John Pavlovitz is a liberal, widely read Christian pastor who has composed an internet article saying good people don’t defend a bad man. And you know who he’s talking about, of course: none other than President Donald Trump, whose deplorable supporters have climbed from a basket into the crosshairs of a sanctimonious sharpshooter.
Let me first respond by saying good people do not threaten the basic principles of our democracy in order to be bad to a bad man. Few see Mother Teresa in golden hair when they look at Trump. They know his narcissistic, vulgar, scatterbrained ways and can be horrified by his abusive tweets and rhetoric. But then they see an unprecedented effort through illegitimate means to overturn a legitimate election and understand how a pattern could thus be established threatening peaceful transitions of power.
One of the most persistent voices defending Trump in this regard has been that of Alan Dershowitz, a brilliant former law professor at Harvard and a mighty advocate of civil rights. He voted for Hillary Clinton and is himself a liberal but was more than a little displeased by the investigation of Trump by special counsel Robert Mueller and thought Mueller’s recent comments were outrageous nonsense unforgivably on the side of impeachment. Dershowitz is primarily defending truth, justice and the American way, and that is good.
Ah, but by Pavolitz’s reckoning, anyone standing up for Trump is probably “a terrible human being,” someone liking Trump because “he reflects your hateful heart; he shares your contempt of people of color, your hostility toward outsiders, your toxic misogyny, your ignorant bigotry, your feeling of supremacy.” Ah, poor Victor Davis Hanson. A former professor I happen to know and a dazzling polymath whose knowledge would fit in very few brains, this writer has supported Trump and is therefore a hateful, bigoted, misogynistic supremacist who doesn’t come close to any of that.
I will skip an adjectival attack on Pavlovitz. But good people, we should note, should also slow down and look in both directions before saying, for instance, that Trump referred to some “racists and Nazis” as “fine people” after the horror in Charlottesville. Sorry, Pavlovitz, but you are now about to get run over by a fact: Trump said there were “fine people” on both sides in the protests, but that he was “not talking about the neo-Nazis or the white nationalists because they should be condemned totally.”
I am not through.
Pavlovitz talks about Trump pushing ahead to “gouge the working poor and shelter the wealthy” when Trump instead gave tax breaks to two-thirds of the population and employed tax and regulation reform to enable internationally competitive corporate profits. He thereby delivered an economy in which we have the lowest unemployment in half a century, more jobs for black Americans than ever in history and decent growth again. What President Barack Obama gave us was the slowest recovery since World War II, vastly increased welfare rolls and bits and pieces of help tied to unaddressed obstacles.
A Pavlovitz sin, at least intellectually, was to leave out context, such as misdeeds of other presidents, the potentially ruinous policy ideas of too many of the Democratic presidential candidates or the frequent, politically advantageous malevolence of congressional Democrats. I as a layman am not absolutist about it, but I believe Trump’s often misrepresented positions sometimes go amiss but are often much to be preferred to those on the other side.
It does not follow that I embrace Trump’s worst characteristics or fail to recognize that he wins the award for shock and awe in the Oval Office. For Pavlovitz to say such nasty things about millions of people he does not know is not good, and it is worth paying attention to him because he is representative of so many others we do know about through their writings.
Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.