Home/Rod Dreher/Did Trump Just Blow Up His Coalition?

Did Trump Just Blow Up His Coalition?

Donald Trump gave a speech this afternoon in which he made some pretty strong proposals. I’m waiting on the transcript, and will post excerpts when it’s available, but here are some live tweets from the Cleveland Plain Dealer correspondent in the audience:

I don’t think Trump knows what he has just done.

Here’s a link to the full transcript. There’s a lot to like in the speech (seriously), and the tweet encapsulation above is correct. Let me stipulate that a) I approve of ending nation building; b) if by “extreme immigration screening” he means keeping out Muslims who have a provable history of being prone to violent radicalism, including supporting honor killings, I’m for that; and c) I’m indifferent to the “radical Islam commission,” seeing it as nothing but political red meat (if the US were a European nation, I would feel very differently about it).

On d) promoting a common culture … well, that’s tricky. More than tricky. I’m all for downplaying multiculturalism and focusing on what we have in common, in a Haidtian sense, but the problem is this: what is our common culture today? 

If we had a common culture, the culture wars would be much more muted. For example, if gay-rights supporters, who have decisively won their cause in the public arena, were willing to recognize that being an American includes having the right to be wrong within limits, they would agree to leave traditional Christian schools and institutions alone to stew in our own bigotry, or whatever they want to call it. But they can’t, and won’t. They and their allies wish to demonize us and cast us out of the public square. They don’t want any commonality with us. And to be fair, depending on the particular issue, many of us don’t want commonality with them.

I’m not talking about the broadest, deepest issues, like saving your neighbors from a flood. The Red Cross shelter where I was yesterday was full of people from every walk of life here in south Louisiana. Even a stranger from far away could have seen that. And they were rescued by people from a narrower demographic group — most of the guys with boats and motors are white sportsmen who live in the suburbs and rural areas, which means they are likely Trump voters — they were out searching for and saving anyone and everyone. That is not common culture as much as it’s common humanity, which is not the same thing (and God help us if we cease to recognize our common humanity; that’s how civil wars start).

But common culture? We don’t really have one anymore, and that’s the source of many of our problems.

Second, while I hope and expect that every traditional Christians strongly rejects those who would harm or abuse gays and lesbians, whatever the abuser’s cultural and religious background, Trump is on very thin ice with conservative Christians when he says, “We will reject bigotry, hatred and oppression in any of its ugly forms… .” That word “ugly” is doing a lot of work there. Being a Manhattan business mogul and cultural liberal, he may not realize that the cultural Left considers basic orthodox Christianity itself to be an example of “bigotry, hatred, and oppression.” 

There are many people in the world today, outside of America’s borders, who are good and decent people, and who intend America no harm, but who do not hold all the values of a middle-class American. Many of them hold views on gender roles that are not compatible with the US mainstream, for example. Many of them are Muslim, but many of them are Christian, as well as Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, or non-religious but traditional in their culture. Are they all to be kept out of this country too? Can Trump give us an example of “bigotry, hatred, and oppression” that manifests not in an “ugly” form, but in a form he finds acceptable?

You see the problem. Here are Trump’s actual words, from the transcript:

Those who do not believe in our Constitution, or who support bigotry and hatred, will not be admitted for immigration into the country.

Only those who we expect to flourish in our country – and to embrace a tolerant American society – should be issued visas.

I will fight to ensure that every American is treated equally, protected equally, and honored equally. We will reject bigotry and oppression in all its forms, and seek a new future built on our common culture and values as one American people.

Oh? What does “treated equally, protected equally, and honored equally” mean for churches, mosques, shuls, schools, and religious institutions that want to live out their traditionalist beliefs on homosexuality and women’s roles, but who do not wish to be violent or abusive to gays, lesbians, and women? This is a big red flag for us trads.

Seems pretty clear to me that in his attempt to appeal to fear and hatred of Muslims, Trump is inadvertently throwing conservative Christians under the bus. Again, let me emphasize, I have no problem at all with the US keeping violent crackpots like the influential Sunni leader Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, who advocates killing homosexuals, out of this country. In fact, I encourage it. And I agree with Trump that we should halt immigration from countries that produce these violent extremists until we can better screen them.

But Trump’s words really ought to be chilling to Christian conservatives who have supported him. The fact that Trump did not qualify his language here indicates that he (and the people around him) have no real grasp of what traditional Christians are facing in this country. As far as the cultural Left is concerned, there’s not much difference between us and radical Muslims.

Conservative Christians who have come out in support of Trump had better think hard about whether they will stick by him after this. This is a major sign that he has no grasp of what we’re facing. Do you really think this man will be a reliable friend to us when the going gets tough?

Also, on a purely practical political point, why on earth would he have been so clumsy with this rhetoric? He’s in real trouble politically right now, and doesn’t need to threaten his own coalition, such as it is. This is not helping.

Or maybe Trump believes that his hardcore Christian supporters hate and fear Islam more than they understand what’s at stake in terms of their own religious liberty. It just might be that he is right.

Note to readers: I am not going to spend my time moderating the comments having to defend myself and traditional Christians against charges that we support beating up or killing gays and lesbians. Any Christian that does this is a disgrace to his faith, and I repudiate them. If you make your comment from the point of view that there is no substantive difference between traditional Christians and Muslims who advocate treating gays and lesbians this way, I won’t publish it.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

leave a comment