The Church of Trump?
I am not entirely sure whether it is a vice or a virtue but I often enjoy reading Leftist writing. They are so blind that they regularly give me a laugh. I suppose it is the psychologist in me. I want to see how their strange minds work.
And the most amusing thing about their response to Donald Trump is their total inability even to consider that he might have got some things right. That's just not an available explanation for them. So what do they do? They find something psychologically wrong with either Trump or his supporters. Leftists have been making such claims about conservatives at least since 1950 and have succeeded in convincing only themselves -- so they are like a dog returning to its vomit in trying the same strategy with Trump.
The first label they tried to stick on Trump and his supporters was the old 1950's claim that he is "authoritarian". But, since it is in fact they who constantly try to confine Americans within a straitjacket of endless regulations, that label had no adhesive power at all and seems now to have been abandoned. See here and here
So it is interesting that the latest explanation for Trump's success below has finally made some attempts to address reality.
She starts out with a litany of Trump's failures and scandals as she sees them and wonders why none of those failures seem to dent his popularity. That most of the failures are simply Trump's impatience with detail she does not consider. She certainly does not consider that not being a policy wonk might actually be an element in his popularity. Do policy wonks make attractive political candidates? Few of his voters are likely to be policy wonks so are probably happy with getting it broadly right in their own lives.
In fact, the little lady asserts below that Trump supporters like Trump's simple slogans.
And then of course we see the typically Leftist malicious misattributions. No matter what Trump does, it is a product of racism, not some practical reason. And anything Trump does is wrong anyhow, even if Obama also did it.
Then she gets on to her big discovery: Trump makes his voters happy! Could it be that they enjoy his puncturing of the great Obama/Clinton balloon of Leftist pomposity and self-righteousnesss? Could it be relief at Trump's attacks on the Leftist straitjacket of regulations and are relieved to hear common sense coming from the White House instead of hectoring?
No way! It's because of "tribalism" and because they don't go to church any more. Pesky that Trump supporters come from all races and all walks of life! Pesky that Trump has very broad church support and is himself openly Christian. Herman Cain tells us that 29% of blacks now support Trump. I wonder what tribe they belong to?
What the lady is doing is a familiar sleight of hand that any analytical philosopher can tell you about. "Tribalism" sounds like an explanation but is in fact a definition: To like Trump MAKES you part of a tribe, the Trump tribe. It is at best an observation. It explains nothing.
And the idea that lots of people are alienated from moralistic churches is surely true. But it is true mainly of the old mainstream churches. More evangelical churches are forgiving and make a big effort at outreach. Americans who are religious at all can usually find a church to suit them. The claim that Trump supporters are worshiping at some sort of new Trumpian religion -- when the religion at his rallies is plainly evangelical Christian -- is just a desperate attempt to look at what his real appeal is -- relief from Leftist tyranny and joy at having a President who makes sense to ordinary people
By Alex (Alexandra?) Wagner
Two weeks before the Iowa caucuses, in late January 2016, the Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump announced to an audience in Sioux City: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay? It’s, like, incredible.”
Trump, who has always been prone to fantastical overstatement, was derided at the time, but here and now—more than two and a half years later—the statement seems prescient.
You could list the scandals—from Robert Mueller’s probe to Michael Cohen to Stormy Daniels, from Tom Price to Scott Pruitt to Ben Carson, from Bill Shine to Ronny Jackson to Jared Kushner, from the Trump Hotel to the Trump label, from Charlottesville to Ukraine—and while it would be very long, it would not (at least in the eyes of Trump’s supporters) be disqualifying. Politically speaking, the president is standing with his guns blazing in the middle of Fifth Avenue, and he’s not losing anyone. Miraculously, Trump remains on top; so far this year, Gallup has registered an approval rating among the members of his own party ranging from 81 to 90 percent. Despite it all, those numbers have barely budged.
How is such a thing possible? In part, it’s a symptom of contemporary politics—Barack Obama enjoyed similarly high approval ratings from Democratic partisans during his terms in office. And there’s some evidence that Republicans disaffected with Trump are ceasing to identify with their party, leaving only the president’s supporters behind. But Obama never endured a comparable string of scandals; the erosion of the GOP’s ranks doesn’t explain the fervency of those who remain.
Is it Trump—or something larger than Trump? Possibly, it’s both. Last spring, my colleague Peter Beinart looked at the increasing secularization of American society and how it had contributed to the rise of political tribalism:
As Americans have left organized religion, they haven’t stopped viewing politics as a struggle between “us” and “them.” Many have come to define us and them in even more primal and irreconcilable ways.
