The Fall from Grace

State the obvious. Over the Fourth of July weekend, in the middle of a longer detailed political analysis of the mess we’re in, NBC News’ Benjy Sarlin did just that:

Americans are growing more fearful of presidential election losses as politics becomes a more all-encompassing part of their identity and the perceived consequences become more dire, leading some to contemplate drastic measures to prevent failure at any cost.

While Trump isn’t the only factor in this shift, his contributions are clear. In the run-up to the 2020 election, Trump warned that a Democratic president would “hurt the Bible, hurt God” and “shut your churches down, permanently” and said at a rally on Jan. 6 that “our country will be destroyed” if Biden’s victory was sealed. He has also for years weakened taboos about invoking political violence, a concern prominent Republicans raised long before the Capitol riot.

There’s nothing new there. A speech on the Fourth of July made that obvious:

Wearing her usual holstered firearm U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) on Independence Day injected a heavy dose of Christian nationalism into her speech in Mesa County, Colorado. Rep. Boebert said sees her constituents as “an army for everything that Jesus has purchased for us and our children, and our children’s children.”

The QAnon-supporting far right Christian conservative was just back from her trip to a Trump rally in Sarasota, Florida, where the former president called her out by name, helping to fuel her brand.

He’s with her, so no one will ever hurt the Bible or hurt God or shut “your” churches down permanently:

On Sunday in Colorado she made sure to pack her speech “full of God references,” as the Colorado Times Recorder reports.

“There are two nations created for God’s glory – Israel and the United States of America,” Boebert said, kicking off her Sunday speech immediately after Grand Junction’s Independence Day parade. “We stand strongly with Israel.”

“It’s not a coincidence that Independence Day is on a Sunday this year,” she also told supporters.

No, that is an actual coincidence, but never mind:

“We will not back down until we have everything God has promised us,” she added, although she did not specify what her list of demands include.

She also suggested that President Joe Biden is not in charge, saying “God is on the throne.”

Or else someone else is on that throne:

Boebert praised Trump’s looks saying he had not aged decades like most presidents do when they leave office.

“That is the anointment of God,” she claimed.

It is? But there’s nothing new there either. Trump was chosen by God, sent by God to fix this sorry world. Everyone has heard such things.

But something is new. The people who say such things are disappearing. It’s not The Rapture. It’s them. The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake explains that:

If there was an epitome of Donald Trump’s hostile and often puzzling takeover of the Republican Party, it might have been his alliance with evangelical Christians. The thrice-married playboy who until relatively recently supported abortion rights became their champion. He did so despite demonstrating remarkably little familiarity with the Bible. The uneasy alliance culminated in Trump flashing the Good Book as a political prop in Lafayette Square last summer.

But new data suggests that whatever pull evangelicals have in American politics, it’s declining pretty significantly.

The Public Religion Research Institute released a detailed study Thursday on Americans’ religious affiliations. Perhaps the most striking finding is on White evangelical Christians.

While this group made up 23 percent of the population in 2006 – shortly after “values voters” were analyzed to have delivered George W. Bush his reelection – that number is now down to 14.5 percent, according to the data.

Can that 14.5 percent still rule the country and still, as they see it, win all elections from this point forward? Can that 14.5 percent still claim to be the real majority of all real Americans? Blake points to the data. That seems unlikely:

Americans’ religiosity overall has declined significantly in recent years, but even against that backdrop, the decline is sizable. Over this span, White evangelical Christians’ share of the population has declined by 37 percent, compared with 8 percent for White nonevangelical Protestants and 27 percent for White Catholics. The decline has also very notably continued over the past three years, despite a slight rebound in these other groups.

The result: There are now more White-nonevangelical-Christians than evangelical ones for the first time since at least 2006.

The boring Methodists and the quiet and prim Episcopalians are taking over the world! They’re White and they’re dull, and proud that they are dull (polite and unobtrusive and helpful, as they’d put it) and more and more of them are Republicans:

Even within the GOP, White evangelicals are on the decline: White evangelicals have gone from 37 percent of the GOP in 2006 to 29 percent in 2020.

It seems that the pleasant people are taking over, or else the angry people, forever talking about who should die, are fading away, by actually dying off:

Just as important is the age disparity. While 22 percent of Americans 65 and over are White evangelicals, the number is just 7 percent for those between 18 and 29 years of age.

Again, some of that is the overall decline in religiosity in this country and that younger people are much more likely to be unaffiliated. And just because young people aren’t evangelicals doesn’t mean they might not become evangelicals later in life.

But the White evangelical population is even more disproportionately older than White nonevangelical Protestants and White Catholics. And previous data suggest the evangelical population has indeed trended significantly older over time.

That might mean that something that is so very American is coming to an end, or has come to an end:

At least one prominent evangelical says the data are worth internalizing. Russell Moore, who left the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention recently after clashing with fellow evangelical leaders over Trump, called the situation “troubling.”

