It's easy to understand why some evangelical public figures and publications have called on Donald Trump to withdraw from the Presidential race. Widely respected evangelical pastor John Piper's call for both Trump and Hillary Clinton to withdraw better reflects the impartiality of Biblical justice — and the reality of the two candidates' flaws.
That neither candidate shows any sign of withdrawing is unsurprising. As Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton demonstrated, people don't reach such pinnacles of power and give it up merely because of a little public pressure.
But while Trump was not my first, second, or third choice, as an evangelical with long experience in the nitty-gritty of government (U.S. Senate, Reagan White House, Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. House of Representatives), I am profoundly disturbed by the calls for his withdrawal. Why?
Because they demonstrate a profound ignorance and naiveté regarding how our government actually functions and what is at stake. Though well intended, they are foolhardy.
Given 30 years of working in and around the federal bureaucracy, one learns what's at stake in a way different from those who never have served there.
People understandably focus on Trump's moral failings as an individual. But it is short sighted to stop there. We never elect just an individual to become president. We elect an administration. We all hope it will be one with an ideology and worldview close to our own.
We vote FOR the 4,000+ political appointees who will run all the agencies, departments and programs. We vote FOR the 3,000+ appointments to boards and commissions the next president will make. We FOR all those 300+ who will be appointed to the judiciary, including the Supreme Court — whose rulings will impact our country for the next fifty years, not just four. The next president will appoint a cabinet and has already selected a vice president.
The transition offices of both candidates are working 'round the clock even now, ready to retrieve the "keys" the day after the election and send in their people to stop (or not) federal contracts and obligations. They're already identifying their "landing teams" for the day after inauguration.
To understand what is at stake, one must look at those 7,000+ political appointees and the people they hire, such as Lois Lerner, who has labored tirelessly to destroy religious freedom not just at the Internal Revenue Service but as far back as her role at the Federal Election Commission. She is just one hire, but she is Exhibit A for what an election means.
Look at the Department of Justice, for example.
Who will decide who will run the Office of Legal Policy or the Office of Legislative Policy? Who will be the Assistant Attorney General at the Civil Rights Division? Who will appoint the five Deputy Assistant Attorneys General in that division? Who will decide whether to pursue criminal charges against top government officials who compromise national security by mishandling classified information?
Does the Christian community know the immense impact those offices alone have on religious freedom — not to mention the Departments of Education, Labor, Agriculture, Health and Human Services, etc.? You only have to look at policy advancement in those offices (and many others) of the LGBTQ agenda and its effect on religious freedom to see what the last eight years have wrought.
Another example: Whom do we want running the Office of Population Affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services? It will be a Deputy Assistant Secretary, a political appointee, who will run that office and its programs that now give Title X money to Planned Parenthood. Will it be a protégée of Cecile Richards (President of Planned Parenthood)? Or will it be someone Marjorie Dannenfelser, President of the prolife Susan B. Anthony List, Trump's prolife advisor, recommends? On this point, read "Obama's Parting Gift to Planned Parenthood."
1. The decision by this Administration NOT to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (which led to the terrible Windsor ruling) was done by a Department of Justice political appointee.
2. The Department of Health and Human Services contraceptive mandate came from a political appointee.
3. Funding transgender transition surgery by Department of Defense, came from a political appointee.
4. Title IX threat letters from the Department of Education to all schools demanding that they let transgenders use the bathroom of their choice or lose federal education money — again, issued by a political appointee.
And then, of course, there are matters of national security, borders, environment, energy, and the economy. We could go on and on.
We are indeed at war, and it's a war for the future and for the governance of our country.
We must weigh the moral flaws of both candidates — and the policy consequences of both administrations. Which administration will cause more abortions, greater harm to religious liberty and Christian education, etc.? Which would cause greater harm to the poor and weak (in Iraq, our own inner cities, rural regions devastated by Obama's war on coal, or millions of mothers' wombs)?
Moral disgust against one candidate is woefully incomplete analysis. It not only fails to express the same moral disgust against the other, who is at least as morally corrupt, but also fails to consider the serious consequences that will flow from a Clinton administration.
I have seen a lot of people we considered heroes become serial philanderers, gambling addicts, takers of corrupt payoffs, and visitors of homosexual prostitutes — and those were the guys we "liked"! The truth is, almost all leaders have feet of clay, from King David to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
No doubt Trump will say more offensive things that opposition party operatives and media (Is there a difference?) will capitalize on in the next two weeks. I won't defend those things. But I will vote for Trump. The alternative is unthinkable.
My late employer, mentor, and friend, Chuck Colson, spoke strongly against religious leaders' endorsing political candidates. I now know why, in a deeper way.
Christians are simultaneously aliens and Kingdom builders putting our ultimate hope for the future in God's loving, sovereign hands. Please join me in praying for mercy for our country, its people, and spiritual renewal.