“What do they teach them at these schools?” – The Famous Professor Kirke
Today’s argument is a defense by offense, and it has graver implications than just who wins the election of 2016. The idea is to paint Trump as the victim of a moral and journalistic double standard by focusing attention onto the other candidate’s husband. It goes something like this:
“So why is it that only Bill Clinton gets away with rape? We’re hearing no end of what Trump said. Why isn’t there a focus on what Clinton did!? So let’s not let them get away with the double standard – vote Trump!”
First, are we really going to do this? Do we really want to imply that since Clinton got away with rape Trump should too? I know that isn’t what most people intend when they offer this argument, but, since Clinton is obviously not going to be held accountable, it isn’t at all illegitimate to think that’s what the speaker means.
Further, there is a rather shocking admission implied in this argument: it is that Donald Trump and Bill Clinton are likely moral equals. The hidden premise here is that one is just as bad as the other, but we hold the one accountable and the other one gets off scot-free. If this were not so, then the argument would change. There would be nothing to hold Trump accountable to, and therefore you would defend him differently.
The simple fact is that though the double-standard actually exists, Clinton “got away with it” because he had the political backing of millions of people willing to ignore, excuse, accept, and even enable him to do so. Their reasons for supporting him varied, of course, but in the end, that is at the bottom of it. Further, it wasn’t that no one tried to hold him accountable. The entire Christian right vociferously pursued him. The biggest names in evangelicalism attacked him on every level, refusing to accept his apologies or excuses. He was prosecuted and impeached – only the second president in history to have that happen. It was only a failure of American moral fiber that allowed him to escape. In a previous generation, he wouldn’t have.*
I hope you see where all this is going.
Clinton supporters have a practical advantage: They’ve long sold out their moral standards to support their candidates. They support a man who clearly objectifies and abuses women, and they support his wife, who tolerates and enables him (a particularly obvious hypocrisy for the feminists). They accept corruption, lies, and incompetence. If not, then they either have to be manifestly ignorant or willing to virtually turn off their brains and play a nearly cosmic game of pretend that none of the above is true. In short, they have nothing left to lose morally; no integrity left to mortgage in favor of the next democratic candidate.
Conservatives – particularly Christian conservatives – do. They have claimed for years to be different, to occupy the moral high ground, to choose good candidates, and to be more interested in truth than they are in getting their way. This is why Trump was and is such a dangerous candidate. In order to defend Trump, modern evangelicals are now becoming the equivalent of 1990s Democrats. They are ignoring, excusing, accepting, and even enabling him at this very moment. This very obvious hypocrisy is not lost on the larger world who still remembers well their treatment of Clinton. Indeed some of the very people defending Trump now were the loudest to denounce Clinton for the same sins. When a man like Trump became the Republican nominee, this choice was virtually inevitable: stand by your principles and lose to Hillary or sell them out, destroying your integrity and your witness. Either way, the Devil wins.
I would argue that for the Christian, this is no choice at all. The former option in the argument above may result in some temporal persecution (which we’re told to expect anyway) but the latter will do immediate and lasting damage to our integrity and our witness. Contrary to popular belief, we are not called to fix the world by our own lights or even to preserve our own rights (though doing either when we can isn’t a bad thing, of course). Sadly, we lost this battle the moment Trump became the nominee. Now we simply must decide what to do with the time and choices before us. To me, it’s clear: we are called to do what is right, to preserve our witness, and to trust God.
*And in a very real way, Clinton has gotten away with nothing. He will answer for his deeds in a court far higher than the U.S. Senate, and unless he really does know the Advocate of Advocates, he may find himself paying for eternity. We must remember that he isn’t the only one who will stand there.
Answering the arguments:
- “We allied with Stalin. Why not vote for Trump?”
- “If you can’t vote for the candidate, vote for the platform. Vote Trump!”
- “Haven’t you heard? Trump is a baby Christian now!”
- “Why is it only Bill Clinton gets away with rape? Vote Trump!”
- “Because Hillary. Vote Trump!”
- “You have an obligation to vote for the pro-life candidate. Vote Trump!”
- “Vote Trump. Because SCOTUS.”
- “But Trump is surrounding himself with good people! Vote Trump!”
- “If Hillary wins, it will all be your fault! Vote Trump!”
- “You should repent of your arrogance and vote Trump.”
- “You will answer to God if you don’t vote Trump.”
Interested in what I think we should do about it? Find out here.