VOTE YOUR CONSCIENCE: With those words, Ted Cruz started a firestorm with boos and recriminations on one side, and hearty approval on the other.
Now, in some way, the exhortation to vote your conscience is both sound and grating. Who among us, including supporters of Hillary, is not voting their conscience? The conscience can be misinformed and ill-informed, and even two good and informed people can come to different conclusions. My initial reaction to Cruz’s speech was to offer up this line: “If you are invited to give a toast, salute the bride. If you are unable to, then skip the wedding.” Was I right? Well, a lot of people thought it was bad form for Cruz to spoil the party. Others came to his defense, noting that he is a truth teller, that he stands on principle. The speech was vetted, even. And they reminded us that Trump is a mean-spirited fellow who questioned whether Cruz’s father had been involved in the Kennedy assassination, who posted unflattering pictures of his wife, and routinely referred to him as “Lyin’ Ted.” To complain about Cruz being uncouth seems laughable in such a context, especially as the speech was invited, even vetted by the Trump campaign.
On the other side, there was a near perfect speech by Mike Pence. Many of my fellow Hoosiers, and many true and good conservatives celebrated. He said so much that was so good, and he said it with just the right twinkle in his eye. When Pence is good, he’s very good. Now, people who opposed him only a few months earlier are praising him as the second coming of Reagan. But is he? Have we so soon forgotten? He proudly says he is a Christian first. Good stuff. But when it came time to stand up for Christians, he backed down. He capitulated. He surrendered. Worse yet, he defended his action. Tellingly, he defended the second amendment, but was silent on the first amendment issues that threaten our Republic.
Did Cruz emerge a hero? I don’t know. His speech would have been better if he stood up, by name, for Baronelle Stutzman, Melissa Klein, and Kelvin Cochran. When asked to defend religious liberty, in its particulars, he has. But at the convention, he could have spotlighted our nation’s real and pressing difficulties, he did not. He did not educate. Our nation is plagued now by ignorance and fear, and I’m not sure which of the two is our greatest enemy. Probably the latter. In such a vacuum, people need a leader who will call the evil by its name, and face it head on. Perhaps, Cruz has kept himself clean, so to speak, to defend religious liberties in particular. But the Trump supporters are winnable, and need to hear the message, too, about what is lacking.
So, we must all vote according to our conscience. But perhaps it would be better to say, we must vote for what we believe will be best for our nation and its people. What will ultimately promote the common good and the general welfare? Good people can say that, by promoting Trump, we are abandoning our values forever. Better to have four years of Hillary and then come back with a principled leader. Others think that supreme court justices matter, and they matter now.
Then comes the matter of Trump’s character, which is said to be narcissistic, even sociopathic. However we fall on this issue, we should not pretend he is a good person. We must acknowledge his long history of childish self-promotion, misogyny, and his destruction of all who do no toe his line. And as we do, we consider Trump may cavalier in his practice of personal destruction, but he is right that Hillary is corrupt to the core, coldly calculating, and antithetical to all who hold dear the values of life and liberty, marriage and family. Who can argue that hers is the dark path of Planned Parenthood and willful dismantling of the things we hold dearest?
We also do well to recognize that many Trump supporters are motivated not simply by a personality cult, but because they are desperate for a leader who will stand, actually stand against the likes of Hillary. They hate the idea of a “good guy” (like Romney or McCain) going into the arena with Hillary, and then refuse to fight her. They want a leader who actually wants to win, because they see the stakes are high.
It should be acknowledged that some vote for Trump because he is thought to be our only hope. Others vote because he thought to be the lesser of two evils, and think that less evil is better. And then there are those who say that Trump will signal the end of all that is good. This is clearly a debatable question, and we should continue to have this debate. And we should do so without doubting another person’s intentions for the good.
It does us no good to laud Trump, if we cover us his manifold faults. And it does us no good, even, to pretend that Pence is somehow the second coming of Reagan, when he so miserably failed us on the biggest issue that faces us today, even justifying it. We might pray that Trump is hemmed in, and might hope that Pence will be strengthened, and show that yes, now, he will now stand up for religious liberty. But, then we must say, if we are honest, Pence has not. And in his speech, he did not. It is unseemly to see people gushing over Pence, when he is still avoiding the very issue that weighs on us most, the very issue on which he retreated, and then defended, and then became silent on. We must again recite the litany of those are suffering because of LGBT oppression. We must stand against a political correctness that is fining and firing Christians Against the crony capitalism that brought down its hell fire on Indianapolis, then spread further to Georgia, and North Carolina and throughout our nation.
It seems to be clear that God has not given us a clear Gideon, one who can swoop in and save the day. Our troubles run much deeper. So, for now, we listen to one another, call each other to account in charity, offer up a prophetic voice, and have no illusions. One thing we may all be able to agree on is, this is a big mess.