President Trump will need prayers and God’s help; so will we

A woman cries while taking part in an anti-Trump vigil in front of the White House in Washington Nov. 9. (CNS photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters) A woman cries while taking part in an anti-Trump vigil in front of the White House in Washington Nov. 9. (CNS photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)

Donald J. Trump is the next president of the United States. Say the words out loud a few times just to let it sink in that the star of the hit reality TV show, "The Apprentice," will now sit in the Oval Office and make judgments that impact the lives of 320 million Americans and hundreds of millions more across the globe. You can shout, "You're fired" back at the screen as much as you like, but on 20 January 2017, Donald J. Trump will be inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States of America.

Mr. Trump is newly converted to the Republican Party and was roundly opposed by principled conservatives. But he will nevertheless be a Republican president sitting in the White House with a Republican Congress ready to pass his legislation.

Democrats are suddenly out of governing control of both executive and legislative branches, and they are poised to lose control over the judicial branch (which should never have become so politicized in the first place). Needless to say, the liberal establishment is still in shock. We immediately saw the #NotMyPresident hashtag trend for hours as millions of Democrats vented their spleens about how they would not recognize Mr. Trump's legitimacy as president, and later, street protests raged against the dying of the light.

As a conservative who has spent the last year opposing Donald 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 American 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.

President Washington then set the standard for a limited executive power, giving it up after eight years. At the end of the 20th and the dawn of the 21st 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 besides themselves at the prospect of Donald 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. An immoral man of low character whom you should flee at parties and whom you would not let near your daughter is someone all people should have opposed. Mr. Trump's own history and habits should have given all Americans rational pause as to whether his presidency will produce the promised fruit. 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.

As an American citizen, I will acknowledge the authority of the duly elected president of United States by resisting him when he acts unjustly and supporting him when he works for the common good of the country and the world. As a Catholic, I will pray for him with fervor, not just because he is going to need God's help but because we are going to need it, too.

C. C. Pecknoldis an associate professor of Systematic Theology at the Catholic University of America. Follow hin On Twitter: @ccpecknold.

