Should Evangelical Voters Trust Trump? Cruz? Rubio? Not So Much
On Monday evening, as many as 150,000 dedicated Republicans in Iowa are going to show up at schools, libraries, community centers, and firehouses to write the names of GOP Presidential candidates on slips of paper. Of those caucus participants, polling suggests that over 60 percent will describe themselves as evangelical Christians.
Current polling also suggests that the top three choices, and therefore delegate winners, will be Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio.
Would the interests of Iowa’s evangelical Christian voters be served by any of those candidates? If history has any predictive power, not too well. Certainly,those three don’t live the religious life that evangelical voters seem to believe is the most important thing in choosing a leader. (Remember, what counts is acts, not words.)
So how do the candidates act, in evangelical terms?
Trump, as we know, only sees the inside of a church when he thinks showing up there might help him. He says he never does anything wrong, so he’s never had to ask forgiveness from God. And his attempts to refer to the Bible are laughable. But maybe his charitable acts tell another story? Nope. He has donated less to charity than almost anyone in his income range. His namesake charity, the Donald J.Trump Foundation, is remarkably stingy and smells like a scam. Last year his foundation gave out just over $500,000, and of that, $100,000 went to the purely political “charity” called Citizens United. The year before, $100,000 of Trump’s charitable donations went to Jerry Falwell, Jr’s political operation. And there was also a nice donation to the slush fund that Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife runs as an “advocacy group.” It was “charity” as political favor-buying, in other words.
The Trump Foundation itself seems to have no particular significance for Trump when it comes to giving money. He’s put in virtually none of his own money for nearly ten years, and the money that has come in seems to come from business suppliers and other interested parties. just before they ink deals with his management company. I guess Stark Carpets just feels especially charitable when a new contract for hotel carpets is about to be signed. That has happened five times over the years, so far.
But at least Trump doesn’t claim his religion drives every waking moment of his life and every decision he makes.
Senator Cruz (R-TX), on the other hand, is pushing his affinity for the evangelical community big time. Too bad he had to release his tax returns. Despite earning a family income well over $1 million per year, the five-year period from 2006 through 2010 was a time when the Cruz family felt no need to donate even one thin dime to any church. What happened after 2010? Oh yes, he started running for public office.
Then we have Senator Rubio (R-FL), a slick speaker who looks like a shoo-in for student body president. Rubio seems to adopt a new set of religious beliefs every time he moves to a new place. It’s hard to keep up, but he’s on his third faith so far. Is it too cynical to imagine something other than spiritual awakening made him adopt Mormonism, converting from Catholicism, when he lived in Nevada? Evidently another spiritual awakening struck him like a thunderbolt when he moved to Florida, and incidentally wanted to join the leadership of the Republican-led state legislature there. Mormonism got jettisoned, and on came his rebirth as an evangelical Protestant.
If any of these three gentlemen becomes the GOP candidate for President, it’s the evangelical community that play the role of unions on the Democratic side, by organizing and providing the foot soldiers who knock on doors and operate the telephone banks. Will the evangelicals who do that essential work get their payoff in policy priorities from these guys?
The religious right has been burned so many times before by candidates who say they care, and then drop them like a hot potato after the election. Is there any reason to think this time will be different?