From Never-Trumper to Trump Voter
Four years ago, I refused to vote for Donald Trump. Four years later, I refuse not to.
I know this makes me a minority and persona non grata on Medium, but next Tuesday, November 3, 2020, I will be voting for Donald J. Trump as president of the United States of America. However, before you brand me as a “racist”, “fascist”, white-nationalist, backwards-thinking, patriarchal, unwoke monster, hear me out. I wasn’t always a Trump supporter… quite the opposite, actually.
I actually used to be like many of you, a “Dump Trump”, “Never-Trumper”. And in 2016, I even exhorted my fellow Christians to not vote for Trump. I wrote three pieces on Medium, preaching that Trump was a hypocrite, hardly pro-life, and a vote for him would destroy our democracy. The pieces were largely received with applause from my fellow progressive Christians, who pointed out that “being pro-life means more than being against abortion.” While not being a supporter of Hilary Clinton, I was looking forward to her defeat of Trump on the night of November 8, 2016. I woke up the next morning absolutely shocked to see the results. By the time he became inaugurated as president, I joined my voice in unison with the #NotMyPresident crowd. I groaned, complained, and hate-tweeted my way through the first few months of 2017.
Four years ago, I was one of the most vocal anti-Trumpers around. Today, merely days before the 2020 presidential election, I am hoping he wins. What changed? My change of heart is summarized best in these three questions I have asked myself since 2017.
1. What do my political views do to me as a person?
In 2016, I considered myself a pro-life Democrat. My Roman Catholic background influenced me to choose the party that I thought represented the best interests of the poor, marginalized, and disenfranchised. Even today, you will see many Roman Catholics vote Democrat because of the party’s tax policies, immigration stance, and advocacy against capital punishment. It seems that Biden — a baptized Catholic himself — represents the positive, humanistic, empathetic character of Pope Francis.
Preceding (and following) the 2016 presidential election, I was not a very nice person. In my written diatribes against Christians who voted Trump, I repeatedly called out those Trump-supporting Christians as idolatrous and ignorant hypocrites. “Jesus says love the stranger, you morons!” I wrote, forgetting also what Jesus said about judging the hearts of others. (Mt 7:1) I, a New England native in graduate school, thought that the only people voting for Trump were those uneducated farmers in Kansas with two teeth and fifteen children. In what could be described as subtle and unconscious racial bias, I was astounded and disturbed when I found out that my Latino friend was voting for Trump in the election: “Why would you vote against your own people?” I wondered. Following the election, I was part of the online crowd obsessed with Trump. Trump said a bad thing? Better post about it. Trump stuttered in a press conference? Need to tweet a gif mocking him.
Eventually, it got exhausting. Constantly talking about the president is not normal. Incessant whining about him being president, threatening to move out of the country if he is elected, and having to take a “personal mental health day” following his inauguration gets old and trite. “Orange man bad” has been the ongoing refrain from Trump’s opponents, and it reveals much more about themselves than it does about him. I was miserable and cranky, rude and judgmental. For all my talk about “social justice”, I was more concerned with virtue-signaling on social media about how my anti-Trump stance made me a better Christian and person than the hypocritical Trump voters who supported a candidate often described as “literally Hitler”.
Eventually, as I became more neutral, shifting from the Left to the center, I began to be more charitable in my evaluation of Trump. Do I think he should be canonized? Not at all. Do I think he deserves our prayers and support? Absolutely. I realized I could be disgusted with some of his previous comments on women and of his words and actions without turning him into the Anti-Christ, or thinking that his past immorality makes him unfit for office. Trump voters were not voting him into the communion of saints — they were voting him to fulfill a specific job in the United States, one in which he has performed remarkably well. 2016 me was not a very pleasant person to be around, as I was constantly glued to my phone complaining about Trump and judging him and his voters. 2020 me, now a Trump voter myself, is on social media less, and is much more charitable, even to Joe Biden (who I disagree with on several issues). It’s a better place to be in.
