The National Catholic Review
Catholics respond to the unexpected election of Donald J. Trump.

In the early hours of Wednesday, Nov. 9, Donald J. Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States. Despite polls throughout the campaign showing Catholics breaking for his opponent, Hillary Clinton, come election night, a majority of Catholics—52 percent—voted for Mr. Trump. Here are some Catholic reactions to the Republican candidate's upset victory. Additional commentary can be found at americamagazine.org.

Hillary Clinton’s Legacy

I never thought Hillary Clinton would be a shoo-in as president. Coming after two terms of a Democratic president in the White House, she was always a long shot. What has surprised me about the presidential election is not her losing it but my own strong reaction to it.

I was not a totally enthusiastic Clinton supporter. I thought her too cagey and political to ever be forthright about what she really believed and, worse, too hawkish. Her secretiveness and lack of trust in other people were constantly boomeranging on her, creating unnecessary problems. The private server to handle her email as secretary of state seemed typical of other incidents that generated suspicion and sprang from an unwarranted need to control.

And yet I liked Hillary Clinton. I never understood why more people didn’t or why they said they could not warm to her.

There has been a lot of talk this year about the grievances of white working-class men. They have them, surely, and they deserve attention, surely. But the economic discontent of the white working class does not explain why Donald J.Trump will be our next president. He did not offer any realistic policy proposals that would improve their circumstances, and millions of people who are not disadvantaged blue-collar workers voted for him rather than for Mrs. Clinton.

I do not think most people who voted for Mr. Trump did so because they are virulently racist or Islamophobic or hateful, although they may not mind his shout-outs to that crowd. I think they voted for him because Mrs. Clinton was the establishment candidate and he promised change, and they were sufficiently mesmerized by the mantra of “change” to take a flying leap into the unknown. Even more important, I think they voted for him because, presented with a choice of the smart, capable, well-spoken girl in the class who gets straight A’s or the loudmouth boy who makes outrageous, offensive remarks and serves as class clown, they chose the boy. They chose him because he was the boy. Millions of men, and no doubt some women too, do not want a woman as president and are uncomfortable with a woman as boss. The election results say more about the enduring presence of sexism in our society than about policies or even populism.

Hillary Clinton’s concession speech spoke to both the high ideals expressed in our Constitution and the aspirations of women and girls. It was thoughtful; it was gracious; it was moving; it was inspiring. I know I am not the only woman who teared up when reading it. I wish she could have given more speeches like that during her campaign. Would it have changed anything? I don’t know that it would have. Too many American men are not ready for a female president, especially not after two terms of a black one.

Margot Patterson is a writer who lives in Kansas City, Mo.

Trump Has Given Us an Opportunity

Donald J. Trump’s election is a jolt, one that presents a rare opportunity to lay aside the worn pages of our ideological script, see our problems afresh and shift old political alignments.

The alt-right has cast a pall over Mr. Trump’s victory, and it is tempting to dismiss his entire coalition as rotten to the core with racism, sexism and nativism. But that would be a mistake. Both data and anecdotereveal voters who supported President Obama previously and Mr. Trump this time. We can learn from Mr. Trump’s coalition, even if some in it really are “deplorable.” We can especially learn from the men and women of the Midwest, where Mr. Trump’s most surprising victories occurred, where voters fled the liberalism of the Democratic Party but did not necessarily do so for conservative reasons. The American electorate gave us a populist president. Seeking the best of what is possible, my hope is that if we heed the lesson of Nov. 8, the next four years might make America greater by renewing the centrality in our national life of the poor and the family.

The family, nuclear and extended—not the individual—is the fundamental social unit, and its health is an index for society. Hyper-focus on individuals has for too long made us blind to enormous problems in our society. Isolation and disconnectedness may well be the public health crisis of our time.

Signs are everywhere. Even as material well-being increases, suicides are rising across nearly all demographic categories and life expectancy among some groups, particularly white men, threatens to fall, a development without precedent. Less than half of children are raised in a home with both their parents. Last year saw over 47,000 deaths from opioid drug overdose and the numbers are rising, especially in places such as Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania. Homelessness bedevils our cities even as some theorize that its root cause is not mental illness or drug use but the breakdown of the family. And, of course, more unborn lives are lost through abortion than from any single cause of death for those outside the womb—and in many cases abortion is an act of desperation that comes from a feeling of helplessness and despondency.

