On Thursday, you posted a piece called “Why Voting for Donald Trump Is a Morally Good Choice,” in which you encouraged Christians to vote for the Republican nominee — a candidate you denounced less than six months ago. I found the article to be abhorrent, especially coming from someone who claims, as you do in the piece, to be an expert on Christian ethics.
I have no objection to a look-at-the-alternative argument. Though I disagree with your conclusion and much of what you use as supporting evidence, an election is ultimately a choice between alternative scenarios, and arguing that the other option is worse is a perfectly acceptable way to make your case.
I do object to some of your reasoning. For example, you make claims like the following: “Tax rates are also a good indicator of government control. Higher tax rates mean greater government control of our lives, while lower tax rates indicate greater freedom.” Not only are these statements unsupported, they do not make sense. A government could not tax its citizens at all but monitor and restrict their movements, determine where they live and whom they marry, limit their speech. Another government could tax its citizens 50% but allow them to say and do whatever they want and go wherever they please. Equating “tax rates” with “government control” is a logical fallacy. I would understand this kind of overly simplistic reasoning if it came from a teenager, but it has no place in a written argument from a 68-year-old with a PhD who claims to be a policy expert.
More importantly, I object to your inexcusable defense of Trump’s character. You write,
“I think some of the accusations hurled against him are unjustified. His many years of business conduct show that he is not racist or anti-(legal) immigrant or anti-Semitic or misogynistic – I think these are unjust magnifications by a hostile press exaggerating some careless statements he has made. I think he is deeply patriotic and sincerely wants the best for the country. He has been an unusually successful problem solver in business. He has raised remarkable children. Many who have known him personally speak highly of his kindness, thoughtfulness, and generosity. But the main reason I call him ‘a good candidate with flaws’ is that I think most of the policies he supports are those that will do the most good for the nation.”
Let’s address these claims piece by piece.
“His many years of business conduct show that he is not racist…”
In 1973, the Department of Justice found that he refused to rent apartments in his buildings to black tenants, and he continued to do so for years after they ordered him to stop. That is the definition of racist. Not convinced? Here’s a list of the other racist business practices that have been documented, as well as the racist things he’s said and done in public.
“… or anti-(legal) immigrant…”
He wants to ban all Muslims from entering the country. This would include those who seek to (legally) immigrate.
“… or anti-Semitic…”
“… or misogynistic –“
His misogynistic language and behavior on the job — let alone his personal life — has been widely reported.
“I think these are unjust magnifications by a hostile press exaggerating some careless statements he has made.”
“Some careless statements” would be one thing. But this is a candidate who, in the last five days, has invited Russia to cyberattack the US government and slandered a woman whose son was killed in the line of duty. The press is not exaggerating these statements; they are simply reporting what he said. A presidential candidate invited an adversary to hack our government. This is both unprecedented and wildly dangerous. Someone who wants to be Commander-in-Chief responded to the story of a woman whose son was killed in action by insulting her faith. This is unspeakably cruel and extraordinarily disrespectful. The press does not need to exaggerate these statements, because they speak for themselves. And when someone delivers comments like these multiple times a week — and often refuses to retract them — it’s extremely difficult to argue that they are merely “some careless statements.”
“I think he is deeply patriotic and sincerely wants the best for the country.”
These are necessary but not sufficient traits in a presidential candidate. Most American children are deeply patriotic and sincerely want the best for the country. This does not qualify them to be president.
“He has been an unusually successful problem solver in business.”
“He has raised remarkable children.”
By his own admission, he has had very little to do with the raising of his children.
“Many who have known him personally speak highly of his kindness, thoughtfulness, and generosity.”
What’s that line? “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?”
“But the main reason I call him ‘a good candidate with flaws’ is that I think most of the policies he supports are those that will do the most good for the nation.”
This is an interesting claim, as Trump has shared so little about his policies. His website lists only 7 issues (the first one being “Pay for the Wall”). There’s nothing about foreign policy (besides trade with China and building the aforementioned wall), job creation, the justice system, education, infrastructure, climate change, women’s rights, LGBT rights, racial issues, or any of the hundreds of other concerns that the president is expected to weigh in on. Aside from his “mistaken ideas,” as you call them, he’s been equally opaque in interviews, press conferences, and his own tweets:
So it’s interesting to me that you claim to know the outcomes of his policies will be when he has not articulated the overwhelming majority of his policies. You spend the rest of the article detailing these outcomes, but since no one can be sure what Trump’s actual policies are, the bulk of your piece is simply wishful thinking.
Your candidate’s long history of making claims that are later disproven and contradicting his own previous statements illustrates his tenuous relationship with the truth; put simply, he appears to believe that saying that something is true makes it true. (Two examples from yesterday alone: He stated that the NFL had written him a letter about the proposed presidential debate times and that he turned down a meeting with the Koch brothers. Both the NFL and the Koch brothers said these events never took place.) In reality, asserting a claim in spite of evidence to the contrary does not negate the evidence and make your statement true. But that is exactly what you’ve done. You have advocated for Trump’s character as though your words invalidate the abundance of evidence indicating otherwise. In this way, you appear to be taking after your candidate.
In sum, I find it appalling that you would make such easily refutable statements and peddle them as truth to those who respect you as a religious leader. If this is how you apply your 39 years of teaching Christian ethics, you should be ashamed of yourself.
Elizabeth Lin, PhD