2. What is the purpose of my vote?
The purpose of an American citizen voting for president is to place one’s concrete support in a candidate who the citizen thinks will be the best selection for the presidential office and one’s country. That’s it. Our vote does not mean we endorse every single thing about the candidate (including his or her past and present personal life). Neither does our vote mean that is our final say in political matters. A person can technically vote for a Republican president, a Democratic governor, and a third-party local representative. Obviously, voting for a president is of more importance on a national and international level than is voting for the Green Party candidate to represent your small valley town. Because a president’s election is closely tied to his cabinet and federal responsibilities, a person voting for president needs to keep in mind things like the appointment of federal judges and the various secretarial offices (such as the Department of Agriculture, Defense, Education, and so on). So while you are voting for a president, you are also voting for his inner circle and wider crowd.
Catholic social teaching promotes the “principle of subsidiarity”, which means that things should be handled at the most local level first, and those things which cannot be performed by local authorities should ascend to higher authorities, who then help and supply the local communities with what they need to thrive. This does not mean that we should become libertarians! Historically, this principle found itself between two extremes — totalitarian state-run communism on one hand, and an unfettered free market individualism, on the other. Not every hot-button issue in our day can or should be solved at the executive (let alone federal) level. Those issues deserving national attention and their consequences being determined by who holds executive power should influence our vote for president.
During my anti-Trump days, I thought that his election would mean that the poor would get poorer, our planet would be destroyed, and we would be plunged into chaos. Little did I know that many of my concerns could be alleviated by my own actions in my local community. Was I terrified about Betsy DeVos’ effect on education? Sure, I could rant on Twitter about our school system going to hell, or I could always volunteer to help tutor children at the nearby middle-school. Was I convinced that our earth was being destroyed? I suppose I could post on Instagram crying that Trump pulled the US out of the Paris Agreement, or I could ask myself why I (along with millions of others) continue to purchase items that continue to damage our ecological systems — including the very phone I have Instagram downloaded on. How much of my anger against Trump and his fan base was actually a way of coping with the fact that I am not doing everything I should be doing on a local level to improve our world?
3. What does it mean to be pro-life?
Here was my biggest reason for voting against Trump in 2016, and is now my main reason to vote for him in 2020: the pro-life ticket. Now, I know that many of you reading this will probably roll your eyes and groan. “Yeah, Trump is so pro-life,” you think, in a sarcastic tone. Maybe you will repeat the hackneyed rebukes: “Trump killed 230,000 Americans due to COVID”; “Kids in cages at the border”; “Trump supports the death penalty,” and so on. Maybe you’ll mention one of his alleged adulterous affairs. “So much for the pro-family party!” you snort. Trust me, I know all of the lines. I used them all before.
Here’s the fact: Donald Trump is the most pro-life president in history. I do not mean that to say that he personally, within his “heart of hearts” is pro-life, although he very well might be. But objectively-speaking — based on the people he has put in power, based on the policies he has supported, based on the actions he has taken against abortion — Trump has done more for the pro-life movement in America than any prior president. This, effectively, is a complete 180 degree turn from what I said in 2016.
In 2016, I fought against Trump because I was pro-life. He claimed to be against abortion, and I was angry, because I knew that this monster did not care about unborn lives. He just wanted to secure a large chunk of the vote. “We are not single-issue voters!” I pleaded with my fellow Catholics. “Pro-life means pro-immigrant, anti-death penalty, pro-environment, pro-policies which help the poor.” You could have taken any given humanitarian issue, and I would slap a sticker saying “X is a pro-life issue” right on it. Trump was simply an opportunist. I was the real pro-life advocate, and therefore I would have to vote for Hilary Clinton, because despite her being the most radical pro-abortion presidential candidate in U.S. history (a superlative surpassed only recently by Biden), she cared about more “life issues”, and who knows? Maybe her economic policies would reduce the number of aborted fetuses because less people would feel pressured to get an abortion due to poverty.
Here’s the problem, though: words, and votes, actually mean something. Let’s use the Black Lives Matter movement for an example. For years now, we have been told that “All Lives Matter” is wrong because it distracts from the reality that Black lives have been historically targeted and systemically ended, and so they deserve our most attention. BLM supporters point to statistics which claim that Blacks are killed by police at a higher rate than whites (even though they aren’t). And so, we cannot say “All Lives Matter” without taking away energy and attention from those lives which are most at-risk. Got it?
