The Increasing Cost of Supporting Trump

The Increasing Cost of Supporting Trump March 20, 2018

So what do we know about the sordid affair of Stormy Daniels? We have plenty of reasons to believe that President Trump paid the porn actress $130,000 to keep their sexual encounters silent. There is some evidence that she faced physical threats due to the need to keep her silent as well. Some may argue that she was paid off so that she would not be a nuisance to Trump but does anyone seriously doubt the willingness of Trump to have an affair with a porn actress? Me neither.

I guess it is another day at the office of this new type of president who seems to thrive on being controversial. Scandals seem to follow him everywhere. And yet his supporters do not leave him. I believe he was right when he said he could shoot someone and his loyal supporters would still be loyal.

Does that loyalty extend to the conservative Christian supporters as well? I am afraid so. Remember that 81 percent of white evangelicals voted for him even after the Hollywood Access tape where he bragged about being able to molest women. It was also well known that he cheated on his previous two wives, so the idea that he is cheating on his current wife is not a surprise. I do not think his evangelical supporters are going anywhere because he bedded a porn actress. I do not think they are going anywhere even though he paid the porn actress off. Finally, do not forget that since Trump became the Republican candidate, white evangelicals have all of a sudden decided that moral values are not important in our political leaders.

If you had any doubt about the willingness of evangelicals to support Trump despite his romp with the porn actress, then you have no need to go any further than pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Dallas. He stated clearly that Trump’s moral behavior would have no impact on whether he deserved the support of evangelicals. Obviously Jeffress does not speak for every evangelical who supports Trump but he does speak for a great many of them who have made it clear that they have Trump’s “back.”

So what happened to people who used to talk so much about moral leaders. I think it happened like this. Many of my evangelical friends were disgusted with Trump in the primary. They supported someone else precisely because of the moral stain that is in Trump’s life. Many of them truly were confused and disheartened by his nomination. Some of them decided to vote third party. Some of them decided not to vote at all. Some (although not very many) may have even voted for Clinton.

But what most of them did was made a deal. They had a fear of a Clinton presidency. The fear was not unfounded. Few evangelicals doubted that they were in the “basket of deplorables” Clinton was talking about. There was already evidence that progressives like Clinton had little concern for the religious freedom of Christians, some of them going as far as firing a lay pastor for what he preached in the pulpit. And then there is the issue of abortion. If you believe that abortion is taking a human life, then supporting a candidate who wants to fight to fund that atrocity is out of bounds.

Given these issues, these evangelicals decided that they would adopt the moral reprobate instead of the progressive cultural warrior who did not respect their religious freedom. I think in their minds they thought that they did not like much of what Trump did or the way he lived his life. But they were certain that he would not attack them and maybe they would even get a few laws they liked out of his presidency. I do not agree with this bargain. But I do understand the thinking behind it.

But the problem with such compromises is that it is difficult to know when to stop. I predict more embarrassing information will come out about the Trump/Daniel affair. There will also be more ridiculous tweets from our president. We will also learn more about his corruption as investigations continue to move forward. In all of these events and more, conservative Christians will continue to support Trump. Evidently, once individuals begin to support Trump, it becomes very hard to stop that support.

There are social-psychological reasons why this is true. We have a strong need to justify our decisions. We want to believe that we made the best decision given our current situation. So we look for reasons to justify a decision after it is made. Once conservative Christians decided that they were going to support Trump, they had to continue to find reasons to justify that decision. This meant that as information comes out about Trump’s immorality or corruption, then they will have powerful motivation to defend him. White evangelicals are not unusual in their desire to find justification for their decisions. But as David French has pointed out they have neither covered themselves in glory since they have reacted to Trump’s presidency just like any other special interest group.

This is the slippery slope I feared when I saw so many of my fellow evangelicals started to support Trump. I figured that once they decided to support him, they would continue to support Trump no matter what he did. Once you “buy” Trump, the price to your reputation gets higher and higher as the low character of the man continues to reveal itself. At this point in history there are a lot of non-Christians or moderate Christians who wonder is there anything Trump can do to lose the support of Christians. My answer to them is “not much.”

I think that many of my evangelical friends do not realize that there will be a long-term cost to this nearly unconditional support of President Trump. I simply cannot see his exit from the political scene to be a benign process. His temperament and desire to lash out continues to poison our political environments and creates unnecessary enemies. Those who are linked to him will inherit those enemies and the negativity Trump generates. And today white evangelicals will be on the hook for all of those bad vibes. They will be seen as those who sold their souls to get a Supreme Court Judge. That assessment seems to be harsh, but I cannot say that it is completely wrong.

