Nolite confidere in principibus, in filiis hominum, in quibus non est salus. Exibit spiritus ejus, et revertetur in terram suam; in illa die peribunt omnes cogitationes eorum.
Put not your trust in princes, in the children of men, in whom there is no salvation.
His spirit shall go forth, and he shall return into his earth: in that day all their thoughts shall perish.
(It’s Ps 146 in the Protestant texts.)
I HAVE BEEN WORRYING ABOUT the presidential election cycle that is coming up. After the presidential chaos of the 1960s and 70s the election and re-election of Ronald Reagan proved to be a turning point in American politics unrelated to left or right. It was a stability moment. Reagan was the first president since Eisenhower to serve two full terms of office. Kennedy was assassinated. Johnson served out Kennedy’s term and was elected for one himself. Nixon was re-elected but his second term was destroyed by Scandal. Ford served out Nixon’s term and was not re-elected at all. Carter served one term. This constant change in officeholder paralleled with a period of political and economic chaos in the United States. I do not think they are unrelated. Although the president has (or had, rather) very little direct power, the effect of seeing the same face and hearing the same voice was one of “all is well, remain calm… and productive.” We lost that calming influence in the 60s and 70s having five different presidents and – I believe – we can see the results if we just crack open a history book or (for some of us) our memories.
Since the election of Ronald Reagan only one president, George Bush, Sr, has been limited to one term. This time of presidential stability is not unusual in American history as most presidents were allowed to serve out at least two terms. Even in this era of wild swings from left to right no matter how hated a sitting president is he tends to get reelected. Americans seem to like the stability that parallels with reelecting a president.
And so, unless things go wildly amiss, I expect Donald Trump will be re-elected. I know some people don’t want him to be, but does the left hate Trump any more than the right hated Obama? I suspect the president’s supporters will rally to his victory unless he manages to be too divisive and destroys the economic stability with social chaos. This may cause even some of his supporters to vote against him, or to vote for third-party candidates who are further to the right.
The backlash after his second term will be horrible. To be honest, even if it’s only one term I think the backlash will be bad. What backlash do I mean? The backlash that’s already happening.
I imagine a nation filled with New York State style abortion laws. I imagine a nation where it’s okay to kill grandma because she’s old. I imagine a nation where it’s okay to kill a newborn child because they have Down’s Syndrome. I imagine a nation where, like France, it’s okay to let starve someone to death because they were in a car accident. I imagine a nation where – as they tried to do in California this month – the seal of the confessional causes a priest to go to prison. I imagine a nation where, an angry new majority will do all of these things in the name of freedom, utility, and science. In the hope of preventing a Donald Trump style election in the future, as in The Hunger Games, the coastal cities will decide that the Fly Over States are worth suppressing in the name of national security.
To the extent that many Christians, including Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians, have put their trust in Princes and have been willing to ignore the President’s racism, sexism, xenophobia, stupidity, crudity, vulgarity, lewd behavior, and general childishness, this backlash will fall on us. “Us” here means any Christian, not just Christians who supported Trump. Every church building, anywhere, will suddenly be a fly-over state. There will be a special backlash for Christians who looked at Trump’s feet, ankles, shins, calves, thighs, and hips of clay and his heart of stone and said, “Yes, but he’s going to appoint pro-life judges.”
Christians know that the end does not justify the means. Or at least we used to know that. We seem to have forgotten it, but only for this president. While many pro-life activists have been staunchly supportive of any pro-life action such as feeding the poor, ending the death penalty, rescuing the homeless, stopping war, and going to the borders to support immigrants, this is not been true of the “but he’s going to give us judges” class of people. This class of Christian has been as silently divisive as the president has verbally been.
And, we must be truthful: the president has taken pro-life steps only to further divide the nation. He, himself, is not pro-life. He, himself, only sees it as a wedge issue that will radicalize both his followers and his detractors. By putting a wedge issue into the country, he hopes to stay in power.
So, I think we’re about to be up the creek without a paddle. I’m not certain that it will happen in 2020, in fact, I don’t think it will. But come 2024 it’s going to be scary.