Trump, Evangelicals, and the Single-Issue Voter
A couple of months ago I posted a piece here on SO titled “Just How Religious is the Religious Right?” I argued that despite their ostentatious affirmations of their own religiosity, supporters of the religious right drop their proclaimed religious values faster than Jericho’s walls tumbled when those values become politically inexpedient. Nothing demonstrates this somber fact more clearly than the overwhelming support evangelicals (or maybe I should say “white evangelicals”) gave to Donald Trump and Roy Moore. Their strong support for such grotesquely morally compromised individuals shows that they are not really “values voters” but plain old power grabbers. Their politics is religious only in the sense that the conflict between Sunnis and Shiites is religious. That is, “religion” is a tag for tribal identity, and the goal of politics is hegemony for your tribe.
I did not notice until today that, about a month after my post, Christian writer David Marshall made a response in the comments section. Marshall has written an e-book arguing that no Christian should have voted for Trump, but he nonetheless offers an explanation for why evangelicals, even those offended by Trump, still voted for him. I quote a large block of his response below:
Trump is a slime. So are the Clintons, frankly. The difference is, one wanted to extend the right to kill unborn children, already at the moment of birth. This has gotten so sick that the Left is actually protesting to make sure there are no laws requiring a baby be given drugs before it is torn to pieces! To many of us, this smells of Mengele territory.
If the choice is between someone who will affirm the “right” to dismember fully-formed babies in the womb, and someone who will appoint judges to reign that sort of thing in, I can fully understand why a sincere Christian of the highest moral caliber would plug his nose with both hands and pull the lever with his toes. I couldn’t bring myself to that, mind you, but please let’s not leave the context out.
If Democrats continue to throw candidates like the Clintons in our face, and a coterie of stupid Republicans keep nominating famous sleazeballs whom the media pushes onto the public stage to overshadow more normal and decent candidates, those of us who are serious about public policy will be forced to vote clowns into office on occasion.
So, if the choice is between Krusty the Clown and Hitler, you vote for Krusty. Indeed, a Christian of “the highest moral caliber” would vote for the clown over the baby-murderer. Hilary Clinton supports chopping up babies just as they are being born, and Donald Trump for all his myriad failings, opposes this and will appoint judges to prevent the massacre of the innocents. When the issue is murdering babies versus not murdering them, then there is no problem with being a single-issue voter.
Marshall implies, then, that I am wrong to think that the evangelical supporters of Trump have ditched their values for political expediency. On the contrary, they elevate one value to a level of ultimate importance so that it trumps (sorry) every other consideration. Sure, Trump is a bullying, boasting, blustering, childish, egomaniacal, serial sexual abuser, pathological liar, ignoramus, crackpot, misogynist, racist, and xenophobe who might get us into nuclear war. Sure, not just liberals but such conservative stalwarts as George Will, Charles Krauthammer, and David Brooks have condemned Trump’s character in no uncertain terms. Sure, the rest of the world (except the autocrats) are appalled at Trump. Yeah, but he doesn’t “kill babies,” (i.e. he opposes abortion rights), and this would make him preferable to a Washington, Lincoln, or Roosevelt who supports such rights.
Nobody, absolutely nobody, favors gratuitously chopping up babies. So-called late-term abortions, which constitute only a very small percentage of abortions (about 1.3% of the abortions in 2013, according to the CDC), are generally performed in tragic circumstances, as when delivery will endanger the mother’s life or when the fetus is dead or so badly defective that it cannot possibly survive after birth. Banning late-term procedures would deny women the right to make a most serious and wrenching decision in consultation with their doctors. Read the essay on why banning late-term abortions is cruel, written by a woman who had one:
Of course, no such articles or arguments will make the slightest impression on those who are absolutely sure that abortion is just baby killing plain and simple and all those who defend abortion rights are just advocates for murder. If Marshall is right, then the problem with evangelicals is not that they have no real values but that they are fanatically attached to irrational ones, so absolutely attached that nothing else matters. A bloc of voters that can be depended upon to vote for you if you promise them only one thing is a demagogue’s dream.