What do they teach them at these schools?” – The Famous Professor Kirke

trumpToday’s argument is one of the two strongest that can be marshaled in favor of voting for the Trump ticket. Unlike a number of others, it isn’t complete bunk thought up as a priori justification in favor of Trump or against Clinton. During the nomination process, it almost convinced me several times, but unfortunately Trump’s own behavior scuttled its ultimate effectiveness. It goes something like this:

“Opposing abortion is something that every moral person must do. When we look at this election, there is one candidate running on one of the most deadly platforms in not just American but human history. Hillary Clinton has openly supported murdering children up to the moment of birth. Trump has taken a stand against this horrible position. Therefore, if you claim to be pro-life, you must vote Trump.”

It is also true that Donald Trump’s recent rhetoric on abortion has been more solid than some of his other positions. In fact, of all his conservative credentials, he has been the most consistent here. Consider this statement from Google on September 16, 2016, also found on Trump’s Facebook page:

The primary responsibility of the federal government is to protect the rights of its citizens. Life is the most fundamental right. The federal government should not diminish this right by denying its protection. I am opposed to abortion except for rape, incest and life of the mother. I oppose the use of government funds to pay for abortions.

In order to find Trump endorsing an explicitly anti-life position, critics have to go all the way back to an interview from 1999 and even during that period, Trump made it clear that he was against partial birth abortion. He has also maintained a consistent position on potential exceptions for abortion. His waffling on the issue since has been mostly on how hardcore pro-life he is, not whether or not that is his general position. (All those quotes can be found here and here.) For Donald Trump, that is an incredible level of consistency!

At the same time, Trump has also made some worrisome comments that muddy the waters more than a bit. While he has repeatedly emphasized a commitment to defunding Planned Parenthood, Trump has also praised it, saying that it “does wonderful things for women.” He has also waffled on whether or not he would overturn existing abortion laws or just live with them, saying that “I would’ve preferred states’ rights. I think it would’ve been better if it were up to the states. But right now, the laws are set…. At this moment, the laws are set. And I think we have to leave it that way.” (His campaign later clarified that he only meant “until he is president.”)

There are two likely interpretations of these facts: Trump is either putting on pro-life airs in an attempt to gain support or he is genuinely pro-life now. In the case of the former, the inconsistencies originate from a lack of real belief. In the latter, it is probably because he is Donald Trump and he speaks before he really thinks things through. If you’re convinced that this is just a ploy, there is no need to read further. The knottier problem is this: What if Trump really means it when he says he’s pro-life? Should that convince us to vote for him?

The good news is that several of Trump’s comments on abortion – including the one above – show a fundamental understanding of the deeper issues involved.  Trump has been consistent on the fundamentals since at least 2011. His “conversion” experience (watching a friend’s inconvenient child who, though they considered abortion, was allowed to grow up and became an incredible person) has also been more or less the same. If Trump’s position were put into actual practice, it would result in an immediate end to over 90% of the abortions in the United States. Despite the canard that those of us in #NeverTrump can’t accept anything less than perfection, this fact has turned my head toward Trump more than once. Unfortunately, Trump then says or does something so blatantly immoral or ridiculous that I have to look elsewhere again – see the full treatments linked at the bottom of this article for more specifics.

But the deeper problem is, as Albert Mohler argued, while we cannot vote for a candidate in favor of abortion, it doesn’t follow that we should vote for another just because he/she is against it. One can be against abortion and still completely unqualified to be president.  That brings us to the rub with Trump and the idea of honest belief: Considering that any substantial change to the law – particularly the overthrow of Roe v. Wade – will almost certainly be political suicide for the man or woman who dares it, can we trust Trump to actually act on these beliefs, especially if his political future is on the line?  Is my conviction that he will maintain his stance on these issues so strong that I can let it override the other obvious and very substantial concerns I have about his candidacy?  Frankly, I’m not convinced it is a gamble we can profitably take. Even if Trump genuinely holds a pro-life position, I see no evidence that he does so strongly enough that he would die on that hill if that is what was called for. And if he won’t, in this atmosphere, then a vote for him on these grounds will cost me my witness and my integrity on a host of other issues, while gaining virtually nothing.

But if Trump’s position on abortion is legitimate, it does demonstrate something significant about the debate: If the moral lines on abortion are drawn so clearly that even Donald Trump can see them and change his mind, they must be clear indeed.

Answering the arguments:

  1. “We allied with Stalin. Why not vote for Trump?”
  2. “If you can’t vote for the candidate, vote for the platform. Vote Trump!”
  3. “Haven’t you heard? Trump is a baby Christian now!”
  4. “Why is it only Bill Clinton gets away with rape? Vote Trump!”
  5. “Because Hillary. Vote Trump!”
  6. “You have an obligation to vote for the pro-life candidate. Vote Trump!”
  7. “Vote Trump. Because SCOTUS.”
  8. But Trump is surrounding himself with good people! Vote Trump!”
  9. “If Hillary wins, it will all be your fault! Vote Trump!”
  10. You should repent of your arrogance and vote Trump.”
  11. “You will answer to God if you don’t vote Trump.”

Interested in what I think we should do about it? Find out here.