How the Religious Right Destroyed Itself

pro-life, religious right

pro-life, religious right

The year 2016 will go into the history books as the year the Religious Right destroyed itself. Instead of trusting in the Lord, the Religious Right, fearful of the future and unwilling to accept an honorable defeat, bowed down in worship not so much to a golden calf as to a copper-toned ass.

The Failure of the “Hillary is Worse” Mantra

Over the last fourteen months as a candidate, Donald Trump has repeatedly displayed xenophobic demagoguery, authoritarian caprice, moral vacuity, and an astonishing lack of prudential judgment. Indeed, Trump has done just about everything in his power to alienate swing voters and ensure Hillary Rodham Clinton’s election except drop-kick a beagle puppy off the top floor of Trump Tower. Yet even today many Catholic and Evangelical leaders and pundits continue to support Trump’s candidacy, even to the extent of excusing his most vile behavior, and willfully blinding themselves to the damage such support does to their credibility as moral leaders.

Understand, I am just as aware as any other person that a Clinton presidency will be perilous for the pro-life movement and religious rights. I am also aware that Clinton’s records as New York Senator and Secretary of State hardly demonstrate competence, and that she exudes a duplicity and corruption eerily reminiscent of Richard Nixon. She has also had a few miscues in this election; her “basket full of deplorables” was at least as ill-considered as Mitt Romney’s “binders full of women.” By asserting that Trump is an unacceptable choice, by no means am I arguing that Clinton is fit to govern.

However, the Religious Right has been parroting the mantra “Hillary is worse” as if it were infallible dogma. As I have argued more fully elsewhere, this claim, never persuasive to begin with, has over time lost all credibility save within the Religious Right’s epistemic bubble. That Trump would bring in a worldview or philosophy substantially different from Clinton’s, or that the Republican Party could compel him to adhere to the GOP platform or his own promises, is dubious a claim at best. And with the U.S. and Russia teetering on the edge of war, a belligerent authoritarian who has the impulse control of a five-year-old is hardly a better choice to be Commander in Chief — with access to the nuclear launch codes — than a crooked politician.

“A Voter Ought to Place Limits”

It was never clear, then, that Donald Trump was the lesser of two evils, or the least of all evils when Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and Green candidate Jill Stein (both pro-abortion and hostile to religious liberty) are included. Catherine Nolan of Ethika Politika argues that arguments which attempt to obligate Catholics, and by extension other Christians, to vote for Trump are essentially consequentialist. And Gregory Brown of the Witherspoon Institute argues that the infamous audio clip has undermined the lesser-of-two-evils argument, exposing its moral hazard:

The stakes — the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency — have made Republicans willing to accept anything, however base, from their own candidate. The political process should not be open to such unaccountability; a voter ought to place limits on what he will tolerate.

If this were not enough, various pundits and leaders have refused to acknowledge the true import of the audio clip. Trump’s statements in the clip are not merely “lewd” or “locker-room banter;” they describe non-consensual sexual contact — bluntly, sexual assault. While many Catholic and Evangelical leaders have insisted that the clip is ten or eleven years old, the character flaws Trump has displayed throughout the campaign give us no grounds to trust that such behavior is truly a thing of his past. And by continuing to defend the indefensible, these leaders and pundits have shown incredible deafness and insensitivity to the outrage of over half the nation.

The Blowback, Part 1

From the pundits:

These … leaders have said that, for the sake of the “lesser of two evils,” one should stand with someone who not only characterizes sexual decadence and misogyny, brokers in cruelty and nativism, and displays a crazed public and private temperament — but who glories in these things. Some of the very people who warned us about moral relativism and situational ethics now ask us to become moral relativists for the sake of an election. And when some dissent, they are labeled as liberals or accused of moral preening or sitting comfortably on the sidelines. The cynicism and nihilism is horrifying to behold. It is not new, but it is clearer to see than ever. (Russell Moore, “If Donald Trump has done anything, he has snuffed out the Religious Right”, Washington Post, Oct. 9)

A vote for Trump is a betrayal of [pro-life] values. He embodies every toxic force in the culture that pro-lifers hope to overcome. He is, by his very nature, not their friend.

