Presumptive Republican nominee Donald J. Trump attended the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority conference in Washington, D.C., this weekend, and attendees said the candidate changed his tune during his speech on Friday. Supporters and opponents disagreed on whether the change was good or bad, but nearly all of them agreed it wasn’t the same Trump.
One Ted Cruz supporter actually compared The Donald’s campaign to the rise of Adolf Hitler, saying that 20th century totalitarian dictators consciously altered their rhetoric to gain power in exactly the way Trump is doing now. Most other attendees just accepted it as politics-as-usual. Some supporters said that they missed the pre-conference Trump, but some welcomed the new, more restrained, more “presidential” candidate.
A few weeks ago, “he was blatant, he was the truth, he was the Trump that everybody knows. Yesterday, when he came here — that’s not the Trump I know,” Jalen Johnson, a high school senior in Georgia who has frequented many of The Donald’s rallies, told PJ Media in an interview on Saturday. “He was doing what the establishment — he was talking based on how they want him to speak.”
“If you noticed yesterday, he brought up something about race. Donald Trump never talks about anything dealing with race,” Johnson added. As a black teen, he said he doesn’t know “one black person who would attend a Trump rally, who would attend a Republican convention, who would vote Republican,” except himself.
Trump’s sudden discussion of race “kind of shocked me,” Johnson said. “I’m starting to see a different Donald Trump I don’t like.”
But other supporters appreciated the change. Cindy Flakoll, legislative liaison at Concerned Women for America in South Dakota, argued that The Donald is “on a learning curve.” She said the change in tone she witnessed at Trump’s speech on Friday was further evidence giving her hope that he will end up a conservative champion, were he to be elected president.
Flakoll mentioned the pro-life issue as an example. “When he started, he was pretty wobbly on it, and all of us long-time pro-life, pro-family folks were pretty nervous,” she admitted. “Then he gave his personal story about a friend who’d had a child who might have been aborted but wasn’t,” and she found it convincing. Flakoll added that she knows the activists Trump hired in Iowa, and she knows them to be solid conservatives.
Melissa Ortiz, founder of the disabled advocacy organization Able Americans, also saw The Donald’s speech, and said, “He was very fake, he wasn’t himself.” Ortiz recalled meeting Trump for the first time, years ago.
“He said everybody knows people with disabilities and Wounded Warriors don’t have any money to spend anyway, so why do they need to be in my high-end buildings? And I’ve seen the way that some of you wheelchair people drive, you’ll knock all the finishings off the walls,” Ortiz confided. “That’s a problem because it shows a mindset. He doesn’t view us as sub-human, but as less than others. I don’t know anybody in the community of people with disabilities who’s good with that.”
Self-published author Rhonda Moorman said Trump’s remarks showed the candidate “maturing as a politician.” She argued that “he was much more measured and presidential, and I’m glad to see it.” Nevertheless, she also favored the old Trump. “I like the other side too — a kind of red meat thing.”
Ortiz proved rather hostile to The Donald. She openly called for a delegate revolt at the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland, Ohio, next month, saying it was “not outside the realm of possibility” that Republican insiders reject Trump as the nominee, last minute. She also chided religious leaders for supporting Trump at the faith voters conference.
“He doesn’t support biblical values, he doesn’t live biblical values,” Ortiz declared. “This is a faith voters conference. How can we do this?!”
Next Page: How conference attendees squared support for Donald Trump with the Christian faith.
While Johnson was a full-throated Trump supporter, he acknowledged the gap between his personal Christian faith and The Donald’s lack thereof. “I’m a Baptist Christian, from Atlanta, Georgia. I honestly don’t think he’s a good representative Christian; I believe myself that he’s not a very religious person,” Johnson said of Trump. “He never makes religious statements, he never shows a religious side, the stuff he says is not religious-based.”
But that doesn’t bother this conservative black teen, because “there are bigger issues in America than religion, and if you’re going to run for a seat like the presidency, your biggest focus can’t be religion.”
