Trump was undone by ignoring Covid. He might have won otherwise. Nov17


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Trump was undone by ignoring Covid. He might have won otherwise.

Courtney Weaver writes in the FT Weekend Magazine (Oct 3/4 2020) that a huge part of Donald Trump’s support is the Evangelicals. Before you wonder who they are, just consider that there are an estimated sixty million of them in the US and it’s judged that about 85% of them voted for Trump in the 2020 election. That’s, well, a lot!

So who are they? Well for one, their numbers are increasing because of “growing support among non-white evangelicals.” Latino immigrants to the US sometimes come from socialist countries in Middle and South America and are not impressed by the Democratic Party’s occasionally socialistic leanings. (For the best exploration you’re likely to find anywhere of what socialism is, see “Socialism: What is it and why do we need it?” by Graham Harrington on this website.)

Evangelicals are preachers who claim to know God and often come on radio and TV telling people about God. They argue that the Bible should govern how we live our lives. They’re often represented by figures like Billy Graham and Jerry Falwell. Graham was so popular he was called “America’s Preacher” and Falwell, well you get an idea about him from this quote in reference to the 1954 Supreme Court decision to end segregation in schools:

“If Chief Justice Warren and his associates had known God’s word and had desired to do the Lord’s will, I am quite confident that the 1954 decision would never have been made. The facilities should be separate. When God has drawn a line of distinction, we should not attempt to cross that lineā€¦The true Negro does not want integrationā€¦. He realizes his potential is far better among his own race.” (Source:

Check out Martin Luther King’s Letter from Jail, also on this site, for more on the 1954 law.

In 1973, the Roe v Wade decision legalised abortion which angered the Evangelicals who responded by supporting Ronald Regan’s efforts to win the White House which he did in 1980. (Reagan, by the way, is where Trump got his “Make America Great” slogan. It worked then and it works now.) Evangelicals and far-right conservatives in the Republican party formed a coalition without whose support no Republican candidate is likely to have any chance of becoming president. Jerry Falwell’s son Jerry Jnr however, was one of the few high-ranking Evangelicals to support Trump from the start before his win in 2016. He has a colourful relationship with Trump, having employed Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen – a confessed liar – to help him out a jam, something to do with, ahem, photographs.

Other major Evangelicals like Paula White support Trump. White got in trouble supposedly for claiming that God rewards Christians by making them rich. One commentary, Gregory Alan Thornbury, argues that Trump’s genius was to bring figures like White into the White House, into the Oval Office, to the heart of power in America. What’s really remarkable is that these people, it seems, like to believe that they’re living in their own Bible and characterise Trump as another Cyrus who freed the Jews from slavery.

White allegedly has called for “all satanic pregnancies to miscarry now” but claims her words were misquoted, which they may have been. Another Evangelical, Kelvin Cobaris, has been invited in to the White House too and says he likes how Trump is willing to talk “with people who speak the word of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

All of this is a little disturbing because religion and politics are supposed to be separate in the United States. And why doesn’t Trump invite Muslim leaders to the Oval Office? Well, the reason is pretty obvious: he doesn’t know anything about Islam, shows no respect whatever for it, and believes that Muslims don’t form part of his core support. What I don’t quite get either is how someone can say that while Trump isn’t always gentle and compassionate, he delivers for Evangelicals. Now, I’m not a Bible scholar but I’ve read enough of it to know that there’s easily more violence, killing and what we now call genocide that there’s gentleness and compassion. And how has Trump delivered for Evangelicals? Well, according to Bob Vander Plaats, a friend of Trump’s, “he [moved] the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city of Jerusalem,” cut funding for groups that provide abortions and put conservative judges in the Supreme Court.

If you want to know why Trump did these things, isn’t it obvious? He’s doing what the people who voted for him want to do; he’s not doing any of the things the people who didn’t vote for him want, such as leaving the White House or not calling Mexican immigrants “rapists” and so on. But it doesn’t matter because Trump has learned that he can do pretty much what he likes and say whatever comes into his head if he just keeps those who voted for him happy. But isn’t a president supposed to be a president for all Americans?

One of those relatively few from amongst the Evangelicals who spoke out against Trump in 2016 is Albert Mohler. Now he is a supporter because, and this has got to be one of most cynical moments in recent history, “[He] didn’t think the President was going to be elected.” Wow.

It seems now that with about 48% of the vote in the election, Trump could have won if he’d just played the Covid card better. All he had to do was tell ask that people wear masks and consider what the scientists and doctors were saying about the dangers involved. But he refused. Now there’s a big swathe of states in the US, not all of which went to Trump – but most of them did, where Covid is rampant. The mail-in votes were counted last and most of them were posted by Democrats who tend to care more about medical advice and not consider seriously any of the advice Trump gives like after he had Covid himself, didn’t die, and told people not to fear it despite more than a quarter of a million with it dying so far, and rising.

How many more votes might he have got if he’d just done his job and tried to be a president to all Americans? It’s likely he would have got significantly more. If you could get nearly half by listening only to those who voted for him, throwing the other camp a bone now and then could have got him over the line. The problem he had was the Evangelicals have very set ideas of what’s right and wrong and they’re going to check the Bible to see if it’s allowed first.

Trump’s other not-so-secret weapon is that people who don’t even like him or what he stands for vote for him because they’re anti-abortion. Jerushah Duford, an evangelical author said, “I think a lot of women of faith made it to the voting booth, held their breath, crossed their fingers and hoped they were making the better choice…I wish Democrats would value life in the womb more than they do. I wish Republicans would value life outside the womb more than they do.”

One last thing: if you think America is a bit of nut house, consider what Janan Ganesh wrote (FT Life & Arts, 23/24 June, 2020) about why that’s not true: “Americans are religious, but then so is much of the world…The very idea of the New World implies difference [but] A moderately well-travelled person has to squint very hard to see anything in American patriotism, faith, earnestness or militarism that could not be found in much of the planet.” In other words, it’s Europe is the new outlier, the new nut house.

Sources: “Converted by Trump” by Courtney Weaver (Financial Times Weekend Magazine, 3/4 October, 2020 pp.22-27) & “It’s not America that’s exceptional -it’s Europe” by Janan Ganesh (Financial Times Life & Arts, 23/24 June, 2018