Trump’s newest campaign tactic is to demand that state governors allow unrestricted religious services. “The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to open right now. For this weekend. If they don’t do it, I will override the governors,” he said.
President Donald Trump on Friday commanded America’s governors to immediately reopen churches and other places of worship shuttered by the coronavirus pandemic, threatening to “override” the state leaders if they refused to follow his directive.
Speaking at a previously unannounced news briefing at the White House, the president revealed that officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were “issuing guidance for communities of faith,” and declared “houses of worship, churches, synagogues and mosques” to be “essential places that provide essential services.”
“Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential, but have left out churches and other houses of worship,” Trump told reporters. “It’s not right. So, I’m correcting this injustice and calling houses of worship essential.”
Trump emphasized he was calling upon governors to allow places of worship to resume operations “right now,” and warned that “if there’s any question, they’re going to have to call me — but they are not going to be successful in that call.” …
… The president had previewed his announcement in recent days, telling reporters outside the White House on Thursday that churches “are not being treated with respect by a lot of the Democrat governors,” and that his administration was “going to take a very strong position on that very soon.”
Of course, Trump doesn’t have the constitutional authority to override state governors on matters of public health. We’ve been through this already. But I’m sure he’s hoping some Democratic governors stand up to him and declare the churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques must stay closed, and then Trump will stand up and cast himself as the Defender of the Faith who wants to fill those pews this Sunday.
I suspect the governors are smart enough to understand that, and I suspect they will just ignore him.
However, a lot of the less responsible clergy and faith leaders are going to take Trump’s words as permission to hold in-person services this Sunday, in spite of what the state (or city, or county) government says. Trump is trying to weaponize worship, in other words. But I question whether this will earn him any points with people who aren’t already part of his base. With many well publicized exceptions, my impression is that most clergy and religious organizations don’t want their followers to die of infection and prefer to be cautious. But a whole lot of them will open up anyway.
But why is this so important to Trump?
A sudden shift in support for Donald Trump among religious conservatives is triggering alarm bells inside his reelection campaign, where top aides have long banked on expanding the president’s evangelical base as a key part of their strategy for victory this November.
The anxiety over Trump’s standing with the Christian right surfaced after a pair of surveys by reputable outfits earlier this month found waning confidence in the administration’s coronavirus response among key religious groups, with a staggering decline in the president’s favorability among white evangelicals and white Catholics. Both are crucial constituencies that supported Trump by wide margins in 2016 and could sink his reelection prospects if their turnout shrinks this fall.
The polls paint a bleak picture for Trump, who has counted on broadening his religious support by at least a few percentage points to compensate for weakened appeal with women and suburban populations. One GOP official said the dip in the president’s evangelical support also appeared in internal party polling, but disputed the notion that it had caused panic. Another person close to the campaign described an April survey by the Public Religion Research Institute, which showed a double-digit decline in Trump’s favorability among white evangelicals (-11), white Catholics (-12) and white mainline protestants (-18) from the previous month, as “pretty concerning.”
To safeguard his relationship with religious conservatives, Trump on Friday demanded that America‘s governors permit houses of worship to immediately reopen, and threatened to “override“ state leaders who decline to obey his directive. The announcement — which came days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention omitted religious institutions in new guidance about industry reopenings — featured clear appeals to white evangelicals, many of whom have long supported Trump’s socially conservative agenda.
In other news — a “signature” White House initiative I hadn’t heard of before is crashing before it got going. Apparently the idea was to direct farm surplus to needy families. This is a grand idea. But the Trumpers can’t pull it off.
But the USDA bypassed the country’s three largest food distribution companies, as well as nonprofit organizations with long histories of feeding the poor on a large scale, according to Tom Stenzel, president of the United Fresh Produce Association (UFPA).
A San Antonio event planner? An avocado mail-order company? A health and wellness airport kiosk company? A trade finance organization? The USDA is run by the utterly worthless Sonny Purdue, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Jared and Ivanka were in on it. Anyway, it was the avocado company that lost the contract. Nobody knows exactly why them and not the other contractors.
The UFPA, a trade association for the produce supply chain, has raised concerns about the awards, saying in a letter to the USDA that some of the companies have no record of similar work, do not have truckers or delivery systems, do not operate in the region where they are supposed to provide services or were awarded contracts larger than their annual revenue.
“We know of several upstanding companies that are current government contractors to USDA and the [Defense Department’s] Fresh program who were seemingly denied on mistaken grounds,” Stenzel wrote in the letter to the USDA. He has asked the USDA to clarify the process for companies that did not get contracts to dispute the rationale provided by the USDA.
Anything Trump is even remotely connected to will be screwed up. It’s a law of nature, like gravity.