The most frequently recurring theme in this phenomenon of Donald Trump which defines and looms over the political landscape in 2017 like the leviathan spaceships in “V” that just showed up one day and changed reality, is the desire of his supporters to return to a different place and time when all was calmer and they had their bearings. That’s the essence of “Make America Great Again,” the desire to go back to a time and place that never really existed, a kind of torpored Andy of Mayberry world where not even clogged disposals or infidelity existed, let alone racism and misogyny. Some of the more extreme of Trump’s supporters, such as Michelle Bachmann even said that Trump “was going to take us back to the 1950’s,” as if that era were paradisical and greatly desirable to relive; and as if history and technology had reverse gears if only one wished hard enough.
The irony of Donald Trump is that he is the iconic representation, a la Archie Bunker, of the ignorant, uneducated, ill-spoken, racist, misogynistic, embarrassment of a male who doesn’t even know he’s embarrassing himself. That was the gag with Archie. The gag with Trump is that he has all of the aforementioned qualities, but he didn’t get them by being raised blue collar, working hard all week and having a beer with the boys on Friday, before going home to Melania, who, if this was a TV show, would be a hairdresser working out of her garage and hoping to afford a work station some day soon in a real shop. This empathy and identification with the working man is a joke. There is no greater paradox than that the one who looks like them and sounds like them and can pull their emotional triggers isn’t anything like them at all. He’s the son of a man, Fred Trump, who was one of the wealthiest realtors in the country. He’s a draft dodging coward, a germophobe, and an admitted philanderer and proponent of sexual assault. At least Archie Bunker served in the war and could fix the plumbing. Not Donald Trump. You think the friend of the working man would crawl under the house with all that dirt and probably spiders? No way. But he knows your pain. He’s out there standing up for your value system. The fact that there is even one person in America who can believe that is sad beyond belief, let alone 63 million.
So despite a mountain of evidence as to who Trump is and where he’s been, he is still the icon of the self-made male — ludicrous in his case, since even with inherited wealth he declared bankruptcy six times — and he, and he alone, he will remind you, is the one to take you back to that mythical time when America was greater than it is now.
He spoke recently at the Value Voters Summit and his pitch was pure nostalgia. He spoke of the “customs, beliefs and traditions that defined who we are as a nation and as a people,” and he endeared himself to all the extreme religionists there by referencing how the word “Creator” appeared in the Declaration of Independence. “How times have changed,” Trump said. “But you know what? Now they’re changing back again. Just remember that.” The audience roared with a 20-second standing ovation. Take us back in time, Daddy. We’re so tired of pretending that blacks are as good as whites or women as smart as men when we know better and we really hate the gays. We can prove that the bible hates them as well.
The Value Voters Summit and other groups like it are filled with xenophobic types who live in fear of a world that’s getting progressively stranger and more alien and complex to them and all they want is a return to simpler times. Trump is legitimately the image of simplicity. Complex thought does not appear on the radar of his awareness. If what’s needed is a quick photo op and sound bite before he can grab a Big Mac then he’s fine. If he needs to actually understand basic relationships between the stock market and the national debt and expound upon it, call somebody else, Trump has left the building.
So there he sits, day by day, tweeting his policy and piffle out into the virtual firmament when the stars are still long out and he is manifestly unfit. Everyone knows that. Unquestionably even he knows that. So what is his purpose?
Trump’s purpose is to function as nothing more nor less than icon. Graven image. False god. Call it what you will. The GOP is adept at this sort of thing, and this wasn’t the first time they put up a candidate who was fundamentally lacking because the reasoning was give us the front man and the real powers that be will do all the work behind the throne. That worked better on some occasions than others. So the GOP co-signed on this mess last summer. Getting back to the Value Voters Summit, which was so thrilled to have Trump as keynote speaker: This was the first time in the 10 years the group has been meeting that a president even attended, let alone as keynote speaker. This was an important event. Politico hailed it as The Dawn Of The Evangelical-National Alliance.
This shotgun wedding resulted in some predictably awkward moments. Bannon, emphasizing the importance of grass-roots politics in winning elections, raised the 44th president’s former job title. “What’s a community organizer? I’ll tell you what it is. Somebody that could kick your ass—twice.” There were crickets from the audience; it was almost certainly the first time someone had ever used a curse word during a speech to the Values Voter Summit. Earlier, in his own speech, Gorka had stressed how liberating it was for him and Bannon to now be working outside the White House. “The left has no idea how much more damage we can do to them as private citizens,” he said to scattered applause. Responding to Gorka, conservative radio host Erick Erickson, a frequent Trump critic, tweeted, “Sad to see this said at a Christian conference. Where is the grace? Where is the mercy? Where is the Christ?”
It’s a hopeful sign that at least one radio host could sense that things had gone awry. The unfortunate fact is that they had already gone awry in serious ways before this particular conference ever took place. The disinformation campaign that has swept this country in recent years and set the stage for the Facebook scandal, which unveils more every day about how the 2016 election was stolen, is responsible for the fact that many people attending the conference flat out don’t know what is going on and are victims of misinformation, disinformation, and out and out propaganda.
