Nonviolent Resistance to Donald Trump is Working, in a Truly American Way

nonviolent resistance donald trump

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the need for nonviolent resistance against Donald Trump because of the unique dangers that his presidency represents to the nation and the world. This was written in the immediate aftermath of his illegal ban on immigrants from seven majority Muslim nations, which, after a ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court, the administration has chosen not to appeal to the Supreme Court. Whether or not they finally recognize that the order was illegal and that they didn’t stand a chance of winning, or because they aren’t willing to face further embarrassment in the public eye, the good news is either way the executive order has been shot down, though the threat the administration poses certainly is still quite real.

Quick sidetrack, there may be a strategic reason for not appealing the ruling to the Supreme Court. There stands a chance – though I don’t expect it would have happened – that given the current makeup of the Court, the appeal would have resulted in a 4-4 tie, thus leaving the Ninth Circuit’s ruling to stand. This could potentially embolden Democrats even further in their opposition to the nomination of the extremely qualified Neil Gorusch, believing that a deadlocked Court is the best chance to prevent a right-leaning Court from deciding federal cases. Just a thought.

What has happened in the aftermath of Trump’s controversial order has been the successful demonstration of the efficacy of nonviolent resistance, and in a typically American way. Forces were mobilized. The legal community fought him in courts around the country, to great success. Protests took place at major airports and cities, without violence minus a few exceptions by nefarious intruders. The media refused to back down from the ridiculous assertions by the Trump camp of being “fake news.” Perhaps most stinging of all to a man so obsessed with personal image and putting on the air of dominance and competence, the comedy industry has exposed Trump and his administration as absolutely incompetent buffoons, treating him like a boggart taken down with a simple riddikulous charm.

Saturday Night Live especially has hit him where it hurts, with Alec Baldwin’s cartoonish impersonation of Trump, Melissa McCarthy’s hilarious stint as press secretary Sean Spicer, Kate McKinnon as Jeff Sessions, and the list goes on. SNL has struggled of late to remain relevant and funny, and Trump has served as the perfect lob for them to spike home, reviving, for a time, their status as kings of political satire, and they’ve done so savagely.

The comic relief is coming from all sides. Stephen Colbert, whose career has been based on political mockery, continues to bring his unique brand of intelligent, biting ridicule to his new audience, and the power of social media ensures that millions more see his exposures of Trump than otherwise would have.

From every angle now, the resistance to Trump is nearly pitch perfect, taking the playbook from everyone who has ever stood up to a bully in the history of man. Like all bullies, Trump is insecure, fearful, and hides his littleness with inflated actions with faux-strength that in the end turn out to be nothing but a helium balloon easily deflated with just the slightest prick of resistance. The nation has become Ralphie to Trump’s Schwartz, and while the threat from Trump is far from over, his nose is now bloodied and his weak cries become more and more pathetic. Just look to his Twitter account for proof.

The moral of the story is, the American people are resisting Donald Trump in the typically American way – by using our liberty and our incredible ingenuity to beat down anyone who might attempt to threaten our democracy as Trump seeks to do. The greatest proof of the effectiveness of this resistance is the way it is now spreading throughout Trump’s own party, with Republican politicians slowly joining the cause and smacking down Trump’s unethical, unlawful, and immoral ways. John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Jeff Flake blasted Trump’s illegal refugee order. Jeffrey Chaffetz, Chairman of the House Oversight Committee and a Trump endorser, blasted Kellyanne Conway’s endorsement of Ivanka Trump’s clothing line in a stinging rebuke, calling it “clearly over the line,” and recommended her for an ethics inquiry.

The reality is, Trump’s first 100 days are shaping up to be an utter disaster. It appears that the American spy community is withholding intelligence because of fears of a Kremlin infiltration. Distrust from within the administration is leading to leaks that go beyond petty internal disputes and instead appear to stem from a real concern about the danger he poses, and perhaps even his mental health itself – including an alarming leak that he apparently called his defense secretary in the middle of the night and couldn’t remember if a strong or weak dollar was good for the economy.

The first three weeks of this tempestuous Trump presidency point to three things: one, nonviolent resistance, in all of its many forms, is effective, especially when it is focused and when it attacks from all sides. Two, the age-old wisdom of standing strong against a bully remains true. Punch him in the nose (metaphorically, of course. See point one), and his weakness and smallness will be exposed. But three, Donald Trump remains extremely dangerous, and so vigilance is required. Right now he is a confused, deranged, and frightened man-child, backed into a corner, stomping back and forth, and looking for any way to act out. But unlike the Schwartz analogy earlier, Donald Trump has terrifying force behind him, and powerful allies, and under no circumstances can we let down our guard. Through free speech, a strong and diligent press, comedic mockery, and every nonviolent tool at our disposal, the resistance must remain strong, and the threat posed by our supremely unqualified and dangerous president will continue to be held at bay.

The Resistance: A Call to Nonviolent Action Against Donald Trump

Introduction

There are moments in history when men and women are called to extraordinary action in order to resist some evil in their worlds. While evil always exists, and has ever since the fall of man, there are moments when its threat bears a particularly existential character. Too often these moments catch people unaware, and so the initial blow leaves them flat-footed and slow to respond. When the one threatening is particularly effective and prepared in advance to seize the moment, the people are too easily repressed, and in a mere instant of history, tyranny rises and liberty is diminished, if only for a time.

It appears that we now live in such a moment. The rise of Donald Trump to the office of President of the United States, once thought an impossibility, a political stunt by P.T. Barnum-style narcissist in need of the greatest of fixes, now leaves not only the nation but the entire world at the whims of a cunning, odious, sinister – and perhaps most dangerous of all, capricious man. A man who consistently has given voice to the darkest recesses of the human soul, where lies hatred, prejudice, violence, intolerance – this man has now risen to the most powerful office in the entire world.

As of this writing, Donald Trump has been president for nine days, and he has already indicated to the world that he will carry through on the darkest of threats to the dignity of the human person that he promised during his campaign. While running for president, many mollified themselves and others by arguing that he didn’t really believe these things, that he just spoke without thinking, or that he was merely appealing to his base. The phrase that came up over and over was that once he was the nominee, or once he became president, he would begin to “act presidential.” Whatever reassurance was meant by that has now been entirely destroyed.

In just nine days, he has issued a flurry of executive orders (much of which is indeed political theater, as many are clearly illegal) calling for the punishing of sanctuary cities, the immediate building of a massive wall, banning migrants from Muslim countries from entering the United States (to the point that an Iraqi refugee who served as a translator for the U.S. Army was detained at JFK airport in New York for nearly 18 hours), and has also again reiterated his strong desire that the United States, in defiance of international law, let alone the moral law, engage in torture, though he at least appeared to defer to his Defense Secretary on that issue. For now.

The most dangerous rulers are those who insulate themselves from outside counsel, who enclose themselves within an echo chamber supporting their preconceived notions, and who seek to silence voices contrary to their own. Donald Trump has done all of this. He relies almost entirely upon his family and a tight group of trusted friends for counsel, or to carry out his schemes. He just yesterday took the most unusual step – unprecedented even – of removing his chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff and his national intelligence director from the National Security Council, and added his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, to the council instead. That he would do this in any case is frightening. That the man he added was Steve Bannon, an extremist white nationalist, is downright terrifying.

