Not Donald Trump.
There are too many initiatives, publications and organized efforts around those three words to get into here. But it’s growing, this counter-appeal to voters to direct their energies around a tried and true reform candidate that appeal to their passions more than their anger.
This one by two top Catholic scholars, signed onto by nearly three dozen other top names in academia and scholarship and leadership, is short, succinct and sobering. I saw it within minutes after it posted, know both writers as well as many of the signatories to the appeal, and realized what a new moment it represented.
Though National Review Online devoted a whole symposium and special edition ‘Against Trump‘, with top commentators and writers contributing provocative essays on the theme, and CatholicVote.org broke from tradition and went so far as to issue the public statement ‘Not. Trump.‘, and individual writers of exceptional depth and experience have issued their own strong statements, this was something different. It is extraordinary.
Here’s the essence:
In recent decades, the Republican party has been a vehicle — imperfect, like all human institutions, but serviceable — for promoting causes at the center of Catholic social concern in the United States: (1) providing legal protection for unborn children, the physically disabled and cognitively handicapped, the frail elderly, and other victims of what Saint John Paul II branded “the culture of death”; (2) defending religious freedom in the face of unprecedented assaults by officials at every level of government who have made themselves the enemies of conscience; (3) rebuilding our marriage culture, based on a sound understanding of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife; and (4) re-establishing constitutional and limited government, according to the core Catholic social-ethical principle of subsidiarity. There have been frustrations along the way, to be sure; no political party perfectly embodies Catholic social doctrine. But there have also been successes, and at the beginning of the current presidential electoral cycle, it seemed possible that further progress in defending and advancing these noble causes was possible through the instrument of the Republican party. That possibility is now in grave danger. And so are those causes.
Donald Trump is manifestly unfit to be president of the United States. His campaign has already driven our politics down to new levels of vulgarity. His appeals to racial and ethnic fears and prejudice are offensive to any genuinely Catholic sensibility. He promised to order U.S. military personnel to torture terrorist suspects and to kill terrorists’ families — actions condemned by the Church and policies that would bring shame upon our country. And there is nothing in his campaign or his previous record that gives us grounds for confidence that he genuinely shares our commitments…
The two highly esteemed writers acknowledge Trump supporters’ concerns, with due respect.
We understand that many good people, including Catholics, have been attracted to the Trump campaign because the candidate speaks to issues of legitimate and genuine concern: wage stagnation, grossly incompetent governance, profligate governmental spending, the breakdown of immigration law, inept foreign policy, stifling “political correctness” — for starters. There are indeed many reasons to be concerned about the future of our country, and to be angry at political leaders and other elites.
However, they contend, there are other candidates more worthy of support who address these concerns without the ‘vulgarity’ and ‘demagoguery’.
And they conclude with this appeal:
Mr. Trump’s record and his campaign show us no promise of greatness; they promise only the further degradation of our politics and our culture. We urge our fellow Catholics and all our fellow citizens to reject his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination by supporting a genuinely reformist candidate.
Signed, Princeton Professor Robert P. George, and Ethics and Public Policy Center Distinguished Senior Fellow George Weigel. And nearly three dozen signers after them.
That is a snapshot that at least offers clues to where we are in American politics in this most unusual, defiant season. This appeal to voters is at least one piece of a puzzle as yet so incomplete, it remains incoherent. And with a hold that remains, so far, only tenuous.