Evangelicals for Trump — It’s Not About Religion

November 4, 2019
Posted by Jay Livingston

Evangelicals remain unwavering in their support for Trump, much to the puzzlement and consternation of those on the left. On Friday, Josh Marshall tweeted, “this is basically the most profound insult to christianity i have ever heard.” The insult was delivered by Robert Jeffress, an Evangelical megachurch pastor and frequent guest on Fox.

We’re going to talk about lobbying for those values that the President embraces. . . .Never in the history of America have we had a president who was a stronger warrior for the Judaeo-Christian principles upon which this nation was foundedthan in Donald J. Trump. . . The effort to impeach President Trump is really an effort to impeach our own deeply held faith values. [The tweet and a video of the quote are here. ]

The Fox host, as far as I know, did not ask which Judaeo-Christian principles the pastor had in mind. There’s abortion of course. But what principles apply to Trump’s other achievements — tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, or anyone else for that matter; barring immigrants; reducing regulations on business, or raising tariffs? 

Evangelical support for Trump isn’t about policies, and it isn’t about religion or principles. It’s about “status politics” or what we now call “identity politics.” In status politics, the question is not which policies will prevail. Those policies are important not for their practical outcomes but for their symbolic value. The real question is “Whose country this is?”

Ten years ago, people like Pastor Jeffress and his followers opposed Obamacare not so much because of its effects on healthcare but because the change symbolized a lowering of their status. It was saying that people like them — White, Protestant, non-urban — were not longer the dominant group in the nation. (See this earlier post about healthcare and Prohibition as status politics.)

In that post, I said, “the election of Obama and now the possibility that he will enact a real change confronts them with the reality of their loss of dominance. That’s why they see health care in such apocalyptic terms.”

Today, these same people have tied their status not to any issue or policy but to a single person — Trump. They see the specter of Trump being removed from office, whether by impeachment or an election, as a huge threat. But what is threatened is not their “deeply held faith values” as the pastor says. It’s their status position of dominance.

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