Seven claims about what’s at stake in the Age of Trump

It is not about the individual as much as the movement that gave Donald Trump power. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)It is not about the individual as much as the movement that gave Donald Trump power. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

It seems that all of us in the United States, whether we like it or not, are living in the Age of Trump. What we do in response to that reality is the question. And that is not always easy to figure out.

I opposed Donald Trump early on. By the summer of 2016, I believed that Mr. Trump would be elected president, but I joined those who were doing whatever they could to pre-empt that outcome. (I registered as a Republican, for example, in order to vote against him in the presidential primary.) I have continued to be vocal in opposition to many of Mr. Trump’s policies, policies I believe to be ill conceived and cruel. Less often, I have continued to voice criticism of his personal “foibles,” which I believe to be grave.

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I have talked a lot about the empathy that I feel for some Trump voters. Fellow critics of Mr. Trump have sometimes seen this as fraternizing with the enemy.

At the same time, I have talked a lot about the empathy that I feel for some Trump voters. Fellow critics of Mr. Trump have sometimes seen this as breaking rank, or even as fraternizing with the enemy. Even more frustrating to some of them, I have spoken about a situation of profound and growing polarization both in the church and in U.S. society, for which people sitting at both of the two poles are culpable. This has been seen as asserting moral equivalence, or at least as constituting some pernicious degree of both-siderism. Taken together, these supposed tendencies on my part are seen as opening up small chinks in a wall of opposition to Mr. Trump that, given the stakes, must be absolute.

To clarify my position, and perhaps spark discussion, I offer a few claims for your consideration.

1. Mr. Trump—which I should probably put in quotation marks as “Trump” because I do not mean the individual so much as I mean the movement that gave him power—is both the result of, and also a contributor to, pernicious larger forces. These are not dissimilar to forces in Great Britain, where one Boris Johnson now serves as prime minister.

2. As I have already said, I hope that Mr. Trump does not win in 2020. I believe that his continued administration will do untold damage. But I expect that he will win in 2020—and that it will again come as something of a “surprise” in connection with polling and punditry.

3. My opposition to Mr. Trump is complicated in certain ways because I am not, like many who oppose him, a good liberal. I think procedural liberalism is more or less our only hope, but I have deep-seated tendencies to talk about things like the Good and tradition, etc.

My opposition to Mr. Trump is complicated in certain ways because I am not, like many who oppose him, a good liberal.

4. What’s more, I am pro-life. That alone sets me apart from many who oppose Mr. Trump. It also contributes in a specific way to my perception of Trump supporters.

5. I know what it is like to hold a position that many people believe is not simply wrong, but ridiculous, and ridiculous in a specific way: backward, ignorant and dangerous. This allows me a window into the world of the diehard Trump supporter, even though that is not my world. Specifically, I know exactly how effective it is to yell at me about how backward, ignorant and dangerous my pro-life views are. I know precisely what effect it has when people in power try to make sure that pro-life views are simply silenced (or, as we now say, deplatformed).

6. I believe that the only thing that could change the outcome I describe in No. 2 would be a serious opening of conversation and collaboration that somehow breaks the straitjacket of polarization. This is why I am working in any way I can to foster that opening, in part by encouraging friends across the political spectrum to be more open to the perspectives of those with whom they disagree and by pointing to the stranglehold that polarization creates. For the sake of all of us, but especially for those most hurt by Mr. Trump’s governance, I believe everything depends on it. But I do not expect this opening of conversation and collaboration to come any time soon.

