Unless 2016 has another surprise up its sleeve, Donald Trump will become the 45th President of the United States in January. His victory, which has left liberals weeping and gnashing their teeth, has to come as a surprise, even to some of his most ardent followers. While popular polling is often far from what some hold to be “scientific,” and even the best assumptions can be seriously flawed, the “sense in the air” is that Trump would not be able to pull in the requisite number of voters needed to overtake Hillary Clinton, particularly in states that had gone for Barack Obama during the last two elections. While various theories have been posited about why the pollsters were wrong and Trump was able to draw more support from black and Hispanic voters than Mitt Romney in 2012, it seems to me that up until the zero hour, there was still a significant contingent of Americans unwilling to publicly voice support for Trump. Coupled with that was the fact that a number of Bernie Sanders supporters, along with undecided moderates, simply could not buy into the Democratic Party’s open willingness to foreordain Clinton. Sure, other factors no doubt played a role, not the least of which being that the Democrats have glibly ignored the “uneducated white male” (read: blue collar) population for years—and now it has come back to bite them. It bit them most visibly with the election of Trump, but keeping Congress red sends an equally powerful message that the alleged achievements of the Obama Administration—domestic and foreign—were not unmitigated blessings for all Americans.
I do not follow contemporary American politics closely enough to predict confidently what Trump will do when he gets into office. However, it seems that the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) will be an easy target, as well nominating a fresh conservative to the Supreme Court. Should Trump follow through on his promise to reform (or scrap) the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), we could see Trump doing something no Republican has even tried for decades, namely cultivate strong union support (and, by extension, support from those Democrats with large union constituencies). While I do expect to also see some immigration reform, such as increasing the budget for border security and imposing higher hurdles for entry into the country, I don’t think anyone seriously expects Trump to build a giant new wall along the U.S./Mexico border. With respect to foreign policy, I think we can rest assured Trump will not follow Clinton’s antagonist rhetoric toward Russia, but what that means in the concrete remains to be seen. If Trump can keep Putin happy by staying out of Syria, then so be it. Ukrainians, on the other hand, ought to be doing everything they can to curry favor with Europe; we won’t be doing anything in the immediate future to curtail Russian incursions into their land.
Many conservative and traditional Catholics are, naturally, overjoyed at news of a pending Trump presidency. This is largely because they believe that Trump will uphold religious freedom and take forceful steps toward curtailing abortion-on-demand access. Maybe. Catholics should keep in mind that Trump is not a true conservative, and he certainly isn’t a cultural warrior. If he does make good on his commitment to appoint pro-life federal judges and bring the abortion issue back to the states, that’s probably as good as it will get. Despite the Republicans controlling two branches of government, it is difficult to imagine that the party will be willing to risk serious blowback by defying the courts with open legislation and other regulatory measures intended to slow down abortion access. I am not getting my hopes up, but we’ll see. If anything I think Trump’s reign will help relieve some of the pressure that has been placed on Catholics and other conservative Christians since Obama took office. Maybe that’s enough for now.
In closing, let me say that while I did not vote for Trump or Clinton on Tuesday, I am less concerned about Trump holding the highest office in the land than Clinton. And yet I remain disgusted with those Catholics who attempted to bully their fellow faithful into believing they had a moral duty to vote for Trump, just as I am nauseated by those limousine liberals and champagne socialists who flatter secular democracy at every turn—until they don’t get what they want. This election cycle, like so many election cycles which preceded it, provided more than enough evidence concerning the shortcomings of democracy and the failures of liberalism. I hope and pray that my fellow Catholics who are pleased at Trump’s victory will not use it as an opportunity to draw closer to a liberal order the Church forcefully condemned in the past. If Trump’s presidency offers us a bit of a reprieve from official and open persecution, then let us take this time to strengthen our bonds and stand against the demonic spirits that still rule this age.