That’s the takeaway of pollsters who specialize in tracking religion and American life and were initially startled as Trump beat a handful of preachers or their sons in the early primaries, namely Scott Walker and Ted Cruz. It’s what’s behind new polls finding that Trump is now doing better than Mitt Romney was at this point in 2012 among white Christians, who are almost exclusively Republican. And it also explains why Trump’s authoritarian, father-knows-best pronouncements deeply resonate with white Christians, who comprise roughly one in five Americans nationwide but are concentrated in higher numbers in several swing states that will determine who wins the presidency in 2016.
“One way to read this [election] is as a referendum on the death of white Christian America and its implications,” said Robert P. Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute. (Jones is an demographer and pollster who traces political and ecclesiastical trends.)
As he explained in a recent podcast for the Atlantic Monthly, where he is a contributor, Americans who self-identify as white Christians have seen their role and impact in American life shrink in recent decades.
As Jones said on the Atlantic’s podcast:
“I think the thing that the Trump campaign and Trump saw early on is the deep anxieties that many white conservative Christian voters are feeling—not just economic anxiety. They are feeling that very much. Eight in 10 say that they think the country is still in a recession, for example. Not just that, but when they see their own numbers dwindling, and they’re having a difficult time hanging onto the next generation of the younger Christians in the country, and this real sense that the culture has moved way from their set of issues and values…
“I think Trump really caught that early on and he said things like when I’m president, I am going to restore power to the Christian churches; you can count on me; you’ll have a friend in the White House; I’m the only guy you’ll need. And when he said, Let’s make American great again, that ‘again’ piece was really referencing restoring power to the Christian churches. And for many white Christians who feel their power is waning and their numbers are dwindling, that’s a pretty powerful appeal. To not just say that we are going to carve out a respectable retreat strategy, which in many ways is how people read Ted Cruz’s campaign, but we’re going to actually turn back the clock. I think that’s really where Trump’s appeal has been. And Trump has really converted [Christian] values voters into nostalgia voters, looking right back to the 1950s.”
As Rosenfeld notes: “What Jones said that’s most striking, and underscores that it is not hyperbole to say that white Christian America sees Trump as their last best hope to salvage their endangered identity as the necessary dominant culture in American life, concerns their voting record. Simply put, while the nation’s population and demographics have become diverse, low voter turnout—as seen in many 2016 presidential primaries—has enabled conservative Christians to play outsized roles, meaning their impact on who wins or loses is greater than their overall percentage in the general population.”The white Christian vote is now the foundation of the Republican Party, its only hope of victory. Trump’s choice of Mike Pence– not just a founding member of the Tea Party as a member of Congress but an extreme religious right conservative — is an acknowledgment of this reality.
How far will the evangelical/Conservative Roman Catholic white voter go to defend his white supremacy? There seems to be no limit.
The only thing Trump offers them is race war carried on by other means. He is the antithesis of everything else white Christian America has stood for– at least in their own minds.
Goodbye Billy Graham, hello Vladimir Putin!
Trump is a sexual predator, a liar, a braggart, a casino operator with alleged ties to the mob. He now has overt support from Vladimir Putin. Trump expresses open hatred for the basic ideals of Christian tolerance. He is a racist, from a family with a well documented racist view of the world.
With Trump the white Christians in America have given up entirely on even a pretense of virtue. All that remains is xenophobic hatred and a sense of victimhood powering a movement that used to at least pretend it was serving Jesus.
Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His latest book —WHY I AM AN ATHEIST WHO BELIEVES IN GOD: How to give love, create beauty and find peace
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