By now, I am sure, you have heard of the editorial from Christianity Today. This is a major turning point in the Trump era. While Evangelicals do not have the power they did in 1973, they are still a very important group. You can discern this from what the president said in his tweet in the morning. He tried very hard to diminish what happened.
No, we will not see older evangelicals voting for Satan (err, Democrats.) That will hardly happen. However, they may just sit it out. And the numbers of Evangelicals are high enough that they sitting it out may very well change the dynamics of the 2020 election. Yes, this is one-way impeachment politics may play out.
This is what President Donald Trump wrote on his Twitter page:
A far left magazine, or very “progressive,” as some would call it, which has been doing poorly and hasn’t been involved with the Billy Graham family for many years, Christianity Today, knows nothing about reading a perfect transcript of a routine phone call and would rather………have a Radical Left nonbeliever, who wants to take your religion & your guns, than Donald Trump as your President. No President has done more for the Evangelical community, and it’s not even close. You’ll not get anything from those Dems on stage. I won’t be reading ET again!
Let’s be clear about this. The magazine is neither failing or far left. In fact, when Richard Nixon lost Billy Graham, it was one of the nails in that coffin. Billy is no longer alive and his son Franklin was quick to point out that his father voted for Trump. His father also voted for Richard Nixon, so I would say his father was a better judge of character than the son. However, the senior Graham forgave Nixon as well, which is a very Christian thing to do.
So how about this editorial? Well CNN has some interesting numbers:
It’s not a stretch to say that white evangelicals put Trump into office in 2016. About 80% of them voted for him. They did so because of the abortion issue, mostly. They wanted pro-life judges throughout the justice system. But this was a devil’s bargain, at best.
Younger evangelicals, those under 45, have been slowly but steadily moving away from Trump during the past two years or so, unhappy about his example.
A key topic that has driven them away is immigration. Loving your neighbor as yourself has always been a bedrock Christian value. And Trump’s stance on immigrants (especially those of color) has upset the younger generation of evangelicals, with two-thirds of them saying in surveys that immigrants strengthen our country, bringing their work ethic and talents with them from Mexico or Central America or Syria.
Climate change is another issue that has caught the imagination of younger evangelicals. “I can’t love my neighbor if I’m not protecting the earth that sustains them and defending their rights to clean water, clean air, and a stable climate,” Kyle Meyaard-Schaap, a national organizer for Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, told Grist. Needless to say, Trump’s contempt on this subject grates badly on these young Christians.
We may be seeing the beginning of a movement away from Trump, not unlike that of suburban America that already is fleeing. Or for that matter, other groups.
There are ways to read this editorial.
The most cynical is that this is a cry in the wilderness and will have no effect. After all, the editor in chief is leaving in two weeks, so it’s not like he is going to be fired by Franklin Graham.
However, I do think this is a seismic change, but you will not see it immediately. People will not openly say “Trump is a bad man.” But in the privacy of the home or the voting booth, things will happen. We will definitely know in November since there is no way the Senate Republican majority will buck the president. Indeed, they are proving that Donald J Trump could shoot somebody on fifth avenue in broad daylight, they will still find in his favor.
Do I believe this will negatively affect Trump in November because I trust the good nature of the American people? No, not really. I have seen signs from other demographics that the base is starting to fracture.
It is very hard to guess how impeachment politics will work in the end. Most of this will remain private. But if American history is a guide, most presidents who have been impeached did not grow in popularity. Andrew Johnson did not run after his impeachment. His party chose General Ulysses S Grant. So we will never know if he would have been reelected. Nixon resigned. And while Bill Clinton became more popular, his impeachment happened in the second term and he was termed out. The nature of his offense is one that at the time looked like pure revenge. These days, in the MeToo era things, would likely be different.
Trump has not grown more popular. In fact, he has a hard ceiling that has remained from early in his administration. And he has done nothing to grow the base. If any of Trump’s base decides to stay home in sufficient numbers, it is game over. If Democrats manage to get people to the ballots, it is game over. If, as we have seen, the suburbs have turned hard against Trump, it is again…game over.
One signal that things are not going well for Republicans is the number of members of congress that continue to retire. They are about the same as in 2018. So as they say, it will be interesting.