MAGA and their Orange Calf
Why they still love Trump
As a former conservative voter and evangelical, I have been stumped as to why smart people I know still support Trump. I even wonder if they have some sort of mental disease.
It’s something I think about a lot, talk about with like-minded friends, and even debate with Trump supporters. Yet, I am still lost as to why they supported him. I understand the cult aspect of it, the Christian Nationalism, and even the racism. But something is still missing.
I think I finally have it.
In 1967, Robert Bellah come up with the idea of American civil religion. I’m not going to get into detail about American civil religion because I want to talk about Trump and his supporters. If you’re interested, here is the Wikipedia article on it that goes into the idea more than just the Bellah article.
But I’ll explain it briefly so I can tie it into why I think Christian Conservatives support the orange madman.
American civil religion is the theory that people view the United States with a religious faith and attitude. There are many similarities, some I’ll note here:
- Dogma: Ideas like “anyone can succeed if you work hard enough,” “socialism is bad,” and even “the American Dream.”
- Scripture: Begins with the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.
- Traditions: Students saying the Pledge of Allegiance, singing the National Anthem, and celebrating July 4 just to name a few.
- Mythology: The discovery of America, the Pilgrims, the Lost Cause for the Confederacy, trickle-down economics, and even the melting pot
- Symbols: the American flag, the Liberty Bell and other monuments, the bald eagle, and red hats
- Prophets: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, and — I’d now argue — Donald Trump
Let me be clear, though, American Civil Religion isn’t just a right-wing belief. All politicians embrace this as do most Americans by default. For example, in Kennedy’s Inaugural Address, he ends his speech with —
. . . let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own. -JFK, 1/21/61
Author of The Founding Myth, @AndrewLSeidel, argues that the Declaration of Independence was written in a religious tone, not because Jefferson and others sought a Christian nation, but because religion was the language of persuasion.
I would argue that Christian Conservatives are predisposed to deifying someone like Trump. The Christian Conservative is rooted in tradition, racism, whiteness, and authoritarianism. They love “law and order” along with taking the stories of Adam and Eve, the Great Flood, Moses, the resurrection, and the Rapture as literal.
Add to this the influence of Fox News and social media and it’s a perfect storm for Christian Conservatives to see Trump as their savior.
These people want an authority figure who will redeem them. The last figure was Reagan, who is still in the Conservative pantheon of god-like figures though his presidency ended 34 years ago and is heavily tarnished. Trump is the second coming along with social media and Fox News weaponizing this belief, however, which is why some worry about a coming Civil War.
American civil religion isn’t new. For the most part, it’s been harmless and a way for Americans to bond by having a common set of memories. Along with that, it’s probably helped immigrants adjust to the United States.
But when you have a narcissist, fascist former president trying to return to power, his use of the American civil religion language and symbols creates the support he needs from those who are willing to give up the values of the Declaration of Independence to bring back the very type of leader we broke away from.
The next time you’re with a friend or relative who still supports Trump, point out this toxic version of American civil religion and see where the conversation goes. Hopefully there is some sanity left in them.