It is no secret that Trump has been an unlikely champion for white religious conservative agenda. His appearance at the March for Life, the creation of an office protecting health care workers who refuse to provide services against their religious convictions, and recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel are amongst a few examples.
When news broke of Trump’s alleged affair with porn star Stormy Daniels, many suspected it would be damaging to the religious conservative voter base. Yet, in the midst of this moral controversy, his support from white evangelicals remains stronger than ever.
In a 2011 interview, the actress claimed that she and Donald Trump had sex in 2006, just months after his wife Melania gave birth to their son Barron. Additionally, The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump’s lawyer paid Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about the affair during the 2016 campaign.
Even as the headlines continue to claim moral misconduct by the president, the numbers are not showing any lapse in support from the religious conservatives. A Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 68 percent approve of his job performance. That is not only a strong show of support, that is nearly double the national average approval.
What is perhaps most shocking though, is the blatant hypocrisy by evangelical leaders who condemned Bill Clinton after news emerged of his affair with Monica Lewinsky. Trump’s alleged behavior is being treated much differently, suggesting that moral rules can be bent with the right party affiliation.
The president seems to have been given a pass, or in the words of president of the Family Research Council Tony Perkins, a “mulligan”. “Yes, evangelicals, conservatives, they gave him a mulligan. They let him have a do-over. They said we’ll start afresh with you and we’ll give you a second chance,” he said on CNN.
This is definitely not the same treatment Clinton received in the 1990s. By then, there was no room for forgiveness or turning the other way. There was only room for criticism and attempts to unseat him, even when the vast majority of Americans were not calling for it.
Why Is Trump Exempt From Criticism?
There are many reasons why there is such hypocrisy from the white religious conservative base. Some simply do not believe the rumors to be true and demand proof, even after sexist and vulgar comments such as those revealed on the Access Hollywood tape. Other blatantly overlook the imperfections and choose to “take the good with the bad”, as Allen Cannon, a Trump supporter from Mississippi, puts it.
Some of his stronger supporters even claim that “he is not God, therefore he is not sin-free” – or believe that his sins are forgivable because he was “ordained by God,” and put in this position of power to further their agenda.
But nobody unveils the tacit contract that exists between Trump and evangelicals better than Reverend Graham: “We certainly don’t hold him up as the pastor of this country, and he’s not. But I appreciate the fact that the president does have a concern for Christian values, and the fact that he protects religious liberty and freedom”, he explains to MSNBC.
Will Anything Weaken Evangelical Support?
One of other burning questions that several Americans are left with here, is how many “mulligans” will it take for a base rooted in morality to condemn Trump. Questionable decisions and alleged misconducts are not new. Trump was elected despite a litany of alleged claims of sexual assault and harassment, despite the Access Hollywood tape, and despite other lewd actions and behaviors.
This alleged affair is not shocking news, and if you really think about it, nor is the decision by evangelicals to stand by Trump time and time again. For once, they have a president who delivers on conservative policies, and Trump the policymaker is simply more important than Trump the man.
Tony Perkins sums it up perfectly here: “Trump is a very transactional president. Trust is important to him. Loyalty is important to him, and I think in this transaction, he realizes, ‘Hey, these are people I can count on, because they don’t blow with the political winds. It’s a developing relationship, but I’ll have to say this: From a policy standpoint, he has delivered more than any other president in my lifetime.”
Watch more Trump evangelical supporters defend his behavior here: