Why Evangelical Men Prefer Trump over Pence

Why Evangelical Men Prefer Trump over Pence January 20, 2020

Just for grins I posted this on the Church for Men Facebook page:

Most of my readers were not amused, which surprised me. I wasn’t calling for Trump’s removal, just pointing out the fact that his replacement is one of us — a genuine, churchgoing evangelical. Mike Pence has a testimony. He’s been faithfully married to one woman. He follows the Billy Graham rule. He goes to church every Sunday.

Pence is no godless liberal. He would continue the Trump agenda, without the tweets.

Furthermore, Pence has much higher favorable ratings than Trump, so if Pence were the 2020 nominee, the GOP might have a better chance of keeping the White House. Not only that, but Pence would be eligible to run in 2024 as well, potentially keeping the White House red for nine more years.

But most of the Christian men who replied to my meme were hostile to the idea of Trump leaving office. It’s clear to me that a lot of evangelical men LOVE Donald Trump – not just his policies, but the man himself. To these men Trump is not the lesser of two evils, he’s the best president in recent memory.

So why do Evangelical men cling so tightly to a morally challenged man like Trump, when an indisputable Christian would be his successor? My theory: Pence reminds them the previous Christian presidents who have disappointed them.

Pence, like Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George Bush I and II, is a gentleman. Pence also kinda reminds you of a pastor – polite, well-mannered and genteel. Pence exudes the “nice guy” vibe – and that’s what worries evangelical men, who often felt ignored by the previous Christian men who occupied the White House.

Jimmy Carter, the first born-again Southern Baptist elected president, was a letdown to most Evangelicals. It was during his presidency the media began turning against believers, painting them as old fashioned, bigoted, anti-gay and anti-woman. Political correctness became a thing during the Bush administrations, but neither Bush took steps to halt its spread on college campuses.

Reagan and both Bushes sold themselves as fiscal conservatives, but budget deficits exploded by 142%, 36% and 57% during their respective administrations. Both Reagan and the Bushes failed to slow illegal immigration or place any meaningful limits on abortion.

The Bushes’ compassionate conservatism often meant compromising with liberals in the name of getting things done. But social conservatives often felt betrayed. All three Christian Republicans failed to rein in the bureaucracy, including the hated EPA and Department of Education. Planned Parenthood always got its millions in taxpayer funding (and still does under Trump). Bush the first broke his famous promise, “Read my lips – no new taxes.” The trio had a reputation for appointing moderate judges who slid to the left as soon as they donned their robes.

So, after decades of seeing their policy priorities ignored and their principles ridiculed in the public square, evangelical men were feeling used. They were ready for a President who would not merely claim the conservative Christian label, but who would also fight for their priorities.

Then along comes Trump. Nobody would confuse him for a pastor – or even a gentleman.

For more than a decade Trump had built a reputation as a hard-nosed businessman on the TV series, “The Apprentice.” He fired people every week, which gave evangelicals hope that he could “drain the swamp.” Trump rode that tough guy image all the way into the White House.

I’ve long had a theory about Trump. He may be the oldest man ever elected as a first-term president, but he projects the image of a virile young buck. He brags about his sexual exploits. He flaunts his money. He has a trophy wife. And the hair (implanted, but still there). His juvenile tweets and taunts make him sound like a hormonal teenager spoiling for a fight. This sets him apart from traditional politicians who try to project a mature, polished image.

Trump’s Christian supporters on social media rarely defend his behavior. Instead, they focus on two points:

  1. They list his policy achievements.
  2. Would you rather have Hillary (or any Democrat) in the White House?

Which brings us back to Mike Pence. Many evangelicals are less than excited about a Pence presidency, even though he’s undoubtedly one of their own. Here’s a comment from my Facebook page:

I think Mike is a good man but we need a pit bull in the White House that can stand up to the liberal bullies. Is Mike Pence someone who can do that? Maybe he could but I’m not sure he would be strong enough.

I used to think Evangelicals embraced Trump despite his character flaws. Now I’m beginning to realize the flaws are the point. They bypass our rational brain and signal us at a gut level: this is a man, not a mouse. Whenever Trump goes on a rant, taunts an opponent or makes something up, he reminds us of how unCarter-Reagan-Bushlike he is. The press hears a fool – but evangelicals hear a fighter.

And so it’s come to this: Evangelical Christians are so weary of seeing their priorities ignored, their values mocked and their character assassinated (you misogynist, racist, bigots) they’ve put their faith in a womanizing narcissist who can’t control his tongue. At least he’s nothing like a pastor.

Browse Our Archives