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Fri 15 November 2019
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The stubborn loyalty white evangelical Christians have shown the US President – despite his moral transgressions – raises questions, writes CJ Werleman.


These days, it’s as though Donald Trump is unable to talk for more than 10 consecutive minutes without mentioning his fondness for Israel or Israel’s fondness for him.

When he’s not boasting about being the “King of Israel” after a conservative conspiracy theorist dubbed him the “greatest president for Jews and for Israel in the history of the world”, he’s viciously attacking critics of Israel’s racist repressive policies.

Two weeks ago, Trump even accused Jewish American voters of being “disloyal to Israel” if they vote for the Democratic Party in 2020, invoking a long used anti-Semitic “dual loyalty” trope that posits Jews to be disloyal in putting their faith or Israel before the interests of their own country.

Only the US President has the intellectual capacity, or lack thereof, to say viciously racist nonsense while posturing to be a defender of a particular racial or ethnic identity.

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What’s important to understand is that Trump couldn’t care less about Israel, given he pretty much said nothing about the country prior to trying to court Republican voters in the lead up to his feigned run for the presidency in the 2012 election, and cares even less for the Jewish people, given he routinely deploys anti-Semitic tropes and has described Nazis as “very fine people”.

Trump’s feigned hard-line support for Israel and the Jewish people is designed for one audience only: white Christian evangelicals, whom are not only the most reliable and agitated voting bloc in Trump’s coalition, but are also responsible for the rapid moral and ethical decline in the United States’ global reputation.

Of all the curious aspects to the Trump presidency – and there are far too many to count – the stubborn loyalty white evangelical Christians have shown the 45th President must count as the most eyebrow-raising.

“It is about pandering to his base of voters,” Logan Bayroff, spokesman for J Street, a pro-Israel group, told The Hill. “And the base voters, the Trump voters who care about this issue are, the vast majority, Republicans, Christians and in many cases fundamentalist evangelicals. Trump [is] expressing frustration that while the evangelical community is on board with his far-right policies… the vast majority of Jewish voters are disgusted by it, broadly disgusted by Trump [and] are going to vote against him and his party.”

Trump and his pollsters know this and it is why the President – who is trailing potential 2020 rivals by double digit points – is becoming ever more desperate to hang onto the voting bloc that’s most responsible for sweeping him into office, remembering that more than 80% of white evangelicals voted for Trump in 2016.

In what will be yet another devastating blow to the country’s moral and democratic character, Trump will spend the next 14 months leading up to the election fulfilling every white evangelical’s wish list by granting the country’s hyper-religious zealots pretty much everything they want – including further clampdowns on women’s reproductive rights and removing obstacles that prevent corporations and business proprietors from discriminating against minorities based on religious grounds.

Last month, the Trump administration proposed a policy that would give certain federal contractors the right to discriminate against people who don’t share their employer’s religious views, which will radically reverse the Government’s decades-old policy that prohibits federal contractors discriminating against employees based on sex, race, religion, disability or national origin.

The most alarming line in the 46-page policy proposal is the one that allows “religious contractors not only to prefer employment individuals who share their religion, but also to condition employment on acceptance of or adherence to religious tenets as understood by the employing contractor”.

In practice, this would allow any business, service provider or hospital that contracts with the Federal Government to deny employment to someone who is gay, Jewish, Muslim or whatever minority the employer deems undesirable.

If you’re wondering why white evangelicals have stuck so stubbornly by Trump’s side throughout his scandal-ridden and morally debauched presidency, then look no further than the fact that in Trump they have someone to bully and vanquish their perceived enemies. 

What else can explain the high approval rating Trump has enjoyed from the country’s self-anointed moral crusaders, despite him having paid porn stars hush money to hide his extramarital affairs with them; bragged about sexually assaulting married women; and the size of his penis and sexual prowess, while worshipping at the altar of crass self-aggrandisement, personal financial gain and unbridled capitalism and dehumanising the world’s most vulnerable people – refugees – in racist and genocidal terms?

Their support has allowed Trump to avoid paying a political price for undermining the country’s democratic institutions, reversing longstanding democratic norms, doing away with hard-fought civil rights gains, and dancing with those who wish to transform America’s welcoming, multicultural identity into a racist, ethno-nationalist state.

“Democracy is not merely a set of procedures,” writes Michael Gerson in The Atlantic. “It has a moral structure. The values we celebrate, stigmatise, eventually influence the character of our people and polity. Democracy does not insist on perfect value from its leaders. But there is a set of values that lends authority to power: empathy, honesty, integrity and self-restraint. And the legitimisation of cruelty, prejudice, falsehood and corruption is the kind of thing, one would think, that religious people were born to oppose, not bless.”

Gerson, who was raised in an evangelical family, observes that it’s “remarkable to hear religious leaders defend profanity, ridicule and cruelty as hallmarks of authenticity and dismiss decency as a dead language,” adding that whatever Trump’s policy legacy ends up being, he has been a “disaster in the realm of norms. It has coarsened our culture, given permission for bullying, complicated the moral formation of children, undermined standards of public integrity and encouraged cynicism about the political enterprise”.

No matter what happens in the 2020 presidential election, the stain left behind on the country’s soul and democratic character will take years – likely decades – to wipe clean.

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