As Iowans prepare to cast the first votes in the 2016 nomination process, we owe you our thoughts. While we are not officially endorsing a candidate at this time, we believe it is important to share some critical thoughts on the race, or at least on one candidate in particular.
As Catholics, we are called to participate in the democratic process.
The Church does not endorse candidates for public office. That job rests with us, the laity. No candidate is perfect, and no simple checklist is sufficient. Prudence is a necessity. Some candidates ought to be disqualified from receiving the support of a Catholic voter. Others must be weighed in light of the moral principles given to us by our Church.
We have asked for your feedback on multiple occasions. Thousands of CV members have written. We’ve read them all. In addition we follow the daily news, analysis, polling, and have crafted our strategy for 2016.
So today we begin with the elephant in the room.
Should Catholics support Donald Trump? No.
We have sifted through the most popular arguments in defense of Trump and listed them below along with our own take. Here they are:
1. “Trump is a leader we can trust”
While we share much of the frustration over the failure of the GOP to make significant progress, we are reminded of Republicans’ once oft-quoted criticism of President Bill Clinton: character matters.
Donald J. Trump left his first wife and married his mistress, only to leave her a few years later for another mistress. Reportedly he left his second wife by leaking the news to a NY newspaper and left the headline on the bed for his wife to find. In his book, The Art of the Deal, Trump bragged about having sex with many women, including some who were married. He has appeared on the cover of Playboy Magazine with a model wearing only his tuxedo jacket.
He has mocked the disability of a NY Times reporter. He belittled John McCain for being a prisoner of war. His casino in Atlantic City was the first in the country to open up a strip club. His Twitter account is a running barrage of insults, lies, and personal attacks on anyone who disagrees with him. And did we mention he famously cheats at golf? Now who does that remind you of?
Now ask yourself: does this man have the character becoming of the President of the United States?
2. “Trump can’t be bought because he is rich!”
Trump is a salesmen, and salesmen don’t buy, they sell. So he won’t be “bought.” Instead he will sell out everyone and anyone when it benefits him, as he has his entire career. He was a liberal democrat, pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, pro-universal health care, pro-government bailouts, and a financial backer and friend of Hillary Clinton until he decided to run as a Republican last summer. He is the definition of an opportunist with no guiding principles.
3. “Trump is a leader who will get things done”
Trump markets himself as an effective leader who will get things done simply by making “smart deals.” He refuses to explain precisely how he intends to deliver results, and more often than not, promises to use force or work around or outside the law. Such a leader mirrors what we currently see in the White House. It would be incredibly harmful to our system of government, which is limited by our Constitution — even if we like the policy outcome. We must be a nation of laws. For Trump, it is all about power. For a Christian, the presidency should be about service.
4. “Trump is a successful businessman who will make great deals”
If you believe the headlines, you would assume everything Donald Trump touches turns to gold. Not so. Trump has only demonstrated an ability to make deals that benefit him personally. Four times he bailed on his own casinos to shield himself from their impending bankruptcies. And then there is Trump Magazine, Trump Airlines, Trump Steaks/Steakhouse, Trump Vodka, and most famously Trump University, to name only a few — all bankrupt or closed, and massive failures. “Losers” as Trump is fond of saying.
He has constantly cozied up to big government to trample the little guy, either by abusing private property rights, or selling out small contractors and vendors, many of whom lost their life savings. Just ask elderly widow Vera Coking, whom Trump attempted to displace via eminent domain laws to make way for a limousine parking lot for his New Jersey casino — the same casino he put into bankruptcy. Vera stood tall against the politically-connected billionaire Trump for years in court, enduring his practice of belittling personal attacks. She eventually won and called Trump a “maggot, a cockroach, and a crumb.”
5. “Trump will end illegal immigration”
Trump has pledged to build a massive wall on our southern border and to make Mexico pay for it. Meanwhile he has promised to deport 11 million+ illegals, without explaining how, then plans to allow them all back in legally according to criteria he has yet to fully explain.
We agree illegal immigration is a problem that must be solved. Trump’s solution is delusional, strikes us as xenophobic — and truthfully, will never happen. If anything, Trump’s demagoguery on immigration showcases the emptiness of many of his promises. As President Obama has learned, American presidents don’t dictate laws.
The Senate and House would have to pass any change of this magnitude, and such a solution has little to no chance of being approved. Border security and immigration enforcement are realistic fixes. Rounding up 11 million+ people and sending them back to Mexico is not practical or realistic, let alone humane. Those who rightfully want to solve the problem of illegal immigration deserve more than crowd pleasing platitudes. And it’s certainly worth noting that Donald Trump criticized Mitt Romney for being too harsh on immigration back in 2012. This is just another issue where Donald Trump had a very recent and rather convenient conversion.
Several other presidential candidates have outlined more realistic policies to deal with problem. And that’s what real leaders do. They outline solutions and build consensus. Hyperbole and demagoguery are tools of salesmen (see above) out for your money or your vote. Trump’s lack of detail reminds us of another famous politician who proclaimed: “we have to pass the bill before you can see what’s in it.”
6. “Trump will fight the Establishment!”
This defense of Trump is somewhat rich, given the irony that Trump himself has boasted of playing the game, paying off politicians and enriching himself from the very system he now purports to reform. Case in point: in the past week a growing number of so-called “establishment Republicans” have warmed to supporting Trump, people like Bob Dole and Trent Lott — including establishment Republicans in Iowa like Gov. Terry Branstad. Why? Because they believe, rightly in our view, that Trump doesn’t have any principles at the end of the day. He’s someone who will wheel and deal — and you and I will be stuck with the bill.
Electing Donald Trump would send the pro-life movement back to the 1990s, when the Republican Party wanted to run away from defending the unborn. In fact, Trump recommended his own sister, Maryanne Trump Berry, for the Supreme Court. She’s the federal judge who overturned New Jersey’s ban on grisly partial-birth abortions. The next President may choose as many as three or more new justices. Trump’s suggestion of his pro-abortion sister as an example ought to worry anyone who cares about the Court. And let’s not forget he once said Oprah would make a great Vice President. Enough said.
7. “Trump is one of us”
Trump’s political conversions have all happened at very convenient times. As recently as 2000, Trump was firmly “pro-choice,” even refusing to oppose partial birth abortion! He was in favor of gay civil unions. He is open, even now, to subsidizing abortion giant Planned Parenthood with our tax dollars. He considers gay marriage a settled issue and has offered no plan to protect religious freedom. He is pro-universal health care, supported the stimulus package and government bailouts, supported gun control and a host of radical positions. Trump is like many Democrats we know. He is a political opportunist.
Trump is right about something — it is time for a change. We do need to shake things up and make America great again. And his awakening of working class voters who are often sidelined by terrible policy and poor leadership is a lesson every Republican must take seriously or they will lose in November.
But the power to change does not require a fear mongering business mogul, appealing to our worst fears instead of our best hopes.
With other good candidates in the race, we encourage our members to look beyond Trump.
This is an historic opportunity to win back the White House with someone we can be proud to have as President.