This is what racism looks like

And it comes from the Donald Trump campaign:

Yes, that is the voice of white evangelical vice president Mike Pence saying “you want be safe in Joe Biden’s America” as Biden kneels with parishioners at a black church.

Here is Jack Jenkins at Religion News Service:

President Donald Trump’s campaign released a digital advertisement late Wednesday (Sept. 9) extending its argument that Americans “won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America” with images of angry or violent protest. Set to dramatic music, the commercial bombards the viewer with footage of flaming police cars, protesters confronting law enforcement personnel and explosions.

But the ad, titled “Meet Joe Biden’s Supporters,” ends not with an image of violence, but with slow-motion footage of former Vice President Biden kneeling in a Black church in front of a row of Black leaders. A moment later, words appear on the screen reading “stop Joe Biden and his rioters” as Mike Pence declares “you won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.” 

The church footage appears to be from shortly after George Floyd’s death at the hands of a policeman in Minneapolis, when Biden visited Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Wilmington, Delaware, to discuss racial injustice and police brutality before praying with those assembled.

Asked whether the ad meant to suggest there was something unsafe about Black churches or meeting with Black leaders in a church, Trump campaign deputy national press secretary Samantha Zager replied, “That’s absurd and it’s shameful to even make the allegation.”

When Religion News Service followed up to ask what, exactly, footage of the church visit was meant to imply, Zager did not respond.

Read the rest here. White identity politics is all Trump has left.

There is nothing new about what happened to conservative evangelicals this week. But how will they respond?

metaxas-at-party

It was a rough week for conservative evangelicals in the United States. The president of the largest Christian university in the country resigned after a sex scandal. A popular evangelical radio host and author was caught on tape punching an anti-Trump protester. The vice-president of the United States gave a speech in which he replaced the words of the New Testament with references to American nationalism. The president of the United States, in an attempt to appeal to his evangelical base, gave a speech that celebrated Christian participation in Manifest Destiny.

None of this is new. Evangelical leaders have been part of sex-scandals before. Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, Ted Haggard, and Bill Hybels come immediately to mind. Fundamentalist churches have a history of sexual abuse. In the early 1970s, Billy James Hargis was accused of having sex with male and female students at his American Christian College.

Evangelicals and their fundamentalist heirs have acted violently toward their enemies before. Texas fundamentalist J. Frank Norris was charged with murder when he shot and killed a lumber worker who came to his office to complain about something Norris wrote in his religious newspaper.

Ministers and politicians have been twisting scripture to serve political ends since the American Revolution. I wrote an entire chapter about this in Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction.

Finally, presidential candidates have often blown racist dog-whistles, sometime disguised as history, to rally their white supporters. Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson, Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Strom Thurmond, George Wallace, and Richard Nixon all come to mind.

How will conservative evangelicals, especially those who support Donald Trump, respond to all this? Rather than seeing what happened this week with Jerry Falwell Jr., Eric Metaxas, Mike Pence, and Trump as part of a long history of hypocrisy and moral failure,  I am afraid most conservative evangelicals will ignore these issues, fail to see the continuity between past and present, and reject any claim that these events reflect deeper, more systemic problems within evangelical Christianity.  Instead, they will continue to believe that another four years of Donald Trump, a president who has exacerbated and exposed the darkest parts of American evangelical history, will somehow bring revival to the church and restore America to a golden age that probably never existed in the first place.

Trump launched his 2020 campaign tonight. Not much has changed since 2016.

Trump Tulsa

Earlier this evening, Donald Trump started his campaign with a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The number of coronavirus cases in Oklahoma is rising. Most of those who did attend the rally were not wearing masks. With the exception of U.S. Senator James Lankford, none of the politicians Trump asked to stand and be recognized–Senators James Inhofe and Tom Cotton, Representatives Jim Jordan, Debbie Lesko, and Elise Stefanik, and Governor Kevin Stitt–were wearing masks. Six of Trump’s rally staff tested positive for coronavirus this week.

The millions of attendees that Trump promised this week did not show up. It looked like he had a decent crowd in Tulsa’s Bank of Oklahoma Center (BOK), but it was much, much smaller than what the Trump team estimated. As I watched on television (C-SPAN), I saw a lot of empty seats. Trump and Mike Pence had to cancel an outdoor speaking event today because no one came.

Trump chose to say nothing about the country’s race problems. He did not bring-up George Floyd, Juneteenth, the country”s racial unrest, or the 1921 Tulsa Massacre. His silence spoke volumes.

I live-tweeted and retweeted the rally

This is what we mean by Christian nationalism. Pence uses this verse all the time and applies it to the United States. I wrote about the way the Christian Right uses 2 Chronicles 7:14 here and here. Russell Moore has a nice piece on this here.

Much of the material in the link above comes from my discussion of “law and order” and Nixon in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

For those who can’t access the link in the above tweet, you can find it here. During the speech, Trump continued to extol his two Supreme Court justices, although he did not mention either of them by name. Readers will recall that we also looked at the Bostock case this week from the perspective of religious liberty and historical thinking.

