Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination underscores the battles to come over Roe v. Wade and religious liberty
In this issue, we offer contrary views of President Donald Trump from two people I greatly respect. David French is senior editor of The Dispatch, a conservative website, and a member of Christ Community Church in Franklin, Tenn. He served in the Iraq War, was a senior counsel at the Alliance Defending Freedom, and was a staff writer for National Review from 2015 to 2019. (Click here to read Wayne Grudem’s perspective on Trump.)
Theologian Wayne Grudem acknowledges problems with President Trump’s character, but he likes the policies. The Christian community spent decades saying character mattered. It was right. The separation of character from policies is impossible. Look at the terrible course of the pandemic through the USA. The ability of a president to respond to a pandemic was not a policy issue in the 2016 election, but almost every president deals with unexpected crises, in a way often determined by their character.
How has President Trump dealt with the pandemic? Early on he was extremely focused on minimizing the impact of this virus in large part because he wanted to inflate artificially the American economy to aid in his reelection. That is a sign of very low character that deeply influenced the course of the way the United States reacted to this virus.
Has he helped or hurt regarding our racial division? The extraordinary racial division in the United States is not just dealt with by policy. That is dealt with through character, personality, leadership, and charisma. The core of former Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ critique is that Trump by pattern and practice intentionally tries to divide the United States of America. I think that critique is right. A president of good character doesn’t try intentionally to divide the United States of America. All of this stuff is super basic. You ask Christians about this in 2015, and they say, “Of course.” But Christians have joined with Trump and look for a rationalization.
What success has Trump had on policy matters? He has had essentially one significant legislative achievement, a temporary tax cut. He has had marginal effects on American foreign policy, some good, some bad, but no fundamental transformation. He has appointed good judges—but if you look back at the last Supreme Court term, would you say conservatives are ascendant and triumphant in the American judiciary? These things are very, very complicated. Does this president’s control over policy trump his own incompetence and poor character? The plight of the country now says that’s not just wrong, but laughably and tragically wrong. There is nothing MAGA about where we are now. There is an enormous amount of heartbreak, misery, death, division. That Donald Trump had a better platform than Hillary Clinton did not spare us from any of that. His character made it all worse.
In 2024, will America be in better or worse shape if Biden is elected or if Trump is reelected? America will be in much worse shape if Donald Trump is reelected. A second consecutive victory by an intentionally divisive president with a popular vote minority, especially when he is on the record saying he didn’t want to enhance the ability of the post office to deal with mail-in balloting in a pandemic, would make things worse quickly. Regarding Joe Biden, a lot remains to be seen based on the ambition of his administration and the way his administration would treat disagreement and dissent.
Trump is a symptom of a disease that makes the disease worse.
So, you are cheering for Joe Biden? I do not want Donald Trump to win reelection. Absolutely not. I want Trump to lose to Biden and the Republican Party to retain the Senate. That would prevent a triumphalist sweeping away of institutions like the filibuster. It would check any temptation to pack the courts, for example. It would remove from the field the worst-case scenarios at the same time that you remove from the field a president who has done more than any single human being in my lifetime to divide this country—and governed incompetently while he did it.
You’d want affluent conservatives to help Republican senatorial candidates? If they’re conservative like me and typically donate to a Republican president, I would say do not donate to this Republican president. Spend your money to save good Republicans on down-ballot races who now face long odds for reelection.
So you want a narrow Democratic win? No, I want a decisive loss for Trump, because if the loss is very narrow you’re going to have extraordinarily divisive forces in the U.S. calling into question the legitimacy of the election. A decisive win is the only way Americans are going to have confidence in the legitimacy of the election, sad to say. The margin will matter a lot. My hope is that a resounding rejection of Donald Trump doesn’t carry with it a resounding rejection of Republicans who are not like Trump. That’s what I’m pessimistic about. I suspect the resounding rejection of Trump will also lead to resounding rejection of Republicans who are not like Trump. That outcome is not best for the country.
A decisive win would lead to triumphalism? It always does. Even relatively narrow wins lead to triumphalism. There was a lot of GOP triumphalism when Trump won on the strength of about a 75,000-vote margin in three states.
We’re hanged either way? We’re not in a good position. The Trump nomination was the product of forces building for some time, including negative partisanship. Trump is a symptom of a disease that makes the disease worse, like a hacking cough can break a rib.
How do you answer the charge that a vote for Biden is a vote for abortion? The power of the president over abortion is profoundly limited. American abortion peaked in the 1980s and has gone down since then regardless of whether the president is pro-life or pro-choice. The federal judiciary has time and time again been a source of pain, anguish, and frustration.
We’ve had repeated disappointments. It’s like Lucy with the football. People have said for 40 years, Vote on this one issue. It hasn’t worked.
—Read an opposing viewpoint from Wayne Grudem: “The case for Donald Trump”