A lot of blame can, and should, be directed at many of those responsible for the debacle named Donald Trump and its deterioration of the Republican Party and our American political system.
Former GOP presidential speechwriter Michael Gerson says a lot of the blame should land on hypocritical White evangelicals and its abandonment of morality and its Christian faith.
“America is now experiencing is a massive failure of character — a nationwide blackout of integrity — among elected Republicans,” Gerson writes. “From the president, a graceless and deceptive insistence on victory after a loss that was not even close. From congressional Republicans, a broad willingness to conspire in President Trump’s lies and to slander the electoral system without consideration of the public good. Only a few have stood up against Republican peer pressure of contempt for the constitutional order.”
How could such a thing happen in the GOP? It is not an aberration. It is the culmination of Trump’s influence among Republicans, and among White evangelical Christians in particular. Their main justification for supporting Trump — that the president’s character should be ignored in favor of his policies — has become a serious danger to the republic.
Trump never even presented the pretense of good character. His revolt against the establishment was always a revolt against the ethical ground rules by which the establishment played. When he mocked a reporter with a disability, or urged violence at his rallies, or attacked a Gold Star family, Republicans accepted it as part of the Trump package. And some of his most fervent defenses came from White evangelicals.
A group that was once seen as censorious became the least strict chaperone at Trump’s bacchanal. Under the president’s influence, White evangelicals went from the group most likely to believe personal morality matters in a politician to the group that is least likely. “We’re not electing a pastor in chief,” explained Jerry Falwell Jr., the former president of Liberty University. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Dallas, argued that “outward policies” should matter more than “personal piety.” Ralph Reed of the Faith and Freedom Coalition made his case for Trump’s reelection based on conservative deliverables. “There has never been anyone,” Reed said, “who has defended us and who has fought for us, who we have loved more than Donald J. Trump.”
Evangelicals looked the other way when Trump lied over and over again to Congress, the public and, yes, even them.
This is politics at its most transactional. Trump was being hired by evangelicals to do a job — to defend their institutions, implement pro-life policies and appoint conservative judges. The character of the president was irrelevant so long as he kept his part of the bargain. Which Trump largely did.
But now we know what a president without character looks like in the midst of a governing crisis. We see a dishonest president, spinning lie after lie about the electoral system. A selfish president, incapable of preferring any duty above his own narrow interests. A reckless president, undermining the transition between administrations and exposing the country to risk. A vain president, unable to responsibly process an electoral loss. A corrupt president, willing to abuse federal power to serve his own ends. A spiteful president, taking revenge against officials who have resisted him. A faithless president, indifferent to constitutional principles and his oath of office.
Standing there with the corrupt Trump were the evangelicals, proclaiming their love of his presidency. Those proclamations are also outright support of his immorality, his lawlessness and his greed.
Their actions show a lack of true faith and a greed for power that belies their claims of true religion or the Christianity they fail to serve.
“U.S. politics would be better off if White evangelicals consistently applied their moral tradition to public life,” Gerson concludes. “Not only Christians, of course, can stand for integrity. But consider what would happen if White evangelicals insisted on supporting honest, compassionate, decent, civil, self-controlled men and women for office. The alternative is our current reality, in which evangelicals have often been a malicious and malignant influence in U.S. politics.”
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