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Trump Poses a Dilemma for Real Conservatives

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Mr. Trump must be seen as an ally for religious Americans, even if he is not himself the epitome of the Christian ideal.

With their winning streak still fresh in mind, conservatives have every reason to be optimistic. Republicans cannot seem to lose, and many in their ranks predict nothing but equally clear skies in the years ahead with Donald Trump.

But is it going to really be that easy? Probably not. It is quite possible that Donald Trump is going to bring about something of an identity crisis within Conservative America.

Why? Because in the coming elections in 2018 and the next presidential election in 2020, the Democratic strategy is clear. All the Democrats need to do is call out hypocrisy on the right. They will say that Republicans “talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.”

Conservatives have built themselves as the side that promotes the traditional family and religious values. All fiscal issues aside, this cultural identity is, by far, the most important for the conservative brand, especially in dealing with the public and for winning elections.

And this is why Donald Trump represents a dilemma: he in no way exhibits any of these values, and he lives a life in stark contrast to them. Mr. Trump was a favorite target of tabloid gossip for decades with countless pages dedicated to his sexual escapades. We have heard him brag about his lack of sexual temperance.

On top of that, his new religious façade is not fooling anyone. He pronounced 2 Corinthians as “two Corinthians” instead of “Second Corinthians,” and his entire demeanor, especially his blatant lack of humility, should alienate social conservatives almost to the breaking point.

Yet here we are, and he is the Republican Party’s leader. It is time to be practical. The fact of the matter is that having Mr. Trump in the White House allows conservatives to steer the ship of the government for the next few years, and they should take advantage of that.

But everyone needs to remember that they will still need to answer to the people soon. And Republicans need to seriously ask themselves if endlessly defending Mr. Trump might hurt them in the long run. Will they seem hypocritical when they claim to be socially conservative, religious, and family-minded?

To avoid this fate, conservatives need to be careful with Mr. Trump. They need to call him out when he needs to be called out, and they need to stand up to him when he inevitably does something that warrants it. Mr. Trump needs to be seen more as an ally to conservatives instead of truly “one of their own,” an ally made out of necessity (necessity has a habit, of course, of making strange bedfellows).

If Republicans carefully and intentionally admonish Mr. Trump when necessary, then they can survive the eventual referendum on their leadership. And if they do that, the possibilities really are endless. With two, possibly even three Supreme Court vacancies likely to come in the next eight years, the Court can be solidified as a conservative powerhouse, one that can single-handedly change the direction the culture of this country has been going. And that should be enough to excite anyone on the right side of the aisle.

Matthew Jacobs, a graduate of Texas A&M University, is studying for his Master of Divinity at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He writes about the intersection of religion and secularism in the United States.

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