It is clear that there is significant outrage among the American people. There has been since his nomination became more likely, and certainly since he became the nominee, and that much more so when he was elected. But the expression of that outrage is beyond insignificant. If anything, it is itself an indictment on the character of the American people. While it is popular to call the current state of resistance to Donald Trump a movement, it is in effect nothing more than a privileged self-appeasement of our consciences. There is proclaimed outrage, as no one wants to be seen as doing nothing in the presence of evil, and so we do everything to create the appearance of doing something. We go out in the streets, we march, we yell, we carry signs, and then we return to the comfort of our own homes, where we make sure everyone on social media knows how active we were in our resistance.

Perhaps nothing was more representative of this privileged response than what I witnessed this past Thursday in Philadelphia. Donald Trump and Mike Pence were in town, and people filled the streets with protests. As soon as the president and vice president left, the streets were emptied, and the bars were filled, and the laughter of the self-righteous echoed through the vacant streets.

Yet there is hope. People are horrified by what they see. We know that this is evil. We know it needs to be stopped. The reality, however, is that we have not yet reached the point where we are ready for resistance to be real. But that time is now. We can wait no longer, because each day that passes is another day for the flat-footed to be knocked down again.

Real resistance must begin today. But for any who care to act, they must understand that real resistance requires real sacrifice. The successful resistance movements of the past, like those led by Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi, were successful precisely because they were led by people who gave real sacrifice. We must be prepared to do the same.

Guiding Principles

Over the course of the next days and weeks, I will lay out my vision for what the Resistance should look like. For now, I will lay out a few governing principles.

One, the Resistance must be non-violent. Resisting evil and injustice is first and foremost a spiritual practice, and the spiritual health that is required for its success can only be achieved with a peaceful heart. The Resistance must recognize that to turn the other cheek is not an act of weakness, it is a strong act of defiance. As Gandhi once said, it takes no great courage to fire a cannon. It takes tremendous courage to stand joyfully in front of it and accept the outcome with a peaceful.

Two, the Resistance must be focused. Those of us who resist Donald Trump are of such a political diversity that this cannot become a catch-all social justice umbrella. We are Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, libertarians, independents, capitalists, socialists, and so on. Our unifying bond is a singular resistance to the movements towards authoritarianism and injustice that Donald Trump represents. We certainly hope that the efficacy of our strategic efforts, themselves built on the successful methods of those fighters who came before us, will be replicated as others pursue other causes important to them, but this is not the place for every cause. The Resistance will be focused.

Three, the Resistance is not a revolution. We are defenders of liberty and protectors of the Constitution of the United States. Our resistance is not in defiance of our nation, but for love of it. As such, we must begin with the recognition that Donald Trump is indeed the President of the United States, legitimately elected, and no matter how loathsome, he is our president insofar as we are citizens of these United States. We must be a Resistance rooted in the respect of the law, insofar as the law is just, and so when laws are just, even if inconvenient or if we disagree, we must obey them. Any acts of civil disobedience or non-cooperation will be directed solely against unjust laws. Augustine wrote that an unjust law is no law at all, but a perversion of the law. And so our opposition is only against injustice, and in this case the particular injustice of Donald Trump’s authoritarian desires and those threats he poses to the dignity of human life.

Four, the Resistance will be strategic and well-planned. While there may be a place and time for spontaneous reaction to events, by and large we will act according to a military-like strategy. We will identify specific goals and move forward with a plan to achieve them. These strategies will require the talents and gifts of a variety of people. We will rely on communications experts, we will need legal assistance, financial assistance, we will need policy experts and those who can help us navigate the political process. Our needs will be great, but they will all be met in service of a greater good.

Finally, as this is a movement rooted in the love of democracy, it must be a democratic movement. Leaders are always important and necessary, but our voice can only be unified when all of our voices are heard. The Resistance against tyranny is ultimately a movement of liberty, and in all ways we must embody that.

For now, keep fighting, continue to inform yourselves, educate yourselves, speak out, and most importantly, more than anything you can do, continue to pray.

How Discussing Abortion Can Bring Peace to Our World

On January 27, pro-life activists gathered in Washington, D.C. for the 44th annual March for Life, a demonstration that has developed into a combination protest against the legality and ubiquity of abortion and all it represents, as well as a joyful celebration of life. The march coincides with the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion throughout the United States. Though you wouldn’t know it by the silence of most media outlets, year after year this march draws hundreds of thousands of peaceful, joyful protestors to Washington, beginning with a rally that includes a variety of speakers, and ending with a march that leads to the Supreme Court and Capitol buildings.

This year in especially the March for Life was surrounded by particular elements of volatility. For one, it came just on the heels of the recent Women’s March on Washington, which among other things fought strongly for the right to “open access to safe, legal, affordable abortion…for all people.” And so within a matter of days, Washington, D.C. saw two marches, each boasting several hundred thousand people, advocating for directly oppositional views.

The second complication in this year’s March for Life is that it comes at the beginning of the Donald Trump presidency, which itself is a source of controversy for pro-lifers. While the March for Life is singularly focused on abortion, most pro-lifers are not. Many, like myself, while being strong advocates for the right to life of the unborn, as well as all people, nonetheless fought passionately against a Donald Trump presidency, despite his promises to appoint pro-life Supreme Court justices (a label I reject for other reasons, but that’s a different blog post). Because we are pro-life, we oppose any assault on the dignity of human life, which includes torture, murder of innocents, dehumanizing treatment of migrants, degradation of women, racism, and so forth. We subscribe to Joseph Cardinal Bernadine’s famous description of the “seamless garment” of pro-life advocacy, that an attack on any aspect of the dignity of human life is an attack on life itself.

Abortion has always been, and is certain to continue being, perhaps the most volatile political issue of our generation. It is nearly impossible to speak of it without some level of verbal violence, particularly in our world of social media, where arguments too often rapidly descend into caustic exchanges of boorish ad hominem attacks, where reason is cast aside and aspersions cast forward, where base calumniation is the easiest way to smugly demonstrate that you are morally superior to your opponent, and that the rightness of your position is self-evident based on that alone.

Of all contentious political issues, abortion leads to the most extreme vilification of opponents. To those who believe in the right to abortion, pro-lifers are extremists who hate women and want to take control of their bodies, who want to return to the times of medieval theocracy, and who want to return to a world of back-alley abortions with coat hangers where women are left to bleed out and die. To those who believe in the right to life, pro-abortionists are really just sluts who want to have consequence-free sex and are willing to murder innocent babies whom they sacrifice on the altar of the demon-god Eros. Of course, the caricatures that one side paints of the other are wildly untrue. And yet in too many discussions of this contentious issue that’s not so distant from the hyperbole it’s meant to be.

What I do believe these representations by one side of the other demonstrate is that this is an issue where rarely do people begin with a stance of open listening. We have confused openness and listening with softness of belief. I can’t listen to you because my mind is already made up. But listening isn’t necessarily about being convinced. It’s about opening your heart to the other person and attempting to understand why they believe what they believe and what forms their conscience on the issue. By taking this stance of openness we often discover that there are even areas of agreement, much to our surprise. But most importantly, this stance of open listening restores a much needed humanity to our otherwise dehumanizing discussions.

In philosophy we learn that an argument is valid if its premises lead to a logical conclusion. A valid argument is true if its premises are true. Therefore it is possible for an argument to be valid but untrue, but it is not possible for an argument to be true but invalid. What each side of the abortion debate would do well to appreciate is that by and large, both arguments are logically valid, meaning that based on the premises they propose, their conclusion logically follows. The contention in the abortion argument is on the fundamental premises of when life begins, and when does that human life warrant the recognition of human rights, namely the right to life.