Beneath the surface of the populist wave are the cold waters of diminished life prospects. Both parties tell us that globalization ultimately benefits everyone. The Rust Belt disagrees, and so a Republican won Pennsylvania for the first time since the 1980s by calling for economic nationalism over free trade. My view is that the nationalist reaction is less an argument about trade policy than it is about whole communities feeling used and abandoned. While I doubt the jobs can be brought back, I do not doubt that the plight of workers in this region is real, and my hope is that President-elect Trump—having won because of them—will earnestly work to respond to the very real problems of entire communities hollowed out by the vicissitudes of global trade and technological advance. He has made promises to do what Democrats and Republicans have not been able to do, and all of us should hold him accountable.

Kevin E. Stuart,  is the executive director of the Austin Institute for the Study of Family & Culture in Austin, Tex.

Meeting Our Neighbors

The political left is ashamed to share the same homeland, let alone neighborhood, with Trump voters. In response, they resolve to protect those made vulnerable by a Trump presidency. They vow support for racial and religious minorities and victims of sexual violence.

Rolling up our sleeves for the least among us is at the heart of Catholic social teaching. If we are not yet exercising a preferential option for those made vulnerable by a Trump presidency, we must absolutely do so now. If we voted for Donald J. Trump, our responsibility is even greater.

Yet we must recognize that many Trump voters do not fit, or even endorse, the categories laid out for them. It’s necessary to ask the hard question, “What moves them?” This is the work of solidarity, which recognizes our common humanity in Christ in spite of every kind of difference. Solidarity is bound to the preferential option for the poor and vulnerable. It must be, since both are rooted in love of neighbor.

In the case of President-elect Trump, solidarity means seeking to know the undesirable neighbor, and this search will certainly end in a mea culpa. In particular, we must be open to acknowledging that Mr. Trump’s election delivered a condemnation of the intellectual and cultural elitism that has incensed many voters.

Intellectual elitism contents itself with dismissing beliefs without unpacking them. One example is the assumption that traditional views on marriage, sexuality and life are so outdated and irrelevant that they do not deserve engaging. Sociocultural elitism manifests itself in the term “flyover states,” in classist jabs that pass as jokes and in conclusions we draw about Associated Press photos of people at Trump rallies. Most of all, elitism asserts that those who think differently have nothing to contribute to the development of the society, and they are better off if enlightened progressives decide what is good for society, at least until they get on board. We need to call this elitism what it is: a failure of charity that, much like the worst of the Trump campaign, communicates that the “other” is unwelcome and undesirable.

We must replace these failures of love with the understanding that half of Americans espouse political concerns that differ greatly from the ones progressives embrace. We must recognize that while some Trump voters really are terrible people, most are good people with good reasons for their values, people who are sick of being told their voices do not matter because they hum church hymns and eat at Red Lobster.

Joining the work of solidarity with the work of the preferential option is critical for people of faith. It is what people of faith can offer to a wounded country. There are some neighbors we love, and others we do not know. It is time to meet those neighbors. And maybe love them.

Jane Sloan Peters is a second year doctoral student in historical theology at Marquette University.

Students of Color Face a Trump Presidency

Tonight, as a tenured faculty member, I make my way to the back and find a seat, because this is their night. The organizing student group, Black Student Union, has called this emergency meeting, but it is clear that “everybody” is here, a variety of colors and faces so beautiful it fills my eyes with tears.

Some sit as they speak, their voices quiet; others stand, owning the room. Comments are sprinkled with nervous laughter and often greeted with approving finger snaps. Some weep openly as they speak; others are defiant. The adults in the room listen attentively.

This is a summary of their major concerns, which need to become our most urgent concerns, too. The country is extraordinarily divided. Is there any way back from such polarization? How can there be, they ask, when the issues dividing us are so vital and so personal? They point out the fear of exclusion of L.G.B.T.Q. people and their basic human dignity. They speak vehemently about experiences of Islamophobia and the demonizing of Muslims. One young woman speaks through tears about her experience as a survivor of sexual assault and the terror of knowing that rape culture has now been normalized. “I don’t know who I can trust anymore,” she cries.

