Robert P. George and George Weigel, along with 35 other Catholic scholars, published a letter on March 7 entitled “An Appeal to Our Fellow Catholics.” They write that the Republican party has been a vehicle—though imperfect—for promoting causes at the center of Catholic social teaching for decades. They point to the party’s efforts to provide legal protection for unborn children and the vulnerable; to protect religious freedom; to promote a sound understanding of marriage; and to foster subsidiarity through the re-establishment of constitutional and limited government. George, Weigel, et al. write that the possibility of furthering these causes through this present election cycle is in grave danger as a result of Donald Trump’s rise to prominence and front-runner status in the race for the Republican nomination.
They understand many are drawn to Trump because he “speaks to issues of legitimate and genuine concern: wage stagnation, grossly incompetent governance, profligate governmental spending, the breakdown of immigration law, inept foreign policy, stifling ‘political correctness’—for starters.”
Yet the authors urge Catholics, and all citizens, to consider that there are candidates for the Republican presidential nomination who are more likely than Trump to address these issues, without the all the negatives that Trump brings to the table. They conclude by urging their fellow Catholics and all citizens to reject Trump’s candidacy by supporting “a genuinely reformist candidate.”
Here, two Rover writers debate the question: should Catholics vote for Trump?
Why a Catholic should not vote for Trump
Charlie Ducey, Columnist
I should start by saying that I have no real business writing this column. I know relatively little about politics, and I’m not terribly fond of polemics, unless maybe we’re arguing about which Lord of Rings movie is best (The Two Towers, obviously). However, I do know a thing or two about rhetoric and representation, and what I’ve been seeing from the various 2016 presidential campaigns—but largely from the Trump camp—has been, well, unsettling.
From the riotous rallies to the ethnically offensive generalizations, Trump’s campaign feeds on the fears of mostly working class, and almost exclusively white Americans to promote division and contempt. Though the billionaire businessman might appear favorable as a political outsider set on reforming do-nothing Washington with his straight-talk and machismo, the underlying ruthlessness associated (whether rightly or wrongly) with his bid for the presidency should discourage any well-meaning Catholic from voting for him.
In effect, I am arguing that Catholics should not vote for Trump because he fails to embody Christian virtues such as faith, hope, and love, as well as a charitable demeanor more generally. From what I’ve seen, he seems to stand for just the opposite. Now, Catholics don’t necessarily have to vote for candidates who are Catholic (indeed, just because a candidate calls himself Catholic does not suffice in meriting a Catholic’s vote).
But Catholics should value true virtue in their elected leaders. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) drives this point home in its document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.” Therein, the USCCB calls on us to vote through a formation of conscience by way of the virtue of prudence, taking into account “a candidate’s commitments, character, integrity, and ability to influence a given issue.”
Matters of morality stand at the forefront of this consideration, as the bishops write, “In public life, it is important to practice the virtues of charity and justice that are at the core of our Tradition.” They go on to list a number of intrinsic moral evils, such as abortion, racist behavior, and “subhuman living conditions,” which could disqualify a candidate from receiving Catholic support. So, the question is, does the Donald stand on the side of virtue or malice?
From what we see in the popular media, with its coverage of violent pro-Trump crowds, along with his blatant insults, and promises to target the families of terrorists and approve of waterboarding, the answer seems to lean toward the malicious. But this is all rather superficial and sensationalistic. This is not a question of soundbytes, but of bone-deep character.
As an aside: one of the most disheartening things about politics these days is that it is mediated by entities based not in informing people but in commanding the most attention. Hence, politics becomes a matter of entertainment. Since we all know that Americans eat up entertainment, does it really come as much of a surprise that the greatest entertainer in the bunch skyrockets in popularity? Can mainstream media or little videos by Vox really criticize the Trump phenomenon when they have done so much to proliferate it? But to blame media alone would be far too narrow-minded and stereotypical—which at the end of the day are the real vices here. Resorting to such stereotypes, directed at political parties or individuals, would be, to use Trump’s terminology, “disgraceful.”
Yet, as we probe deeper, Trump seems to rely heavily on such divisive stereotypes and generalizations. His polarizing comments on Islam are a prime example. During the most recent CNN debate, Trump repeatedly spoke of “tremendous hate” harbored by Islam against America, yet he totally ignores the seething hatred expressed at so many of his rallies, where “Muslims are the problem.” Meanwhile, Trump speaks about Washington, D.C., as a disaster and of Hillary Clinton as a death knell for the country, and he extols Putin and the Chinese Communist Party for their strength. But where’s the real virtue, here?
