Religion was almost invisible during the presidential campaign, and yet it is the missing piece in understanding Mr. Trump’s victory. The Christian right worked largely under the national media’s radar this year, but it helped deliver the presidency to a thrice-married mogul who bragged about groping women and has been accused by multiple women of actually doing it.
They were willing to forgive Mr. Trump’s personal transgressions because he stoked their fears that a Hillary Clinton administration would take away their religious liberties, use their tax dollars to fund late-term abortions at home and abroad, and expand the rights of gay and transgender people, political analysts said. Mr. Trump warned at rallies and at conservative Christian gatherings that he alone was their last hope to protect them against a changing culture, using the refrain, “This is your last chance.”
Now that he has won, evangelical leaders say they are confident Mr. Trump will deliver on the political promises he made to them. These include appointing a conservative to the Supreme Court, defunding Planned Parenthood, protecting businesses that refuse to provide services for same-sex weddings and rescinding the mandate in the Affordable Care Act that requires insurance coverage for birth control.
And with Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, an evangelical with a record of legislating against abortion and same-sex marriage, as vice president, Christian leaders say they feel reassured they will have access to the White House and a seat at the table.
I wrote about this in a comment at Pharyngula, because all kinds of people have been writing some less than stellar pieces about rural white Americans. A lot of people attempting to parse rural America don’t live in it. I do. I’m in a very tiny town in nDakota. This is what I wrote in that comment:
I live rural. One thing you often hear from people is “oh, I don’t understand that stuff”, so they go with confirmation bias. This is very clear when it comes to something like climate change. The rest of it can simply be explained by good old conservatism, the preserving of the colonial, Christian, white status quo. A lot of people who live rural are older, conservative, and fearful. They don’t approve of women being able to obtain abortions; they still think single women having sex is scandalous, and they don’t think it’s okay for them to pay for their contraception. They understand healthcare, but are terrified of “creeping socialism”, so they are against ACA. They aren’t terribly keen on that feminism stuff, and anything queer they find very unsettling, set their lips in a straight line and shake their heads. Most won’t come out and say anything nasty, but the “that’s unnatural” vibe is very strong. They don’t think it’s okay for queer people to marry, and they are easily scared by propaganda about transgender people using a public lav.
It is true, to an extent, that rural farmers feel isolated and ignored, but that’s not why they voted for Trump. They aren’t so stupid as to not understand that a one percenter doesn’t give a shit about them, but they think he’ll keep the conservative status quo.
I’ll add to this that to a large extent, in rural areas, you have people who will simply buy, lock, stock, and barrel, whatever the hell they hear on Fox. It seldom bothers them that all those screaming pundits who are pandering to fear don’t actually believe what they spout, but are happy enough to get rich off all those who swallow the shit whole. There are more resources than ever, when it comes to finding out whether or not a fear is legitimate; it’s easier than ever to educate yourself and learn, but in spite of that, most older rural people stay very insular on the internet, too. They might email, they might have an account at Facebook, but to them, the rest of the ‘net is as bewildering and just as frightening as the ‘real’ world. They yearn for those imaginary good old days, they want their 1950s back, when people of colour knew their place and those uppity women were properly punished if they had sex.
Christians have a great capacity for hypocrisy and cognitive dissonance. In a matter of a few short decades, they’ve gone from denouncing politicians who couldn’t keep their pants zipped, and other activities they considered immoral. That doesn’t matter anymore. What matters now is the ends justifying the means. Oh, when a raging pundit gets caught with his pants around his ankles while swallowing fistfuls of illegal drugs? Eh, we should pray for the poor man. Bill Clinton gets a blow job? Pretty sure most people remember the conservative Christian outrage on that on. Trump is a sexual predator, a rapist, and a cheater, but white Christians don’t seem terribly concerned about that. Nor are they terribly concerned about the amount of boys who are grabbing girls by the crotch, claiming it’s okay because the Prez said so. Those Christian values are amazingly elastic, they expand and contract to either cover something unacceptable, or to exclude anything or anyone disapproved of by them.
As recently as five years ago, Christians were far more judgmental of politicians accused of transgressions in their personal lives. Now, in the era of Mr. Trump, there is more tolerance, especially among evangelicals, according to a study by Mr. Jones’s institute. The group often called “values voters” was not dissuaded by headlines about Mr. Trump sexually harassing women, lying, refusing to pay taxes or stiffing contractors.
“Trump has really changed their entire political ethic. It’s moved from a principled basis to more of a utilitarian ethic, where the ends justify the means,” Mr. Jones said.
The hypocrisy there is absolutely stunning, but Christians excel at justifying the most awful and evil actions. They are quite comfortable with evil, and being evil, because they always think it’s okay if they do it. It’s only wrong if those others do it. Yes, Christians have marched fascism into power, and like fascists before, they have all the justifications in the world why it’s the right thing to do. In order to get their way, in order to be in control of other people, they have joined arms with the very worst of white supremacists. As evil blossoms in this lost country, white Christians will continue to justify the flames even as they are being consumed by them.
Recommended Reading: What happens in the US doesn’t stay in the US.