Was yesterday a victory? Time will tell.
The election of Donald Trump prevented a particularly crushing defeat, but that is not the same as a victory.
If Hillary won, she would have locked in a Supreme Court that does not respect the right to life of our most helpless brothers and sisters, the unborn. The Obama administration sued the Little Sisters of the Poor to try to make them act against their consciences — a Hillary Clinton administration would have gone even further against religious liberty.
I understand the urgency of the “Stop Hillary!” movement. But human nature being what it is, “Stop Hillary” too easily became “Go Trump!” Then “Go Trump!” became “We won!”
But did we?
Donald Trump sounds like a bad imitation of a pro-lifer. When asked if women should be arrested for having abortions, he immediately said “Yes,” an answer I have never heard in decades in the pro-life movement. He feels like a Romney to me — a guy who didn’t want to protect the unborn until he thought saying so would help him win. His contradictory statements about who should be allowed in my daughters’ restrooms, and last week’s waving the rainbow flag, make me wonder how long he will protect religious liberty, too. Will those who believe, as Hillary put it in 2000, “marriage is, as it always has been, between a man and a woman” be allowed to freely exercise their religious beliefs?
At the same time a friend of mine emailed me that “Trump is the only ‘Francis option.’” He quoted Pope Francis’s advice to American Catholics in this election: “Study the proposals well, pray and choose in conscience.” Compare Trump and Hillary on conscience issues like the right to life and the HHS mandate, and the “Francis option” is clear, said my friend.
Let’s hope so.
I can’t help thinking religious voters are in the position of the character in the Charles Baudelaire short story who sold his soul to the devil. After the foul deed was done, he was suddenly worried. So he went to a chapel, lit a candle, kneeled before the tabernacle and prayed, “Lord, please make the devil keep his promises.”
We need to do the same thing — and follow through with the Christ the King meme so many were sharing last week.
“No matter who wins, Christ is still King!” it says, under a 1940s image of a crowned Jesus. It was meant as a consolation if Hillary won, but we need it now more than ever.
If Christ is King, that means we have no time to rest. It means promoting a real politics that puts the family first. As I said at Aleteia, “Trump voters are our future.” This is literally true, since they just picked the president. But it is also true if you evaluate them not by their media caricature but by the real concerns they expressed at their convention:
A pattern in Trump supporters emerged. You saw it in pastor Mark Burns’ speech about how “All Lives Matter” folks should understand where “Black Lives Matter” folks are coming from, and you also saw it in Duck Dynasty’s Willie Robertson explaining the values of real work and real prayer.
This is precisely the message that was missing from Mitt Romney’s campaign. Yuval Levin at the time said Romney was missing the real debate in America: Community- and family-centered society vs. corporate- and government-centered society. David Brooks said Romney failed because he saw people as potential business owners and not (as traditional conservatives do) as potential parents and neighbors.
The really great thing about Donald Trump’s movement is that it is gathering a collection of voters who want to build a future for families, not for the state and its favored corporations. Catholics should want that, too.
I also said that it was a shame that he kept a natural constituency out of that coalition: immigrants.
If Donald Trump promotes a family-centered politics, then yesterday’s vote was a victory. If he turns against his voters’ best concerns, yesterday’s outcome was a tragedy.
For now, I’m going to light a candle at the grotto and pray that Trump keeps his pro-life promises.