There is one premise of the abortion argument, and one that pro-lifers such as myself hold as foundational, that can easily be demonstrated as true, even if it is not always recognized as such, which is that life does indeed begin at conception. However, pro-lifers too often place too much emphasis on this fact, because all that is scientifically true here is that from the moment of conception, all eight of the biological characteristics of human life are present (cellular organization, reproduction, metabolism, homeostasis, heredity, response to stimuli, growth and development, and adaptation through evolution). This is a biological fact, and so it is true, from the moment of conception a human life is present and alive. On the one side, those who support abortion cannot argue their position well if they do not accept this basic scientific fact. On the other side, those who support the right to life cannot argue their position well if they rest too heavily on this premise and do not articulate well why the proceeding premises they propose are true.

And it is just these proceeding premises where the fundamental question lies. It is precisely because of the challenging nature of their argument that each side must be understanding and take that position of open listening to the other side, because sound arguments can be made for each. One quick point, among the caricatures painted of the pro-life side is that we attempt to impose our religion on others, and so our position is merely a religious one. While it is true that faith informs our belief in everything (and we would argue that faith itself is a valid epistemological stance), our arguments do not rest on theology, a point I will demonstrate below.

The crux of the argument then becomes not about when life begins, but rather whether there is a difference between life and personhood. From the moment of conception a human life exists, but does a human person? It should be obvious that this question is complex.

Those who support the right to abortion typically rely on one of two premises to support their argument of the difference between a human life and a human person deserving of the protections of their right to life. The first is viability. If the unborn life cannot live outside of the womb, then in a sense it still remains an extension of the mother, part of her body rather than an independent being, and thus her right to abortion is an extension of her right to bodily autonomy. As the fetus before viability is merely an extension of her body, an abortion is little different from any other decision of what to do with her body – to get breast implants or reduction, to get a tattoo, etc. It is, as the saying goes, her body, her choice.

I believe this argument is flawed because medical advances continue to allow a fetus’ viability to come sooner and sooner in the pregnancy. If personhood is tied to viability, and if viability is dependent upon the advancement of medicine, then personhood becomes an entirely capricious definition.

The second common premise argued by those who support the right to abortion concerns the age of reason. According to this argument, a human life does not become a human person until they have reached the age of reason, which itself is variously defined, but in its most generous sense means the point in time when the life has a functioning brain that can at least communicate basic signals, such as pain, hunger, emotion, etc.

Again, however, I find this argument to be capricious for two reasons. First, age of reason can be defined in too many different ways. The argument above is, as I said, the most generous interpretation. Yet the argument is too easily brought to extremes, like those of the Princeton ethics philosopher Peter Singer, who argues that a child does not reach the age of reason until around two years old. From that argument he has concluded that there are circumstances where not only is it permissible, but even ethically required, to kill a small child to prevent some harm to them, either presently or later in life. Of course, this is an extremist view held by virtually no supporter of abortion, but in its extreme I believe it helps to illustrate the capricious nature of the premise.

The second reason I find this argument lacking is the fact that it is possible for a grown adult who clearly possess the faculty of reason to indeed lose that faculty, and then have it return. A traumatic brain injury can cause a person to enter into a vegetative state, in which they lose all rational functions of the brain, and in which their brain function does nothing other than send the necessary signals to keep their body alive, and even with that often times requires the assistance of medical technology. Another way to put it is that their faculty of reason at this point is no different from the faculty of reason of a young fetus. Importantly, there is a difference between a vegetative state and a persistent vegetative state. The former anticipates a recovery, at least of sorts. The latter does not. I mention this so people do not confuse this example with that of the controversial case of Terri Schiavo. A person in a vegetative state is anticipated to return to some level of the faculty of reason.

This is important because if one ties personhood to the ability to reason, then we have now concluded that it is possible for a human life to transition from non-personhood to personhood, back to non-personhood, and then back to personhood again. While this may make sense to Peter Singer, I believe most people would recognize it as patently absurd.

To be clear, my own position on abortion is indeed informed in part by my Catholic faith. I do not want to downplay that or to make it seem from the argument I am about to make that I have an entirely faith-free reason for believing in the protection of human life from conception to natural death. However, I will propose that my argument below does stand on its own, and does not require a faith-based proof. And again, it comes down to the element of caprice. And it begins with Aristotle.

Aristotle argued that there are two kinds of change, qualified and unqualified. A qualified change is when a thing undergoes some sort of change that does not fundamentally alter the substance of the thing. In other words, even if something changes, it still remains what it always was. If I cut my hair, I have changed, but I am still me. When I was two years old, I was just three feet tall and walked on wobbly legs. I now stand at 6’3 and walk on stable, if clumsy legs. And yet despite these changes, I was always me. The changes that occur in qualified change are called accidents. The accidents are the non-essential elements to the substance of a thing. Hair is an accident to my being because it does not make me who I am (well, unless I’m Fabio, in which case hair is everything).

An unqualified change occurs when something changes in such a way as to become an entirely new thing. Something comes from that change that once was not. If I take a log of wood and burn it, and reduce it entirely to ash, it has undergone an unqualified change. The wood no longer exists, but only ash. Conception itself is unqualified change. A sperm and an egg once existed, and suddenly they no longer do, but rather a blastocyst is formed, separate and distinct from both the egg and the sperm that no longer are.

In the development of the human person, from the moment of the formation of a blastocyst, every change going forward is a qualified change. The substance of the human person is always there, but the accidents of the person change. The changes are nothing but the various stages of human development. There is a continuity of qualified change, from blastocyst to embryo, from embryo to fetus, from fetus to infant, from infant to toddler, etc. These changes all form a long arc of a single life. There is, in my view, no single moment where a second unqualified change occurs, similar to the unqualified change of sperm and ovum to blastocyst. The only changes that occur are in the accidents.

These arguments may have seemed tedious, but I laid them out as such to demonstrate my earlier point – that each side does well to recognize that the other’s position is indeed a valid one. The logic of each is sound. The truth depends upon the truth of the premises, and we must recognize that these are difficult questions to answer. Even if our positions are not going to change, by taking the stance of open listening and by recognizing the difficulty of the premises themselves, we can restore that necessary sense of humanity to an argument that is too often dehumanizing. In this political climate, where emotional, verbal, and even physical violence are increasing, this humanization can bring a much-needed infusion of peace and non-violence, and even if it does not change people’s positions, it can restore human dignity and help bring peace to our world. And that is an unqualified change I think we can all get behind.

#NotMyPresident is misguided, but there is a better way

One of the great hallmarks of American democracy, and something that makes us stand out in the modern world, is the peaceful transfer of power that has defined us for 240 years. We have seen not only our leaders of executive branch change hands, but at times both our executive and legislative branches make an entire ideological switch from one party to another. We take it for granted, but the fact is it’s actually quite extraordinary.

Ever since Donald Trump’s election as 45th President of these United States, his sympathies towards repressive dictators and his authoritarian tendencies have understandably caused consternation among people on both sides of the political spectrum. The phenomenon of resistance to our soon-to-be president that has followed is unique in that it comes from liberals and conservatives alike.

In this resistance to Donald Trump, however, there is a certain irony. His resistors who have from the moment of his election protested it have organized under the hashtag #NotMyPresident. There are two ways this movement can be understood, and I have heard both. The first is that as president, he does not represent our values, and he will never represent us as Americans. The second, and more sinister, is that we must not recognize his legitimacy as the elected presidency of the United States. Ultimately it is a movement that is ordered towards sedition, even if we don’t believe it will ever go that far.

