DEEP DIVE — TRUMP, IOWA, AND THE DEATH OF THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT
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- •This Week: The Fate of the Religious Right May Be Told in Iowa
- •At a recent rally in Iowa, leaders of the religious right threw their support behind Ted Cruz.Prominent figures such as Tony Perkins, along with powerful pro-life groups such as the Susan B. Anthony List, publicly denounced Trump as a vain, greedy bully.
- •Religious conservatives finally grasped that Trump did not share their priorities.Trump’s mockery of disabled New York Times reporter Serge F. Kovaleski and his boast that he “wouldn’t lose support even if [he] shot someone” were difficult to conflate with Christian values.
- •To make matters worse, Christian influence is steadily shrinking.The Pew Center reports that the number of Americans who identify as Christian dropped from 78% in 2007 to 71% in 2014.
- •However, the decrease in religiosity comes with a few caveats.As the author notes, “the religiously disconnected are not necessarily urbane secularists” — new non-believers are largely poor, white and uneducated.
- •Christians who do support Trump are mostly evangelicals with anti-establishment tendencies.A @WSJ study found that church attendance among evangelical Trump supporters was much lower than that of social conservatives and mainstream Republicans.
- •The mainstream religious right feels that Trump doesn’t care about their issues.His speeches usually focus on economic and political concerns, rather than traditional moral causes like abortion and gay marriage.
- •Unlike Cruz, Trump made little effort to court them.While Cruz visited all 99 Iowa counties to stir up grassroots support, Trump staged massive rallies and avoided town hall-style meetings.
- •His public embrace of Christianity has been awkward and incongruent.Trump has publicly stated that he’s “never asked God for forgiveness”. He’s also bungled questions about the Old and New Testaments.
- •But for Trump supporters, immigration and border security are the most important issues of 2016.Massive demographic shifts, along with declining blue-collar wages, have many Americans worried about the future.
- •Some attest to a deep sense of existential despair.One 28-year old Trump supporter said, “They didn’t tell us that this is how it’s going to be when we grew up. We were young, and we wanted to just grow up and be free and do what we want, but they didn’t tell us that this was what the world was.”
- •Cruz’s victory in Iowa is an encouraging sign for the religious right.Christian activist Bob Vander Plaats was dismissive of Trump’s celebrity appeal, saying, “We’ll see if that translates into votes. I don’t think it will.”
- •But if Trump eventually wins the nomination, the age of the religious right could come to an end.Trump’s movement, centered on identity rather than ideology, might become America’s answer to Europe’s ethnic nationalist parties.