Why Did Evangelicals Flock to Trump? Existential Fear

"Counterintuitively, the fact that Trump is bellicose, bombastic, insulting, and lives according to a code at odds with evangelicals’ beliefs actually made him more attractive as an ally, not less. 'Evangelical nice' is a real thing ...That made evangelicals unlikely to see one of their own as capable of defeating an existential threat." - The Bulwark

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josh p's picture

I find it interesting how little freedom of conscience is extended to others in the matter of voting. Perhaps no act speaks so directly to the freedoms we enjoy as the vote and yet it is often the one in which the choices are painted as “If you don’t vote this way than you are (insult thinly veiled insult here).” I didn’t vote for Trump and I’m really happy about my decision. Someone else may choose to never vote in a general election. That’s their decision. From my perspective, voting the way I did was the most God-honoring stewardship of my tiny slice of the political process. Someone else could have voted differently or voted for Trump or even Hillary.
If I remember Star Wars well enough, I think a mark of the Sith is that they only think in absolutes. That’s pretty much how these discussions go. I think I have said this here before but the “A vote for third party is a vote for Hillary” argument is really silly to me. Voting third party may not add a vote to Trump but it also doesn’t add one to Hillary. I chose to go that route and to suggest my doing so was a vote for Hillary would be akin to my saying that a vote for Trump is a vote for unbridled immorality. We are all just doing the best that we can with the information we have. No one takes the lesser of two evils argument past a certain point (Hitler vs. Stalin anyone?). We all just draw the line differently about where the threshold of unacceptability is reached.

Darrell Post's picture

Many forget how large the Supreme Court vacancy in 2016 figured in the decision of some/many evangelicals to hold their noses and vote for Trump. The very fact that Trump, during the general election campaign, kept visiting churches and reaching out to evangelicals shows that he knew he wasn't resonating with them. It wasn't until he made his promise to put only conservatives on the high court that many evangelicals decided that was enough to tip the scales to vote for him over leaving the ballot blank. Trump has not only made two solid SCOTUS picks, he has also filled lower courts with far more principled judges than Clinton would have appointed. 

My own personal view of voting doesn't at all go along the lines of 'I am voting for this person,' as in I endorse this person, I agree with this person, and I hold this person in high esteem. For me, its a matter of accepting the reality that one of two candidates will hold the office shown on the ballot, and of the two, I would rather have this one over the other. When Trump made the decision to promise conservative judicial appointments, that was enough distinction between himself and Clinton for many evangelicals to say, yes, of the two, I would rather have the conservative judges. 

But again, I point out that during the GOP primary, evangelicals were overwhelmingly AGAINST Trump, not for him. 

But I can respect anyone who takes the endorse/high-esteem approach to voting, as it is their right to follow one's conscience. Just for me, if I followed that approach, I would find it hard to ever vote and be consistent in following the endorsement principle. All candidates have warts, and as the culture continues its decline, those warts will grow larger.

 

Ron Bean's picture

In 1976 there were many who opted to vote for a Baptist Sunday School teacher instead of a man who had married a divorcee.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Ron Bean wrote:

In 1976 there were many who opted to vote for a Baptist Sunday School teacher instead of a man who had married a divorcee.

And while I completely understand why they made that choice, I'm very glad Carter wasn't re-elected in 1980.

I've seen both Never Trumpers as well as some of those who did vote for Trump try to shame the other side for their vote, and I agree with those who are against that.  As one post above mentioned, it's on each of our consciences how we vote.  We had both types of voters in our own church.  My pastor, who had previously pastored in NJ, near Atlantic City, could not bring himself to vote for Trump.  I completely get it.  But he did not in any way try to make those who made a different decision feel bad (even those who may have voted for Clinton).  In fact, at our church we don't talk politics at all from the pulpit, other than to briefly mention during announcement time on the Sunday before election day that people should exercise their voting privilege, especially given many Christians down through time have not had that opportunity.

Dave Barnhart

M. Osborne's picture

In the Providence of God and the workings of American political history, we seem to have arrived at a place where there are only two viable political parties: alternative parties have extreme difficulty breaking into the system because the established parties have name recognition, a voter base, financial resources, etc.

