Down With Tyranny picked up on something from my latest video about Trump’s Narcissistic, Malevolent, Incompetent Jesus in relation to the latest data that Donald Trump is poised to lose portions of the evangelical vote. Check it out:
Frank Schaeffer asks a good question in the video above. With 11% of the evangelicals and conservative Roman Catholics who voted for Trump in 2016 no longer supporting him, Schaeffer wants to know why are any evangelicals or conservative Roman Catholics still voting for Trump. I bet you’ve wondered that yourself. “If anything comes through from the teaching of Jesus,” said Schaeffer, “it was kindness. Donald Trump has never been portrayed as a kind person, or even one with basic civility by anyone. The question for evangelicals is… a very simple one: does your idea of God feed your ego or feed your heart? Has your own self-centeredness grown into a self-righteousness in the name of God? … Is malevolent narcissism, combined with incompetence, coming from someone who serves only themselves, something that an evangelical Christian is attracted to. Put it this way: Is the evangelical faith itself changed to the place where we now assume that evangelical Christians themselves are so consumed by an egocentric desire to win politically that, like Donald Trump, they will sacrifice everything to this pyrrhic dream which is turning into a nightmare?”
This week, writing for Politico, Gabby Orr reported that “Trump’s overtures to religious voters appear to be falling flat. Months after worries first exploded inside the Trump campaign over his eroding support among white evangelicals and Roman Catholics, some of the president’s top religious allies are now in a panic– concerned that Joe Biden’s attentiveness to Christian voters, whom Democrats largely ignored in 2016, is having an impact where the president can least afford it. One prominent evangelical leader close to the White House said Biden’s policy positions on abortion and religious freedom, which would normally spoil how some religious voters view the Democratic presidential nominee, have been overshadowed by the contrast between the former vice president’s palpable faith and Trump’s transactional view of religion. Another chided Trump for his ‘cold response’ to the nationwide reckoning over systemic racism, claiming the president’s law-and-order messaging has given Biden an opening to connect with churchgoing Americans who are accustomed to calls for courage and justice.”
And that brings us to the study of evangelical voters in battlegrounds Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, commissioned by our friends at Vote Common Good. They found that “Trump is poised to lose a sizable chunk of his Christian voters in November, raising questions about his path to reelection and the potential value in religious outreach that Biden’s predecessor Hillary Clinton largely eschewed.” That’s where Schaeffer got the 11% number– evangelicals and conservative Catholics who voted for Trump in 2016 and plan not to in November. That has always been Vote Common Good’s goal– to reduce his evangelical vote by between 10 and 20%. They’re still working hard to accomplish that.
“The cumulative effect of the convention and the way that faith has been woven into Biden’s messaging speaks to the kinds of numbers we’re now seeing,” said Michael Wear, who directed faith outreach for President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign… Trump’s blunt messaging on coronavirus and race has created an opportunity for the Democratic nominee to “overturn the who-shares-your-values debate that Republicans have been winning.”
…According to the study, evangelical voters are split over which presidential candidate is more virtuous, while Catholic voters selected Biden over Trump by a 21-point margin. The largest gaps in voter perceptions of Biden and Trump emerged when respondents were asked to weigh each candidate against commonly recognized Christian virtues, including generosity, diligence, chastity, kindness, patience, modesty and humility. Only 22 percent of respondents gave the president a higher rating on his displays of humility and modesty versus Biden’s, while the pollsters cited Trump’s perceived lack of kindness– 44 percent of respondents said Biden is more kind than Trump, while 30 percent said Trump is kinder– as the leading cause of defections among Catholics and evangelicals who supported him in 2016.
“While it was baked in back in 2016 that Donald Trump was bombastic and crude, he always hinted that he would be presidential when he needed to be presidential,” said Doug Pagitt, a Minnesota-based pastor and an executive director of Vote Common Good, adding that some 2016 religious Trump voters have since “woken up to the fact that [Trump] has not changed one bit.”
“People of faith who didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton saw her as more corrupt and less kind than Donald Trump, and now some of those same voters see Donald Trump as more corrupt and less kind than Biden,” Pagitt said.
The Trump campaign sees it differently. In its view, most religious voters are less concerned with a candidate’s religiosity or virtuosity than they are with the impact of proposed policies. Biden, campaign officials claim, has adopted unreasonable positions on the issues that matter most to Catholics and evangelicals, including judicial appointments, religious freedom and abortion.
…A new book by Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen claims the thrice-married New York businessman once remarked to aides after meeting with evangelical leaders in 2016, “Can you believe people believe that bullshit?” The president was also roundly criticized earlier this summer for waving a Bible in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church near the White House minutes after law enforcement officials tear-gassed protesters to clear the area for his arrival.
“This is a different election for several reasons, but one of them is that the sheer disgust most religious voters felt for Hillary Clinton in 2016 doesn’t exist with Joe Biden,” said the Trump adviser. “If President Trump wants to ensure those voters still view him as the best choice, he needs to show he’s not just a champion of their causes but a believer in the cause himself.”
While it’s unlikely Biden will pull in a majority of Catholic or evangelical voters on Election Day, Trump could find himself in serious jeopardy if the Democratic nominee shaves off even a couple of percentage points in the president’s support among white evangelicals and Catholics. A central question of the president’s reelection strategy is whether he can marginally improve his 2016 levels of support among religious Americans, and black and Hispanic voters, to offset anticipated declines in his support among white women and suburban voters.
Pagitt believes the current environment– with a Covid-19 death toll nearing 200,000 in the U.S. and recent police-involved shootings igniting a nationwide conversation about racism– will preclude Trump from expanding his appeal among religious Americans before the Nov. 3 election, in addition to making it more difficult for him to maintain his grasp on the evangelical and Catholic voters who backed him four years ago.
“Joe Biden is getting support from religious voters who don’t even know what his religious background is,” he said. “This isn’t tribal voting. There’s an enormous amount of religious Americans who didn’t think there were good options in 2016 and voted for Trump, but now see Biden as the superior option.”