Falls the Shadow

I’d rather not have to write about this, but a majority of the Electoral College has forced my hand.

1

I love that Trump gave us Judge Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. But there is nothing that he or any president could do for conservative Christians that would justify tolerating a president who is so cavalier and incompetent with national security.

(Rod Dreher)

In 1972, I voted for George McGovern. It wasn’t because I was a liberal, even as “a mere child” relatively, but because I had become convinced that Richard Nixon was a crook. (Mrs. Tipsy, as we left the polling place and I announced my final decision, smiled sweetly and announced that her voted had canceled mine.)

I don’t know if I ever came right out and said it outside a very small circle, but as November 8, 2016 approached, I was grateful to be spared the most difficult decision of my life as a voter.

I said several times during the election season that Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton “had God’s judgment written all over it.” I haven’t changed my mind.

If Indiana had been “in play”in the presidential election of 2016, I knew that I would have to consider voting for Hillary Rodham Clinton. I would have done so under no illusions about what it meant for religious liberty for conservative Christians, the lives of unborn children, and other issues of high concern. There was a time in my life when I would have described myself as a “single issue pro-life voter,” but as the country sinks deeper and deeper into manifestations of God’s judgment on us, I’ve encountered too many “pro-life” candidates whose unfitness (if not insanity) outweighs that issue.

Donald Trump was and remains clearly emotionally disturbed — hollow, resentful, insecure, and much, much more — as further items in today’s blog will underline. As in 1972 I could not vote for a crook, so in 2016 I could not, and did not, vote for a madman. I cast a symbolic vote for the American Solidarity Party’s candidate, but had Hillary won with my vote helping her, I’d have been in the reverse mirror image position of those  diehard Trump supporters whose response to every outrage from Trump reply “But but but but but but … Hillary!!!!

May God have mercy on me, a sinner of imperfect judgment.

2

I will occasionally miss David Brooks and Ross Douthat when my New York Time subscription expires next month. Brooks on Tuesday:

Trump seems to need perpetual outside approval to stabilize his sense of self, so he is perpetually desperate for approval, telling heroic fabulist tales about himself …

Trump is not only trying to deceive others. His falsehoods are attempts to build a world in which he can feel good for an instant and comfortably deceive himself.

He is thus the all-time record-holder of the Dunning-Kruger effect, the phenomenon in which the incompetent person is too incompetent to understand his own incompetence …

Trump seems to have not yet developed a theory of mind. Other people are black boxes that supply either affirmation or disapproval. As a result, he is weirdly transparent. He wants people to love him, so he is constantly telling interviewers that he is widely loved. In Trump’s telling, every meeting was scheduled for 15 minutes but his guests stayed two hours because they liked him so much.

Which brings us to the reports that Trump betrayed an intelligence source and leaked secrets to his Russian visitors. From all we know so far, Trump didn’t do it because he is a Russian agent, or for any malevolent intent. He did it because he is sloppy, because he lacks all impulse control, and above all because he is a 7-year-old boy desperate for the approval of those he admires.

The Russian leak story reveals one other thing, the dangerousness of a hollow man.

Our institutions depend on people who have enough engraved character traits to fulfill their assigned duties. But there is perpetually less to Trump than it appears. When we analyze a president’s utterances we tend to assume that there is some substantive process behind the words, that it’s part of some strategic intent.

But Trump’s statements don’t necessarily come from anywhere, lead anywhere or have a permanent reality beyond his wish to be liked at any given instant.

We’ve got this perverse situation in which the vast analytic powers of the entire world are being spent trying to understand a guy whose thoughts are often just six fireflies beeping randomly in a jar …

“We badly want to understand Trump, to grasp him,” David Roberts writes in Vox. “It might give us some sense of control, or at least an ability to predict what he will do next. But what if there’s nothing to understand? What if there is no there there?

Hollow man. If that’s not part of it, then I’d better just close down this blog because my assessments are worthless.

A poet tell us where hollow men lead. And his description of feckless hollow men fits those in a position to do something about it but don’t:

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom.

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

3

Those who might be understandably confused by the current state of evangelicalism should understand a few things:

First, evangelicals don’t have a body of social teaching equivalent, say, to Catholic social doctrine. Catholics are taught, in essence, that if you want to call yourself pro-life on abortion, you also have to support greater access to health care and oppose the dehumanization of migrants. And vice versa. There is a doctrinal whole that requires a broad and consistent view of social justice. Evangelicals have nothing of the sort. Their agenda often seems indistinguishable from the political movement that currently defends and deploys them, be it Reaganism or Trumpism.

Second, evangelicalism is racially and ethnically homogeneous, which leaves certain views and assumptions unchallenged. The American Catholic Church, in contrast, is one-third Hispanic, which changes the church’s perception of immigrants and their struggles. (Successful evangelical churches in urban areas are now experiencing the same diversity and broadening their social concern.)

Third, without really knowing it, Trump has presented a secular version of evangelical eschatology …

(Michael Gerson, Trump is evangelicals’ “dream president.” Here’s why.)

Those confused by the current state of evangelicalism might also want to read Frances FitzGerald’s The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America. Albert Mohler’s extended podcast interview with her persuades me that she is a very knowledgeable outsider.

* * * * *

Men are men before they are lawyers or physicians or manufacturers; and if you make them capable and sensible men they will make themselves capable and sensible lawyers and physicians. (John Stuart Mill, Inaugural Address at St. Andrew’s, 1867)

“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

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