The Religious Right’s campaigns to promote “family values” and “morality” in government have been exposed as a cheap veneer covering up a scam by big money interests in the age of Donald Trump.
Paul Weyrich, the co-founder of the Heritage Foundation and prominent Christian Right activist, admitted years ago that it was easier to get voters to support tax cuts for the rich when you conflate them with wedge moral issues like abortion and gay marriage, along with “scare” issues like crime rates and gun control.
The Religious Right frequently attacked Democratic candidates as being against “family values” while pushing pro-corporate candidates disguised in a facade of piety. With Trump in power, however, we’ve seen religious zealots like Mike Pence and Tony Perkins shed the illusion of their moral high ground.
And it’s not just the Religious Right’s leaders. A new poll shows that nearly 75 percent of evangelicals are now fine with politicians of compromised morality, up from 30 percent just five years ago. Apparently, it’s fine to brag about sexually assaulting women on tape as long as you push tax cuts for the wealthy and anti-LGBT judges for the federal courts.
“One of the most astounding shifts in modern politics has been the utter transformation of white evangelical Protestants from being confident self-described ‘values voters,’ who measured candidates for office against a high bar of moral character, to anxious and unwavering Trump supporters who have largely dropped these standards for a candidate they believe will deliver policies that benefit them,” Robert Jones, the author of “The End of White Christian America, told The Washington Post.
“White evangelicals have exchanged an ethic of principle that might hold a political leader accountable to consistent standards for a consequentialist ends-justify-the-means posture that simply stops interrogating character, the quality of leadership, or the morality of actions when it’s beneficial,” he explained.
Never has it been easier to see that “morality” never actually meant being ethical, it meant being opposed to gay marriage and abortion, two key issues billionaires like the Koch brothers used to drive up support for candidates who would back their financial interests.
Pence is the epitome of this, a Koch-backed religious puritan who sought to impose his vision of Christian patriarchy on his state of Indiana, along with their vision of libertarian capitalism.
Jane Mayer wrote in her recent New Yorker profile of Mike Pence that he sat on the board of a far-right policy organization that “supported the criminalization of abortion and campaigned against equal rights for homosexuals” and believed “unmarried women should be denied access to birth control.”
Pence’s goal was to “reverse women’s economic and political advances,” Mayer wrote.
But his policies fell apart, his approval plummeted, and his reelection became in doubt. That’s when his political hopes were rescued by the least likely ally, a thrice-married serial groper who lacks any sort of moral core.
Mayer quotes Trump as openly mocking Pence’s anti-abortion crusade, reportedly telling his veep, “You’ve wasted all this time and energy on it, and it’s not going to end abortion anyway.”
He laughed that Pence “wants to hang” all the gay people.
Through all this, and all of Trump’s many other verbal eruptions, Pence has remained fully supportive with an eye on the end goal – Neil Gorsuch-like judges and tax cuts for billionaires like the Kochs.
The Washington Post’s Michael Gerson writes that the Christian Right shed its final veneer at the Values Voter Summit earlier this month, dropping morality for “angry ethnonationalism and racial demagoguery.”
“At the Family Research Council’s recent Values Voter Summit, the religious right effectively declared its conversion to Trumpism,” he wrote. “There is no group in the United States less attached to its own ideals or more eager for its own exploitation than religious conservatives. Forget Augustine and Aquinas, Wilberforce and Shaftesbury. For many years, leaders of the religious right exactly conformed Christian social teaching to the contours of Fox News evening programming. Now, according to Bannon, ‘economic nationalism’ is the ‘centerpiece of value voters.’ I had thought the centerpiece was a vision of human dignity rooted in faith. But never mind. Evidently the Christian approach to social justice is miraculously identical to 1930s Republican protectionism, isolationism and nativism.”
With their embrace of Trump and Bannon, two people who stand in direct contradiction of virtually all Christian teachings, the Religious Right can no longer tout its moral authority over liberals. Though we all know that won’t stop them from trying.