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It isn't just Rick Perry who believes Donald Trump is the 'chosen one'

Evangelical voters in the US are increasingly willing to separate morals in a president from morals in a country

Hannah Selinger
New York
Monday 25 November 2019 21:21 GMT
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Trump is the chosen one sent by God to do great things says presidents adviser

In a teaser for an extended interview with Energy Secretary Rick Perry today, Fox News aired a clip in which the secretary refers to Donald Trump as the “chosen one” and asserts that he has been “sent by God to do great things.” Does that seem objectively ludicrous, given the president’s clearly immoral behavior? Actually, this idea of Trump as Savior is in tune with a widespread evangelical perspective.

Donald Trump’s popularity among evangelicals is nothing new, of course. It emerged during the lead-up to the 2016 election and has held strong throughout his presidency. But, given Perry’s proclamation, this dedication to the president by the fiercely religious is worth revisiting. Why does this voting bloc get behind Trump so completely? How can people committed to the Christian religion, which places specific import on honesty, kindness, and a whole host of other traits that the president doesn’t outwardly exhibit, support a president who clearly doesn’t hold those traits dear? The answer is that his agenda is their agenda, and they consider that agenda worth fighting for.

For evangelicals, Donald Trump offers deliverables. The conservatives who follow the letter of the law when it comes to the Bible count among their most important issues “family values” (abortion, gay marriage, and so on). On these issues, Trump has offered a far-right tack. Despite who he actually is as a person, he checks the boxes — enabling evangelicals to look the other way and toward a perceived "greater good."

Consider this: Under this president, abortion has surged as a hot button issue, both federally and within the states. In 2017, Trump reinstated a global gag rule, which dictates that family planning services abroad that are funded by the United States cannot provide abortions. He has appointed not one but two justices to the Supreme Court, and although their future rulings pursuant to reproductive choice remain to be seen, both Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh have written past decisions indicating that their rulings would fall on the evangelical (read: anti-choice) side of the political spectrum.

Individual states, incentivized by the promise of these new justices, have taken steps to curtail abortion rights within their own borders. That includes states like Alabama, where a law attempting to ban abortion entirely was passed (before being challenged and temporarily blocked). The hope, of course, is that one of these contested laws will eventually be heard by the Court, and that the majority will overturn Roe v Wade. To evangelicals, this can be seen as the righting of the ship. If their president is a cad, at least he has delivered to them two justices who will occupy the bench for the next several decades.

Consider, too, the path to equality for members of the LGBTQ community under Donald Trump. As recently as this month, Trump approved language for the child welfare system that would place religious liberty above sexual orientation when it comes to protection under the law. That phrase — “religious freedom” — is a dog-whistle for evangelicals, who understand the coded message therein. The supplanting of rights of LGBTQ people in favor of so-called religious people is a guarantee that one minority will continue to face systemic oppression on the government’s watch.

The Perry problem, then, is emblematic of a larger issue when it comes to Trump, and it’s that many of these voters are willing to separate morals in a president from morals in a country. These voters will pull the lever for a man who prevaricates daily, who has had multiple wives and even more affairs. That’s because they believe that those characteristics outweigh the things they want done in Washington. Rick Perry is no different. He, too, is willing to overlook gross misconduct, of which he was part, simply because he likes the president’s policies.

This is the problem with Trump and his allies, and it begins with religion: What it means to follow God has been lost in a political game that places legislative wins over moral losses. Will evangelicals ever see the light? As Rick Perry demonstrates in his ruthless sycophancy, the odds are slim.

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