THE RISE OF DONALD TRUMP AND THE END OF THE DYNASTY OF WHITE CHRISTIAN AMERICA
Dr. Joyce Watford, an Educator and a Descendant of American Slaves
September 23, 2016
This is the third essay in a three-part series that attempts to examine what White Christian America (WCA) and Donald Trump have in common.
While WCA’s world was spinning blissfully and undisturbed by parallel worlds around it, there were tsunami cultural shifts taking place on the ground. Real people, especially young people, were increasingly turning away from WCA churches because of anti-rhetoric and conservative, nationalistic politics. As WCA’s power and influence grew, it became more immured from reality around it and consequently failed to take note of an increasing divide between its two branches (the mainline Christian Protestants and the evangelical Christian Protestants); and before WCA knew it, American life had evolved beyond WCA. WCA’s power and influence had been stripped away by changing times; and before WCA had time to make sense of the rapid changes, there was a black President in the White House; there was also the US Census Bureau’s prediction that by 2042 the USA would no longer be a majority white nation, due to rapid, dramatic racial, religious, and ethnic changes; and, additionally, there was a US Congress in place which was no longer made up of only Protestants for the first time in history! (Now, we can really understand why Mitch McConnell may be blocking Obama’s right to pick a US Justice before Obama leaves the Oval Office!)
The above events dealt death-blows to WCA’s very existence. WCA was/is facing imminent death! Realizing that its physical state was/is terminable, a fear, unlike any that WCA had ever experienced before, engulfed it but ironically drove it into a frenzy to save itself from death. Only an “outsider,” not tainted by its two warring factions, one embracing modernism and the other, embracing fundamentalism— both antithetical to WCA’s original mission (Manifest Destiny)—could breathe new life and harmony back into the body of WCA. Now, here is the real kicker (or is it?)!—This unlikely “outsider” with no known political ties to WCA or to political civil service/civic affairs, appears in their scope and just happens to be none other than Donald Trump!
History does repeat itself! Trump has emerged on the political scene as the embodiment of white Protestant fears, reminiscent of the Al Smith era when Smith was governor of New York. Smith was a Catholic and a Democrat who ran against Herbert Hoover, a Quaker. The KKK entered the fray, which resulted in the cultural perception that Catholicism was outside of White Christian America’s values and mission. The propaganda targeted the Catholic Church and its adherents as un-Christian and un-American. Therefore, a Catholic could not serve the interests of white Protestant Christians and could not become POTUS. Smith lost the election to Hoover.
There seems to be a remote parallel here between Hillary and Trump and what is driving their political race. Hillary is a woman and a Democrat. Both her gender and her Party are outside of the values and mission of White Christian America. When Trump opened the floodgates of bigotry and anti-rhetoric against everyone he considered outside of the values and mission of white supremacy, David Duke, a former Grand-Dragon of the KKK, who is currently running for a US Congressional seat, places a stamp of approval on Trump by endorsing him, which opened the doors for other white Christian Protestants who identify themselves as white evangelical Protestants—the guardians of White Christian America which is Conservative Republican—to endorse Trump, as well. And those moves signaled to the rest of the white malcontents that Hillary is an “outsider” in the 2016 upcoming Presidential election, as far as they are concerned, and cannot become POTUS. (An aside note is that in this millennium, evangelicals and some Catholics are working together in the Bible-Belt states [the largest voting bloc in the country!] for common cause against secularism and liberalism, such as abortion and gay rights, which WCA opposes but which Hillary supports.) Therefore, in that vein, Trump’s supporters should not be taken for granted because they are dangerous people, fighting for an America and a lifestyle that are fastly fading. They have taken the entertainer Trump to a level of gravity now that none of us can ignore, for his supporters recognize their strength and power in numbers and they literally arefighting for relevance and their life!
Some people, also trying to make sense of Trump and 2016 politics, have found other comparisons reminiscent of Trump politics. Andrew Jackson, for example, stands out as a historical figure bearing some resemblance to Trump. Trump’s Presidential race, like Jackson’s, is said to be the most divisive and polarizing in modern times. Trump is said to have crude, unsophisticated manners, like Jackson, who championed himself as the President of the common man and the frontier President. Likewise, Trump describes himself as the little man’s savior; however, unlike Jackson, Trump was not born in poverty which removes him from the little people who claim him as their savior, and Trump is not a frontier man, having grown up in the largest metropolis in the country! But, on the other hand, a frontier man can be construed as someone breaking new ground which Trump believes he is doing. Both Jackson and Trump have earned distinction as charismatic and distinguished in what they do. Jackson was a distinguished military man which brought him great popularity and eventually four years in the White House, while Trump has earned some props as an entertainer to which his popularity can be attributed (and some may say as a businessman but there is room for reservations to giving him that recognition, along with four years in the White House). Jackson’s legacy is that he was the most polarizing and influential political figures among the Presidents of his time/era. Given the nature of Trump’s campaigns, one can surmise that he too would have a polarizing Presidency. Jackson ran against John Quincy Adams who ran on a ticket for economic development and infrastructure improvement. Jackson ran as the common man’s President. However, once in Office, every development/initiative/project Jackson worked on benefited only his real-estate ventures, including the eradication of the Native American lands which led to the relocation of Native Americans from their lands, to the Trail of Tears, and eventually to the Civil War. Jackson’s election marked a turning point in American politics. If Trump were to end up in the White House as President, those same words could easily apply to his election; and it would not be too farfetched at all to foresee similar catastrophes occurring between his administration and Jackson’s.