7. I am always ready to be happily surprised.

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Charles Monsen
4 weeks ago

I understand this is not the position of the author, but the “I am pro life – therefore I am pro Trump (or anti democrat)” is a very common position held by many Catholics I run into. I find this position both simplistic and naive.
There is no such thing as one issue Catholicism, and the Church and USCCB has always advocated discernment in evaluating political candidates. I have yet to see the candidate that has an ideology that is perfectly aligned with our Catholic beliefs. Being Catholic and voting is always a compromise. Far from being one issue, I think it is incumbent on Catholics to pragmatically evaluate the candidate’s positions against the current situation to maximize Catholic ideals.
The current situation on abortion is, it is now mainly an issue being fought at the state level. It is wise to remember, that even if Roe v Wade was overturned, it would just return the abortion discussion to the states, basically where it is now. State challenges to the availability of abortion are underway in those states whose populations support it. And these challenges will be judged by a sympathetic Supreme Court. We are in a good political position in regard to prolife.
However, there is little politically to be gained. As above, if Roe v Wade was overturned is would not end abortion. It is more than likely that many states would continue to support the current abortions laws. There are only 2 routes available to end abortion in the US. The first is a constitutional amendment. Saying that this is a doable achievement between 2020 and 2024 is at best unbelievably optimistic, more likely delusional. The second is to continue the moral arguments and work on changing the hearts and minds of those who consider themselves prochoice.
There are little significant prolife gains to be made based on the results of the 2020 presidential election.
In my opinion there should be more Catholic support of other issues that conform to our beliefs. Kind and moral treatment of those seeking refugee status from violence and abject poverty. Preservation and care of our planet. Better treatment and charity to our poor and disadvantaged. Reductions in the gun violence. Ending capital punishment.
I find it a difficult Catholic rationalization to continue to support such an amoral person as Donald Trump, who has so many objectives that are so anti Catholic teaching, based solely on the issue of abortion, where there is so little to gain.

Jim Lein
3 weeks 6 days ago

Trump said he is pro life. Before the presidential run he was not. He is shrewd, and he has gotten the pro-life vote. If that position no longer works that well, he will switch again.
That said, I am pro-life and pro-choice. I am for the government helping women with problem pregnancies much more than we now, so that they feel more able to carry a pregnancy through to delivery. I am not for the government to use the cold hard hand of the law to force these women carry an unwanted pregnancy through to delivery. Jesus' way rather than Caesar's way.

Mark Ruzon
3 weeks 4 days ago

"I have yet to see the candidate that has an ideology that is perfectly aligned with our Catholic beliefs."

I direct your attention to the American Solidarity Party, which I am a member of and found out about through the pages of this magazine. For those who have a hard time being Catholic and Democrat (or Republican), this party will provide a way to square your Catholic beliefs with your political affiliation. Our candidate is Brian Carroll.

Charles Monsen
3 weeks 4 days ago

Thank you Mark. I appreciate what the ASP is trying to accomplish. The core of my issue however is how to pragmatically use my vote to best advance Catholic ideals and objectives. At its current level of support and influence, I do not see a vote for an ASP party candidate as much more than protest vote against the current situation. As satisfying as that may be, at least in my opinion, there are better uses of my vote to make advances of our shared objective.

Michael Bindner
4 weeks ago

Trump gave us two Kennedy proteges, who shared his view on abortion (and Trump's). On October 1st, SCOTUS will conference on June v. Gee (and important cases). It could deny Cert, which would let Louisiana Trap laws stand and essentially overturn Roe, hear the case and allow a Roe rehearing or reverse the 5th Circuit, repealing Trap and ending the pro-life movement's access to repealing Roe. We will find out October 7th.

Trump is either a vile idiot and the worst President ever or a false flag operation to destroy the GOP, with Pence set to pardon him at the end. Obama may even be in on it. Once the GOP is destroyed, the Democrats will split into a socialistic Warren, Sanders, Harris party and a Biden, Delaney, Klobachar neo-liberal party.

Both results are inevitable unless the GOP removes Trump soon, except the June v. Gee thing, although my per Curiam guess is most likely. Then the question for pro-life members is whether to fade away or insist on a much larger refundable child tax credit, putting it in the Warren wing. The Biden wing won't take them, but will continue to use them as a foil to keep feminists fired up.

J Cosgrove
3 weeks 6 days ago

Trump is a reaction not a phenomena. Pernicious forces led to Trump. If his supporters are enthusiastic it is because these pernicious forces are now being frustrated. The polarization is coming from one side of the political spectrum, the side the author is on. I suggest the author read more. She may be surprised. For example, a quote - the real source of Trump derangement syndrome is his desire to wage a multifront pushback -- politically, socially, economically and culturally -- against what might be called the elite postmodern progressive world.

By the way who has been hurt by Trump’s governance? Certainly not the poor!