So many voters (not just Christians) regretted the options presented in the 2016 elections. I was taking a class at Villanova at the time and there were a lot of disappointed Bernie Sanders supporters completely disgusted with the Democratic party. (It was a strange time of commiseration because 2016 prompted me to change my voter registration from Republican to unaffiliated, and my teacher at Villanova likewise said, "Tell the Democrats I'm walking.")

So I voted for Evan McMullin, and per Wikipedia he didn't make a huge dent.

But here's a question: can you think of any way to break out of these dreadful options besides voting in a way that refuses to accept further political farces like 2016? If the major political parties know that in the end, most voters will hold their nose and go either Democrat or Republican, what incentive do they have to change?

It seems that the only way to break out of the practical truth that "A vote for X actually advances Y" is for a critical mass of voters to say, "Hogwash. I'm voting for X."

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

Darrell Post's picture

Some elections do provide the voters three viable options rather than two. In 1992 the polling showed Ross Perot capturing a large chunk of the electorate. He was actually growing in momentum until his vice-presidential pick fell flat. Consequently in the end he got just shy of 19% of the popular vote resulting in a president, Bill Clinton, who got only 43% of the vote, meaning 57% of voters wanted someone other than who won. This sort of situation is why some races are going to the run-off system, so during the first run, if a candidate fails to get 50% of the vote, it goes to a run-off between the two top finishers in the first round. 

Of course we will never have that on the POTUS level due to the electoral college.

Speaking of the electoral college, in reality, if you live in Wisconsin, and you chose to vote for Evan McMullen instead of Trump or Clinton, in the end, all of the electors from your state went to Trump. Similarly, if you voted for Trump out of the state of Virginia, in reality, all the electors from Virginia went to Clinton. So some of the hand-wringing and worrying about one's personal vote is silly based on the state in which one lived. For instance, if someone had lived in California or West Virginia during the 2016 election, and did not want Clinton to win, but was queasy about Trump, then it would have been very easy to pull the lever for some third party candidate because Trump was going to win WV easily anyway and lose CA badly. But if you were queasy about Trump and voting a tossup state like PA, MI or WI, then it might have been a much tougher call. Votes in those states actually mattered.

I say all this just to point out that some of the above discussion presupposes a popular vote presidential election when in fact the election was based on the electoral college. 

Ron Bean's picture

And maybe a lot of people just voted for whomever they thought could do the job they wanted done.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

M. Osborne wrote:

It seems that the only way to break out of the practical truth that "A vote for X actually advances Y" is for a critical mass of voters to say, "Hogwash. I'm voting for X."

Might eventually work -- if people all choose X, rather than X, U, V, and W, thus diluting all the the 3rd party votes.

Although, as someone else posted about Perot, it just allowed a president who had received even less of the popular vote than Trump.  For real 3rd-party voting to work, we would need to have a European-style system, where if the lead vote getter gets less than 50%, he or she would need to form a coalition to govern.  Of course, I watch the German channel 1 news quite often, and their system has plenty of disadvantages too.

Just goes to show that there is a lot to think about when one casts a vote.  It's NOT just all about fear.

Dave Barnhart

Darrell Post's picture

"And maybe a lot of people just voted for whomever they thought could do the job they wanted done."

No doubt some people wrote-in a vote for themselves, or other people who had no chance of winning. The context of my post above involved the possibility of actually affecting the outcome with one's vote in tossup states, given there was no one on the ballot who would get the precise job done they wanted. And in other states the question was easier given the certainty the state would go for one candidate or the other.

As I mentioned earlier, the idealist approach to voting (only voting for someone you hold in high esteem and wholeheartedly endorse) is quickly passing away given the unfolding anti-Christian demise of Western Civilization. The 2016 Trump vs Clinton election, sadly, is a foretaste of most elections to come. Christians will have to decide whether they want to give up and have no say at all (the idealist approach) or continue to have a minimal say using the either/or approach (one of the two is going to win, and of the two, I would prefer A over B. 