Seated at the rear of the room, John and Jill Stabley nodded along. The older married couple from Delaware have attended the Values Voter Summit seven previous times, but this year feels different. “Suddenly hopeful,” Jill says. “We grew up in an era where people were thinking of others, and trying to do the right thing—.” John interrupts: “And walking with Christ.” He pauses. “There’s no going back. All these outside people are coming in and tearing us apart.”
By “outside people,” John means immigrants—particularly Muslims, whom he says are undermining the Constitution in pursuit of sharia law. (John believes Obama is a Muslim, and Jill says the Common Core education standards were used to indoctrinate students with Islamic ideology.)
Within the sect known as evangelicals, there are subsects, as in any umbrella term covering a given portion of society. While they all proclaim to honor a being they call Jesus Christ, there are wide variations in dogma and principal. Some of them are disinformed, some willfully ignorant, and some are downright malevolent. The Value Voters Summit was organized by the Family Research Council and the FRC is associated with the World Congress of Families. For all their crowing about “the family” the fact is that they seek nothing more than to disinherit large portions of the human family, none more so than the gays. The WCF has taken it upon itself to not only mobilize evangelicals here in America but to go to none other than mother Russia to work with the anti-gay forces at work there. Mother Jones Magazine:
“We don’t even use the word ‘gay.’ We use the word ‘homosexualists,’” Archpriest Dmitri explains. “What’s ‘gay’ about it? I think it’s pretty sad, actually. We see homosexualism as a sin. And not just homosexualism, but also alcoholism, drug use, murder of people on the streets, or robbing a bank.”
Family, as [university professor Anatoly] Antonov sees it, is crumbling in the contraception-happy, gay-friendly West. “Today, this is Aldous Huxley’s brave new world!” Antonov says, shaking his fist. “I ask my students all the time: Can two stools give birth to something? So it is with two homosexualists—what can they birth? Nothing.”
“Unlike other European countries, we refused to ratify proposals supporting adoption of children by gays,” he says. “The World Congress was happy that Putin stood up against the European governments. It’s our influence on Putin and his administration.”
It goes without saying that anything other than a man and a woman in a lifelong covenant of marriage seeking to procreate is looked down upon.
Looking at these facts and the fact of the unholy alliance between Donald Trump and the evangelicals, evangelicals have sold their soul to Satan or a reasonable facsimile thereof, because in order to get abortion outlawed and religious liberty, as they view that term, they’re willing to do anything. The truly backward among them want to recriminalize homosexuality, just like their Russian compatriots, and to that end there are efforts to get Trump to approve judicial appointments of horrendously negative and unqualified candidates, such as Jeff Mateer in Texas who says that transgender children are part of Satan’s plan.
The evangelicals have made their bed and they are now the cornerstone of the social conservative coalition, which includes all the other white nationalist fringe groups of the GOP, namely the KKK and the Nazis. Last year’s Value Voters Summit was graced by then-candidate Trump. This year’s meeting officially cemented the new relationship between the evangelicals and the white nationalists, as illustrated by the presence of Sebastian Gorka and Steve Bannon on the podium. The evangelicals apparently believe that this is the harkening of a new age, which will take them back to yesteryear when they were comfortable and restore an old world order which to them was safe and sane.
This is a Greek tragedy just waiting to play itself out. These religionists are being played by people in the upper echelons of the faiths that they profess to espouse and their leaders are in turn being played by cunning and manipulative charismatic leaders in the white nationalist wing of the GOP. Those leaders are being controlled by big money interests. God is nowhere in this paradigm, and the evangelicals are being made the fool.
This is a very basic battle, but it’s not the battle they think it is. It’s not God v. the Devil. It’s truth v. lies. If the right wing Christian religionists of 2017 are on the verge of destruction, it’s because they fail to realize that in failing to keep up with the times in which they live and look for greater meanings in the teachings of the Christ they profess to follow, that they’ve thrown out the baby with the bathwater. There is nothing to be gained by demonizing gays or Muslims or any marginalized and vulnerable members of society. That is dead opposite to the teachings of Christ.
The glad tidings in all this is that there are real Christian churches in the country such as those led by William Barber and John Pavlovitz. Those doors will be open to the weary and battle torn evangelicals if they ever decide to really seek the God they are claiming to serve. But first they’re going to have to find out who they really have been serving, which is the God of Mammon clothed in blatant falsity but appearing righteous to them because they want so badly to believe that a return to more primitive times is shortly forthcoming, including rigid adherence to simplistic views penned 6,000 years ago, which might have been applicable then, but no longer fit in the same context in a global society which has already begun to penetrate into outer space.
It does not take a spiritual giant to see that Donald Trump is a complete phony and these peoples’ self-delusion is pathetic and tragic. That is how history will record it. It’s impossible to win religious debates but this is not about religion, this is about sociology and those rules are considerably different. The evangelicals turned a corner this week and they are now inextricably in over their heads. They’re attempting to fight a cultural war in the 21st Century with the informational equivalent of arrowheads and slingshots. History is unambivalent in recording that in a clash between two cultures the technologically superior always wins. In this case it’s a match of ideas. The more evolved will win also, but the fight will be brutal.
We live in interesting times.