If You Find the Evangelical Love Affair With Donald Trump Baffling, Let Me Explain It

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Religion

Apparently The Donald is capturing the Evangelical vote, for the moment, anyway. The question is, why?

Trump does not exactly radiate piety. He’s been married three times. He’s mostly known for making money and firing people on a bad reality show.

Worse, the church he claims to attend says he’s not an “active member.” Turns out it is the church his parents attended. The Donald apparently doesn’t know what denomination the church is part of; he called himself a Presbyterian, but the church in question is part of the Reformed Church in America.

Digby wrote,

In South Carolina this week, Trump explained that evangelicals love him, and he loves them. And he loves the Bible more than anything, even his own book, “The Art of the Deal,” which he loves very, very much. He declined to identify his favorite Bible passages, because he says the Bible is so intensely personal to him, but he was more forthcoming awhile back when pollster Frank Luntz asked him if he’d ever asked God for forgiveness.

“I am not sure I have. I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don’t think so. I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t…” Trump said. “When I drink my little wine — which is about the only wine I drink — and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness, and I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed. I think in terms of ‘let’s go on and let’s make it right.’”

His piety and spirituality are very moving.

I would add that most Presbyterian churches in America serve non-alcoholic grape juice for communion, although the Reformed people do use wine.

There’s a lot of analysis out there trying to explain why evangelicals, of all people, would embrace this guy as one o’ there’n. Betsy Woodruff tells us that Trump has been courting churches for the past few years, which may be a clue he is actually serious about the President thing and is not just in it for the attention. She writes at The Daily Beast,

Turns out, Trump has been courting the evangelical vote for quite some time. The Donald J. Trump Foundation has made donations to evangelical groups like Iowa’s The Family Leader ($10,000 in 2013, PDF), Samaritan’s Purse ($10,000 in 2013, PDF) and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association ($100,000 in 2012, PDF), according to IRS forms posted on Guidestar.org.

Earlier this month, Graham’s son, Franklin, praised Trump’s debate performance on Facebook.

“[H]e’s shaking up the Republican party and the political process overall. And it needs shaking up!” Franklin Graham wrote.

And like other right-wingers who have fallen under Trump’s spell, there’s the authoritarian angle. Evangelicals are tired of Republicans who promise to do things like end abortion and stop same-sex marriage, and then don’t do it because of those pesky constitutional limits on their powers. Trump is a man of action who is just going to fix things, see? See also Steve M.

I’d like to point out one more thing about people who consider themselves religious. Psychologists who study religiosity as an aspect of personality talk about “intrinsic” and “extrinsic” religious orientations. Exactly what this means and how it is measured have shifted a bit over the years, I believe, but they are still important measures. This is from a recent study of the impact of religion on attitudes toward homosexuality:

How to distinguish intrinsic from extrinsic motivation? Allport and Ross (1967, p. 434) determined the difference as follows: “the extrinsically motivated person uses his religion, whereas the intrinsically motivated lives his religion.”  …  An example is an extrinsically motivated person, whose attitude relies heavily on the statements of fellow believers as well as religious leaders. This person is expected to be particularly homonegative if their peers and religious leaders speak out decidedly against homosexuality. It is conceivable that the attitude of an extrinsically motivated person would be built on the abbreviated and therefore most likely more radical commentary of religious authorities. In comparison, intrinsically motivated persons will occupy themselves intensely with the foundations of their religion and, in doing so, will possibly come to a more sophisticated and therefore more liberal view of homosexuality.

On other words, the extrinsic orientation is mostly about social and cultural conditioning and group conformity dressed up as piety; the intrinsic orientation is more focused on actual church teaching. And I contend that religious culture warrior types are mostly extrinsics. Their religion is not something they keep in their hearts and minds; it’s the uniform they wear. It’s the banner they carry.

That the “religion” some evangelicals manifest may have little to do with the teachings of Jesus shouldn’t take anyone by surprise, because it doesn’t. It’s mostly their culturally induced biases shoved into a Christian (or whatever) package. And an authoritarian figure who promises to smite those they are biased against is just too compelling. Who cares if he doesn’t know Presbyterian from popcorn?

