In a recent op-ed for the Deseret News, Sen. Mike Lee sets forth his justification for why he will be voting for President Donald Trump this election.
I would like to respond to two points that seem to form the main thesis of Lee’s piece. He first writes:
“President Trump is deeply human and therefore flawed. He says things I would never say.”
And then, a bit later:
“Many people I love and respect say they can’t vote for a man who says the things President Trump has said. I understand these concerns. Indeed, I share many of them. But it also has been taught that actions speak louder than words.”
Lee then goes on to argue that Trump’s record — what he has actually done — should speak louder than his words.
I agree. But we’ll get to that.
The primary concern I have with Lee’s set-up is that it is a tired rehash of the by-now threadbare argument that we should just overlook what Trump says (or tweets) — that it doesn’t really matter.
As citizens of the United States of America, shouldn’t we care about what our president says?
What we say and how we say it (especially repeatedly) is absolutely a reflection of who we are. And who we are matters — especially when we have been elected to represent and to lead a nation.
What we say both forms and reflects our character. What Sen. Lee seems to be promoting in minimizing the importance of what Trump says is the insupportable and even dangerous argument that character doesn’t really matter. In this, he is asking us to ignore what both scripture and history (not to mention, common sense) tell us about the kinds of leaders we should elect.
In the Doctrine & Covenants, a book of scripture held sacred by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which Lee is a member, God declares that we must elect and uphold leaders who are honest, wise and good (D&C 98: 8-11). And George Washington, the father of our country, asserted that “a good moral character is the first essential in a man.” Nations do not long flourish under immoral leaders.
Now, to Lee’s second point — that Trump’s actions speak louder than his words.
I’d like to look at just three areas where Trump’s actions completely drown out his words.
First, Trump claims, through his words, to be a champion of religious freedom. And yet this is the man who called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” while on the campaign trail and who as president issued the so-called Muslim ban. This is the man who signed orders to allow the Dakota Access oil pipeline to desecrate the sacred lands of the Sioux, who prosecuted religiously motivated individuals who provided humanitarian relief to desperate migrants at the southern border, and who attempted to seize land from a Catholic diocese in Texas in order to build his wall.
Second, President Trump claims to love our soldiers, and yet his actions prove otherwise. He has mocked war heroes, disrespected Gold Star families, repeatedly acted against the advice of his military advisers and, most egregiously, apparently knew about Russian bounties on U.S. soldiers and did nothing about it.
Third, President Trump professes to be a proponent of the family. And yet, what of the hundreds of thousands of families who are genuinely suffering as a result of this president’s policies and actions? What of the families who are grieving the loss of a loved one as a result of a spectacularly inept handling of the pandemic? What of the families whose lives have been endangered or otherwise made miserable because bullies and racists have been emboldened by our president’s reckless rhetoric and behavior? What of the families who have been torn apart because devoted mothers and fathers who were doing everything they could to become legal permanent residents were targeted and deported, not because they had criminal records or were in any way a threat, but because they were the low-hanging fruit? And what of the thousands of innocent children who were cruelly taken from their parents when they arrived at our border to plead asylum and were held in inconceivably inhumane conditions, without even the basic necessities, often long past the 72-hour maximum period dictated by law? And what of the more than 500 children who still have not been reunited with their parents — more than two years later?
President Trump’s immature and often cruel and divisive words are bad enough and demonstrate a serious deficiency in his character, but his actions speak even louder than his words, and they clearly reveal his values and priorities. The question we must ask ourselves is if those values and priorities align with our own most deeply-cherished beliefs, and then we must vote accordingly.
Sharlee Mullins Glenn is a writer, teacher and community organizer. She is an executive officer of The Everyone Belongs Project and sits on the external advisory board of Brigham Young University’s Civic Engagement Program.