This is what White Evangelical Christians would like to think they believe in, but is it really?
Following the victory of Donald Trump in 2016 one criticism offered in the postmortem analysis was that Clinton and the DNC made the mistake of engaging in identity politics when the real issue was the economy. Bill Clinton’s famous line was, “It’s the economy, stupid” and it probably was then. In the 2016 go-round, however, it was about culture. Specifically, it was about preserving the dominance of White Christian Evangelical culture. Individuals who identify as Evangelical Christians overwhelmingly voted for Trump according to Pew exit polls. The reason for this voting behavior is that fewer than half of states are now predominantly occupied by white Christians, and both Christianity and Evangelical Protestantism are in decline.
Christopher Wylie, the whistle blower who exposed the use of data taken from Facebook by Cambridge Analytica, claims that the parent company of Cambridge Analytica was approached by Steve Bannon to design a “weapons arsenal” to change the course of the election. He said, that Bannon, "saw cultural warfare as the means to create enduring change in American politics." In the process of analyzing data the firm discovered phrases that resonated with what became known as the Trump base. Phrases like “drain the swamp” and “string her up” were found to resonate. Furthermore, the firm identified ways to suppress voting.
There are some rays of hope, however. There is trouble in “Evangelical Land”. Self-described Evangelical Christians account for about one fourth of the U.S. population. There has always been a divide between those who are aligned solidly along the lines of preserving white status – Trump’s base – and those who have more liberal ideas on race and inclusiveness in the interest of growing as a Christian movement. That divide appears to be growing. There are two reasons for this trend. White Evangelical numbers are falling simply because they are older, and the number of non-white Evangelical Christians are growing. The non-white faction is made up of blacks who identify as Democrats, and Latinos who identify as independent leaning toward the Democratic Party. The Latinos are much more liberal on issues such as immigration. A religious research group has found that the portion of Evangelicals who are non-Hispanic white has fallen from 68% to 64%. That is not a huge percentage, but it illustrates the trend.
There is some evidence that the influence of those intent on preserving white culture may be waning. Elections to fill congressional and senate seats vacated by conservatives picked by Trump for various positions have- not surprisingly – gone primarily to other conservatives. There have been exceptions like the loss of Luther Strange to Roy Moore and then the loss of Roy Moore to a moderate Democrat to fill Jeff Sessions senate seat. Given the deep red color of politics in areas where positions were vacated it is surprising that all did not go to Republicans. More interesting have been the results of early primary elections.
Trends in early primary elections have been discouraging to both ultra conservative Republicans and moderate Democrats.
In Democratic primaries, moderate Democrats supported by the party have lost to more liberal candidates. In Republican primaries far right factions have been unable to get their candidates elected.
Another surprising trend is that women have been winning over men.
The Democratic candidate for governor of Idaho will be Paulette Jordan who will almost certainly lose to the Republican, Brad Little. There has not been a Democratic governor in Idaho since 1990, and Trump won in Idaho by 30%.
In Pennsylvania “Madeleine Dean, (a) state House member; Chrissy Houlahan, (a) veteran; and Mary Gay Scanlon, (a) lawyer, each won in Philadelphia suburban districts that they are now favored to carry in November” according the Associated Press poll. A fourth woman, Susan Wild, another lawyer, won the Democratic primary in Lehigh Valley, but that district is heavily blue collar and will be a tough district to win. Still, chances are good that the all-male congressional caucus will have one or more women after November.
Nebraska is a deep red state with Republican incumbents running for reelection for Senator and Governor. Both are likely to be reelected.
Winners in Oregon were no surprise as well.
What is noteworthy across the board, however, is the nature of the candidates who have won. Women have won in a big way. There was a left shift in Democratic candidates who won away from the center. In Republican elections there was a resistance to the candidates favored by conservative groups like the Freedom Caucus.
posturing as moderate Republicans?
Primaries in Georgia are held later this month. Friday is the last day for early voting and I’ve already cast my ballot. Georgia, of course, is a red state, but it has been tinging purple due primarily to voters in Athens (University of Georgia) and Atlanta, which has a cosmopolitan face.
Both Democratic candidates for governor are named Stacey, and the candidate for Lieutenant Governor, Sarah Riggs Amico is a businesswoman who has owned, and then after the company went public, run a large trucking company. Other positions for state offices have Democratic Party candidates who are strong women. In Georgia all we can hope for as Democrats are miracles, but in other states like Pennsylvania there promises to be a real shift in political positions and in gender.