Last September, I wrote Why is Donald Trump Winning Over Evangelical Voters? In view of last night’s stunning victory, I thought I’d post an updated version of that post. THIS IS NOT AN ENDORSEMENT BUT AN EXPLANATION.
In almost every speech Donald Trump says, “I’m winning with Evangelicals.” He did the same in his Indiana victory speech last night. Although there is some debate about whether he really is winning a majority of Evangelicals, he’s clearly won a lot of them and in my conversations with Christians, I’ve been surprised at how many are secretly (very secretly) supporting him.
It certainly can’t be his Christianity. Despite his protestations, he doesn’t have much of that. Consider the following:
- He’s on his third marriage.
- He runs the Miss World contest.
- He boasts continuously about his self-made-ness.
- He can’t name a favorite Bible verse.
- He says he doesn’t ask God for forgiveness.
- He takes communion because it makes him feel cleaner.
- He says he’s a church-goer but his church says he’s not an active member.
- He regularly insults people who disagree with him.
- He is rude towards women and minorities.
- “He personifies greed, embodies pride, radiates lust.”
As New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, put it, “I don’t see someone interested in serving God. I see someone interested in being God.”
On top of all that, many of the other candidates, including the last one to fall, Ted Cruz, were evangelicals and had a record to prove it.
Why? Why? Why?
So why the increasing levels of support for Trump while “evangelical” candidates have sunk? Columnists of every stripe and hue are struggling to answer this question, (just Google “Evangelicals and Trump” to sample the media disarray on the question).
In a previous article I wrote about how much of his support is coming from Republicans who have come to despise the political class. As Peggy Noonan put it recently: “His rise is not due to his supporter’s anger at government. It’s a gesture of contempt for government, for the men and women in Congress, the White House, the agencies.”
Americans want to punish the political establishment, both red and blue, for their multiple failures and are looking for someone, anyone, to be a battering ram through politics as usual. As someone said, trying to explain Trump’s popularity, “He’s giving voice to what millions of Americans are yelling at their TVs every night.”
Within a few weeks of Trump’s campaign launch last week, it was obvious to me that this guy could make it all the way. I saw the widespread frustration with the political culture, especially the disconnect between elite politicians and ordinary people, and the ever-rising taxes and living costs for the squeezed middle-class. There was a deep longing for an outsider to come in and shake things up. Conservatives were fed up with the Republicans’ cowardly surrenders to the slightest media criticism, and admired Trump’s disregard for what mainstream journalists thought of him. They were sick of all the promises that never seemed to produce any action, and angry at the use of political correctness to silence debate and sideline Christian views.
Anti-politician and Anti-media
But anti-politician feeling can’t explain all of Trump’s support. In talking to people, I’ve heard some Christians express an additional thought, and that’s anti-media sentiment. As one woman put it to me, “People are fed up with journalists choosing our candidates and presidents.”
That might explain why Trump’s support surged even after he feuded with the popular conservative journalist, Megyn Kelly. It also explains why the more the media hammer Trump, the more his support grows. People want to send a message not just to the politicians but to the media that it’s “we the people” who choose our leaders not “you the media.” People are sick and tired of the media spinning, the utter dishonesty of so many journalists, the bias, the prejudice, and so on, and want to communicate how much they despise their opinions and practices.
Honesty or Hypocrisy
Although there were Christian alternatives for Republican nominee, I believe many Christians were thinking, “Well, every President for the last 40 years has said “I’m a Christian” and where did that get us?” Maybe it’s better to have someone who doesn’t pretend to be a Christian but who is not afraid of the media, who is not in it for personal enrichment, who is competent, and who is able to get things done. Someone who just does what he says he will do. Better honesty than hypocrisy.
The results and exit polls show that Christians are clearly prepared to risk sacrificing some previously important priorities for the possibly greater end of striking a hopefully fatal blow to the almost omnipotent and corrupt political and media establishment. They are taking a massive risk, but people, especially the middle class, have been driven to desperation by the Republicans giving their money to big business, by the Democrats giving their money to big welfare, and by journalists who have got way too big for their screens.
To put it simply, Christians, like much of the general population, are fed up with the lies and falsehoods of politicians and the media, and they want a clear out. Trump is their way of saying to all of them at once, “You’re fired!”