The Problem With Fundamentalists Defending Il Trumpe Isn’t The Hypocrisy

Since news of porn star Stormy Daniels’ affair with Donald Trump broke, followed by multiple defenses of Trump by the fundamentalist right, there has been a spate of articles decrying fundamentalists’ hypocrisy. While it’s an appealing line of attack, especially after decades of fundamentalist and Republican sanctimony, I think this is the wrong way to go about it. Ultimately, we need to emphasize why they are still sticking with Trump.

Imagine an alternative timeline, where in 2008, John Edwards wins the primary and presidency. He gets elected and starts making good on his promises: good liberal judges (who are more sympathetic to defendants), some kind of higher minimum wage, better healthcare, stronger unions, and so on. Suddenly, our timeline veers back in, and his adultery while his wife was dying from cancer is revealed. There’s nothing criminal about it, but it is awful (and there’s no reason to think Edwards, unlike Trump, has compromising shady business deals). Still, it is bad. I imagine a fair number of Democrats, liberals, and so on would be tempted to stand by him (including me), because the Republican alternative would be far worse for the country.

Now, put yourself in the mindset of a fundamentalist rightwinger–not the liberal or left interpretation or deconstruction of the ultimate sources of these beliefs (with which I sometimes agree), but someone who believes abortion is mass murder* and that homosexuality is destroying America. Given the supposed stakes (as ridiculous as they are), of course you would still support Trump. In the face of mass murder and moral degeneracy (to be clear to any new readers, I disagree vehemently with these opinions), you have no choice but to support a deeply flawed, even immoral, person.

Here’s the thing: despite the decades-long attempt to normalize fundamentalist opinions as mainstream, they aren’t mainstream. We’re not going to win these voters over, but many others, who don’t hold these opinions, need to be told that evangelicals are still supporting Trump because he is doing things you don’t want. These policies will directly or indirectly affect your life.

Talk about how the fundamentalist policies themselves and the de facto support of Trump’s other policies (e.g., immigration, economics) affects people’s lives. This will work much better than the politics of ‘neener-neener’ and gotcha.

*Most have learned to not refer to abortion as a ‘Holocaust’ out of political necessity. A fair number probably believe this, however.

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5 Responses to The Problem With Fundamentalists Defending Il Trumpe Isn’t The Hypocrisy

  1. Tracy Lightcap says:

    This post hits on a topic often ignored by people who write about Trump’s support. First, the number of people in the US (or elsewhere, for that matter) who have coherent political ideologies is actually quite small. Politicians and well educated people with an intense interest in politics do, but the vast majority of the electorate don’t. Oth, people usually do have one or two issues that they care about a great deal and that parties in the US disagree about.

    This leaves the usual voter in a quandary. Often they either don’t care about (by far the greatest number) or directly oppose party positions on most issues. But one party or the other supports the issue(s) they care about. What to do? What to do? The answer is simple: hold your nose and vote for the party that alines with your preferences on the issue that has most salience with you. Sort of like the fundamentalists and abortion voting for the Republicans thought they disagree with them widely on other issues.

    This is why elected officials so often misread the actual positions of the folks who voted for them. They have coherent ideologies and they assume – almost always incorrectly – that their constituents are as conservative or liberal as they are. They aren’t. It’s that disconnect that can be exploited and in just the ways set out in this post.

    I’ve gotten on your case several times in the past. This time you’ve hit it out of the park.

    • This exactly describes most people I’ve ever known.
      It’s not about coherence it’s about having reasons and I think some reasons aren’t fully consciously formed but made up later. Calling people out for that will just make them come up with more explanatory narratives to justify what they want or what they do.

      • Tracy Lightcap says:

        Yep. Zaller’s The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion makes just this point. You should take a look.
        Also, there’s a difference between ideology and partisanship. Intense partisans are just a little less rare then sincere ideologues. We tend to think that people who don’t like members of a political party they don’t identify with are coherent ideologues too. But, remember, that, when asked about their party preference, the biggest single category of Americans are “leaners”; i.e. they don’t strongly identify with either party, but tend to vote for one or the other. Most of these people have a few issues they feel intensely about that line up with the party they sorta prefer. They also, as I said above, either don’t care or don’t care much about other issues that would seem to be related. That’s often where the faults are that can be used to change attitudes, but it is long boring on hard boards in many cases.

  2. Felicis says:

    But they aren’t saying that they are supporting a deeply flawed person against someone _worse_, they are saying that he is not deeply flawed.

    Further – they are arguing that merely being a Democrat makes one morally flawed, while ignoring moral flaws from Republicans.

    Ultimately, someone who seriously argues that being a Democrat is worse than being a pedophile is not going to listen, but these arguments aren’t aimed at evangelicals supporting Trump – they’re with him. These arguments are aimed at those on the fence who are thinking about which camp they want to join…

    • I know it seems like it’s aimed at people on the fence. But do you honestly believe there’s many people still on the fence to make that worth it? Or is it just the perpetual distraction machine has nowhere to go but total crazy.

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