law that there could possibly be and the response from his audience was to laugh. While, I sincerely doubt that Donald Trump would actually commit a murder in broad daylight, that statement still conveys how much power he believes he has. The terrifying thing is that poll numbers and election results appear to be proving that statement far more true than we might think. It does not matter if Donald Trump coughs up even some good ideas, there is absolutely no policy no matter how sound or needed that is worth throwing away our entire system of government.

The idea that someone who has such a disregard for the Constitution that he would ban an entire religion and assert that he could still maintain his support if he shot a random person in public could select three to four Supreme Court justices, let alone even one should deeply terrify all of us. He could effectively remove the checks and balances by selecting puppets who would vote only his way. However, the Republican party has managed not only to turn out a populist demagogue who can sway crowds of people to think that it is okay if he commits murder, but then also has the unmitigated gall to obstruct the current constitutionally elected president doing his constitutional duty of appointing a justice to the Supreme Court. Obama has stated that his criteria would be select someone who recognizes their role is to interpret the Constitution and not make laws. Not only is this a violation of those senators' constitutional duties, it is the very betrayal of conservatism itself, since conserving our existing form of government against any possible assault of a populist demagogue should be a conservative priority. Instead "letting the voters decide," by blocking the president from doing his constitutional duty until after the next election is the very philosophical justification for the kind of populism that gives Trump power.

But then, the behavior that many Republicans have demonstrated is that it is completely alright to shut down the government and oppose everything the president does on the basis that you do not personally like the president. Like most presidents, Obama has made a mixture of good and bad decisions. Yet, the attacks against Obama have been increasingly vitriolic and based on him as person. The inverse message this behavior sends is that if you happen to like the president and agree with them, then it is perfectly okay for the president to trump the rule of law if they're doing what's "right," fixing what's "broken," or "making America great again."

In order to change libel laws, Donald Trump would have to petition the Supreme Court. In order to ban Islam as a religion or close mosques, there would have to be cases that make it all the way to Supreme Court. The best case scenario for a Trump presidency is that he is so ineffective and has thought through his plans so poorly that he fails to enact any of his campaign promises and that the tide of popular opinion turns against him as quickly as he gained it or else that he gets impeached. The worst case scenario is that he actually manages to appoint several justices to the Supreme Court who betray their duty to Constitution to enact the will of Trump. Furthermore, if libel laws actually get changed, we could see regular Orwellian rewrites of current events since Donald Trump has a consistent history of denying what he said or even outright saying that he said the opposite of what he actually said. Trump has a way of normalizing his outrageous statements and behavior, while we all watch curious to see what he will do next.

If Donald Trump wins the popular vote for the presidency and enough electoral votes, there is one more constitutional check to prevent this absolute travesty: the Electoral College. It is entirely possible for the electors to choose someone else. Of course, the consequences of them doing so would no doubt be a Supreme Court case as well as unprecedented hostility towards the president who did assume office in Trump's place. Despite these dire consequences, if Trump wins the election, the Electoral College has a moral obligation to use their power to prevent a Trump presidency. This is because a Trump presidency is a threat to the Constitution itself. The Electoral College is beholden to the Constitution and not popular opinion when they select the next president. The Electoral College is our last line of defense against a populist demagogue. In fact, one reason we even have an Electoral College is because the Constitutional framers thought the common people might be "too easily duped by promises of shenanigans."

However, the time has come to give Donald Trump a resounding, big fat "No," to the presidency. His campaign has ceased to be funny and entertaining and has crossed the line into horror. This means committing to go to the polls and voting, even if we don't like any of the candidates. Our constitutional system of government is far more valuable than any single idea or policy. We have a moral imperative to use whatever power and influence we have to ensure that Donald Trump does not become president, even if that power is only one vote. The time to give Donald Trump the definitive and unequivocal "no," is not in the Electoral College. It is not at his impeachment trial. It is not when he runs for a second term. It is not when he attempts to abolish freedom of speech and/or freedom of religion. The watershed moment for "NO" is now. If we miss this moment the damage to our nation and rest of the world could very well be irreparable.