Evangelicals Like Trump’s Insult Comic Act

Greg Sargent takes a look at a campaign angle that is getting a lot of attention this morning: why is Trump polling so well with white evangelicals?

All this has deeply puzzled some evangelical leaders. The Post quotes one evangelical leader describing Trump as a “thrice married owner of casinos with strip clubs,” and adding that he is “the most immoral and ungodly man to ever run for President of the United States.”

But even if Trump is not a very good Christian in the eyes of some evangelical leaders, the Times interviews with evangelical voters suggest that Trump’s personal morality may not matter much to them. Instead, Trump’s success among evangelical voters may be rooted in the fact that, more than any other GOP candidate, Trump is able to speak to their sense of being under siege. Trump somehow conveys that he understands on a gut level that both Christianity and the country at large are under siege, and what’s more, he is not constrained by politically correct niceties from saying so and proposing drastic measures to reverse this slide into chaos and godlessness.

Maybe some of these folks should listen to more of Howard Stern’s radio show. Back in 2013, Stern invited Trump to appear on his show and questioned his sudden metamorphosis into a social conservative. “Are you really anti-abortion?” Stern asked. “I know you’re not. There’s no way.”

It’s true, Stern actually knows Trump.

“I know you. There is no way that you, personally, are against abortion. You know there’s too many motherf*ckers around here, out of their minds. They’ve got people having babies, they can’t take care of them. … Thank God there’s abortion. I know you believe it.”

Trump insisted he was sincere but Stern and his co-host Robin Quivers quite justifiably refused to believe him.

They also didn’t believe for a moment that he was actually against gay marriage: “If I was alone in a room with you, and you and I were just having a drink, I don’t think you care about gay marriage. I think you’re all for it. I know you. You’re for people being happy.”

Maybe evangelicals believe that Trump is serious when he apes their views, but the people who know Trump best know better.

And, yet, a lot of white evangelical voters don’t seem to care if he’s serious.

“Spirituality is a big issue, but we need somebody who’s strong,” a Kentuckian named Charles E. Henderson told the New York Times. “Lots of times the preachers and everything, they have a tendency to be just a little bit weak.”

Okay, so maybe folks like Mr. Charles E. Henderson of Kentucky are feeling under siege and want someone who can “reverse this slide into chaos and godlessness.” I can understand that. It’s just that Mr. Henderson might want to hold out for a strong leader who sincerely agrees with him about what constitutes godliness.

I don’t know what it is in particular that is bothering Mr. Henderson. Did Donald Trump address any of his concerns when he appeared at Liberty University on Martin Luther King Day and said, ““If I’m president, you’re going to see ‘Merry Christmas’ in department stores, believe me”?

Is that what people want? A president who calls up Macy’s and tells them to take down their ‘Happy Holidays’ signs?

We really need to dig a little deeper into this siege mentality. What’s most important to these voters? That Donald Trump’s hometown doesn’t get hit by another terrorist attack? That their kids don’t have to go to school with Latino children? That their views on homosexuality don’t become as socially unacceptable as their grandfathers’ views of racial equality?

What about the pitch Bernie Sanders is making that all of this stuff is a massive distraction that keeps them from looking out for their economic interests? Does anything Bernie is saying resonate with these folks even the slightest little bit?

I suspect Sanders can do well with some of these voters, but the less evangelical they are, the better. There seems to be something tribal going on with evangelicals, and the Democrats are definitely seen as their enemy (or besiegers).

It’s just my educated guess, but I think the explanation here is that evangelicals are feeling deeply disrespected. The coastal elites think they’re stupid, racist, intolerant, and immoral. The courts are telling them that their personal beliefs are discriminatory. The GOP leadership wants their votes but has a track record littered with failure to deliver on their promises. The strong suspicion is that the GOP establishment has been conning them all along. Add to it that a lot of the American economy has been hollowed out, particularly in the interior and rural areas. I don’t think you even need to get into fear of terrorism to explain where these folks are coming from. They’re angry with everyone.

They like Trump because he’s calling people names. He’s insulting all the powerful people that evangelicals want to see insulted.

Maybe it’s more complicated than this, but I doubt it.

The only thing I had trouble figuring out is why they aren’t so sick of getting conned that they’re on the lookout for a transparent fake like Trump.

Then it dawned on me. All the other Republican candidates are transparent fakes, too. That’s clear to them now.

So, at least with Donald, they can get the entertainment of an insult-comic while they’re getting taken to the cleaners…again.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.