No, Mehdi Hasan, ‘Values Voters’ Have Not Lost Their Values
Writing in the New Statesman, political author Mehdi Hasan asks a pointed question. “What has happened to members of the ‘Moral Majority’? You remember them, right? The conservative evangelicals who helped deliver victories for ‘born again’ Republicans Ronald Reagan and George W Bush and pushed for the impeachment of the philandering Democrat Bill Clinton? How come these ‘values voters’ seem to have lost all their, ahem, values?”
Hasan answers his own question with the title of his article. “Many white evangelicals stand by Trump because they are more white than evangelical.”
Is there any truth to this?
There’s no question that the Moral Majority made a major mistake by getting too closely hitched to the GOP. It would have been better to stand as an independent voice speaking for tens of millions of Americans.
And there’s no question that some evangelicals, like Jerry Falwell, Jr., referred to in Hasan’s article, have sanitized Donald Trump, making him appear almost saintly.
There’s also no question that polling by the Public Religion Research Institute seems to confirm a shift in evangelical thinking. As Hasan notes, “In 2011, fewer than one in three white evangelical Protestants said an elected official could behave ethically in their public life, if they had committed moral transgressions in their private life. Yet just five years later, in 2016, more than seven in ten white evangelical Protestants said a politician’s personal morality did not matter to them.”
It certainly could be that the primary reason for this shift is Donald Trump. Which is one of the main points Hasan wants to make.
Misreading Evangelicals’ Values Vote
But Hasan has missed the boat in terms of why this shift has taken place. It’s not because our values don’t matter to us anymore. To the contrary, it is our values that led us to vote as we did. And those values do not relate to being white. Far from it.
Rather, after 8 years of President Obama, we were willing to look past many things that did matter to us because of the bigger picture involved. We saw our society being misshapen before our very eyes. In our minds, Hillary Clinton (who, the last time I checked, was also white) would be a nail in the coffin.
So, while many of us had to swallow hard before voting for Donald Trump, we were willing to do so. We were willing for the sake of our religious freedom, for the sake of the unborn, for the sake of our relationship with Israel, and for the sake of our national security.
Unfortunately, Hasan was misled by the leftist activist “evangelical” Jim Wallis, who told him that “black evangelicals, Hispanic evangelicals… did not vote for Donald Trump. White evangelicals did… because they were more white than evangelical.”
Moral Values on a National Level
In point of fact, many black and Hispanic evangelicals did vote for Trump. This was in spite of the strong Democratic leanings of blacks and Hispanics in general. They did so because they, too, shared the concerns of white evangelicals. And those concerns were not based on whiteness.
The loss of religious liberties concerns people of all colors. Abortion targets black Americans at a much higher rate than white Americans. The Masterpiece Cakes case is now being heard by the Supreme Court. It reminds us just how important the next appointee to the court will be (not to mention the appointment of Justice Gorsuch already).
And shall I say nothing of Trump’s bold and courageous move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital? He did what previous presidents had promised, but never delivered.
It’s true that many of us who voted for Trump continue to grimace at some of his words and actions. And if it turns out that he was guilty of sexual assault in the past, he will have to face the music.
But, when it came to voting for Trump, the last thing on my mind – or the minds of serious evangelical voters I’ve interacted with – was whiteness.
It was moral values that moved us to vote for him: values on a national level, which we decided — reluctantly — had to outweigh moral issues on a personal level. Plus, we were all too aware that God can use unlikely vessels to be agents of the greater good.
And we were all too glad to say goodbye to the identity politics of Obama and Hasan and Wallis.