I would love to know what was going through the mind of James Lankford during this rally. He does not seem like the kind of guy who likes these kinds of events. As we noted earlier this week, Lankford was behind Trump’s decision to move the Tulsa rally from June 19, 2020 (Juneteenth) to June 20, 2020.

Here is what Americans think about how Trump handled, and is handling, the coronavirus. His lies, mistruths, and partially true statements (at least before April 9, 2020) about the pandemic have been compiled here. The Associated Press reported that Trump “wasted” months before preparing the country for the virus. One could make a good case that Trump’s “America First” policy was to blame.

It is hard to pick the most disgusting thing Trump said tonight, but the above statement would be near the top. It reveals the inner-workings of Trump’s mind. Only a narcissist, who interprets everything through the lens of how it benefits his ambitions, would say publicly that there is a political downside to coronavirus testing.

The last five tweets cover the darkest moments of Trump’s speech

As noted above, Trump said nothing about race in America or Tulsa. Yet he spent a considerable portion of the speech talking about this:

John Gehring nails it. Court evangelicals, cover your ears:

Great observation from Kedron Bardwell:

Let’s remember that in 2016, Trump announced a list of  Heritage Foundation and Federalist Society judges. Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh were on that list. Trump’s promise of a new list, of course, is a direct appeal to the white evangelical base. Trump knows that evangelicals vote for a president based predominantly on his or her promises of conservative Supreme Court appointments. Gorsuch’s majority opinion in the Bostock case will not change anything here. Trump is hoping this strategy will pay off again in November.

Matt Lewis may be correct, but I am pretty sure Trump will give it his best shot.

If you can’t read the link in the above tweet click here.

Here Trump seems to be making a statement about the self-interested nature of humanity and his constituency’s inability to rise above such selfishness. He is essentially saying something like: “I dare you to place your morality and what is right over a strong economy.  You don’t have the guts.” It all reminds me of his “I can stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters” line.

For more on John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park, click here.

And the campaign has begun!

The unsettling similarities between a 1964 George Wallace letter and the rhetoric of Donald Trump

Earlier this week, presidential historian Michael Beschloss tweeted a 1964 letter written by segregationist Alabama governor George Wallace to a woman in Cedar Spring, Michigan:

Wallace letter

Here is the text of the entire letter:

Dear Miss Martin:

This will acknowledge and thank you for your letter of April 8, 1964, in which you request literature on the subject of segregation in the South. We have no material on this subject in our office. As a matter of fact, we have never had a problem here in the South except in a very few isolated instances and these have been the result of outside agitators.

Contrary to reports of many of the national news media and the propaganda distributed by various organizations, our efforts here in the South are not against the Negro citizen. We fight for the betterment of all citizens in our State.

I personally have done more for the Negroes of the State of Alabama than any other individual. I sponsored the Bill which established and provided for the three largest Negro Trade Schools in the South when I was a member of the Legislature. I served on the Board of Trustees of Tuskegee Institute, one of the finest Negro Institutions in America, for a period of two years. Since I have become Governor, I sponsored the program which has provided for two new Negro Junior Colleges and Trade Schools in the State of Alabama, and for the improvement of three already in existence. Through my efforts, all Negro Educational Institutions in the State have the largest appropriations in their history.

In addition, the State of Alabama enjoyed its greatest year of industrial development in 1963. Over 20,000 new jobs were created for the cities of Alabama. Many of these jobs [2] will be filled by Negroes. This industrial expansion will bring about better economic conditions in our State and will offer equality of opportunity.

Negro school teachers in the State of Alabama receive average higher pay than white school teachers. A check of the per capita income of the Negro Citizen of the State of Alabama will disclose that they receive income which is much greater than nearly any other State in the United States.

Our efforts are keyed to a fight to preserve Constitutional Government and States’ Sovereignty –not to hurt our Negro citizens.

White and colored have lived together in the South for generations in peace and equanimity. They each prefer their own pattern of society, their own churches and their own schools – which history and experience have proven are best for both races. (As stated before, outside agitators have created any major friction occurring between the races.) This is true and applies to other areas as well. People who move to the south from sections where there is not a large negro population soon realize and are most outspoken in favor of our customs once they learn for themselves that our design for living is best for all concerned.

With best wishes, I am

Sincerely yours,
George C Wallace

P.S. I am forwarding to you under separate cover copies of two of my speeches. One is on the Civil Rights Bill, the other on Communism.

Wallace writes, “we have never had a problem here in the South except in a very few isolated instances and these have been the result of outside agitators.”

Here is Donald Trump:

Here is Attorney General Bill Barr on May 30, 2020: “Groups of outside radicals and agitators are exploiting the situation to pursue their own separate, violent and extremist agenda.”

The White House retweeted this on June 9:

Read this for a short history of the phrase “outside agitators.” Also, read Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

Here is Wallace again: “Contrary to reports of many of the national news media and the propaganda distributed by various organizations, our efforts here in the South are not against the Negro citizen.”

