Trump: the art of the evangelical deal

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Donald Trump in New Hampshire in August 2015


Donald Trump in New Hampshire in August 2015

Donald Trump in New Hampshire in August 2015

Donald Trump in New Hampshire in August 2015

I don’t know how many of you watched the speech Donald Trump gave in Alabama last week, but if  you haven’t you should. The guy can do stand-up. If you close your eyes and don’t pay too much attention to the words, you’d swear you were listening to Billy Crystal.

To say that the crowd of 30,000 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile ate it up is an understatement. That of course is God’s Country, so if you thought Trump would throw a bone or two to the white evangelical base, you’d be right.

He said he loved Billy Graham. And after allowing as how his own Art of the Deal is his favorite book, he corrected himself and made it his second favorite book. After the Bible. And, he added, the competition “isn’t even close.” The Bible is way ahead. Whew.

The only other religious reference he managed to get out (with the possible exception of Israel: “I love Israel…they’re great people”) was an acknowledgement of the role of the Deity in his own amazing existence: “I am going to be the greatest jobs president that God ever created.”

The one piece of schtick that fell flat was where the Scourge of Megyn Kelly, eager to profess his devotion to the fairer sex and to give Jeb Bush another jab, promised that a Trump administration would totally cover women’s health issues. Evidently he’s not too bothered by Planned Parenthood or Obamacare’s evil Contraception Mandate.

No wonder what passes for the leadership of what passes for the religious right is freaking out. Here you’ve got these preachers’ kids Ted Cruz and and Scott Walker, this one-time head of the Arkansas Baptist Convention Mike Huckabee, and a slew of other church-going politicians vying to be the next Republican president, and your folks are falling for a fast-talking New Yorker who barely tips his hat to traditional family values.

The latest numbers out of South Carolina, where evangelicals make up two-thirds of the GOP primary electorate, show Trump far ahead of the pack with 30 percent (and 33 percent of evangelicals). OMG, what hath God wrought?

  • MarkE

    Donald J. Trump as the acceptable conservative Christian candidate for the Presidency would be a death knell for conservative evangelicalism/ fundamentalist Christianity. Perhaps that’s a good thing.

  • Larry

    Trump is demonstrating that one should try to distinguish themselves from a crowd when running for office. The lessons people should have learned from the 2012 GOP primary. When you have a gaggle of people who are all fawning over the Bible thumper vote, they dilute the appeal of each other.

    Is there any serious distinction between one theocratic, misogynist, bigot and another? Even the alleged fiscal conservatives of the bunch (Christie, Walker, and JBush) are trying to play that game. Trump to his credit is blatantly only paying lip service to that and doesn’t take it seriously. Appealing to the conservatives who aren’t as theocratically bent and demonstrating a level of showmanship which other candidates are lacking.

    Its also amazing how much of his platform is complete and utter (yet popular) bullcrap. His “immigration” policy is a combination of DOA proposals and impossible promises. Tapping into the nativist vote as a long ignored source of numbers.

  • John McGrath

    Trump gets it. Conservative politics is just about entertainment. His whole campaign is like a Jon Stewart satire of right wing politics.

  • Larry

    Trump as a Pro-Wrestling “heel” (villain)\

    “Trump’s press conference and stump speech was a clinic in how to get “heat” from an audience. Trump satisfied and moved his supporters; he created anger and rage among his detractors. This is the definition of a perfect wrestling promo.”

  • Jack

    Jon Stewart’s act wore thin after a while…..He was loved by flocks of wide-eyed, giggly, white-bread lefties from cow country who never met a New Yorker in their life and didn’t know enough history to realize that what they worshipped as “cool” was warmed-over liberalism from 40 years ago.

  • Larry

    Jon Stewart was also loved by New Yorkers as well. Not just as a comedian, but as someone who campaigned for an issue very personal to them, even better than most politicians, the Zadroga Act (aka 9/11 First Responders Aid).

    Many of your “fiscal conservatives in flyover states” were busy telling various former Ground Zero aid/rescue/cleanup workers to buzz off and die (while praising them in public), Stewart publicized what was happening to those workers and how the GOP was looking to bend them over.

    Stewart may have been a lazy comedian at times. Relying too much on the hang dog puppy face when jokes bombed, but he earned the respect of everyone to whom 9/11 was personal history. Not just something you saw a video of. He gets a lifetime pass for that.

  • Jack

    Larry, I happen to agree strongly with him and you on that issue for reasons that should be obvious, but it’s telling the way you couch the matter — in a nasty, partisan way, accusing those on the other side of wanting people to die.

    That’s where you and I operate in separate universes. I’m willing to grant the possibility that on at least some issues, people with views diametrically opposed to my own have motives that are just as sincere as mine. You seem to believe that every Republican is by definition a moral monster….which is quite a convenient way of shutting down unwanted (and potentially dangerous) debate before it begins. .

  • low-tech cyclist

    Be who you are.

    I think that’s Trump’s biggest lesson for politicians. He doesn’t have to stop and think everything through, he just goes ahead and says what he thinks.

    In a world of politicians afraid to have an unscripted moment, he stands out as something genuine.

    The fact that his policies don’t fit together in any coherent manner, and often don’t even make sense individually, is playing a distant second fiddle with his fans, because they agree with him on enough important things, and will take his genuineness in lieu of the rest.

    No, I wouldn’t want this guy to be President – no freakin’ way! – but that doesn’t diminish the truth of the lesson.

  • Sabelotodo2

    Trump’s success on the stump can be easily explained by considering that he embodies some of the worst characteristics of a showman and a dishonest salesman. Those folks know how to play to a crowd and entertain them while appealing to their baser emotions of fear and hatred of an unpopular minority group in their midst. Hitler was said to have mesmerized large crowds for hours. We know how that sad movie ended.

    I’ve never known evangelicals to be among the more deep and critical thinkers who scrutinize a speaker’s current words against past positions and behaviors. Somehow the majority of them “get it”–that by the time one reaches their 50’s-60’s they have forged a legacy of attitudes and actions that has written the book of their character based on what their words, passions and actions have produced. I see little evidence that the Bible is central to Trump’s life. His “life-book” can be appropriately titled: “Trump: the art of . . . Trump!”