I had the opportunity to attend Donald Trump’s “secret meeting” with social conservatives in New York City yesterday. I came away very impressed.
Former Governor Mike Huckabee — a potentially great VP pick — acted as the moderator for the event, and led a conversation with Trump that lasted more than an hour. Trump took difficult questions from several different social conservative leaders, including Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, and Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council.
I went into the meeting fairly certain I was going to vote for Trump in November, mostly out of deference to the idea that a “President Hillary Clinton” would be an extinction-level event for America. But deep down, I wanted more. I wanted Trump to reassure me that he would actively fight for life and religious freedom. I wanted to feel good about supporting the GOP nominee, rather than just opposing Hillary Clinton.
I wanted more. And Trump gave me, and the nearly 1,000 social conservatives in attendance, a lot more.
Obviously, Trump is never going to be a policy wonk. Specifics are not his forte. He’s a ‘big idea’ guy. But here are some of the assurances he made yesterday:
- He will appoint pro-life Supreme Court justices, vetted by the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation.
- He will defend religious freedom vigorously and “give the power back” to people of faith.
- He proposed striking down an IRS ruling that prevents pastors/priests from speaking more freely about politics.
- He decried a case in Texas where a football coach was fired by a school district for praying with his team on the field.
- He said America needs to get back to saying “Merry Christmas” again, and that he would make that happen.
Yes! Let’s Make Christmas Great Again.
If this was any GOP nominee but Donald Trump, the conservative establishment would be on cloud nine. These are the types of commitments you would expect from a Rick Santorum or a Ted Cruz. But no, this was Donald Trump, emphatically promising to stand with us on the issues that matter most.
I understand he is not the perfect messenger. Yes, he needs to be more specific. Yes, his lack of willingness to address the conflict between LGBT rights and religious freedom rights is a concern, as Austin Ruse pointed out yesterday at Breitbart:
Trump was asked repeatedly about the tension between Christians and the gay agenda and both times he did not answer. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council asked Trump specifically about the imposition of gays and now transgenders in the military. Trump’s answer about making the military stronger did not come close to answering Perkins’ question.
But when it comes to Donald Trump, specifics are less important than his intent and his enthusiasm. As Huckabee attempted to conclude the discussion, offering an apology for the event going over the time allotted by Trump’s campaign staff, Trump quickly interjected with a heartfelt, human moment:
“No,” Trump said. “There’s nothing more important than this group of people to me.”
Wow. That’s a meaningful declaration. And honestly, call me a fool — I’m sure many in #NeverTrump will — but that’s good enough for me.
Jon Schweppe is the Communications Director for American Principles Project. Follow him on Twitter @JonSchweppe.