Rob Jacobs
3 weeks 6 days ago

The whole county is polarized— this is self-evident. To try and blame one side for all the problems means that A) You yourself are polarized and B) The article went right over your head. But by all means, continue to blame half of your fellow Americans for all the nation’s problems... See where that gets you.

J Cosgrove
3 weeks 6 days ago

A sub-headline of an article this morning about this problem.

A reluctance to speak the truth instills an unwillingness or even inability to see the truth

I will stand by my claim with one modification, nearly all the polarization is coming from one side. It happened before Trump so it has nothing to do with him.

J Cosgrove
3 weeks 6 days ago

PS - this magazine spend 3/4 of its energy blaming one side. I find it ironic when it may be the side doing the blaming that is at fault.

Jorge Rebasa
3 weeks 6 days ago

Many of the claims by the author can be made against Bill Clinton, a presidency that was, in my estimation as a political refugee from a communist country the beginning of the end. Yet millions of Americans waived palms towards Bill and Hillary, as many of us saw it as worrisome. Trump is as much an aberration as Bill Clinton (and Ted Kennedy, a true reckless lion) but it is instructive some suddenly have indignation about one presidency but were MIA when it truly mattered. It says a lot about our age of dictatorship of relativism.

Rob Jacobs
3 weeks 6 days ago

With all due respect, your thesis is fatuous nonsense and a textbook case of false equivalence. Trump, as of today, has told at least 12,000 false or misleading claims as president. No other modern president comes within a country mile of that dubious achievement. Comparisons to Ted Kennedy, who was never president and therefore never had anywhere near the destructive potential that Trump has, are absurd. Additionally, whatever Ted Kennedy’s personal faults— and they were at times, no doubt, significant— the man dedicated his entire life to public service. Trump has spent his entire life in steeped gaudy self-aggrandizement, gluttony, and avarice. That rough beast slouching toward Bethlehem to be born? Yea, he’s arrived.

Stuart Meisenzahl
3 weeks 5 days ago

Rob
I agree that Trump is a serial exaggerator, frequent bender of the truth and a misstater of facts. The famous Washington Post “lie counter” includes an ocean of such exaggeration and overstatement within its category of what constitutes a lie..

But reflect for a moment on exactly what impact or damage Trump’s “ lies” have actually had other than to fuel the outrage of those who already despise him and would still do so if he never uttered another countable “lie”

On the other hand President Obama’s oft repeated .....”If you like your Doctor, you can keep your Doctor”, and “ If you like your Plan you can keep your Plan” were critical to the passage of the Affordable Care Act and an expense of over $1 Trillion
Similarly President Obama’s overheard Soto voce ....”This is my last election tell Vladimir ( Putin) I can be more flexible after it’s over”.....led to the failure to put a missile defense system in Poland, a show of weakness that led to Putin’s invasion of Crimea.
President Obama stated that the sine qua non of a deal with Iran was ....”Anytime ,Anywhere inspections” and yet the agreement he signed contained nothing close to such a provision and has led to the current state of affairs with Iran.
Ben Rhodes has not just admitted, but in fact bragged, that the Obama Administration fed a guillable press that a deal with Iran should negotiated because Iran moderates were in charge when they knew that was a lie. ......again leading to the current state of affairs with Iran.
Just these three instances of Obama lies and misleading statements have had far greater consequences than Trump’s plethora of Wa Po countable lies.

L Hoover
3 weeks 6 days ago

A bad tree does not bear good fruit. No good will come from Trump, not even an end to abortion. and he has already caused much harm. A man of his nature should not have been accorded presidential powers. He is deranged (lies mixed with delusion, with malignant narcissism and sociopathy), and corrupt. Your children and grandchildren, the same as mine, will suffer to the extent that he prevails. As such, I have difficulty talking with folks who aren't particularly bothered by his dishonesty, self-aggrandizement, and service to self. Policy differences are not the problem. Rather, he seeks to replace our democratic republic with a fascist, authoritarian form of government that would allow him to retain power and amass riches. He tries to rid America of the marginalized----remember European leaders with similar aims? He must be defeated.

FRAN ABBOTT
3 weeks 6 days ago

Thank you.

