As Donald Trump has maintained strong leads in primary states like South Carolina, some observers like Matt Lewis have begun to speculate about what it would be like if this guy actually became president. I still believe (and fervently hope, for the sake of the republic) that Trump has no chance of becoming president, but I am reluctantly starting to realize that he could indeed win the Republican nomination. If that is the case, “Republicans” (whomever they may be) will have squandered any shot at the presidency for 2016. I still like to think that people of good sense will unite and stop Trump’s reality show from relocating to the White House.
What is more interesting to me than the unlikely prospect of a Trump presidency, is what his nomination might do to the already-fragile links between the GOP and the people whom I have often called “paleo evangelicals.” These folks are not liberals in any sense, but they have been disheartened by the paltry results produced by the thirty-five year alliance between white evangelicals and the GOP. They have squirmed as the GOP has repeatedly nominated candidates (like Mitt Romney) with weak credentials on issues that matter most, such as the right to life for unborn children.
It is hard to say how badly a Trump nomination would damage the Reagan-era union between evangelicals and the GOP. I know that polls suggest that Trump has strong “evangelical” support, but polls also suggest that “churchgoing” evangelicals (as if there is such a thing as a non-churchgoing evangelical!) don’t support Trump as much. I hope that a Trump nomination would lead to a significant defection of Christian voters from the GOP, at least for the 2016 presidential race. Most defectors would simply not vote for one of the two major parties’ nominees, while others would vote for the Democrat. There was not nearly as much disaffection from John McCain and Mitt Romney as you would see with a Trump nomination.
I held my nose and voted for McCain and Romney – but Trump is an entirely different question. I will not vote for someone so boorish, who has no clue about most basic political issues, much less those most important to Christian conservatives (including religious liberty and abortion). I will not vote for a misogynist reality tv star whose campaign is based on starting stupid fights. I won’t do it, and I hope that millions within the supposed GOP “base” would join me.
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