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We’d Need a Really Big Woodshed

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Obama Administration

Oh,  this is funny. Now Scott Walker is saying President Obama is supposed to “take China to the woodshed.”

SCOTT WALKER: [Yesterday], the White House Press Secretary was asked about my comments asking the president to cancel the state visit from Xi Jinping, the leader of China. He didn’t comment, said he wasn’t going to comment. This suggests to me he is intimidated. I’m not intimidated to talk about China…

The bottom line is a state visit is something special and extraordinary, a reward the U.S. provides to alies, friends, and partners of the U.S.

If anything, we need to take China to the woodshed.

There were news stories last year saying that China had taken over the title of “world’s largest economy” from the U.S. This was according to the World Monetary Fund. I take it China is back to being #2 now.

China has the world’s largest standing army. “The size of the Chinese army is staggering, with 2,285,000 active frontline personnel with an additional 2,300,000 in the reserves.” Plus China has nukes, and multiple nuclear warhead missiles.

You don’t take China to the woodshed, Scott.

Also, this right-wing idea that merely talking to an American president is some kind of reward for good behavior is just plain weird. Likewise, the idea that not talking to some head of state is punishment. Weird, weird, weird.

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Clinton! Email! Scandal!

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Big Bill

We have reached the point at which the Operatives are putting the name “Clinton” and the words “email” into any headline they can, because. Jonathan Karl of ABC News solemnly tells us that, some time while HRC was secretary of state, Bill Clinton received requests to speak from the Republic of Congo and North Korea. And Bill’s people ran this by the State Department, and the State Department said no. And that was that.

This is apparently supposed to be a scandal. To which I say, wtf?

Help me out here. Is there something I’m not seeing?

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Sometimes You Need to Dance

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blogging

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Disturbing

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Bad Hair, Republican Party

A couple of articles to read together — see “The Fearful and the Frustrated” by Evan Osnos at The New Yorker and an article recommended by Joan16, “Hate-Group Watchdog: Trump Has ‘White Nationalist Positions.'”

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The Monster That Lee Atwater and Karl Rove Made

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Bad Hair, Republican Party

Frank Luntz got some Trump supporters together for a focus group. I believe this is what’s called a “cult of personality.”

Many sounded like relations of an ill patient, furious that all the previous doctors have botched a test or fumbled the scalpel. To them, Trump actually is the real-deal fixer-upper, and he is going to make America great again.

“We know his goal is to make America great again,” a woman said. “It’s on his hat. And we see it every time it’s on TV. Everything that he’s doing, there’s no doubt why he’s doing it: it’s to make America great again.”

The focus group watched taped instances on a television of Trump’s apparent misogyny, political flip flops and awe-inspiring braggadocio. They watched the Donald say Rosie O’Donnell has a “fat, ugly face.” They saw that Trump once supported a single-payer health system, and they heard him say, “I will be the greatest jobs president God ever created.” But the group—which included 23 white people, 3 African-Americans and three Hispanics and consisted of a plurality of college-educated, financially comfortably Donald devotees—was undeterred.

At the end of the session, the vast majority said they liked Trump more than when they walked in.

“You guys understand how significant this is?” Luntz asked the press breathlessly when he came back into the room behind the glass. “This is real. I’m having trouble processing it. Like, my legs are shaking.”

It’s easy to psychoanalyze this crew and call them authoritarians, but it’s also the case that they’re really disgusted with other Republicans.

Much of Trump’s support in the room seemed to stem from a weakness in the Republican party. The 2014 midterms did not usher in the conservative renaissance Republicans expected. Obamacare has still not been repealed, Congress is looking less likely to override a veto on the Iran deal, and there are still 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States.

The group of 29 went around the room, each supplying a single adjective for the legislative body that let them down after the 2014 elections. Congress “does nothing.” It’s “too old.” “Useless.” “Lame.” “Inept.” “Wrong party.” “Cocktail party.” “Gridlock.” “Costly.” “Sold out.” “Sucks.” “Douchebags.”