By making excuses for him and his malignant character, they are trading their moral authority, credibility and integrity for uncertain, short-term considerations. With that, they are dooming everything they cherish. (Steve Chapman, “The pro-life movement’s fatal attraction to Trump”, Chicago Tribune, Oct. 14)

The evangelical hypocrisy meter is redlining right now — and the world, as well as our own children, are taking note. A former student I knew when I was in youth ministry posted to Facebook on Friday: “Nothing says pro-life like sexual assault as a lifestyle. Enjoy his SCOTUS picks, values voters.” I hate to say it, but we deserve that. (Julie Roys, “Evangelical Trump Defenders Are Destroying the Church’s Witness”, Christian Post, Oct. 11)

The [Catholic advisors’] rationale for sticking with Trump makes for painful reading, but it also illuminates how Catholics who worship the idol of single-issue politics damage the credibility of a prolife movement they want to serve. (John Gehring, “Credibility Gap? Troubling Rationale from Trump’s Catholic Advisors”, Commonweal, Oct. 13)

The Blowback, Part 2

From women, especially rape survivors:

I can’t tell you how disappointed many of us are that you didn’t stand up for women this time. You threw us all under the bus for the sake of a candidate who pays lip service to being pro-life (though he was pro-choice not long ago) and might possibly make better nominations to the Supreme Court. His lack of morals and any victims of that immorality are just collateral damage to a more important agenda — “the future of this nation.” (Roxanne, “A Letter to Dr. James Dobson”, Roxanne’s Wild World, Oct. 14)

I’ve been sickened by [Fr. Frank] Pavone’s cozy relationship with Trump during this election cycle, considering that even after Trump conveniently claimed to have changed his mind on abortion, he still adamantly claims that he respects Planned Parenthood. It’s unseemly in any number of ways for Pavone to be so active in the campaign to elect a Planned Parenthood supporter who now has admitted to boasting about being a rapist. (Mary Pezzulo, “What is Happening At Priests For Life?”, Steel Magnificat, Oct. 9)

When I see people try to excuse or downplay Trump’s words because “Babies will die!” or “Supreme Court Justices!” I am reminded of my ex-husband trying to convince me to give him money to go buy crack. These people are so addicted to the idea that Trump will overturn Roe v Wade (even though no other Republican president has and Trump has said that Roe v Wade is the law and should stay that way) that they are trying to convince me that voting for a man who brags about sexual assault will be good for me as [a] victim of sexual abuse. Ben tried many times to convince me that giving him $100 for crack would benefit me in the long wrong. That didn’t work on me then, it doesn’t work on me now. (Leticia Adams, “Did I Die? Let Me Count The Ways”, Through Broken Roses, Oct. 11)

I recall a few months ago the entire Republican Party being gravely concerned about their wives or daughters walking into a bathroom and being groped or molested by a trans-woman. But now they seem to think it’s perfectly fine for their nominee for president to do it to any woman he happens to lust after. (Nicole Cauffman, social media post)

The End of the Religious Right

“By their fruits you shall know them” (Matthew 7:20 DRA). Actions speak louder than words, the old proverb tells us; our culture judges our intentions not by what we say but by what we do. A man is known by the company he keeps, said Aesop; “Bad company ruins good morals,” St. Paul told the Corinthians, quoting an old proverb. Those leaders and pundits who continue their association with Trump’s presidential campaign and give intellectual cover for his actions have besmirched not only their own moral authority but the credibility of all conservative Christians as well. “For, as it is written, ‘The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you’” (Romans 2:24 RSVCE).

Nor will the Religious Right recover from the damage by 2020. The ugly truth is, the Religious Right as it currently exists is a spent force in American politics.

Over the last three generations, the center of ideological gravity has been moving slowly but steadily leftward. Demographically, the Religious Right is part of the “white Christian America” that is aging into irrelevance, succumbing to the “biological solution”. It is estimated that, by 2051, “religiously unaffiliated Americans could comprise as large a percentage of the population as all Protestants combined” (Robert P. Jones, Public Religion Research Institute). Our culture has been re-engineered: socialists, social progressives, and secularists have been chipping away at America’s Christian foundations for a century or more. Now they have collapsed, and three or four generations may not suffice to undo the damage … assuming the nation survives that long.

Epilogue: The Last Person We Wanted

As of this writing (Oct. 20, 2:00pm CDT), the odds heavily favor a Clinton victory — 84.1%, with a 119-vote margin of victory in the Electoral College, a 5.5% margin in the popular vote, and a 71.6% chance of Democrat control of the Senate (source: Nate Silver, fivethirtyeight.com). It is highly unlikely that any further “startling revelations” from Wikileaks or stumbles on Clinton’s part will enhance Trump’s likelihood of winning. It is even more unlikely that the Religious Right can find and agree upon a “last-minute miracle” third-party or write-in candidate who can score an upset victory.

The very last person any Republican, Christian, or pro-lifer wanted to become President is now all but a divine intervention away from winning the election. Ironically, the Religious Right helped make it happen; the many compromises Catholic and Evangelical Wise Persons have made with Christian moral principles were for naught. As C. S. Lewis’ demon Screwtape said, “To get the man’s soul and give him nothing in return — that is what really gladdens [Satan’s] heart.” And even a last-minute Clinton defeat will not undo the damage the Religious Right has suffered to its credibility. No one is listening to us anymore.

