“As to the man who asserts his complete freedom to stand foursquare to the world, who values the necessary deed more highly than an unspoilt conscience or reputation, who is ready to sacrifice a barren principle for a fruitful compromise, or the barren wisdom of a middle course for a fruitful radicalism – let him beware lest his freedom should bring him down. He will assent to what is bad so as to ward off something worse, and in doing so he will no longer be able to realize that the worse, which he wants to avoid, might be the better. Here we have the raw material of tragedy.
“Who stands fast? Only the man whose final standard is not his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom, or his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all this when he is called to obedient and responsible action in faith and in exclusive allegiance to God.”
— Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Letters and Papers from Prison”
To many self-professed conservatives, their vote for Donald Trump in the last presidential election seemed to be what Bonhoeffer calls “a necessary deed.” Even if they were familiar with the paragraph quoted above they could not see with any clarity the meaning of the notion that “the worse … might be the better.” They felt certain Hillary Clinton would do evil. Though Donald Trump’s life’s record seemed to belie his rhetoric, it allowed them to think that he would do less evil, and might even do some good. They preferred the doubtful prospect of the good they imagined Trump might do, to the certain evil they felt would surely come from Hillary Clinton.
How could Trump possibly do worse than she? They neglected to consider that he could do worse because, on account of their support for him, they would inevitably give him a grace period they would never give Hillary Clinton, consisting of the time required for them to realize and accept the fact that they have been conned. Since Trump evidently supported many of the same evils these voters apprehended from Hillary Clinton, shouldn’t they have pondered the question “What if Trump, reverting to type for whatever reason, ends up, in effect, pursuing the same agenda as Clinton and Obama?”
This reversion would leave someone in the White House plotting the same course for America as Clinton and, for that matter, Obama. But Trump would be sporting the Republican label. He would benefit from a suspension of disbelief (and, therefore, of objective judgment and adverse activity) from voters who, conversely, would have pressed their opposition to Hillary Clinton from the moment she won election.
Donald Trump’s signature issues had to do with:
a. reversing Obama’s refugee policies and lax immigration law enforcement, thus stemming what amounts to the unchecked importation of foreign persons into the United States;
b. repealing Obamacare;
c. dealing with the threat these policies pose to America’s national security and the economic opportunities of its citizens. In this respect, his rhetoric about “building a wall” made it the key image of his campaign; and
d. the expectation that his personnel policies would reflect the critical support he received from putative conservatives like Pat Buchanan, Ann Coulter, the late Phyllis Schlafly and Breitbart’s Stephen Bannon. Overall, his image as a harsh critic of the GOP’s quisling leadership contributed to the passionate fervor that drove his supporters in both the primary and general elections.
On all these fronts, Trump’s actions since taking office have raised serious doubts. At best, boldly energetic declamations have given way to an executive becalmed, beguiled and bemused. His boldest actions could be interpreted as warlike maneuvers intended to distract from a reality of steady retreat from candidate Trump’s campaign persona and the most important promises connected with it. Meanwhile, though some of his appointments have more or less corresponded to the expectations of the conservatives who touted him, others have been blatantly inconsistent with them. In notable instances, they are what one would expect from a Democrat intent on extending Obama’s tenure into a third term.
Overall, it’s fair to say that the jury is still out. But as long as it remains so, many sincere conservatives will continue to suspend their disbelief. Proposals that would have galvanized opposition under Obama or Hillary Clinton will lie quietly on the table, or will percolate through Washington’s back offices and corridors. They will gain undeserved credibility as they wait to be touted as “victories” simply because they gained enough support for passage into law. Such victories for “governance” will then become the touted centerpieces round which Washington’s leadership builds its claim to have “broken the stalemate” or drained some of its swampy byways, enough to deserve re-election.
All the while, columns will be written here and there detailing the abandonment of the postures, stances and froward spirit that got Donald Trump elected. Others will proclaim the truth – that Donald Trump has achieved what the RINOs, GOP quislings and even Clinton/Obama Democrats have aimed to do for years, i.e., turn the GOP into a party of government, somewhat less overtly socialist than the Democrats, but with a stance more open to the deceitfully fabricated “diversity” of the American people. It will be a party with the face of Donald Trump, but the soulish thinking of Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner.
Meanwhile, in political terms, that diversity will become more and more questionable, as Republicans committed to the premises of God-endowed right are exiled from politics; as grass-roots causes that cannot be sustained except upon those premises wither into submissive wards of the elitist faction state; and as America’s vocation to be the inspiration for decent liberty and self-government to people everywhere is quietly stolen away. Donald Trump will be honored by the elitist faction’s minions. He will be known as the one who slyly exorcised from American politics what they regard as the conservative demons Ronald Reagan brought into a house swept clean by the atrocious failure of 20th century socialism. It may or may not take a while, but he will thus go down in history as the man who eulogized, in action, the disremembered (and quite probably dismembered) state mostly recalled as the victim of his triumph.
All this because people willing to “assent to what is bad so as to ward off something worse” couldn’t see that the worst thing possible is the hiatus of their own steadfast character their choice inevitably produced. How often have they reminded themselves that this is the only thing needed for evil to triumph? Tragic, indeed, if it turns out that only the evil they oppose took that reminder to heart, and planned accordingly.
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