“Time for renewal, repentance, and redirection. Time to seek the kingdom first again,” Moore said. He added of the idea that this was merely about self-identification rather than a true shift in religiosity: “We should still ask *why* do people, especially a lot of younger people, not want to ‘identify’ as evangelical Christians?”

That may be because to be an evangelical Christian, and a White one at that, is to be a Trump person. God sent Donald Trump to us here to save our nation and to save our souls. He is the imperfect man who will do the perfect thing. He will deliver us from evil.

He won’t deliver us? Digby (Heather Parton) suggests this:

I have always thought that quite a few conservative evangelicals were really “evangelicals” – people who used the term as a cultural rather than a religious signifier. But I suspect that many of those people are the ones who still identify that way, which would mean the erosion is probably even worse than it seems.

The Christian Right is no longer even trying to be religious by any common definition. It’s a cultural and political movement dedicated to dominance.

Ed Kilgore sees that too:

The news that mainliners are growing as Evangelicals decline will be shocking to those who have been told for many years – by gloating Evangelicals as well as by secular conservatives and many nonreligious observers – that liberal Protestantism is “dead” or “dying,” condemned by lax theology and too much tolerance of sinfulness (you know, women having nonmarital sex, using birth control, and having abortions; divorced people remarrying; and LGBTQ people coming out of the closet in defiance of God’s plan). The idea that “real” Christianity is by definition conservative has been built into the worldviews of many opinion leaders of every persuasion. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat (a traditionalist Catholic) wrote an entire book in which the folly and uselessness of the once-mighty mainliners was a major premise.

And now they’ve won over more and more of the angry and violence-loving all-White Trump evangelicals? Kilgore thinks that premise is complete nonsense:

The idea of liberal Protestants securing “converts” is alien to the conventional wisdom, to put it mildly. But I can attest that in my own small Disciples of Christ congregation in California, we have a rich assortment of ex-Evangelicals, ex-Catholics, and even ex-LDS members. Politically minded conservative Evangelicals and their conservative Catholic allies often cite the importance of “religious liberty” when discussing their efforts to legally discriminate against feminists and LGBTQ folks in the name of Jesus Christ. But there is also religious liberty to move from one group of believers to another, and for the first time in living memory, the conservatives are no longer confidently triumphant in that spiritual competition.

No, they made a mistake. That was Donald Trump: He was not what they thought:

On a visit to Europe to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the first world war, Donald Trump insisted to his then chief of staff, John Kelly: “Well, Hitler did a lot of good things.”

The remark from the former US president on the 2018 trip, which reportedly “stunned” Kelly, a retired US Marine Corps general, is reported in a new book by Michael Bender of the Wall Street Journal.

“Frankly, We Did Win This Election” has been widely trailed ahead of publication next week.

The word is out. The man is ignorant:

Bender reports that Trump made the remark during an impromptu history lesson in which Kelly “reminded the president which countries were on which side during the conflict” and “connected the dots from the first world war to the second world war and all of Hitler’s atrocities”.

Bender is one of a number of authors to have interviewed Trump since he was ejected from power.

But what the hell does Kelly know? The far better military mind got rid of that loser:

In a statement a Trump spokesperson, Liz Harrington, said: “This is totally false. President Trump never said this. It is made-up fake news, probably by a general who was incompetent and was fired.”

Well, maybe not:

Bender says unnamed sources reported that Kelly “told the president that he was wrong, but Trump was undeterred”, emphasizing German economic recovery under Hitler during the 1930s.

“Kelly pushed back again,” Bender writes, “and argued that the German people would have been better off poor than subjected to the Nazi genocide.”

Trump didn’t think so, and the rest of the trip showed that:

Trump ran into considerable trouble on the centennial trip to Europe, even beyond his usual conflicts with other world leaders.

A decision to cancel a visit to an American cemetery proved controversial. Trump was later reported to have called US soldiers who died in the war “losers” and “suckers”.

Kelly, whose son was killed in Afghanistan in 2010, left the White House in early 2019. He has spoken critically of Trump since, reportedly telling friends the president he served was “the most flawed person I have ever met in my life”.

But some things can’t be fixed:

Bender writes that Kelly did his best to overcome Trump’s “stunning disregard for history”.

“Senior officials described his understanding of slavery, Jim Crow, or the Black experience in general post-civil war as vague to non-existent,” he writes. “But Trump’s indifference to Black history was similar to his disregard for the history of any race, religion or creed.”

And that includes Christianity of course. For more see Michael C. Bender’s  Inside Donald Trump’s Last Days in the White House and Plans for a Comeback – the basic stuff but behind the impenetrable Wall Street Journal’s paywall. No one gets in, but Meaghan Ellis did, and she notes this:

It’s no secret that former President Donald Trump’s last days in office were a political rollercoaster. Some of the chaos happened in plain sight, especially before he was kicked off Twitter. But despite his Twitter obsession, there were still things that occurred behind closed doors that are just coming to light…

Most of those around Trump actually believed he would eventually concede and do the right thing: Vice President Mike Pence and Republican National Committee (RNC) chairwoman Ronna McDaniel believed time would eventually give Trump the space he needed to process the devastating loss, Bender reported. Even his daughter Ivanka, who presumably knows her father better than others in his orbit, also thought he would come around and maybe invite Biden to the White House. That never happened, of course, and even now Trump insists he really won the election.

