Debating My Conservatism: My Bona Fides
I’m going to begin this blog today with what some might consider an audacious comparison, but I hope you won’t misunderstand. In the current political climate, I find myself feeling kind of like how the apostle Paul must have felt when his apostleship was questioned. He had to provide a list of his bona fides to the Corinthians to show that he was the genuine article.
That is strange to Christians today because we take Paul’s word as authoritative. Yet in his lifetime he had to defend himself from accusations of being inauthentic.
No, I’m not like the apostle Paul in my ministry, neither in my effectiveness nor in the type of direct experiences he had with Christ. So let’s lay aside any thought that I am trying to say that.
However, I, like Paul, practically feel constrained to prove my bona fides now that I am opposed to Donald Trump’s candidacy. To some critics of my position, I appear as a pseudo-conservative, perhaps even a closet supporter of Hillary Clinton.
Perish that thought immediately, please!
I have been a conservative long before many of you took your first breath. From the first vote I ever made (I won’t give the year—it will come across as ancient history to some readers) I have always supported the Republican candidates, not only at the national level, but in all state and local elections as well.
I was defending conservatism in the liberal atmosphere of my master’s and doctoral programs at very liberal institutions.
I wrote a book on the Bill Clinton impeachment that gives the House Managers’ side of the story when I realized that the media had no desire to give them any credibility. My concern over media bias is longstanding.
My academic research has focused on conservatism and how it plays out in society. For evidence, I give you my book published last year on Ronald Reagan and Whittaker Chambers.
Further, I teach a course on Chambers and another on Reagan and the development of modern American conservatism. I do that in order to educate students in that history so they can have a degree of balance in their intellectual life, knowing that if they proceed into graduate studies, they need a firm foundation as they tackle the worldview they will be given there.
So I take a back seat to no one with respect to my foundational conservative beliefs.
This is all background for what I want to say about the first presidential debate, and I trust this will be my final comment on that.
While I had little desire to watch this debate, I’m glad I did. It only magnified what I already think and feel about the options offered us this year.
Trump’s advocates were hoping he would be such a change agent in this kind of format that he would take Hillary off her game. That didn’t happen, primarily due to his juvenile behavior.
What I’m beginning to see now on social media and from pro-Trump commentators is a resort to conspiracy theories as to why he didn’t perform well. Hillary got the debate questions ahead of time. Her people sneaked a folder filled with who-knows-what to Lester Holt. She gave Holt little signals so he would know it’s time to help her out.
What a bunch of baloney (you may use that academic term anytime you need it). Hillary didn’t need any conspiracy to help her; she had Trump.
He lost this round big time. His advisors implicitly admit it. They are openly talking about how they have to change strategy for debate #2. You know, things like “prepare for the debate.”
Don’t succumb to the conspiracies. Face the facts.
What distresses me most about this election cycle is the loss of intellectual integrity and the reactionary mood emanating from what I had hoped was a well-grounded, principled conservatism. Anger, fear, and personal attacks on those who continue to oppose the descent into constitutional nihilism has saddened me.
I’ve been accused of self-righteousness because I won’t board this Trump Train. I’ve been told I’m supporting Hillary simply because I find both candidates abhorrent. Am I really pro-life? Am I even a Christian if I can’t find the wherewithal to be on Trump’s side?
I’ve done my best not to accuse fellow believers who are planning to vote for Trump of not being Christian. Yes, I’ve laid out my reasons for why I think that’s a bad move, based on the Biblical principles I’ve taught for many years. But I do not question their faith nor will I ever castigate them for their vote. It’s not personal. I hope they will continue to be my friends.
After this first debate, what is the mood of the country?
Trump might win, although I think that less likely than a Hillary victory. If he does win, I will pray earnestly that he will turn out better than I thought. Be prepared, though, to be bitterly disappointed.
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