Donald Trump is proud of how he is doing with Evangelicals, he said the other day, tweeting,
Wow, I am ahead of the field with Evangelicals (am so proud of this) and virtually every other group, and Ben Carson just took a swipe at me
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 10, 2015
You have to take Trump with a grain of salt of course. He says everybody loves him, including Mexicans, women, Democrats, liberals, you name it. All love Trump. His ego requires this. So how about Evangelicals. For real? The truth is, he is not really doing all that well if you look at the numbers. “Better than expected” is not really saying all that much, and Gallup revealed yesterday that, “The results show that Trump does not, in fact, receive high levels of support from highly religious Republicans. His net favorable rating is 12th in the list of 17 GOP candidates among highly religious Republicans. Ben Carson is the clear leader among the highly religious group.” So what gives? Gallup explains that “assumptions about Trump’s level of support among evangelicals appear to be based on trial heat polls wherein Republicans are forced to choose one and only one candidate for whom they would, in theory, vote.” Gallup, on the other hand, asks people “their views of each candidate individually,” which “provides a more comprehensive view of the candidates.” This more comprehensive view is not terribly favorable to Trump, as you can see: Sorting out the Religious Right is a confusing process. They claim to represent this monolithic, unshakable morality that they pit against what they call “moral relativism,” but their own views seem terribly relativistic. For example, Fox News contributor and Texas megachurch pastor (and yes, you can rank his titles in that order) Robert Jeffress says Trump is just want Jesus wants for America. Appearing on Hannity Thursday, Jeffress claimed,
JEFFRESS: The fact is, if 2016 were any other year, Trump would be toast with evangelicals right now for some of the things he’s said. And other evangelical candidates would be topping the polls. But I think this year is different, Sean. I think there is a palpable feeling among evangelicals that this country has been in a downward death spiral since the time of Barack Obama and 2016 may be the last time to reverse that trend. And while in a perfect world evangelicals would like a candidate who is a committed Christian and a competent leader, I think if they have to make a choice this time around, they’re going to leave religion out of it and go for the person they think is the competent leader, like Trump. HANNITY: He said his favorite book is the Bible. He said he reads the Bible. He said he is affiliated with a church, he doesn’t go that often to the church. He’s pro-life.On issues that are important to you, he explained how he changed his view on abortion. I assume you take him at his word.
[[AD2]] Jeffress’ response to this was that after Obama, “we no longer require a president to be one of us, we just want one who doesn’t hate us, like Barack Obama does.” Trump was duly grateful, tweeting yesterday,
Even so, Gallup points to its research and says, flat-out, “No sign here of any special appeal on the part of Trump to highly religious Republicans.” And there is evidence of this.
If David Brody says Trump attracts Evangelicals because he doesn’t use them as pawns, the Religious Right’s Martin Bormann, David Lane – the guy who called the United States Constitution “the wrong train” – has thrown his non-inconsiderable weight behind Ted Cruz, who has duly proclaimed jihad against women’s reproductive rights.
It is significant that in the Gallup study, Cruz beats Trump among the highly (45 to 22) and moderate (39 to 36) religious both, and that the only place Trump can touch Cruz is among the not religious (17 to 17). The only candidate more popular with all three groups is Ben Carson.
Jeffress revealed in an op-ed at Fox News on September 8th that the whole unshakable morality thing is a load of bs:
“As Evangelicals see America careening downward toward a devastating crash, they are willing to bifurcate leadership responsibilities for the well-being of our country.”
In other words, there is no expectation that Trump the sinner will “lead our nation in a spiritual revival.” Trump will deal with “practical problems” (it is not explained how the utterly clueless Trump could ever manage this) while Evangelicals look “to the Church to lead our nation to the spiritual renewal that we so desperately need” (no explanation of how this can be accomplished either while they are backing people like the Duggars).
Even Jeffress admits he doesn’t know if Trump’s success, limited as it apparently is, will continue with Evangelicals. It is difficult to imagine truly religious people, as opposed to those who use religion to validate their bigotry, getting behind a foul-mouthed narcissist like Trump.
It is difficult here not to agree with Mother Jones editor David Corn, who tweeted of Rick Perry’s early exit, “Kids, learn the Rick Perry lesson: you only get one chance to make a first impression.”
Trump got his first impression with Evangelicals too, and if he has convinced some, he alienated others with his “little wine and little cracker” and his failure to seek forgiveness.” Many of them are going to remember that, and it remains to be seen how far lip-service to God and an unrelenting commitment to braggadocio can carry him.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.