With Bernie Sanders’s front-runner status in the Democrat primary for president, political analysts are starting to contemplate the consequence on that race and on down-ticket races. Many of us can’t help but see the parallel to Republicans’ predicament in 2016, when they were forced to grapple with their own discomfort with candidate Donald Trump.
This topic came up at the tail end of Republican Representative Michael Chippendale’s appearance on the Matt Allen Uncut podcast. Chippendale’s position is that he’s uncomfortable with Trump, the man, but his policies have been positive. That phrasing makes me think of Game of Thrones.
As a fan of the books years before the show was even a rumor, I was captivated by J.R.R. Martin’s character development and underlying themes. Those aspects are what made the HBO series such an epic mega-hit, but its being HBO, they were delivered with a lot of gratuitous moral assaults, particularly with sex scenes in the earlier seasons.
Those of us who could have done without the moral challenges could still appreciate the writing, the story-telling, the themes, and the show-craft, but the question arises: At what point does the bad outweigh the good? That’s an individual judgment concerning not only what we allow into our own brains, but also what we promote and normalize for others. A Christian who emphasizes personal purity could still plausibly claim that the sex scenes do not rouse lust in his heart and that the combination of compelling art and cultural awareness make the risk worthwhile, but only for mature audiences. As the famous question goes, who am I to judge whether what that person says about his feelings is true?
Just so with President Trump. A good, moral conservative needn’t elevate Twitter etiquette and a history of boorish behavior into a litmus test that disqualifies the president from support no matter what he accomplishes. The challenge is to make ourselves, and our society, better and more mature so as not to be affected by the negative.
Therein lies the distinction between President Trump and Bernie Sanders. The objection to Trump is behavioral and related to insinuations about his motives, whereas the objection to Sanders is his history of anti-Americanism and dangerous policies. That’s a problem of substance rather than style. At best, that’s Game of Thrones without the gratuitous sex, but with an evil, dangerous theme.