Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Hot Off the Presses: More Valuable Resources Discussing Interplay of Religion, Race, Gender in U.S. Election Cycle

The valuable articles about the "religion" vote in the current U.S. elections keep coming out, and I'll keep sharing them with you as they come across my desk. Here are items I've noticed in the past day or so, dealing with issues of religion, race, and gender as the election is being discussed:

Sarah Posner comments this morning in New York Times about what its leaders' continued support for Donald Trump portends for the white evangelical community:

"The world is getting a glimpse into the dark and rotting core of evangelicalism,"  an evangelical with deep roots in the movement told me recently. . . . 
By hitching their wagon to Mr. Trump, religious-right leaders are also tying their fortunes to the alt-right, the predominant movement supportive of, and bolstered by, the Trump campaign. As a largely secular movement, though, the alt-right not only is uninterested in the religious right’s concerns, it also threatens to eclipse the religious right within the Republican Party. And it's a movement simmering with racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism. 
The religious right has told us for decades that the moral downfall of America is imminent, and only God can save us. It may finally be proven right.

For New York MagazineJonathan Chait notes the surprising transformation of the religious right from the "moral majority" to the immoral minority, as white evangelicals suddenly discover, with Donald Trump running for office, that morality and character really don't count for the leader of the land: 

A belief in the connection between personal morality and fitness for office used to be a bedrock of Republican politics. It undergirded the crusade to impeach Bill Clinton, and also supplied the primary theme for George W. Bush’s presidential campaign, which promised to restore "honor and dignity" to the presidency. Five years ago, white evangelical Protestants were the most heavily Republican voting bloc in the country, and also its most moralistic. Only 30 percent of them believed that "an elected official can behave ethically even if they have committed transgressions in their personal life." 
But Donald Trump has changed all that. Today, white evangelical Protestants are the least moralistic cohort of voters. According to a new PRRI/Brookings survey, a full 72 percent of them now believe elected officials can behave ethically even if they have committed transgressions in their personal lives.  

Hannah Levintova reports today for Mother Jones on the pushback white evangelical leaders supporting Trump are receiving from some evangelical women: 

Over the last week, a group of more than 1,000 Christian women have signed on to a letter strongly condemning Trump's comments and calling out the leaders of their religious community for making excuses on behalf of the Republican nominee. 
"The sin of misogyny has caused many of us to experience sexual assault or sexually abusive language that threatened our safety, dignity and well-being," the group notes in the letter. "Christian leaders cannot condone such violent speech about women as a minor mistake or an innocent attempt to be 'macho.'" 

In a widely circulated op-ed statement* two days ago, Katelyn Beaty points to all that white evangelical leaders (that is to say, male ones) are risking as they alienate some evangelical women by supporting Trump: 

Pastors, college presidents and policy advisers who continue to defend Trump after his comments not only risk harming the church’s witness, they also risk alienating the largest segment of every evangelical church in America. According to a 2016 Pew study, Christian women are more religious than men by all measures. 
Women outnumber men in nearly every evangelical church in the country; they are often the ones serving on the church board, conducting the choir and planning vacation Bible school. True, at almost every evangelical church, a man is behind the pulpit. But take away the women, and he’s preaching to near-empty pews. 

Hot of the presses at PRRI are new polling data providing a fascinating breakdown of prospective voters according to religion, race, gender, educational attainment, etc. PRRI summarizes:

Currently, nearly seven in ten (69%) white evangelical Protestant likely voters express support for Trump, while only 15% say they are supporting Clinton. Support for Trump among white evangelical voters has remained unchanged over the last two weeks. Trump also holds a lead over Clinton among white mainline Protestant voters (49% vs. 37%, respectively). White Catholic voters are evenly divided between Trump and Clinton (44% vs. 44%, respectively), but Catholic voters overall favor Clinton by a considerable margin (57% vs. 33%, respectively). Religiously unaffiliated voters are leaning heavily towards Clinton (69% vs. 17%, respectively), mirroring the advantage Trump enjoys among white evangelical Protestant voters. 
There are sizable differences in voter preferences by race and educational attainment. Nonwhite voters are supporting Clinton over Trump by a wide margin (76% vs. 17%, respectively). White voters are divided in their support with roughly equal numbers favoring Clinton (40%) and Trump (43%). However, white voters without a college degree favor Trump by a 20-point margin (50% vs. 30%, respectively), while white college-educated voters prefer Clinton over Trump by a similar margin (53% vs. 34%, respectively).

Remember when churchgoing conservative white Catholics used to trumpet their support for "morality" and "family values," and to announce they were choosing the GOP because it stands for morality and family values? That was then, apparently. 

But not now. Not with Donald Trump running for the presidency on the ticket of God's Own Party.

Along with white evangelicals, conservative white churchgoing Catholics have irretrievably shattered their moral credibility this election cycle. That credibility is now in pieces, and it won't be put back together.

*I'm grateful to Ruth Krall for sending me Katelyn Beaty's op-ed piece.

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