Crystal Watson
3 weeks 6 days ago

I can't take the pro-life position seriously anymore. If pro-life people really wanted to reduce abortion they would support contraception, but they do not. I think what pro-life people really want to reduce is the ability of women to make their own decisions. And that's why they support a misogynist like Trump.

Stuart Meisenzahl
3 weeks 6 days ago

Crystal
You state “pro life people do not support contraception” .....nonsense....But then it does conveniently allow you to trot out your inevitable argument/meme that men are just subjecting women....in your view everyone then becomes a misogynist.

Crystal Watson
3 weeks 6 days ago

"Efforts by Anti-Choice Advocates to Redefine and Limit Contraception" ... https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/women/news/2018/03/26/448373/efforts-anti-choice-advocates-redefine-limit-contraception/

Stuart Meisenzahl
3 weeks 5 days ago

Crystal
Convenient how you assume that because some pro lifers are also against contraception therefore all Pro lifers are against contraception. A citation to American Progress .Org on the issue of abortion or contraception is like citing the Vatican Newspaper on abortion. One need not bother to read it!

Crystal Watson
3 weeks 5 days ago

You may not like the liberal source, but the facts in the article are still facts - Republican lawmakers, religious leaders, and pro-life movements such as Americans United For Life and American Life League have tried to limit people's access to contraception and have misrepresented contraception as abortion-causing. Examples can easily be googled.

E. Commerce
3 weeks 5 days ago

Misrepresented contraception as abortion-causing? How is this misrepresentation? If the built-in backup of a drug or other contraceptive method is to prevent implantation or other continued survival of an individual already conceived by union of egg and sperm, it is by definition, abortifacient.

J Jones
2 weeks 6 days ago

Crystal is commenting in a Catholic publication. All of us --- even the priests clamoring on about a reality which only touches their lives if they violate their promise to God to keep it zipped -- know that Catholic women (and men) use contraceptives at similar rates to women (and men) of other Christian traditions because most American Catholic women are very clear about reality: they ---- and not the Church which has protected collective/individual clerical wealth and clerical daily reality will not have to support mothers and families and make life/wealth/health/basic-needs altering decisions ------have the right and responsibility to decide what happens in the bodies of women just as Catholic men and women are very clear that they ----- and not the Church which has ensured it will not have to support mothers and families and make life/health/wealth/basic-needs-altering decisions based on family needs and realities - are responsible for every child born.

Alan Johnstone
3 weeks 5 days ago

You have not given the slightest clue that you have ever been anything except in total agreement with abortion on demand without any limits as being the right of a woman with life in her womb.

We medical specialists with wide experience and familiarity with the research literature know that all forms of contraception other than tubal ligation and condoms with or without spermicide have a percentage of their success as abortifacients.
That means hormone implants, IUCDs the morning after Pill and the classical Pill.

We hold fast to : do no murder (slaying of a human being who has not earned the death penalty by criminal sin and undergone due process to establish guilt.)

J. Calpezzo
3 weeks 6 days ago

Trump is a traitor, and should be dealt with as such.

J. Calpezzo
3 weeks 6 days ago

Trump is a traitor, and should be dealt with as such.

J. Calpezzo
3 weeks 6 days ago

Trump is a traitor, and should be dealt with as such.

Randall Poshek-Gladbach
3 weeks 6 days ago

If you cannot call evil by its name, you cannot honestly claim to be Christian nor Catholic. The GOP, Trump, and all their/his supporters/voters whose raison d'être is racism and misogyny are are, by definition, evil. Collaboration and conversation with evil is evil. Good vs evil is a necessary polarization; if you are not polarized against evil, you are complicit in it.

E. Commerce
3 weeks 6 days ago

For the last 40+ years I have wanted Roe reversed. I have dutifully voted Republican although on many other issues I run center or sometimes even left of center. I couldn't vote for Trump before, although I am grateful for certain pro-life advances, and am soooooo frustrated not to have a reasonable pro-life alternate choice for 2020 as things stand. I would vote independent if Kasich ran.

I am no longer convinced that legally forbidding abortion is the best way of protecting the lives of unborn children. Too many people have had abortions, or have people they love who have had abortions, to allow it. I feel more drawn to strategies that specifically promote life for in utero future citizens and their parents while preserving the limited right to abortion. The Federal government should not enable abortion beyond enforcing the letter of Roe, or whatever replaces it.

