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"A healthy movement does not produce Donald Trump"
The "Never Trump" segment of the conservative movement needs to develop some humility rather than attacking the character of their allies and brothers.
If millions of faithful Christians support a political leader and you do not, are they all wrong? Are you John the Baptist, a voice crying in the wilderness calling Christendom to repent? Or could it be that you are too judgmental, and you need to show a little more humility? These are all questions that David French needs to ask himself.
French has said repeatedly of American conservatives that "a healthy movement does not produce Donald Trump." Putting aside the question of whether Trump himself is worthy of support, this assertion is not factually accurate. The "conservative movement" did not produce Trump. When Trump won the Republican Party's nomination in 2016, he consistently "won" primaries with percentages in the forties or even thirties as a crowded field split the votes. This means that Trump "won" primaries with sixty five percent of Republicans voting against him. Trump did not really start winning with large majorities until the nomination had basically been decided. This was by no means an overwhelming win.
Once Trump won the nomination, many conservatives who opposed him in the primaries realized that they now faced a binary choice: Trump or Hillary Clinton. Yes, there were third-party candidates (I voted for the Constitution Party's nominee) but there were only two people who had a realistic chance of becoming President. Furthermore, it is difficult to explain just how much many Republicans detested Clinton. So you could vote for a flawed nominee (the same choice the conservative wing of the party faced in 2008 and 2012) or you could abstain.
Where French and other "Never Trumpers" fall into pride, cynicism and self-righteousness is judging voters who went with Trump in 2016 as betraying their values or even their faith. Only French and "Never Trump" Republicans are pure, and everyone else is compromised. Really? Do you actually think that millions of faithful Christians who go to church every Sunday, read their Bibles and pray are "compromised" because they made a different decision than you did when facing a binary choice between Trump and Clinton?
Even worse, French admitted on the flagship podcast at The Bulwark that the conservative movement's embrace of Trump has caused him to question whether the principles he held for his entire life were correct. It is no secret that I have many times expressed my frustration with some Republicans who have put their long-held principles in second place behind loyalty to Trump. But that never caused me to question the values themselves. It made me double down, because those principles need defending now more than ever before.
I get it. I really do. I voted against Trump in 2016, and I voted to re-elect him four years later. I am not convinced I will vote for him in 2024, whether he is the nominee or not. I have defended Trump when he deserved it, and I have also been very critical of him and especially of the cult mentality some "conservatives" have regarding Trump. But what I am not willing to do is say 74 million Republican voters have betrayed their principles or that millions of Christians - including personal friends - betrayed their faith simply by supporting Trump over the alternative offered by Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden.
There is value in some of the things David French says. It is important to have conservatives and Christians hold their allies and brothers accountable when they are blindly supporting Trump no matter what he does. There is plenty of room in the conservative movement for an anti-Trump wing. But what French and others (including many at The Bulwark) need most is humility. I say this as someone who has been fighting his own pride on this issue for seven years. I have been rebuked - sometimes correctly, and sometimes falsely - by fellow Christians for my pride. But French cannot take rebuke or admit that his perspective on Trump is not the only one that is correct. He has spiraled into bitterness and cynicism. He is where I could have easily been, so please pray for him and his soul.
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