The US Presidential elections are over for another four years, and I imagine that the 2016 election will go down in history as one of the most memorable.
People from around the world – including Australia – watched avidly as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton fought a bitter campaign. I don’t remember another time when the election season was so hostile.
Without wanting to add too much to the countless analyses of recent events, I wanted to propose five key take outs for Catholics.
Both candidates rejected the dignity of the human person
Despite Trump and Hillary appearing to be polar opposites, the two candidates were remarkably similar in the main reason they were both such unattractive options to hold the highest political office in the world: they both reject the inherent dignity of the human person.
Hillary’s rejection of the dignity of the human person was seen most clearly in her support for unfettered abortion, even up to the time of birth. Not only would the unborn child have had no rights under President Clinton, its humanity would not even be a consideration.
She also rejected the dignity of Trump supporters generally, considering them beneath her and unworthy of attention (this was ultimately her downfall.) Her famous “basket of deplorables” line clearly illustrated her disdain for the opposition.
Donald Trump, on the other hand, failed to see the dignity of pretty much any person who is different to him. We saw too many examples of his undignified treatment of women, his rejection of the humanity of immigrants, those of Islamic faith and the poor. His famous Twitter feed illustrates his disdain for the opposition.
“Hillary bad” does not equal “Trump good”
One of the alarming things about this campaign was the wilful blindness of some Catholic commentators in relation to Trump’s flaws. It is no secret that Hillary Clinton is in the pocket of Planned Parenthood – America’s largest abortion provider – and that they would have enjoyed significant support under her reign. Donald Trump, on the other hand, declared himself to be pro-life and promised to appoint pro-life judges to the Supreme Court. Many Catholics thought this was reason alone for Trump to be the only candidate for which a Catholic could vote in good conscience.
I am not a moral theologian and so I won’t try to discuss whether this is in fact accurate (although I doubt it is), but even if it was the case, it does not mean that this automatically made Trump a “good” candidate. I had debates with friends who told me that Catholics should “unequivocally” be supporting Trump. How ridiculous! Choose to support him if you like, of course, but why did the support need to be unequivocal? I would think it would be reluctant, at best. No one is served by denying Trump’s many flaws.
The easy descent into ideology
Related to the above point, there is a big difference between wanting a candidate to win, and wanting their opponent to lose. While your vote may end up being the same, your motivation is different, and it is played out in other ways.
Even though I was by no means a Trump fan, I found myself delighted by his victory.
I was happy that the standard bearer for the progressive Left had been defeated; that those who prefer to cry “bigot” rather than engage in reasonable debate were served the fruits of their intellectual laziness; and that the Hollywood elite were ignored in great numbers by those who held something other than the sole “acceptable” opinion.
My excitement was not in a Trump victory, but in the defeat of Clinton and everything and everyone she represents. It was not a good place to be. As Catholics, we should want to see goodness rewarded and its opponents converted more than we want to see them defeated.
Voting is not enough: you need to keep lobbying after the election
Donald Trump enjoyed immense support from many who are concerned about pro-life issues. Indeed, there is speculation that the turning point for Trump came in the final debate, where he spoke about his opposition to abortion. If that is true, and if Trump was carried to the presidency in part by the Catholic vote, then Catholics need to keep him honest. Keeping Hillary out of the White House is not the end for the protection of life. Catholics need to be vigilant and ensure that these were not just empty election promises.
While many might have voted for Trump on the “single issue” of abortion, it does not follow that they should now disregard the more problematic aspects of his platform. Catholics should be vocal and continue to lobby the President and the new Congress on issues of immigration and care for the poor. And they must also be watchful on issues of religious freedom because a President who is so vocally anti-Muslim cannot hold religious freedom in too high regard. If you are against religious freedom for Muslims, then you are against religious freedom fullstop.
Australians should take note
The unfortunate situation of the US election, ie the nomination of two less-than-optimal candidates did not happen overnight. We cannot afford to disengage from politics because situations are only made better when good people get involved. No one has permission to be a bystander when it comes to political engagement. There are so many countries in the world where voting is not allowed, and so we should not take our ability to vote for granted.
Monica Doumit, Catholic Talk contributor