Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig asks a good question, Why Is Donald Trump Winning Over Evangelical Voters? The truth is that evangelicals are not actually more interested in Trump than other Republicans. Still, it is telling. And they have other good choices. They have Ben Carson, a man who got through college and medical school while still believing the universe is only 6,000 years old. They have a minister (who is friends with the writer of “Cat Scratch Fever”). They have the guy who said, “And it’s only by the blood of Jesus Christ that I’ve been redeemed from my sins.” She noted, “And yet, with all of these perfectly serviceable choices, evangelicals still appear curiously interested in Trump, whose Christian bona fides add up to exactly nothing…” Yet it is Trump they prefer.
Bruenig has a curious answer to the question. She thinks evangelicals have spent so much time getting lip service from the Republican Party, that they are revolting. They like the fact that Donald Trump isn’t offering them anything, because they know that nothing is what they are going to get regardless. I love this theory, but I think it has a huge problem: it depends upon the idea that the Republican Party has used evangelicals and given them nothing in return. That just isn’t true. In fact, it isn’t close to true.
On the federal level, conservative Christians got the Defense of Marriage Age and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The entire country has turned against the Christian conservatives on LGBT issues, but that is hardly the fault of the Republican Party. And the Republicans have done everything they can to counter Obergefell v Hodges — which would now require a Constitutional amendment. And on the Supreme Court, Republicans have put on four extreme social conservatives. On the state level, abortion has been effectively made illegal in many places — all thanks for the Republican Party.
I think the answer to Bruenig’s question is much simpler: there isn’t anything different between evangelical and non-evangelical conservatives. The evangelicals may whine about the gays and about abortion, but they primarily care about one thing: those people. They want to “get” those people because those people are the reason that their lives are so bad. It’s a great irony, of course, that what has most hurt the lives of these conservative voters are the policies of the party that gets them to vote for it by promising to get “those people.”
For years, I’ve been writing about the fact that for the vast majority of people religion is nothing more than a cultural signifier. I know that Bruenig takes religion very seriously herself. And so she doesn’t want to think that for most Christians, their religion is just a reflection of them being the right kind of people. But it’s true. And there is another irony, because Mexico (and when conservatives talk about immigrants, they always mean Mexicans) is more religious than the United States. Meanwhile, Canada is much less religious than we are. But they are okay. I wonder why that is? I don’t mean to suggest that it is racism; I mean to say it right out: it’s racism.
So it doesn’t even make much sense to ask why evangelicals like Donald Trump. They may be evangelicals, but that doesn’t mean that they are religious in the way that the early Christians would have understood the word. But that’s okay, because the evangelicals would have hated the early Christians as much as they hate the Mexicans today, even though some, I assume, were good people.
See also: Why Donald Trump Appeals to Evangelicals.