As Jerry Falwell Jr. spoke on the Republican convention’s final night, longtime observers of the Christian Right movement, of which his father was a founder, had to shake their heads in wonder. Gone was the usual claim that the Republican candidate was a Man of God motivated by profound faith and humbled by a sense of religious duty. Gone was any long recitation of Christian Right issue positions or accomplishments. Gone, perhaps most significantly, was any reminder of the covenant between conservative Christians and the Republican Party in which the former took the spiritual risk of political engagement in exchange for the latter’s promise to turn back the cultural clock.
Instead, Falwell emphasized Trump’s pledge to change the half-century-old IRS rule in which nonprofit groups (including churches and other religious institutions) were told they had to choose between tax-exempt status and the ability to endorse political candidates and engage in direct electioneering activities — a pledge the tycoon made in a recent meeting with conservative Evangelical leaders designed to win them over. Like many of these leaders, Falwell, who endorsed this Philistine at the very beginning of the 2016 cycle, has in a crude, transactional manner sold out, like a ward heeler with a constituency that needs favors from the Boss.
Yes, Trump has also gone to some lengths to promise judicial appointments sure to support reversals of the constitutional right to abortion and same-sex marriage. And, even more important, he’s made the Christian Right’s enemies his own — the “elitists” and “cultural relativists” of the secular left and mainstream media, the Muslims that deny Jesus as the exclusive Way, and the disparagers of Israel’s biblical role in the Last Days. Going along with this politician’s ambitions is a small matter of overlooking his crudity and egoism; his instrumental treatment of other people (especially women); his deep involvement in the Babylon of mass popular culture; and his “populist” manipulation of very un-Christian racial and ethnic resentments.
It’s hard to know what goes through the minds of people who consider themselves followers of a messiah who preached love for one’s enemies as they cheer Trump’s declarations that he wants to torture and kill terrorism suspects and their families, and deport millions of Christians and their children into destitution and violence, and reverse years of conservative Christian investment in criminal-justice reform, and intimidate other countries into letting America always be first. Like Falwell, they do mostly refrain from claiming that Trump — who has not been able to bring himself to admit the need for divine forgiveness — is himself a man of faith, though the Christian Right warhorse tried to suggest he was a “Baby Christian” who had only recently found God. But for the most part, they implicitly treat him as the Scourge of God (as Attila the Hun was once described), a pagan sent to smite the wicked.
Some conservative Christian leaders may simply emulate other conservative ideologues who, as a purely practical manner, have decided to go along with the Trump candidacy in hopes of inheriting the GOP after he loses, or cashing in chits if he wins. Or perhaps they are just following their flocks, unlike some (notably Southern Baptist spokesperson Russell Moore and longtime Christian Right and homeschooling advocate Michael Farris) who have made a prophetic stand against Trump. As longtime observer of Christian conservatives Sarah Posner noted:
A July 13 Pew Research Center survey found that 78 percent of white evangelicals intend to vote for Trump — meaning Trump will likely match the level of support among white evangelicals enjoyed by George W. Bush in 2004, when white evangelicals made up 23 percent of the electorate, and were an essential 36 percent of all Bush voters.
This is obviously not the first time in Western history that religious people have followed irreligious politicians who promise to fight against the forces of cultural change that threaten all entrenched sources of privilege. But it must be painful to some to observe that, despite the trappings of religious invocations and the country musicians touting their Bible-believin’ (along with their trucks and their guns) as tokens of defiance toward liberals, this has been a profane convention celebrating profane values. Farris recently said the acceptance of Trump represented the “end of the Christian Right.” That may overstate the case, but the days when the GOP could comport itself as the Christian conservative party are gone for the immediate future. Conservative Catholic columnist Ross Douthat read the draft of Trump’s speech tonight and tweeted: “The speech is basically Buchananism without the religion.” That means culture war with no restraint, and perhaps no survivors. And that’s scary.
By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, July 21, 2016
It obviously didn’t get as much attention as his endorsement of Hillary Clinton earlier today, but Bernie Sanders also made it clear he was very pleased with the compromises worked out on the Democratic platform. The final shoe dropped this afternoon when the Sanders campaign confirmed to the Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent that it would not be backing any minority reports when the platform is formally adopted at the convention.
And so we come full circle. Back in March it seemed there could be that rarest of phenomena, a contested convention, at the Republican Convention, while the Democratic convention looked to be a tightly scripted Clinton infomercial. Then, when Trump nailed down his nomination before Clinton was assured of hers, the drama drained out of Cleveland and back into Philly, where Sanders was promising a fight to the bitter end.
Now Philly’s back on course to proceed as a “normal” convention, with the nominee and her rival happily joining hands beneath the smiling visages of the 42nd and 44th presidents and a host of other elected officials and celebrities. The only mystery now involves the vice-presidential nominee’s identity, and we’ll know that soon enough.
Meanwhile, it’s once again Cleveland that’s looking dark and strange and unpredictable. Around and around they go, and where they stop, nobody knows.
By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, July 13, 2016
Donald Trump’s shortlist for VP looks like just another communications and demographic nightmare for the GOP. The main candidates that we know of so far appear to be Chris Christie, Newt Gingrich and now appears to include Indiana governor Mike Pence:
According to two Republicans familiar with the meeting, the conversation between Trump and Pence lasted for more than an hour, and the governor was joined by his wife, Karen, as he visited with the real-estate mogul.
One person described the session as “warm and friendly,” while the other called it a “getting to know you thing, a chance for both of them to connect.” They both noted that the presence of Karen Pence is probably a sign that the Pence family is comfortable with the prospect of the Republican governor joining the ticket, although they said they have not spoken with her.
