The White Evangelical Women Who Are Supporting Beto O’Rourke

Perhaps the most closely watched senate race this cycle is in Texas, between incumbent Republican Ted Cruz and Democrat Beto O’Rourke. Almost no one would have given a Democrat much chance of winning a statewide election in Texas this year, but O’Rourke is keeping it close.

Let’s be honest though, polls show that the race is Cruz’s to lose. Real Clear Politics has him up by 6 points and FiveThirtyEight gives him a 75 percent chance of winning next month. With that in mind, I found a recent article by Elisabeth Dias about the race to be fascinating. She spent some time talking with a few white evangelical women who have decided to support O’Rourke.

Listening to Ms. Mooney’s story, the four other evangelical moms standing around a kitchen island began to buzz with excitement. All of them go to similarly conservative churches in Dallas. All are longtime Republican voters, solely because they oppose abortion rights. Only one broke ranks to vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016. But this November, they have all decided to vote for Mr. O’Rourke, the Democratic upstart who is on the front line of trying to upend politics in deep-red Texas.

Take a look at some of the quotes she documented from them.

The women, who are all in their 30s, described Mr. O’Rourke as providing a stark moral contrast to Mr. Trump, whose policies and behavior they see as fundamentally anti-Christian, especially separating immigrant children from their parents at the border, banning many Muslim refugees and disrespecting women.

“I care as much about babies at the border as I do about babies in the womb,” said Tess Clarke, one of Ms. Mooney’s friends, confessing that she was “mortified” at how she used to vote, because she had only considered abortion policy. “We’ve been asleep. Now, we’ve woke up.”…

“I keep going back to who Jesus was when he walked on earth,” she said. “This is about proximity to people in pain.”…

“When I look at Cruz, I think he sees Republican politics. When I look at Beto, I think he sees vulnerable people who need to be supported.”…

“My hope would be that women in similar places as us would feel liberated from the expectation that you’re just doing the same thing you’ve always done, because it’s safe, because it’s what your pastor is telling you to do, or your husband,” Ms. Clarke said. “We have to own it.”…

“The whole notion of the evangelical female voter is fatally flawed,” she said, listing a slew of issues important to women in her community, like ending white supremacy and the culture of sexual assault. “What I hope for Ted Cruz is that he is paying attention to an opponent that has managed to capture the collective imagination of Texas in a state where our vote is a foregone conclusion.”…

“What Trump did was almost give us permission to take back nuance,” she said. “That’s why it’s a tossup now.”

I’m not going to suggest that these women’s votes are enough to turn the race around. But even if the number of white evangelical women thinking this way is small, it is incredibly encouraging.

I am especially intrigued by that last quote about getting permission to take back nuance. If I’m understanding it right, Donald Trump has taken things to such an extreme that women like her are realizing some of the moral issues that have driven evangelical attachment to the GOP are more complex than she previously thought. I suspect that’s what Ms. Clarke was referring to when she said, “I care as much about babies at the border as I do about babies in the womb.”

The hardest thing for me on election night in 2016 was the fact that so many of my fellow Americans would vote for someone like Donald Trump, with all of his cruelty and ignorance. It literally shook my faith in humanity. Perhaps that is why I find the women who talked to Dias to be so encouraging. I probably wouldn’t agree with them on a lot of issues, but we could definitely connect on a very deep level. Here’s what Barack Obama said about that during his Nortre Dame commencement address in 2009:

I will not pretend that the challenges we face will be easy, or that the answers will come quickly, or that all our differences and divisions will fade happily away—because life is not that simple. It never has been.

But as you leave here today, remember…that each of us, endowed with the dignity possessed by all children of God, has the grace to recognize ourselves in one another.

I can recognize myself in the women Dias interviewed. And that goes a long way toward restoring my faith in humanity.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60 .