On the other hand, it should recognize the soon-to-be citizen in the fetus and liberally extend needed care to the mother and unborn child to ensure healthy outcomes. The government should neither fund any abortions nor any abortion providers. Period. The United States must recognize infants born alive during abortions as citizens under the 14th Amendment. It should automatically extend government-funded care to these infants, since they were wounded as a result of our permissive laws--the same as we already do for soldiers who are wounded by our wars. The Federal government should fund both prenatal care for the poor and scientific research on the prenatal treatment of medical problems in the mother and fetus, rather than scientific research on aborted babies.

The US should strenuously seek limits on abortion that reflect more of what the rest of the civilized world recognizes--much more stringent than Roe, yet preserving the right to abortion for, say, the first 6 weeks of pregnancy, or when severe, life-threatening anomalies exist that are discovered later. Completely return without prejudice all abortion legislating and regulating to the states, yet provide the states with tools and general help in promoting life.

In all ways, as part of the successor decision to Roe aim for the protection of life, rather than presuming the best way to help women is to make abortion the easiest, often only, option. As far as contraception? If it is truly non-abortifacient, require health plans to cover it, but with conscience clauses.

William Gallerizzo
3 weeks 5 days ago

The "Trump" view of pro-life is actually not pro-life but anti-abortion. A true pro-life position means to support life from conception to natural death. Mr Trump has (ab)used the term to garner support and votes. Policies abuse migrants, separate families, cater to dictators and despotic leaders who threaten international peace, and openly lie to the public calling himself pro-life are enormously dangerous and sinfully grave. An enormous number of Catholics have u consciously bought a big bridge in Brooklyn, but that comes when critical thinking centers on one piece of an issue instead of the broader, more complete picture.

Charles Monsen
3 weeks 5 days ago

Well said.

Thomaspj Poovathinkal
3 weeks 5 days ago

The BEST.....Trump 2020.
God's Blessings on HIM and America and the whole World.

Thomaspj Poovathinkal
3 weeks 5 days ago

The BEST is yet to COME, 2020 for TRUMP.

Crystal Watson
3 weeks 5 days ago

You guys, the "medical specialist" et al, don't know what you are talking about. Most birth control pills (patches, rings) prevent ovulation ... they don't cause an abortion. Other birth control pills make cervical mucus unfriendly to sperm and the sperm and egg don't meet ... they don't cause abortions. Copper IUDs keep the sperm from ever meeting the egg ... they don't cause abortions. Even if an egg and sperm meet, that is not considered a pregnancy ... "According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, pregnancy begins only when a fertilized egg has implanted in the lining of a woman’s uterus, which takes several days. (Plan B ― i.e., the morning-after pill ― is not considered an “abortion” either, because it works by preventing ovulation.)" ... https://www.huffpost.com/entry/myth-birth-control-miscarriage_n_586fd1cde4b02b5f858891cd

Annette Magjuka
3 weeks 5 days ago

We have concentration camps at our southern border. How can we have a civil, respectful back and forth about this? A woman in South America was jailed for not being able to prove SHE did not cause the death of her stillborn child. She was in jail for years, and finally got out. She was recently re-charged and faces another trial. For an American example, look up Purvi Patel from Indiana, where Pence helped craft some truly heinous laws. Let’s be respectful to “the other side”—you know, the ones legislating against refugees and women. I heard a Catholic priest on the Samantha Bee Show say, “sometimes a mother just has to die with her baby” (or some comment very close to this. This comment was made in response to being asked why a woman at a Catholic hospital can not assume HER life will be saved, even when her fetus had slim to zero chance of survival. Let’s discuss this “respectfully.” Yes, why SHOULD this woman die rather than being treated? We can discuss until we’re blue in the face. The GOP is gerrymandering, suppressing the vote, denying Obama his Supreme Court pick, pushing through Kavanaugh, a credibly accused abuser without full vetting (but he’s a good Catholic boy from a great catholic prep school!!). While we DISCUSS, the GOP is a unified front, passing misogynistic, bigoted, and anti-immigrant laws. Yes, let’s TALK some more.

