Early in 2020 The Lincoln Project released an ad that targeted evangelicals who support President Trump. The ad which had clips from various individuals like Franklin Graham, Robert Jeffress, Paula White and others who espouse Christian nationalism contrasted with President Trump’s behavior.
“The hard right has no interest in religion except to manipulate it.“
“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves.
Matthew 7:15 NLT
When President Trump had ordered the attack of peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square on June 1, 2020 a number were tear gassed. Thrown out of St. John’s church was a priest who also was tear gassed in the process. You can read more about this in the following op-ed by the priest in the Philadelphia Inquirer right here. President Trump did all this for a photo op. The following day on Twitter Rick Wilson a Never Trump political operative deeply involved in The Lincoln Project tied the political move back to Trump supporting his evangelical Christian base.
What is the Lincoln Project?
On December 17, 2019 a bold op-ed appeared in the New York Times. Co-written by George T. Conway III, Steve Schmidt, John Weaver and Rick Wilson they explained their commitment to see Donald Trump and Trumpism defeated at the ballet box. All the individuals above were once Republican operatives and campaign personalities who were affiliated with individuals like George W Bush, John McCain, Mitt Romney, and other like minded Republicans. Their op-ed in the New York Times was quite bold. Here are some segments of the op-ed.
“Patriotism and the survival of our nation in the face of the crimes, corruption and corrosive nature of Donald Trump are a higher calling than mere politics. As Americans, we must stem the damage he and his followers are doing to the rule of law, the Constitution and the American character.
That’s why we are announcing the Lincoln Project, an effort to highlight our country’s story and values, and its people’s sacrifices and obligations. This effort transcends partisanship and is dedicated to nothing less than preservation of the principles that so many have fought for, on battlefields far from home and within their own communities.”
This effort asks all Americans of all places, creeds and ways of life to join in the seminal task of our generation: restoring to this nation leadership and governance that respects the rule of law, recognizes the dignity of all people and defends the Constitution and American values at home and abroad.
Over these next 11 months, our efforts will be dedicated to defeating President Trump and Trumpism at the ballot box and to elect those patriots who will hold the line. We do not undertake this task lightly, nor from ideological preference. We have been, and remain, broadly conservative (or classically liberal) in our politics and outlooks. Our many policy differences with national Democrats remain, but our shared fidelity to the Constitution dictates a common effort.
In addition to talking about President Trump and how his corruption is a threat to the nation the New York Times op-ed turned to the Republicans who enable him. This is what was said.
“Indeed, national Republicans have done far worse than simply march along to Mr. Trump’s beat. Their defense of him is imbued with an ugliness, a meanness and a willingness to attack and slander those who have shed blood for our country, who have dedicated their lives and careers to its defense and its security, and whose job is to preserve the nation’s status as a beacon of hope.
Congressional Republicans have embraced and copied Mr. Trump’s cruelty and defended and even adopted his corruption. Mr. Trump and his enablers have abandoned conservatism and longstanding Republican principles and replaced them with Trumpism, an empty faith led by a bogus prophet. In a recent survey, a majority of Republican voters reported that they consider Mr. Trump a better president than Lincoln.
Mr. Trump and his fellow travelers daily undermine the proposition we as a people have a responsibility and an obligation to continually bend the arc of history toward justice. They mock our belief in America as something more meaningful than lines on a map.”
And in closing the op-ed the Lincoln Project wrote about how their strength and courage comes from Abraham Lincoln and what he stood for. This is how the op-ed ended.
“We look to Lincoln as our guide and inspiration. He understood the necessity of not just saving the Union, but also of knitting the nation back together spiritually as well as politically. But those wounds can be bound up only once the threat has been defeated. So, too, will our country have to knit itself back together after the scourge of Trumpism has been overcome.”
I would encourage you to read the entire op-ed in the New York Times. It’s called, “We Are Republicans, and We Want Trump Defeated.”
The Lincoln Project would become quite active in the political scene. Its involvement is quite evident and has been discussed in many newspaper or political commentary. You can see some examples of that here, here here and here. The Lincoln Project has a website and has created at least sixty five ads on YouTube. What this blog is interested in is not the political side of the Lincoln Project. But its what the first ad did that created a lot of attention.
The Lincoln Project Targets Evangelical Christians
On January 9, 2020 the Lincoln Project launched its first advertisement. It is a direct hit on the evangelicals who support Donald Trump. In a clip that featured Robert Jeffress, Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell Jr, Paula White and many other evangelicals it was called “MAGA Church.” The ad is designed to chip away at evangelical support for Donald Trump. The ads hit the internet and some cable at the time. The first ad generated a lot of coverage in the media. Below you will find some of the articles that were written.
- ABC News, “Anti-Trump Republican group targets evangelical voters with new ad.”
- The Hill, “George Conway group releases first anti-Trump ad aimed at evangelicals.”
- Newsweek, “Anti-Trump Republican Group Takes Aim at ‘MAGA Church’ in New Video.”
- Baptist News Global, “Anti-Trump Republicans target evangelicals in ad blasting the ‘MAGA Church’“
- Axios, “First look: Anti-Trump Republican video mocks “MAGA Church”“
Some Closing Thoughts…
I write this in early July and it will be interesting to see if the MAGA ad had any influence over evangelicals. If I were an evangelical I would be embarrassed to be associated with Trump. I would be coming out of Men’s Group asking “Why am I confessing in accountability when people around me are supporting someone who boasts of grabbing pussy?” That would have me scratching my head. Evangelicalism is often filled with contradictions and the Christian nationalism that supports Trump is yet one more added to a troubled and blithering movement. When it comes to evangelicalism and politics I like what Bill Maher said in 2016. I have that above. When the election is held in November 2020 it will be fascinating to see the behavior and turnout of evangelicals and monitor who they support. To the Lincoln Project and Rick Wilson, George T. Conway III, Steve Schmidt, John Weaver and Jennifer Horn I say cheers! One day I hope to be able to buy you guys a beer and thank you for your efforts. May they be successful, that is my hope.