TAG | 2016 Elections
Writing in the Washington Post, E.J. Dionne ‘worries’ that GOP may be losing its religion
But especially among Republicans, religious issues have taken a back seat in the party’s discourse and religious leaders are playing a diminished role in the 2016 campaign.
This was not how things started. Many had the remarkable experience during the primaries of hearing Ted Cruz declare to his followers: “Awaken the body of Christ that we might pull back from the abyss.” You can’t get much more religious than that.
But Cruz failed to awaken and unite religious conservatives, a reason that Donald Trump is the presumptive nominee. The split this year among conservative evangelical Christians was profound.
On the one side were those, mainly Cruz supporters, still voting on abortion, same-sex marriage and other moral issues. On the other were those among the faithful so angry about the direction of the country and what they saw as the marginalization of conservative Christianity in public life that they opted for the strongman who could push back hard against their enemies.
Robert Jeffress, the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, spoke for the second group. “Most Americans know we are in a mess,” Jeffress declared, “and as they look at Donald Trump, they believe he is the one leader who can reverse the downward death spiral of this nation we love so dearly.”
… in imagining that Trump will somehow reverse the trend, Christian conservatives are taking a big risk. As he has on so much else, Trump has been entirely opportunistic in his approach to religion. By some measures, he’s running the most secular Republican campaign since the 1970s.
… Trump’s comments on immigrants, political correctness and Muslims suggest he is far more anti-multicultural than he is pro-religion. He talks more about symbols and public icons than about faith or morals. “If I become president, we’re gonna be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ at every store,” he said last October. “The ‘Happy Holiday’ you can leave over there at the corner.”
It’s an empty promise, since no president could force “every store” in America to give a Christian greeting. But the fact that he chose to make the media-driven Christmas wars a centerpiece of his argument to Christians shows that his real engagement is with identity politics, not religion.
In a way, yes. But there’s not necessarily a contradiction between the two. I cannot speak for Evangelicals, of course, but I don’t think that it’s unreasonable to think that that label covers a wide range, from the deeply devout to those who use it as some sort of broader ‘tribal’ or social-cultural identifier.
Turn to another Washington Post article (by the appropriately named Geoffrey Layman) back in March and we find this:
The key to understanding Trump’s support among evangelicals is to realize that some evangelicals’ commitment to the faith is shaky, too. Trump does best among evangelicals with one key trait: They don’t really go to church. In short, the evangelicals supporting Trump are not the same evangelicals who have traditionally comprised the Christian Right and supported cultural warriors such as Rick Santorum and Ted Cruz.
But evangelical support for Cruz and Carson, who are grouped because of their close association with evangelicalism and moral conservatism, was higher among those who attend church more frequently. In contrast, Trump did best among evangelicals who are never, almost never or only occasionally in the pews.
These aren’t the only evangelical Trump supporters. He still attracted a plurality of those who attend at least every Sunday. Nevertheless, Trump performed worse among devout evangelicals than among non-devout evangelicals.
Why is this? A considerable literature on religion and politics suggests that evangelicals who attend worship services irregularly tend to have less formal education and lower incomes than more devout evangelicals. They tend to care less about moral and cultural issues and vote more on the basis of economic concerns. In some cases, they are less tolerant of religious and racial minority groups….
Infrequent church attenders cared less about the traditional Christian Right policy agenda and more about Trump’s agenda of creating jobs, improving Americans’ economic welfare and stemming the tide on immigration. The graph below shows that infrequent church attenders were less likely to prioritize two “moral and cultural” issues (abortion and “morality and religion in society”) as one of their four most important issues. But they cared much more about jobs and economic welfare.
Similarly, evangelicals who attend church less frequently are also less socially conservative. They are less likely to favor religious exemptions to the federal requirement that employers cover prescription birth control in their health-insurance plans. They also are less enthusiastic about allowing business owners to refuse on religious grounds to provide services for same-sex weddings. Trump’s lack of commitment to social conservatism may not bother these less-observant evangelicals very much…
Even allowing for this distinction (which sounds convincing), it would be wrong to assume that the more devout Evangelicals will not opt for Trump this fall. How they decide to vote when there is a Santorum or a Cruz on the ballot is one thing, but when the alternative is Hillary Clinton the calculation could be very different.
As to the longer-term influence of the Trump candidacy on the internal politics of the Republican Party, we’ll have to see, not least to see whether he wins (unlikely, in my view, but I’m not known for the accuracy of my predictions concerning Trump). If I had to guess, the religious right (loosely defined) will continue to remain a powerful force in the GOP, although one that is deferred to a little less and understood somewhat better.
That’s no bad thing.
ROME (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said in an interview with The Associated Press that he met with Pope Francis, describing the meeting as a “real honor.”
Sanders said the meeting took place Saturday morning before the pope left for his one-day visit to Greece. He said he was honored by the meeting, and that he told the pope he appreciated the message that he is sending the world about the need to inject morality and justice into the world economy. Sanders said it’s a message he has been sending as well.
“We had an opportunity to meet with him this morning,” Sanders said. “It was a real honor for me, for my wife and I to spend some time with him. I think he is one of the extraordinary figures not only in the world today but in modern world history.”