But wait, there’s more:

During Trump’s last days, his camaraderie with former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr also came to a screeching halt. At one point, he even offered the job to former National Intelligence Director, John Ratcliffe. Although it was Ratcliffe’s dream job, he already knew the high consequences of taking the position at such a critical and controversial time during Trump’s presidency.

And there’s this:

Bill Barr’s breaking point: When Barr decided he’d had enough Trump’s desperation to overturn the presidential election had escalated. In fact, it was so severe that the former president was “personally phoning U.S. attorneys – against Justice Department protocol – urging them to focus on election fraud.”

Even U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was concerned: Although Pompeo was a devout supporter of Trump, Bender notes that even he “conveyed concern to others that Mr. Trump might be more willing to engage in an international conflict to strengthen his political argument for remaining in office.”

Once upon a time, Vice President Mike Pence exploded: When Trump expressed disdain over Pence’s committee hiring his advisor, Corey Lewandowski, as he claimed it was a sign of disloyalty, Pence reportedly had enough of Trump’s antics and exploded.

Bender wrote, “Mr. Pence lost it. Mr. Kushner had asked him to hire Mr. Lewandowski, and he had discussed the plan with Mr. Trump over lunch. Mr. Pence picked up the article and threw it back at Mr. Trump. He leaned toward the president and pointed a finger a few inches from his chest. “We walked you through every detail of this,” Mr. Pence snarled. “We did this for you – as a favor. And this is how you respond? You need to get your facts straight.”

And this is the guy God sent us to fix the world? Paul Waldman doubts that:

The past few years have made clear that Republican officeholders live in constant fear of their party’s base. They fear its undying devotion to Donald Trump, its eagerness to purge apostates and its thirst for physical violence. So even more than their Democratic colleagues, they carefully monitor what their constituents are hearing and believing, to determine what right-wing parade they might need to join.

But now that’s a matter of life or death:

When it comes to vaccines against covid-19 – the one thing that can finally deliver us from the pandemic if we only push a little harder for a little longer and achieve true herd immunity – GOP lawmakers have until now taken a variety of positions.

Get vaccinated, or don’t, or whatever:

This week, President Biden gave a speech underscoring his commitment to getting more Americans vaccinated. “We need to go to community by community, neighborhood by neighborhood, and oftentimes, door to door – literally knocking on doors – to get help to the remaining people,” he said.

This occasioned a full-scale freakout across conservative media, especially Fox News, with hosts railing against “vaccine pushers” assaulting you in your home. “People are up in arms about this,” said one host – “or at least they will be, if we tell them to get up in arms about it.”

And then Fox News “let ‘er rip!” This would stop all vaccinations:

Charlie Kirk of the right-wing youth group Turning Point USA – whose co-founder died of coronavirus-related complications last year – went on Tucker Carlson’s show to promote the group’s campaign against colleges that will require students to be vaccinated to return to campus in the fall. “It’s almost this apartheid-style open-air hostage situation, like oh you can have your freedom back if you get the jab” he said. “That’s exactly right,” Carlson responded. Carlson had earlier called vaccine requirements “medical Jim Crow.”

In addition to its anti-vax hosts, the network also hosts one guest after another to rail against the vaccines. “No one under age 30 should receive any one of these vaccines,” an anti-covid-vaccine doctor told Laura Ingraham on Wednesday evening’s program.

In another segment on the same episode called “Power Grabs and Needle Jabs,” Ingraham said, “Despite everything the experts either got wrong or lied about, they still think that parents should trust them and inject their kids with an experimental drug to prevent a disease almost none of those kids will ever get sick from.”

But that’s okay:

Think about the position that puts Republican politicians in. There probably isn’t a GOP officeholder in the United States who doesn’t keep tabs on Fox to see what their constituents are hearing, and now they know those constituents are being told over and over, that vaccines are dangerous, if not deadly, and a dire threat to freedom. Worst of all, getting vaccinated means doing what Biden wants you to do.

That will give every Republican official an incentive to toy with vaccine conspiracy theories, or at the very least perform some faux-outrage about how oppressed you are if your government pleads with you to voluntarily get a lifesaving vaccine and makes getting it as easy as possible.

The result will be a further cycle of politicization, and a hardening of attitudes among those Republicans who haven’t yet been vaccinated.

And then lots of people die, even the White Christian Trump Evangelicals. Why? The few who think that God sent him are sure of that. They are sure this is their country and no one else’s – and God sent us Donald Trump to make sure of that.

And now no one seems to care what God thinks, except for the few of the few. And their day is over.

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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1 Response to The Fall from Grace

  1. Colorado. Rep. Boebert said sees her constituents as “an army for everything that Jesus has purchased for us and our children, and our children’s children.”

    Jesus purchases stuff for us? Really? Where does he shop? Walmart? Hobby Lobby? I would think this would be the commercial of the century.

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