The end of religious identity politics

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The beach at St. George Island

Mark Silk

The beach at St. George Island

The beach at St. George Island

The beach at St. George Island

ST. GEORGE ISLAND, FLORIDA — Driving down to this beach resort from Tallahassee, there were signs reading “Trump” amidst the pine trees and Baptist churches but nary a “Rubio” or a “Cruz.” They’ll be voting for the Donald here on the Redneck Riviera, and unless the polls are wildly wrong, the Panhandle will be the leading edge of his victory today. Bon voyage, Little Marco.

In a crazy political year, perhaps we have one thing to applaud: the evident end of religious identity politics. Evangelicals have been decidedly lukewarm toward preacher’s kid Ted Cruz and fellow-traveler Rubio, and they showed no interest whatsoever in Mike Huckabee this time around. Jews, so far as we can tell, are not particularly feeling the Bern. And Catholics barely gave Jeb Bush and Rick Santorum the time of day.

Rejecting prevailing views, he framers of the Constitution decided that there would be no religious test for federal office — a principle that, when it comes to actual voting behavior, has often been honored in the breach. This year, the principle has been embraced fervently. Whatever they might have thought about the candidates themselves, I think the framers would have been happy.

  • samuel johnston

    St. George Island is my favorite Summer vacation retreat. We stay on the Bay side – away from the beach party goers. But I digress. You are correct that the Panhandle is a very different Florida from the heel of the boot. It is mostly hard scrabble working fishermen, loggers, millhands, construction workers, and retired military. Religion vies with other loyalties for their vote, and this time when wages are squeezed, it is easy to blame the immigrants and the rich. The exclusive gated half of St. George Island, complete with its own private airport and golf course, kind of represents in-your-face tourest wealth, little of which has tricked down to the locals who vote and reside there year round. Rubio is not their sort, and Cruz is an old style one trick pony. Trump gets their juices flowing.

  • Ira Rifkin

    The content of this post is, of course, spot on.
    The headline, however, is, IMHO, way, way premature.*
    One election with its particular set of issues and, and this is important, it’s available candidates will not of itself change Americans’ reliance on identity politics, religious and otherwise.
    And it certainly won’t impact identity politics as practiced outside the US, which of course will push Americans deeper into reliance on their own identity brands.
    We’re tribal animals, for better AND worse.
    * You may disregard everything I’ve said here if the headline’s intent was knowingly and merely to grab eyeballs — a journalistic conceit with which I’m quite familiar and have done myself. 🙂

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  • From a Franklin County Florida resident. Honestly there is not one candidate who is President material.

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  • MarkE

    I have to admit I agree with you. I am singularly disappointed in this whole process. I hate that my vote may have to be a protest vote (once again).

  • lee

    Yeh, perhaps, just maybe religious identities, but not identity politics at large (racial, class, national, ethnic). The wanton pandering by Trump to (white) middle class angst also targets their protestant bloc, & none too subtly either. But his bellicose performances really have one group in mind, the Archie Bunkers of the world.

    Here Trump is carrying us into likewise familiar ground, not only that of Huey Long, Geo. Wallace but also Silvio Berlusconi, Juan Peron, Francisco Franco… any one of whom typified the charismatic demagogue presiding over a protracted course into stagnation.

    It’s a tycoon’s gambit in the name of rentier wealth defence, a national errand that historically has led nowhere except to inflation & a lost generation….

    We really don’t need to go there… Not with so much new technologisation on the horizon, esp. an incipient solar boom that’ll become the most prominent feature of the 21st C.

  • EJB

    I don’t think the framers would be happy with the prospect of Donald Trump being president.

    At least that’s what Mormons seem to think. Mormons who have overwhelmingly voted Republican for many years would rather vote for a Democrat than vote for Donald Trump if he is the Republican nominee. See the Deseret News and Atlantic articles below:

    Poll: Utah would vote for a Democrat for president over Trump

    How Donald Trump Could End the Republican Lock on the Mormon Vote

    The Utah Caucus results from Tuesday:

    86% of Utah Republicans voted for someone other than Trump – 0 (zero) Utah delegates went to Trump

    79.3% of Utah Democrats voted for Bernie Sanders – Sanders picked up 26 Utah delegates to Clinton’s 6