We have been Trumped. What does that mean to us?
For anyone who has suffered under the progressive transformation of the United States government into a regulatory bureau of social engineering, the election of Donald Trump is a sign of hope. The hallmark of Trump’s campaign was his refusal to give a tinker’s damn about political correctness, a refusal broadly interpreted as a rejection of the values of our secular cultural elites. But only time will tell whether this hope is justified. It could, after all, be nothing but the temporary euphoria based on promises, which is so common on one side or the other after American presidential elections.
The electorate knows very little about what Donald Trump stands for. His election is due more than anything to a combination of political promises and wishful thinking. Trump has no prior experience in political office, which means voters found it relatively easy to believe even those campaign promises which seemed to contradict his past opinions on some serious issues. For example, Trump placed himself in the pro-life camp, at least for the purposes of this election, even though he has appeared to be solidly pro-abortion in the past.
But at least it is not completely unreasonable to believe that a man’s private views might legitimately differ from his public policies, or that Trump has reflected more seriously on some key issues since he considered getting into politics.
In addition, harried voters who abhor the culture of death find it difficult to believe that anyone can show such consummate disdain for the politically correct establishment without opposing the dominant values of that establishment. As it happens, none of those values is more fundamental than the desire to restructure human sexuality, at any cost, to establish absolute human autonomy and maximize pleasure. Thus the reflexive judgment of many countercultural voters was that Trump, at bottom, must be one of the good guys. He is often boorish but, after all, the proponents of the culture of death regard everyone who does not hew to their party line as boorish. It has become boorish in America to speak the truth.
On the delicious Trumping of the Establishment, I agree with Phil Lawler (in Trump, Brexit, and the collapse of a world order). To speak frankly, it is hard not to feel relief that the political persecution of Christians, which would have certainly accelerated under Hillary Clinton, is now likely to be lessened. CatholicCulture.org would eventually be forced off the Internet if those who wish to punish the “deplorables” were to remain in control.
What lies ahead
We have no way to predict the course of Trump’s presidency. But the bottom line is that the saving of America, and of Western civilization as a whole, cannot be accomplished without a revolution in values—that is, without overcoming our currently widespread denial of reality. In politics this revolution depends on a wider recognition of the natural law. But those in rebellion against God, who have given themselves over to every kind of sin, can rarely discern the natural law, owing to the darkening of their minds. We are well-advised to reread the second chapter of St. Paul’s letter to the Romans.
For this reason, a revolution in values is essentially impossible without evangelization. Most people need the grace of Christ and the Church to dispel the darkness of their intellects. Otherwise they do not recognize truth even when it is obvious to spiritually healthy people, or even when they are specifically taught what it is.
One thing is sure. We cannot pretend that we should enjoy a break because Donald Trump was elected President. Renewed hope will mean nothing unless we recommit ourselves to the Catholic mission. In the terms I have always used to describe it here at CatholicCulture.org, this mission involves “enriching faith, strengthening the Church and forming Catholic culture.” Such commitments are even more important today than they were yesterday, for today many of us feel rather happy about avoiding total disaster.
But avoiding the worst option is not in itself an enviable position. Quite apart from any guesses about the future, we must bear in mind that Donald Trump lost the popular vote.
If we take the Gospel seriously in our own lives and do everything possible to share it with others, and if we stop pretending it is desirable to exclude the Gospel from our public life, then a politics truly committed to the common good will, over time, become possible again. And if we do not do that, then the common good will continue to be distorted into a common evil.
What Donald Trump’s election means to me is simply this: Starting today, we must stop viewing politics as an end. Every Christian is called first and foremost to nurture the values that transcend politics. It was, after all, through politics that the only true pattern for our lives was crucified.
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