This tribalism has infected both the right and the left—but in particular, Beinart cited the work of W. Bradford Wilcox, a sociologist at the University of Virginia who has concluded that “rates of religious attendance have fallen more than twice as much among whites without a college degree as among those who graduated college.”
Non-college-educated whites are the Trump base, now set adrift:
Establishing causation is difficult, but we know that culturally conservative white Americans who are disengaged from church experience less economic success and more family breakdown than those who remain connected, and they grow more pessimistic and resentful.
You could draw a straight line from a disenfranchised, pessimistic, resentful audience to Trump’s brand of fear-driven, divisive politics, but this would leave out an equally important part of the Trump phenomenon, and something critical to its success: the elation. Go to a Trump rally, speak to Trump supporters, and the devotion is nearly evangelical. Their party line is less a talking point than a sermon: His voters have talked to me about the “bad deal” with Iran, the “drug mules” crossing the border, the Mueller “witch hunt.” The language is uniform, as they quote chapter and verse. Here are the true believers: It is no surprise that Trump’s numbers won’t move.
In his research, Wilcox noted the particular isolation of the white working class in the institutional church:
Moderately educated Americans may feel less attracted to churches that uphold the bourgeois virtues—delayed gratification, a focus on education, self-control, etc.—that undergird this lifestyle. As importantly, working class whites may also feel uncomfortable socializing with the middle and upper class whites who have increasingly come to dominate the life of religious congregations in the U.S. since the 1970s, especially as they see their own economic fortunes fall.
The declining economic position of white working class Americans may have made the bourgeois moral logic embodied in many churches both less attractive and attainable.
Trumpism proposes a system of worship formed in direct opposition to bourgeois moral logic, with values that are anti-intellectual and anti–politically correct. If mainline Protestantism is a bastion of the educated, upper-middle class, the Church of Trump is a gathering place for its castoffs. Trump’s rhetoric about the “silent majority” is indeed a racial dog whistle, but it is also a call to his supporters to unmask themselves. He offers a public embrace of a worldview that has been, at least until this point, a mark of shame. There is belonging in this—but there is also relief.
That part of the Trump phenomenon remains mostly unnoticed, except by those who have witnessed it firsthand. Reporting from a rally in South Carolina in 2015, Molly Ball observed:
Despite all the negativity and fear, the energy in this room does not feel dark and aggressive and threatening. It doesn’t feel like a powder keg about to blow, a lynch mob about to rampage. It feels joyous.
“There is so much love in every room I go to,” Trump says, near the end of nearly an hour and a half of free-associative bombast, silly and sometimes offensive impressions, and insane pronouncements. “We want our country to be great again, and we know it can be done!”
At a rally in South Bend, Indiana, that I attended earlier this year, there were offensive T-shirts (hillary sucks … but not like monica) and angry chants, but there were also goofy costumes and free sandwiches. There was name calling, but there were also group selfies.
I spoke to Wilcox about this aspect of Trumpism—the strange joy inherent in the shouts of self-designated “deplorable” status—and whether that might signal a substitute for the rapture of the church. “The Trump rallies have collective effervescence,” Wilcox said. “Émile Durkheim wrote about the power of collective effervescence—of engaging in common rituals that give them meaning and power and strength. And those things can be wonderful, or they can be dangerous.”
Durkheim’s theory—that a gathering of the tribe can create a certain energy that renders particular people or objects sacred—goes a long way toward explaining Trump’s infallibility among his supporters. But it also brings to the fore something that Trump critics have missed so far when focusing on his (not insignificant) negatives: Trumpism, like many forms of non-secular worship, makes its believers feel good.
“Among the poor and the working class,” Wilcox told me,“when it comes to both marriage and religion, there has been a real erosion. And that has hit them harder than the upper classes.”
He continued: “These two important sources of solidarity and meaning are now much less a part of working-class American’s lives—and leaves them that much more disenchanted and disenfranchised.”
If Trumpism is endowing certain Americans with a sense of solidarity and support that were once found in institutions like the church (or marriage), the implications for the Republican Party—to say nothing of American society writ large—are consequential.
At its core, the Church of Trump is irreconcilable with a society that values equal protection, free speech, and the separation of powers. And yet strident efforts to convince the faithful of a prophet’s fallacy may backfire, producing redoubled faith. To deconstruct the complicated and visceral relationship between Trump and his supporters, those on the outside must begin to grapple with the oddness of the proposition itself: Trump, in all his baseness, offers his believers something that is, strangely, spiritually elevated.