It’s not 2011, and no one’s surprised when evangelicals rally behind a pimp

It’s not 2011, and no one’s surprised when evangelicals rally behind a pimp June 24, 2018

Dennis Hof, a Republican candidate for state senate in Nevada, is campaigning as “the Trump of Pahrump.”

“This really is the Trump movement,” Hof, 71, told Reuters in an interview at Moonlite BunnyRanch, his brothel near Carson City in northern Nevada that was featured on the HBO reality television series “Cathouse.”

Hof is enthusiastically telling Republican voters that he’s just like Donald Trump. And he is. He’s a thrice-divorced habitually adulterous reality TV figure, he nominally authored a book titled The Art of the Pimp, and — as Jeet Heer notes — he’s been credibly “accused by multiple women of sexual assault.”

And so, just like his idol, Hof is enjoying the fervent support of white evangelical Christians.

People want to know how an evangelical can support a self-proclaimed pimp,” one evangelical pastor said to Reuters’ Tim Reid.

The pastor says this as though at this point there remained anything surprising or newsworthy about that scenario. As though someone, somewhere might still be looking at white evangelical Christians in America and imagining to themselves “People like that would never support an outright pimp as a candidate for office.” Or as though any observer might still be under the illusion that white evangelical voters have any meaningful moral standards in their politics, their lives, or their religion.

The pastor says this as though this were still 2011.

White evangelical voters are, so far, only rallying to elect one of these people to office. So far.

Back in 2011, you may remember, is when I was chastised as allegedly being rude and uncivil and cruelly hyperbolic for noting that even an iconically despicable, dishonest and immoral racist buffoon could rely on uncritical support from white evangelicals if that person were willing to parrot their line on anti-abortionism and opposition to marriage equality:

We recently saw this demonstrated yet again in the brief surge of evangelical enthusiasm for Donald Trump’s candidacy for president. Trump is a relentlessly amoral and areligious person — and he’s also loony as all get out — but he had signaled his willingness to toe the line on abortion and homosexuality, and so he received the blessing of Franklin Graham and of Tony Perkins and other evangelical gatekeepers.

That wasn’t entirely hypothetical, since Hophni and TLTP really were enthusiastically supportive of Trump’s brief 2011 vanity campaign. But what I was suggesting there still seemed outrageous and over-the-top. We were all a bit more innocent and naive back then, still imagining there must be some limit on the depravity, cruelty, and brutish stupidity that white evangelicals would be willing to support in the name of their opposition to imaginary Satanic baby-killers.

Donald Trump had spent decades aggressively promoting himself as the iconic embodiment of superlative greed, swindling, cruelty, bigotry, sexual indulgence and prideful selfishness. He had earned that reputation, and he was proud of it.

If someone had sat down to create a character who was, in every way, anathema to the purported values of white evangelical “values voters,” they couldn’t have come up with anything more extreme than Donald Trump. He was a slumlord and casino mogul, a thrice-married serial adulterer who bragged about his extramarital affairs, profited from strip clubs, and even sold his own brand of vodka.

So my suggestion that white evangelicals’ lockstep, reptilian partisanship was so extreme that they would even support someone like Donald Trump really did seem extravagantly harsh back then. But it’s not 2011 any more.

We’ve learned a lot since then about what white evangelical voters are willing to embrace, and none of it has been pretty. Just consider the examples of Dennis Hastert and Roy Moore. Back in 2011, as far as most of us knew, Dennis Hastert — the longest-serving Republican Speaker of the House in American history — was an upstanding white evangelical Wheaton graduate and a family man. It wasn’t until 2015 that we learned that all those years he’d been paying hush money to the men he’d sexually abused when they were still teenagers.

But even in 2015 we were still naively generous in believing there were limits to white evangelicals’ amoral partisanship. We all still imagined that Hastert would never have been embraced and supported by evangelical voters if they had known about his long history of sexual predation. But then the candidacy of disgraced former judge Roy Moore took away that overly generous illusion. Here was someone whose long history of sexually preying on teenagers was known, and yet white evangelical voters supported him anyway. Because Satanic baby-killers.

It’s not 2011 any more. We’ve seen white evangelicals rally behind Roy Moore. We see them still rallying behind Donald freaking Trump. It’s not hypothetical or hyperbolic. We know. There are no limits. None.

So, no, nobody is at all perplexed or curious about “how an evangelical can support a self-proclaimed pimp.” Evangelical voters may still make a big show of straining out gnats, but we’ve seen them swallow whole herds of camels. Having seen that, nobody is still surprised to see these prideful Christians lining up to vote for a pimp.

Victor Fuentes — the pimp-supporting, Trump-loving evangelical pastor interviewed by Reuters — explained his support for Hof this way: “We have politicians, they might speak good words, not sleep with prostitutes, be a good neighbor. But by their decisions, they have evil in their heart. Dennis Hof is not like that.”

Translation: Dennis Hof tells me that I am a heroic champion courageously battling against the hordes of Satanic baby-killers by bravely voting for Dennis Hof. Therefore, Dennis Hof is good and I am good and anyone who says otherwise has evil in their heart.

It is not in any way surprising that an evangelical pastor would support a proud pimp and Trumpist.

It is only slightly surprising that someone named Fuentes imagines it’s safe for him to do so, but I suppose he’s assuming that his blind loyalty means that the leopards will never eat his face.

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