Well here it is. The post that many people have asked me for. I'm sure I'll take a beating from some, but the stakes are too high for me to care much about that.
The necessary caveats to begin this post:
-- Trump is not a stellar man. He is not a man of virtue. He is a blowhard and a jerk. I am not defending Trump as some sort of saint or model of goodness.
-- I voted for Marco Rubio in the primaries. I would have been fine with most of the other candidates as well, and would have voted for them over Trump. The primaries are where we must fight hard for the purest, best candidates. But now the primaries are over, and we are discussing the general election, where it is a truth that either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will be our next president (believe me, I understand the consternation).
-- I personally do not ever vote for non-viable third party candidates in the general election. I work with what we have on hand. If I wanted to vote for someone who cannot win, I would vote for my husband. Or my mom. Or my friend Danya. I would vote for myself, even, since I agree with everything I believe in, ha ha. As it stands, I want to do more than simply make a statement, so I look at the viable candidates in any election and vote for one of them -- the one who will do the least damage to my Church and my family and my country -- because we are going to get stuck with one of them, for sure.
-- You, dear reader, are not obligated to vote for Trump. <--------- Did you see that? Because if I get comments saying, "But, Leila, Catholics are not obligated to vote for Trump!" I am going to refer you back to this bullet point. Please respect the fact that I have made this very clear, with a little red highlight and all. There is no mandate that you vote for Donald Trump. Do whatever your well-formed conscience tells you with regard to voting.
-- Having agreed that you are not morally bound to vote for Trump, I don't see any possible moral way that a Catholic can give one's vote to Hillary Clinton. None. Maybe some of you can see a way. I cannot. However, going along with my third bullet point, I will say that if it were Hillary running against someone like Hitler, I would vote for Hillary in that case. But we don't have a situation like that. (And if you believe Trump is a Hitler-figure, then we have nothing more to talk about.)
Now that I am done with the caveats, here is why Donald Trump will get my vote:
For me it's very simple. I vote policy. This is politics. Hillary's policy positions are diametrically opposed to all I hold dear and believe. Trump's are much more in line with my own. Read his policy position statements, read the Republican Party Platform and compare it to the Democrat Party Platform, listen to Mike Pence, his vice presidential pick.
Whether or not Trump is personally pro-life, he is at least not anywhere near the slobbering, slavish love of abortion that characterizes Hillary and her party. Not even close. And while politicians greatly tend to flip-flop and gravitate toward whatever position is politically expedient, I'd rather vote for the guy who is flip-flopping and gravitating in the right direction!
Trump is not determined to take away religious freedom and conscience rights of Catholics. Note well the brand new parts of the Democratic Platform, and see the rapid progression of Hillary's party in actively working to erode religious liberties and conscience rights. All her people will stand firmly for this inverted, perverted view of "religious freedom" that means Catholic teaching is bigoted discrimination that will not be tolerated. Trump's people do not and will not uniformly and aggressively stand for those things.
A huge question for me is, "How can I preserve my religious liberties just a little bit longer?" <------Please re-read that question. This is vitally important to me, and it should be to every Catholic. Even Pope Benedict warned the US bishops of the "grave threats" to religious liberty in America*, and the same US bishops went so far as to establish an annual Fortnight For Freedom to address the ongoing and growing crisis. This threat to Catholics began and continues under Democratic rule. When it comes to retaining our liberties, Christians have more of a shot with Trump than with Hillary. Never in my lifetime could I have imagined a sitting president going to court against the Little Sisters of the Poor, for example. These are the Democrats, the "progressives," Obama and Hillary's people who did this, not Trump's party.
Of course there is the issue of the judges the next president will appoint -- including, we tend to forget, all federal judges, hundreds of them, not just those on the Supreme Court. These judges will be ruling our lives, promoting abortion and LGBTQ "rights," and limiting our religious liberties for decades to come, long after Hillary is out.
I often think of the Cabinet, which includes the the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs, and the Attorney General. Think about the power of these Cabinet heads! And every last one of them will be of Hillary's mind -- pro-abortion, pro-gay "rights," and against conscience rights of Catholics. Trump's Cabinet heads would not be 100% left-wing "progressives," not even close. The Vice President is a member of the Cabinet, and under Trump, that would be pro-life, pro-marriage, pro-family, pro-faith Mike Pence. To think that the rest would be secular "progressives" is just irrational.
And goodness, the military! Under Obama it is being slowly wrecked, being turned into an LGBTQ social experiment now, and getting so much worse with every new "progressive" directive, which are coming faster these days.