Stuart Meisenzahl
3 weeks 5 days ago

Annette
“Concentration Camps”....what a patently ludicrous statement .....you might try to explain exactly why millions are trying to cross the border to get into such camps. While you are at it you might recall that these “camps” were built under the prior administration.

J Jones
2 weeks 6 days ago

Annette - https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/25/opinion/hajar-raissouni-arrest.html

Trish Peyton
3 weeks 5 days ago

The pro life movement has sold its soul and lost its credibility in the eyes of many Catholics by aligning itself with leaders like Trump. God does not use evil to achieve His ends.

Trish Peyton
3 weeks 5 days ago

The pro life movement has sold its soul and lost its credibility in the eyes of many Catholics by aligning itself with leaders like Trump. God does not use evil to achieve His ends.

L Hoover
3 weeks 5 days ago

Exactly.

Crystal Watson
3 weeks 5 days ago

I agree.

J Cosgrove
3 weeks 5 days ago

You just called another human being evil and two others have agreed with you. The good nuns, priests, brothers and Jesuits I had would cringe if anyone they taught did that.

Stuart Meisenzahl
3 weeks 5 days ago

Trish
With all due respect you have absolutely no idea what-so ever what tools God chooses to use and uses to achieve His ends. To suggest otherwise is beyond hubris. Your statement is simplistic nonsense with no basis in our faith.

Charles Monsen
3 weeks 4 days ago

Stuart - with all due respect to you, Trish's statement that God would not use evil is doctrinally without argument. Seems your issue is more the inference that Trump is evil, and like others above, the right of any of us to make that judgment. Reading all of those points with charity, let me offer an alternative way of expressing Trish's point.

Many republicans, and others, have reduced the morality of the current administration into one issue, abortion, without any acknowledgment of the moral deficiencies, both personally and in policy of this administration on so many other issues. In looking at which candidates most mirror Catholic ideals, many end their comparison on abortion. To many those who reduce this to one issue, are simplistic and lose credibility.

Stuart Meisenzahl
3 weeks 4 days ago

Charles
God permits evil through out the world without explanation to any of us. But clearly He does so for reasons beyond our comprehension and for purposes not revealed to us. Trying reading again the afflictions Of Job.
Pontificating on what God would do and not do,;permit and not permit is beyond hubris.

Charles Monsen
3 weeks 3 days ago

Again, I must disagree. God does not permit or allow evil. God allows free will. It is a very important distinction. The position that an all powerful, benevolent and all knowing God allows evil is the single best argument for atheism.

Stuart Meisenzahl
3 weeks 3 days ago

Charles
You engage in a real minor thomistic distinction ...if God grants free will He permits its exercise......it hardly means He condones the results of an exercise of such.

Crystal Watson
3 weeks 5 days ago

One example of the evil: Trump and his minions have put children in cages under miserable conditions and some of those children have died. Jesus said that a person who harmed a child and caused that child to doubt God's goodness might as well have a millstone tied around their necks and be tossed into the ocean. The idea that God would use Trump as his "chosen" tool is obscene.

Stuart Meisenzahl
3 weeks 5 days ago

Crystal
You display your usual extreme myopathy....I suggest you google again the pictures of “ caged kids in Aluminum blankets” DURING THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION IN 2014 and read the testimony of JehJohnson Obama’s Secretary Of Homeland Security: See Politico ...June 24, 2018...Tim Haines quotes Johnson “ I freely admit we detained children , “it was necessary” ...”The pictures were not pretty”

Crystal Watson
3 weeks 4 days ago

Many of those migrant children die in custody during Obama's watch? Just wondering. Answer = no, no children died when Obama was president ... https://www.factcheck.org/2019/01/false-claim-of-immigrant-children-deaths-under-obama/ ... and now Trump is planning to hold children at the border for an indefinite period of time. How many more children will die because of him?

Stuart Meisenzahl
3 weeks 4 days ago

I suggest again you investigate the cause of death which did not involve custody but rather the preexisting conditions of those children ...flu, frontal lobe infection, pneumonia,. Check any hospital for the death of children in its custody and you will find the same pattern. You intend a causal relationship which does not exist!

Crystal Watson
3 weeks 4 days ago

So common, and yet no children died in US custody at all for the previous 10 years. Odd.

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