One group of voters knew what was at stake, showed up in record numbers, and elected reality television star Donald Trump President of the United States. The 2016 Election is a crowning achievement for white evangelicals as this victory looks likely to have an impact on American law for decades after the Trump presidency comes to its conclusion.
White evangelicals have had their eye on the long-game battle for control over the Supreme Court of the United States since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, and they won. Republicans in U.S. Congress took a gamble that they could get away with not confirming President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland for an unprecedented year, and it paid off.
The attention deficit disorder news cycle allowed the United States of Amnesia to strike again and the American people quickly gave Republicans a pass on this final master stroke of obstructionism to cap off eight years of heedless political vandalism.
More white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump in 2016 than any other president in American history. Is this because Trump is some paragon of Christian virtue? Obviously not.
Donald Trump is a self-declared Presbyterian who doesn’t attend church, is twice-divorced, boasts of his infidelity, insults, well, almost everybody, and has a seemingly boundless taste for avarice and opulence. If the meek shall inherit the Earth, Donald Trump will not among the terrestrial beneficiaries.
Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, is a lifelong church-going Methodist, often invoking her denomination’s credo to, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”
But Donald Trump promised to name justices in the vein of Scalia to the high court and as a result 81 percent of white evangelicals and born-again Christians voted for him. They supported Trump over Hillary Clinton by a margin of 81 to 16. And over 75 percent of white evangelical women cast their ballots for Trump.
“Their deepest desires may be enacted into laws — or hated laws repealed. Their prayers were answered — by electing a rude, crude and morally unacceptable nonbeliever,” Hartford Seminary professor Scott Thumma, who studies megachurches and nondenominational evangelical churches, told the Washington Post. “I have interacted with a few evangelicals since the election … and every one of them were proud and happy to have had a part in Trump’s election — not exactly because of who Trump is, but what he stood for.”
And for what does Donald Trump stand as it regards the white evangelicals who put him in office? An opportunity to undo the social advancement of reproductive rights for women and equal rights for the LGBTQ community. An opportunity to enshrine white evangelical Christian values into American law under judicial review for decades to come.
First, Trump will have the opportunity to replace Scalia himself with a Scalia-like nominee. This will maintain the 5-4 conservative majority that’s given us decisions the legalized political bribery with Citizens United and took the guts out of the Voting Rights Act with Shelby County.
Then, if and when another opening occurs, Trump will look to install another Scalia-like nominee, as promised, and that’s when decisions like Roe v. Wade, Obergefell and many other modern advancements of social progress will truly come under threat. Conservative judicial activism will become a thing for the first time since the Fuller court was striking down child labor laws.
White evangelicals made the “culture wars” buzzer shot of all-time in the 2016 Election, and they did it – irony writ large – by electing a man who is the very antithesis of Christian morality.
And now we wait, with fear and loathing, praying that justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer are taking their vitamins.
D.C. DeWitt is a writer and man of sport and leisure. He has also written for Government Executive’s RouteFifty.com, the National Journal’s The Hotline, and The New York Observer’s Politicker.com. He is the Associate Editor of The Athens NEWS in Athens, Ohio. DeWitt can be found on Facebook and Twitter @DC_DeWitt.