God is our refuge and strength, *
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be moved, *
and though the mountains be toppled into the depths of the sea.
“Be still, then, and know that I am God; *
I will be exalted among the nations;
I will be exalted in the earth.”
The LORD of hosts is with us; *
the God of Jacob is our stronghold. (Psalm 46)
I had never truly allowed myself to contemplate the reality of a President Trump until Tuesday night. I was walking down the block at about 7:00 to pick up takeout for dinner, and I had just seen The New York Times’s forecast that there was now greater than a 75% chance of a Trump victory. So I had a several minutes’ walk for the pit of my stomach to begin feeling cold and numb from fear.
Of course I had contemplated it. But it had seemed so truly farcical that it hadn’t been possible for me to really, truly, come to grips with its possibility. I was ready to turn a page; to move on with life more or less as usual; to breathe a sigh of relief at the election of a president I basically liked and whose general adult competence I trusted; to continue welcoming the gradual but real progress toward greater gender inclusion, racial justice, and a stronger social safety net that had been happening despite resistance and seemed fated to proceed along its inevitable course. The arc of history.
It is not that way.
The people have spoken. Donald Trump, a man who has said things that would have disqualified any previous candidate two hundred times over, who has boasted of groping women, who flirts with white supremacists, who has openly promised to trample on constitutional freedoms of the press and of religion and to reinstitute torture as national policy, who shows little to no curiosity or self-reflective capacity—how long should I go on?—this person will be the leader and spokesman for our nation and indeed the most powerful person in the world.
I am afraid because I believe some specific policy consequences will hurt many, especially the most vulnerable. Millions will lose their access to healthcare as the Affordable Care Act is swiftly repealed, to be replaced with something no one has yet thought through, or else not to be replaced at all. Tax cuts will shower “relief” on the wealthy and provide symbolic pittances to the middle class and nothing to the poor. Meanwhile, large pieces of the social safety net that helps those poor survive will be privatized or vanish altogether. With at least one and perhaps more Supreme Court nominees to be selected by Donald Trump and easily approved by a Republican Senate, the “right” of corporations to be treated as people will remain enshrined, while the right of women to make the most intimate decisions about their own bodies may well be taken away.
Beyond those policy consequences, there will be less tangible consequences that may be even more harmful in the long run. The fabric of our constitutional democracy will probably hold—but it has been badly stretched and frayed. We will have a president who has endorsed violence at his rallies, who has “jokingly” hinted at his opponent’s assassination and dead-seriously called for her imprisonment, and who has repeatedly vowed to do things that are blatantly against our most basic constitutional freedoms. Leaders of countries around the world are alternately terrified or exultant at the prospect of seeing the United States led by an erratic bully and our (already much eroded) moral standing reduced to that of any other troubled democracy. Closer to home, the unprecedented strategy of stonewalling a Supreme Court nomination for an entire year is now vindicated as a clear success, meaning that it will likely become a norm.
This is not good news, not any of it. I fear that people will suffer and that the world will be less prosperous, less happy, and less free.
Still, there is a clarity that comes with this new reality. It calls for those of us whose vision of a compassionate, fair, and inclusive society is grounded in the gospel of Jesus Christ to speak out boldly.
It convicts me of my silence, my failure to engage in real conversation with those different from me, my life in a liberal bubble. It convicts me also of my genuine incomprehension of and aversion to the values and culture of many people, most of them white, many of them working-class, whose pain and anger needs to be heard and respected even if it is often accompanied by racism and sexism that cannot be.
And it means that the task for those of us who are shocked and disheartened is to serve as a dogged, loyal opposition. Loyal to the values for which this country, at its best, stands; and loyal, more deeply still, to the gospel. We are called to proclaim the good news in season and out of season. Our trust is not in having a government we like, but in God’s grace and goodness, which never fail.
Some put their trust in chariots and some in horses, *
but we will call upon the Name of the LORD our God. (Psalm 20:7)