Why I am Voting for Donald Trump in 2020 After Publicly Refusing to do so in 2016
By Michael Farris – October 27, 2020
I didn’t hide my opposition to Donald Trump in 2016. In fact, the Washington Post published my pieces which made my views both clear and very public. My opposition stemmed from my belief that his character flaws were over the line—accordingly, I could not support him.
I also disputed one of the chief claims raised by his supporters—that he would appoint better Supreme Court justices than Hillary Clinton. I took issue with that claim because I had seen so many bad choices made by prior Republican presidents. It wasn’t personal with Trump; I didn’t believe that Republicans knew how to pick consistently good justices.
Finally, I believed that voting for Trump was largely symbolic since he had no chance to win. Or so I thought (as did the vast majority of experienced political operatives). Why should I violate my standards merely to cast what I thought was a fruitless vote?
My views were so well known in 2016, I would feel like a moral coward if I failed to publicly explain why I was changing. If I change my mind about a man, I owe him the duty to correct the record publicly rather than let it pass in silence.
In so doing, I need to make it very clear that I’m sharing my views purely in my personal capacity and not on behalf of any organization. I know many well-meaning Christians who will not vote for Trump. I do hope that none vote for Biden.
As a preliminary matter I need to say that I do not regret my decision in 2016. Character does matter a great deal. But, several things have changed including my analysis of how character is to be evaluated in an electoral contest when a pattern of governance has been established. More on that later—including a response to John Piper.
Here are the four reasons I have changed my mind.
- President Trump has governed in ways that were much better than I expected and better than virtually every Republican president in my lifetime—at least on issues of importance to me.
On these issues—judicial appointments, religious freedom, right to life, education, and freedom of speech—his record has been exemplary.
Has every judicial appointment been perfect? No. But, I know from close analysis that he has attempted to use the right standard consistently. He depended on people (both inside and outside the government) who assured him that every nominee fully lived up to the right standards. In over 200 judicial appointments, there have been a few B’s and B+’s mixed in but the judges deserving an A or A+ are far greater in number.
This does not mean that I would give President Trump an A in every subject. But, again, on the issues I know best and are most important to me, he gets a solid A without question.
- I have looked at the team that President Trump assembled. There are many people in his administration that I have known for a very long time. They are wonderful people who share my values, many also share my faith. These are the people who surround this president every day. And taken as a whole, they are outstanding. I cannot think of any president, including Ronald Reagan, who has assembled such a good and faithful team—although there were a lot of great people then also.
Ultimately, I view my vote as a vote for the Trump Administration.
I must say a special word about Vice President Mike Pence. Quietly and with great dignity, he has had a tremendous influence in this administration. To be sure, he has been very loyal to the President, but his influence has been a consistent one for good.
- The opposition has gotten dramatically worse. There were some restraints in 2016. The radical elements of the party were not in such positions of power that they are today.
Biden does not have the strength or will to curb the radical contingency. For starters, his VP Kamala Harris is a certified extremist on virtually every issue that matters.
And here’s the biggest difference of all. In 2016, conservatives suspected what they would do to us if they seized power, but the Democrats tried to keep the full extent of their agenda hidden in the shadows.
Now we don’t need to fear based on what we think they might secretly want to do. There is more than enough out in the open to give any liberty-loving American deep concern. For starters, the Equality Act is a declaration of war on the family, biology, religious freedom, common sense, and much more. And Biden has made it clear that this is a priority for him.
Just take three examples as to what the Democrats hope to accomplish through the radical Equality Act.
Biological men who identify as women will be sanctioned to compete in athletics against biological women—destroying equal opportunities for women after years of working hard to achieve a form of parity.
Churches and Christian schools will be required to hire employees who do not abide by or even support basic Christian doctrine on human sexuality and marriage.
Religious medical professionals and religious institutions will be required engage in sex-change surgeries and provide gender transition hormones against their conscience.
What about religious freedom, you ask? Won’t that override the radical demands of the sexual anarchy agenda? The Religious Freedom Restoration Act would normally protect churches against such a federal command, but RFRA is overridden by the Equality Act. And current Supreme Court doctrine on the free exercise of religion is not nearly as robust as it needs to be. (Which is why we had to pass RFRA in the first place. [I was the co-chairman of the drafting committee for RFRA].)
Let’s say it plainly. The Democrats intend to permanently silence anyone who disagrees with their agenda.
The mechanisms of government will be turned over to those who excused and even enabled rioters in cities across this nation and who remain sympathetic to the rioters’ political agenda. Instead of firebombs, once inside the government they will use the IRS and the vast power of the federal agencies to seek to tear down those they oppose. Ultimately, official tyranny is more dangerous than riots.
The increased danger posed by the left is sufficient to change my mind. But it is clearly not the only factor.
- I return to the issue of character.
John Piper has recently published a widely-circulated argument that equates a list of character flaws with a list of policy positions. Both are equally disqualifying, Piper argues. (Although he doesn’t name candidates, a later tweet specified he will not be voting for either candidate).
In sum, Piper contends that Trump’s character negatively influences our culture in ways that are equivalently harmful as Biden’s policy positions. He argues that Trump’s sins—past and present—normalize sin and make our people more likely to commit similar acts.
Piper makes a fundamental error in his analysis in the comparison he does make—Trump’s character vs. Biden’s policies.