Some Trump supporters like to portray him as a “strong leader,” who can “strike a good deal.” But Catholics should look for more than a strong leader. They should look for a virtuous leader. When Trump leans into his microphone as Ted Cruz is talking and whispers “make me president,” that’s not the sign of a virtuous leader. That’s the sign of an eight-year-old nagging his parents for a Lord of the Rings DVD box-set for Christmas in mid-March. Whatever kind of man Donald J. Trump may be at heart, what he has come to represent through his antics and derogatory remarks stands in opposition to the virtuous life of Christ. For Catholic voters, virtue should be the trump card, and Trump does not look too favorable in that department.
Charlie Ducey is a senior studying English and German. He waxes poetic without warrant, but who needs a warrant to write poetry? Contact him at email@example.com.
In defense of Trump: Why conservative Catholics should coalesce behind the Donald
Redmond Tuttle, Guest Columnist
Donald Trump will most likely be the 2016 Republican presidential nominee, and to let Hillary Clinton into the White House would relinquish any hope of a bright future for America. Conservatives time and again have had to vote for mediocre candidates who lost the election, but that’s not the case this year. Trump will win. For the first time since Ronald Reagan, we can get excited for a candidate. Though Trump may not be wholly conservative, he makes up for it in personality, appeal, and effectiveness.
Trump is an executive. His few business failures are nothing compared to his numerous profitable ventures. He has made decisions that profit his companies and himself, and now he will do the same for this country. He knows the system and has taken up the people’s cause. The elites have lost the trust of the American people. However, it takes one of the elites, bucking the very system he lived in for years, to speak to the frustration of everyday Americans.
Trump champions the cause of the common people. He will run the government like a business and will make decisions that reflect reality instead of ideals. We need a leader who is not afraid to make tough decisions, even if it offends some people, and Trump will do what is good for the country, not what lobbyists or bureaucrats want.
The substance and style of Trump’s talking points have been attacked as hateful. Obviously, Trump does not mean for everything he says to be taken literally. His bombastic style and shocking quotes make a point. We should welcome this change in political rhetoric, because, though imperfect, it has allowed people to express their opinion without an oppressive fear of offending someone.
Yes, other repugnant unsavory ideologies will surface with this resurgence of free speech, but some valuable opinions that have been stifled for years will come to light. His style has been overwhelmingly successful; the whole country is talking about immigration and security. Trump will build the wall; he means that one literally.
We cannot properly welcome immigrants into this country if masses let themselves in illegally. The president must enforce the laws of the land, which currently prohibit undocumented immigrants, and if these laws are changed it must be as a result of the will of the American people. Also, immigration law sometimes must be changed to deal with threats from abroad. Trump proposed banning all Muslims from travelling to the U.S. as a practical, commonsense suggestion to address the real threat America faces from radical Islamic terrorism. While others bemoan the situation, Trump presents an immediate but temporary attempt to tackle the problem.
He will repeal Obamacare, dismantle Common Core, and defund Planned Parenthood. We have failed to gain any ground on all of these issues because we have been apologetic about our convictions, while the other side unabashedly ridicules us. Once Trump believes in an idea, he will accomplish it completely, defend it to the brink, and present it in an appealing light. We should be glad he has adopted conservatism, even if he has not always held our beliefs. God has used imperfect people throughout history to accomplish His Will, why can he not also use this imperfect man with an imperfect message to do some real good in American politics?
To dismiss his followers as racist, hateful, and ignorant is to be naïve, condescending, and out of touch. It is to dismiss a large segment of the American population. Most Trump supporters are hard working, white, middle- and lower-class families, who have been the backbone of this nation for decades but now have been left behind.
These people are justifiably angry that their real, take-home, spending wage has not risen in decades. While others live on welfare, they pay taxes. They are frustrated, not hateful. These are the people of the true middle class, who do not want and do not get anything for free and never are bailed out when life does not go their way. To quote the movie It’s a Wonderful Life: “They do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community” we call America.
Most Notre Dame students come from wealthier backgrounds. We study at a prestigious university that introduces us to a high level of academia as undergraduates. We should not let this go to our heads. As one of the most prominent Catholic universities in America located in the heartland of this great nation, we should never forget where we come from. Yes, we should serve the least among us, the marginalized, the minorities, but let us not forget the majority. These are the people we will live with, work with, and they are trying to tell us something.
We should learn from the Republican establishment that the people’s will cannot and should not be thwarted simply because we are out of touch with them. As Christ said to the Pharisees, you interpret the signs of the weather, “can you not know the signs of the times?” (Matt. 16:3). Trump is a movement. We would do well to heed it.
Redmond Tuttle is a freshman philosophy major living in Morrissey Manor; he loves the outdoors. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. He promises it won’t start a twitter feud.