For decades Americans have chosen politics over their faith. They have just not done it so brazenly as recently. Donald Trump’s election has brought to the fore questions about morality, faith and respect of others, particularly among evangelicals.
It’s no secret white evangelicals are the President’s biggest fans and they have been loyal supporters of the GOP’s religious liberty and pro-life agenda for decades. For the most part, prior GOP Presidents have had warts but not nearly ones as massive as Trump’s. From Trump’s rhetoric and treatment of women, minorities and other racial groups, evangelicals have had to tolerate a lot with this President.
While the President has been an ardent opponent of abortion and supporter of religious liberty white evangelicals have never been presented with having to pick between the two and, more importantly, pick politics over their faith. This is not meant to be inflammatory, I am not an evangelical, but the Bible does preach tolerance and love. The President seems to show it only for certain groups.
Evangelicals are hardly the only group to be practicing this phenomenon in spades. Black evangelicals, like their racial counter-parts elsewhere, vote overwhelmingly Democratic, even as they profess to oppose abortion and gay marriage. I know, I had a wtf moment too.
Catholics certainly do not deserve a pass either. Many old-school Catholics, white, Hispanic, and black, vote for candidates across the country who support gay marriage and support “abortion on demand,” or at least increased access to abortion. This is not just arguably in conflict with their faith but it also is in direct contradiction of the Catholic Church.
People’s faith is obviously individualistic in nature. But, increasing, politics is making Americans pick politics over their faith and come to terms with their votes. The way people come to terms with their votes in relation to their values, again, is individualistic, but the fact Americans are having to do so speaks more about the sad state of American politics and society than anything else.
As the two major parties move further and further apart it increasingly is forcing people to choose between the lesser of two evils. Just look at young, white evangelicals as an example. These voters are open to diversity, they grew up in it, yet at the same time they also uniformly oppose abortion. They dislike Trump’s rhetoric and the way he demonizes minorities but choosing a party which is seen as promoting “abortion on demand” is just as repugnant. There isn’t a good fit for these kinds of voters in either party and as a result they will sit out the election or default to voting on the issue they value most.
Admittedly, Americans have been doing this for decades. I mean, until recently, West Virginians were voting for two Democratic Senators consistently even as they professed pro-life tendencies (and yes, they still vote for Joe Manchin). In some ways, the individualistic nature of America’s nullify the national party’s views on the local and congressional level.
The same cannot be said for Presidential campaigns where wings of each party tend to pick their chosen nominee. Of course, every time, only one candidate wins. We often lament how few people participate in politics, but maybe we don’t give them enough incentive too. Again, when many arguments resolve around the lesser of two evils, look at their warts instead of mine, it is hard to get much enthusiasm out of people to support you.
This might seem like a sour view of our politics and the choices it forces people to make but I am pretty sure (without scientific data) most people at least somewhat agree with it. Nobody denies American politics has its warts. They also would be unlikely to deny they don’t fit well in the party they vote more. Case in point; most Americans might be closet partisans even as they identify as Independents, but there is a reason they still don’t want to be labelled Democrats, Republicans or something else.
Americans have always had to make trade-offs in their political choices. But it has grown more pronounced since 2016. It might seem easy to criticize somebody for voting the way they do knowing the values they espouse and practice. But, remember, you are probably in the same boat.
Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian