Trump's Muscular Rhetoric Soothes Evangelicals
Bill Berkowitz printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Mar 04, 2016 at 12:06:58 PM EST
To say that numerous top-tier Christian conservative evangelical leaders are having a difficult time facing the more-likely-by-the-primary reality that Donald Trump will head the GOP ticket in the fall is like saying the Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry has a pretty good 3-point shot. In other words, it is an understatement of historic proportions. From just about every conceivable angle, with just about every conceivable argument, conservative evangelicals are trying to slow down the Trump train. A recent editorial in The Christian Post was headlined "Donald Trump Is a Scam. Evangelical Voters Should Back Away."
In his recent column, a clearly disappointed Charles Krauthammer wanted to know "What happened to the evangelicals? They were supposed to be the bedrock of the Ted Cruz candidacy. Yet on Super Tuesday he lost them to Donald Trump." According to Krauthammer, "This time around, evangelicals are not looking for someone like them. They're looking for someone who will protect them. They've tried backing exemplary Scripture-quoting Christians - without result. After Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum and considerations of Cruz himself, they are increasingly reluctant to support like-minded candidates who are nonetheless incapable of advancing their cause in a hostile political arena so dominated by secularism."

In an historic editorial the senior editors of The Christian Post -- which they describe as "the most popular evangelical news website in the United States and the world" - declared that "Trump does not represent the interests of evangelicals and would be a dangerous leader for our country."

The CP editorial called Trump "a misogynist and philanderer," an admirer of dictators, and a man who refused to quickly "disavow" the racism of former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. He has a history of "untruthfulness, questionable business practices, reported association with organized crime, and abrupt changes in fundamental positions." Take that Jerry Falwell Jr., one of the few evangelical leaders who have endorsed Trump!

To the surprise of many, Trump continues to pull a darn good percentage of evangelical voters. To Randall Balmer, it appears that evangelical leaders are reaping what they've been sowing for nearly four decades.

Writing an Op-Ed for the Los Angeles Times, a not-so-surprised Randall Balmer pointed out that: "Over the last several decades, they have devolved from theological guardians to political operatives." Thanks to the likes of the late Rev. Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority and Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition, evangelicals were encouraged to get involved with politics.

"When evangelicals organized in the 1970s to defend the tax-exempt status of racially segregated schools, they cast their lot with the far-right fringes of the Republican Party, and thus began a series of theological and cultural compromises that led them first to a film star and lately to a reality TV star," maintained Balmer, the John Phillips Professor in Religion at Dartmouth College and the author of more than a dozen books, including "Redeemer: The Life of Jimmy Carter."

Evangelicals voting for Ronald Reagan in the 1980 presidential election indicated that they could overlook his divorce, lack of church attendance, and his Hollywood background. Sounding eerily similar to the blathering of thrice-married Trump, Reagan insisted he was opposed to abortion despite the fact that "as governor of California, he had signed the most liberal abortion bill in the nation," Balmer noted.

"He also wooed religious conservatives by ridiculing evolution and declaring that if he were stranded on an island, the one book he'd want was the Bible," Balmer wrote.

"As the religious right gained influence, evangelicals became the Republican Party's most reliable constituency.... By the time George W. Bush took office, they had indisputably lost their prophetic voice. Although the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan failed to meet even the barest criteria for a just war, evangelicals supported these actions, and they raised no objections to the use of torture or the implementation of economic policies that overwhelmingly favored the affluent."

In a recent column for The New York Daily News, Shaun King maintained that the "vulgar, offensive, and dangerous" Trump "has won over the majority of evangelical voters not because he is authentically Christian, but because Christianity for millions of white evangelicals in America is simply white supremacy in disguise."

At this point, I am not sure it matters that Pope Francis called Trump "not Christian" over his anti-immigrant stance, or that numerous evangelicals leaders are supporting either Texas Senator Ted Cruz, or Florida Senator Marco Rubio.

As King pointed out, "in a recent NY Times Op-Ed, Peter Wehner, an evangelical Christian expert in ethics who has worked in the past three Republican administrations, wrote: "Part of the explanation is that many evangelicals feel increasingly powerless, beaten down, aggrieved and under attack. A sense of resentment, or a `narrative of injury,' is leading them to look for scapegoats to explain their growing impotence. People filled with anger and grievances are easily exploited. As the great Christian apologist C. S. Lewis wrote, `We must picture hell as a state where everyone is perpetually concerned about his own dignity and advancement and where everyone has a grievance.' Enter Donald Trump, alpha male.'"

To rank and file evangelicals, it appears that Donald Trump represents the muscular type of Christianity that evangelical leaders have been calling for over the past several decades. These leaders, however, had no idea that their flocks would be flexing their muscles and moving in a totally different direction.

(Laugh!) They (the Religious Right) want to hear grievances, they need to talk to walkaways.  Their grievances are LAUGHABLE.  They think they're being persecuted when we tell them "Not interested!" or "What part of 'NO!' don't you understand?"  (YES, dominionists can be that hard-headed and non-listening, especially when proselytizing or ranting at innocent bystanders which they mis-characterize as "witnessing" - or trying to pressure walkaways to 'return to the fold'.)  Their real grievance is that they're loosing their privileged position, and are being forced to be the same as everyone else.  People are telling them that they can't dictate the lives and morality of others and that is what makes them angry.  They're loosing control as the Other gains equality, and that is terrifying to them.

Trump's ascendancy is solidly connected with racist bigotry and white privilege.  He's catering to the lowest common denominator - and in the Republican party that's Bible-pounding racist bigots.  (They generally changed parties when Democrats started supporting Civil Rights and the Republicans resisted.)