The Church will survive a Clinton Presidency, even if it is a smaller Church that has been metaphorically pushed back into the catacombs. But if we are ever to re-emerge as a significant and cohesive influence in the public square, we will have to change the way we do politics.

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33 thoughts on “How the Religious Right Destroyed Itself”

  1. Trump is in large part the result of Catholics and other Christians who voted for the Party of Death instead of listening to their conscience. Or perhaps they listened but let their conscience become horribly malformed. A majority of self-identified Catholics heard the siren song of “it’s only about sex” and followed its call. Your agony of conscience this year is a small part of the penance you get to pay, Mr. Layne, for the past failures of your co-religionists and their bishops.

  2. By your fruits you shall know them… I don’t see how all the years of Hillary’s lying and corruption make her a better choice than Donald. I think you are emotionally vulnerable, and will pray for you. As for President; either candidate bodes ill … with one there will be hell to pay, with the other there will be heaven to pay. (I am convinced we are in for a period of chastisement as a people as a consequence of our actions.) Time will tell.

  3. My favorites last year were Bobby Jindal and Rand Paul, both of whom– incredibly and unfortunately– had very little traction; I voted for Rubio when Kansas caucused in March.

    We’ve ended up with Trump; so be it. I’d vote for Satan himself before I’d vote for that genocidal megalomaniac who’s used foreign “donations” to the “foundation” to buy off everyone she needed– rivals, delegates, Comey, Lynch, Obama– in order to clear her path to her atheistic vision of heaven, the White House.

    And I have ABSOLUTELY NO qualms about voting for Trump next month.

  4. Oct. 23: So the Church will survive a Clinton Presidency but not a Trump presidency??? So…Trump is more powerful than the Church and the Church will fall if Trump is elected??? As for Russia…Clinton has shown herself to be subservient to Russia as long as they give her something…Trump may be a buffoon and volatile, but Clinton is a dangerously calculating person…her patter of calculated evil is much deeper and more dangerous than Trump’s childish temperament…we know by her long pattern of evil that Clinton will do much damage to Americans and to America. She will not change … she lies all the time over big issues and little ones and we know who the father of lies is…perhaps Trump is pro life, perhaps he isn’t…but we know that Hillary will accelerate the mass slaughter of the innocent and have the government pay for the killings. She will put no limits on this killing…a baby in the ninth term of gestation, just moments before being born the natural way will be born partially and then slaughtered in a brutal, barbaric chillingly painful way. Mother Teresa, with whom I worked in Calcutta said that the cause of all violence in the world is this mass slaughter of babies in the womb; and she also said that if we would kill the innocent baby in the womb, what would we not do? Hillary Clinton will bring an era of barbarism to our country that will be far worse than all our wars combined…the Democratic party platform a few years ago eliminated the mention of God and when informed at their convention that there was blowback from this decision, were asked if they would vote God back in…they voted and the vote was no; so they were asked to vote again and again, the vote was not. Then they were informed that for political expediency, God would have to be brought back into their platform. There were resounding boos from the Democrats there…chilling to say the least. They are the party of death and destruction and having Hillary as President, as their leader, will only make it worse….

    1. Florian,

      I agree with you.
      While Trump has said inappropriate and vulgar things, one of the “charms” of his campaign is that he is not polished. How his presidency would be is an unknown, but based upon whom has has chosen as his running mate, it seems he is smart enough to know how to pick good help and advisers.
      On the other hand, Hillary has shown time and time again a propensity for arrogance and plain old evil. The fact that four people were killed in Benghazi under her watch (and without any support from her), and she lied about it (see e-mails to her daughter), shows a blatant disregard for the truth and a total insensitivity to others. Everyone agrees that she is a habitual and dangerous liar. Her support of abortion on demand reflects her sense of haughtiness, entitlement, and disregard for the lives of others.
      He may be the buffoon I am not quite sure about, but she is most definitely the devil I do know. There is no way I am giving her my vote, and am praying for Donald’s better angels as I cast my vote for him. We Catholics, I feel, will be better off under a Trump presidency.

