Posts Tagged Donald Trump

Conservative and pro-refugee

I really enjoyed this piece at Arc of the Universe, which may be a happy new find. It describes itself as a blog “where secular and religious meet in conversation about global justice.”

In any case, from the piece by contributor Michael Griffin:

“…the policies of this week, in particular the executive order of Friday, deserve robust condemnation—especially from Catholics.  We are the tradition of faith and reason. Not only is this order unchristian but it is also irrational. Of the terror attacks that have occurred in the U.S. since September, 11, the number of perpetrators from the list of banned countries is precisely zero.  Why was Saudi Arabia not on this list, or Russia, both of whom have been home to terror perpetrators in the U.S.?

While there are more eloquent ways to state the opposition to this ban, I think that the faith and reason test is simple and clear.  Indeed, if our Thomistic tradition teaches us that grace perfects nature, then what we are seeing is how irrationality perverts faith.  And indeed, I dare say that some outside of our Catholic, pro-life fold are waiting to hear from more of us about why our faith—faith in the person and teachings of Jesus—is not quite as offended by the present actions as it was by the previous administration.”

Please go read the whole thing, it’s worth your time.

I’m interested in the fact that conservatives (whatever that means any more) are so willing to defend this action. Partisanship isn’t surprising, of course, but I don’t think this is a conservative solution.

I consider myself a conservative because I resist throwing out things that work; I think it’s quite proper to acknowledge the value in tradition, in something that developed for a reason and has stuck around for a reason (see: Electoral College). I’m concerned, always, with unintended consequences of big changes. For example, while I argued against Obamacare and thought it was a terrible idea, I’m also deeply worried about the consequences of a reckless repeal. And, American conservatism tends toward small-government, federalist, subsidiarity-based solutions that I will almost always prefer to big-government bureaucracies.

I’m instinctively skeptical when someone tries to sell me on some Big Thing that will Fix All My Problems. So, I’m as skeptical when President Trump tells me that keeping out all the Iraqis will keep me safe, as I am when the cashier at Best Buy tells me about the extended service plan for my printer.

It’s absolutely true that there have been no recent fatal attacks in the U.S. by people from these countries. Every fatal act of terrorism in the U.S. recently has been committed by a U.S. citizen or legal resident. While there have been three attacks in recent years by immigrants from these countries, none were fatal–and in two of the three examples, the attacker was brought over legally at the age of two. Now, that’s not nothing. And this list of countries is, in fact, totally defensible for other reasons. But the facts call for a serious process of vetting visa applicants and refugees. The facts do not automatically justify a total shutdown of travel from these countries. The difficulty must be weighed against our moral obligations, which are also not nothing–both to refugees in need of help in places like Syria, and to already-vetted travelers who may now be separated from their families and lives.

What stuck out for me in the above quote was, “if our Thomistic tradition teaches us that grace perfects nature, then what we are seeing is how irrationality perverts faith.” St. Thomas Aquinas wrote that “grace does not destroy nature but perfects it,” that is, God does not have to change who we are or violate our will in order to save us; rather, he invites us to allow him to restore what is lost and broken in us. We remain always free, always ourselves, while pursuing what is good. It’s an interesting observation that, conversely, one must ignore the rational case for welcoming refugees in order to ignore the religious case. If we choose to turn away from what is good, we are no longer fully free to consider the matter from the standpoint of reason, either.

None of this is to say that reasonable people can’t disagree. If one’s priority is protecting America *at any cost*, then you can make a case for these restrictions. But real people are harmed by this action, like the example given in the article; and if you include that fact, the case starts to get real shaky real fast.


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Why an electoral revolt is a really bad idea

How are we all supposed to get along at this point?

In a few days, the electoral college will cast its vote for President, and everyone is freaking out that they might follow the rules. I’m spooked that so many people think they shouldn’t. Because this is bigger than 2016, and bigger than Donald Trump. Our electoral process is the common ground we all agree to meet on. It may be the only common ground left at the end of this year, and that makes it pretty dang important. I don’t want Donald Trump to be president either, you guys, but in a more bigly way, I don’t want our whole system to fall apart, and that seems to be the endgame of these petitions and letter-writing campaigns and death threats going to the electors.

Put any other name in, and imagine your honest reaction to what’s going on right now. Hillary Clinton wins the election, but Republican voters are now harassing the electors to try to convince them not to elect her. Imagine the outrage. Seriously put yourself in the scene reading stories of Clinton electors getting death threats in the midst of a coordinated campaign to keep her from reaching the office she had won.

For one thing, it would confirm in the minds of many the picture they have of backwards, violent right-wingers. Keep that picture in your head, but now realize that every political stripe has backwards, violent asshats, and we all ignore the ones in our own house. Please remember that for the future. Your hats are showing.

But I digress. Because my concern isn’t the violent crazies on the fringe, it’s the millions in the middle that think an electoral revolt would be just fine. Somehow the same people have gone, in a matter of weeks, from fainting at the thought that Trump would not accept the results of the election (tearing down the foundation of our democracy!), to advocating a total rejection of the results of the election. With a pit stop mid-week to scream in protest that Trump suggested without evidence that there was voter fraud, while literally at the same time signing Jill Stein’s recount petition which suggested without evidence that there was voter fraud. On neither issue can one be standing on principle both ways. If you find yourself there, you are no longer standing on principle.

