During this week’s “Crossroads” podcast (click here to adjust it), host Todd Wilken and I focused on this question: Will Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the United States Supreme Court help President Donald Trump on Election Day 2020?
The answer, you think, is pretty obvious: yes, because that would be another example of Trump keeping a 2016 campaign pledge. You remember that famous list of potential judges he released during that tense campaign. ?
It’s also true that Barrett would occupy a third open chair in the High Court in a single four-year term, a stunning development few could have predicted. Thus, Barrett’s confirmation would excite the Trump base and help bring out the evangelical vote. Correct?
Maybe not. Consider the opening of this think tank – “Supreme Court Deal Done: Would this SCOTUS win mean all those reluctant Trump voters could give up ship?” “- which took place the other day at The week. Bonnie Kristian’s logic may upset some Trump supporters, but she’s right:
The necessary and compelling reason for voting for President Trump in 2016, for many white evangelicals and other conservative Republicans, was the Supreme Court. This reason has now disappeared.
Or it will be soon, if Republican senators manage to avoid COVID-19 infections long enough to confirm Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment. … His confirmation can and likely will be made before Election Day, when Trump’s SCOTUS voters can – and, on that very basis, should – throw him away as quickly and ruthlessly as he would have thrown them away. ‘they were no longer politically useful.
The Supreme Court’s vote for Trump was never a good reason to back him in the GOP primary in 2016, as all other candidates would have produced a very similar shortlist of SCOTUS nominations. But once Trump was the party’s chosen champion against Democrat Hillary Clinton, the certainty that the next president would occupy at least one seat (replacing the late Justice Antonin Scalia) made the Supreme Court, in the words of the specialist Hugh Hewitt, “Trump’s trump card over #NeverTrumpers.”
Ah! Someone has paid attention to the fault line in the white evangelical vote that Christianity today spotted early on and your GetReligionistas have been discussing ever since.
So, again, consider this title from 2016 to CT: “Pew: Most evangelicals will vote Trump, but not Trump.” Here is the opening of this piece, that it would seem that very little mainstream political office reporters and editors noted:
More than three-quarters of self-identified white evangelicals plan to vote for Donald Trump in the fall (78%). But they are not happy with it.
According to a Pew Research Center poll of 1,655 registered voters released today, more than half of white evangelicals said they were not happy with their voting options (55%), reflecting the sentiment of Americans in general (58%). And 45% of white evangelicals said they understood their vote as opposition to Hillary Clinton, not Trump’s endorsement.
Again, it is true that there were many evangelicals who, all together now, Fair. Love. Asset.
This was a big factor in his rise in the primaries, when a solid core saw him beat a long list of other GOP contenders who split the rest of the votes. Then in the general election there were white evangelicals who reluctantly voted for Trump because they considered the alternative much worse.
As I wrote, in a 2018 “On Religion” column on this topic, with a focus on mid-course races:
The bottom line: Most “creed evangelicals” (59%) have decided they will need to use their votes to support positions on specific political and moral issues, according to a new study from the Billy Graham Center Institute at Wheaton College, in collaboration with LifeWay. …
One in five evangelists said they did not vote in 2016.
A Christianity today Survey analysis – “Demystifying the 81%” – put it this way: The 81% total represented a “strategic, goal-oriented and problem-oriented” vote, not mere enthusiasm for Trump.
Waves of news about the 81 percent vote have “created a simplistic and negative caricature of who evangelicals are right now,” said Ed Stetzer, director of the Billy Graham Center. “It allows the lazy to keep saying that all these evangelicals are ‘all down’ for Donald Trump.… They are trying to turn voters from Trump into Trump.
“Trump voters are not Trump, and that is certainly true of most evangelicals.”