Beware the Trump

Beware the Trump February 6, 2017

Donald Trump. Source: Pixabay, Public Domain.
Donald Trump. Source: Pixabay, Public Domain.

I am, undeniably, a little late to commenting on the first two-plus weeks of the Trump administration. It may even seem a little odd to launch a retrospective when the current appetite is for constant coverage of “news” as it becomes “new.” Apparently not even the president himself is immune to this lust.

Yet, time allows for thought; it gives one time to talk with colleagues, to stew in problems often over-simplified in the moment of their emergence. Worse, fast news is not unlike fast food: cheap, immediately satisfying, but ultimately not nourishing, unhealthy. Time allows reactions to be taken into consideration. In short, waiting might not be the most commercially-viable decision for a blogger like myself, but it does feel the most intellectually honest.

Specifically, I have been shocked by (and therefore moved to write about) the praise President Trump has received from my theologically and politically conservative confreres. Even those whose minds I most respect have become more favorable to him, and their justification for it almost always manifests in one way: I like what he’s been doing about abortion.

This is troubling.

Why? Because Trump has done nothing new about the abortion issue. The Mexico City Policy was put into effect by Reagan and has been reversed by every Democrat and reinstituted by every Republican since. Are we at the point of praising Trump for doing what quite literally any Republican with the hope of winning a presidential election would do? Is he owed praise for walking in the footsteps of such establishment greats as the Bushes?

The vice president’s speech at the March for Life may have been somewhat novel, but it’s far from groundbreaking. Every Republican president in recent memory has been pro-life and, even if not present at the march, has worked in one way or another for its goals. The “betrayals” of Reagan and Bush court appointees cannot wholly be blamed on them; as presidents, these men were all, at least rhetorically (and that’s all Pence’s speech can be called at this point: rhetorical) invested in the anti-abortion movement.

Gorsuch. While I wholly understand excitement among Catholics at the nomination of a pro-life justice to the Supreme Court, I have to ask: are we surprised? Again, minus the unforeseen “betrayals” mentioned above, would anyone expect a Republican nominee to put forth a candidate unpalatable to the pro-life movement? Happiness is one thing, but acting as if this is some miracle seems naïve. Jeb Bush would likely have done the same.

I want to be clear: one can count these as victories for the movement. That is fine; in fact, from a Catholic perspective it makes sense. But let’s be honest that none of this is really new, that is cannot and should not be used as an excuse to warm up to the president. These are victories that would have been just as likely with a President Rubio.

We must be careful, my brothers and sisters; we must. We cannot allow agreement in certain places to mean a cult of personality, an absolute dedication to an administration that enacts other policies that, for any Catholic, should at least require deliberation and deep thought, if not eventual rejection and protest. I do not ask that every other religious person share my every quibble with Trump and his plans; I merely suggest that any Catholic who does not see his choice as, at best, a sort of uneasy alliance (those more critical would say an unholy pact!) with the current president ought to pray on the issue and separate what is new with Trump from what is old, what any Republican would do.

We cannot run the risk of ending in panegyric, of writing defenses of Steve Bannon while the world protests and crisis looms. Catholicism will outlast a Trump presidency. We must, to shirk the President’s formulation, put Catholicism first.

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