Michael Gerson in the Washington Post Asks are White Evangelicals and Catholics Waking Up and Realizing the Issues with Donald Trump?

In the Washington Post Michael Gerson writes a column asking if white evangelicals and Catholics are waking up to the issues with Donald Trump. This is a brief post to discuss his column. 

“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear?
Behold, their ears are uncircumcised, they cannot listen;
behold, the word of the Lord is to them an object of scorn;
    they take no pleasure in it.

Jeremiah 6:10 ESV

Evangelicals worship their Lord and Savior.

Michael Gerson is a a regular columnist for the Washington Post. The Post is one of the regular newspapers that I subscribe and read. This evening he had a column that is quite popular and generating interest. He asks the question, are white evangelicals and Catholics waking up to the issues of Donald Trump? Is the racism or the suffering by the elderly in this COVID-19 pandemic pricking the conscious of people who claim to have faith? Michael Gerson explains the issue. You can read the column in, “White evangelicals and Catholics may finally be opening their ears.” But I will have it posted below.

To whom can I speak and give warning? Who will listen to me? Their ears are closed so they cannot hear.

— Jeremiah 6:10

Jeremiah was as good as it gets in the prophet business, but he could be a bit of a downer. In this respect, the opinion columnist is his natural successor. But it is worth trying now and again to look on the bright side of our political cataclysm. And there are hints — tentative hints — that White evangelicals and Catholics are beginning to open their ears.

An August Fox News poll found support for Joe Biden among White evangelicals at 28 percent — significantly higher than the 16 percent who supported Hillary Clinton in 2016 exit polls. A recent Vote Common Good survey indicated an 11 percentage point shift toward Biden among evangelicals and Catholics who supported Donald Trump in 2016. These surveys are not evidence of collapsing approval for Trump among these groups, but they may signal an erosion of support. And Trump can’t afford to lose any ground among the base of his base.

I suspect that some of this shift is coming not because these are religious voters, but because they are voters. Like everyone else, they see the disastrous incompetence of an administration that never gained its footing in the fight against covid-19. They see the economic suffering caused by Trump’s delay, denial and tenacious stupidity. They see the packed Trump rallies that amount to negligent homicide. They see the heartless claims of success while the ill and elderly continue to die.

It is also true that Biden simply does not provoke the same level of partisan fear and loathing that Hillary Clinton did in 2016. The Republican charge of radicalism against Biden did not stick. And the charge that he will be manipulated by radicals lacks both credibility and political urgency. Whatever his limits and faults, Biden exudes decency and normality.

Having generally avoided giving offense to religious conservatives in the primaries (other than his cynical abandonment of the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funding for abortion in most instances), Biden has the opportunity to do some outreach. Even minimal assurances about how his administration would respect institutional religious liberty might go a long way toward confirming the comfort of some evangelicals with the Democratic ticket.

I would like to think that White evangelical and Catholic support for Trump might also be cooling because of the divisive and disturbing moral choices being made by the Trump campaign. In the 2018 midterm election, Republicans lost control of the House largely because they got blasted in the suburbs. A similar performance in 2020 would dramatically weaken Trump’s reelection chances. Any of the pre-Trump, Republican presidential candidates would have responded to this challenge by talking more about education, health care or transportation. For Trump, it is an opportunity to warn against Black people invading suburban neighborhoods.

This is not an exaggeration. “If I don’t win,” Trump alleges, “America’s Suburbs will be OVERRUN with Low Income Projects, Anarchists, Agitators, Looters and, of course, ‘Friendly Protesters.’ ” There is no possible interpretation of “Low Income Projects” in this context that does not involve the incitement of racism. The same might be said for the use of “Looters” and “Protesters.” Trump is conflating protests against racial injustice with criminal activity and warning that angry faces are coming to suburbia if Biden wins.

Elsewhere, Trump has warned that “low income housing and projects” will undermine the “American Dream.” Note Trump’s consistent use of the word “projects,” which evokes images of decaying and dangerous apartment buildings filled with minorities. Trump’s twisted definition of the American Dream is White flight from urban poverty and decay.

Trump has claimed that the “suburban housewife” will support him for a particular reason. “They want safety & are thrilled that I ended the long running program where low income housing would invade their neighborhood. Biden would reinstall it, in a bigger form, with Corey Booker in charge!” (Cory, not Corey, Booker is an African American Democratic senator from New Jersey.)

Cultivating fear of the coming melanin invasion is now the defining theme of the Trump campaign. It is also the rawest recourse to bigotry on the national stage since Alabama Gov. George Wallace in the 1960s and ’70s.

And it puts White evangelicals and Catholics in a bind. The protection of nascent life remains a deep commitment of most moral conservatives, and Trump has been an antiabortion president. Yet supporting Trump involves the affirmation that blatant racial prejudice is not disqualifying in an American president. Publicly identifying with the Trump campaign scandalously associates the Christian faith itself with brazen bigotry.

This creates soul-rending ethical complexities (which I fully intend to address). But if a racist campaign does not shake Christian support, what possible difference is that faith making?

2 thoughts on “Michael Gerson in the Washington Post Asks are White Evangelicals and Catholics Waking Up and Realizing the Issues with Donald Trump?

  1. are White Evangelicals and Catholics Waking Up and Realizing the Issues with Donald Trump?

    Seems unlikely. More likely, and what we observe in the polls, is that people who in the past supported Democrats are waking up to the reality that Donald Trump is the far better candidate for them.

    There is no possible interpretation of “Low Income Projects” in this context that does not involve the incitement of racism.

    And with that, we know that this writer doesn’t have anything insightful to say. We also know that he associates “Low Income Projects” with race. We have a word for that: racist.

    Trump’s campaign is the least racist in a long time, maybe in my lifetime. Trump’s opponents keep repeating charges of racism, without evidence, because the only way they can possibly win is by motivating black people to turn out in Obama-like numbers to vote for Joe Biden. Black people may well turn out in Obama-like numbers, but if they do, it will not be to vote for Joe Biden.

    Black people aren’t stupid. Black people know which candidate actually addresses the issues they care about and which candidate rudely assumes what they think based on their skin color. Black evangelical Democrats have struggled for years to make their party more centrist on social issues, and it keeps moving left. It’s time for them to jump ship and vote for someone who actually agrees with them and values them.


  2. This column is more projection of their own issues onto Pres. Trump, and wishful thinking that folks outside the coastal bubbles will vote for the anarchy we see breaking out in major cities, all of them “managed” by Democrats for decades. Do evangelicals plan to vote for Pres. Trump because they think he’s one of them, i.e., “born-again, Spirit-led, etc. etc. etc.)? No. They and I am voting for him because of the policies he’s working to implement, the nominations to the Supreme Court he will make, and because his opponent, Joe Biden, clearly can’t articulate a coherent paragraph without cue cards or a teleprompter. One question I’ve asked of my “progressive” friends: how is it that in a mere 3 years Donald Trump has managed to undue and reverse all of the “gains” made by Pres. Obama in his quest to “fundamentally transform America”? If America is systemically racist now, what was it when Obama was President? He had eight years to “transform” these structural problems. And what did he give us? Squat.


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