The No. 1 Reason Evangelicals Still Put Their Hopes in Trump

Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump attends campaign event at Windham High School in Windham, New Hampshire

It’s the Supreme Court.

Here is my most recent syndicated column for Religion News Service:

(RNS) The most important day of Donald Trump’s campaign for the presidency was May 18, 2016.

On that day, the soon-to-be GOP nominee released the names of 11 judges he would consider nominating to the Supreme Court. The list was put together with input from the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank known for defending traditional marriage, opposing abortion and fighting for the right of religious institutions to follow their conscience on these matters (and others) without government interference.

By suggesting that he would appoint conservative justices, and actually naming their names, Trump made huge inroads among evangelical voters. This is because many of Trump’s evangelical supporters are still using the 40-year-old political playbook written by Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and other founders of the so-called Christian right.

There is not a lot of nuance or complexity in this playbook. In fact, its approach to presidential politics is quite simple: Vote for the candidate who opposes abortion and will appoint Supreme Court justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that lifted most government-based restrictions on the practice.

Though we have heard a lot of talk in the last decade about the Christian right’s steady decline as more younger evangelicals expand their Christian vision of politics to include the alleviation of poverty, the protection of the environment, the fight against slave trafficking and the pursuit of racial reconciliation, their parents still believe abortion, gay marriage, religious freedom and opposition to LGBT rights should be at the center of an evangelical political witness. And the fate of these issues rests on the Supreme Court.

Read the rest here.

One thought on “The No. 1 Reason Evangelicals Still Put Their Hopes in Trump

  1. Noah Millman wrote a persuasive piece at TAC that explained why the SCOTUS argument doesn’t hold much water. After all, it’s very unlikely that evangelical Christians will face any kind of explicit discrimination at the hands of the state. The more potent forms of discrimination are likely to come from private sources, and be carried out in ways that would rarely be actionable in court.

    So, even if evangelical fears are correct, it would seem that the rational response to those fears is to alter one’s political strategy. Supporting someone like Trump only confirms the opinions of those who see evangelicals as nothing more than bigots who are hiding behind a religious smokescreen. Thus, if evangelicals want to make the cultural case that they’re not just the 2010s version of yesterday’s racial segregationists, supporting Trump makes no sense. That’s especially true when the SCOTUS argument for supporting Trump offers so little potential upside.

    I suspect that you’re right. Evangelicals live in such a subcultural bubble that they likely fail to appreciate how others are likely to view their support of Trump. As a result, they tend to underestimate the costs of overestimate the benefits of supporting Trump.

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