Emma Green, whose job at The Atlantic involves taking religion seriously, wonders why Democrats don’t take religion serious and don’t talk to the 81% of evangelical voters who voted for Donald Trump.
I understand that it can be a mystery why some people voted for Donald Trump, particularly if you’re one of those people who don’t think racism or sexism are things. (We have those in The Left’s whiter, more male neighborhood, and a fuckton of them in the online atheist community, sad to say.) Certainly, if you’ve met a working class Trump voter who voted for Trump believing that he cares about people like them and would never ever repeal the Affordable Care Act, you have a right to wonder what the hell this person was thinking and why the Democrats didn’t craft a better message to reach this person.
But the voting habits of white evangelical voters aren’t mysterious. Their relationship with the GOP is transactional, and has been since the 1980s, when the Moral Majority (ask your parents) helped elect a Hollywood divorcee over one of their own because he’d restrict abortion, squish the feminists, and crush the gays. The people under threat of being squished or crushed looked to the Democrats, just as African Americans did when the GOP embraced Goldwaterism sixteen years earlier. If I were a white evangelical, I’d probably have voted for Trump because his administration is more likely to give me what I want: the right to deny services to the LGBTQ community, the further ruin of women’s health clinics, the assertion of patriarchal control over women’s bodies, and so on. Would a change in religious rhetoric have swayed parallel-universe-Jim-with-a-beard-religious-me?
I doubt it.
After all, do I suddenly think better of Republicans when they quote John Kennedy or FDR? No. What if they started quoting Bertrand Russell or Voltaire? No. I know who Republicans are. I know what they’ll do, and since it’ll cost me and mine, I know I don’t want them to do it. I have things I want out of government–among them services to help me afford what the market has trouble providing, and the freedom to live, work, create, and interact with a marketplace that doesn’t get to assess my skin color or ask me what my religion is or who I fuck before selling me goods and services. I know which party is more likely to give me what I want, and I vote for its candidates (unless they’re well and truly awful).
I never ask why a racist would vote for Donald Trump. He’s a racist too. Now Donald Trump’s lifestyle looks pretty messed up from the white evangelical point of view–as did Ronald Reagan’s, back in the day–but he picked Pence, and he promised to deliver what they want, so they’ll vote for him.
I, on the other hand, wouldn’t vote for a party that promised to give white evangelicals what they want. Most Democrats feel the same way. Elected Democrats, by and large, are aware of this, and that’s why Democrats don’t try to craft appeals to white evangelicals. The Democrats may need a new strategy to win more elections going forward, but one-vote-gained-one-lost probably isn’t it.
The solution to this mystery is that there’s no mystery.