      Cindy Millen

  5. There is no question many Christians are either Democrat or Republican first and Christian second. This election has definitely exposed much hypocrisy. However, the author of this piece himself is speaking on compromise well enough but whilst compromising with the world. This opinion is laden with critiques that come from a faith perspective AND a worldly perspective and that last bit is what makes this author guilty of the same thing he’s criticizing. It has become a popular distraction method of the world to label and accuse Christians who disagree regarding views or policies with things such as: homophobia, xenophobia, bigotry, authoritarianism, hate, “war on women”, etc. etc. etc. None of these will be found (well, hatred will) as they are understood in our world today, in a list of things Christians should avoid. Note I’m not in any way shape or form intending to say we should engage in these or that they don’t matter, simply that they are inventions of the modern world which has Satan as it’s prince and architect. Therefore, it is a real compromise when a Christian, writing to Christians about a Christian topic uses these worldly expressions. I find it to be one more (and common) compromise with the world. I am one of the many Christians who finds no person worthy of a vote among the candidates for presidency this year. I have been baffled to hear/read others say it is a duty to vote as I personally believe at this stage in our country, (at least with the choices we have in this election), I cannot vote for any of these people. Everything seems up for grabs these days among everyone, including Christians, including this author. Everyone feels free to pick and choose what filter to use to analyze the world before them. Everyone, including this author.

  6. Xenophobia
    Xenophobia is the unreasoned fear of that which is perceived to be foreign or strange. Xenophobia can manifest itself in many ways involving the relations and perceptions of an ingroup towards an outgroup, including a fear of losing identity, suspicion of its activities, aggression, and desire to eliminate its presence to secure a presumed purity.
    Mr. Trump’s concerns along with tens of millions of Americans about illegal aliens and Muslim refugees is not by definition unreasoned fears. As a person who survived 9/11 in NYC, the first bombing of the WTC and lost a brother on law on 9/11 in Tower One I too have these concerns. Although I have great admiration for our Latino brothers and sisters, talk to those whose towns have been over run by illegal immigrants and the criminal elements. Talk to our American children in schools in California being attacked for wearing an American flag shirt by illegals getting an American education funded by American citizens. I can go on and on including the billions of dollars illegal cost us in for schools, hospitals, prisons as well as the billions spent on anti terrorism. Before you blindly accuse people of an unseasoned fear of strangers Google what happened all over Germany last New Year’s Eve. Respectfully, you need to wake up.

    1. I’m sorry for your loss and suffering. However, I live in the DFW area, and have had plenty of contacts with the immigrant community, so I don’t need to be schooled about them by you. I also have contacts in the Muslim community, and have written on issues such as the problems in Germany and France (as well as Sharia), so I don’t need to be schooled by you on that, either. The fact is, you’re presenting a very one-sided case that verges on stereotyping, presenting a proportion of the immigrants and Muslims as representative of the whole. That’s not a reasoned fear to me.

  7. “And with the U.S. and Russia teetering on the edge of war, a belligerent authoritarian who has the impulse control of a five-year-old is hardly a better choice to be Commander in Chief — with access to the nuclear launch codes — than a crooked politician.”

    I am curious as to how anyone could form the opinion that Trump is more dangerous than Clinton when it comes to a potential war with Russia. Most recently, there was Clinton’s refusal to answer Chris Wallace’s question in the third debate about whether she would shoot down a Russian plane that violated a no-fly zone. Yet Trump is somehow seen as the extremist here.

    I’ll refrain from commenting individually on everything I disagree with in this article, because I’m mainly interested in one thing. Can you please provide a rebuttal to the below comment from Ann Coulter on the impact that amnesty would have on the “Religious Right”, as you call it, in America? (In fact, I’d be interested to read a more detailed rebuttal of the entire article.)

    “This is not an election about who can check off the most boxes on an evangelical lifestyle list. This is an election about saving the concept of America, the last hope for Christianity on the planet.

    A country in which partial birth abortions are freely available, but children can’t hold hands and pray in school, is not a country where Christians are winning.

    What difference does it make where a candidate stands on abortion or gay marriage, when a few more years of our current immigration flow will mean no Republican can ever be elected president again and nine Ruth Bader Ginsburgs will sit on the Supreme Court? ”

    http://www.anncoulter.com/columns/2015-10-28.html

    Many of the Republicans you presumably would have liked to see win the nomination, like Marco Rubio, are either openly in favor of amnesty or are not allowed to take positions against it (like Scott Walker’s back-tracking) because apparently, their donors are in favor of it. With immigrants voting overwhelmingly Democrat, and presidential elections already decided by a few million votes, how do you propose Republicans can win another election after millions of new Democrat voters are created? Once a more well-spoken, “religious” Republican president has let amnesty go through, what is your proposal for preventing the Democrats from gaining a permanent hold on the presidency, the Senate, and therefore on the courts? How do you propose overturning Roe v Wade in that scenario?

