From some well-meaning patriots on the Right, there is a great resistance to accept Donald Trump, and an almost scrupulous religious impulse to qualify every positive statement about him with criticisms of his personality and character.
Some conservative intellectuals are lost in a moral revulsion for a man they have seen and heard talking about his well-known penchant for bedding of women. They imagine that if they had a colleague or relative like Trump they would never tolerate him. Others have moved on from the sexual transgressions to lamenting his love for hyperbole, bombast, and insults and decrying them to be forms of lying and, even, bullying. It is uncouth, they say, and they would never tolerate such behavior in their children, so tolerating it in the president is to brand yourself a hypocrite.
In an exchange with a friend last week, I was reminded that we cannot engage in idolatry.
Idolatry? Well, I do have that little bobblehead of The Donald at my bedside that I kiss goodnight after my prayers, but is that really idol worship?
Seriously, I have not built an altar to President Trump, nor will I be commissioning any stained glass windows of him and Melania. But I do not see any value or duty in continual criticism.
Many who cannot help but criticize the president are conservative writers and scholars who are alarmed at the prospect that the conservative movement is cracking up. They long for a return to a unity that never existed but for which they feel a warm nostalgia anyway. I’m only 46, but even I know that Reagan led a fractured Republican coalition with Buckleyites, religious conservatives, ex-liberal neoconservatives, libertarians obsessed with Ludwig von Mises, and all the liberal Ford and Bush country clubbing blue bloods.
Trump is a man with somewhat unusual political qualities and obvious flaws, but I see nothing in recent or distant history that makes his flaws so uncommon. And this modern obsession—especially among pious Christians—to analyze and critique and complain constantly about our standard bearer is historically unusual.
It’s really quite hard in history to find saintly leaders but easier to find great men with great appetites who also saved the nations they led. We see the great uniter of Europe, Charlemagne or the hero of Lepanto, Don John of Austria or maybe a Thomas Jefferson or Ulysses S. Grant. Each had glaring flaws, yet each was the man needed for the moment.
Charlemagne was a vicious man who decapitated 4500 Saxons in one day and whose own nieces fled his castle in of him upon the death of their father. Yet without him the classical world would have been lost.
Don John was a philanderer, but he led the greatest naval triumph in world history, saving Christianity from the final push by the Ottomans to conquer Europe. Jefferson was a slave owner who may even have had carried on an illicit affair with one of his slaves, but his political understanding and his writing defined America, and put into place the words that would ultimately stand as a “stumbling block to tyranny” everywhere. Grant was brash and coarse and did not have an especially successful presidency. But without him, would the Union have been preserved and restored?
In life, let alone in politics, am I obliged continually to point out the flaws in my brothers and allies? And in the heat of battle—a political battle, but a battle nonetheless—what good comes from gratuitous and repetitive criticism of our standard bearer? We had a selection process where many other men had their chance, but Donald Trump won. And now there is work to do running our government. There is a conservative campaign to rein in our bureaucracy and restore prosperity and strength to our nation. Trump is likely to appoint more judges to the federal court system than any president in our history in just his first term. What value comes from constantly deriding him as unworthy of that task when he has already proven with his selection of Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court that he means to take the responsibility with the requisite seriousness and care? Why play into the hands of the Democrats?
I know that it is an exaggeration to call politics war, but the political losses that the right has experienced through politics over the last half century are as significant to cultural change as any war our nation has fought. To spend each day qualifying my support for President Trump by restating any of his weaknesses and flaws feels like soldiers on Omaha Beach discussing whether Eisenhower was cheating on his wife. Or the Greeks on the battlefield of Troy wondering if Agamemnon really should be sailing so many ships over one pretty girl. It’s such a waste of time and it comes at the wrong time. It weakens our side. it doesn’t make us more honest than they are. It makes us gullible. It divides.
The Left uses our scruples against us. They seek to divide us and conquer us. A cursory reading of Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals shows this is part of their master plan and has been for decades. And they almost won an election in November that quite possibly would have been an insurmountable cultural loss for people who share our concern for liberty and morality. Instead, the Left are on the ropes and we have a chance to do some great things and turn the tide.
We will have another primary season again in three years. Maybe there will be cause for a Ted Cruz or a John Kasich or yet another Bush (is George P. ready yet?) to take on the president. Or maybe all of that will be pushed back until 2023. But whenever it comes, we will have the chance to argue about Trump again. We will have the chance to change course if this one proves a failure.
Today, anyone who ever loved Ronald Reagan has but one choice and that is to stand united behind Donald Trump as he seeks to fulfill his campaign promises on behalf of the American people. I know many long for the charm of Reagan or the virtues in habit and of speech of many American statesmen of yore. And certainly, those desires are understandable. But it is more than possible that the bombast and hyperbole and refusal ever to back down—hell, even the insulting of his opponents—are exactly what we need to fight the juggernaut of the bureaucracy. To beat the Left, to counter their allies in the left wing media, maybe Trump is a good choice for this time; for this fight.
We are in a war for our culture and for our economy. I’m no sailor or soldier, but I’m fond of the guy fighting for my ideals. And while I won’t be making burnt offerings to his image, I also won’t waste my time on the field by criticizing him. His enemies are generally my enemies and they don’t need any help. For him to do what I need, I will have to give him my help and the first part of offering help in battle has never consisted of an “on the field” dressing down of the man leading the charge.