August 7, 2016

Roman Catholics and Trump

I recently ran across a blog post by Steve Ray on the "Defenders of the Catholic Faith" website, entitled "10 Reasons Catholics Should Vote For Trump – and why we certainly will." It links to, and cites, a post by Colleen McCrum on "Catholic Stand," so I will use the latter article in reply.

As advertised, Ms. McCrum gives ten (well, nine) reasons that Catholics should vote for Donald Trump. Briefly, she argues that: he's not Hilary Clinton, he might be pro-life, voting for an imperfect man is not a sin, voting for a third-party is a vote for Clinton, he might appoint good justices to the Supreme Court, Ben Carson endorsed him, religious freedom is important, he's a successful business man, how he hurts our feelings is irrelevant, and he's still not Hilary Clinton.

Frankly, the only one here that vaguely appeals to me is the question of the Supreme Court justice appointments. However, let me go through each of her reasons briefly, and discuss them. I am not sure that any of them are deal makers or breakers - rather, they are questions of prudential judgment for voting for Trump. Therefore, my approach is to note why the reasons (or most of them) are not sufficient for me to consider voting for the man.

Ms. McCrum's first and last reasons are that he is "Not Hilary Clinton." On the bare statement, anyone must agree. He is not Hilary Clinton. Her reasoning is, first and last, that Hilary is a known bad quantity, which must not be permitted to be president. As the only chance of stopping her is Trump, you should vote Trump. This reasoning presumes, of course, that Trump is a better option than Hilary. I do not think this is proven. In fact, Trump seems equally likely to engage in all sorts of questionable, and perhaps immoral, behavior. Certainly, he has no qualms about doing that during his campaign, sounding quite insane in the process: "(Cruz’s) father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald being, you know, shot. I mean the whole thing is ridiculous. What is this, right, prior to his being shot? And nobody even brings it up...." "But, Hillary! She lied about the emails! She...Benghazi!" Yes, I agree. But that still doesn't mean that Trump gets the vote, particularly if (like me) you think he's off his rocker.

As to passing and protecting pro-life laws...I am not sure what Ms. McCrum means here. Congress passes laws - the President's role is limited to vetoes and suggestions of legislation. So, Trump could not pass legislation. What does "protect" pro-life laws mean? I'm not sure. This argument seems a continuance of the first - Hillary will be pro-choice and ramrod it - Trump has pro-life "potential." I agree - "potential" seems to be the best thing you can say for him. When asked if he donated or donates money to Planned Parenthood, he waffles the question, never quite getting around to "no, I haven't." He also has said their work is great, though he would not fund them. So, on an issue where Congress is the real entity to pass laws, we have one bad candidate and one...less bad? Flip flopping?

True, voting for an imperfect man is not a sin. Only one man every fulfilled the perfection idea, and we're waiting for Him to come back....and when He does, He's...not likely to be running for president. It's not that he's imperfect, it's how he's imperfect. He's a loudmouthed, buffoonish, machismo clown, with delusions of grandeur. He is completely driven by appetite - and that's quite bad. I would wager, to reference Aristotle, that he is nearly a vicious man. Does he regret making personal attacks at every turn? Does he even realize what he's doing? C.S. Lewis once noted that it would be better to live under robber barons than omnipotent moral busybodies...but what about robber barons vs. intemperate bullies? Charles Krauthammer, commenting on Trump's attacks on a Gold Star family, noted:
Trump’s greatest success — normalizing the abnormal — is beginning to dissipate. When a Pulitzer Prize-winning liberal columnist (Eugene Robinson) and a major conservative foreign policy thinker and former speechwriter for George Shultz under Ronald Reagan (Robert Kagan) simultaneously question Trump’s psychological stability, indeed sanity, there’s something going on (as Trump would say).
Ms. McCrum then proceeds to a common argument - voting third-party is a vote for Hillary, because "every vote counts." Actually, not precisely, no, they don't. In some states, the odds are so far in favor of one candidate or another that voting has much less effect. In other states, not voting for either candidate simply removes one vote from the rolls. Moreover, no matter how you logic it out, not voting for candidate X is never voting for candidate Y, unless you switch sides and pull the lever for Y. It just isn't. Moreover, if you can't stomach either of them, don't vote. As Michael Brendan Dougherty stated on "The Week:"
You know that Donald Trump is an unstable imbecile. But this knowledge doesn't oblige you to discover new qualities in the bottomlessly cynical, power-mad grifter Hillary Clinton. In your heart of hearts, you may suspect that if she thought it would get her four centimeters closer to the presidency, Hillary Clinton would devour your squealing grandchild, or her own, live on the set of The View. It's a terror to contemplate. But in no way should this terror obviate your equally credible suspicion that Donald Trump is rabies in human form, likely to drive our country into a feverish search for scraps in the neighbors' garbage only to get us run over by a truck.
Of all the arguments she makes, Ms. McCrum is on the most stable ground when it comes to the question of Supreme Court nominees. Here, it really stacks up to how much you trust Trump. He released a list of potential nominees for the Supreme Court slots, if elected. However, he refused to say that those would constitute a short or exclusive list. (He noted that his sister would make an excellent Supreme Court justice.) The best you can say here is that Trump might listen to someone else (he must do that, at some point, right?) and appoint a decent justice or two....or he might not. For discussion of this point, I recommend Eugene Volokh, Damon Root, and Mike Rappaport.

Ben Carson endorsed him...and Carson is a good man. But plenty of people have endorsed Trump who are good men and women. It doesn't mean that the endorsements are entitled to any greater weight then the good men and women who have refused to endorse him. Arguments from authority are somewhat fraught when the basis for the authority of the individual is "I really like him."

As for religious freedom...Ms. McCrum makes no argument here for Trump. There's an anti-Hillary argument, but...see Dougherty, supra.

He's a successful business man. As Congress makes the laws, I am not sure what Trump can do as President. His plans range from incomprehensible to mundane. Of his tax policies, The Street noted:
Nonpartisan tax research group the Tax Foundation calculates that Trump's plan would cut taxes by $11.98 trillion over the course of a decade. It would lead to 11% growth in the GDP, 6.5% higher wages and 29% larger capital stock as well as 5.3 million jobs. However, it would also reduce tax revenues by $10.14 trillion, even when accounting for economic growth from increases in the supply of labor and capital.
"That tax cut would produce faster economic growth and a bigger economy -- as long as you pay zero attention to the fact that it would dramatically increase the deficit and budget debt," said Pethokoukis.
Finally, Ms. McCrum states that she will vote for Trump despite the hurt feelings his statements have caused others. That's well and good - nobody speaks perfectly all the time, to please everyone. However, it's not really an argument for voting for him.

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