    Unless I am missing something extremely obvious, I simply do not understand this kind of pearl-clutching about Trump’s loudmouth personality, etc* when compared with the crises faced by America. (*As a woman, I disagree with the characterization of his antics as “sexual assault” – idiotic as his boasting was.)

    I could care less about Trump’s personality, but I care a great deal about the issues and the one-way direction in which America seems to be heading, and that’s why he has 100% of my support.

    1. My rebuttal: Immigrants, whether legal or illegal, aren’t genetically programmed to be liberal or to vote Democrat. That the Republicans have failed to gain significant traction among blacks and Hispanics is the fault of the GOP alone, not our current border-security problems. And Trump has simply made matters worse with his xenophobic rhetoric.

      The problem extends far beyond border control; our children are being (mis)educated in schools and through the mass media in a Weltschauung that supports the culture of death. The center of ideological gravity has been shifting leftward over the last three generations; a single Republican administration of four or eight years is not nearly enough to overcome this trend.

      And as a lawyer recently pointed out, simply picking an originalist justice or two would not be sufficient to overcome Roe v. Wade. To put it shortly, the judicial branch has an institutional bias against overturning precedents, especially if doing so would cause tremendous social upheaval; that’s why the Rehnquist Court punted on Casey and left the core holding of Roe intact. And I remind you that Anthony Kennedy was a Reagan appointee: the ideology of the nominating president and of the Senate majority is no guarantee of the appointee’s ideological orthodoxy.

      So long as the culture remains friendly to the Culture of Death, there is little the state or federal governments can do to end this atrocity that won’t end in failure or get walked back. We have to convert the culture from the grass roots up. Change the culture, and the laws will follow.

    2. No, immigrants are not “genetically programmed” to vote one way or the other. However the reality is that immigrants, including Catholic immigrants, vote Democrat in much larger numbers, and will likely continue to do so as long as the Democrats offer more monetary benefits than Republicans do.

      Regarding the charge of Trump’s “xenophobic” comments – I have read or watched all of his major speeches and fail to see where you’re getting this from. Here is what he said in his announcement speech, for example, that drove the media into such hysterics:

      “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

      To point out that there are immigrants from Mexico who are rapists, or drug dealers, or that a large percentage of Muslims support jihad, is not xenophobic. Those are facts. It is not xenophobic to deny criminals entry to America, or to single out Muslim countries for vetting when those people choose to belong to a religion that teaches them to kill infidels, and whose adherents are openly advocating jihad in the West.

      I totally agree that the problem – and solution – goes much deeper than control of the Supreme Court (in fact, it is the toxicity of the public schools that concerns me almost more than anything else), but you have not denied that the amnesty both Democrats and Republicans are determined to pass will create those millions of new Democrat voters. You seem to be saying Republicans should not worry too much about amnesty going through, but just focus on winning over those new voters once they’re given citizenship, when instead……America could just fix its immigration system – which is one of the central issues of Trump’s campaign. It would not solve everything, but preventing the Democrats from gaining a permanent* hold on those institutions I mentioned, is certainly not nothing.

      *Or, even if we take your theory that enough immigrants can be won over to the Republicans through outreach alone, let’s say decades.

      My main issue with articles like this which I often see on Christian/Catholic sites, and the reason why I have contacted several writers to follow up, is that they all seem to be a summary of the talking points of the mainstream media with “He’s not a real Christian/conservative” layered on top.

      I would love it if Trump were less brash, and crude, and a stronger Christian. I would love it if the perfect Christian candidate would come along; one who also had Trump’s policies and his strength to withstand the onslaught from the media, the Democrats, his own party, and the global political establishment. But that perfect candidate hasn’t appeared and I will bet, doesn’t exist.

      Instead, what I have noticed in this race is a lot of Christians looking down their noses at Trump and using their personal dislike of him as an excuse to encourage other people not to participate in the election; as though there’s a moral superiority in giving up the fight and voluntarily retreating back to hide in the catacombs. Maybe there is, and maybe I’m the one in the wrong for supporting a very flawed candidate. But we’re all likely going to be back in the catacombs soon enough. I choose to fight in the public square while I still can.

      “The Soldier does not say, “I will fight, but my generals must be perfectly wise.” Generals are never perfectly wise or perfectly anything else. The Soldier does not say, “I will fight, but only if I do not have to share the field with these others,” which others may be traditionalists, the ecumenically minded, Protestants friendly to the Catholic Church, or Catholics who disagree with him on some political point. The Soldier is grateful for his brothers in arms, and if their uniforms are a little different from his, he figures that the Lord of Hosts will sort the matter out in the end.”

