(As published with The National Interest.)
For decades, Republican electoral politics has relied on “the evangelicals”—a vague swath of socially conservative low-church Protestants who would reliably support GOP candidates saying the right things about abortion and family values. Ever since Ronald Reagan told the Moral Majority in 1980 that although “I know that you can’t endorse me. . . I endorse you,” the Republican establishment has had a tenuous but stable relationship with the Christians who made up its most loyal voter base.
Then along came Donald Trump. Far from fracturing the Republican base, his real talent has been to exploit internal rifts that had long lain dormant. It’s no secret that instead of principled conservatives, he appeals viscerally to the losers of the global economy. His staunchest supporters feel vulnerable not just because of declining working-class employment, but also because of a loss of social belonging and binding community norms of all kinds—including church membership—that has hit working-class whites harder than any other group. (Read more…)
Image: Gage Skidmore