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Shake the Dust
Bonus Episode: What Happens If Trump Wins Again?

Bonus Episode: What Happens If Trump Wins Again?

And how big of a deal is it?

Note: The transcript for this episode is below, rather than in the usual separate post. We’re experimenting with ways to make our podcast posts more convenient and easier to find. Feedback is welcome as always at shakethedust@ktfpress.com!

This month, our bonus episode features a discussion about our big-picture thoughts on the 2024 presidential election and the possibility of a second Trump term. Jonathan and Sy get into:

-        How a Trump Reelection would harm marginalized people, democracy, and creation

-        How God’s sovereignty and familiarity with suffering would get us through another Trump administration

-        How both the oppression Biden’s administration causes and US history give us helpful context for thinking about Trump

-        How we can minimize the suffering of others by overreacting to Trump

-        And a discussion about a recent highlight from our newsletter on prison slave labor in America’s food industry

Resources Mentioned in the Episode

-        Our YouTube video of Dr. Mika Edmondson on MLK’s theology of suffering and sovereignty

-        The essay from our anthology, “Bad Theology Kills” by Jesse Wheeler

-        The AP’s investigation into prison labor and the Food Industry


-        Follow KTF Press on Facebook, Instagram, and Threads. Subscribe to get our newsletter and bonus episodes at KTFPress.com

-        Follow host Jonathan Walton on Facebook Instagram, and Threads

-        Follow host Sy Hoekstra on Mastodon

-        Our theme song is “Citizens” by Jon Guerra – listen to the whole song on Spotify

-        Our podcast art is by Robyn Burgess – follow her and see her other work on Instagram

-        Production and editing by Sy Hoekstra

-        Transcript by Joyce Ambale and Sy Hoekstra


[An acoustic guitar softly plays six notes, the first three ascending and the last three descending – F#, B#, E, D#, B – with a keyboard pad playing the note B in the background. Both fade out as Jonathan Walton says “This is a KTF Press podcast.”]

Jonathan Walton: I think there's a, there’s just healthy, healthy gifts in Scripture when we remember that Jesus lived in an occupied territory by an empire that was ruthless, just like the United States. It’s not a new thing to Jesus, it’s not a new thing to God, which I'm really, really grateful for. Like our Savior understands. That's the reason he can say in scripture, “There will be wars and rumors of wars, let not your heart be troubled.”

[The song “Citizens” by Jon Guerra fades in. Lyrics: “I need to know there is justice/ That it will roll in abundance/ And that you’re building a city/ Where we arrive as immigrants/ And you call us citizens/ And you welcome us as children home.” The song fades out.]

Jonathan Walton: Welcome to Shake the Dust, leaving colonized faith for the kingdom of God. I am Jonathan Walton.

Sy Hoekstra: And I am Sy Hoekstra. We today, are going to be talking about the election coming at the end of 2024.

Jonathan Walton: Lord Jesus…

Sy Hoekstra: Of course, I'm talking about the election for New York City comptroller. No, I'm talking about the presidential election [laughter] in the United States of America. When it comes to season four of this show when we get started in a couple of months, we are going to be talking mostly, if not all, about the election. Kind of bringing on some guests that we think have a really good perspective, just really diving deep into this crucial subject for this time. And we thought it would be a good idea to give you, our lovely paid subscribers some perspective before we dive into that. Some of like where we are coming from when we think about the election.

How important is it? What are the truly bad things that will happen if Trump gets reelected? And without minimizing any of the harm that will come if he is reelected, how can we sort of contextualize these issues within history and theology from the perspectives of marginalized voices, to give us just kind of a broader understanding of kind of the real consequences and really what's going on this year? So what happens if Trump gets reelected and how earth shaking is it [laughter]? That's effectively what we're talking about today. We will also be doing our new segment, which tab is still open, diving a little bit deeper into one of the recent highlights from our newsletter, in this case, is going to be my highlight, a massive AP investigation into prison labor, and how it supplies the food that is absolutely in your kitchen. If you didn't take a look at it, it will be in the show notes. It is a shocking one, and we're going to talk about that one a little bit more. But before we jump into the main discussion, Jonathan.

Jonathan Walton: Yes, before we jump into anything, we just have one quick favor to ask of you. And that is, go to Apple or Spotify and give this show a five-star rating. It's a quick, easy, free way to support us and makes us look good, and other people look us up. So please go to Apple or Spotify, give us a five-star rating, and if you can, leave a review. It's just a super, super helpful way to support the show, and many of you have done it. And so there's an unlimited invitation to this party [Sy laughs]. So please do give us a five-star rating, write a review. We really, really, really appreciate it. Thanks so much in advance.