      – “What Will You Do When the Persecution Comes?” – an excellent article I read a few days ago

      http://www.crisismagazine.com/2016/will-persecution-comes

  8. ” But if we are ever to re-emerge as a significant and cohesive influence in the public square, we will have to change the way we do politics.”

    Great analysis, Anthony and if not for this last line I would have left it there but voila, it begs for a caveat – the religious right, left or middle will have to change the way they do religion, or, it’s the theology duh.

    1. Yeah, I’ll admit I dogged it there, but I was running out of word-count and couldn’t figure out a better way to tie a bow on it. I’m working on a “where do we go from here?” piece now, although I haven’t decided whether it’s for Catholic Stand or Outside the Asylum. Thanks again, James.

  9. But how do you really feel about Trump, Anthony? That’s quite a list of invectives — xenophobic demagoguery, authoritarian caprice, moral vacuity, an astonishing lack of prudential judgment, and (later) belligerent authoritarian.

    “Instead of trusting in the Lord, the Religious Right, fearful of the future and unwilling to accept an
    honorable defeat, bowed down in worship not so much to a golden calf as to a copper-toned ass.” There can also only be an honorable defeat if the victors are honorable in their victory. Honor has been AWOL in American politics for decades. And let’s not forget that God helps those who help themselves. I think you are mistaken in your contention that “Catholic and Evangelical leaders and pundits” are actually showing “support for Trump’s candidacy.” The support is more like a condemnation of Clinton’s candidacy and resigned acceptance that Trump won the primary and voting for him is only way to beat Hilary.

    You say Clinton “exudes a duplicity and corruption eerily reminiscent of Richard Nixon.” Nope. Not by a long shot. She is so far beyond Tricky Dicky that he looks like a saint in comparison.

    You also say on your blog that Trump is a compulsive liar and so is Hilary, but her lies “are more calculated, more plausible, and less frequent.” Yes, her lies are more calculated but they are certainly not less frequent. They are also much more vicious, and far more self-serving, like when she lied to the FBI and to Congress (and the American people), and to the mothers of the men killed in Benghazi. Now we are even hearing that her private positions are the opposite of her public positions on many issues. That she was not prosecuted for her server crime shows how corrupt this administration is. And BTW, citing the far left publication Vox for support regarding you contentions about Trump is hilarious – dubious credibility there.

    You say Trump is “a belligerent authoritarian who has the impulse control of a five-year-old” and
    that he is “hardly a better choice to be Commander in Chief — with access to the nuclear launch codes — than a crooked politician.” Hilary is not only a crooked politician, she is a war hawk. Trump is, at worst, an unethical businessman who objectifies women. A nuclear war would bad for business.
    The fallout might make some of his properties uninhabitable. I doubt Trump is going to be quick to pull
    the trigger. Hilary, however, has supported the murder of 50 million innocent children, and lied to cover her negligence in the murder of four men in Benghazi. I don’t think murder bothers her. And then there are the Vince Foster rumors. I have to wonder if the murder of 50 million or even 250 million innocent civilians would bother her if it meant more power or wealth for her.

    “It was never clear, then, that Donald Trump was the lesser of two evils . . .” Wrong. It has always been clear that he is the lesser of two evils. You cite four women who are outraged at Trump’s remarks and past actions in regard to women, but there are thousands/millions of women who would probably just say ‘all men are pigs and Trump’s no different.’ I am not defending Trumps remarks or actions regarding women, but Trump is no worse than Bill Clinton in this regard, yet the entire liberal world thinks the sun rises and sets on him. The faux outrage from the left here is the ultimate hypocrisy.

    I’d rather have an adulterer in the White House (it certainly wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened) than someone who condones murder and same sex marriage, and wants to destroy Catholicism. It really is as simple as that. Forget the liberal “seamless garment” garbage. It was never true. Some things like abortion and same-sex marriage are truly intrinsically evil. How illegal immigrants are treated, or how welfare is done, not so much.

    But you are right that politics in this country has become a cesspool. Honesty, morality, ethics and doing what is right no longer matter, especially if you are a Democrat. They ‘kind of matter’ if you are a Republican. Even so, the lines between the two parties are becoming blurred. It’s really all about power and money. Guy McClung is right (below). As R.R. Reno wrote recently: “Over the past generation, our ruling classes have become increasingly homogeneous and now form a global elite. They present themselves as indispensable technocrats, ensuring global prosperity and protecting human rights.”

    Elections, Presidential or otherwise, have been about picking the lesser of two evils for at least the
    last 30 years.

