He may have been charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States, but Donald Trump continues to attract widespread support among white evangelicals. Chris Goswami explains why
If Donald Trump was still President of the USA, Vladimir Putin might not have invaded Ukraine.
That’s a bitter pill for people like me (who would never vote for Trump) to swallow, but here’s my thinking. Putin is a tyrant and tyrants don’t lose sleep over predictable men like Joe Biden. Biden isn’t going to overreact, Biden won’t “push the button” on nuclear war. But tyrants are very wary of unpredictable, irrational and impulsive men who might do anything. Men like Donald Trump.
My train of thought isn’t bulletproof, but it’s not dissimilar to the logic of many white evangelical Christians in the US. Their view, is whatever Trump’s character failings, he delivers on what they want. To this group, the barrage of charges and indictments against Trump which we’ve seen this week are just background chatter.
To the rest of the world, it’s much more serious - Trump is accused of conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 US election through fraud. This is in on top of ongoing charges concerning payments to a former porn-star and misuse of official government documents, and charges yet to come, regarding direct interference in the 2020 election in the state of Georgia.
And yet, evangelicals, by and large, are convinced there is a Washington-led crusade against him. To them these charges only enhance his appeal, and his lead over other Republican candidates for 2024 carries on growing.
Why evangelicals love Trump
Back in 2016, before becoming President, Donald Trump said: “Christianity will have power. If I’m there, you’re going to have plenty of power, you don’t need anybody else…Remember that.”
It’s a promise he kept while in office. He delivered on the number one issue for many evangelicals by making abortion more difficult across America. He did this by nominating Supreme Court Justices who later helped overturn the constitutional right to have an abortion. He moved the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, again playing to evangelical support for Israel.
He understood the evangelical wish-list, and he got it done.
Another appealing trait his supporters love is certainty. Trump is certain about many things and certainty sells. He takes the truth as he sees it and he calls it out, candidly and bluntly. He doesn’t care who gets offended. You may disagree with him, but you are never in doubt as to what he thinks.
The evangelical vote is key
1 in 3 Americans call themselves evangelical Christians, and 60 per cent of the Republican electorate are evangelicals. This is a nationalist Christian movement that blends together patriotism, politics, and God. It is powerful and profoundly influential to an extent those of us outside the US find hard to grasp.
Some base their support for Trump on the Bible, likening him to the Old Testament character King Cyrus. Despite being an unbelieving Persian ruler from another religion, Cyrus is anointed in Isaiah 44-45 as God’s “shepherd” to help deliver ancient Israel from Babylonian captivity. This concept of an “imperfect vessel used for greater good” has often been applied to Trump.
Many evangelicals don’t personally like Trump but their relationship with him is transactional - they vote for him and he shapes the country to their liking. They hold their nose and vote for policy over character.
Other evangelicals of course love the man himself. They see Trump’s enemies as God’s enemies. In their eyes he can do no wrong and he really was robbed of the 2020 election. These extremist opinions tend to get the press coverage.
The interesting question
What are the political issues you most care about, as a Christian?
If a candidate for Prime Minister in the UK said, “give me your top three issues for Christians and I will get them sorted”, would you vote for them? Even if their character was repugnant?
Personally, I could never vote for Donald Trump. But, as you see it’s not always as black and white as we think, and our brothers and sisters in the US have their reasons.
As the global news organisation POLITCO recently remarked: “Two things can be said of Trump. Firstly, his personal and public life make a mockery of Christian evangelical ideals. Secondly, he is the person who has delivered more policy victories for Christian evangelicals than any other president.”