Jacob Lupfer: Evangelical Christians Need an Exit Ramp From Trumpism

President Donald Trump waves as he walks through the Colonnade from the Oval Office of the White House to announce a deal to temporarily reopen the government on Jan. 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Earlier this month, two important conservative writers explained why honorable Republicans are strongly considering a challenge to Donald Trump for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination.

Writing in The Bulwark, an online publication that took on former staff from the recently shuttered Trump-skeptical conservative journal The Weekly Standard, Jonathan V. Last persuasively argues that a primary challenge to Trump should be expected. Of the last nine incumbent presidents who stood for re-election, five were contested for re-nomination. Trump is almost sure to be one of them; Last has already previewed five potential challengers.

A few days later, in a powerful Washington Post op-ed, Stephen F. Hayes framed the primary challenge as a necessity for the well being of the country and something all people of goodwill should expect and support.

But the coming primary challenge has zero chance of success unless a significant number of white evangelicals, who gave the race-baiting billionaire 81 percent of their votes in 2016, get off of Trump’s Road to Reelection before 2020.

Neither of the two conservative writers above discusses the possibility of evangelicals parting ways with Trumpism. Political observers seem to assume that Trump’s conservative Christian base will follow him no matter what.

And why not? Some of his evangelical disciples have explicitly said there is nothing he could do to lose their support.

President Trump greets people as he arrives to speak during a dinner for evangelical leaders in the State Dining Room of the White House on Aug. 27, 2018, in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Yet a divorce is not impossible, and it won’t require white conservatives to suddenly back a Democrat. Trump’s white evangelical support has already fallen in the wake of chaos in the administration and the longest government shutdown in history. If the walls continue to close in around the president, he may yet lose even more support.

That may come as a surprise to those who think that Trump has brainwashed evangelicals somehow into believing he will restore a Christian America. Though many commentators, including me, have often questioned how the unchristian Trump could mesmerize professed believers, the truth is that the brainwashing began with the rise of the religious right in the 1980s. If you tell people for 35 years that they must vote for one party as a matter of religious devotion because the other party is so god-awful, they do it.

But what politics grants, politics can take away. The white Christians, Protestant and Catholic, who embraced Donald Trump made a fairly ordinary bargain in our transactional, interest-group-oriented politics, even if it looks strange for people whose Savior preached and practiced holiness: they gave their votes in exchange for a promise to enact their agenda.

That’s why they could be taken back by a candidate who makes a serious effort to offer them a decent Republican alternative, a person who does not destroy their integrity or make a mockery of their supposed values. And for the sake of the country and the Party of Lincoln, every patriot must hope it succeeds.

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Source: Religion News Service