A Trump Reelection would Multiply the Harm We Do to Marginalized People

Sy Hoekstra: Alright, let's jump into it. I know that both of us think this election is really important. But I also know that we both have some historical and theological perspective that might somewhat ironically, maybe make us think that it's a less earth-shaking election than other people might. But I just wanted to start by talking about what will happen. Why is this election important? If Trump gets reelected, Jonathan, what will happen and why does it matter?

Jonathan Walton: Yeah, actually, as I've been thinking about this question, I think that the reason that it's important, are the reasons that have always been important. It's just a problem at a fire when someone has kerosene, and it's just walking around, throwing it everywhere. Right?

Sy Hoekstra: Yeah.

Jonathan Walton: And so it's like, it is not untrue that the United States has, it has been and has baked in racist, bigoted, misogynistic frameworks into our entire systems and structures. It was intentional, and it is still working very strong and well today. That has always been true. What changes, I think, is how these systems and structures impact a lot of the vulnerable people. And if you vote for Donald Trump, or lean into the things that he normalizes as everyday practices, that is a profound problem for the most vulnerable people in our country. We are living in the wake of significant cultural, political, theological and demographic change in the United States, and to have a president that explicitly endorses exploitation and militarism and hyper-capitalism, then we have a serious problem.

The things that I am hopeful do not happen is the expressed situational, like contextualized things in our time and culture, which again, I'm not saying they haven't happened before. I'm not saying that they're more unique than other things that have happened before. What I am saying, is we're living in this moment, and we have an opportunity as best as we possibly can to push back against systems that oppress, abuse and violate. And one of the ways to do that is to not vote for someone who's going to do and say things that cause oppression and violence and abuse to be multiplied the world over, because he sits in the most quote- unquote, “powerful” seat in the country. So Sy, that was a lot from me. What do you think about this election, and why is it important to you?

Sy Hoekstra: Yeah, so I think this question for me, is the one that I kind of want to answer a little bit talking more to marginalized people than not. And then the kind of like get some broader, bigger perspective questions that we're going to ask in a minute, are kind of the things that I think need to be directed towards people who come from the dominant side of a hierarchy, right? Like, right now I'm talking to people who are not white, instead of me talking to white people. Right now I'm talking to people I think, mostly who are disabled, and I'll be talking to able bodied people in a minute. And the reason I say that is like, I think this question of why is this important, primarily for me is like acknowledging all the things that have happened to marginalized people in his first term, and that will happen again, if he's reelected.

So, for instance, because I'm married to an attorney who was working in immigration during the first Trump term, and because I have a good friend who applied for asylum just before Trump was elected, I saw kind of firsthand, like a lot of the very kind of small administrative things that Trump did in the immigration system that had a huge effect on the lives of just like hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people that kind of went under the radar, just because they weren't flashy. I don’t know how much you remember—how much you've put your memories of the Trump administration out of your mind for your own sort of mental peace. But there was so much stuff going on every day. Like he would say something new that was absurd, that topped the absurd thing he said yesterday, and proposed some new ridiculous policy and whatever.

So a lot of things just like went under the radar that were small. And I'll give you an example. One was this woman I know who applied for asylum just toward the end of Obama's presidency. Had like an absolutely open and shut case for asylum. There's no question ever that she was going to be granted it. She was a woman from Iran who converted to Christianity and basically became a women's rights advocate. She's not going back to Iran. So she—without being persecuted, it's open and shut asylum. So she comes here and applies, and then just as, like she's kind of work… you know, it takes a while to get your asylum application granted, but it doesn't take as long as it took her.

Because what happened was, Trump, in his efforts to deter as many people from coming here as possible, did this thing where he said we're going to process all of the applications that have been filed most recently first, and then we're going to make our way back towards the applications that were filed, sort of in the past. So she was making her way through the line through the processing thing, and then all of a sudden, the line flipped, and she was at the end again. So it took eight years to process her asylum application, which was unheard of previous to the Trump administration. And that just like left her in a state of limbo and uncertainty, it makes it, there's all kinds of things that are just harder when you haven't been granted that when you can't be moving on your path towards citizenship. There's all kinds of bureaucratic things that are complicated, and it just put her forever wondering whether she was going to be able to stay in this new place that she had made her home. And that's like one example of so many different things that happened.

The worst things that we've been seeing at the state level are going to be amplified if Trump gets reelected. Meaning, think about like the DeSantis takeover of public schools in Florida. Like just anything to do with talking about race in history, or gender or sexuality, those things are going to be stamped out as vigorously as possible by the federal government. The violence towards immigrants on the Texas border that we've written about in the newsletter a couple of times, like the ways that Greg Abbott is just like actively killing people who try and cross the river into Texas.

