A couple of pieces appeared in “The Atlantic” this morning that are interesting, particularly when taken in together. One looks at polling data and concludes Trump voters do not expect Trump to actually “fix everything.” The other tries to figure out why Evangelicals are hopeful for the Trump administration. As I read the pieces I could not help but reflect that they were written by people that just do not “get it.” Trump enjoys a core of strongly devoted followers, but they are not who won him this election; there simply are not enough of them. Trump won this election on the votes of people like my host here or myself – the so-called “reluctant” Trump voter.
I cannot speak for my host here, but I do know why as reluctant as I was to vote for Trump, I am hopeful. Of course, his appointments to date are a cause for great hope, but my hope springs from something deeper – it springs from what Trump does not care about. Trump has never expressed an ideology. He has policy stances and ideas on specific issues, but he is not, that I can tell, ideologically driven. Obama and his chosen successor Hillary were first and foremost ideologues and were not afraid to use the power of governmental force to drive the nation towards their ideology. From the court battles over the contraceptive mandate in Obamacare to the battle over bathrooms and gender, to the simple prevalence of politically correct speech enforcement, the administration soon to leave us was an oppressive presence in our lives. Obama did not simply want to change what we have to do to comply with regulation X; he wanted to change how we think and most Americans do not like that one whit.
Conservative and religious Americans have put up with abortion for decades now. It is an abhorrent, ugly practice, but we have tolerated it because we have been allowed to elect not to participate and to voice our opinions about the practice. We have been allowed to conduct the war of ideas and practice in accordance with our own ideas as our ideological opposition was allowed to do. When we win the war of ideas, the law may follow, but it should not precede that ideological victory. Obama broke that compromise in many areas and used the law as a means of fighting the ideological battle, and Hillary certainly looked to follow in that mold.
Trump in many ways embodies the compromise. The ultimate pragmatist, the ideological battles swirl around him without comment on his part. And thus we Americans are set free to fight them. There is a lot on which Trump and I will disagree, hence the voting reluctance, but at least I see no signs of him wanting to shut down my disagreement – nor contain the ideology that drives my disagreement.
Any serious Christian knows that the Obama administration has spent 8 years trying to build a fence around faith and relegate it to a tiny corner of the social scene – changing “freedom of religion” to “freedom of worship” summing up those efforts most succinctly. Trump, lacking ideology, seems to feel no need for such things. The very freedom to continue to think as I have my entire adult life – freedom that seems to terrorize so many on the other side of the political aisle into severe emotional stress – is what overcame my reluctance. I think that is true for the religiously hopeful and governmentally unexpectant found in the polls that the two articles analyzed.
This election was not about policies or issues – this election was about freedom.
For Christians the question is now, “Are we up to it?” We may be out from under the oppressiveness of the Obama administration, but we certainly will not enjoy any help from the Trump administration. It really is a war of ideas now. Will we be good enough representatives of our ideas and faith to win that war? Now is the time to stand up and robe ourselves in our Lord and His graciousness. And therein lies my hope.
Appended note to those so fearful of the incoming administration: I hope this post makes plain the distinction between disagreement and oppression. It would be foolish to contend that “no one” wants to oppress people they disagree with – such people exist on all sides of an ideological battle as the outgoing administration is testament. But for most of us we just want to continue the battle. If you lost this election, don’t sulk, pout or cry – join the battle. If you are right, you’ll win. If you lose we will not oppress you, we’ll just ask you to change your mind. Is that really so bad?