An un-holy alliance?

Nothing Will Persuade White Evangelicals to Support Impeachment

New polling suggests that Trump’s base is totally unified behind the president, no matter what investigations might reveal.EMMA GREEN6:00 AM ETEnjoy unlimited access to The Atlantic for less than $1 per week.Sign inSubscribe Now

Pastors lay hands on President Donald Trump in prayer in the Oval Office.
Pastors lay hands on President Donald Trump in prayer in the Oval Office.KEVIN LAMARQUE / REUTERS

President Donald Trump famously once said that he wouldn’t lose support even if he shot someone on Fifth Avenue in New York City. As his presidency enters its most dramatic phase yet, just one year ahead of the 2020 election, he might be right.

In mid-September, 94 percent of Republicans opposed impeachment. A month later—after the news about Trump’s fateful phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and after House Democrats formally launched an impeachment inquiry—their views are essentially unchanged. Even with these revelations, 93 percent of Republicans remained opposed to impeachment in mid-October, according to data released today from the Public Religion Research Institute. Of all Republican voters, two subgroups stand out for their unwavering support of Trump: those who primarily get their news from Fox, and white evangelical Christians.

Read: Why some Christians “love the meanest parts” of Trump

It’s easy to forget now, but during the 2016 primary, white Christians were intensely divided over Trump. Many religious voters in deep-red pockets of the country preferred Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who is more clearly one of their own, or Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who has championed socially conservative policies, over a reality-television star who once incorrectly referred to a book of the Bible as “Two Corinthians” during a speech at an evangelical university. But since 2016, these voters, along with Republicans generally, have consolidated behind the president. According to the new PRRI data, one year after Trump’s election, 59 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said they would prefer for Trump to remain the party’s nominee in 2020. Two years after his election, 66 percent said the same thing. And this fall, 72 percent said they want their party to keep Trump. Within this group, white evangelicals were among the voters most likely to want Trump on the ballot, at 82 percent.

A significant portion of Trump’s Republican supporters are open about their belief in his infallibility: 42 percent of Republicans said there is virtually nothing the president could do to lose their approval. Among Republicans who cited Fox News as their primary news source, this number was even higher, at 55 percent. And Trump’s most steadfast supporters are also most likely to condone his behavior: Nearly two-thirds of white evangelicals said Trump has not hurt the dignity of the presidency. By contrast, majorities of all other religious groups said Trump has damaged the image of the office.

These numbers reinforce the idea that some of Trump’s supporters have come to see American politics as an all-out war. Whatever reservations they may have had about Trump when he first ran for office have apparently been soothed, either by his full-throated defense of his supporters’ priorities or because these voters resent what they see as unrelenting attacks against him and his administration. Trump’s evangelical surrogates have said as much. The Texas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress recently said that Democrats were inviting a “civil war” by pursuing impeachment proceedings.

Read: The tiny, blond Bible teacher taking on the evangelical political machine

Hard-core Trump supporters are not representative of America, and they’re not the only voters who have hardened their political position in the past few years. Only 29 percent of registered voters told PRRI that they would vote for Trump in the 2020 election, no matter who becomes the Democratic nominee. By comparison, 40 percent of registered voters said they would support the Democratic candidate no matter who it is, while 29 percent said their ballot remains up for the taking.

Regardless of how impeachment plays out in the coming months, the proceedings are not likely to bring any semblance of political unity or compel committed Trump supporters to change their mind. Even if the president goes down, some Americans have apparently decided that they’re willing to go down with him.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.

EMMA GREEN is a staff writer at ​The Atlantic, where she covers politics, policy, and religion.

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It really does seem that no misbehaviour or infelicity on the part of President Donald Trump will convince his conservative Evangelical Christian base to desert him. By all the signs, they will not abandon him – even if he does get impeached, which eventuality it seems they will do their very best to prevent.

From all indications, the President will bend over backwards to curry the favour of right-wing Christian fundamentalists in their hatred of homosexuality – even though his (avowedly heterosexual) personal life is compromised. Everything the ‘Religious Right’ demands of him – nil immigration – the overturning of civil rights for LGBTQI people – the protection of the Religious-Right’s tendency to discriminate – Trump seems to readily grant. As long as he courts their favour in this way, the Religious Right will support him, semmingly blind to his blatantly irreligious behaviour.

The long-established tradition of Democratic Government of the United States of America is in greater danger than ever before. Let’s hope impeachment, in this instance, works – for the ultimate good of the U.S.. and the rest of the free world.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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1 Response to An un-holy alliance?

  1. John Marshall says:

    I’ve just been helping with a project involving tracing copyright holders on books and articles mainly from the USA. There were almost 3000 in the spreadsheet, all right wing, and covering the whole of the 20th century. The utter stupidity of the arguments being put forward by many of the writers was amazing, and there was a clear line from evangelical preachers arguing that the American people are the ten lost tribes of Israel (still a hot issue and not just among Mormons) to the Trump rednecks today. I suspect that idea crossed the Atlantic on the Mayflower with its calvinist “refugees” – but to find it seriously canvassed today is an eye-opener. I wonder if there are people zealously beavering away trying to demonstrate it from the human genome? It would fit with the serious conservative evangelical Principal of a theological seminary I heard almost 50 years ago trying to prove the virgin birth with the aid of Year 7 genetics.

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