As we know by now, Donald Trump’s approval ratings are among the lowest in recent memory for a president at this point in his term. Nearly every poll included in HuffPost Pollster’s trendline has his approval numbers struggling to get out of the mid-40s. According to FiveThirtyEight’s model, only 41 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s performance–a figure that is absolutely lethal for any elected official, even this early. Even the Syrian missile strike didn’t help him; a poll taken immediately afterwards showed 49 percent of Americans disapproved of how he was doing.
As it turns out, Trump should count himself lucky that his approval ratings are even that high. One demographic in particular seems to have remained loyal to him–white evangelical Christians. The latest numbers from Pew Research show a whopping 78 percent of white evangelicals approve of Trump’s performance, and 80 percent of regular evangelical churchgoers approve of him.
— Pew Research Center (@pewresearch) April 26, 2017
Translation–Trump has lost virtually none of the 81 percent of white evangelicals whom exit polls showed backed him in November. And even if you take away those who probably only say they support the Orange Calf because they’ve been convinced the opposition to Trump is driven by witchcraft, demons, and the devil himself, his support among white evangelicals would still be absolutely staggering.
How do you explain such a wide gulf? Well, one prominent religious right leader tried to do so on Friday night. Jerry Falwell, Jr., the president of Liberty University–founded by his father, religious right pioneer Jerry Falwell, Sr.–dropped by “Justice With Judge Jeanine” to discuss Trump’s continued support among evangelicals. Watch here.
Host Jeanine Pirro asked Falwell about a Fox News poll that largely echoed Pew’s findings. It showed 73 percent of white evangelicals approved of Trump’s performance. For Falwell, the explanation was simple.
“I think evangelicals have found their dream president.”
He believed it came from a number of things. For one, Falwell cited Trump’s loud support for Israel “after eight years of them being treated badly,” the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, the presence of “people of faith” in his Cabinet, and his ISIS strategy.
But it’s not just social issues that have driven evangelicals’ backing for Trump. Falwell said that evangelicals had lost patience with the Republican establishment after three-plus decades of loyalty. They were very concerned about immigration and jobs, and they were “just as thrilled” about what Trump is doing in those areas as well.
He then used the occasion to deliver what amounted to a fatwa to those Republicans who aren’t on board with Trump.
“I’ll tell you what evangelicals are not happy about in the first 100 days. It’s that moderate Republicans who I believe seem to be obstructing Donald Trump’s agenda in Congress, and I think they’re going to pay the price in 2018 if they don’t stop. I think the American people are angry about that. These moderates just make my blood boil.”
Wait a minute. Is this a pastor saying that Trump must always be supported, no matter what? Last I checked, nobody is right that often–nobody on this world, anyway. Any Christian–especially an ordained minister–would know that.
So Falwell is effectively telling Republicans to ignore Trump’s declaration of war on the press and the judiciary, and his refusal to admit that he wasn’t wiretapped. He’s asking them to ignore that he is breaching his basic duties as a husband and a father by using an unsecured cell phone that can’t be updated. And he’s asking them to ignore that he’s perfectly fine with a press secretary planting fake news and a counterterrorism adviser who berates a private citizen.
But none of that matters to Falwell and others of his ilk. All that matters is that Trump made the right clucking noises on social issues. Sounds like Falwell has proven himself to be his father’s son in every way. The elder Falwell would back the Antichrist if he were willing to give the religious right what it wanted. For all intents and purposes, his son is doing just that by backing Trump.
(featured image courtesy WDBJ)