Donald Trump supports Obamacare, higher taxes, and gun control. He is weak on abortion, private property, and civil liberties. He doesn’t care about limited government or free market economics. He is a boastful womanizer. He doesn’t think he needs forgiveness from God. On issue after issue, he goes against what conservatives and tea party populists have always said they stand for. But none of this matters to Trump supporters, even those who consider themselves conservatives. Why doesn’t it?
He is tough on immigration, a major issue for lots of conservatives, but so is Ted Cruz. So why, despite not only his other policies but his behavior, are so many people supporting him, no matter what?
Michael Gerson quotes a supporter that, I think, says it all: “We’re voting with our middle finger.” Many, maybe most, Americans, are fed up with the political status quo. The “establishment” has failed, and a Trump vote expresses an in-your-face repudiation of the whole ineffective, weak, politically-correct, system.
That’s understandable. But is that a sufficient political principle? And aren’t some “establishment” institutions and principles worth preserving?
From Michael Gerson, Donald Trump and the politics of the middle finger – The Washington Post:
“We’re voting with our middle finger,” said a Trump supporter in South Carolina. All of the institutions that have failed — failed to stop Barack Obama, failed to save the United States from adulteration, corruption and destruction — should be overturned. Burn, baby, burn.
This approach to politics has not normally been associated with conservatism, which teaches prudence, proportion and respect for institutions, even if they require reform. Stepping back a moment, it is necessary to say that the United States, even after seven years of Obama as president, is not North Korea. And American political structures have not failed like those of Weimar Germany. Even as there is much to improve about our country, there is much more to love. And there is much to fear in faces that would appear eager and exhilarated when lighted by the bonfire of American institutions.The political philosophy of the middle finger — captured by Trump in all its vulgar, taunting, divisive glory — requires an ethical leap. It assumes that practices we know are wrong in our private lives — contempt, mockery, cruelty, prejudice — are somehow justified in our political lives. It requires us to embrace views and tactics that we would never teach our children — but do, in fact, teach them through an ethically degraded politics. Imagine your teenage son (or daughter, for that matter) calling a woman a “fat pig,” “dog ” or “disgusting. ” Imagine your child labeling someone he or she knows as a “loser,” “moron” or “dummy.”
This is the evidence of poor character, in any context. For Christians, the price of entry to the Trump movement is to abandon their commitments to kindness and love of neighbor. Which would mean that their faith has no public consequence at all.
And Trumpism is an existential threat to conservatism. It is not a theory of limited government. It would use government, with augmented powers, to enforce a vision of ethnic nationalism, constructing a wall visible from space and conducting one of the largest forced expulsions in history.