If we as Americans want to resist Donald Trump – and I believe we must – the first step in effectively doing so is to accept that he is indeed our president. Like it or not – for the moment leaving aside whatever we could potentially discover and prove about his ties to Russia – he is the legitimately elected President of the United States, and thus the president of every single American. We may loathe that fact. It may even make is feel dirty in a way, tainted. It should. But we are a democracy, a fact that we should cherish above all else, and so our resistance to him must come from the heart of the democratic ideal.

Mahatma Gandhi developed his system of resistance that in Hindi was called “satyagraha.” In English we typically translate this as “non-violent resistance,” but it is something more than that, something with more teeth. It is something more like “militant non-violence,” militant in the sense that it is highly organized, marked by an incredible sense of planning and discipline and a well-defined purpose. The non-violence of satyagraha goes far beyond rejecting physically violent means of resistance. It requires a great spiritual purity and virtue, which is why Gandhi exerted so much effort experimenting with fasting and other spiritual disciplines.

It is because of satyagraha’s obvious effectiveness and the fact that this form of active resistance is geared towards a greater good, and by its nature is always a battle against injustice, that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. traveled to India to learn Gandhi’s ways, and brought his methods back to the United States to help him effectively lead our own civil rights movement. Without his devotion to satyagraha – to militant non-violence – it is unlikely that the United States would have seen the civil rights progress that we did because of his leadership. It is that very same militant non-violence that must define our resistance to Donald Trump and his unjust policies, authoritarian tendencies, and all that informs our inclination towards the misguided #NotMyPresident movement.

To most effectively resist Donald Trump, to participate in the betterment of our society and to aid in saving our democracy from the danger that his presidency poses, we must become highly organized and work with great purpose. We must be tactically strategic in our resistance so that we stand the greatest chance of successfully protecting our country and fighting back the evil that threatens us. And most importantly, more than ever we must make great efforts towards our spiritual purification, because without this we are in danger of being consumed by the anger and the hatred that is already permeating our souls and overflowing into our words and actions. Social media does not help, and has become the bone-dry tinder that ignites the fires of our hateful rage, so it is perhaps there that we must become particularly vigilant. Most of all, we must pray that we not be overcome by despair.

These are dark times in our country and in our world. The United States is not alone in suffering from the nativist and ugly movements rooted in fear, mistrust, and hatred. In the West, France, Germany, and England are especially moving in that same direction, a movement that likely preceded our own. The Middle East is permeated with this hatred. Other countries, like Russia and China, have simply existed in this evil for so long that it is now status quo.

But our role has always been special. We the people of the United States of America need now more than ever recognize our great responsibility to be the beacon of light shining forth in the world. We must not shy away from that. How we resist the evil of a Donald Trump presidency can serve as a model for other nations, and as we demonstrated during the time of Dr. King, we can once again prove that evil is not overcome by evil, but only by a resistance that radiates from the light of goodness. As Dr. King once said (I’m paraphrasing), the moral arc is a bending arc, and it bends towards justice. Right now is our chance to help that arc bend and bring back justice to our country and to our world.

Donald Trump Has Won. Now is the Time to Heal.

As a president, as the head of the executive branch of our nation, I wish Donald Trump well. That should be an easy one – I hope that he and Congress enact legislation and govern the people in a way that leads to greater good. And it’s not impossible. Many have said all along that Trump is malleable, and so the policy proposals that he offered during the election season, shifting though they were, will never formally be proposed or passed. So as President-elect, not for his sake but for ours, I wish him well.

But the strength and passion of my opposition to a Trump presidency was never about that. Yes, it had a significant policy element to it. I oppose his economic protectionism, his anti-immigration nativism, his acquiescence to geopolitical foes like Russia. I oppose them at least in part because I believe they are bad policies that will do real harm to our economy and our national security. But I’ve opposed plenty of presidents on policy in the past.

What makes this election so disturbing, and why no degree of economic or other success will ever make me okay with what happened on the night of November 8, 2016, is what it says about us. We heard Donald Trump call Mexicans rapists. We didn’t care. We heard him disparage POWs and parents of fallen heroes. We didn’t care. We heard him speak of women in the absolutely most vile terms imaginable, bragging about sexually assaulting them for no other reason than he could, or call them fat pigs, or tell them they were too ugly to be president. We didn’t care. We heard him mock the disabled. We didn’t care. We heard him openly admit he would engage in torture of our enemies and murder of innocent people – direct violations of international law and the Geneva Convention. We didn’t care. We heard him tell Muslims they are not welcome here, simply because they are Muslim. We didn’t care. We watched his basic indifference to the open and enthusiastic support of David Duke, the Ku Klux Klan, and so many white nationalist and white supremacists, giving them a voice, regularly sharing their messages on his Twitter account to millions of people. We didn’t care.

I did not vote for Hillary Clinton, and I do not regret that, for reasons I have already articulated. In very different ways I believe she too was unfit for office, and as I’ve said, my great disappointment is that the American people were presented with these two as our only viable options. But what Donald Trump represents is something so dark, so sinister, so spiritually malignant, that his election covers our entire country with a darkness that now oppresses us.

The emergence of Donald Trump, while more complex than many, myself included, frequently account for, is also the manifestation of a spiritual sickness that has festered within us for too long. Much of the reaction to this sad day in American history will be to point the finger at the other, to find some outlet of rage so that we can excuse ourselves from any culpability. Yet without an honest and courageous introspection we will never heal from the sickness that has gotten us here in the first place.

Because this is a spiritual sickness, healing requires a spiritual solution. The only way we can defeat the demons of hatred is to fight them with the spirit of charity. Our anger is justified, yes, and certainly should lead us to action. But first among those actions should be directed within. To heal hatred, we must learn kindness. To heal malice, we must learn mercy. To heal anger, we must learn forgiveness. To heal from violence, we must learn peace. To heal from all that afflicts us, we must learn prayer.

The hardest truth to swallow right now is that we all bear some guilt in getting us where we are today. This did not happen in a vacuum. In our own various ways we have invited evil into the world. But we are not without hope. Now more than ever we must strive towards the vocation to holiness that moves within every human heart. Only then can we be armed with the light that will dispel this darkness. Just as we all in some way have brought about the darkness that led us to this place, now we must move towards the healing that our nation needs, and towards the kinder and more just society for which we all long.

In the Qur’an we read, “Give good news to those who are steadfast, those who say, when afflicted with a calamity, ‘We belong to God and to Him we shall return.’ These will be given blessings and mercy from their Lord, and it is they who are rightly guided.”

I pray that from this calamity we remember that we belong to God, and that in recalling this, we will be open to his blessings and mercy. And yes, I pray for our president – for President Donald Trump – so that he might be rightly guided, lead our nation well, and himself experience a conversion of heart that allows him to walk with us down the path of healing.

#NeverTrump – From Hashtag to Conservative Movement

In today’s social media world, movements often begin with a hashtag. In fact, the hashtag is a movement of its own. Twitter didn’t build this feature into their platform. Users organically began using them as a means of organizing conversations, and they soon became embedded into the social media culture.

Today, hashtags are so ubiquitous that a recurring late night skit shows people talking in hashtags, making the hash sign with their fingers. The hashtag in social media usage is sometimes an organizing tool, sometimes just a way of being funny. And sometimes, in the genesis of social and political movements, it becomes a symbol of something much greater.