Now, let’s use that logic and talk about pro-life issues. If saying “All Lives Matter” is wrong because it detracts from those Black lives which are systematically eradicated, then you will see why saying “All Life Issues Matter” is wrong because it diminishes the sheer number and gravity of abortion in the United States. Abortion kills far more persons than the death penalty does. Twenty-two prisoners received capital punishment in 2019, while the latest annual number of American abortions tallied to nearly 900,000. If we say “All Life Issues Matter” when it comes to the death penalty, environment, or other situations, then how is that not akin to saying the forbidden “All Lives Matter” in the face of BLM? Moreover, abortion kills an innocent life, which is to be distinguished from guilty life, though Christians have a duty to respect all lives, whether innocent or guilty. Abortion is indeed the pre-eminent “life issue” of our day due to its intrinsic evil nature and its jaw-dropping statistics.
So, what does it mean to be “pro-life”? Well, words need to mean something, and they cannot mean all different things at once. The term “pro-life” originated in the protesting of abortion, and to use it as a blanket term to describe all humanitarian issues is to weaken the poignancy and focus of the term. By its very definition, Trump is on record as being “pro-life”. In four years, Trump has done the following:
- Became the first sitting president to attend the March for Life in Washington, D.C.
- Asked Congress to pass legislation to end late-term abortions
- Called for the defunding of Planned Parenthood
- Prohibited international aid in funding abortions overseas
- Restricted federal research that used fetal tissue from aborted babies
- Prevented Title X from funding abortion industries targeting lower-income families
- Appointed three pro-life Supreme Court Justices, who actually rule against abortion (whereas George W. Bush’s “conservative” appointment, John Roberts, sided with the liberals)
- Appointed judges who are against euthanasia
- Appointed 18 federal judges who have been described by NARAL as “anti-choice”
- Proposed a rule protecting the consciences of health care workers who refuse to participate in abortions
- Signed a “born alive” executive order requiring federally-funded healthcare facilities provide medical care to infants who survive botched abortion attempts
If I were to argue against Trump along my 2016 lines, I would have said, “Well, Biden is pro-choice, sure, but he is pro-life in other ways.” And then I would probably stutter and trip over the fact that Biden, whatever his “personal views” are, represents the most anti-life ticket in U.S. history. Not only does Biden & co. support unrestricted abortion, he also vowed to sue a group of nuns for not providing contraception coverage, he supports gender-transition policies for teenagers, supports the BLM critical race theorists, supports same-sex “marriage” (even officiating one, himself), supports euthanasia, among many other problematic issues. Want to talk about kids in cages at the border? Let’s start with the fact that, as vice-president, Biden did nothing to stop Obama from doing the same exact thing. Trump is the first president in my entire life who has not invaded another country. Biden was one of the most vocal supporters of the Iraq War.
For those “pro-life” people who are considering a vote for Biden, I simply ask that you remember what pro-life policies look like. As Christians, we are not single-issue voters, that is correct. And therefore, Biden is not the appropriate candidate for presidency, because he departs from natural and divine law on a majority of issues. Hate him and rage-tweet about him all you want, but Trump supports more pro-life issues than Biden does, and if not in his heart, then at least in his policy. A vote for Biden is a vote for the degradation of human life, but maybe with a few more food stamps.
We Americans have been subject to nonstop discourse regarding this presidential election. Four years ago, I refused to vote for Donald Trump. After seeing the vitriol of the Left and the ways in which my antagonism towards Trump reflected my own judgmental, angry, and compromising personality, I gradually let go of the “Never Trump”, “orange man bad” mindset. I realize Trump is not the perfect candidate, but he does not deserve the demonizing treatment he has received by the mainstream media. As far as I am concerned, Trump — despite his limitations — has done, and will do far more for America than any other candidate on the 2020 ballot. And as a pro-life Christian, I have to examine the purpose of my vote and who I am voting for. Given the choice between Biden and Trump, then, I can proudly say I am voting for the latter.
It’s amazing what four years can do.