Then the room is electrified by the testimony of young undocumented students standing in front of hundreds of their peers, shaking and sharing. “I am a senior, and I am undocumented.” This is a student leader who two weeks ago was at the helm of a highly successful event to raise funds for breast cancer research. She explains that if President-elect Trump rescinds the Deferred Action for Early Childhood Arrivals, or D.A.C.A., there will be direct consequences for her. Her study abroad semester, the first time she would ever be out of the country in her life, will be cancelled, as will her work study and her job outside of campus, because her work permit will be taken away. More frightening still, the knowledge that they are now in a government database. The adults in the room hang our heads. A while back when the students expressed fear about going through the process we assured them to go through it, confident in the decency and fairness of our system. Now, no longer anonymous, they know the deportation force promised by the new president-elect could come for them.

Just then, one young woman stands. I was with her the night of the election. She is diminutive, an honor student, an extraordinary writer and she is also “undocu” as she calls herself, eschewing the name Dream-er because it doesn’t include her family. On election night, feeling the painful sting of the country she so much loves rejecting her, she wept and wondered how quickly her family might flee. Yet, tonight, surrounded by the love of her fellow students, she stands up and declares, “I’m not going anywhere!” The applause can be heard reverberating through the entire campus.

Cecilia González-Andrieu is an associate professor of theological studies at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, Calif.

Praying for an Imperfect President

As a conservative who has spent the last year opposing Donald J. Trump, I have some advice for my friends to the political left of me. Don’t play the game in which you reject the legitimacy of Mr. Trump as president.

I still think he is unfit for office. But the U.S. founders knew they were building a republican system that would check executive power. In fact, were it not for the immense admiration the founders had for George Washington, the United States might not even have had a president.

Since the end of the 20th century, we have experienced the expansion of the executive power. Some have called it the cult of the presidency or simply the imperial presidency. Liberals were happy when Barack Obama was the emperor but now are beside themselves at the prospect of President-elect Trump wielding that same power. My advice to liberals is simple: Recapture a belief in limited government, separation of powers and civic responsibility to resist unjust laws.

Intelligent conservatives did an enormous amount of soul-searching this year. I really hope intelligent liberals will start doing the same. Maybe ditch the whole progressive project to transform traditional faith? Stop promoting abortion? Knock it off with the identity politics? Stop calling anyone and everyone who supports traditional values a bigot and deplorable. Remember that history doesn’t have sides, and nothing is inevitable. Having a majority does not make something true or good.

I opposed Mr. Trump in the primaries. I opposed him in the general election. But nothing would please me more than to be wrong about him.

Mr. Trump is America’s biggest gamble. It’s worth remembering that it is really only desperate people who are willing to gamble so much. We all must address the real distress that underlies the choice for Mr. Trump. I encourage everyone to set aside thinking that the millions of Trump voters who voted for Mr. Obama twice are racist xenophobes. There are racists and xenophobes. The alt-right ethnonationalists are a small but real presence. They are not how Mr. Trump got elected. Mr. Trump was elected by ordinary Americans, many struggling in the Midwest and the Rust Belt, who have been exhausted by socially liberal elitism and by neoliberal policies that served the 1 percent better than the 99 percent.

Though a dark horse destroyer of norms and conventions, we must pray that Mr. Trump’s vulgar ambition and vanity will be a check upon his excesses and that, surrounded by people better than him, his own actions will be turned to the common good. More important, we have to pray that ordinary citizens will turn to the common good as well, working to build a better life on the ground for all our neighbors so that they don’t go looking for blunt instruments again.

C. C. Pecknold is an associate professor of systematic theology at the Catholic University of America. Follow him on Twitter: @ccpecknold.

Our Election, Our President

There is a story about the “Saturday Night Live” actor Chris Farley’s time as a student at Marquette University that has been running through my mind as I’ve thought about our presidential election.

Apparently one night he and some of his roommates went out and really tied one on. When they got home, Farley crashed hard. Meanwhile his roommates got some permanent marker and wrote on him, then followed up by wiping food all over him, stuff like butter, potato chips, leftover pizza.

The next morning, when Farley got up and came out of his room, everyone was waiting, anticipating his reaction. But Farley just poured himself a bowl of cereal and sat down with them to watch TV, like nothing had happened.