In order for a movement to be effective, however, it needs to move beyond the hashtag. What begins as a way of bringing visibility to an issue ultimately needs to lead to an organized movement, with a defined mission and a plan for carrying it out. It needs to move from a social media phenomenon to a robust agent of change. It needs to develop into a structured effort that works to achieve the principles that engendered the movement in the first place.

I take great pride in the fact that I was in on the ground floor of the #NeverTrump movement. I am someone who believes in conservative principles: that classical liberalism is the best way to achieve prosperity and economic equality in our country; that constitutionally limited government in the federalist vision of our founders is a more effective and efficient form of governance; that a large, centralized bureaucracy leads us down the path of unsustainable debt and thus unnecessarily higher taxes; that individual liberty is a basic human right; that a strong military is necessary to defend our freedom from hostile forces, and that while we have a responsibility to stand with our allies and to protect those unable to protect themselves from the forces of tyranny, we are excessively entangled in foreign military ventures; and, perhaps most of all, that the freedoms enshrined in our Constitution, especially those embodied in our Bill of Rights, are applicable to all people, that these human rights derive not from man but from God, and thus no government may take away from any person, from conception until death.

The #NeverTrump movement had basically two elements to it. One was a rejection of the vulgarity of the man himself. It was a rejection of misogyny, of racism, of xenophobia, and a call just to basic human decency. Donald Trump possesses a particularly repugnant characte. He is vile, and under no circumstances do we find him an acceptable choice to hold the highest office in the world. Of course, to that end, we have lost the battle. He will be our 45th President, and we need to adjust to that.

But the second element of the #NeverTrump movement was not merely an indictment of the man, but an indictment of his political philosophy, and even moreso, of the Republican Party that claims to represent conservatism in America. This election opened many of our eyes to something that others have been saying for some time: the Republican Party simply does not represent conservative principles. It has become a party of big, centralized government, that continues to place limits on free trade, that seeks policies that increase our national debt, that over-extends military engagements, and so on.

Add to this the fact that in many ways the Republican Party has become the anti-intellectual party, infiltrated by the political wing of Evangelicalism, which denies basic scientific truths, and views support of Israel as a tenet of faith necessary to hasten the end times, and it is now clear that for conservatism to thrive once again, it can only do so outside the confines of the party that has left us. The time to build something new can wait no more.

While ultimately the third party candidates Gary Johnson and Evan McMullin underperformed where many of us hoped they would be, those of us who voted for them typically did so for two reasons: one, because we understood that neither major party candidate is fit for office, and that either of their victories would represent a loss for America; and two, that elevating the profile of the conservatism that McMullin represents and the libertarianism that Johnson (so imperfectly) represents is a necessary beginning towards what we need to do next.

Like so many tens of millions of Americans, we are horrified that a man as vile as Donald Trump will now occupy the White House. But contrary to the accusations of some, our third party votes are not to blame for this outcome, nor were they wasted votes. We were presented with two entirely unacceptable major-party choices, a choice between two people wholly unfit for office, and on top of which, as conservatives we understood that the time is now to think long term and begin to build a new conservative party. Our vote was not a protest vote. It was a vote for a beginning.

This is a long game. It may take 20 years to recover conservatism from the ash heap it has become. But now is the time when we begin to move from a hashtag to an organized movement. We have leaders today, influencers, who have spoken of getting on board. We need to do everything we can to convince them. We ourselves need to be vocal and articulate in expressing our conservative beliefs. We ultimately need to organize around a structure – a new political party – that will become the new vehicle for conservative political thought. And we need to invest our time and energy, impatiently so, to contributing to this valuable and necessary cause.

If not, then we will be nothing more than a failed hashtag. And we ourselves will be failed bearers of the values we profess as true.

If You Want Your Vote to Count, Vote Third Party

The greatest lie told during this election season is that a third party vote is a wasted vote. One of the two major party candidates is going to win, we are told, and so we have to make a choice, we are told. Or, we are told, if we vote third party we are in effect voting for the candidate who is opposed to the candidate we are told we need to vote for. So we cannot vote third party, we are told, because it is irresponsible, and even dangerous, we are told.

To which I say, malarkey.

In fact, it is because of the uniqueness of this election that it is more important than ever to cast our votes outside of the two major parties who have dominated our political choices for the past 150 years. We have had bad choices before, we have had choices where we didn’t love either candidate and held our nose in voting. But never have we been faced with an election where both major party candidates were wholly unfit for office, wholly disqualified from holding office, and where casting a vote for either is morally unconscionable.

On the one hand, we have Donald Trump, a racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, vile man, who emboldens white supremacists, incites violence, brags about sexual assault, and has the temperament of am impetuous child who lashes out in impulsive rage at the first hint that he has been slighted. Add to this the fact that his policy positions themselves are dangerous to our economy and to our national security, and it is simply unacceptable to cast a vote for him.

Some will argue that because Hillary is the lesser of two evils that we must vote for her. She is qualified, they say, and not a danger to the world, they say. Yet the mere length of her resume is not inherently qualifying. She spent six years as senator and four years as Secretary of State. None of those 10 years were successful, however. Her crowning achievement as Senator is voting for the Iraq War. As Secretary of State, she served as President Obama’s top national security adviser and diplomat – and President Obama’s foreign policy record has been utterly disastrous. The world is, in fact, a more dangerous place because of him. When he took office, al Qaeda was reduced to rubble, ISIS was nearly non-existent, Russia was stymied in their attempts to gain strength as a geopolitical power, and Iran’s nuclear ambitions were contained, to name just a few examples.

None of those things are now true. Obama’s hasty withdraw from Iraq, after the success of the 2007 surge, created the vacuum from which al Qaeda in Iraq could regroup, and then take advantage of the chaos in Syria and transform into what we now call ISIS. al Qaeda has also regained strength and continues to wreak havoc in Iraq and around the world. As for Syria, despite the advice of his top military experts, Obama refused to arm the early resistance to Assad, which existed prior to ISIS’ infiltration. ISIS then took advantage of the chaos and grew into the danger that they are today. Russia stepped into that vacuum of leadership and has now become the dominant geopolitical force in the Middle East. Obama’s desire to be seen as “doing something” in Iran led him to sign onto a nuclear deal that has next to no ability to contain their nuclear ambitions. Combined with Russia’s willingness and desire to sell them military technology, Iran is likely closer to nuclear armament than they were before Obama took office.

And for four years of this foreign policy disaster, Hillary Clinton was his most powerful foreign policy advisor and diplomat. She served as Secretary of State during a period of time when American foreign policy made the world more dangerous and the United States less secure.

On top of all of this, we now know through the revelations of her emails that Hillary Clinton has a long pattern of placing her own lust for power ahead of national security. She is willing to sacrifice national security if it allows her to gain and hold on to power. From using a non-secure private server in order to keep shady or personal dealings away from government eyes, a server that may have been hacked by as many as 99 separate actors, to using the Clinton Foundation during her time as Secretary of State as a means of making money in exchange for granting foreign leaders access to her, this woman simply cannot be trusted with our national security. She is a threat to the nation, and both unqualified and unfit for office. The argument that she is less unqualified and less unfit than Donald Trump doesn’t hold muster here. She is both, and casting a vote for her is unacceptable.

