It wasn’t me who called Donald Trump’s campaign “reality television moral sewage.” The person who said that was none other than Russell Moore, the very conservative president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. And it isn’t just things like calling women fat pigs, commenting on women based on how they look, or talking about the size of his penis in a nationally televised debate. Donald Trump’s entire philosophy of life is predicated on the Ayn Randian notion of the ‘virtue of selfishness,’ the belief that power and wealth are the zenith of what is important and good in the world — not more old-fashioned values like basic human decency. Is there a clearer antithesis to what Jesus preached in the gospels?
Jesus denounced those who lie; extolled the virtues of humility; said that we should treat everyone as we would want to be treated and that we should welcome the outsider; and preached that every person would be judged by whether they showed compassion for the poor. Trump hasn’t shown even a hint of any of those qualities in his business or political life.
That’s why Republicans are so uncomfortable when they are asked whether Trump is a good role model for Christian values. Check out the video of my colleague Andrea Haverdink asking Republican members of Congress that question. Note the uncomfortable looks on their faces, and that the vast majority avoid answering the question at all:
Despite Trump’s decidedly unchristian character and behavior, he’s gotten some endorsements from the biggest political hacks in the extremist evangelical world, like Jerry Falwell, Jr. Trump spoke yesterday in Orlando to 700 evangelical ministers, some of whom were even enthusiastic about his candidacy. Clearly there are some far-right Christians who hate Hillary Clinton so much they will ignore Trump’s many sins. But this contradiction is creating a widening chasm that threatens to destroy the Republican Party this year. Polling trends right now are showing the possibility that Republicans will be less likely to turn out their voters than Democrats, which is very unusual. Generally Democrats (who are younger and poorer and thus a lot less likely to vote) are much less likely to turn out to vote. Big demographic blocs of Republican voters, including evangelical Christians, are feeling decidedly unenthusiastic about voting this year. Trump is only getting in the low 80s of self-identified Republican voters, when normally the GOP nominee at this point in the race would be getting 95%.
Meanwhile, Republican Senate and House candidates, and those further down ballot are generally screwed unless they are in the reddest of red states/districts. If those Republicans in tough races embrace Trump, every voter who is sane gets uncomfortable. If these candidates distance themselves from their nominee, they anger their Trump-loving base. The resulting twisting and turning from Republicans like Kelly Ayotte, John McCain, and Paul Ryan make them look like they are trapped in a sadist’s version of the game Twister.
Democrats should never take anything for granted, and we need to keep working our hearts out, but I would note that the above trends are making even the pessimists in my party think we Democrats could have a big year. My friends at the brilliant numbers-crunching group NCEC, who are the best electoral data analysts in the business, are now saying that if things keep going the way they are, the Democrats have a decent chance at winning back the House. This is notable from a group notorious for erring on the side of pessimism — after the 2004 cycle, NCEC said Democrats might not win the presidency for decades because the electoral math was so stacked against us. (The House Is in Play)
If Democrats win big, it will be because of Trump’s “reality television moral sewage.” This man who is in every way the opposite of Jesus’ teachings is making a mockery of so-called Christians like Falwell. But apparently hypocrisy runs in the family — in the 1990s, Falwell, Sr. accused the Clintons of murdering dozens of people, a claim for which there was not even a shred of proof. Jesus would probably be comparing these kinds of hypocrites to the Pharisees of his day.
The irony here is that Hillary, in stark contrast to Trump, is a Midwestern Methodist to her core, just like she was raised. My Methodist minister at the church I grew up in reminded me recently of when I introduced him to Hillary, and the two of them talked about the theology of the Methodist church. Hillary firmly believes in the Methodist social gospel, exemplified in that quote from the Methodist Church’s founder, John Wesley, that she mentioned in her convention speech: “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”
Those values are also why Hillary gave the kind speech she gave in Michigan yesterday on economic issues. The fact is that Hillary is a genuine progressive on a wide range of economic issues, and progressive organizers and leaders have the potential to move her even more if the political strength is there to get good things passed through Congress.
If you are a Christian, the kind of person Hillary Clinton is seems like a whole lot better bet than a man who talks about the size of his penis on national television.