Then, the group did the same for Trump. This time: “Tough.” “Businessman.” “Great.” “Successful.” “Not afraid.” “Leader.” “Has guts.” “Charismatic.” “A true American.” “Kicks ass and takes names.”

And again, we can assume this crew is not exactly cracking the IQ ceiling. But lo … Josh Marshall tells us it is possible that Trump really could end up with the Republican nomination. With such a divided field, just 25 to 30 percent of the primary vote could get Trump into the general election.

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Winks

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Social Issues

You might have heard about the juvenile frat boys who were disciplined by Old Dominion University for this:

Freshman women at Old Dominion University were given a very special welcome last week when they arrived on campus: Large banners that read “Rowdy and fun/Hope your baby girl is ready for a good time,” “Freshman daughter drop off,” and “Go ahead and drop off mom too.” Photos of the helpful offers to fornicate with women across multiple generations in the university community have since gone viral.

The banners were widely condemned by the university and other students, and the fraternity has been suspended pending further investigation. Note that it’s possible the fraternity itself wasn’t behind this and that the perps were just some stupid little boys who thought they were being clever.

My first reaction was to feel vindicated in my long-standing view that most young men ought to spend a couple of years keeping silence in a monastery somewhere before they’re allowed out into the world — I’m not picky about what sort of monastery, mind you. But apparently some on the Right think we’re making a big deal about nothing.

Hit and Run — It was protected speech and not really that offensive.

Comment at Daily Caller — “Good Lord, will people please get the sticks out of their behinds and find their sense of humor again! Yes, it’s not right, yes, it’s borderline sick, but still darkly funny, and the more people who thumb their noses at the PC police, the better.”

Comment at Fox News — “When you see the way FEMALE students behave on Spring break, especially in florida, Arizona or Mexico,  to claim that one female student “even considered going back home” is the joke of the day.

PJ Tattler — Reaction is just over-the-top hysteria. “You have to be out of your mind to believe that the banner-hangers had sexual assault or dating violence in mind when they put them up.

Comment at PJ Tattler — “I am so glad our sons are out of college. Young males can’t do anything today without the ridiculous females crying they are “hurt”.

I assume that last commenter doesn’t have daughters. Also there was a lot of nostalgia for “Animal House.”

Granted, stuff like this happened when I was in college (1969-1973) and was shrugged off. Boys will be boys, you know. But here are a couple of paragraphs from Rethinking Religion

Also, as Hannah Arendt observed of Adolf Eichmann, sometimes “evil” people are those who mirror the values of their peers and culture, without self-reflection or thought of consequence. When we read about teenage boys brutalizing a girl and bragging about it on Twitter, for example, that’s what we’re seeing. And when other people try to cover up or trivialize the brutality, or blame the victim, that’s what we’re seeing. Because such acts are an expression of social and cultural values, and approved by peers, they don’t feel evil to those committing them.

And later, when the brutality has been exposed to the light of day, we want so very much to believe that the perpetrators are somehow abnormal, or monsters, or possessed of some aberrant quality that caused them to be brutal. But most of the time, in truth, there is nothing measurably abnormal about them at all. That’s why cultural values — not just the ones we pay lip service to, but the ones we wink at — have real-world consequences, also.

The fact is, whether we admit to it or not, popular culture still thinks it’s cool to objectify and sexually exploit women, and as long as that’s true there will always be soft-headed young men who will act out that behavior. And a few of those young men will end up with rape convictions, and then people will wring their hands and either wonder how he could have been such a monster, or isn’t it a shame his life is being ruined. And I’m proposing that the university is absolutely right for not winking at this stuff any more. And this is not just for the sake of the young women on campus, but also for the sake of young men — and also young women — who don’t have the sense God gave eggplant.

Whether there is or is not a rape crisis on campus, any more than there was when I was on campus, is a matter to argue over. However, it’s not outrageous or new for universities to have codes for how students should behave. Letting it be known that this behavior is not acceptable is a step in the right direction. And then maybe, eventually, as a culture we’ll stop winking.