Trump wants smaller central government (unlike Hillary), which means less government interference in the lives of regular Americans. In other words, Trump and his people are more in line with the Catholic principle of subsidiarity, which is a subject Catholics don't tend to know about, but should.
Also, unlike fiscally irresponsible Democrats who promise "free" stuff to everyone and higher taxes, I personally believe in lowering taxes across the board, which Trump has promised. A tax cut will specifically help Middle America, which has been so damaged by, among other things, the Obamacare nightmare.
So for me, this vote is a no-brainer. I'm not the least bit troubled about my vote for Trump considering that the alternative is Hillary, the Democrats, and all her people. Personally, my conscience would haunt me if I did not do everything to defeat Hillary. The secular "progressives" are systematic and they are determined. If we let them in to rule us for four or eight more years, they will become even more emboldened, and nothing will stop them.
Some people, even people of goodwill, think that Trump is just as bad as Hillary. I cannot fathom it, how anyone could think that a Trump administration and the people he would put in place could promulgate even half as much evil as Hillary and her people would. The damage to this country and to Catholics would be unprecedented. So for me personally, it is my moral obligation of conscience to vote for her opponent, so as to mitigate the evil she and her appointees and staff will accomplish.
There is much talk about Trump being an ass, a jerk, a horrible man. He is a blustering blowhard, as I've mentioned many times. So were many of our presidents. So are many of our relatives (if you are Mediterranean like me!), and that doesn't reflexively mean they are politically wrong or evil. Some of the blowhards in my life are near and dear to me, and they would never "blow up the world" because of that temperament. I'd vote for a blusterer long before I would vote for a (publicly) calm but sinister person.
I have actually never seen a Catholic voter guide discussing whether or not a candidate is a jerk. Instead, Catholic voter guides talk about policy. The most important policies concern intrinsic evils like abortion, euthanasia, the rights of parents to be the primary educators of their children, conscience rights, and protecting natural marriage, i.e., all the things that Democrats are on the wrong side of. Apart from the intrinsic evils (the "non-negotiables"), the rest of the policy issues (immigration, education, welfare programs, healthcare, etc.) are issues of prudential judgment, meaning, Catholics are free to disagree with how best they should be handled. See the video below for more information on that.
Honestly, if using a slur or a bad word is enough to disqualify a presidential candidate, then Catholics pretty much can't vote for anyone, ever. I believe a lot of this anti-Trump over-the-top rhetoric is a way to keep Catholics out of the public square. After all, this is politics, where corruption and sleaze is the norm. If we may only vote for near-saints, then we lose our place at the table, our way to shape policy that affects us. It's the attitude that kept a decent man like Romney out of the presidency -- good Catholics wouldn't vote for him! -- and kept Obama and his terrible, anti-Catholic policies in. This is politics and not theology, friends, and we are not canonizing a saint here.
Some assume that I have angst having to vote for a deeply flawed candidate. Nope, none at all. The different between Trump and Hillary is just that stark. For those who do have angst in casting a vote for Trump, I remember well the words of a holy Opus Dei priest who told me years ago that once you make a decision (that is within the moral law), stop worrying about it. So in this case, I would advise people to make the decision, vote and move on.
One last thought: If I can't convince you to vote for Trump in order to mitigate the evil that Hillary and the Democrats will surely bring to us, perhaps Fr. John Lankeit from the Diocese of Phoenix can at the very least show you why you may never, ever vote for Hillary Clinton and put the Democratic Party in charge. It's a spiritual warning that we would all do well to heed, including those Catholics who are actually encouraging votes for Hillary as a better alternative to Trump:
That needs to go viral, don't you think?
Okay, I'm happy to discuss in the comments, as usual. Please just have patience and mercy, as my son and his wife are visiting from out of town, and I am soaking up every minute I can with them.
Above all, please pray for our nation, because we are in dire straits. As Catholics, we'll take whatever suffering comes, of course, but let us not enable and assist those who actively oppose us. We are an Easter people, not a suicide people, after all!
*The words of Pope Benedict to the American bishops, four years ago this month:
It is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres. The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated at every level of ecclesial life. Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion. Many of you have pointed out that concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices. Others have spoken to me of a worrying tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience. [Again, this was all about Obama and the Democrats. No one else is doing this. Hillary is quite set to double-down on the "progress."]
** Update: Trump addresses Catholic concerns, here.