The way that he and Ron DeSantis are trafficking immigrants to Blue cities for like a political stunt. All that kind of stuff would be approved of and encouraged by the head executive of the country. Everything we're seeing about don't talk about…the attempts to completely erase queer people from our public education system, attempts to ban even like life-saving abortions. All that kind of stuff, the President would be behind all of it, and that is quite scary.

Trump Will Undermine Democracy, Damage Creation, and Embolden People with the Worst Ideas

There will be I think increased attempts to undermine democratic norms and processes. Obviously, he did that in his first term. He will be maybe better at it. I mean, it's hard to tell, right [Jonathan laughs]? He's still, he's the same blustering guy that he was before. And there are some things that he's proposing doing that he would absolutely never be able to do, that the President doesn't have the power to do.

But you know that he's going to undermine as many norms as possible to get whatever he wants. You know that if he loses this time, there will be election violence. I mean, I would be willing to bet that at some point, he goes, “Hey, about those term limits [laughs], what do we think of those still?” And his supporters are going to say, “Get rid of them,” and he will try. Again, not something he has the power to do, but that doesn't mean that there won't be violence if he can't do it. I mean, these are all totally realistic possibilities. And then foreign policy is just going to go off the rails. Can you imagine what would be happening right now in Gaza, if Israel had the full-throated support of the American President to do whatever they want to fight terrorism, which is absolutely what he would do. Right? I mean, it would be… like not that it's not terrible now, it's horrifying now, it would be on a whole different scale if Trump was president. Because ultimately, as we've discussed in the newsletter, like what the American president says are the guardrails of Israel's military operations, are in fact the guardrails of Israel's military operations. We sort of define how far they can go or Western powers defined how far they can go. That's always been the case.

Jonathan Walton: Yeah.

Sy Hoekstra: The environmental situation will get way worse, he's promised a ton more drilling. He's said he's going to pull out of the Paris Accord, which is the big multinational treaty about climate change that exists right now. It needs strengthening, but it's the one that exists. So basically, everything I'm saying is, the reason that it's important. The reason that it's going to be bad if he gets reelected, is because it will negatively affect actual people. Actual, marginalized people will be hurt. And the creation, like God's creation will be damaged. And the line that I do want to draw there a little bit for the clarity of our thinking is, that's the problem.

The problem isn't that he will degrade America's greatness or whatever. He will harm like, he may hasten the decline of America, but America to me is not like theologically or morally significant, except insofar as it contains people. It contains people…

Jonathan Walton: Exactly, yeah.

Sy Hoekstra: …who bear the image of God, and the creation that God made and wants us to steward. So I think that's worth keeping in mind as well. Do you have any other thoughts? There's a lot from… Now, you did a lot from you, and I did a lot from me. Do you have any thoughts?

Jonathan Walton: [laughs] Well, I think what you said put hands and feet to what I was thinking. Like naming specific policies that will violate and destroy the image of God and people downstream of the American empire. And the American empire looks like what's happening in Palestine. Looks like what's happening in the Congo. Looks like what's happening in neighborhoods in New York City, and around the country where kids won't be able to get books because they will pull the funding from the library. They will have made sure that these school boards would be completely flipped because the bully pulpit as they say, the presidency, as you said, full-throatedly endorses a race-based, class-based, gender-based environmental hierarchy that makes sure things run a certain way.

Sy Hoekstra: Yeah, the importance of him just emboldening people can't really be understated. I mean, it's like a little bit hard to remember now, but 8, 10 years ago, we were not regularly talking about the Klan, or the Proud Boys or like the QAnon or whatever. Any of these alt right things that have cropped up since he basically made it okay to have their views and be at least around mainstream politics, right?

Jonathan Walton: Right.

Sy Hoekstra: I mean, you just, I don't know. There are so many people now who on their TV shows will have, who never would have done this before. Now, I feel like they have to have somebody who just has the absolute worst views you can imagine about whoever, to come in and comment like a really serious commenter because that's the environment that Trump has created. That's the people have been emboldened by him.

Jonathan Walton: Yes, absolutely.

Trump’s Reelection Is not the End of the World

Trump Isn’t God, and Jesus Knows the Suffering of Oppression

Sy Hoekstra: Okay. So let's pivot to some caveats or some ways that we think about another Trump presidency, from a broader perspective. Not at all trying to minimize any of the harm that we just detailed, but Trump isn't the only thing in the world that causes harm to marginalized people or to people in general. So maybe put it this way, Jonathan: would a second Trump term be the apocalypse?

Jonathan Walton: [laughs] No.

Sy Hoekstra: Why not Jonathan?

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Shake the Dust
Leaving colonized faith for the Kingdom of God – Shake the Dust features candid interviews and informed discussions that guide us as we seek Jesus instead of empire.