And Trump:

Wallace again: “We fight for the betterment of all citizens in our state” (Italics mine).

And Trump:

Or watch this:

Wallace wrote, “I personally have done more for the Negroes of the State of Alabama than any other individual.”

Trump:

And this:

Here is Wallace:

I sponsored the Bill which established and provided for the three largest Negro Trade Schools in the South when I was a member of the Legislature….Since I have become Governor, I sponsored the program which has provided for two new Negro Junior Colleges and Trade Schools in the State of Alabama, and for the improvement of three already in existence. Through my efforts, all Negro Educational Institutions in the State have the largest appropriations in their history.

Here is Trump:

Get the full story here.

Wallace again: “In addition, the State of Alabama enjoyed its greatest year of industrial development in 1963. Over 20,000 new jobs were created for the cities of Alabama. Many of these jobs will be filled by Negroes.”

Trump:

History rhymes.

When People of Faith Defended Alabama’s George Wallace Because They “Knew Him”

A lot of court evangelicals like to brag about how they “know” Donald Trump.  This, they claim, is why they supported him while other evangelicals backed different candidates in the 2016 primaries.

I thought about this when I saw that Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, author of the recently published Revolution of Values: Reclaiming Public Faith for the Common Good, uploaded this George Wallace ad on his Twitter feed:

Wallace

Kevin Kruse on the Differences Between Donald Trump and George Wallace (Hint: Trump is More Dangerous)

trump_wallace.jpg.CROP.hd-large

Here is a taste of the Princeton historian‘s recent piece at The New York Times:

This leads us to the significant difference between Mr. Wallace and Mr. Trump. Mr. Wallace’s targets were, for the most part, presented in the abstract. Though he denounced broad categories of generic enemies — “agitators,” “anarchists” and “communists” — he rarely went after an individual by name.

Mr. Trump, in pointed contrast, has used his rallies to single out specific enemies. During the 2016 campaign, he demonized his political opponents in the primaries and the general election, and also denounced private individuals, from Megyn Kelly, the former Fox News anchor, to the former Miss Universe Alicia Machado and the federal judge Gonzalo Curiel.

At recent rallies, he has targeted four Democratic House members who have criticized him and his administration — Representatives Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley.

Participants at Mr. Trump’s rallies have been moved to attack individuals he’s singled out. For most rally participants, the attacks have been confined to ominous but nevertheless nonviolent chants — from the 2016 cries of “Lock her up!” to the recent refrain of “Send her back!” But a handful have gone further, targeting the individuals named by the president with death threats and even attempts at violence.

Read the entire piece here.

Jimmy Carter Beat 17 Competitors to Win the Democratic Nomination in 1976

Carter 1976

As Gillian Brockell notes at The Washington Post, the last time we had a very large Democratic primary field we got Jimmy Carter.  The Plains, Georgia peanut farmer emerged as the primary winner over Birch Bayh, Lloyd Bentsen, Jerry Brown, Henry “Scoop” Jackson, Sargent Shriver, Morris Udall, and George Wallace, to name a few.

Here is a taste of Brockell’s piece.

As the primaries approached, one Democrat after another announced campaigns for president. Most were senators. Some were governors. One came from a university town in Indiana. They spoke of a need to clean up an executive branch they said was riddled with corruption.

No, this isn’t a description of the 2020 campaign. It was 1976 — the most crowded Democratic presidential field in modern American history, until the current election cycle, which boasts 21.

And, despite worries about a bruising intraparty battle, the little-known peanut farmer who won the primaries also won the White House. His name was Jimmy Carter.

How many Democratic candidates were there in 1976? One historian put the number at 17, though it depends on how you count them. Let’s just say the race was remarkably fluid right up until the last primary.

Read the rest here.

The 2016 Presidential Election and Historical Comparisons

trump_wallace.jpg.CROP.hd-large

Everyone is making comparisons between the 2016 presidential election and other presidential election in American history.  I have also been doing plenty of this here at the blog (including my last post about George Wallace).

Historical analogies are never perfect. But we can learn from them, even if it only reminds that, for the most part, there is nothing new under the sun.

Here are few analogies I have seen:

Election of 1800:  I have pointed to this video to remind people that the mudslinging we are seeing in this campaign is not new.  I have also referred to this election to show that politicians have been using religion in presidential campaigns for a long time.

Election of 1824:  I recently wrote a piece about Thomas Jefferson’s thoughts about Andrew Jackson.  Most historians who are interested in comparing Donald Trump to Andrew Jackson also reference this election.

Election of 1912:  Historians have been referencing this election in the context of the possibility of the GOP rejecting Trump at its July convention.  In 1912, Teddy Roosevelt was rejected by the Republican Party and responded to the rejection by forming the Bull Moose Party.  Some say Trump could do something similar if he does not get the nomination in Cleveland.

Election of 1964:  Political historians have compared the conservative extremism of both Trump and Ted Cruz to Barry Goldwater.

Election of 1968:  Some historians have compared Donald Trump to George Wallace.

What other presidential election comparisons have you seen?