Trump is capturing America because of the Battleground states (Bible-Belt and/or red states) which are all WCA-evangelical territory! The question, then, that comes to mind is whether our political system is rigged against equality and justice for all, if a unique bloc of people—whose ideals and ideologies no longer represent the majority of Americans today—can tip political outcomes in their favor. It appears that this is so when we observe what the polls look like and tell us in the Battleground or red states. Trump’s ratings are as high as or higher than Hillary’s ratings.
Another point to take note of is that the media are careful not to mention by name who these voters are in the Battleground/red states—they are WCA voters, made up primarily of white evangelicals, resisting change and fighting for their last breaths of life!
WCA is also known as Bible-Belt America and Heartland America, the home of the old and new Moral Majority, also known as evangelicals today. Their politics is partisan. Partisan politics results in a doubling down on the status quo. It is regressive as opposed to being progressive. Bible-Belt America, also known as Heartland America, is the home of the old and new Moral Majority, now morphed into evangelicals, who are known for provoking cultural wars and giving Christianity a strange and subversive name. The Bible-Belt states are located in the South and Mid-West. The South’s shameful history of slavery and segregation, including its opposition to the Civil Rights Movement, is attributed to evangelicals in WCA. The evil that too many of us have suffered and are still suffering because of the Sins of the South (and other Bible-Belt states) cannot be overlooked. As the broader, national culture shifted to support civil rights for Descendants of America’s Slaves, white Southern (and Bible-Belt Christians) became countercultural, by maintaining the Southern status quo. The dangerous and tragic hypocrisy of white Christians in the South (and Bible-Belt America), accompanied by their collusion in perpetuating the grave sins of racism, emphasizes a profound and devious contradiction in Christian values, which Trump seemingly has had no problems taking on, either as an act of expedience or as a genuine commitment. Given that he is not a Southerner (or Bible-Belt American), what, then, does that make him—a chameleon?
Trump’s recent announcement to the media that Obama was indeed born in the USA (after so much ranting before that Obama was not born in the USA) is proof that he will do anything that is expedient to win the upcoming Presidential election. We are obligated to elect a principled POTUS, not an expedient one.
Trump’s political successes, so far, can be attributed to Bible-Belt and red states which are run by Republicans. There are three categories of red states: Confederacy Bible-Belt, Mormon Belt, and Missouri River Belt. Red and/or Republican-run states have the highest poverty rates in the country. They are also highly intolerant of others who do not look like, act like, or embrace their lifestyles. Red and/or Republican-run states embrace homogeneity and operate around “Good Ole Boys” political networks which WCA have depended on and thrived from for centuries, while the rest of us, who have been (and are still) perceived by them as misfits, have been left out of their economic equations that have worked so well for WCA, but are now inevitably losing relevance, which WCA is desperate to reverse.
It is no doubt that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are direct descendants of WhiteChristian America—one perhaps of the mainline Protestant branch which is progressive and the other probably a newly convert of the evangelical Protestant branch which is regressive. For both branches, however, their demise is imminent. Both branches are gasping for their last breaths of air because of changing times which cannot be rolled back or stopped. When WCA and its two prominent branches of power and influence exist no longer, what will there be for their descendants?
The charge to their descendants is to choose a path to move forward with a sober conscience in recognition of the challenges brought on by the death of White Christian America. Both groups of descendants will need to choose their paths carefully—whether to move the country forward in the absence of WCA or to move it backward (as the Civil War attempted to do) in suicidal and homicidal hopes of resuscitating a power bloc whose end has evolved from natural causes which cannot be reversed. Changing demographics, racial and religious diversity, and equality and social justice for all are already dictating and shaping a new nation and its next core values that will fill the hole left by the death of WCA.
Finally, each of us has a moral obligation to think about the big picture of the inevitable new nation unfolding in this millennium and how the answer to the following question will be pivotal in its continued development:
Of our two political contenders for the most powerful position in our country and in the free-world (POTUSA), which one do you think is forward looking and is prepared to lead from the front, with hindsight, foresight, and insight into the future, inclusive of us all?
The challenge before us as voters in November is existential and could be a blessing in disguise. How many possibilities can you think of? Well, then, let’s make them happen by how we vote at the polls in November!