Sean Trende’s analysis of the Evangelical vote for Trump

2016/11/17 § Leave a comment

Sean Trende, Senior Elections Analyst for RealClearPolitics has written an immense commentary on just how the Democratic Party has lost its footing over the past two decades, and conversely, how the Republican Party has arrived at its present moment of victory.

I am leery of explicating beyond what I know, as there is a lot here that I do not understand, but there are a few quotes I thought worth sharing. Trende’s analysis of the Evangelical vote was particularly elucidating, and I imagine will be helpful to those still wrestling with why so many voted for Trump, even in the face of blatant disapproval of various dimensions of his personal character and approach.

Consider these factoids: In 2004, white evangelicals were 23 percent of the electorate, and they cast 78 percent of their vote for fellow evangelical George W. Bush.  In 2012, they were 26 percent of the electorate, and gave Mormon Mitt Romney 78 percent of the vote.  In 2016, Donald J. Trump, a thrice-married man who bragged about sleeping with married women and whose biblical knowledge at times seemed confined to the foibles of the two Corinthians, won 81 percent of their vote. Notwithstanding the fact that I have been assured repeatedly that these voters represent a shrinking demographic and that Republicans had maxed out their vote share among them, they were once again 26 percent of the electorate.

Two points demand attention.  The first, which “demographics-is-destiny” types typically gloss over, is that Trump received more votes from white evangelicals than Clinton received from African-Americans and Hispanics combined.  This single group very nearly cancels the Democrats’ advantage among non-whites completely.  This isn’t a one-off; it was true in 2012, 2008 and 2004.

Second, you may wonder why this group voted in historic numbers for a man like Trump.  Perhaps, as some have suggested, they are hypocrites. Perhaps they are merely partisans.  But I will make a further suggestion: They are scared.

Consider that over the course of the past few years, Democrats and liberals have: booed the inclusion of God in their platform at the 2012 convention (this is disputed, but it is the perception); endorsed a regulation that would allow transgendered students to use the bathroom and locker room corresponding to their identity; attempted to force small businesses to cover drugs they believe induce abortions; attempted to force nuns to provide contraceptive coverage; forced Brendan Eich to step down as chief executive officer of Mozilla due to his opposition to marriage equality; fined a small Christian bakery over $140,000 for refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding; vigorously opposed a law in Indiana that would provide protections against similar regulations – despite having overwhelmingly supported similar laws when they protected Native American religious rights – and then scoured the Indiana countryside trying to find a business that would be affected by the law before settling upon a small pizza place in the middle of nowhere and harassing the owners.  In 2015, the United States solicitor general suggested that churches might lose their tax exempt status if they refused to perform same-sex marriages. In 2016, the Democratic nominee endorsed repealing the Hyde Amendment, thereby endorsing federal funding for elective abortions.

Trende’s very clear reference points paint a picture of just why so many Evangelicals may have been inclined to vote for Donald Trump. Quoting critical legal theorist Mark Tushnet, who earlier this year said, in short, that a “hard line” should be taken with the “losers” (i.e., Evangelicals) rather than attempting to make accommodations for their beliefs. Tushnet even said that “Trying to be nice to the losers didn’t work well after the Civil War, nor after Brown. (And taking a hard line seemed to work reasonably well in Germany and Japan after 1945.)” To this, Trende had the following to say:

Perhaps comparing evangelicals to the Japanese in World War II was a bit much, and helped push evangelicals into a defensive crouch. Before my Democratic friends warm up their keyboards to protest “but we’re correct,” let me say that on some of these issues I agree with you! My point here is descriptive, not prescriptive. An aggressive approach to the culture wars and the sneering condescension of the Samantha Bees and John Olivers of the world may be warranted, but it also probably cost liberals their best chance in a generation to take control of the Supreme Court.  That’s a pretty steep price to pay.  It may well be that Democrats would be better able to achieve their goals if they were less, for lack of a better word, fundamentalist about those goals.  Henry Clay famously declared that he would rather be right than president; he at least got his way on the latter.

What a fascinating way to put it: “fundamentalist.” Indeed, I’ve considered progressivism’s particular approach and put it this way on many occasions – most recently last night while discussing politics with a friend of mine.

Trende concludes with this:

Ultimately, though, I think it is foolish to predict what history’s judgment will be.  If the last few elections have done nothing else, it has been to convince me that history has no arc; it bends toward nothing; we are certainly ill-equipped to harness whatever power it has.  Rather, it simply meanders like a lazy river; we are carried along by the current, and we label what we hope is around the next bend “justice.”

Read the entire article here.


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