Both people spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss their knowledge of the meeting, the location of which had been closely guarded for days.
Pence’s stock has been rising in Trump’s orbit, they said, describing him as respected by the candidate, despite Pence’s endorsement of Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) in the Republican primary.
Trump’s camp says that he will pick a running mate before the convention. That would be common sense. Less commonsensical is Trump’s shortlist of older white male Republican government types as VP. Even Trump must realize at this point that political appeals to older white men won’t be enough to win him the election. He has to expand his base to have a prayer of winning that doesn’t depend on Hillary Clinton self-imploding.
Trump could try to win votes by expanding demographically by picking a woman or minority. The challenge for him there is that he has alienated most of the reasonably potential choices, from Nikki Haley to Meg Whitman. He could try to expand the map geographically by choosing someone from the midwestern states like Ohio and Wisconsin.
Or he could use the vice-president slot to communicate that he’s not your typical Republican politician by selecting someone from the business community, perhaps a tech entrepreneur.
But it’s not at all clear what Trump stands to gain from picking someone like Christie, Gingrich or Pence. The voters to whom those figures appeal, Trump already has. And that won’t be enough for him in November.
By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, July 1, 2016
“Donald Can’t Afford His Own Ego Trip”: Does Donald Trump Even Have $45 Million To Repay His ‘Loans’?
A few weeks ago, the Trump campaign tried to quash rumors of its financial demise by announcing that Trump would write off the $45 million in loans he had used to “self-fund” his campaign.
Trump spokes Hope Hicks says Trump will submit signed statement today to FEC forgiving $50 mil personal loan per legal requirement.
— Beth Reinhard (@bethreinhard) June 23, 2016
After that statement, a far-too-small-handful of political journalists responded: Show us the money.
Why? As The National Memo has reported, since Trump began bragging about his financial independence, “self-funding” doesn’t really mean self-funding. It’s a talking point: Trump can repay his loans with donations from supporters at any time before the Republican convention and walk away from this campaign having pulled off the most cost-efficient advertising campaign in history.
So far, that seems to be the case. According to NBC News, whose Ari Melber has tracked the promise in recent days, the FEC maintains that Trump hasn’t converted any of his loans into donations, and the Trump campaign itself is refusing to release any documentation that would prove Trump has donated his campaign anything.
Campaign spokesperson Hope Hicks told NBC that the paperwork “will be filed with the next regularly scheduled FEC report [on July 20],” but declined to provide any documentation proving that claim.
Of course, that’s what she did last time.
In the meantime, what about the rest of Trump’s campaign? HIs fundraising efforts may have just broken federal law, and it is currently tens of millions of dollars in debt on top of what Trump has promised to pay. By all financial measures, billionaire Donald can’t afford his own ego trip.
By: Matt Shuham, The National Memo, June 30, 2016
The New York Times published a rather brutal piece over the weekend on Donald Trump’s problematic history with women. It painted a painful picture:
The New York Times interviewed dozens of women who had worked with or for Mr. Trump over the past four decades, in the worlds of real estate, modeling and pageants; women who had dated him or interacted with him socially; and women and men who had closely observed his conduct since his adolescence. In all, more than 50 interviews were conducted over the course of six weeks.
Their accounts – many relayed here in their own words – reveal unwelcome romantic advances, unending commentary on the female form, a shrewd reliance on ambitious women, and unsettling workplace conduct, according to the interviews, as well as court records and written recollections. The interactions occurred in his offices at Trump Tower, at his homes, at construction sites and backstage at beauty pageants. They appeared to be fleeting, unimportant moments to him, but they left lasting impressions on the women who experienced them.
The article, according to a spokesperson for the Times, is the most read political story the newspaper has published in 2016.
In response to the piece, we’ve seen some curious reactions from women close to the Republican candidate. His spokesperson, Katrina Pierson, said yesterday, for example, “Women know Donald Trump is a very successful businessperson. He’s raised a wonderful family. His own wife endorsed him for president.”
In a separate interview, Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, said, “I’m not in every interaction my father has, but he’s not a groper.”
And Melania Trump, the candidate’s third wife, added in a different interview, “We know the truth. He’s not Hitler.”
So, let’s review. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee has an alarming history with women, but (a) he’s not a genocidal groper; and (b) he’s capable of picking up a campaign endorsement from his own wife.
Maybe, when looking for a national leader, Americans may look for a presidential candidate who can clear a higher bar, but this is nevertheless where things stand in the 2016 race.
As for the embarrassment this may cause Trump’s party, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus argued over the weekend, in reference to a question about the Times article, “I’ve got to tell you, I think that all these stories that come out – and they come out every couple weeks – people just don’t care.”
Well, Republican primary voters didn’t seem to care, but the national electorate may bring a very different perspective to the table.
Postscript: One of the notable parts of the Times article highlighted an anecdote in which Trump asked Brook Antoinette Mahealani Lee, Miss Universe at the time, for her opinion about his daughter’s body.
” ‘Don’t you think my daughter’s hot? She’s hot, right?’ ” Lee recalled him saying. ‘I was like, ‘Really?’ That’s just weird. She was 16. That’s creepy.”
Olivia Nuzzi explained why Trump may have said something like this: “Trump says creepy things about Ivanka being hot because, to him, hot is the most valuable thing a woman can be. It’s not about wanting to sleep with his daughter. It’s about his daughter’s worth and, by extension, his own worth.”
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 18, 2016