As the late Sen. John McCain’s departing call to national unity reverberated across America this past week, Donald Trump’s prediction of violence should Democrats prevail in November’s midterm elections seemed both discordant and, well, weird.
The president issued his dire warning last week — two days after McCain’s death — to a gathering of evangelical pastors at the White House. Trump warned that if they didn’t rally their parishioners to turn out and vote Republican, Democrats “will overturn everything that we’ve done, and they’ll do it quickly and violently.”
I’ve nearly rubbed my chin raw from stroking it for answers.
What sort of apocalyptic vision guides our commander in chief? What level of paranoia inspires such hyperbolic projections?
These questions are tendered as rhetorical exercise. We know what petty perdition this president has created for himself. And, sadly for the country, it needn’t have been this way. Given the antipathy toward Hillary Clinton, Trump might have won the election without appealing to raw emotion and base fears. Later, he might have changed his tune as president and tried to appeal to a broader cross-section of Americans. Who knows? As McCain said, in this country nothing is inevitable. Trump might have united the nation in common cause.
Instead, he chose the ugly path. From immigration, to health care and tax overhauls, to foreign policy, Trump took the low road. Thus, the less-rhetorical question is: How do these evangelical pastors sleep at night?
We know that many conservatives voted for Trump because he promised to appoint conservative judges to the Supreme Court. We also know that Trump ran away with the evangelical vote.
But one must ask these men and women of the cloth: Is it really more important to hope for a Supreme Court that might reverse (or, more realistically, erode) Roe v. Wade than it is to have a president of whom we can be proud? In whom we can trust to be thoughtful, honest and impervious to every little slight?
Does same-sex marriage, which a majority of Americans support, so offend these church leaders that they’d rather risk a nuclear matchup with North Korea? Or an increasingly tenuous relationship with Russia and China owing to Trump’s careless use of power to intimidate, insult and badger our geopolitical foes? Russia is slated to hold war games — its largest since the dissolution of the Soviet Union — and China’s army will be involved.
Is this of no consequence to those who preach the word of God?
Granting the benefit of the doubt, Trump’s supporters early on might have deluded themselves into believing he wouldn’t be that bad. But what’s their excuse now?
But Trump was surely serious when he spoke about the darkness that would descend upon the land if Republicans lost the House. One would have thought he was speaking of the Islamic State or the Taliban, not fellow Americans with a different point of view. Even stranger, he mentioned violence in the context of Antifa, a loose group of anti-fascists who are militant in their protest of white supremacists, who have celebrated Trump’s presidency as a giant step for white mankind.
If Republicans do lose Congress in the fall, it won’t be because evangelicals didn’t turn out to vote, though that surely would be a redemptive act. It will be because of Trump himself. A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 60 percent of Americans disapprove of Trump’s job performance. The same survey also found that 63 percent support special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. And 62 percent said they support Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whom Trump has been threatening to fire. A Democratic victory in the midterms will happen because of the GOP’s silence in the face of Trump’s untenable behavior; their lack of courage in condemning his Draconian execution of policies; and the utter hypocrisy of allowing such a foul-mouthed, race-baiting misogynist to occupy the Oval Office after many of these same paragons of virtue impeached Bill Clinton for lying about his irresponsible affair with an intern.
Violence isn’t likely should Republicans lose, but impeachment probably is. This is what Trump anticipates and fears. If evangelical pastors really want to help the country, they should urge their parishioners to read McCain’s last testament and heed his words: “We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe.”
Kathleen Parker is a columnist for The Washington Post. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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