A recent data point shows that white Evangelicals still support Trump--according to a recent South Carolina poll, they find him "honest and capable, just not moral." Great! This cohort voted overwhelmingly for Trump and still largely supports him!
What is going on here? How can this be??
The Omnivore explains.
1. First Things First: WHITE Evangelicals
Black Evangelicals did not vote for Trump--and, in the Alabama special election (Moore vs. Jones) with Trump "on the ballot" they voted 95% against Moore in favor of the pro-choice Democrat (Black non-Evangelicals were about 3pts higher in favor of Jones). White Evangelicals went strongly for Moore--but he lost white non-Evangelicals by around 30pts.
What does this mean? It means that in this (admittedly limited) context:
- Moore's pro-choice position--a big deal for Evangelicals--only peeled off 3% of Black Evangelicals.
- Non-Evangelical Whites and Evangelical Blacks were both frankly disgusted by Moore--meaning that whatever his appeal on "the issues" it was far more about his character and / or Trump's racism than how Moore would vote in the Senate.
- White Evangelicals overlooked everything--they wanted Moore. They wanted Trump--probably for the same reasons.
This means: Something about Trump is overriding position issues and, instead, boiling it down to--uhm--race?
2. Not EXACTLY Race
What's going on in Evangelical land isn't precisely race. To be sure, in order to support Trump you have to be okay with his racial politics (meaning that the cheering sections in the Klan and Nazi demographics have to be explained away by you--they love his nationalism. Yeah, keep telling yourself that, sparky.)--but it isn't the only thing he brings to the table.
He also brings in your culture-war grievance politics.
Right now Rod Dreher (not a White Evangelical--a converted Catholic) is promoting his book The Benedict Option. This is a treatise on how religion may have to "go out into the wilderness" and disconnect from The World in order to survive the coming Liberal Culture Wave (The Omnivore's term, not his).
His basic point is: the war happened, we (religious people) lost, now we need to do what Benedict did after the fall of the Roman empire: hunker down and wait out the dark ages.
The Omnivore actually has a soft spot for Rod (those soulful eyes?) and his thesis (yes, he periodically says racist things and such--but (a) he's tryin' so hard and (b) his plan is, actually, not insulting or pissy--it's a real, legitimate, emotionally honest and mature response).
White Evangelicals, by the definition of evangelizing cannot, probably, take off for the hinterlands, but they share a common perspective with Dreher: we're losing the culture war. Their decision is to fight back. Trump is their fighter--so they have jettisoned everything--everything--in order to (finally) have someone who fights.
The baby, he is laying outside in a puddle of bathwater wondering what the hell happened. Inside mom and dad are still yelling at the TeeVee.
This feeling has been artfully fed by people like Erick Erickson (You Will Be Made To Care--how Godless Liberals Won't Be Happy Until You Are Forced To Bake A Gay Wedding Cake) and plenty of other social signals about the evil men do--especially those awful Transgender people--of whom, you know, there are a lot (they hide among us--dressed like women--waiting until we go into the bathrooms to strike).
To be fair to them, a lot of what they believe codes as racist and bigoted to the rest of America. It is legitimate to feel that participating in the sacrament of marriage with gay people is not what Jesus intended. This is a logical position that isn't inherently bigoted: however similar arguments were made against mixed-race marriage--and those, we now can see, were pretty racist.
This poses the question: is the problem on the side of society? Or is it on the side of the Evangelicals who usually don't acknowledge that the bible was used to justify racism (and before that, slavery) until outside societal pressures made that stop?
Trump is a pretty good litmus test for that: after decade (forever) of demanding that the head of state in America be a moral Christian, they, when given a chance, decided none of that was important so long as he Triggered the Libs.
The Omnivore feels pretty sure that wasn't what Jesus would do.
But, while racism is mixed in with all of this, the driving factor is that they feel they are Under Siege and Donald Trump will be their Steven Segal, fighting for their right to say "Merry Christmas" again.
3. So What Now?
Clearly these guys need to get their heads out of their collective asses and tell their flocks that while society will always be pretty Godless in a fundamental sense and, yea, there are forces of progressivism out there looking to strike a blow against mom-and-pop pizza parlors who would not, even if asked, cater a gay wedding, this is an incredibly narrow form of oppression. Indeed, Jews get more actual oppression and hate-speech / crime directed at them and, while they take steps against it, they haven't decided that it's okay to give up their fundamental beliefs in morality to do so.
Evangelicals also need to take a hard look at driving black people out of their mega-churches. If the Benedict Compound is Whites Only, history will not look kindly on them.
Basically it's about getting some actual perspective. Yes, "Happy Holidays" is annoying if you are an Evangelical--but, you know, turn the other cheek or something. Today, wishing any normal person a "Merry Christmas" just makes you look a little out of step--not like an asshole.
And, as a final note, the legacy of Trump isn't going to be "Religious freedom laws" from coast to coast--it's going to be going down in history as a bunch of hypocrites who put worldly matters way, way, way ahead of their professed religious beliefs. White Evangelicals should take a hard look at that before they decide they're where they want to be.