I have mostly kept quiet this year about the election, for a variety of reasons. For those reasons and other reasons, this may well be my only election-related post during this presidential election. But, I have something to say and want to get it on the record now, before Super Tuesday and the Texas primary. So, here goes.
This year is likely to result in the most distressing lineup of general-election candidates to be President of the United States that we have seen during my lifetime. It seems highly likely that, come November, we will be asked to choose between two or more candidates who, apparently, either do not understand or do not take seriously the office of President and its duties and limitations as set out in the Constitution.
As Americans—regardless of where we fall on (or off) of the left-right spectrum—we should expect and demand that a President, or even a candidate for President, do certain things and uphold certain values. After all,
Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, [the President] shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:—”I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
This is not a mere formality or afterthought. It’s a formal, explicit requirement in the Constitution, Article II, Section 1, Clause 8. In other words, it’s important.
And, as you know, the Constitution of the United States includes, among many other things, a Bill of Rights, consisting of the first ten Amendments to the Constitution. These Amendments protect and codify—but do not create—certain fundamental human rights, which any American government and any American President must—legally must and morally must—respect. These include the free choice and exercise of religion; freedom of speech; freedom of the press; freedom “peaceably to assemble;” freedom to petition the government to redress grievances; “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms;” security against unreasonable searches, seizures, and arrests; the right to a jury trial; the right not to testify when doing so would incriminate oneself; and many others.
In electing a President, only two things are of first importance to me (or should should be to anyone else): (1) God’s claim on my conscience and (2) the Constitution. For this reason, I look for candidates who respect free speech and freedom of religion, who are not afraid of a free citizenry, and who will, above all else, respect the sanctity and dignity of all human life, from the weakest and smallest to the strongest and more powerful among us. I certainly look for conservatives and people of faith, but even those criteria are secondary to respect for human life and the rule of law. I cannot and will not vote for any candidate who does not respect humanity or human liberty or whose personal history and moral character reveal that any such respect may be no more than a political and rhetorical device.
To put it simply: a candidate for President must respect human life, human dignity, the Constitution, and the rule of law as opposed to the rule of men. All else is secondary.
The most notable development in this election cycle is the meteoric rise of Donald Trump as a contender for the Republican nomination. Trump, however, has long been a liberal supporter of Democratic candidates, not a conservative. He has long had no regard for the lives of the unborn or the rights of individuals to enjoy their property if it interferes with his plans (whether here or abroad). His supposed conversion to a conservative mindset that respects human life and dignity is very recent and poorly explained. His defense of critical liberties protected by the First and Second Amendments is spotty, at best. He flaunts his misogyny, claims not to know enough about the Ku Klux Klan to disavow an endorsement from former KKK grand wizard David Duke, and engages in daily bullying and name-calling on the internet. (I’m simply linking to his entire Twitter feed because it contains plenty of examples.) In short, he consistently disrespects those he would lead, even after his purported conversion to conservatism, and he falls far short of being the kind of person I could vote for to be President.
Regardless of how Trump stacks up compared to any other candidate he might hypothetically face in November, he doesn’t measure up and has not demonstrated to me that he possesses the personal qualities, convictions, or moral compass necessary to do the job. So, if Trump is the Republican nominee, conservatives will not be tasked with choosing the “lesser of two evils” or the least ill-suited candidate. We will face a choice between one form of unqualified, irresponsible, unconstitutional governance and another. As a Christian, an American, a lawyer, and a citizen of this great nation, I cannot vote for anyone who lacks respect for human dignity or the law of the land simply because some opponent of his seems to share the same failings.
As any reader of this site over the 17 years I have run it will know, I am a conservative, in the sense that Burke, Goldwater, Kirk, and Reagan (among many others) were conservative. That does not mean I am a Republican. In fact, although I would have called myself a Republican in the past, I don’t consider myself one anymore. It’s one of those “I didn’t leave the party; the party left me” situations. I, like so many other people, am incredibly frustrated by both major parties, “politics as usual,” and the moral malleability of many career politicians. So while Republicans may often get my vote, they are not entitled to it simply because of the initial after their names. They, like anyone else, have to earn it on the merits of their convictions and their actions.
I will vote in the Texas primary elections tomorrow, and I will vote according to my conscience. When I vote in November, I will vote the same way, guided by the same conscience and the same principles. Therefore, I will not vote for Donald Trump tomorrow. He fails on the most basic criteria: respect for human life and dignity, and respect for the Constitution.
And if common sense fails and Trump is the Republican nominee, I will not vote for him in November, either. My conscience will not allow it. I would love to see a constitutionalist President who is conservative, reverent, humble, good, fair, and courageous. Simply electing a Republican because he obtained the Republican nomination, however, does not guarantee any of those things.
If your state has not yet held its primary or caucus, I hope you will take seriously your civic responsibility to vote. I hope that you will vote, and that you will vote according to your conscience. And I hope that, when you do so but before you cast your ballot, you ask yourself: “Does this person respect human life at all ages, in all conditions, and in all times and places, and will this person preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States?”
Please vote for someone who loves life and loves the Constitution. We are all counting on you.