So we come to the final argument, that it is a waste to vote for a third party candidate when it is nearly mathematically impossible for either Gary Johnson or Evan McMullin to win. This argument can only be made by people who willingly allow themselves to live in a delusional world where things are going okay enough right now. Maintaining our current course will allow us to stay afloat, and we just have to wait until better choices come along and we can get better, they say. But it is this current course, the trajectory of which has had a long arc and is now reaching its peak, that has placed us in the grave situation in which we find ourselves. Maintaining the path of the two-party system merely lengthens the arc, plateaus the peak, and keeps us enslaved to its tyranny.

And so now is the time to consider the long game. Barring a miraculous third party win this year, our near term is already lost. Whether Hillary or Trump, whether Republican or Democratic control of Congress, we have lost our present. Voting for either is merely choosing the role of Sisyphus and pushing the rock up the hill only to have it roll down again. So let’s build a new mountain.

By voting third party, we continue an education campaign to the American people that other options are available. Gary Johnson is imperfect, but far more qualified and fit than the others. And his success in this election will elevate the visibility of the Libertarian Party, even if he himself is a poor representation of their values. And despite his two really bad foreign policy moments on Aleppo and foreign leaders, his domestic record surpasses by miles either of the other two, as a successful two-term governor and a businessman who built a construction company from the ground up and then sold it for more than $100 million.

Evan McMullin – a former CIA operative and Foreign Policy advisor to House Republicans, among other things – has been voicing what many conservatives like myself have been saying, that conservatives no longer have a home in the GOP, and so it’s time to build something new. The uniqueness of this opportunity, the disdain for the GOP by longtime Republicans, including several high profile leaders, makes now the time to split from the party that has left us and build a true conservative party, a vehicle for our authentic conservative philosophy and values. This splintering can be the beginning, the commencement of the death of a failed Republican Party and the rebirth of conservatism in America.

The present is already lost, and both Clinton and Trump aggravate that loss and lengthen its deleterious effects. Now is the time to reverse course, to begin the long game of saving our nation. Now is the time to cast a vote that truly counts, and this year, the only way to make your vote count is by rejecting the tyranny of two party rule.

Beginning the Path Towards Healing

One thing is clear about this seemingly never-ending election season – someone is going to win. Barring the return of Jesus for the final judgment, someone will succeed Barack Obama as our 45th President of the United States. Day by passing day, I care less and less who it is. I have written quite a bit on this so I won’t rehash the reasons why, but though I consider Donald Trump to be a far more dangerous choice than Hillary Clinton, I believe them both to be entirely unfit for office, which is one reason why I’m voting for Gary Johnson (with a lot of love thrown Evan McMullin’s way, too).

It is becoming almost cliché to say this, but this is an election like no other. It has been brutal, it has been destructive, and it has ripped the country apart. Some of this is because of the divisiveness of the candidates themselves. Some of it is due to the fact that Donald Trump has emboldened the most disturbed among us to come out of the shadows and publicly and loudly proclaim their hatred for non-whites. Some of it is just because there are deep-seated angers, legitimate angers, that are now bursting through the surface.

But beyond that, in a very real sense this election has inflicted a trauma upon us. This election season does not just come with political implications, but it is effecting a destructive psychological transformation upon us. We will wake up November 9 and have to confront deep and painful wounds, we will have to work through a rage that seems to have nowhere to go, no direction except towards each other. For the past 18 months we have been fed with poison, and so we need to find some way to recover.

And this is not entirely because of Donald Trump, although of course he is the largest offender. The Democratic primary was personal, and it was ugly, and while the candidates themselves were not nearly as contentious as the Trump-dominated Republican primary, the anger among each candidate’s constituents was real. Bernie followers had and in many cases still bear a real loathing towards Hillary Clinton, and their anger was only exacerbated by the WikiLeaks hack that revealed the manner in which the Democratic institution sought to suppress Bernie Sanders and worked in a concerted effort to ensure that the chosen one, Hillary Clinton, came through victorious.

It is, however, a witness to how utterly destructive Trump’s presence has been in this race that the disturbing behavior from the Democrats pales in comparison to anything that has come from Donald Trump. There has never, ever been a candidate like this before, and God willing there never will be again. This isn’t to say past elections haven’t gotten nasty, of course they have. Some of our country’s earliest elections include some serious mudslinging. But this is different. This is a candidate who doesn’t lob personal insults, he launches into full-scale, vicious attacks with the single purpose of destroying his opponents, their families, and anyone who may stand with them. He seems to gain some sort of sick, perverted pleasure out of knowing that he can get away with saying the most awful things imaginable. For Donald Trump it appears to be a game to see how far he can push the line in the direction of just completely disgusting.

The television media in particular plays a role in this, as well. The amount of coverage Donald Trump has received in comparison to other candidates is unlike anything we’ve ever seen, and this is for no other reason than, as he never tires of pointing out, he gets huge ratings. No matter where we turn, we are nearly forced to hear Trump’s verbal assaults, his racist and misogynistic invective. We watch on repeat how he tells a female candidate that her face is too ugly to be president; how POWs are losers because they got caught; how a female news anchor is unfit to do her job because she is menstruating; how Mexicans are rapists (Oh God the irony!) or unfit to serve as judges; how Muslims need to be kept out of our country; how handicapped reporters are targets of derision because of their handicap; and now how he delights in sexually assaulting apparently scores of women and gets away with it. Not a night goes by when our senses aren’t overloaded with the ugliness of Donald Trump’s heart. At times I wonder if we are not confronting a legitimate demonic oppression.

Adding to this, his brash and brazen display of hatred, racism, sexism, and all around vileness has brought a newfound confidence and exposure to the “silent majority” (who thankfully are not an actual majority) who bear such hate in their hearts, as well. He has emboldened white supremacists, the so-called alt-right, white nationalists, and other similar hate groups, to display their wickedness openly. David Duke, the former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, told white people that they are traitors to their own heritage if they don’t vote for Trump.

And now here we are, just over three weeks before voting for the next President of the United States, the most powerful position on earth and in many ways the leader of the free world, and there is almost zero discussion of actual issues that matter to the American people. Instead, what we have right now is a nasty and disgusting comparison of which candidate has a worse history with regards to actual rape and sexual assault. We have aggressive and vulgar language being played on news networks and printed in our media. We are having actual debates – DEBATES! – about whether or not rape and sexual assault are justified, and whether or not it is funny to joke about it. We have one candidate responding to his own history of rape and sexual assault by arguing that, hey, it’s not so bad, the other candidate’s husband has done even worse, and she helped him get away with it.

And don’t think that the Clintons are innocent in all of this. As disgusting as Donald Trump is, and as much as he likely deserves to be in prison for a long, long time, there wouldn’t even be any ammunition to use if Bill Clinton himself weren’t a misogynist, a rapist, and a serial philanderer, and if Hillary hasn’t been complicit in attempting to destroy the reputations of every woman who sought to come forward with accusations against him. She is a traitor to the feminist movement that she claims to represent and advocate for. Bill Clinton has made it easy to forget that his behavior has been every bit as awful as Trump’s for the sole reason that he possesses the charm that is so typical of actual sociopaths. The biggest difference between Donald Trump’s treatment of women and Bill Clinton’s is that Bill is far smoother about it.

All of this brings me back to my original point. We have not asked for any of this. We can say yes, the Republican Party nominated Donald Trump, and that is certainly true – which is the biggest reason that I have formally left the party, and will likely never return. But his nomination itself is unique because of this particular season, with so many candidates running. He was able to differentiate himself from the others and appeal to just a large enough contingent of voters – not all of whom are the aforementioned white supremacists, because his appeal did stretch beyond that. But we the people, the actual people who are home with our families every night, did not ask for any of this.