Cal xxxx
5 months 2 weeks ago
[Comment removed by commenter]
Rosemari Zagarri Prof
5 months 2 weeks ago
I would like to encourage my fellow Catholics not to condemn other Catholics for voting for any particular candidate. As American citizens, we have a right to vote for whomever we choose. As Catholics, we are entitled to vote as our conscience directs us. Whatever the American bishops may say, Pope Francis emphatically reiterated this point prior to the recent presidential election.
Lisa Weber
5 months 2 weeks ago
Donald Trump is still manifestly unfit for the office of president, but here we are with him as president-elect. The truly dangerous aspect of this is that he is unable to govern because he has no experience and no network of politically experienced people to call on. He leaves a power vacuum that unprincipled people will seek to exploit. We have to rely on Congress to pick up the job of governance for as long as Trump occupies the White House. Our only hope is that the moderates of both parties will join together and address the problems arising from the far right and far left. I disagree that it is liberal policies that have failed. We have completely failed in the entirely reasonable and money-saving effort to institute single-payer healthcare coverage. That is a conservative failure, not a liberal failure.
Kenneth Michaels
5 months 2 weeks ago
Prof. Pecknold, It is not distress that elected Trump, but ignorance. You premise your argument that: "At the end of the 20th and the dawn of the 21st century, we have experienced the expansion of the executive power." This is not a complete or accurate statement. A simple review of any number of the hundreds of law reviews published annually over the past several decades would quickly reveal that executive and presidential power has been expanding exponentially in the United States for more than a half century. Some legal historians trace the founding of this expansion of executive and presidential powers to Congress' abdication of its legislative power to federal agencies during the growth of the airline industry and other national industries prior to WW II and the rise of the administrative state in DC. I have read dozens of law review articles and essays bemoaning this expansion, written by both liberals and conservatives in America, since the early 1980s and skipped past at least a hundred more through the years. You immediately jump into the rhetoric of "Emperor Obama" and other cheap conservative artifices. How about Emperors Reagan and HW Bush (remember Iran Contra?), Clinton, and W Bush? While your call for prayers may be noble, it is nothing more than sprinkles on an article premised on a falsehood, designed to attack liberals in America under the illusion that somehow because you do not like Trump, you have greater moral authority in attacking liberals. I do not know frankly, why America Magazine would have even published your article - it certainly must not be intended to increase readership.
Mary Heins
5 months 1 week ago
Thanks for your substantive rebuttal of the professor. These facts are much more helpful than the professor's generalization.
Mary Keane
5 months 2 weeks ago
It has been said that ignorance is contempt prior to investigation. I find the great moping of those who were disappointed by the results of the election to be exhausting in its own right, but perhaps blinding to those who will no doubt become self-styled victims of one sort or another. Perhaps inquiry might be a better pursuit than unrelenting and juvenile name-calling. What was it that some voters saw that others saw differently? This election was so close that there is much to be mined from that reality alone. Since no one is leaving town, so to speak, simply because votes have been cast, perhaps energies might be better used in envisioning positive change than in lamenting "what might have been."
Lisa Weber
5 months 2 weeks ago
I would be curious to know what positive changes you see in all of this. The only one I can envision, and I don't think it is likely, is that the moderates will get together to oppose Trump and the forces that brought him to office. Another possibility is that the electorate will become more educated and active so we never have this kind of outcome again.
Tim O'Leary
5 months 2 weeks ago
Perhaps, we will have a more pro-life pro-family Supreme Court that will protect religious freedom and resist identity ideology. And, perhaps, we will replace Obamacare with a system that doesn't bankrupt the lower middle class. there is reason for some hope.
Martha Murray
5 months 2 weeks ago
All reasons to continue to pray for our leaders and that Gods will be done on this earth. There is a reason that the President-Elect succeeded despite all odds to the contrary. If God, as revealed through Scripture, was able to work through so many despots of the day, why doubt He can work through Donald Trump? Perhaps He called him by name too. I am guessing the truth will be revealed in Gods time, not ours.
Mary Heins
5 months 1 week ago
I'm not defending obamacare but it is often more expensive for the middle or above-middle income segment of our population; usually premiums are lower for the lower class. Please see http://www.cnbc.com/2016/07/07/higher-income-obamacare-customers-paying-more-than-if-they-had-job-health-care.html
Stan Zorin
5 months 2 weeks ago
Why the adjective "imperfect" ? Before his first day in office he is already called imperfect. Which president was "perfect" ? Do you use this adjective with every president or just with this one ?
Vincent Gaglione
5 months 2 weeks ago
“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.” I am a liberal. I do not support any of the ideas and policies that the author lists in this particular commentary as liberal. Of one thing I am sure, however. I do not believe that we have the right to impose our religious beliefs on any other group of people in the United States. As a religion which once held ultimate political sway in numerous European countries, with beliefs and attitudes consonant with current day Saudi Arabian practices, and having suffered the results of the same strictures in the early days of this nation from our now Protestant brethren, I would think that we had matured a bit farther than trying to impose our views on everyone else. I do not support a “traditional faith” that would return us to medieval concepts and structures. At 70 years old, I do not believe that some bishop or parish priest 25 years my junior necessarily has, by dint of ordination, more wisdom than I have. I do not support abortion but I know plenty of sincere people of other or no faiths who do not believe as I do. I don’t know what is meant by “identity politics” because, if anything, there certainly seems to be an effort to portray ourselves in one political camp. I do not support traditional values if it means that I must reject people of other or no religions, reject people of different beliefs regarding marriage and gender equality, reject those who come here without documentation, reject refugees because of their religious beliefs, etc., etc. When I read about Christ I do not read of a man who challenged foreigners and sinners and those differing from His own faith. I read about a man who was open to them and challenged them solely with his concern and love for them. I do read about a man who reviled those who proclaimed themselves self-righteous in His own faith. I hope that as a liberal I am doing likewise.
Rosemari Zagarri Prof
5 months 2 weeks ago
Well said, Mr. Gaglione. A candidate who spews bigotry, hatred, and violence in order to get elected is not a promising prospect for unifying the country. In addition, given his utter lack of political experience, lack of interest in and knowledge about public policy, and self-confessed short attention span, Trump is likely to become the vehicle for right-wing Republicans who wish to dismantle the social safety and further enrich the wealthy through tax cuts. And without the federal government's intervention, where are all these new jobs suddenly going to come from? Unfortunately, Trump is the duly elected president of the United States. Unlike Trump, who tried to delegitimate Obama's presidency by telling blatant lies about his birth for several years, I respect the rule of law in this nation.
Tim O'Leary
5 months 2 weeks ago
Democracy is a very imperfect system (but still better than all the others) and we were faced with a choice between two highly flawed candidates - the two most unpopular presidential candidates in polling history. I continuously opposed Trump through the primaries and election but I hope some good laws will be enacted and lots of bad laws replaced. I do hope we find a way for the average lower middle class American to have improved job prospects than now. I suppose every president/leadership is somehow responsible for their successor, by the way they are perceived by the majority that votes for the next leadership. Over 1,000 Democrats lost their elections in the national and state elections under the 8 years of Obama. Yet, he kept moving leftward and Clinton would have carried on the very same policies. Trump now becomes another part of the Obama legacy, along with ISIS, a $10 trillion national debt, a catastrophic health insurance system, an anemic economic recovery, and no part of the world safer than 8 years ago. Bill Clinton begat GW Bush, who begat Obama, who begat Trump. Such is democracy.
James Keane
5 months 1 week ago
"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." Would America Magazine ever allow this sort of thing to be said about a progressive? Who, exactly, was promoting abortion? Can he give a single name of someone who promotes abortion? And is a professor like Pecknold, who equated the people murdered in Colorado at a Planned Parenthood clinic with ISIS soldiers earlier this year (note: not the killer, but the victims--look it up, it's not like Pecknold is hiding this sort of thing) really able to call himself principled when accusing others of identity politics? Not a proud moment for the magazine.
Stuart Bintner
5 months 1 week ago
The author uses overly broad strokes to paint a word portrait of moderates and those left of center. For example, I personally know of no one who promotes abortion. The question is whether or not it should be made illegal. Also, who makes the decision for the individual woman/girl is very much a factor. In fact, on this matter liberals often become conservative and conservatives will likely let the government enter intimately into personal lives.
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