For the better part of four years, the religious right has insisted to all who will listen that Donald Trump has a mandate from God himself to not only make America great again, but make America Christian again. What extraordinary evidence do they offer for this extraordinary claim? Well, to hear the nation’s so-called moral guardians talk, Russia didn’t hack the election for Trump–God did. Therefore, Therefore, they say, the opposition to Trump is demonically driven.
This has formed the basis for an almost otherworldly level of support for Trump among white evangelicals. It’s a big reason why Trump has been able to remain standing despite approval ratings that would be lethal to almost any other politician in normal times.
It’s also why the religious right has been more than willing to overlook Trump’s boorish and debauched behavior, both past and present. Indeed, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins openly admitted that he and his fundie compatriots were giving Trump a “mulligan” for his past sins as long as he gave them what they wanted on policy.
But if another unreconstructed culture warrior, Pat Robertson, is to be believed, that mulligan is in serious jeopardy. What could Trump possibly do to lose the religious right’s favor? Well, according to Robertson, Trump’s decision to pull troops out of northern Syria could potentially cost Trump his divine mandate.
On Sunday night, Trump announced he was pulling American forces out of northern Syria as Turkey was due to begin a long-planned military offensive in the region. Watch coverage from CBS News here.
The move raised eyebrows in both Syria and in Washington, in part because of fears that Turkey could turn its fury on the Kurdish-dominated alliance that has fought vigorously against the Islamic State. There were also fears it could embolden Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and his backers in Russia and Iran.
With few exceptions, lawmakers from both parties blasted Trump’s decision. This included a number of Republicans who seemingly rediscovered their spines, including Senators Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham.
But almost as telling was a sharply-worded rebuke from Robertson that led off Monday’s edition of “The 700 Club.” Watch here.
Robertson characterized the planned Turkish move as an “invasion”–one that could put the Kurds in “grave danger” and “tip the balance of power” in Syria. He let it be known that he was “absolutely appalled” that Trump seemed poised to “betray” the Kurds.
But then the Virginia Beach Ayatollah absolutely unloaded on Trump. After upbraiding Trump for allowing Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi to be butchered last year “without any repercussions,” he delivered a sobering warning to the White House.
And I believe–and I want to say this with great solemnity–the president of the United States is in danger of losing the mandate of heaven if he permits this to happen.
Robertson was referring to a concept that dates back to the days of the Chinese Empire. Supposedly, heaven gave the emperor a mandate to rule, on condition that he rule in a just manner. If an emperor or dynasty were to be overthrown, it was usually taken as a sign that the mandate had been forfeited. It’s safe to assume that Robertson thought he was speaking as one Ivy Leaguer to another. After all, Robertson graduated from Yale Law, while Trump graduated from Penn’s Wharton School.
Even without that connection to consider, the fact that Robertson dared to call Trump out is very telling. Robertson is speaking to an audience that lives mostly in a Christianist cocoon. Many hardcore fundies consider “The 700 Club” to be a major news source.
It’s hard to believe Trump didn’t take notice. After all, he almost certainly knows that if the religious right had abandoned him in the wake of the Access Hollywood tapes, his campaign would have been dead in the water. He knows he owes the fundies a massive political debt, and has spent the last two-plus years servicing it. Besides appointing some of the most conservative judges in the history of the federal bench and his efforts to reverse Barack Obama’s policies on abortion and LGBT rights, there’s the presence of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education.
Trump also knows that if the religious right turns on him, the odds of him weathering the House’s impeachment inquiry become extremely long. We already have one clear sign that this may be hitting a nerve with Trump. As I write this on Monday night, Trump hasn’t turned his Twitter blowtorch on Robertson. Nor have there been any attacks on Robertson on deplorable Twitter.
Trump has vowed that he will “destroy and obliterate” Turkey’s economy if the Turkish army does harm to the Kurds. But will it be enough for Robertson and the fundies to say that Trump still has the mandate of heaven? That remains to be seen.
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