This is What Democracy Looks Like

On November 8th, 2016, approximately one-third of the American people decided that morals, character, and family values didn’t matter anymore. Or at least they didn’t matter enough to keep them from voting for the most unqualified presidential candidate in history, Donald Trump.

The Run

There have been several analysts weighing in on exactly what happened, and several reasons have been cited. Millennials couldn’t be bothered to actually get out and and vote, angry white men upset at a liberal government did get out and vote, the media was manipulated by a string of fake news, non-news, and misdirection. There were Russian hackers, missing emails, FBI investigations, and at the center of it all a bombastic outsider who played the crowds like a violin.

I underestimated Trump. He knew what he was doing the entire time. I was shocked at the outcome of the election, but Trump, and his Gríma Wormtongue, Steve Bannon, knew they had a good shot at the presidency. They were right, but there’s no one reason anyone can point at to see why, it’s a combination of all of the reasons listed above and more. Trump tapped into a dark heart of rural America and threw gas on the fire republicans have been stoking for years. Why shouldn’t I be able to say what I think? Why should they get a break from the government when I don’t? Why does it seem like everyone else gets special treatment, but normal everyday Americans don’t?

In some, the resentment festered into buying into conspiracy theories, the us-vs-them mentality taking root deep into the fabric of their identity. “Liberals want to take your guns” became only a stone’s throw from “Obama is secretly a Muslim and will be enacting sharia law in America.” I’ve personally spoken with people who were convinced that it was only a matter of time before the government game knocking at our doors to arrest us for being Christian. The magic of the Internet allowed theories to spread like wildfire. Facebook memes used humor and doctored images to cement predefined concepts, simultaneously building a sense of outrage and superiority. Buying into this platform would leave one convinced that the Left was weak, stupid, cowardly, and traitorous.

Then there were others, I suspect many, many others, who were as equally appalled by the rise of Donald Trump as I, but saw no alternative but to vote for him. The evangelical Christians, those who’ve sworn to never vote for a candidate that supported abortion. Trump knew exactly how to win them over too. All he needed to do was promise to defund Planned Parenthood and claim to be a born-again Christian, and the evangelicals flocked to him. Apparently it worked, but I wonder how many sitting in the same service as I am will regret their decision in the years to come.

Trump walked on stage again and again and again and gave the crowds what they wanted. He told them what they wanted to hear. He told them that they were right to be angry, and gave them a couple of scapegoats to be angry at. “It’s not your fault your life is the way it is…” the message came across, “it’s the immigrants and Muslims! Vote for me and I’ll take care of them.” Trump promised to make things the way they used to be, or at least the way some folks remembered them being. “America is terrible, vote for me. You’ll never have to be polite to gays again, vote for me. You can call a spade a spade again, vote for me, vote for me, vote for me.” And they did.

And, this is what democracy looks like. I don’t claim that Trump’s presidency is illegitimate. He won, fair and square. He lost the popular vote, but thanks to our electoral college system, he won the presidency. He played the game better than anyone else this round. Now we, as Americans, have the next four years to stare into the mirror and find out what that means to us.

The Aftermath

Now, just because Trump won doesn’t mean that the game ends. Millions of Americans are scared of what he’ll do, and in his first week in office he’s given those opposed to his presidency plenty of fuel for their own fire. To show their opposition they’ve organized marches and demonstrations across the country.

This too, is what democracy looks like.

Women marched because we elected a president who’s bragged about sexually assaulting women. Hundreds of thousands of people got together to tell the world that this is not right. When the newly appointed White House Press Secretary lies to the press the first time he talks to them, there’s a problem. When a senior advisor to the president comes on national TV and claims that the press secretary was just stating “alternative facts”, there’s a problem. When Gríma Wormtongue tells the press they should “keep its mouth shut”, there’s a problem.

Trump is gutting the agencies of the government responsible for protecting our air and our water. He’s appointing people to positions of power they have no business being in. People are demonstrating because they’re afraid of what America might turn into. Are we overreacting? Possibly, but better to react now than after it’s too late.

The Fear

I believe the fear of many Americans that Trump might change the national character so much that we become guilty of committing war crimes on a global scale. Are we even close to that yet? No, but I think that is what is at the heart of much of the opposition. We are the most powerful nation in the world. We have the most powerful military in the world. We are the only superpower left, for the moment anyway. With that power comes the responsibility to be the best that humanity can be. We fought and won World War II against powers that sought to commit genocide, we cannot have won that war only to become what we were fighting against.

The players have different names now, but the roles are the same. Instead of Jews it’s Muslims. Instead of Gypsies it’s Mexicans. People are afraid because in us, in the land of the free, there should not be even a hint of the evil we fought to destroy. If we are not there to be the light of democracy to the world, who will be? If you think it’s crazy to march on an airport because of an immigration ban, ask yourself when you would have started to speak up in Germany in the 1930s. Didn’t they go after the press? What side of history do you want to be on?

Some people are afraid that Trump’s thin skin and the ease at which he becomes insulted and in turn insults others will start a war when played out with the power of the presidency. Trump has the power to launch nuclear weapons. Would he do it? Would Bannon encourage him to do it? We all hope not, but this is where the moral character of the man we elect to the office of the president comes into play. This is why Trump is a mistake. The presidency magnifies the person in it, both their positive and negative traits. What will trump do? We don’t know.

The Charges

I didn’t vote for Trump. Here’s why:

That’s not even mentioning repealing Obamacare, which he has no idea how to replace, or building a wall and claiming Mexico would pay for it, which he has no idea how he would do.

I may be wrong. These next four years we might see unprecedented peace, security, and prosperity for all Americans. But, I cannot look at the man in office today, or the gaggle of unqualified candidates he’s appointed to run our government, and see an outcome that will be good for any of us.

With all of his marriages, rumors of infidelity, and crude comments, the Republican Party has lost their claim to being the “family values” party. Which reminds me, I’ve got one more ax to grind…

Responsibility

My fellow Christians, you will be held accountable for voting Trump into office. We cannot claim holy sovereignty as an excuse for our own actions. It was your vote that put him in his position of power. What comes next is your responsibility. God knows all, but we do not. We cannot comprehend an all-knowing God in our finite minds, but we must take responsibility for our actions. God is absolutely above all rulers of the Earth, but that does not absolve you of the part you played in putting this man in office.

You looked at him and knew what he was, yet told yourself that you’d “vote for the platform, not the person”. This person is not like any other candidate that came before though, and this election was not like any in recent memory. You must shoulder the burden that comes with putting Trump in the position of the most powerful man on Earth. Yes, God does use evil men to accomplish his purposes, but that does not absolve you of the responsibility of your vote.

This is what democracy looks like. You have a say in what happens. God presides over all, but in this broken world we must do the best we can while we wait for Christ’s return. Trump is not the best we can do. I would encourage all Christians to look deep in their heart at their motivations, and ask yourself if your decisions are truly reflective of the light of Christ in your life.

I will be doing the same.