A friend on Facebook posted about the comments President Trump made in his State of the Union address about abortion. I did not listen to the president’s address so my knowledge of what he said has come second hand. I thought it might be useful to reproduce two of my comments here, if Sanityville citizens will indulge my vanity.
Trump is useful not in what he is or does, but in what he illuminates. It is not as important that he made the statement he did, as it is important that previous Republicans have not gone as far as he has rhetorically in supporting the pro life movement.
That tells you a lot.
In 2016 I went back and watched Bush’s first debate with Gore from 2000. During that debate Bush made a pretty milquetoast anti-abortion case. He did not believe that the president, as head of the executive branch of which the FDA is a part, could over-ride the decision of the FDA to approve RU-486. He promised he would ensure that the pill was safe for women.
As a teenager, I remember how Bush was viewed by evangelicals at the time. He was Our Guy. He was one of us. He was going to turn back the liberal tide.
Bush was slightly more conservative than his father was, which isn’t that conservative but also isn’t nothing. Even so, the fervent support he received from evangelicals was out of proportion to what he was giving them in return, even before he was elected.
The Gospel Coalition wants us to believe that evangelicals suddenly lost their principles and sold out in 2016. But the truth is that evangelicals were selling out long before 2016, arguably from the beginning of the Religious Right. Ronald Reagan had Jerry Falwell assure the folks that Sandra Day O’Connor was a good, pro-life justice. That was 35 years ago, but the pattern is familiar.
People have this idea that the old Religious Right were a bunch of meanies. The truth is they were really bad at advancing their agenda, and the triumph of the Left in the culture wars is proof. They could have been more mean, more calculating, more cynical, but they weren’t.
This is why I have a hard time taking some NeverTrumpers seriously. Trump isn’t the cause of the problem but a symptom. If National Review were to say, hey, we were really zealous supporters of George W. Bush 15 years ago, and we felt we had to do it for political reasons, but in retrospect we ended up diluting our principles for political gain, and that was wrong, I could respect them more. But what’s really going on here is that Trump represents the Wrong Kind of People in the Republican Party, a version of conservatism they disdain. That’s why they oppose Trump. It isn’t because of his infidelities to principle, but which infidelities he chooses.
That kind of tribalism just makes my blood boil. As Michael Scott might say, it just makes me wanna MAGA even harder.