A recent Pew Research Center survey (June 16) found roughly seven in 10 evangelical Protestants approve of how
Trump handles his job, with 58 percent of this population agreeing that they “very strongly” approve of Trump’s performance. This represents a decline of 6-8 percent from a similar survey in April. Nevertheless, a whopping 82 percent of white evangelical Protestants say they will vote for Trump, or at least they are leaning that way.
This is all pretty remarkable when you consider Trump’s behavior and actions that are seemingly the antithesis of positions that Jesus would purportedly take. For instance, Since George Floyd’s death (May 25), countless people have been protesting racial injustices and police abuses nearly every night across many large American cities. Protests began with a fair share of property damage and injuries, but as the summer has progressed, these have settled into mostly determined and peaceful demands for change.
That is, American citizens have been exercising their First Amendment rights … while Trump has spent weeks declaring that peaceful protesters are “anarchists” who “hate” the country. Over the past couple weeks, he sent or threatened to send paramilitary forces to Portland, Seattle, New York City, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Chicago and Milwaukee to address the protesters. His minions are not professionals trained in deescalation tactics — they are being sent to do just the opposite.
Trump’s forces include tactical agents from Customs and Border Protection and Immigration (plus other personnel), Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel, Federal Protective Service personnel and U.S. Marshals. You don’t need many to provoke an otherwise on-edge population to more violent actions. Fire some tear gas and rubber bullets at a wall of protesting mothers. Kidnap a few people with unmarked vans. Pummel a U.S. Navy Veteran with a baton for having the gall to ask a question.
And his strategy is working. People are outraged. Violence is increasing. Now Trump doesn’t have to reach into historical and sometimes foreign news footage to show disturbing scenes. The irony is that Trump claims that this is the future under Biden … as opposed to the present under Trump?
All of this happens without the consent of local elected authorities. A central part of the justification, as stated by interim secretary of Homeland Security — Chad F. Wolf, who has not been vetted by Congress — is to prevent vandalism. In a recent Fox “News” interview, Wolf claimed that sometimes you have to “proactively arrest” people. Seriously? In saner times, that interview alone would have sent the Republican party into a tizzy. Now? The conservatives of America are fine with this just as long as no one mandates that they wear a mask to protect public health.
Meanwhile, on June 26, Trump issued an executive order to protect “American monuments, memorial and statues.” You know … the ones embracing the values of the Confederacy traitors who lost the Civil War. This order “authorizes a penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment for the willful injury of federal property.”
Then, on July 21, Trump was asked about Ghislaine Maxwell, and he stated that he has not been following her case but said that, “I just wish her well.” Maxwell recently pleaded “not guilty” to charges of sex crimes and perjury. She is accused of entrapping minors to serve the pleasures of her boss, billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, with whom Donald Trump had a long-time association. That is, Trump wants to put people in prison for 10 years for pulling down a statue of a Confederate criminal while wishing an alleged human trafficker “well.”
Volumes can be said about Trump’s bungling of the COVID-19 pandemic that, as of July 27, includes over 4.2 million cases with and over 150,000 deaths likely by the end of the week.
So, what holds the evangelical crowd to Trump’s side? I suspect that we are seeing a classic Faustian bargain. As long as evangelicals believe that they will get another Supreme Court appointee to help bring down Roe v. Wade, then there is nothing that Trump can do that will diminish their support. If this is not the case, I challenge a local standard bearer of conservative values to explain how they can reconcile their support for these and many other outrages.
Doug Call is an avid father, microbiologist and river runner.