The religious right made what can only be described as a Faustian deal with Donald Trump when he locked up the Republican nomination in 2016. The nation’s so-called moral guardians knew he wasn’t an icon of morality or decency. They knew his relationship with the truth was tenuous at best.
But none of that mattered. Nope, all that mattered was that Trump made clucking noises the religious right liked on abortion and marriage equality, and promised to appoint line-drawing conservatives to our courts. As a result, the religious right was willing to sacrifice every standard of decency that is known.
The most grotesque example of this came after the release of the “Access Hollywood” tapes. Several religious right leaders claimed–with a straight face–that it didn’t matter if Trump had been caught on tape reveling in degrading women. No, no–what really mattered was ending abortion and marriage equality, and protecting Israel.
What made it even more grotesque is that many of these same people wanted Bill Clinton run out of the White House on a rail for moral reasons. In other words, they wanted Clinton impeached because he wasn’t a moral icon. And yet, some of them have turned Trump into a golden calf–or rather, an orange calf. The hypocrisy was so blatant that it burned.
Four years later, it appears that at least one evangelical leader has neither learned nor forgotten anything since 2016. He openly declared that he will still vote for Trump in November, despite Trump’s glaring flaws. Why? Wait for it–the alternative is full-blown socialism.
Michael L. Brown was one of the original leaders of the Brownsville Revival in Pensacola, Florida. He struck out on his own in 2001, and now helms a ministry in my hometown of Charlotte that combines Brownsville’s original spirit with line-drawing social conservatism. He initially supported Ted Cruz for president in 2016, but held his nose and voted for Trump in November. His rationale was that for all of Trump’s faults, he was still preferable to Hillary Clinton.
Frankly, this line is as bewildering then as it was now. So rolling back abortion and marriage equality were so important that we must vote in a guy who plastered a private cell phone number on social media, mocked the disabled, and reveled in degrading women? Apparently so, in Brown’s eyes. It’s become even more bewildering when you consider that we have a president who has no qualms about using his Twitter feed to degrade women, spew outright racist bile, and give succor to disinformation.
But in his latest column for Charisma magazine, Brown seemingly brushes that off. He writes that even with Trump’s “obvious flaws,” he would still rather see Trump in the White House than a Democrat any day. As he sees it, it’s “only a vote,” and does not amount to “selling my soul.” He recently spoke with a leader of the underground church in China who maintained that Trump was “the only thing holding back America from a fall into socialism.”
But in the same breath, Brown openly admits that he knows exactly who Trump is.
Of course, I would love it if the president were also a moral icon. It would be terrific if he was a powerful unifier. I would be thrilled if he didn’t give his opponents so much fodder for their hatred. And it would be wonderful if he lifted up the national dialogue rather than helped drag it down.
But, given the choices that lie before us, I would much prefer a Trump presidency to a Biden presidency.
If I’m reading this right, Brown is saying that he is still willing to vote for Trump even though he is not willing to fulfill some of the most basic duties of the presidency–unite the country, upgrade our discourse, and be an example to the nation. Asking him to do that isn’t requiring him to be a moral icon. It’s insisting that he do his job.
This logical contortion would be staggering by itself, but is even more so in light of two examples in the last two weeks that should lead anyone to question whether anything Trump does is worth it.
On July 21, Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez got into a heated confrontation with Republican colleague Ted Yoho. The Florida Republican called the New York Democrat “disgusting” and “crazy.” When AOC came back from a floor vote, Yoho was standing with reporters and called AOC a “f***ing bitch.”
In response to demands for an apology, Yoho took the House floor on July 24 and tried to use his wife and daughters to deflect from his outrageous behavior. AOC was having none of it. Watch her response here.
AOC pointed out that Yoho’s comments represented “a culture of lack of impunity, of accepting violence and violent language against women, and an entire structure of power that supports that.” And it is a culture that was enabled by a party that saw fit to nominate a man who reveled in degrading women as its standardbearer, and has essentially made him an icon. Are you saying that doesn’t matter, Dr. Brown?
And on Monday, Trump and other right-wing luminaries loudly trumpeted a video posted by “America’s Frontline Doctors,” a fringe group of doctors promoting unproven cures for coronavirus. The video and the group’s Website were both swiftly deleted, in large part because one of its members, Houston-area pediatrician Stella Immanuel, openly declared that you don’t need to wear a mask to protect against the virus.
The Daily Beast’s Will Sommer subsequently reported that Immanuel is, to put it in the kindest terms, a full-on quack. She believes diseases can be caused by having sex in your dreams with demons and witches, claims alien DNA is used in medical treatments, and that scientists are working on a vaccine to prevent people from becoming religious.
And yet, Trump still defended her, even going as far as to walk out on a press briefing when pressed on his continued support for her. Are rolling back abortion and marriage equality and stopping socialism at the gates so important that we must tolerate a president who has no qualms about giving his imprimatur to quackery? If the answer to that question is yes, something is very wrong.
We don’t expect our president to be a moral icon. We do, however, expect him to live by the same standards as the rest of us. No cause is so important that those standards must be thrown out the window.
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