Johnson added that when it comes to Trump’s disparaging comments toward women, “I disagree with those 100 percent.” He said he cannot support The Donald “100 percent” but still believes Trump is the best option for the country.
Jimmy Seibert, the president of Antioch Ministries International and pastor at Antioch Community Church in Waco, TX, admitted that he was rather surprised to find himself in the role of urging Christians to coalesce behind Donald Trump. “What I’m telling Christians and other well-meaning believers is, a vote for Hillary is clear, you know exactly what you’re getting. Everything we stand for and value will be absolutely blocked down.”
“We will be in jail in two years — that’s a guarantee,” Siebert confidently declared. He added that “no matter what your conscience is, no matter how mad you are at Donald Trump or anybody else, a no vote is a vote for Hillary Clinton.” Even a vote for a third-party candidate, such as Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson, “is still a yes vote for Hillary.”
While Seibert acknowledged that “we don’t know exactly where [Trump] would land on every issue,” he insisted, “We’re getting some signals.” He laid out two reasons to hope that The Donald would aid Christians as president: “At least Trump is listening to us … [and] at least he’s saying he’s going to put people around him that we would value, that would support what we’re all about.”
The pastor emphasized that he is not looking for a perfect candidate. “I’m not voting for a new dad, I don’t need a leader, I need somebody who will let me be who I am. I need somebody to let the church be the church, because I believer the church is the answer to whatever the issue is.” He added that “it is civil government, it is not theocracy.”
Moorman, the self-published author and fellow law student with President Obama, said there is no gap between her faith and her support for Donald Trump. “As far as Donald Trump and his faith, I get a little uncomfortable when we make judgments on somebody’s faith,” Moorman said. While she openly identified herself as “a very strong, traditional Christian,” she added that “my faith is a very private matter.”
On the pro-life issue, Moorman said, “I’ve heard his explanation, and I believe him, just like I believed Ronald Reagan.” She added that “it’s difficult to say anything negative about his family, he’s definitely a family man.” When I mentioned Trump’s cheating on his two previous wives, Moorman insisted that Trump nevertheless seems “to be a man who has lived true to his convictions.”
She also emphasized that Trump is the only real alternative to Hillary Clinton. If Clinton were to be elected, “we can pretty much wave goodbye to our lives as we know them,” Moorman declared.
Next Page: At least two attendees were still #NeverTrump, and supporting Ted Cruz.
Ortiz wasn’t buying it. “Trump is not a conservative, he is not a Republican, he is an authoritarian,” the disabled activist declared. “Not only is he banning the reporters, he’s banning whole outlets from his press conferences. That goes against the First Amendment — a free press is what keeps a free government and an accountable government.”
While PJ Media does not often repeat comparisons to 20th century dictators, Ortiz insisted that “you can quote me” on comparing Trump to Adolf Hitler. “Go back and look at Hitler’s rise and the things that he said — the anger he tapped into and the promises he made. Hitler was very clear about what he was all about, but nobody listened. They just thought he was promising them the world.”
Ortiz still hoped that the RNC would reject Trump, and she still backed Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who pulled out of the presidential race last month. “I feel like Cruz has the truer love for our country,” she declared. “Cruz loves the country because of what he can give it, Trump loves the country because of what he can get out of it.”
She added that “the Constitution is written on Ted Cruz’s heart like scripture is written on our hearts as Christians.”
Karen Skiles, an attendee from Newark, Delaware, agreed with Ortiz in supporting Cruz. She previously spoke to John Gizzi at Newsmax, and accused the reporter of misquoting her. Gizmo wrote that Skiles would support the Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, but Skiles told PJ Media, “I never said I was going to support this candidate.”
“I definitely do not want Clinton, and I feel that there is always room for a miracle,” Skiles declared. “Maybe God will send us another opportunity — Ted Cruz would have been wonderful.”
Smiles added that while Donald Trump says he believes in God, “his actions speak louder than his words.”