    1. Gus, if memory serves, we’ve had the third-party discussion before. You keep trying to turn a pragmatic consideration into a moral barrier. Yes, there is a structural two-party bias; that by itself does not make a third-party success impossible, let alone immoral. It isn’t necessary to discern the lesser of two evils when a not-evil option is open. And to predicate the morality of an action based on its probability of success is to go full-bore consequentialist. I only included the testimony of four women because I have a maximum word count to observe as well as timeliness to consider, otherwise I’d still be documenting the blowback for some time to come.

      Our politics have become a cesspool because our culture has lost its way, has lost all coherent grasp of truth and its fundamental necessity for a sustainable community. And yes, there is a new gap that’s formed between the social élite and the common people that cuts across the parties, similar to the Optimates and the Populists of Rome at the end of the Republic, Frankly, that may work in our favor, because I for one am sickened by what party ideology has done to the Church in America. But that’s all for another time.

    2. I’m not offering a pragmatic consideration as a moral barrier, and neither am I going consequentialist. Quite the opposite in fact. Voting third party or not voting is opting out of our responsibility as Catholics to avoid evil AND do the most good. Note that this is not
      an either / or proposition.

    3. No, it isn’t “opting out”. The only way a candidate can win is if enough people vote for them; this is as much true for Clinton as for Trump. Principal moral agency therefore belongs to Clinton voters, not anti-Clinton voters. The only practical way to prevent her winning is to block Clinton voters; however, a vote for Trump does not “block” a vote for Clinton in any meaningful sense — you would have to physically prevent the voter, which would be neither moral nor legal. According to political theory, all votes for losing candidates are “wasted votes”, not just those cast for also-rans.

      Let me add this quote from Bp. James D. Conley of Lincoln, Nebr.: “We also need to remember that we are not responsible for the votes of other people. Choosing not to vote for ‘Candidate A’ is not the same as actively voting for ‘Candidate B.’ No Catholic should feel obliged to vote for one candidate just to prevent the election of another.”

    4. No, moral agency belongs to all voters, and as I said it is NOT an either / or proposition. The problem is that all voters will not take it to heart. On top of this only 60-65% of eligible voters will even take the time to vote. The practical way to prevent her from winning is to get more people to vote for Trump than Hilary. Blocking Clinton voters is entirely impractical. You said it yourself, the only way a candidate can win is if enough people vote for him/her. Is it possible that you are assuming here that this is a done deal, that all the polls that say she is going to win are accurate? What it they are not accurate?
      “According to political theory, all votes for losing candidates are “wasted votes,” not just those cast for also-rans.” Where did you pull this one from? None of the political science classes I ever took mentioned that gem.

      I read what Bp. Conley had to say. It will make people feel comfortable with their voting decision as long as they don’t vote for Clinton. But if you carefully read between the lines, Conley is suggesting, without actually suggesting it, that no one should vote for Clinton and voting for Trump is the only way to stop her from winning. Other Bishops, Archbishops and Cardinals have written similar messages. They won’t say ‘vote for Trump’ because of the probable backlash, but I think deep down they really would like to, despite his many flaws.

    5. The practical way to prevent Clinton from winning is to get a majority of voters to vote for one person other than Clinton. It doesn’t have to be Trump. It’s just as practical to vote for Evan McMullin as it is to vote for Donald Trump. The problem is, like many people (heck, like me up until a year or so ago), you’ve been conditioned to see a barrier that isn’t there. to accept the two-party system without question. But the whole point of bringing up moral agency is to remind you that only those who do vote for Clinton bear moral responsibility for her winning, because she can’t win without them.

      “But if you carefully read between the lines ….” I try to extend to writers the courtesy of assuming that they say what they mean to say without trying to pour subtextual content into it. “Reading between the lines” is simply a mechanism for building a straw man.

    6. First you said “The only practical way to prevent her winning is to block Clinton
      voters.” I pointed out that was in fact NOT practical. Now you have done an about face and are agreeing with me but saying it is “just as practical to vote for McMullin.” I would agree with you if he stood any kind of chance at all of winning, but since he does not, this too is not practical. No, I have not “been conditioned to see a barrier that isn’t there.” I am being reasonable, logical, and realistic. Trump and Clinton are the only candidates that have a shot at winning the election. This is reality.

      You are correct that those who vote for Clinton bear the most moral responsibility
      for her winning (assuming she does win), but those who could have prevented her from winning but did not also bear some moral responsibility for her winning (assuming she does win). This is just like in the case of an individual who could have prevented a murder but chose not to bears some moral responsibility for the murder.

      Look, I don’t much care for Trump. I’ve run across too many people very much like him and I didn’t care for them very much either. But there is too much at stake in this election not to bite the bullet and vote for the lesser of two evils. And
      BTW, I’m not setting up a straw man by saying read between the lines. If you think I am then your understanding of a straw man argument is incorrect.

