The evangelical Right’s race to blame the “liberal wing of evangelism” should wake Democrats up to something: opportunity.
This is a link to the editorial in the Rev. Billy Graham-founded “Christianity Today”, which upset the President and lit up the imaginations of many a Democrat. What may be an even more significant revelation is the subsequent backlash against the “liberal wing of evangelicalism” as Franklin Graham puts it, while Jerry Falwell, Jr. points out Hillary Clinton got the votes of only around “20% of evangelicals” in 2016. (When we searched his Twitter feed for this piece we also found: 1) He posed for a photo with the President last night at Mar-a-Lago, 2) He boasted that he said the 2020 Presidential Election “will be Hiroshima and Nagasaki for the Dems!”)
Of course, they might simply be setting up straw men (and women) to energize their worshipers and Trump’s base. Just blame everything on the Left and Liberals and Socialists like Trump does.
Still, 20% is not a completely insignificant number.
It’s hard to say how many evangelical Protestants there are in this country, (which is mostly what we’re talking about when we talk about “Trump’s impenetrable base”) but it’s a lot: perhaps 15% of the population, according to a slightly outdated Pew Research Center report. So that’d be about 50,000,000 people. Take the 20% whom Falwell stipulates voted for Hillary and that’s about 10,000,000 people. (Of course not all evangelicals voted, but do tend to vote in pretty high percentages.) So if you can get that number up by 10% say, that’d be another 1,000,000 people against Trump, probably a lot of them in key states, and that’s why it scares the crap out of him and has led him in the past week to get various evangelical leaders to reassure and re-endorse him (and also assert “no President has ever done what I have done for Evangelicals, or religion itself!”). So a shift in loyalties away from Trump of just 2% of the evangelical vote could make all the difference.
So perhaps the admission by the evangelical Right that there actually is an evangelical Left, will wake Democrats up to something else: opportunity.
That upside among evangelicals is definitely capped by the Democratic Party’s unyielding stance on abortion, and that’s not going to change. Nor—as we argued recently—should it. A woman determining what she should do with her body should be completely separate from politics. Nobody’s forced to get an abortion currently. But it isn’t. And that issue alone keeps a lot of votes in Trump’s column.
We assumed an appeal to evangelicals was part of what was up when Hillary Clinton named Virginia Senator Tim Kaine her running mate in 2016. (And we consider it a major strategic failing that it wasn’t). “Personally, I’m opposed to abortion”, Kaine told NBC not too long before he was chosen. Although he did also say he would support the law of the land (which currently includes a woman’s right to get an abortion, and it did back then too. In the future…?)
We expected the former missionary and devout Christian (even though he’s Catholic), to get out and do a ton of outreach on behalf of the Democratic ticket in churches and evangelical communities particularly in swing states. But to our astonishment, he did little of that, when we expected it to be one of his central roles.
Anyway, back in July, we wrote a column commenting on how much and how freely Trump blasphemes at public events, especially knowing who his audience tends to be at those events.
Then in August, we wrote a column entitled: Are Evangelicals (And Some Other Voters) All Of A Sudden Really Rethinking Their Support Of Trump?, in which we expressed skepticism that any minds were being changed at all, despite a sudden spate of media reports suggesting that might be the case.
But now we’re now willing to entertain the idea that perhaps we were too skeptical, and the idea of standing up against Trump’s behaviors and blasphemies just took time to build. These are not always voices that are easily heard with others screaming over the top of them. Will they build to significant enough numbers to impact the next election? Few seem sold on that possibility. But as we just demonstrated, a shift of just a little bit can potentially make a huge difference. Still, it does seem another question that can’t possibly be definitively answered until Election Day.