In the midst of the Trump era, I have regularly been surprised by how often I agree with a sentiment being written or tweeted by some conservative commentators such as Jennifer Rubin, or even sometimes Bill Kristol.
But a piece Rubin recently penned for The Washington Post really brought the crux of that commonality home for me. It’s really not about policy—we disagree plenty on that—it’s more about a shared vision for the identity of the nation. Now perhaps more than ever, one either fundamentally believes in America as a diverse, multicultural nation where all are created equal, or one clings to a white Christian identity.
As Rubin concluded, “We face a battle over the meaning of America. All defenders of a diverse democracy must stand shoulder to shoulder for an inclusive system of government.”
That’s the common ground on which we stand, even if we often vehemently disagree over which policies are best suited to foster and facilitate that inclusive system of government.
Rubin’s post was centered on evangelicalism and how its central organizing philosophy really comes to down to the promotion of one thing and one thing only: promoting white Christian identity. Principles like helping the needy and bringing comfort to those who are less fortunate aren’t just secondary considerations, they no longer serve as central motivators that provide connective tissue for evangelicals.
That’s why Donald Trump became their hero. Rubin writes:
In this context, White evangelical Christians’ attraction to the thrice-married philanderer Trump is understandable, as is their support for the cruelest immigration policies (e.g., child separation) and the anti-Muslim travel ban. It’s all about race and religious identity, not policies founded in Christian values and certainly not about finding a role model for civic virtues. Trump was determined to protect White evangelicals against people of color and the decline in Christian identification; that was all they could hope for in a politician.
For these voters, government is a means of enforcing (they would say “preserving”) domination of Whites and Christianity as essential to America’s identity. That’s why they support politicians who demonize Black Lives Matter, demand that corporations meekly accept voter suppression, express outrage over a publisher’s decision about Dr. Seuss titles or fixate on saying “Merry Christmas.” It’s also why insurrectionists marauded through the Capitol on Jan. 6 bearing Confederate flags and wearing T-shirts mocking the Holocaust. They keep telling us who they are and what they want, but well-meaning Americans and the media often refuse to accept that their fellow Americans’ motives are so antithetical to American values.
For all the handwringing over Virginia’s results and what they meant, it may have almost entirely come down to the battle over white identity.
As Robert P. Jones, chief executive of the Public Religion Research Institute pointed out, Virginians’ attitudes toward Confederate monuments proved highly predictive of their candidate preference.
“Among the 42% of Virginia voters who believe that Confederate monuments should be taken down, nearly nine in ten (87%) voted for the Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe,” Jones wrote. However: “Among the 51% of Virginia voters who believe that Confederate monuments should be left in place, more than eight in ten (82%) voted for Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin.
”In a very real sense, all of our elections for the foreseeable future will be fundamentally driven by this battle over what America really stands for. Likewise, our election outcomes will likely come down to which party captivates the imaginations and stirs the small sliver of voters who don’t seem to see this battle in existential terms.
Published with permission from Daily Kos.