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  • Salvatore A. Luiso

    I know a man who professes to be a conservative Christian who told me in the autumn of 2016 that he would indeed vote for Trump even if Trump shot someone. His rationale was not that Trump was such a good candidate, but that Hillary Clinton was such a villainous threat–a woman who was close to being Evil Incarnate. A few weeks ago I heard political commentators on television say many of Trump’s supporters would not view his scandal with Stormy Daniels with disgust, but rather with envy. I presume they weren’t thinking about his evangelical supporters. If so, I agree.

    Your analysis of why many white evangelicals voted for Trump in 2016 is correct, but does not account for all of them. Some, such as Jeffress and Falwell, Jr., believed that voting for him was not a necessary evil, but purely good, because they believed he was a good candidate who would be a good president. There is more to their continued support for him than you have mentioned. There are also loyalty to him, and the perception that Trump could still be very useful to them. I think that white evangelicals will continue to support Trump as long as they believe the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Many have been and continue to be oblivious of the disadvantages.

    The moral indignation for which white evangelicals were known in the ’90s in connection with Bill Clinton we now know to be mostly a matter of convenience. There are some who apply the same moral standard to Trump as they did to Clinton, but many would rather use it to execrate and condemn Clinton while saying it irrelevant for Trump.

  • I think that the final statement is far more true than it is false. I agree with a lot of what was said above though there are things missing above.

    I believe evangelicals, especially conservative ones, believed that electing Trump was their best protection against an encroaching secularism, though not against Clinton per se. In addition, some of the morals being compromised which were not mentioned above include Trump’s relaxation of environmental regulations, Trump’s changing of the tax code that will further increase the deficit and debt but which benefits the wealthy first and foremost, significant cuts in our social safety net programs to help pay for Trump’s tax cuts, and Trump’s admiration and support for dictators just to name a few other moral concerns.

    And religiously conservative Christians have gotten more out of the deal than a Supreme Court judge who could overturn Roe v. Wade. Some conservative evangelical leaders are getting influential gov’t jobs such as Jerry Falwell Jr being appointed to lead an education task force. Also, Trump seems to well represent conservative Evangelicals in his positions and policies on Israel. And Trump seems to be supporting a kind of religious freedom that allows for discrimination.

    In the end, the basic point made in the article that morals have become the currency used by Christians to pay for protection is accurate to a significant degree. Here we should also note how Christians, or their leaders, in other countries are paying morals for protection such as in Egypt and Syria. Only the threat there is physical rather than existential.

  • Craig

    This is as accurate an assessment of our sad scenario as any.

  • Bill

    These Trump supporters that voted for and continue their support for this so-called president are nothing but hypocrites and religious phoneys as far as I am concerned.I personally know a few of these characters and nearly all of them like to play the religious card every chance they get. Most know my position and refrain from being the holy joes and holy janes in my presence. They have forever lost their moral high ground that they so sanctimoniously carried for so long. Hypocrites,pure and simple.Thats how I view all of them.

  • Rich

    The election was not about electing a perfect candidate. Both were flawed. One candidate had scandals going back to Arkansas and a mysterious 30 or so deaths. The other one had some sexual issues.

    It is politics so one votes for the one who has the most things in common. Gun control, taxes, abortion, foreign affairs, the size and scope and power of government are issues people choose a candidate.

    Politics is about power. They have the power to build or destroy. If a candidate wants to build a society the way I think it should look that candidate gets my vote.

    People are intellectually lazy and they wanted to impeach Clinton for sex in the Oval Office because White Water and failed Arkansas banks didn’t get the job done. I think there was so much more like accepting money from foreign donors, the rape of women, the murders, the selling of secrets. There was the perjury, the destroying of evidence. He did loose his law license over the investigation.

    There is nothing there about the Russians and Trump. There could be something there about Obama, Clinton and the Russians.

    I am not condoning sex outside of marriage. We do business with people everyday that commit sins – they fix our cars, they doctor us, they make our cars and TVs,. We are married to flawed spouse and raise flawed children. I didn’t see God rank sin, if you are guilty of one you are guilty of them all.

    So we have to judge the actions of people. If we did kick everyone out of office because they weren’t perfect, we would have no one in office. How far back do we go to disqualify someone from office, 1 years, 5, 10, to their grade school years?

    Do we disqualify someone for office for saying something derogatory against some race or gender, for some dirty jokes, or a crude comment from 5 or 10 years ago? How do we apply it fairly to both Democrats and Republicans?