But if you’ll stick with me while I wind my way to a conclusion, a cornerstone of this blog and of my philosophy is that principle really, really matters. And this principle on this day matters a whole lot, because as I said, I fear it may be one of the last remaining bits of common ground, and if we tear it up too, I literally don’t see a future for America. A week ago we were arguing over whether or not the electoral college was a good idea any more, because it’s possible for someone to win the popular vote and lose the electoral vote. What are we going to do when we all go cast our votes and end up electing someone that wasn’t even on the ballot? You can think the electoral college is a bad idea, but it at least follows rules, and we all know them. What future is there for democratic elections when we throw out the rules (and the votes!) just because people say “I don’t like the results!”?

The President of the United States isn’t King. Trump can’t do all the crazy he says, and we all know it. If you hate his policies, you have a voice, and at least three other people in the federal government that literally answer to you and will take your call. Trump didn’t make friends in this campaign, and I don’t see the Republicans giving him a lot of room to crazy, much less the Democrats (who I believe will have always been in favor of a stalwart opposition, a “party of no”, perhaps. Four legs good…). There’s also the Constitution, which despite the efforts of the last few administrations, still restricts the power of the government. I look forward to liberals remembering why that’s a good thing.

Now, the argument goes that the electoral system was designed so that chosen representatives would deliberate and select someone worthy, someone unlike Donald Trump, to keep the unruly mob from choosing a populist demagogue, someone like Donald Trump. Well, yes, frankly, that’s true. But the electoral system today has evolved and been modified. The system was also designed to keep actual people from voting for their senators, and in many cases, simply to keep actual people from voting. If you like women’s suffrage and no longer counting some people as 3/5 of a person, you should be ok with the system evolving. None of us voted for an elector based on the idea that that person was capable of wisely choosing the president. None of us even voted for an elector by name. We voted according to the rules as they stand today, having developed over time, and having been modified in response to problems that arose in the original plan.

These rules are our common ground, and having common ground is our way forward. I know, I make my jokes, I like to point out when liberals are being hypocritical and all. But my desire really is for us to move forward together. This is important. This is bigger than 2016, bigger than the next four years. This isn’t about Trump or Clinton or Kasich or What Would Alexander Hamilton Do. This is the foundation. This is where we come together, even angrily, and where we know we can angrily stomp back to in four years, but we do it together. But if we tear up this remaining common ground, we’ll have nowhere left to meet.

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An open letter to the Republican Party

Today I received an email from my state’s Trump campaign. It presented the current controversy as “locker-room” talk, inappropriate of course, but nothing compared to Hillary Clinton’s ensuing list of awful deeds. While I’m on board with the list of #NeverHillary arguments, this letter was an insult. Clinton doesn’t deserve a single vote. Neither does Trump. Because I think it’s important, and I hope I can play a part in salvaging conservatism, what follows is the body of my response.


What a deeply troubling letter to receive.

[name], I apologize, I’m not sure if we’ve met. I was previously a committeeman, generally inactive due to a regular work conflict at the same time as your meeting. I did not file for re-election this year as I hoped someone could take the position who had more time to participate. I seem to have remained on the mailing list. I don’t know if the below letter reflects your opinion, or the official position of [my county GOP], or if you simply forwarded it as a statement regarding the party’s nominee from his local spokesman.

I cannot stand with Donald Trump, and I cannot say how profoundly I disagree with this request to do so. I hope I can express how strongly I think these arguments harm the American conservative movement. If you care about conservative values as I do, please do not associate the GOP with such a flippant dismissal of this man’s abominable words and actions. And if you care about human decency as I do, then please don’t defend someone’s bragging about sexual assault as if it were mere “inappropriate language”.

Nobody cares about anyone’s use of “foul language” in private. But everyone, everyone should be concerned with a powerful man bragging proudly about abusing women. This is not about language. This is about abuse. This is not about the opposition. This is about our own house.

To pretend that this uproar is over rough language is an insult to my intelligence and that of everyone this intends to persuade. Donald Trump bragged about forcing himself on women, about being in a position of such power that women would let him do it. This isn’t frat boys ogling women. This isn’t simply offensive or off-putting. It’s contemptible.

We–conservatives, Republicans–can never argue again that we stand on the side of right, of morality, if we defend this. Point out everything that’s wrong with Hillary Clinton, yes, convince the nation why she doesn’t deserve a single vote, yes–I’m trying my best to do the same. But that does not mean we must minimize sexual assault and defend evil when it’s in our own house. On the contrary: if we defend Donald Trump’s behavior, if we pretend for political gain that this is not evil, then we give up any grounds for being taken seriously on any moral issue, ever, for as long as anyone remembers this election.

And, far, far worse, if we pretend that this is not evil, we participate in the victimization of every woman who has suffered abuse, or could, at the hands of someone like him. When men and women observe abusive behavior and dismiss or ignore it, WE. PARTICIPATE. When Hillary Clinton intimidated her husband’s victims into silence, she participated in their abuse. If we ignore the same behavior from Donald Trump, we do the same. And I will not participate in that.

This is not about being offended or being politically correct. This is about real people suffering real abuse, and our choice to either stand up and say no, or to ignore it out of political expediency, or cowardice, or both.

No matter who wins the Presidency this year, the entire country has already lost the White House. Barring divine intervention, the office will go to a well-connected narcissist who will abuse his or her power. Far more important now is Congress. Good men and women in the House and Senate will be our only voice and only defense, no matter who wins the top of the ticket. These races are more important now than ever before. Even the fight over Supreme Court nominations still hinges on the Senate. Let’s fight for these all-important positions, and let’s continue to convince the country that we’re on the right side. I will stand and fight with you. But if we begin to defend evil, we have lost our way, and none of the rest will matter.

My heart breaks for our country, and for our party. It doesn’t have to be this way.

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