 

 

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Ron Bean wrote:

And maybe a lot of people just voted for whomever they thought could do the job they wanted done.

While I agree that that's a perfectly valid way to think, it's not the only valid way to think for a Christian.

Dave Barnhart

M. Osborne's picture

The 2016 Trump vs Clinton election, sadly, is a foretaste of most elections to come. Christians will have to decide whether they want to give up and have no say at all (the idealist approach) or continue to have a minimal say using the either/or approach (one of the two is going to win, and of the two, I would prefer A over B. 

  1. I tend to favor seeing my vote as part of my witness for Jesus, more than (not instead of) my effort to influence American politics.
  2. I get why people voted for Trump and object only when they lapse into the kind of rhetoric Jerry Falwell has used.
  3. I would still like to think that the broader either-or you're referring to: either be an idealist or be a pragmatist, isn't final. I'd like to think we have a 3rd option, that enough people opting for a 3rd party will change the way the other two parties behave, and/or to change the way pundits describe the political climate.

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

Darrell Post's picture

"...it's not the only valid way to think for a Christian."

Exactly.

Christians who have the right to vote exercise that right in a variety of ways:

1) One can decide to try and actually affect the outcome. This results in actually voting, and choosing one of the two candidates who could actually win, and trying as best as possible with the information available to pick the better of the two options.

2) One can use their right to vote by making some other statement with it. These include:

a) Not voting, thereby leaving the selection of our leaders to others.

b) Voting, but choosing or writing in an ideal candidate to show everyone what a vote for an ideal candidate looks like, while at the same time leaving the selection of our leaders to others.

c) Knowingly voting for the worst possible candidate to hasten the end of the country, hoping that it will speed the end of the age.

Darrell Post's picture

"I would still like to think that the broader either-or you're referring to: either be an idealist or be a pragmatist, isn't final."

I wouldn't really call a Christian's 2016 reluctant vote for Trump pragmatism. It was much more a calculated gamble. A Clinton victory was a certain radical leftist pick for the Supreme Court. A Trump victory meant that if Trump kept his word (which was no guarantee given his lifestyle and past problems), then there was the possibility he could pick a conservative SCOTUS nominee. It was a calculated gamble that he would actually follow through, and thankfully he has (twice), as well as lower court nominees. Pragmatism says if it works, do it. But there was no guarantee Trump wasn't going to become a leftist the moment he took office. 

So it was a calculated gamble. Either a sure thing (Clinton), or a gamble on someone who wasn't a sure thing, but could elect to stick to his promises. 

I agree with you Michael in the hope that our future isn't going to be as bleak as that when it comes to voting choices, but things look grim when we consider the direction things are going with gender identity and related issues. 

M. Osborne's picture

I wouldn't really call a Christian's 2016 reluctant vote for Trump pragmatism. It was much more a calculated gamble. 

Understood. Probably not the best choice of terms on my part. I meant "pragmatic" in the loosest way of trying to do something that could work, not the philosophy that would justify the choice by the expectation that it might work.

But I'd also like to point out that my vote for McMullin wasn't simply based on "idealism," either. (And no one here has said that it was.) There's a hope (pipe dream?) that more voters will start to do likewise and over the long term we'd see a change that we get more (better?) options on a regular basis. So I have my own "pragmatic" (loosely defined) angle on my voting. It's just that I'm skeptical it's going to work any time soon. Smile

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

Darrell Post's picture

The GOP had better options in the primary. But as I pointed out earlier, Trump was able to use the fact that all the other candidates were canceling each other out, and thereby win the nomination getting on average about 35% of the vote per state, and still losing many states outright. 

Looking over at the left, they have the Green Party, and they have avowed socialists, and they try to do their best work during the Democratic Party primary. But once the general election is upon them, they for the most part return to vote for the Democrat, except for when they feel the outcome is certain and then they are 'free' to vote their hearts. 

That was one of the ironies of the 2016 election. The Green Party members were so certain Clinton would win, that they confidently voted Green Party in large enough numbers that they were responsible for Trump winning in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, enough to flip the election to Trump--a mistake they won't repeat in 2020. 

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