Four years ago, I created a humorous series of bumper stickers deriding both the Democratic and Republican candidates for President of the United States, those who allowed two such grossly inferior candidates for office to rise to the finals, and those who insisted that those were the only two possible choices. The title of this article suggests that I may have some regrets about what I wrote then, or that some of it may need to be retracted. That will not be necessary. Based on what I knew then, I believe I made the right decision then. All we knew of Mr. Trump then was that he had a bombastic personality, two failed marriages, no experience serving in elected office, and no track record whatsoever. If I had a daughter and she brought home someone like Donald Trump to meet me, I'd probably excuse myself to make a deposit in the nearest toilet. Given what we knew then, I still hold that he had said or done nothing to earn our vote, and the decision I made to write-in the Solidarity Party candidate was the most sensible decision. I don't have to concede error about Trump in 2016 to conclude that he is the right decision for 2020; I could only decide then based on the information available to me at the time.
To those who still find Trump repugnant, I can certainly sympathize. What's on my mind these days, though, is the reverse corollary to the refutation of Mario Cuomo's argument in the 1980s that he could be personally opposed to abortion, yet not only do absolutely nothing to stop it, but actively promote laws that would encourage it-- and that pro-life people should vote for him because he was "personally opposed." I always said that I would prefer to vote for a candidate who was personally in favor of abortion, but actively worked to end it by passing laws and his other actions. One might see Mr. Trump in that sort of light. Regardless of what he thinks of abortion deep within himself, regardless of what motivates him to do what he does, at the end of the day, what he is doing is what matters most, not what he is thinking.
Beyond that, my argument has always been to look past the current election and ask the typical job-interview question: "Where do you see yourself in five years?" It isn't just about this election, after all. It's about the next one and maybe even a few after that. The sort of candidates we vote for today will have an effect on what sort of candidates we get in the next election. The politicians do actually care about getting votes, and they will make adjustments over the next few years to try to appeal to more voters. They'll usually downplay the strategies that didn't work and highlight those that did seem to help.
Hold that thought for a moment. The number one difference between this election and the previous presidential election is not that Trump has changed-- I don't think he has, at least not obviously. He's still the same bombastic populist who shoots off his mouth, usually to negative effect. I'd much prefer that he not use Twitter and learn to let a few punches roll now and again. It would be far better if he were more of a gentleman-- more of a statesman. We desperately need statesmen in an age tyrannized by fear and hysteria. In fact, if a statesman were President earlier this year, such a person would have given a rousing, inspirational speech to try to snap us out of our mass hypochondriac insanity, and if that didn't work, a statesman would have issued executive orders nullifying the unconstitutional executive orders issued by state and local officials and threatened them with arrest if they resisted. Instead, Trump was just concerned that he'd be able to blame the economic devastation on the governors and mayors, so he sat back and essentially did nothing.
What is different about Trump this time around is that no one can claim he doesn't have a track record. Granted, it is not all good. He failed in his first two years to lead a repeal of Obamacare despite having a Republican majority in both houses of Congress and despite having made that a high priority. At a time when perhaps a bit of horse trading might have gotten the Affordable Care Act off the books, Trump couldn't find those skills within him and instead just walked away from the fight when he couldn't lead-- and unite-- the Republicans effectively. Here his divisive personality cost him significantly. As an outsider-- or at least that's the picture he wanted the electorate to believe of him-- he was only marginally effective in taking control of the executive branch, with high turnover and ongoing infighting among his senior staff plus many unfilled positions taking its toll.
What is undeniably a pleasant surprise is his record on abortion, which is in fact the pre-eminent issue in this election (though, of course, other issues are also important). Trump has arguably done more to reverse the Democratic ratchet on abortion than any president since Ronald Reagan, and perhaps even more than Reagan. Since 1973, Republicans in general have paid great lip service to the pro-life movement, but rarely have they delivered-- as if they barely tolerate us. Their record has been poor at best, and their weak arguments run along the lines of "What are you going to do, vote for Democrats?" and "Well, we're stuck with Roe vs. Wade; the Supreme Court settled that." If we want to hear the latter whine, we may as well vote for Democrats, because that's exactly what they've been saying.
Trump, by contrast, has actually acted as if he cares about our votes. I can't say that about too many Republicans, who too often act as if they take us for granted. Perhaps the most important thing he has done could easily go unnoticed. He has appointed 194 federal judges to date. That will have a lasting effect on the entire federal judicial system, perhaps even as much as three Supreme Court justices. The lower courts often act as a screen to keep things from getting to the Supreme Court, so leftist litigation will have a better chance of being stopped before even a Supreme Court packed one way or another will get a chance to turn the ratchet even further toward the left. If Trump could appoint another 200 federal court judges, it might force leftists to try to win via election what they won't be able to win via litigation.
Going back to the next election (as odd as that sounds), let's look at what may be at stake here. If after all that Trump has accomplished-- including not being afraid to nominate Judge Barrett to the Supreme Court-- we turn to third-party candidates (Biden, of course, is medically and philosophically unfit to hold public office, which goes without saying) we may find ourselves in a worse position in future elections. Politicians will say, "Trump risked his neck for the pro-life movement-- and lost it. I'm not going down that route." This time around, I am going to suggest that we need to say "thank you," to Mr. Trump, as imperfect and flawed as he is, by giving him our vote. Remember that we are not voting to canonize him or endorsing his every move or utterance; we are simply deciding who will lead us for the next four years, and how those who lose will react. If Trump wins, perhaps some of the more moderate Democrats will pull back from the radical extremism that has seized their party and at least start to move back toward the center. If Trump wins, Republicans won't be afraid to take a firm pro-life stance-- but they have to know that they'll get our votes if they do.
All that said, I have to add that reasonable people could disagree on this and decide that they simply cannot stomach the likes of Trump, regardless of what good he may have done. I respect that. It's a little easier for me because I don't watch television or listen to the radio, and I don't use Twitter or Facebook, so I don't actually have to see or hear every stupid thing Trump says or every idiotic random thought that might make its way to all of Internet in a fraction of a second. I don't watch the late-night leftist parties where Trump is routinely insulted not as much as because he does stupid things, but more because he is a threat to the leftists in the media. For those who do hang on Trump's every word and just can't hold their noses long enough to vote for him, we do have two other pro-life candidates of whom I am aware, Brian Carroll of the Solidarity Party and Kanye West, who has received favorable reaction among pro-life Catholics for good reason. Here is a good time to emphasize that anyone who claims or insinuates that not voting for Trump is a sin is just plain wrong and frankly insulting. It is one thing for someone to advocate for one or another candidate, but when qualified pro-life candidates are available, any of them could be selected for good reason, and insisting that one candidate is the only choice is simply wrong-headed. We aren't electing a Messiah, and anyone who believes that any political candidate is that important is doomed to disappointment and despair when the candidate does not deliver what no human being can deliver.
That said, I think that in this election, a vote for President Trump will do us the most good in the long run. I'm certainly hoping that he gets the chance that he has earned over the last four years to continue the good things that he's doing, and perhaps even with our prayers some of his rough edges-- and downright ill behavior-- might be softened. We should also continue to pray for him because what is most important for him is not whether he wins the election or not; it's whether he makes it to heaven or not.