U.S. Presidential Election Results: Did “The Pure People” Defeat “The Corrupt Elite,” Was It “Whitelash,” and/or a Corruption of Evangelical Convictions?

Photo Credit: Romana Klee

What was the reason or reasons for Donald Trump’s earth-shattering Presidential election upset victory? Was it populism, where “the pure people” rise up and take control of their lives and destiny from “the corrupt elite”?[1]

Was it “Whitelash”? 

Was it Hillary Clinton’s inability to unify and galvanize the base that elected Barack Obama President?

Perhaps a combination of these and other factors?

One factor that must be and has been accounted for was White Evangelicals’ support of Mr. Trump–81%. Seemingly disregarding or discounting Mr. Trump’s marital infidelity stood out, as many Evangelicals did not think his sexual exploits should keep him from holding the highest elected office in the land. Certainly, many Evangelicals have changed their views on this particular item since a 2011 poll, and since they railed against President Clinton that “character counts.” 

Perhaps many White Evangelicals held that the presumed appointment of a conservative Supreme Court justice(s) was enough to steer them to vote for Mr. Trump, no matter his personal morality. Perhaps a great number’s strong dislike of Secretary Clinton and her husband played a factor, too.

Of course, many other Evangelicals decried President-elect Trump’s conduct toward women, as noted in one or more sources here. Some were quite critical of his public and political stances and persona, as this scathing article by an Evangelical who served in the last three Republican Presidential Administrations illustrates. But of course, their convictions and outcries lost out.

Some are left wondering: whatever happened to the Moral Majority?

We all vote our convictions and affections, and the greater values win out over the lesser. So, what might the White Evangelical majority’s priorities say regarding the value and treatment of women, of African Americans and their concerns, of Muslims, of Mexicans, of the poor, of the environment…?

One of my deep laments is the seeming lack of complexity within White Evangelicalism, or at least amongst those of us who vote. For all the vast array theologically and culturally within our movement, White Evangelical voters appear rather uniform. The 81% vote for Mr. Trump says a lot, and it hurts us where it counts most: mission.

If only Jesus were the stumbling block and scandal to the Evangel, not White Evangelicals’ political uniformity. How might David Bebbington’s quadrilateral of conversionism, activism, biblicism and crucicentrism define us and complexify us moving forward? Other groups know us for many things presently, but not often for these historically core priorities.

A number of people are dropping the label “Evangelical” (including friends of mine) because of the election results in addition to other factors. “Evangelical” will only have value for some of us who are deeply disillusioned if we who are White Evangelicals show far greater regard for the treatment of women, of African Americans, of Muslims, of Mexicans, of the poor, the environment, and beyond. For some of us, like me, conversionism, activism, biblicism and crucicentrism require it.

We need to hold our politically elected officials accountable. We need to hold ourselves accountable. God forbid that we would whitewash the Gospel.


[1] According to Cas Mudde, “Many observers have noted that populism is inherent to representative democracy; after all, do populists not juxtapose ‘the pure people’ against ‘the corrupt elite’? As argued above, I disagree with this view, and believe that both the populist masses and the populist elites support ‘true’ representation. In other words, they reject neither representation per se, nor the lack of social representation. What they oppose is being represented by an ‘alien’ elite, whose policies do not reflect their own wishes and concerns.” Cas Mudde, “The Populist Zeitgeist,” in Government and Opposition 39.4 (2004): 560.

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