Before long his roommates started to get irritated—not only because he was not giving them what they wanted but because he was still covered in all that food. It was dripping off him. He stank of it. It was disgusting.

So someone told him he needed to get up and take a shower. But he just looked at them and smiled.  

“Oh no,” he said. “You made me. You live with me.”

I had been using that story as an analogy to electing Donald J. Trump. You elect the guy who has said and done the things he has said and done, you had better be prepared to live in the America he creates.

But in the wash of emotion and confusion that was the day after the election, it strikes me that maybe that story is actually not about electing Mr. Trump, but about the United States—how we as a country have allowed large parts of our nation to become both more and more disenfranchised and more and more comfortable with prejudice and misinformation.

Some are arguing the election is a repudiation of “liberal elites” and their “arrogant dismissal of the common man.” But to believe that is to ignore that much of what those “elite” voters fight for are things like justice for all and the protection of our weakest and most vulnerable. It is also to miss that Mr. Trump’s election equally repudiates the nation’s right wing.

It is the entirety of the establishment that has been condemned and what is perceived as their disinterest or just plain hostility toward the concerns of many, many Americans. And not just white male working class Americans, either. As “Saturday Night Live” demonstrated so perceptively in its recent Black Jeopardy sketch, in many ways the insights and anxieties of Trump supporters are exactly the same as those of low-income African-Americans.

Over the course of a generation at least, we have allowed this mess, if not helped to create it. Now we have to live with it.

Jim McDermott, S.J., is America's Los Angeles correspondent. Twitter: @PopCulturPriest.

Show Comments (12)

Comments (hide)

BRYAN VINCENT | 12/9/2016 - 12:05pm

What a stunning chorus of voices the editors have given us here; thank you. Surely the dissonant harmony of thoughtful people who think differently is the cure for the ideological warfare that is undermining representative democracy and enabling more virulent forms of hatred. I, as I'm sure many others do, have my own thoughts about the imperfections in each individual voice, but perhaps now is a very appropriate time to simply listen.

Raymond Marey | 11/29/2016 - 6:44pm

To Margot Patterson: To distill the election results down to a metaphorical choice between a boy and a girl, is a lot different than the reality of a succesful woman, graduate of Yale Law Shool, a US Senator and US Secretary of State, and a man who initiated the build up of a decrepit NYC downtown in the seventies, before going onto create a global brand in real estate property development. We need to treat each party with respect realizing both are human beings with failings. We definitely knew where Trump stood on issues. The voters liked that. All parties agree the outcome was not an anti-woman vote.
To Kevin Stuart: I was listening to a democratic strategist yesterday who described losing the american working middle class vote to the republicans, as a "problem", only in so much as the middle class was 'anxious' about their jobs and careers. There was ample reason for their reaction to the current job situation since we are in the midst of a technological revolution as impactful as the industrial revolution. Something a prescription for anxiety isn't going to alleviate. Our college grads need opportunities to work
To C C Pecknold: When evaluating the fitness of Trump as presidential timber, let's remember Peter, whom Jesus chose to lead the church and who was ready to stand up and violently defend his master. Too bad we didn't have popes like that who would have defendeded our children from those who preyed upon their innocence.
To Jim McDermott: Believing "......that much of what those “elite” voters fight for are things like justice for all and the protection of our weakest and most vulnerable...." , requires ignoring our public servants, who are able to amass $50 million dollars while serving the public. Having served minorities in low income areas for years in my career, I assure you they certainly know the best situation is for them to have good jobs. They long for the days, when jobs were so plentiful, such that if they were mistreated, they could go down the block and get a different job that day.

Sharon Goodier | 11/28/2016 - 9:28pm

Salute to the Underclass

We thought if we ignored them
they would go away
or if we shouted loud enough
hear what we had to say

We marched and lobbied twenty years
to get the change we wanted
and in our arrogance, hubris
assumed that they’d be daunted

The chickens have come home to roost
like curses in the night
they’ll lay their eggs in feathered nests
in the coop that’s painted white

No national community
when Muslim, Christian, white
Black and gay and immigrant
feel challenged to a fight

And all the while the poor stay poor
the rich get richer fast
women’s rights and human rights
forgotten or bypassed

The chickens have come home to roost
like curses in the night
they’ll lay their eggs in feathered nests
in the coop that’s painted white