I'd argue that Trump was in reality a red herring - meant to distract people from the reality of the people they promote (Cruz and Rubio are monsters, but they promoted someone so outlandish that he made Cruz and Rubio seem modest.)  Now the religious right elites are running scared because they realize that their red herring (Trump) meant to distract is winning - because their power base IS bigoted and he feeds their bigotry and the elites are loosing control of the people they thought the had programmed.  Funny thing is that we're hearing more and more comparisons between Trump and Hitler (pre WWII) in a number of venues.  Some of the names and targets are different (those "horrible Mooslems" and "Illegal Immigrants" {Latinos} vs Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals, and the disabled) but the comparisons are valid and striking (therefore "Godwin's law" doesn't apply).  

by ArchaeoBob on Sat Mar 05, 2016 at 12:18:38 PM EST

Sometimes it seems like white evangelicals are one of the most delusional groups around. Responding to Shaun King's quote, what are they feeling "powerless" about? They have unfettered freedom in this country to practice their faith as they choose. What they feel "powerless" about is their increasing inability to force others to think and act as they wish them to. They seem to forget that Jesus did not advocate for a code of laws in which everyone was forced to abide by what he taught. (Now wouldn't THAT be interesting?) And in fact that he was an outcast and persecuted in ways that make their "grievances" seem laughable. That they can look to someone like Donald Trump as a "savior" makes their faith seem exceptional weak and even dishonest.

by anastasia p on Sun Mar 06, 2016 at 11:49:29 AM EST

OK, the average Trump voter is not as badly off as the average minority voter, at least when looking at employment statistics, accumulated wealth, etc. However, in general minorities are doing at least as well as their parents, and often quite a bit better; the average non-college-educated white Trump voter is worse off economically than their parents. The downward trajectory (and loss of exclusive cultural privilege) makes non-college-educated white men particularly prone to fear. Most of the cause is structural: the loss of high paying manufacturing jobs, the loss of union power or failure of unions to break into non-manufacturing segments of the economy. The Trump voters have not been accustomed to using their spare time for critical world news reading. They have wishful thinking - the outdated notion that protectionism would be possible to reinstate, will work, and will bring back the good old days of prosperity achievable without additional skills and education. That ship sailed a long time ago. The pool of job applicants includes people who didn't have better jobs in the old days - women, blacks, Hispanics (citizens and non-citizens alike) - and the Trump voters resent the added competition. The Trump voters' world-view is individualistic and never included economic class analysis - unionization no longer seems worth fighting for. By all rights, the Trump voters' economic woes would seem to be best addressed by Sanders, but it is a lot easier to stir the Trump voters by feeding their fears and resentments.

by NancyP on Mon Mar 07, 2016 at 11:39:22 AM EST
Minorities are not doing that well... unless you mean mired in poverty.  The improvements are slight at best - and I'm used to hearing people claim that someone got a job/position/assistance because of minority status rather than need or ability/qualifications.

In every case, when you start grilling the person, it comes out that they think that the minority doesn't qualify (or whatever) just because they're minority.  They cannot accept that a person with a different appearance (or whatever) could be more qualified, more capable, or more deserving than they are.

They're being forced to compete on a SLIGHTLY more even playing field, and they don't like it.  Most of that stuff is right-wing propaganda (the idea that things are much better is one of them).

I'd suggest that you read a number of books before saying something wrong like that again:

Aguirre, A. J.  and J. H. Turner
    2007 American Ethnicity: The Dynamics and Consequences of Discrimination. McGraw Hill, NY.

Feagin, J. R.
    2001 Racist America: Roots, Current Realities, & Future Reparations. Routledge, New York, NY.

 Hacker, A.
    2003 Two Nations: Black & White, Separate, Hostile, Unequal. Scribner, New York, NY.

Kaplan, H. R.
    2007 Failing Grades: The Quest for Equity in America's Schools. Rowan and LIttlefield Education, Lanham, Md.

 Rosthenberg, P. S.
    2002 White Privilege: essential readings on the other side of racism. Worth Publishers, NY.

Note that I could list a great many research journal articles too, but I'd be filling up the page.  Research articles that are current and based on research done within the last year or so (there are a number of organizations who put out reports - things are only MARGINALLY better today and the racist bigots are working hard - through propaganda like "unqualified people taking our jobs" - to return things to like it was before 1980 and the 1960s).

Also, this is an important point - the malaise is being felt by ALL "races" - the reality is that American Elites are playing the race game to shift attention (and blame) for the evils they do to minorities.  The economic side of the equation also needs to be considered, and the fact is, they're using race (and immigrants) to help repress wages and decent treatment of employees, so as to FEED THEIR GREED.  Shipping jobs overseas is a reality, so is using fear and "economic pressure" to manipulate people.  I've interviewed several homeless people who were fired from their job, but then their boss offered them their own job back - at HALF WAGES.  They couldn't survive on what was offered, but they knew 'starving' people were waiting in line to take their job.  They ended up on the street because they couldn't pay their rent on time (because of wages being cut).

Don't forget the bailout... and the way it mainly benefited the very rich.

by ArchaeoBob on Tue Mar 08, 2016 at 01:04:03 PM EST

I am not much into politics but I have ability to think and vote for the right person for country. I help to write an essay where I come up with different ideas and I share it with others too.

by Seth344 on Sat Sep 26, 2020 at 11:57:50 AM EST

Your statement suggests that many Christian conservative evangelical leaders are struggling to come to terms with the increasing likelihood that Donald Trump  best place to buy diamond rings will be the Republican Party's candidate in the upcoming election. The comparison to Stephen Curry's 3-point shot implies that Trump's candidacy is not just likely but almost certain.

by isabelladom on Tue Dec 12, 2023 at 12:06:00 AM EST

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