Maybe The Associated Press knows something that nobody else does. That’s about the only way to explain the opening sentences to one of its stories that hit the wire earlier this week:
“White evangelical support for President Donald Trump has sparked debate for years — particularly this winter, with his impeachment trial looming. But for all the focus it commands, uncertainty continues to surround Trump’s bond with a religious constituency that has long leaned GOP.”
Uncertainty between Trump and his evangelical base? Are you kidding? It’s beyond difficult to imagine many of the white evangelicals who voted for Trump in 2016 considering anyone else this year.
The AP reported that white evangelical approval of the president’s job performance remains in the 80 percent range. The group became politically aligned with the Republican Party long before Trump’s 2016 election, and that support has continued to rise since he took office.
Some observers believe that evangelicals could drift away from Trump “over perceived moral missteps.” Indeed, a video from the Lincoln Project, described as an anti-Trump group of Republicans, asks if the president is the best that American Christians can do.
That’s actually an excellent point, because Trump’s sins are numerous and well-documented. However, as did another recent president, Bill Clinton, Trump has a proven ability to move past gigantic setbacks.
Trump got elected in spite of the embarrassing “Access Hollywood” recording that became public a month before the 2016 election. And his evangelical base stuck with him in 2018 after reports of a six-figure payoff to a porn star. Given all that, why would anyone think these voters are going to start looking around now?
More to the point, what are the alternatives for white evangelicals in the 2020 election? During the primaries in 2016, they had plenty of candidates from which to choose. This year, Trump has only token opposition for the Republican nomination, which means evangelicals must stick with him or consider a Democratic challenger.
By itself, the Democrats’ universal support for abortion rights ought to douse any serious expectation of getting many white evangelical votes. Trump may not uphold many Christian values, but he has won over many evangelical leaders on that one issue alone. One of his strongest arguments for their continued support is his appointments of conservative judges to the Supreme Court and other federal courts.
Nevertheless, a Lincoln Project adviser believes that white evangelicals, who have been the strongest part of Trump’s base, are starting to show signs of weakness. Stick with that theory if you must, but it’s far more likely that any white evangelicals who are concerned about the president will say a prayer and vote for him again this fall.
If the president has one legitimate area of concern about white evangelicals, it’s that their numbers are declining as Americans’ affiliation with organized religion recedes at a surprising rate. But to answer the question of whether Trump is the best American Christians can do, the answer in 2020, at least for conservative Christians, is almost certain to be “yes.”