Jonah Goldberg: We Will Pay a Price for Abandoning Character to Rally Around Trump for Years to Come
Editor’s Note: The following essay was adapted from an interview with Jonah Goldberg conducted in October 2016. It has been modified for clarity.
I think personal character should rank very high in evaluating a presidential candidate, but it is contingent upon what one means by character.
I am perfectly open to the idea that character has competing or multiple definitions. It is possible that the long-running definition of character that some social conservatives have been working on, which implies orthodox religious piety and stable marriages and the like may not be necessary for a presidential candidate, or our president. I still value those things.
But as we’ve seen with the case of Donald Trump, character can have other meanings, as I think the Founding Fathers understood. Character can also refer to honesty; it can refer to personal integrity; it can refer to a commitment towards one’s patriotic duty to do the necessary homework required of a president or a presidential candidate. And that’s one of the reasons why I think that, if we’re going to talk about this in the context of Donald Trump, I think he falls short of virtually every definition of character that conservatives have touted over the last 30 years.
On the basis of the socially conservative, religious right definition of character, defined as conventional moral probity, and religious orthodoxy, Trump falls way short on that. But if you also think of the different definitions of character in terms of honoring one’s commitments, of dealing honestly and forthrightly with people, of upholding standards of integrity and decency, he falls short of those as well.
We are going to be paying an enormous price for the 2016 election in the years to come — that so many people abandoned their commitment to character, a meaningful understanding of character, in order to rally around Donald Trump.