..I knew it all along.
But it sure took a while
For most of the last year, I couldn’t afford a television hookup so I spent way more time than usual monitoring talk radio, the wackier the better. Back when Donald Trump first entered the Republican race, though, I had an unwacky day where I happened to be listening to NPR and the host asked two top level political reporters (so called, I don’t remember their names), if Trump had any chance whatsoever to get the nomination.
Both reporters went to great lengths to outdo each other in their absolute assurances that this could never, ever, ever, ever, ever happen in umpty billion years.
And I thought: “If you think he hasn’t got a chance, you’re crazy.”
I didn’t just arrive at that little insight by monitoring right wing radio, which, in fact, has provided plenty of push-back against Trump and Trumpism. (Glenn Beck, Mark Levin and Dana Loesh out-and-out hate him and only the wackiest wackies, Michael Savage and Alex Jones, have offered anything like strong support.)
No, I arrived at my conclusion because I’ve been monitoring the weight of the Republican party’s consistent betrayal of social conservatives and evangelicals (i.e., most of my friends and family) for three decades plus. And I had noticed that in the past five years or so, things had changed.
I was not surprised that the national media missed the story.
I’ve never seen any evidence that evangelicals in particular are in the least bit understood by what Bernie Sanders–who sounds more like an Old Testament prophet than anyone in this race–never fails to call the political, economic and media establishments.
That lack of understanding is surely why those establishments were left clutching their pearls when Trump’s rough language, for instance, failed to turn off churchgoers in South Carolina. Or when the very reasonable arguments put forth by his opponents that, until the day before yesterday, he was reliably liberal on virtually every hill-to-die-on social issue that my fellow Christians, knowing full well they would be punched in the face economically, sold their votes for over three decades.
Such things don’t tend to matter when you finally decide to swing back.
When you decide to swing back, you look for the biggest hammer in the room.
All those sold votes–sold souls in some cases–netted nothing. Republicans quite predictably collected reliable votes from the pews and, from 1980 to now, gave nothing in return. Hence, it was only a matter of time before this bargain unraveled. The only question was which election cycle would provide the tipping point.
It’s here. The bargain is dead.
And Donald Trump is the biggest hammer in the room.
I know lots of evangelicals and take the temperature of many more on the radio and online.
I haven’t found a single one who likes him and very few who aren’t disgusted by him. I think a lot of their sentiment can be summed up here (in the most frightening and salient report I’ve read on the Trump phenomenon).
But while I have trouble imagining myself voting for Trump, and will certainly hold that linked essay in my head as a warning lest I be tempted to cross over to the dark side, I can understand why others have given in. I’ve never been particularly invested in “social issues” as a political matter–the law is always helpless against any personal practice the culture cannot enforce and the culture collapsed long ago. I don’t get worked up about the issues because I tend to think of America in the past tense–as something to be studied and learned from.
We had a shot.
We didn’t listen to our own prophets (see, particularly, my posts on the Rising at right).
We blew it.
But mine is a minority opinion.
Anger is a powerful emotion in any breast clinging to hope.
And there is very little in this world more satisfying than the moment you realize you finally have a venue for speaking directly to people who have held you in open contempt for a lifetime. No matter how vigilant you are in your quest to let the red letters in the King James guide your behavior, it’s hard to resist the simplest gut-level response, the one that has reverberated throughout this campaign and can be hurled back at every puzzled pundit face on CNN, MSNBC, FOX, every hour of the day:
“I hate you back.”
Without coming anywhere near putting it so strongly, that’s what Jerry Falwell, Jr. meant this evening on Fox, when he was pressed on why and how so many evangelicals (including himself) have chosen Trump over, for instance, Ted Cruz, one of their own.
It’s not the old days he said.
It’s not about social issues anymore. The politicians have had their day and been found dismally wanting.
“It’s like that old Who song,” Falwell, Jr. finally said.
Then he named the song.
If you don’t think we’re in some sort of New Age, try to imagine Falwell’s late father (a huckster who, along with Pat Robertson, was long ago appointed to speak for evangelicals by the same corrupt payola-style process, and for the same contemptuous reasons, that Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton were designated to speak for Black America–brothers and sisters, I feel your pain, because the question of whether it is better to be badly represented than not represented at all is not any easy one), dropping a Who reference.
And having the reference be nothing more than a statement of the obvious, too long in coming:
The only question now is the obvious one.
If Trump wins, will the new boss really be any different than the old boss?
I fear not. If someone has a thumb in the eye of the man who has a boot in your face, it’s easy to think he must be offering a better way. It becomes easy to look past the boots he’s wearing, to miss that they are heavier and thicker and have hobnails in the soles.
But, if you want to look for a silver lining, perhaps finally asking the question is healthier than continuing to ignore it.
And if not now, when?
Something to hold on to, I guess.
I do wonder what would happen, though, if, in this very same season, Black America were to somehow wake up in time to ditch Hilary for Bernie…and if we could then somehow keep from fighting in the streets with our children at our feet.
New day? Or past tense forever?
I’ll keep watching.