My sister told me today that she can’t even discuss the election with her 13 year old daughter, or allow her daughter to even watch the debates, because she’s afraid that what is said will be so wildly inappropriate. That saddens me to no end, because when I was 13 I couldn’t wait to watch the debates. The first debate I really got excited about was during the 1992 election between George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. I was fascinated by the way these two men spoke about issues that I didn’t understand, the way they engaged in matters that I knew were of great importance. It was just 18 months or so after I watched with awe as CNN showed the dramatic footage of our aerial attacks on Iraq, and so I was as deeply engaged as a 13 year old could be.

Perhaps I’ve gone off course here, but it’s all of a piece. This all has been forced upon us. It has changed us. It has made us worse. We are angrier now, we are raw, we are wounded because of what has been inflicted upon us. We need to heal.

This healing is not going to take place in government. It never does. Our cynicism will almost certainly be reinforced if we look to them to salve the wounds within us. We as private citizens need to take action, and we need to be creative about it. We need to do things like forming small groups where politics can be discussed, thoughtfully, respectfully, and meaningfully. We need to make greater efforts than ever to befriend those who are different than us, who think differently than us, who have different beliefs than us. We need to join together in solidarity to fight back against all of the semi-latent hatreds that have burst forth during this season, by seeking out groups who lead organized efforts to this end. Most of all, we need to pray. We need to find peace within our own hearts, to do everything we can to heal what hurts within us, so that we can bring a truly loving presence into the world.

Albert Camus, the 20th century French-Algerian existential philosopher, was an atheist who struggled mightily to find meaning in life. He believed that the world in which we live is absurd – by which he meant that we are forced to live in a world that by its very nature is unable to provide us with happiness and fulfillment. We are destined to be unfulfilled, and that makes life itself absurd. And so for Camus, the first and most important question that philosophers must deal with is that of suicide. If life has no meaning and provides no true fulfillment, and if there is no God and thus nothing after this life, why do we bother continuing to live?

After much wrangling, while he never came to a perfect answer, ultimately Camus decided that in the face of this absurdity, our purpose comes from fighting as best we can against it, so that those who come after us can live in a better world than we.

Our nation today has revealed itself to be truly absurd. If we accept it as it is and do nothing about it, if we simply allow ourselves to go on as we are now, there is simply no reason to keep the nation going at all. We might as well commit national suicide, and let our country go down in flames – perhaps even lighting the match ourselves. But if we refuse to accept that fate, if we want to pass on something better to our children and those who come after us, then our only hope is to join together, to fight back against the absurdity, to make our nation a little less unjust and a little less full of hate. It may not seem like much, but it’s the only choice if we want to survive. We need to heal, and we need to rebuild, and we need to reject the absurdity that our country has become.

Conservatives Need to Get Saved from Evangelicals

In a 2012 Gallup poll, 58% of Republicans were identified as Young Earth Creationists – a belief that according to a literal reading of the Bible the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, despite all of the scientific evidence that his belief is off by just a few million years. During the 2015 Republican Primary, nominees such as Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal refused to admit that evidence supports biological evolution. Without knowing their own personal beliefs, it was smart politics, as 49 percent of Republicans said they do not believe in evolution, and only 37 percent said they do, with the remaining 13 percent unsure.

Over the course of the past several decades, the Republican Party has increasingly become the anti-intellectual party. This anti-intellectualism is rooted in the infiltration of the Republican Party by a vocal and highly political Evangelicalism that has swept through the United States. While the theological roots of this movement go back some time, as a political force it is entirely intertwined with, first the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion throughout the United States, and then with the decades long fight against homosexuality and ultimately marriage equality. Cultural issues have allowed Evangelicals to plant a stake in the Republican Party and control its leanings for far too long. The results have been disastrous.

This political Evangelicalism has several heroes, perhaps the two most notorious being Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell. For these men, and the millions who follow them, the political system is of the singular purpose of advancing a Christian theological vision, and ultimately bears a strong eschatological function – the United States is the chosen nation to usher in the end times and the return of Jesus Christ as Just Judge of all humankind.

Because of this, political discourse within the Republican Party increasingly moved away from intellectual engagement and instead became a matter of theological imposition. This is the position you must take on this issue, because God has said so (through his minister and if you please here’s the collection plate).

Beyond just social issues, this Evangelical influence extends to foreign policy, as well. While both parties are staunch defenders and allies to Israel, for Evangelicals it is not a matter of geopolitical strategy, but rather because the restoration of Israel is a necessary condition of the return of Jesus.

More than anything else it is this political Evangelicalism that has led to the destruction of the Republican Party as a representative of conservative political philosophy. There is no longer discussion within the party of William F. Buckley, or F. A. Hayek, or Milton Friedman. The party no longer argues against Keynesian economics. The anti-intellectualism of this Evangelical influence has now infected the entire party, so that even aside from cultural and social issues, by and large the party has forgotten how to think. The word “conservative” no longer means anything at all, other than “conservative means you agree with the Republican platform.”

What we have within the Republican Party today is a kind of deontological conservatism, where instead of philosophical and political reasoning leading one to a position on an issue, rather the position is handed down from above, it is a position that is revealed rather than reasoned, and so conservative is defined solely by adherence to this particular position. Thus in order to come up with a comprehensible reason for this position, you must begin with the conclusion first and then develop a rationale to support it. Perhaps even worse yet, because it is a position handed down from above, you don’t need a reason at all, other than, “it’s conservative.” The intellect plays no role whatsoever in the development of one’s political views.

The Republican Party has been identified with conservative for so long that the fact that it ceased being conservative a long time ago has somehow slipped past many of us, myself included. There have been voices trying to call us back, particularly from the libertarian side. This has been a positive development, not least of which because it has shed light on the fact that the Republican Party is as guilty of building big, centralized government as the Democrats. Again, as a sign of issue-first orthodoxy with no regard to reason, being a conservative in today’s GOP necessarily means supporting tax cuts. Conservative = tax cuts, end of story.

Except it’s not the end of story, because the Republican Party continues to support the growth of the federal government, which requires revenue. At least Democrats are consistent – they want to grow the government, and they want your money to pay for it. Republicans want to grow the government and give you money back in the process. What the libertarians have reminded us is that the focus shouldn’t be on taxes so much as constitutionally limited government. Decreasing the size of the federal government – not for size’s sake so much as because the federal government has expanded beyond its constitutional limits and no longer represents the government of the founders – necessarily reduces the need for revenue, which in turn allows us to cut taxes, putting more disposable income in the pockets of our citizens, which is then used to stimulate the economy. But Republicans don’t think anymore, and so these ideas are lost. Cut taxes, or else you’re a liberal RINO.

Perhaps there was a time when the Republican ship could have righted its course, but that time has passed. The Republican Party can no longer be saved. The forces within it are too strong, too entrenched. The only solution now for conservatives – meaning, those who adhere to a conservative political philosophy – is to found a new party, to invest all of our efforts into building this party up and giving it an institutional structure that allows an authentically conservative voice to contribute to the civic discourse.

Many of my Republican friends argue that splitting up conservatives like this would hand the country over to liberals for decades to come, and that we might never recover. As to the latter, I reject the hyperbole. It will be destructive, for sure, but not fatally so. As to the former, this argument misses the point that liberals have already won. There is no conservative party anymore, there is no authentic representation of conservative politics, and so our only two choices are to stand idly by as conservatism dies, or to fight back, to form a new party and do everything we can to build it into a strong conservative voice.

