On January 15, Hunter Baker, the dean of arts and sciences at Union University—a Baptist college not far from me in Jackson, Tennessee—did something exceedingly rare in our highly polarized time. He published an apology. In an essay in Public Discourse, he forthrightly declared that he “severely underestimated the threat posed by a Donald Trump presidency.” He acknowledged that Never Trumpers were correct that “there were significant risks involved with Donald Trump that could very well outweigh the policy outcomes.”
In a particularly poignant passage, he wrote, “I have awakened on too many days with gratitude on my lips for the blessing of living in a peaceful, orderly, democratic, and free society to see such hard-won advances thrown away for immoderate political ambition. Those who realized our inheritance was at risk saw more clearly than I did.”
In our present environment, it takes guts to write an apology. It’s countercultural within our broader society, and it’s even more countercultural within the MAGA community. As my colleague Jonah Goldberg noted on Friday, even after the calamity of January 6, most MAGA voices are busy doubling down, demanding continued loyalty to Trump and seeking punitive actions against the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach.
Baker was the brave exception, and the correct response to Baker’s words is simple: Thank you. Apology accepted.