This also brings me to a lie that needs to be addressed — and it is not a misunderstanding but a lie, circulated with malice aforethought: that the conservative objection to Trump is only a matter of style, his boorishness bumptiousness and boobishness on Twitter, his gooftastical manner of speaking, his preening, his vanity, his habitual and often dishonest boasting in matters both small and great, etc. These things matter, of course, because manners and morals matter, and they matter more in a free society than they do in an unfree one, because free men govern themselves.

Trump’s low character is not only an abstract ethical concern but a public menace that has introduced elements of chaos and unpredictability in U.S. government activity ranging from national defense to managing the coronavirus epidemic. Trump’s character problems are practical concerns, not metaphysical ones. Trump is frequently wrong on important policy questions (including trade, foreign policy, entitlements, health care, and many others) and frequently incompetent even when trying to advance a good policy. His vanity and paranoia have made it very difficult for him to keep good people in top positions, and this imposes real costs both politically and as a matter of practical governance. Trump’s problem is not etiquette: It is dishonesty, stupidity, and incompetence, magnified by the self-dealing and cowardice of the cabal of enablers and sycophants who have a stake in pretending that this unsalted s*** sandwich is filet mignon…

There’s more to citizenship than voting, and partisanship is not patriotism. If casting a vote is all you have in you, then, fine — by all means, do what you believe to be best. But consider the possibility that the duty of the patriot in these times is not to choose one pack of jackals because it looks a little less hungry and vicious than the other pack of jackals but to oppose these jackals — these demagogues, profiteers, and hangers-on, these greasy little salesman trying to sell you something that is already yours — and to insist that the free and self-governing men and women of this struggling republic deserve better than what is on offer. We can have better than what we have had because we can be better than what we have been.

What is called for right now is not more idolatry of the presidency or a rousing chorus of “Happy Days Are Here Again!” but prayer and penance, intelligence and application.