At the time of this writing, Donald Trump is enjoying nearly half of the support from the Evangelical community in South Carolina. He is expected to win a plurality of Evangelicals in their primary on Saturday. Evangelicals appear to be bypassing at least three candidates on the Republican ticket (Ted Cruz, Ben Carson and Marko Rubio) who are openly Evangelical and one on the Democratic ticket (Hillary Clinton) who is claims to be a Christian.
I’m not alone in my bewilderment of Evangelical support for Mr. Trump. Other voices are expressing similar perplexities. While I find the People for the American Way‘s conclusion that Satan is at work within the Evangelical community to be a bit far-fetched, more reasonable voices are scratching their heads on this one too. Ed Rogers has articulated well in his recent article for the Washington Post what many of us are thinking:
“Many evangelical leaders, who can be so quick to point out the moral failings of others, are strangely silent concerning Trump’s shortcomings. How can they reconcile fidelity to their faith with a vote for Trump? How do they overlook Trump’s personal qualities and behavior? What about the morality of entrusting the presidency to someone with the temperament and questionable judgment we have all witnessed from Trump? I would like some answers. I find it hard to believe evangelicals are supporting Trump because of his policy positions, since he doesn’t have many. They can’t be supporting Trump because of his faith or godliness, and they certainly shouldn’t hide behind Trump’s goofy comments, such as how he “love[s] the Bible” or reads “Two Corinthians.” Come on.”
Some claim Evangelicals are “just mad at the way things have gone for the last seven years” and so their support of Trump is not an abandonment of their faith (to their way of thinking) as much as it is an expression of raw anger against both parties in Washington. But why not express that anger via candidates who have not supported the administration’s efforts in the last seven years and yet clearly have a strong Christian faith?
While some are wary of Trump, others argue that Trump’s personal shortcomings don’t matter to Evangelicals. For the man who claims to be a Christian but never asks God for forgiveness of his sins and instead has such hubris that his believes he can change himself to be whoever he wants to be, it is stunning to see those who claim the name of Christ like Jerry Fawell Jr or Sarah Palin endorse a man who has little moral compass (here and here too), claims he can make American great again but doesn’t define what “greatness” is, and claims to be an outsider when, as a major donor to both parties, he has been the poster child for establishment politics.
Why do Evangelicals support Mr. Trump? I think the most compelling explanation is found in an article published in 1996 by Samuel Francis and explained well by the ever-bloviating, Rush Limbaugh. The web site wnd.com reports Rush talking about this move from conservatism to nationalism recently on his radio show:
“Nationalism and populism have overtaken conservatism in terms of appeal,” Limbaugh said Wednesday. In a largely sympathetic analysis, Limbaugh argued many voters are simply “fed up” with the Democratic Party but are also angry with Republicans in Congress who, he believes, do not act as a real opposition in Washington. At the same time, Limbaugh said, there’s “a group of people out there that you would think looking at ’em, listening to ’em, the way they vote, ‘They’re conservative.'” “But it’s not conservatism that is uniting them or motivating them,” he said. ‘This is what everybody is missing in Washington.” Referring to Republicans in the capital, Limbaugh said: “They still don’t get that the primary motivating characteristic of Republican voters this time around is an absolutely direct opposition to the left, to the Democratic Party, to Obama and everything that’s been going on the last seven years. They want it stopped and reversed. And they will go anywhere if they are convinced whoever’s telling them they’re gonna stop it is telling them the truth.”
While I largely agree with this analysis, I believe my brothers and sisters are not thinking clearly if they think Mr. Trump is the leader we need to turn things around.
When I look at Mr. Trump, I see a man steeped in hubris who believes that America’s greatness can be achieved through better deal-making. It appears for Trump, American’s greatness is not found in inalienable rights given to us by God, or an appeal to one or more transcendent principles or even our character as a nation. Nope, her greatness can be restored by making better deals. The premise for this campaign is simple:
- We have stupid (his words) people in office
- These stupid people made stupid deals
- America lost her greatness as a result of these stupid deals
- I, Donald Trump, am smart, not stupid
- I’ve made great deals in business (Exhibit A: I’m rich because I make great deals)
- I’ll make great deals for America
- America will be great again
- So elect me as President
He’s running on the notion that because he has made great deals in business, he can make great deals for our country and, as a result, American’s greatness and exceptionalism will be restored.
A vote for Trump is similar to that of voting for Obama. With Obama, you got a strong ideology couple with an immense arrogance which has moved this country to the left and polarized our political processes like never before. Never forget that arrogant people are always polarizing people. With Trump, you’ll get the same hubris without an ideological center. Because Trump doesn’t know what principles he believes, he’s likely to vacillate and contradict himself as President. The real danger is that when a person doesn’t believe in something, they’re likely to believe in anything. I sense Trump will evaluate the success of his deals based on their outcomes and whether or not he thinks they are fair and equitable. I think he’ll be a moving target as a President in terms of what he is willing to commit to.
Evangelicals should wake up and smell the coffee. A vote for Trump is a vote for arrogance (which we’ve already had seven years of), deal making, a lack of authenticity and four years of perpetual bloviating. His Presidency will be Jesse Ventura on steroids: entertaining but damaging to our country. While it might be fun to watch the late night comics parody Trump giving a State of the Union address, our laughter will be short-lived. Like Ventura’s 4-year stint as Governor of Minnesota, I suspect that Trump will manage to offend nearly every group in our society within his first term. And like Ventura, he will be a one-term President with, at best, mediocre results.
Evangelicals should weigh carefully their anger with our current President and our other elected officials relative to the Trump candidacy. Other reputable candidates exist right now who know what they believe and have an authentic faith in God. Trump is an empty suit selling an empty promise. Many Evangelicals were fooled by Obama. Don’t be fooled again.