“The Republican base is thoroughly infected with sympathies for the insurrection.” (Peter Wehner, “The GOP Is a Grave Threat to Democracy.” The Atlantic, April 26, 2021)
White evangelicals overwhelmingly supported Donald Trump’s re-election. 61 percent of them buy what the progressives label “The Big Lie,” the belief that the 2020 election was stolen by the Democrats (Public Research Institute, May 12, 2021).
This sixty-one percent feels that they are in an existential battle against the far left. They believe their values and traditions are under attack. These white evangelicals don’t like Trump’s morality, but, according to Wehner, he’s tough and ruthless. He’ll fight for them. That’s what matters.
If you talk to a white evangelical about Trump’s sins and lack of Christian values, their common response, is “What about Biden and his support for gays? What about the far left and their radical socialist views?”
There’s a level of hypocrisy in this approach. Back in the 1990s white evangelicals railed against the immorality of President Bill Clinton. According to Wehner, a Christian, in a CNN interview, this indicates that morality was a political weapon used in the 1990s, but abandoned in the Age of Trump, showing the world that morality was being used by the religious right as a political weapon. This level of hypocrisy puts Christianity in a bad light.
White evangelicals support Trump to the hilt. They won’t speak truth to power. They are Trump’s sword and shield. The more he lies, the stronger their support for him, according to Wehner.
Part of the religious right’s support for Trump comes because of the lies of Republican leadership. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, as an example, plays to this lie, refusing to support a bipartisan investigation into the Jan. 6 insurrection after he originally supported such an effort. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell backpedaled on the commission as well, saying it wasn’t necessary. No. 3 Conservative Rep. Liz Cheney was ousted from power recently, not because her views were too liberal, but for saying forcefully and openly that the election wasn’t stolen.
Beau of the Fifth Column suggests that what the Republicans are doing is focusing on regaining control of the House and Senate in the 2022 elections by playing to “The Big Lie”. If they can muster Trump’s conservative base — the 61 percent —Republicans do regain the House and Senate. Since most Republicans believe those lies, it should be easy for them to rouse Trump’s base to come out and vote in 2022.
It seems clear that the religious right is being played by Republican leadership. If they can keep Trump’s base angry and fearful until the 2022 Congressional elections, Republicans can regain of Congress.
Fox News is perpetuating “The Big Lie,” knowing and publicly stating that reasonable people would not believe its commentators, because what Fox commentators are saying is obviously untrue. They are really saying that the religious right is either ignorant, stupid and/or fearful.
It’s not very ethical for a political party to manipulate its own supporters, but truth is not a big value among the Republican leadership today. Just consider Rep. Cheney’s ouster from power for telling the truth, or Sen. Mitt Romney being booed for voting to remove Trump from office during the second impeachment trial.
The real issue is about power in the government. The religious right is being used as a pawn in this power struggle.
The Apostle Paul tells Christians in I Corinthians 1:26: “Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential….” Paul’s description is a fairly accurate description of many of those of the religious right nearly 2,000 years later.
Many conservative Christians refuse to wear masks or get vaccinated. They are acting this way because they don’t trust the current Democratic-controlled government. They also don’t trust science because evolution seems to contradict the creation accounts found in Genesis 1 and 2. These Christians have built themselves a house of cards. If the Genesis 1 and 2 accounts fail, then the veracity of the whole Bible is put into question, or so they believe. That is a scary possibility that is too great to bear — so all science is viewed with suspicion. Fear keeps all of us from thinking rationally and being open to opposing views.
Peter Wehner was right: “The Republican base is thoroughly infected with sympathies for the insurrection.” Many of the Christian right have decided they would rather be ruled by lying leaders. They seek certainty and security, and in the process may end up ceding democracy for all of us.