In general it is difficult to find an article on the religious right’s support of Donald Trump that isn’t mired in it’s own confirmation bias. I appreciated the nature of the article by FiveThirtyEight. In his article, Evangelicals, Once Skeptical Of Trump, Have Rallied To His Side, Farai Chideya paints a picture of the religious right with both numbers and personal stories. Contrast this story with an opinion piece in the New York Times by Thomas B. Edsall, God Loves Donald Trump. Right?, where the blatant manipulation of bad polling questions and out of context quotes purposefully paints a picture of the religious right as a regressive, xenophobic, power hungry bullies. The article is difficult to read or finish. There are also several articles quoting Michael Farris, an early conservative Christian political leader, who declared the death of the evangelical voting block, a group he helped to form. There is Will Trump’s Nomination Be the End of the Religious Right? – Politico and The Christian Right Has Surrendered to Trump – New York Magazine. They both seem to wave a white flag over the movement without stopping to explore why 94% of white Christian republican voters are planning to vote for Trump over Clinton in the November election.
The article Donald Trump — Religious Right Shouldn’t Support Him | National … by the National Review gives some insight into the problems that the religious right has with Trump. It explains that, “A political movement built through decades of argument that faith, family, and respect for life are the cornerstones of our culture can’t throw away its political capital on the altar of a man who — best case — simply doesn’t care and — worst case — will wreck the Christian political witness by tying their support to a dangerous, race-baiting pathological liar.” A Buzzfeed article, The Religious Right’s Dangerous Bet On Trump – BuzzFeed News, shows us just how uneasy both Trump and the religious right is about this election alliance. The sentiment can be summarized neatly by a quote “God has used worse people.”
If this is the case, if the religious right really does hate Donald Trump, if they recognize him as a liar, if they take offense at his personal life, and are wary of the morality of his business dealings, if they acknowledge the weakness of his social conservatism, why are 94% of the religious right still backing him? In our first past the post system we can easily answer this question. In their mind he is the lesser of two evils.
An article posted in Charisma News speaks for a lot of evangelicals. In If You’re On the Fence About Your Vote, This Pastor … – Charisma News by Jim Garlow discusses his reasons to vote for Trump in the up coming election cycle. He summarizes all 18 points in his first point by stating, “The Democratic platform contains many points which are anti-biblical” and “The 54-page GOP platform is one of the strongest GOP platforms ever. A biblically alert person could be comfortable with almost all of it. Party platforms are a big issue to me.” It surprises me that a blanket endorsement of a political party by the Bible itself is posted without explanation. The pastor claims to expand on the point in his book Answers to Today’s Tough Issues, but offers no such help in the article itself.
Delving further into the article, the refrain of the dangerous, anti biblical left comes up repeatedly. It’s a mantra the author chants like a praise chorus. While there are 18 points brought up in the article there are three that are important. Jim Garlow himself, in cryptic point number 16 states “Political freedom, economic freedom and religious liberty coexist together. Take one away and the other two will eventually disappear.”
To the religious right, Hillary’s policies seem too dangerous to ignore on three fronts, her political past, her economic policy and her social policy. The article says, interestingly, that the phenomenon of globalism is “demonic”. It states that a socialist is “a communist without a gun”. The article implies Hillary will expand the national debt and has a horrible track record as Secretary of State. Her presumptive appointees to the Supreme Court are more dangerous than Trumps. Her economic policy ignores the reality of the typical religious right voter who may own a small business or be overburdened by taxes. She makes no apologies over snubbing the people who voted for her in favor of the highest bidder to her foundation. Socially, it’s hard to overstate the roll the pro-life movement has in the hearts of the religious conservative voter, but Jim tries to drive the point home with emphasis,“Trump has moved pro-life. Hillary is pro-baby killing, and prides herself on that, and honors the organization—Planned Parenthood—that actually traffics human parts from dead babies whom they have killed.” He continues “The Clintons have evaded justice for decades and likely will continue to…. They will have to give account of their support of the ripping babies to shreds in the womb. For the record, those who vote for those who support the genocide of pre-borns will also have to give an account.” And while this language is used specifically to emotionalize the issue past an ability to have a reasonable conversation about personhood, it does illustrate just how important the issue of abortion is to conservative voters.
We should also take note of what this article doesn’t say. Identity politics are conspicuously missing. Nowhere is there mention made of Trump’s immigration policy. The blanket endorsement of the Republican Party by the right seems to accept the statements made by Trump about immigrants but doesn’t specifically reinforce them. There is the gray area of globalization as “demonic” but no attempt to parse it. Therefore, I read a defense of evangelical culture as not necessarily a call for legalizing the exclusion of other cultures. There is no mention of the illegitimacy of Obama’s presidency that started Trump’s political career. There is no mention of the legalization of gay marriage or the #blacklivesmatter movement. The author was willing to include the inflammatory statement concerning abortion but was not willing to even touch on the identity politics the left claim to be driving the religious right.
Instead of creating an argument around his choice of messaging, the religious right is not taking up the mantel of thinly veiled bigotry that the left claims they are. Instead, they are seeing a political system bent on their destruction and reacting accordingly. Within this framework, conservative Christian support of Trump should come as no surprise.