The disputed religious vote in the US elections

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There may have been no less religious president in modern America than Donald Trump, no matter how much he declares himself a Presbyterian Protestant. His first term, however, has brought a fundamental part of white Christians – the largest religious population group and the most influential at the polls – to something akin to ecstasy.

In 2016, the subgroup of white evangelicals, which make up 17% of the population but represent 26% of the electorate, gave the Republican a 81% support what was fundamental to get to the White House. There was no reluctance in the face of his extramarital affairs, or the scant reflection in his personal life or in his discourse on Christian values. The idea that it was a “anointed by god“, the one chosen to combat the dangers of secularism and pluralism that, according to them, threatens the exceptional Christian nation that in their eyes is the United States.

The “voice of the unborn”

And now, that Christian right with more conservative and nationalist postulates – which began to organize politically in the 70s and was cementing its weight in the terms of Ronald Reagan and the two presidents Bush – has reached full communion with the politics that are emerging. of the Oval Office, with that shared disdain for liberal democracy.

The new Supreme
threatens abortion rights, a workhorse of white evangelicals and conservative Catholics

When Trump, who had not been seen at a church service since late last year, went to an evangelical megachurch in Las Vegas last Sunday, the preacher thanked him, among other things, for moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, while putting the main focus on giving “a voice to the unborn” and appointed judges who “defend conservative and Judeo-Christian values.”

When this Monday the Catholic judge is confirmed in the Senate, controlled by the Republicans Amy Coney Barrett for Supreme -Where the president has already placed Neil Gorsuch and Bret Kavanaugh-, a lasting and momentous turn to a conservative majority (6-3).

A more complex puzzle than in 2016

The door will thus be open for, after a struggle of almost 50 years, end the right to abortion, one of the main workhorses for the majority of white evangelicals and for the most conservative Catholics, one of the predominant issues in the configuration of so-called “single issue voters.”

Trump win
between evangelicals and white Catholics and Protestants who are not evangelicals or born-again Christians

The religious vote in the November 3 elections, however, is more complex and nuanced than it was in 2016. A survey conducted by the Pew Center after the first debate and the positive Trump for coronavirus showed the Republican in advantage position between white evangelicals (78-17 vs. Biden), Protestants who are not evangelicals or born-again Christians (53-43), and white catholics (52-44).

It must be said, however, that the president faces the challenge of generational changes, since there is a bulk of less conservative young evangelicals than their parents in some respects and with concerns regarding issues such as climate change o la gun violence.

Switch between moderate evangelicals

At the same time, Trump’s rhetoric, together with his policies such as the separation of immigrant children from their families, the veto of Muslims or even Barack Obama’s assaults on health care reform even in the midst of the pandemic, have caused that more moderate evangelicals decide to turn your back this time and voting for Biden, even when abortion has traditionally been a definitive issue for them too.

These are groups like Evangelicals Pro-Life for Biden, who have stated that, “as a whole,” the Democrat’s policies “better defend the ethics of life shaped by the Bible than those of Donald Trump.”

Biden defends
Better Than Trump’s “Bible Life Ethics” Say Pro-Life Evangelical Groups

This group includes voices like Jerushah Duford, granddaughter of the late Reverend Billy Graham, one of the most influential evangelical figures of the 20th century. “I genuinely would like the Democratic Party to give more value to life in the womb, but in the same way I would like the Republican Party to give more value to life outside the womb,” he declared in ‘The New York Times’. “You can’t just pick one of them and define yourself as pro-life.”

Hispanic Catholics, with Biden

The same idea argued last week the father Erick martinez in the old Catholic Church of Santa Barbara, in Miami’s Little Havana. “Abortion should not be used as a political banner to manipulate the people. And what matters about a president is that he governs with justice and equity for all, and that the values ​​of the Gospel, which are universal, are observed,” he said. after the 12 mass: “I do not believe that Trump is pro-life if he cannot respect the life of immigrants or minorities.”

The democrat
has the support
of black evangelicals, Jews, atheists and agnostics, and who do not declare “nothing in particular”

In his words – or in those in which Norma, a 59-year-old Cuban, pronounced upon leaving the service: “When voting, one is moved by the facts and by how the poorest or most disadvantaged have been treated” – the gap beats That makes the subgroup of Hispanic Catholics, 5% of the electorate, appear in the Pew Center poll on Biden’s side, with 67% of the support.

The democrat, who would be the second Catholic president in US history after John Fitzgerald Kennedy if he won, also has the majority support among black evangelicals (90%); the Jews (70%); atheists and agnostics (83%), and the fastest growing group in the US: those who declare themselves “nothing in particular” (62% of whom say they will vote for Biden).

Race, class and gender

The religious vote, what it represents and its intense dispute in these elections, cannot be understood without the context of the renewed moment of awareness and struggle against racial injustice in recent months. Nor can it be explained without paying attention to how white Christianity has frequently been mobilized by questions of race, class and gender, especially after it began its intense politicization in the 70s, moved – rather than to combat the legalization of abortion – against the end of racial segregation in schools.

“Trump uses religion to pit white workers against African Americans, ”explains a Georgetown professor

As Terrence Johnson, Professor of Religion and Politics at Georgetown University, “there is white evangelicals who support Trump and his Administration for what they feel are accomplishments: judges of the Supreme, the language about protect human life, the life in the ‘suburbs‘… That galvanizes the right, “explains the specialist in a telephone interview.

The lure of socialism

According to the professor, “The Trump Administration is using religion to reinforce racial binaryism and to pit the white working class against African Americans and all those who may be considered ‘the other'”. By cons, he adds, the black christianity is using faith to reinforce “the idea of social justice and fight policies that harm the poor and marginalized. “

For the Democratic campaign, these elections represent “a fight for the soul of the nation”, a “who we want to be”

The professor points out that the messages of the Republican campaign that abound in which Biden “sacrifices his Catholic values ​​to kneel before the leftist mass” are fueling the fear that the Democratic victory will unleash “a storm of socialism.” A speech, says the expert, that is particularly damaging Biden’s efforts to advance Latino communities, especially among men concerned about maintaining the economic well-being they have been able to achieve.

For its part, the democrat’s message, Johnson points out, is that these elections represent a fight “for the soul of the nation”. And although the professor understands that part of that language appeals to the same ideal of “exceptional and God-appointed nation” that moves the religious extreme right, he also considers that, “at the most basic level”, Biden “captures the ideal sense of who we want to be”. “At least – concludes the specialist – at this moment that language is necessary to start the repair work, then something more nuanced can be done. It is a starting point.”

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