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Thrill Ride

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Obama Administration

One of the nice things about being a poor old lady is that stock market free falls don’t get me excited. I hope none of you are too inconvenienced, however. I suspect some vacation plans were canceled today.

There’s speculation that Joe Biden will announce his candidacy and that Liz Warren has agreed to run on the ticket with him. This is not known for certain, mind you. If true, however, this would certainly drop a bomb into the Dem nomination campaigns.

Die-hard non-genius Scott Walker wants President Obama to cancel Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to the White House next month. Apparently Walker thinks China deliberately tanked its own economy to crash the U.S. stock market.

U.S. officials have said the summit will offer a chance for the Obama to raise concerns with Xi, while also making progress on other areas of cooperation such as combating climate change. China is also among the nations involved with the United States on a deal with Iran on its nuclear program.

But Walker said that Obama should cancel the visit because “there’s serious work to be done rather than pomp and circumstance. We need to see some backbone from President Obama.”

Yes, dimwit, there is serious work to be done, which is why the grown ups will get together and discuss it. You can stay home and play with your plastic Holsteins, or whatever you do.

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Why We’re Screwed, Part Infinity

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Democratic Party

I’ve been thinking about the Democratic presidential candidates and how it is we ended up with such a weak field. My impression is that in the past few years Dem party elites and the bigger contributors simply assumed it was Hillary Clinton’s turn, and that she was the strongest candidate who could take the White House. So few other Dems thought about running.

And now that assumption is not looking so good. Although she’s still a clear front runner, polls show support for her is falling. And the constant drumbeats about the email issue, even though I’ve yet to see a credible allegation she did anything illegal, could be hurting her. Some people on the Dem side are griping she’s not handling the email thing well. There are headlines about her campaign imploding.

I don’t think her campaign has imploded yet, but what if it did? This is what happens when you put all your eggs in one basket, Dems.

Joe Biden may jump in, and while he wouldn’t be my first choice, I think he’s a better campaigner and debater than people remember. Especially compared to whatever loony tune the Republicans eventually shove into the nomination, IMO Biden might strike most voters as a safe alternative.

However, given the realities of modern presidential campaigns, if Biden jumped in now he’d be millions of dollars and many months behind the rest of the field. That’s another argument for campaign finance reform, IMO. The current system forces everyone to commit too early, unable to switch gears if the one and only candidate stumbles.

As much as I love Bernie Sanders, asking America to vote for a “socialist” Jew for President is still too much of a gamble, IMO. I wish things were otherwise. Although in a sane world, considering the Republican field, the Dems ought to be able to elect a pastrami sandwich in 2016. Also, Martin O’Malley doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, although that could change once there are debates.

But, ultimately, if the Dems blow the 2016 election it’s going to be the fault of party leaders who didn’t encourage some healthy competition in the nomination process.

For another perspective on why the Dems can’t get their act together, see Charles Pierce.

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Stuff to Read

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Obama Administration

An interview with historian Eric Foner, “People Know Next to Nothing About Reconstruction.”

I run into new college graduates who still think of Reconstruction as the time when grifter carpetbaggers went South and stole money from honest, God-fearing (and white) plantation owners. Or, it was the time the federal government sent federal troops to harass honest, God-fearing (and white) southerners and take away their vote and put illiterate former slaves into office, to everyone’s ruination. And the point of Reconstruction was to punish the South for Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. It’s still the Birth of a Nation / Gone With the Wind view.

Which is entirely wrong. And a lot of heads would explode if the truth were known.

Josh Marshall, “BREAKING: Nuclear Stuff Really Complicated.”

This is short, and a must-read. People who actually understand nuclear stuff and the Iran Deal say it’s as good and as tight as it needs to be. But that hasn’t stopped politicians (including Chuck Schumer) of feeding misinformation to the public, and so far news media aren’t doing any better.

The Right-Wing Hate Machine. Twitchy and the art of herding rage at selected targets.

Debt Is Good. Rand Paul says something stupid. Professor Krugman ridicules him.

One more: Planned Parenthood means fewer abortions.

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