Saturday, March 19, 2016

Ruminations: Presidential Politics 2016

Let’ start with Mr. Trump, who has had multiple marriages and is an adulterer, of which he boasted in his first book. One is reminded of Our Lord’s words to the Samaritan woman: “Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.” Trump has made much of his fortune on the back of human imperfections via gambling casinos. His Atlantic City casino featured a virtual strip club. (Keep in mind that one who spends thousands of dollars in casinos that one’s family needs commits a sin (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2413).

Trump’s business successes have been supplemented by shady business practices (many of which have led to lawsuits), problematic associations, loan defaults, the use of political contacts to get what he wants (as with the much-publicized attempt to have eminent domain entreated against a widow who wouldn’t sell her property so he could expand his Atlantic City casino), and a tendency to pressure those who get in his way. (Recall the lawsuit he filed against the Miss USA beauty pageant contestant who went public with evidence that the results were pre-determined).

Trump is not the only 2016 presidential candidate about whom serious character problems can be raised. The American public commonly views Hillary Clinton as dishonest, but she’s still the Democratic front runner. The Clinton shadiness is almost legendary. Think on her behavior in the Benghazi episode, the mounting evidence about abuse of her personal email accounts in apparent violation of espionage laws while Secretary of State, and the questions surrounding foreign contributions to the Clinton Foundation and influence buying—all seem to have done little to wound her politically. It seems that for a substantial segment of the electorate, all this is irrelevant (though we await her possible indictment).

What of her opponent? Bernie Sanders, apart from his radical past,  has written about female rape fantasies; divorced his first wife; fathered a child out of wedlock by another woman with whom he cohabited; had an irregular work history before being elected to public office when nearly forty; has a reputation for profligacy; and is now married to a woman who identifies as a Catholic, but is divorced from the father of her children. That he has adhered to his socialism throughout his adult life perhaps says the most about his character.
It indicates a willful resistance to getting a sound intellectual formation, being a student of history, and properly shaping one’s views about the world. (The literature about the problems with socialism and the historical examples of its failures are plentiful--he should start with the encyclicals Quod Apostolici Muneris and Quadragesimo Anno).
To return to Donald Trump: many good people, including Catholics, have been attracted to the Trump campaign because he has taken up issues of legitimate concern: wage stagnation, grossly incompetent governance, wasteful governmental spending, the collapse of immigration law, inept foreign policy, stifling “political correctness”—etc. Trump, however, is distinctly unfit to be president. His entreaties to racial and ethnic fears are offensive to any true 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. May we derive from his career thus far any confidence that he genuinely shares Catholic commitments to the right to life, to religious freedom, to rebuilding the marriage culture, or to the principle of subsidiarity and limited constitutional government?