Sanders said it was a brief meeting at the papal residence. “I told him that I was incredibly appreciative of the incredible role that he is playing in this planet in discussing issues about the need for an economy based on morality, not greed.”
Sanders and wife, Jane, stayed overnight at the pope’s residence, the Domus Santa Marta hotel in the Vatican gardens, on the same floor as the pope. They were seen at the hotel reception, carrying their own bags.
“Carrying their own bags”!
Oh the humility.
The Vatican is loathe to get involved in electoral campaigns, and usually tries to avoid any perception of partisanship as far as the pope is concerned. Popes rarely travel to countries during the thick of political campaigns, knowing a papal photo op with the sitting head of state can be exploited for political ends.
However, Francis has been known to flout Vatican protocol, and the meeting with Sanders is evidence that his personal desires often trump Vatican diplomacy.
“His message is resonating with every religion on earth [and] with people who have no religion and it is a message that says we have got to inject morality and justice into the global economy,” Sanders said.
No, the pope’s message, like Sanders’, is a variant of the same old destructive millenarian nonsense, a vessel for resentment, a pathway to misery for the many, to power for the few. The most important ideological difference between these two old conspiracy-theorists is that one was deeply influenced by leftist authoritarianism, the other by Peronism.
And Francis smiles more often.
Over at Breitbart, John Nolte calls out Huckabee’s ‘libido’ comments for the gift to the Democrats that they were:
While speaking before the Republican National Committee’s national convention Thursday, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee blundered his way into the mainstream media’s War on Women trap with comments that have already lit up Twitter, MSNBC, CNN, and elicited condemnation from the White House.
While Huckabee was obviously trying to make a point about how Democrats view women, his phrasing is already catnip for a hostile media that looks for any reason to permanently define the GOP with one of the Democrat Party’s phony narratives:
“If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing them for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of government.”
To anyone who understands how today’s media operates, Huckabee’s use of this kind of phrasing and language boggles the mind and seems almost intentionally designed to damage the Republican Party. Already engines of feminist outrage are firing up to scream about Huckabee’s “crass” view of Democrat women and the government programs that help them.
Huckabee’s remarks appeared to have been prepared. So you have to ask yourself why risk launching a thousand cable news segments that ask, “Does Mike Huckabee believe women who use birth control can’t control their libidos, and is that a problem for the GOP?”
Nolte’s question is reasonable enough. Why would Huckabee, who is no fool, say something like this? My first guess was to blame it on the intellectual bubble in which he clearly lives.
But perhaps there is something else. Maybe, looking at it from his perspective, these remarks were not a mistake. Huckabee knows that he has no chance of winning the White House, and next to none of winning the Republican nomination. On the other hand, language like this (and the controversy it stirs up) may appeal to that segment of the Republican base that will be essential to his being a potential contender in the GOP primaries for 2016, a position that is, of course, key to his continuing career in the media.
In the meantime he has done his bit to contaminate the broader Republican brand, and in an election year at that.
Not really a team player, Mike Huckabee, is he?
The New York Times has the details:
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas has not been among the Republicans frequently named as a potential 2016 presidential candidate, but he would like that to change.
“I’m keeping the door open,” Mr. Huckabee said in an interview here Thursday night about the possibility of seeking his party’s nomination again. “I think right now the focus needs to be on 2014, but I’m mindful of the fact that there’s a real opportunity for me.”
…Mr. Huckabee dismissed the notion that pride was a factor in his decision to float a possible campaign.
If Huckabee does decide to run again, I will as usual be waiting to see if he is willing to release the text of his sermons from back in the day. He has always been rather reluctant to do so. Can’t think why.
I can understand the argument that religion can be a handy bulwark against an over-mighty and over-intrusive state (it can, incidentally, also be an ally of just such a state), but there is a limit as to how far that argument can be pushed, and in this speech to CPAC Rick Santorum has just crashed through it (not for the first time in his case) into a twilight zone of demagoguery, hysteria and madly Manchicean either/or.
I’m no fan of Obama, to put it mildly, but to claim that he wants to create a “Godless” America is not only silly (in fact, if anything Obama would probably want to recruit God as some sort of assistant, a super-Biden upstairs, in his attempt to transform the country) but is language almost certainly guaranteed to alienate yet more of the voters that the GOP needs to be winning over.
Bad thinking. Bad Argument. Bad Tactics.
Thank you, Rick Santorum
The Washington Post reports:
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said in an interview that he isn’t certain what the age of the earth is, and that parents should be able to teach their kids both scientific and religious attempts to answer the question.
“I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States,” Rubio told GQ. “I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I’m not a scientist. I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that.”
The U.S. Geological Survey notes that scientists have estimated the earth’s age to be about 4.5 billion years old. Rubio, who identifies himself as Catholic, noted there are both faith-based and scientific theories about the earth’s beginnings. He said that he is “not sure” we will ever be able to fully answer the question of how old our planet is.
“At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all,” he added. “I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.”
Parents can, of course, teach their children whatever idiocy they may choose at home or in church, but as for the rest of what Rubio has to say, well…