He equates the impact of a president as a (negative) role model of character with the impact arising from a president’s official actions.
These things are not equal. The impact is quite different.
Trump’s character flaws do not force anyone to sin. And to view Trump’s character issues as the proximate cause of any sin patterns in our society lacks even a semblance of facial credibility. These sin patterns have been with us a long time and arise from many sources, including silence from many churches about the nature and character of sin.
Piper raises a good argument that Trump may influence some to sin. And he also makes a good point about the dangers of unqualified praise of Trump by some Christian leaders. Such actions may confuse people about the sinfulness of pride, etc. But that is a problem that those pastors are responsible for—not Trump.
Biden’s policies, however, would directly cause people to sin. And he would directly attack the church’s ability to function freely.
For example, Biden clearly thinks that the addition of Amy Coney Barrett puts Roe v. Wade in jeopardy. He is clearly intending to do something to fix this. He has said that he wants to ensure states will be required to allow abortions up to birth. At a minimum, he will fill every Supreme Court vacancy with a justice absolutely committed to reinstating Roe—assuming it has been reversed before a vacancy occurs. But he is also clearly flirting with a court-packing scheme to fill the Court with pro-abortion justices. That scheme will not require him to await a vacancy in order to pack the Court with pro-abortion justices.
Biden’s official actions will directly authorize the death of millions of innocent babies by the power of law. And he will take taxpayer money to pay for their death. That is not the moral equivalent of Trump indirectly influencing some to become more prideful or engage in sexual sin.
Biden has also promised to stop parents from being able to give their children Christian or secular counseling to overcome gender dysphoria or confusion. (This is a component of the Equality Act.)
Biden even says that he supports parents getting treatment for children as young as eight or ten and has endorsed the Trevor Project which advocates for youth to have free access to “gender affirming” surgery.
Prohibiting parents by the coercive power of law from rescuing their child from a sinful and unhealthy lifestyle is far more impactful than an indirect bad influence. At worst, Trump may influence some to choose to sin; Biden will actively use the force of law to prevent a parent from doing the right thing for their child. And we know from the book of James that the failure to do right is sin. Biden intends to force parents to sin.
Piper has failed to distinguish the difference between an implied suggestion and an enforceable legal order. These are not equivalent. A person who sets a bad example is not nearly as culpable as a person who threatens you with legal sanctions if you do not engage in sin.
While the general societal influence of a leader’s character is important for intrinsic reasons, there is a more fundamental reason that character matters in an election. If a person is untrustworthy and they make campaign promises, you have no basis for believing what they will do once they are in office. Ultimately, you are voting on the basis of trying to predict how a person will govern.
Remember George Bush (the elder)? “Read my lips, no new taxes.” Bush’s repudiation of this promise revealed a deep character flaw. And it cost him his bid for re-election.
And who can forget President Obama’s promise, “If you like your health plan, you’ll be able to keep your health plan.” That too revealed a significant character flaw.
This line of reasoning influenced my view of Trump in 2016. I didn’t believe Trump when he made promises. If he cheated on his wife, why should I trust him to keep his word once in office?
That made sense to me in 2016.
But I don’t have to guess anymore. Trump has been in office. And, he has done far better than most politicians in seeking to keep his promises. Keeping his promises is demonstration that he has had generally good character as president.
Moreover, even in some of the areas of his past bad examples in his personal life, he has done better while in office. Specifically, there has not been a hint of sexual sin while in office. One would think the press would be shouting it from the rooftops every hour on the hour if there was the slightest hint of current impropriety.
I witnessed first-hand an incident that demonstrated good character for which President Trump gets little credit.
I was invited to the Oval Office for a signing ceremony on a religious freedom initiative. There were about 40 people in the room and then a selection of the press corps was allowed in just before the ceremony began.
I have been in the White House during many other presidential administrations and have watched a good number of presidential press conferences in person. I have been interviewed by the media thousands of times—with many hostile reporters. I have never seen anything like this scene.
It was as if a pack of wild jackals had descended into the room. There was not a shred of respect or decorum among most of the press once the first question was asked. They shouted over the president. They argued with him. They debated him. They berated him. It was a street fight.
If I was president, I would have cleared the room long before President Trump simply ended the press conference.
It was a display of open hatred of this president that defies any claim of objective journalism.
In fact, the mainstream media has been running a four-year continuous campaign to destroy Donald Trump. And that alone gives me a reason to want to vote for him.
The restraint I saw on that occasion in the Oval Office was incredibly reassuring about President Trump’s character of restraint under pressure. I was impressed and thought much better of him than I ever thought possible in 2016.
Oh yes, I would still love to change Donald Trump. I would particularly like to help him with debates and encourage him to show more restraint when making public comments. But no president following the normal rules of political behavior would have had the backbone to stand up to this media destruction machine.
If Donald Trump wins, the mainstream media will be proven to possess only marginal power or influence. That’s good for America. And I am hopeful we will continue to get great federal judicial nominees and other vital issues will advance.
He’s far from perfect but his actions in office have won my support. I intend to vote for Donald Trump and his absolutely wonderful Vice President, Mike Pence.
Michael Farris is CEO of Alliance Defending Freedom, Chancellor Emeritus of Patrick Henry College, Chairman of HSLDA