Faith

Evangelicals Wrestle With Supporting Trump

 

Evangelical conservative leaders are struggling to decide whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is worse for their movement. Michael Cromartie, Vice President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC), firmly denounced the real estate tycoon, expressing disbelief that any true Christian could back him, while Weekly Standard executive editor Fred Barnes insisted that conservative Christians should bite the bullet to stop Clinton.

In a meeting which featured board members of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, Cromartie briefly outlined his opposition to Trump:

I just don’t think a Christian can support a sexist, racist, demagogic, misogynist, woman hater, anti-immigrant person who shows none of the fruits of the spirit, who has called himself a Christian but puts his money in the “communion plate,” and says he’s never had to ask God for forgiveness.

I don’t vote on candidates based on their rigorous theology, but I like them to know at least one thing! It is so clear that his own personal profession of faith is totally calculated. I just think that somebody who makes fun of reporters who are disabled, who has this attitude toward other races, other ethnicities, other genders, that’s so obviously off-putting, I can’t understand how that kind of person can win the support of real Christians.

Charmaine Yoest, a well-connected conservative commentator and author of the Christian Reasoned Audacity blog, agreed about Trump, and said she was encouraged by the real estate tycoon’s recent struggles in Wisconsin. “After seeing an entire primary campaign where absolutely nothing could touch Donald Trump, the two things that hurt him have been the tweet against Heidi Cruz and the bru-haha over Michelle Fields,” Yoest noted.

Yoest explained that she is a “Never Hillary” voter, because she wants the first woman president to have conservative principles. Nevertheless, she emphasized a point which PJ Media has reported before, that evangelical voters who go to church vote for Ted Cruz, while those who do not attend church regularly favor Trump.

Cromartie quickly countered, saying, “Evangelicals go to church. A non-church-going evangelical is not an evangelical.”

“I agree with [Christian conservative blogger] Matt Walsh,” The EPPC vice president declared, warning any conservative leaders who dare to back Trump that “we’re going to remember you…shame on you!”

Many in the room voiced their agreement. The lone dissenting voice for Trump came from Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard. Barnes argued that conservatives should still vote for Trump if he becomes the Republican nominee, because “if Trump is the nominee, and you don’t vote for him, what do you get? Hillary Clinton.”

“Most of my friends are anti-Trump,” Barnes acknowledged, adding that he disagrees with The Donald “on immigration, on trade, on foreign policy, on entitlements, on eminent domain.” The tycoon did have a good tax plan, but “that’s about it.” But Barnes did suggest one way Trump could win his vote, and that of evangelicals as a whole.

Next Page: A Trump-Rubio ticket?!

Charmaine Yoest, Michael Cromartie, Jim Antle, and Fed Barnes speak about evangelicals and Trump in Washington, DC. Photo credit: Tyler O'Neil, PJ Media

Charmaine Yoest, Michael Cromartie, Jim Antle, and Fed Barnes speak about evangelicals and Trump in Washington, D.C. Photo credit: Tyler O’Neil, PJ Media

Barnes argued for a Trump-Rubio ticket. “Of course they hate each other,” he conceded, but “this is politics. Jack Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson hated each other.”

The Weekly Standard editor praised Rubio for having given “the best explanation of a candidate’s faith I ever heard,” referring to the Florida senator’s response to an atheist’s question about religious freedom. He acknowledged that he voted for Rubio because of that video, and because “he had the best chance to win the general election.” Of the remaining candidates, only John Kasich still has a good chance to beat Hillary Clinton, Barnes said.

Cromartie agreed that Trump could not defeat Clinton. “He’s entirely unelectable. Polls sometimes lie, but most of the time they don’t, and he’s going to get annihilated,” the EPPC vice president said. “Some say it’s a wasted vote to vote the other way, I think it’s a wasted vote to vote for him!”

Jim Antle, politics editor for The Washington Examiner, argued that Trump does have one silver lining for committed Christian conservatives. “The only part of the conservative coalition Trump has had to pay lip service to is evangelicals and the conservative vote,” Antle said. Trump has pandered to evangelical conservatives “ham-fistedly, inept, but he’s done it.”

He noted that Trump “signed a tax plan that is pretty conservative, although there’s no evidence he’s ever read it,” eliciting a great deal of humor from the audience.

“Trump has benefitted from the fact that a lot of conservatives think they’ve already lost the culture wars,” Antle explained.
Trump understands that evangelicals “see themselves under siege,” so “he makes an argument for Christian cultural pre-eminence.” He is not a true believer himself, but he sympathizes with those who feel persecuted in their own country, and he aims to champion their cause. Antle compared The Donald to Archie Bunker, who encourages his wife to go to church and still cherishes Christian morality, even though he doesn’t attend or believe strongly himself.
Taking an analogy from the persecution in the early church, Antle explained the pro-Trump evangelicals: “They’re no longer looking for a Christian, they’re looking for a friendly Roman.”