If Progressives Don’t Want a Trump Win in 2020, Maybe They Should Stop Attacking Religious Freedom

Those who do not want to see Trump win in 2020 should stay away from comments that merely attribute his victory to racism — and fight for religious freedom.

By George Yancey Published on November 13, 2016

Well to say I am shocked at the election last Tuesday night is an understatement. I have not bothered to hide my displeasure at the nomination of Donald Trump. I came out in The Stream as a NeverTrumper and asked Christians to vote third party. But at this point the election is over and America must move on. So my criticisms of Trump will stop for now until he takes actions as President of the United States. I will support his transition into office and offer him my prayers as I am commanded by the Lord.

But not everyone feels the way I do. Even as I write this anti-Trump protests have erupted in several major cities. My first inclination is that we should not be too hard on the protesters. They are in grief of what they thought they were going to receive — a Clinton presidency. They are not being rational right now but we do not expect rationality from those who have suffered loss. Now is the time to be gracious and, as long as they are non-violent, allow them to express themselves (although I do doubt that such graciousness would be returned if Clinton had won). In time we can expect more from them.

When that time comes let me emphasize that while there is racism among some of Trump supporters, it is a mistake to link this election results entirely to racism. Some have talked about how racism has won. If they mean that some racists got the president they were supporting then fine. But if they mean that the biggest reason why Trump won was because of overt racism then they are missing the point.

Progressives have to consider if they have overplayed their hand.

For example, I interacted with a lot of Christians and attempted to persuade them not to support Trump. But I did not deal with racism as much as I dealt with fear of what would happen in a Clinton administration. They feared a loss of religious freedom. I found these fear quite unfortunate and wanted to move them away from that fear. I talked about not living in fear. But what I could not do was tell them that their fear was unwarranted.

At the end of the day progressives have to consider if they have overplayed their hand. It is not enough that abortions are legal in the United States. They also fight to force Christian organizations to advise women about abortions. It is not enough that same-sex marriages are legal. Christian bakers must be forced to bake cakes for them. A lay pastor must be fired for daring to preach against those marriages from his pulpit. So yes Christians are right to fear for their religious freedom.

Many Christians I dialogued with were loath to support Trump. They did not like his character and did not trust him. But their understandable fear that a Clinton presidency would further infringe on religious freedom convinced them that voting for Trump was worth the risk. I disagreed with the wisdom of taking such a chance but the evidence that their religious freedom was endangered was too overwhelming for many of them to respect my disagreement.

This resulted in 81 percent of white evangelicals voting for Trump in the last election. What if that number was only 75 percent or 70 percent? Given the disdain many of my friends had for Trump’s character without that fear perhaps we are looking at only 60 percent support. At such a low level of support the rust belt states may go to Clinton instead of Trump and perhaps even Florida. We are talking about quite a different election outcome.

So after the mourning period is over those who do not want to see Trump win in 2020 should stay away from comments that merely attribute his victory to racism. I have a better piece of advice for them. Stop fighting against religious freedom. Stop seeking to punish those who do not want to participate in abortion or same-sex marriage. Stop trying to get those who speak against it fired. Stop saying that religious freedom is just a license to discriminate. It is not and such statements lead to real religious bigotry. Stop giving Christian legitimate reasons to fear for their religious freedom. Then if Trump acts immorally during his presidency you will find a lot fewer Christian voters for him.

Those who do not want to see Trump win in 2020 should say away from comments that merely attribute his victory to racism.

However Christians will need more than rhetoric to be assured. Promises about how the government will not go into churches and homes are not enough. Christians have seen these promises before and they are not worth anything. Remember “all we want are civil unions.” Then “all we want is the right to marry, it will not affect you.” Then “all we want is public accommodations and you must serve us even it is it against your conscience.” With the Eric Walsh case it is now “all we want is for you to not speak against same sex marriage in your church’s pulpit.” Needless to say Christians are right not to expect that any limitations progressives put on themselves today will be honored tomorrow. Actively supporting actual legislation that protects religious freedom would be a good start.

Now perhaps by 2020 a president Trump will be so unpopular that progressives will not have any problems replacing him with the Democrat nominee. Trump is so unpredictable that it’s hard to say what sort of presidency he will have. But I am done underestimating this man. If his opponents do not want to make the same mistake four years from now then they need to convince Christian conservatives that they are not enemies of religious freedom.

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