I’m not a fan of most of the presidential contenders. But I’ll vote for the Democrat nominee no matter who that person may be. Getting Trump out of the White House is Job #1.
I’m sure that many of you had already settled there, but me—no I hadn’t—until this week. And it means I won’t repeat how I voted in 2016. I couldn’t vote for Trump and wouldn’t vote for Clinton, so I wrote-in Bernie’s name. It was a throw-away vote. (Bernie had already withdrawn his name as a presidential candidate.)
The reason I’ll behave differently this November is because Jesus Christ and George Washington changed my mind.
The measuring sticks I use traditionally to evaluate presidential candidates aren’t as relevant this year. Getting Trump out of Washington is all that matters.
Many of you are familiar with the story of the “Cleansing of the Temple.” There were two cleansings, actually, but the second gets more attention because it took place just a few days before the Crucifixion. As the story goes, Jesus and his followers made their way into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. As they entered the city, they found that money-changers and merchants had turned a sacred space into ‘a den of thieves.’ “Take these things out of here!” Jesus said. “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” (John 2:13-16).
That ancient narrative aligns well with what George Washington told the nation during his Farewell Address in 1796. Here’s an excerpt from what he said.
“It is important...that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart, is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position. The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositaries, and constituting each the guardian of the public weal against invasions by the others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern; some of them in our country and under our own eyes."
What are those icons telling us? Call it thievery or despotism as they did then. Label it Fascism or Exceptionalism as we do today. No matter what you call it—or to what you attribute its cause—‘it’ has a firm grip on America. Here. Now.
Because of that, the measuring sticks I use traditionally to evaluate presidential candidates aren’t as relevant this year. Getting Trump out of Washington is all that matters. It’s more important than who says what about how we re-configure our health system or what we do about global climate change. It’s more important than who says what about how we address the high cost of higher education or cleanse our food system. It’s more important than who says what about rebuilding our infrastructure or addressing poverty.
Getting Trump out is more important than any action we might take on any issue you name. That’s because no good is possible, and an enormous amount of bad will accumulate, unless we stop the erosion of democracy and the mugging of democratic institutions that persist today.
“The love of power, and the proneness to abuse it” as Washington put it, has turned America upside down. Corrupted expressions contradict the norms of democracy and interdict the sanctity of its institutions. Enterprises that dare counter Trump as the sole-source of ‘truth’—higher education, journalism, and science are prime culprits—are discredited and mocked, suborned publicly as false testimony.
It’s clear what’s happening. Trump seeks to reformulate America in his image, to declare, “This is America now, and I (alone) have made it so!” But in seeking that end, Trump has done what those money-changers and merchants did centuries ago: he has corrupted a sacred place.
Worse yet, millions of Americans cheer him. The affluent and impoverished, the lettered and unlearned, the professional and hourly laborer share obsequious comportment. When he speaks, they applaud. What he does, they support. What he rejects, they too say NO!
And while people like Trump have always been with us—and will always be—the difference today is that Trump has legitimate power and far-reaching authority. He must be sidelined.
That’s our primary job come November 3, and it’s why I’ll vote for whomever the alternative turns out to be. I believe any of the alternatives will be (to use Washington’s words) “a guardian of the public weal against invasion.” And nothing is more important than that. If our democratic system falters, we fail as a nation and as a people.
We have been ‘invaded’ (per George Washington) and it’s time to ‘Cleanse the Temple’ (per Jesus Christ). Our democracy can’t take four more years of Trump.