Donald Trump is on the wrong side of the religious right

Donald Trump is on the wrong side of the religious right

Tim Alberta writes:

The sanctuary buzzed as Mike Pence climbed into the elevated pulpit, standing 15 feet above the pews, a Celtic cross over his left shoulder. The former vice president had spoken here, at Hillsdale College, the private Christian school tucked into the knolls of southern Michigan, on several previous occasions. But this was his first time inside Christ Chapel, the magnificent, recently erected campus cathedral inspired by the St. Martin-in-the-Fields parish of England. The space offers a spiritual refuge for young people trying to find their way in the world. On this day in early March, however, it was a political proving ground, a place of testing for an older man who knows what he believes but, like the students, is unsure of exactly where he’s headed.

“I came today to Christ Chapel simply to tell all of you that, even when it doesn’t look like it, be confident that God is still working,” Pence told the Hillsdale audience. “In your life, and in mine, and in the life of this nation.”

It only stands to reason that a man who felt God’s hand on his selection to serve alongside Donald Trump—the Lord working in mysterious ways and all—now feels called to help America heal from Trump’s presidency. It’s why Pence titled his memoir, which describes his split with Trump over the January 6 insurrection, So Help Me God. It’s why, as he travels the country preparing a presidential bid, he speaks to themes of redemption and reconciliation. It’s why he has spent the early days of the invisible primary courting evangelical Christian activists. And it’s why, for one of the first major speeches of his unofficial 2024 campaign, he came to Hillsdale, offering repeated references to scripture while speaking about the role of religion in public life.

Piety aside, raw political calculation was at work. Trump’s relationship with the evangelical movement—once seemingly shatterproof, then shaky after his violent departure from the White House—is now in pieces, thanks to his social-media tirade last fall blaming pro-lifers for the Republicans’ lackluster midterm performance. Because of his intimate, longtime ties to the religious right, Pence understands the extent of the damage. He is close personal friends with the organizational leaders who have fumed about it; he knows that the former president has refused to make any sort of peace offering to the anti-abortion community and is now effectively estranged from its most influential leaders.

According to people who have spoken with Pence, he believes that this erosion of support among evangelicals represents Trump’s greatest vulnerability in the upcoming primary—and his own greatest opportunity to make a play for the GOP nomination.

But he isn’t the only one. [Continue reading…]

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