It's the faith-based question that almost everyone is asking right now about the madness in the culturally conservative wing of the Republican Party.
What are lots of those evangelical voters in Iowa (and elsewhere) thinking when it comes to hugging billionaire, New Yorker, gambling czar and world-famous (onetime, maybe) playboy Donald Trump?
The other day, I argued -- in this podcast -- that the key word is anger, linked with disappointment. Is that anger at President Barack Obama? Not really. They never expected anything from Obama other than what they've been getting. My headline on the post that went with that podcast: "Big question: Falwell Jr. is so mad at (fill in the blanks) that he's ready to hug Donald Trump?"
So who or what goes in that (fill in the blanks) space?
You can call them the "country club" Republicans. You can call them the "establishment." You can call them all kinds of things, but the key is that it is that upper-crust GOP brain- and money-trust crowd that drives around in Washington, D.C., in limos listening to National Public Radio. The folks running the show are not the angry and often ignored folks whose brand of conservatism is a mix of conservative culture and economic populism.
This leads me to that Tucker "Daily Caller" Carlson think piece that ran the other day in The Politico, of all places. No one, trust me, will be reading this piece from any pulpits anytime soon, not after that opening anecdote. However, this piece contains one passage that really struck home for me (hat tip to Rod "friend of this blog" Dreher) in my reading about the GOP craziness, including a kicker sentence that hits like a bolt of lightning.
Donald Trump Is Shocking, Vulgar and Right
And, my dear fellow Republicans, he's all your fault
And here is that passage that I think will help journalists covering Iowa catch a glimpse of what is happening in a few pulpits and pews (but mainly pews) in many evangelical churches in the heartland. Read to the end, please:
Republican primary voters should be forgiven for wondering who exactly is on the reckless side of this debate. At the very least, Trump seems like he wants to protect the country.
Evangelicals understand this better than most. You read surveys that indicate the majority of Christian conservatives support Trump, and then you see the video: Trump on stage with pastors, looking pained as they pray over him, misidentifying key books in the New Testament, and in general doing a ludicrous imitation of a faithful Christian, the least holy roller ever. You wonder as you watch this: How could they be that dumb? He’s so obviously faking it.
They know that already. I doubt there are many Christian voters who think Trump could recite the Nicene Creed, or even identify it. Evangelicals have given up trying to elect one of their own. What they’re looking for is a bodyguard, someone to shield them from mounting (and real) threats to their freedom of speech and worship. Trump fits that role nicely, better in fact than many church-going Republicans. For eight years, there was a born-again in the White House. How’d that work out for Christians, here and in Iraq?