It’s a long, hard road, and it’s our own fault. Republicans created this mess, and now conservatives must win our movement back. We know well how difficult it is for a third party to succeed. But it has happened – most notably, and ironically, with the formation of the Republican Party. Abraham Lincoln is the ultimate third party coup.

What makes this movement potentially different is that there is both a grassroots movement supporting it, but also the potential for some high profile support, by politicians, thought leaders,  and donors alike. Conservatives are thirsting for a home right now, and they are fed up with the GOP. It is not difficult to envision someone like Ben Sasse or Mitt Romney working within this new conservative party to help give it legs. It is easy to envision thought leaders like David French and Charles Cooke getting behind this new movement.

Finally, the political environment in our country today has never been riper for a movement like this. This election more than any other has revealed a deep disgust for the two-party system. People are fed up, and are looking for something new. They are disgusted by identity politics and partisan sniping. The Democrats have their own anti-intellectual issues, but that’s for them to figure out. But it is not difficult to envision a thoughtful, principled, conservative, third party candidate winning a governor’s race in states like Vermont, New Hampshire, Colorado, or Alaska. It is easier than ever to envision such a conservative winning congressional seats in conservative-leaning independent districts. These seemingly small victories would lend an instant legitimacy to this new party that no third party has been able to attain in a very long time.

I have long believed that the most limiting factor in the human psyche is our inclination to no. As soon as our hearts are touched by a dream we immediately move on to all the reasons why it cannot work. Cynicism suffocates our imagination. But now is not the time for cynicism. Now is the time to think big, to dream big, and then to make it happen. We can do this. If we believe in conservative values, we have no choice. The GOP has left us stranded, so let’s build our own damn boat.

We Cannot Reform the Republican Party, So We Must Destroy It

Immanuel Kant wrote that it is a supreme and unconditional principle that we must always act according to the moral good, regardless of any inclination otherwise. The current state of the Republican Party represents a devastating rejection of this fundamental truth.

Today’s Republican Party demonstrates an open and shameless lust for power that is indicative of an interior moral corruption, and the party is guilty of inflaming this corruption throughout the country. Elected representatives and leaders are not only in positions of power by virtue of their ability to effect laws and modes of governance, but more than ever before, with the visibility and scope of communications that our modern technologies allow, those in positions of power have the ability to wield great influence the people whom they are called to serve.

For some time now, however, our elected leaders have not viewed themselves as servants at all. There is no longer any sense of vocation or higher purpose in the pursuit of political office. Lip service is paid to issues that matter to the people, not out of a sincere belief in the position itself, but rather because articulating that position increases the likelihood of being elected, and thus gaining or retaining power. We see this played out on a near daily basis when some politician or other suddenly has a “conversion” on an issue, a conversion that by mere happenstance coincides with current poll numbers. There are exceptions, of course, but they are few.

This instinct has always existed in political machinations, but the absolute lust for power has never been more shamefully on display than in the Republican Party during this current election season. During the primary season there were loud and impassioned rejections of Donald Trump, based not just on political ideology, though there was that, but significantly based on moral principle. It was recognized publicly by many Republican politicians that opposing Trump was a moral good, and therefore, supporting him by definition is a moral evil.

Yet as he inched closer to the nomination, that opposition began to waver. When he was finally crowned as the Republican Party’s imperial prince in Cleveland, awaiting his ultimate coronation as King of All the Land – that this is his desire he has made abundantly clear – suddenly the support began to pour in. The entire house of the Republican Party proved itself to be built upon a moral foundation made of sand.

This inclination for power, a desire that wore the mask of attempting to advance a conservative political philosophy, has now become entirely disordered. The Republican Party now embodies the Machiavellian tenet that the appearance of virtue is more important than virtue itself. An authentic virtue would hear the disgusting utterances by Donald Trump and argue that there is absolutely no place for that in the Republican Party. An authentic virtue would have made clear that while the people are free to vote for whom they choose, the Party not only has no responsibility to support him, but indeed has the moral imperative to strongly oppose him.

The simple fact is that Donald Trump is not to be blamed for the state of the Republican Party. This is a demise that began long ago. Trump has merely lanced the party’s moral infection, and all that was festering beneath the surface now gushes forth, to the horror of all who must observe. And like any exposed infection, the stench is unbearable.

It is not necessary to recount all of the depraved utterances that have come from Trump. Their coverage is ubiquitous, and no matter how badly we wish to shield our ears and our hearts from his assaults on our sensibilities, it proves impossible. But what we have seen over the course of the 15 months or so is a series of cold calculations, so that every response to Donald Trump’s disgusting words and actions is rooted not in any moral principle, but in a strategic plot to gain and maintain power.

The fact is that in many ways the Party has not even hidden this fact. Party officials have made it clear that their top priority is to stop Hillary Clinton, to maintain control of Congress, and argued that regardless of how they personally feel about Donald Trump and his behaviors, supporting him is necessary in the pursuit of this power. But returning to Kant, acting according to the moral good is an unconditional principle, no matter inclination or even consequence. Opposing Hillary Clinton certainly is a moral good, and something I will continue to take on, but so is opposing Donald Trump. He is vicious, he is vile, and he demeans and degrades women, People of Color, Muslims, those who suffer from the horrors of war in defense of our nation and their families. He promotes hatred, racism, and xenophobia, and there is no justification whatsoever for supporting his candidacy for president. None.

Were the Republican Party’s reaction to Donald Trump just a momentary lapse in judgment, where the party just found itself disoriented and caught off guard, while lamentable, it possibly could be forgivable. Such is not the case. This is a party whose hypocrisy, whose moral degradation, whose corruption, has been on display for many years. This is a party driven by pure lust for power, and nothing else. This is not a party driven by principle, conservative or otherwise – a fact rich in irony as for the past several decades the influence of the Evangelical movement has been outsized.

Because of this I can reach only one conclusion: this is a party that must be destroyed. We have moved far beyond the point of attempting to reform it. There is no longer hope of just recruiting good women and men to run for office who will stand on principle, both conservative and moral. The party will not allow it anyway, and their power is so strong that the efforts are best spent elsewhere. The only now worth pursuing is to burn the Republican Party to the ground, and from the ashes build a new conservative movement, embodied in a new political party.

This is a monumental task, and many will tell us it is an impossible one. I reject this cynicism. I believe that in this life we are only limited by the ceilings we place on our imaginations. Landing on the moon was an impossible dream until someone allowed their imaginations to soar there. It was not obstacles of physics that prevented us from getting there, it was obstacles of the imagination.

The beauty of social media is that it allows us to see just how many people think as we do. I know that I am not alone in this. Many, like myself, have chosen to switch party affiliations. Many have registered as independents. Many remain Republicans but bear this disdain within their hearts. But we can gather together, we can unite, and we can build something new.

Over the course of the next several weeks and months I will offer my own suggestions on how to best accomplish this. But in order for us achieve this lofty goal, we need to work together as a team of like-minded conservatives. Those who believe as I do, those who recognize that it is time for the Republican Party to go away entirely, and who desire the formation of a mission-oriented and principled party that embodies a conservative philosophy and operates under the belief that no inclination should direct us away from the moral good, must contribute their talents and means that are far greater than mine. I have little influence, I have little power, and alone very few of us do. United, however, we can indeed land on the moon.