Divide and conquer can’t succeed
We’ve got to get it right
talk and listen to our “foes”
heal without a fight

unless of course it’s gone to far
this renaissance of hate
induced by pushing policies
that dropped them off the plate

The chickens have come home to roost
like curses in the night
they’ll lay their eggs in feathered nests
in the coop that’s painted white
Sharon Goodier is a poet from Toronto, Canada. She has had poems published in Carte Blanche (Montreal), 11th Transmission (social realism – London, Ont), Dove Tales Nature Anthology (U.S.2015) and Adana, an anthology of women’s spirituality (U.S. 2015). She was long-listed for the Mary K. Ballard award (U.S.) in 2014. New Legends Anthology will publish her short story “The Year of the Donkey” in 2016. In 2015, she self-published a book of social justice poetry, A Stone in My Shoe. Recently, she completed a mentoring program with Jerry Shikitani through the Canadian Senior Artists Resource Network. She is a founding member of the renewed Art Bar Reading Series. She hosts reading and reads widely around Toronto.

James MacGregor | 11/28/2016 - 6:25pm

The "I's" and "me's" in the articles speak volumes about people who are concerned for personal plans that may not be shared by others and perhaps (or perhaps not, just judging by what is printed here) insensitive to the dreams and aspirations of others. The entry by one author - "But the U.S. founders knew they were building a republican system that would check executive power." - speaks volumes to how we are all to take the election results and get on with life - either in opposition to or support of a new administration.

MICHAEL GRIFFIN | 11/26/2016 - 12:43pm

I like and share Jim McDermott's perspective. Donald Trump is our President, period. The American public voted him in decisively. Hard to believe so many Catholics and women voted for this repulsive person. Now we have to live with him. We survived Richard Nixon and George W. Bush. We will survive Trump.

Anne Chapman | 12/12/2016 - 8:37am

George Bush, and even Richard Nixon, fall within the 'normal" range of the bell curve. Based on what the man elected to the presidency has said and done, not just throughout his campaign, but for many years, it seems that he does not fall within the "normal" range and it is not likely that that his administration will fall within it. This is clear already from his cabinet appointees.

It seems that our country, and by extension, the world, may face extraordinary threats to the values our country and the western democracies in general have traditionally stood for, and fought for. It is not the time for complacency or business as usual. I hope those who believe that we will survive Trump are right. I fear that they are not, and that this may be a dark turning point in our history.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/11/magazine/a-time-for-refusal.html

jeanne tassinari | 12/11/2016 - 5:43pm

We also lived through eight years of Bill Clinton including his impeachment and perhaps the hardest of all we survived 9/11

Rudolph Koser | 11/26/2016 - 6:15pm

Amen to your comments! I hope the damage done by this grifter will not create lasting harm,It's almost a given Congress isn't going to stop him. He will bully them. And to think there was a time you could not run if you were divorced. Now sexual assault, lying, and defrauding people are "great" qualifications.

Lisa Weber | 11/26/2016 - 1:24pm

And we do have an impeachment process that I hope will be initiated the minute it is needed.

James MacGregor | 11/28/2016 - 6:29pm

Impeach whom?

jeanne tassinari | 12/11/2016 - 5:45pm

Well obviously not Barack Obama

Lisa Weber | 11/25/2016 - 10:08pm

I was and still am appalled by the election of Donald Trump. I never understood why Hillary Clinton was so hated, but reading comments on articles in this magazine that refer to "covens" of feminist and progressive women leads me to think that "witch hunt" is an accurate term for much of Trump's campaign. This high level of illogical, unreasoning emotion in some of his supporters is what makes him so scary. My sense is that many decent people voted for Trump, but are likely to be surprised by the fact that he remains as awful as he was during the campaign.

Both political parties have neglected the common good since at least 1980, and many have suffered as a result. We have widespread corruption in the banking, healthcare, and pharmaceutical industries. We went through a major crisis in 2008 because of financial mismanagement in the housing market. We still have insurance for healthcare functioning as a poll tax that limits the ability of ordinary people to start a business if work as an employee is unsatisfactory. Unfortunately, Donald Trump is likely to bring us corruption on an unprecedented scale rather than making any attempt to fix the underlying problems. The possible good I see him doing is making everyone aware of how big the problem is.

Recently by Margot Patterson