    7. Go right ahead, Mr. Layne, start your own political party if you’re so unhappy with the choices on offer. No one will stop you.

      I for one am distressed by what party ideology has done to our bishops. “Seamless garment” ideology had the effect of covering for black, smoking holes in the Democrat party ideology from which particular bishops wished to avert their eyes. “Render the poor unto Caesar” is not in my copy of the Bible and should not, in any form, be in the mouths of bishops.

    8. Actually, I’m looking at a third party that already exists, the American Solidarity Party. Its main problem right now is that it needs to expand its appeal outside the Church fence in order to be something more than just “the Catholic Party”.

      And speaking of solidarity: while Catholic social teaching frowns upon the creation of a “welfare state”, addressing the problem of poverty is a Christian duty. The problem, as I see it, is that solidarity logically precedes subsidiarity; without solidarity, subsidiarity can’t work. And solidarity is badly lacking today. But that’s a matter for another time.

    9. Excellent Gus. You made a concise, intelligent, sane assessment of the political situation and a perfect rebuttal to this essay which I think is completely off base on virtually every point because as you correctly read this essay was an indictment of Trump elevating Hillary. By the way, I think Nixon was one of the best presidents the 20th Century had. Nixon’s hyper suspicions that led to Watergate pale in comparison to the demonic duo of Hilzebob and Slick Willy. Great rebuttal.

    10. “… this essay was an indictment of Trump elevating Hillary.” No. It wasn’t. It was an indictment of the Religious Right for continuing to back Trump, despite his manifest unfitness for office, instead of finding a more suitable candidate to back. Any attempt to read into this post a preference for Clinton is misguided.

  10. Dom C-Actually we have a single aristocracy whose members wear a D or an R as it suits them; with the D, as you note, standing for the PARTY OF DEATH. And there are plenty of Rs who are honorary members of the POD. And if there is a Pres Clinton again, I believe that shortly thereafter there will be a Pres Kaine due to incapacity or death from illness. Mary, you make some good points-a. the “list” on HER Majesty and her complicit Assault Organ In Chief is extraordinary and sickening; and b. the prolife movement will never die, never. Why? because they are, God bless them and keep them, babies and we have the Truth on our side, and yes, that is not “truth,” but Truth with a capital “T” and He is not only the way, truth, and life, He is God Almighty. With Him, it is simply a matter of time, not possibility, ’til to hell with the world rulers of this present darkness. All: have a fullofwonder weekend. Guy McClung, San Antonio, Texas

    1. I agree; I’ve noticed what political scientists call a “cross-cutting cleavage” forming in both parties between the élite and the rest of us; as I said to Gus (below), it’s reminiscent of the split between the Optimates and the Populists of Republican Rome. The result of that, of course, was Augustus Caesar, the Principate, and the Empire — not a good sign. I’m working on a “where do we go from here?” post, though I haven’t decided on a platform for it.

  11. Sorry but any Catholic blog that has to use “ass” in the intro does not seem interested in making a Christian argument. Interesting in listing the few Hillary miscues there is no mention regarding the Clinton campaign emails that called Catholics as backwards for their beliefs. But regardless, a Clinton president doesn’t mean the pro-life movement or religious liberty movement is dead. There are no permanent defeats or victories in Washington (but there always seem to be people who want to predict the end).

  12. “But if we are ever to re-emerge as a significant and cohesive influence in the public square, we will have to change the way we do politics.”

    We have, for all practical purposes, a two-party system which results in the insane outcomes we’re seeing this election cycle, in a country that is far removed from notions of God and religion. How do you propose that we change the way we do politics in a manner that is practical?

    As well, this has been a long time coming–just count how many years the “religious left” have supported what’s turned out to be the party of death–and why and how has this happened?

    Our Lord said the gates of hell wouldn’t prevail against the Church, so you are correct–we will survive in one fashion or another, but it’s not going to be pretty.

    1. I’m sorry I couldn’t answer those questions in the body of the essay. Creating a practical solution to the two-party bias of the system would depend largely on the states’ getting rid of the rules that assign all their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the majority/plurality of the popular vote (winner-take-all or first-past-the-post). Outside of that, we’re going to be in a bad spot for the foreseeable future precisely because the culture in general isn’t pro-life and is becoming hostile to religious rights. Education and evangelization are the key: change the culture, and the laws will follow. That’s neither quick nor easy, but it’s the only way we can get a judicial culture friendly to life and legislation that isn’t thrown out almost as soon as it’s enacted. The only question is whether we’ll have enough time to do this before Western civilization collapses, because the Culture of Death has created a society that can’t be sustained for much longer.

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