Most people associate the religious right with issues like abortion and “family values”. Those were latecomers to the religious right’s embrace though. Donald Wildmon started the whole decency campaign business, in the mid 1970s, which was aimed at television, because he thought most television shows were terribly indecent. Shows like M*A*S*H, but not because of the serious subjects like war and death, but hey, sleeping around! Around 1980, Wildmon recruited Jerry Falwell in his crusade against television. They hadn’t yet glommed onto abortion as an issue, but it wouldn’t be long before that became their main banner, and a highly successful tactical move, along with the move of fueling paranoia about all those perverted gays and their satanic agenda. Things hadn’t gone well for them on the television front, they were dismissed and mocked, for the most part, and of course, the shows they railed against gained very large viewerships. I ended up watching a few shows myself just because of the fuss they made. Prior to the attempt to control television, then moving onto controlling the lives of possibly pregnant people, and trying to stuff all queer people down a well, the religious right was very active in keeping things white. Very white. There are a number of evangelical people now citing abortion as a reason for sticking with Trump, even though they freely admit he’s an awful person, but I suspect the main reason is white nationalism, now back and more popular than ever before. Right Wing Watch has a good look at this, and the hope for the good ol’ days which is fueling much of the religious right’s backing of Trump.
Decades before the current paranoia about LGBT and women’s rights somehow contributing to anti-Christian persecution, right-wing activistsemployedrhetoric about religious liberty and government overreach to defend their private segregated academies and deride efforts to “redefine” marriage to include couples of different races.
Evangelists such as Jerry Falwell and Bob Jones explicitly preached racial separation and opposition to the civil rights movement. Falwell opened a segregated school in response to efforts to integrate Virginia’s education system. Jones’ university openly practiced racial discrimination for decades, citing the Bible.
In fact, the modern Religious Right movement emerged as a political force not to fight abortion rights, as many of its supporters routinely claim, but to protect segregated private schools and institutions like Bob Jones University from losing tax-exempt status because of their racist policies, claiming that losing tax-exempt status constituted a government attack on their religious beliefs.
Religious Right favorites like former Gov. Mike Huckabee, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore and Family Research Council head Tony Perkins courted a well-known segregationist group, and pamphlets such as “Segregation: God’s Plan and God’s Purpose” and “God: The Original Segregationist” portrayed integration as a direct attack on God and biblical commandments.
Trump, much in the tradition of conservative stalwarts like Jesse Helms and George Wallace, has stoked outrage about social progress, and has run a campaign based on the demonization of Latinos and African Americans.
Trump’s warnings about a global conspiracy of powerful bankers, media barons and secret puppet masters seeking to take down his campaign and destroy America resemble past and current conspiracy theories popular on the far Right that are often ridden with anti-Semitic imagery. His remarks about nefarious elites quashing U.S. freedom and sovereignty to create “a world government“ mirror the conspiratorial warnings about a coming “New World Order“ from televangelists such as Pat Robertson and John Hagee.
Those white nationalist roots of the religious right are now close to coming home to roost, and they most seriously want that to happen. They’ve learned to talk only about hot button issues, like abortion, or fueling panic and paranoia about transgender people occasionally having the need to use a public lav, but the initial shared desires have not changed, and they won’t have a much better chance of bringing those roots to bear than with Trump.