Throughout [a Trump Tower meeting with leaders of the religious right on September 29, 2016], Trump was not positioning himself as a true believer — “You know, I went to Sunday school,” he said with a shrug — but rather as a strongman, the likes of which the religious right had never seen. “Liberals are being the bullies here,” the Heritage Foundation’s Anderson told him at one point. “If there is a culture war in the United States, conservatives aren’t the aggressors, liberals are waging a culture war. They are trying to impose their liberal values.” Trump assured the group that, in his presidency, liberal oppression would end. “Many of these things, I would say 80 percent of them, will be done immediately,” he promised. “I can tell you, you have my support.”
In [Robert] Jeffress’ final argument, he reminded everyone — in apocalyptic terms — what that support would mean. “What I want to say in closing is this election is not a battle between Republicans and Democrats. It’s a battle between good and evil, light and darkness, righteousness and unrighteousness. . . . This is the last chance we have, I’m convinced, as a country to turn this country around.”
The meeting and other events like it, spread the word, sending radio talk-show hosts and pastors and educators out into the world to preach the gospel of Donald Trump. On Election Day, close to 81 percent of white evangelicals cast their ballots for him, turning out to vote in greater numbers than they had for Mitt Romney and George W. Bush. And their faithfulness paid off. From naming Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, to transgender military bans and Muslim bans, to defunding Planned Parenthood and creating a division of Religious Freedom, Trump has followed through on the promises he made to powerfully push back on liberal aggression.
Today, 82 percent of white evangelicals would cast their ballots for Trump. Two-thirds believe that he has not damaged the decency of the presidency, 55 percent agree with Sarah Huckabee Sanders that “God wanted him to be president,” and 99 percent oppose impeachment.
Politics is a transactional game, and presidents don’t need to be moral to be effective. While much has been made of the hypocrisy of Trump’s Christian supporters, these “values voters” who’d once gone apoplectic over Bill Clinton’s indiscretions and now capitulated to the most immoral president in living memory, the meeting at Trump Tower shows the logical framing of the argument that would lead a certain type of Christian to vote for Trump. “I don’t think Trump changed after that meeting,” Jeffress tells Rolling Stone. “But I know some of those in the room did. Never, never have evangelicals had the access to the president that they have under President Trump.” [Continue reading…]