Are sleaze revelations fueling 20 percent GOP vote for dropout Haley?
Donald Trump holds a Bible in Washington in June 2020, when he walked to the St John’s Church after police had violently cleared a racial justice protest. Trump has no trouble wrapping himself in the American flag and, despite his misogyny, waving the bible. | Patrick Semansky/AP

INDIANAPOLIS—It’s bad enough that women and everyone who supports them are hearing stories in the current Trump trial about how he compared a porn star with whom he was about to have sex to his own daughter and how he assured the performer that his wife, Melania, was not an issue because they did not sleep together.

Hearing this, how could anyone want such a person to come back into the White House and be in control of so much that is crucial to the nation, various news commentators asked yesterday in one way or another. Majorities of white Evangelical voters nevertheless continue to support Trump.

Before considering that question, it is worth noting that compounding the Trump troubles is the fact that his last foe, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who was also Trump’s UN ambassador, dropped out of the race two months ago, but still gets at least a fifth of the votes in Republican primaries.

Her latest large showing was in deep-red Indiana on May 7: Twenty-two percent of GOP primary voters, some 128,000 people, including 35 percent in Marion County, which houses almost a million people and includes the state capital, Indianapolis.

Most Marion voters, though, live in its deep-red suburbs, not in the leaning-blue city. Still, Trump’s past and future foe, Democrat Joe Biden, carried Marion by a two-to-one ratio four years ago—and lost in a landslide in most of the rest of Indiana.

Indiana, after all, gave us Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence and George H.W. Bush’s VP, Dan Quayle. Pence was noted for his evangelism before and between political offices. He even hosted an evangelical-oriented radio talk show.

In the last 100 years, Indiana’s landed in the Democratic general election column only twice, for Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 landslide and for Barack Obama in 2008.

What’s going on here?

Admittedly, the states where Haley has drawn the biggest share of votes against Trump, including Indiana, New Hampshire and her home state of South Carolina, also happen to be states that let voters switch parties on primary day.

Half of the Haley vote, exit polls show, came from Democrats and independents, two groups unlikely (Dems) and less likely (independents) to pull voting machine levers for Trump in the fall.

But even with that factored in, take a look at the Marion County vote for Haley again, and a similar figure in Hamilton County just north of it. They signify another Trump weakness, surveys show—among white suburbanites, especially suburban women.

“Similar to results in states like Virginia and North Carolina, Trump performed strongly in Indiana’s rural counties,” The Insider reports. “However, the former president still has a problem as evidenced by his numbers in the Indianapolis area, with many moderates and GOP-leaning independents continuing to be leery of his 2024 candidacy.”

“Trump has sought to tout his economic message to these sorts of voters, an area where he has found success in poll after poll. But many suburban voters are also concerned about issues like the preservation of democracy, abortion rights, and environmental policy, which all strongly favor Biden,” it adds.

Even Haley, when she dropped out of the race, pointed out Trump’s weakness. And she hasn’t endorsed him yet, either.

“I have always been a conservative Republican and always supported the Republican nominee,” she said as she withdrew after losing her home state to Trump. “But on this question, as she did on so many others, Margaret Thatcher provided some good advice when she said, ‘Never just follow the crowd. Always make up your mind.’ It is now up to Donald Trump to earn the votes of those in our party and beyond it who did not support him, and I hope he does that.”

Another matter

Evangelicals are, of course, another matter. There, the explanation may trace back to a “Men’s Liberation Movement” of the early part of this century. The Southern Poverty Law Center, the nation’s leading tracker of hate groups, classifies that movement among them. And it’s rife with evangelicals—and fellow misogynists who treat women the way Trump did and does.

“Many male supremacists have openly called for and carried out acts of physical and sexual violence against women as well as mass violence targeting society,” the SPLC says.

“As in previous years, male supremacist groups continue to congregate primarily online, operating within the manosphere–a collection of websites, blogs and online forums. Male supremacy is a decentralized movement that uses a model of leaderless resistance.

“As a result, the SPLC lists only a small number of male supremacist groups, reflecting only their lack of in-person activities and not their influence or threat level.”

Leading white supremacist Matt Forney, in a 2016 statement, was typical, SPLC reported.

“If a girl is in favor of abortion, there is evil dwelling in her soul. If you let her into your life, she will do her best to ruin you and bring you down to her level…If a girl is so revolted by a lifeform that is genetically 50 percent her that she’ll go to Planned Parenthood to get it flushed out, she will treat everyone else in her life with the same level of cruelty,” he wrote.

Expands on theme

Matt Lewis, in an op-ed in The Daily Beast, expands on that misogynist theme. He headlined his analysis “Evangelicals see Trump’s hedonism as ‘Godly masculinity.’” That would tie in, though Lewis didn’t say so, with the god-like reverence the 1,000 Trumpites showed when they stormed the U.S. Capitol at his orders, in their insurrection and coup d’etat attempt three years ago.

Evangelicals, Lewis said, started by supporting Trump because he could achieve their goals, principally remaking the Supreme Court to outlaw abortion. Its three Trump-named justices pushed that through, creating the 5-4 majority two years ago that deprived women of their constitutional right to abortion.

And evangelicals have turned away from the “almost effete” Christianity symbolized by Trump’s VP, Pence, to a “muscular” Christianity featuring a leader who’s a flawed man who “yet is used mightily by God,” he said. Think King David as a comparison, Lewis added.

“Never mind that Trump never repented for his sins or even sought to change his ways. The gist was that God can use flawed vessels to accomplish His plans.” Note the capitalized male pronoun for God.

“Interestingly, though, this argument seems to have morphed, in some quarters, at least, into a more sinister theory: That sexual sin isn’t just a stumbling block that can be overcome, it is proof of a man’s masculinity and even worthiness to be used by God.”

Regardless of the explanation, the Pew Center For Religion, in its in-depth findings on U.S. religion members and their views, confirms the evangelicals have gone for Trump hook, line and sinker.

Pew found white evangelical Protestants support Trump by an 81%-17% margin over Biden, including those who lean to Trump. Next best among religious groups were white non-Hispanic Catholics—a group that includes Biden himself—at 61%-38% Trump. White non-evangelical Protestants were third in Trump support, at 57%-41%.

Black evangelical Protestants were the most pro-Biden group, at 77%-18%. The only group where Biden outperformed the Black evangelicals were atheists, by 87%-11%, and agnostics, where he leads Trump 82%-17%.

The ratios are similar, both for Trump among evangelicals and against him among the non-evangelicals, on views whether Trump broke the law by trying to steal the 2020 election.

“About three-quarters of White evangelical Protestant voters say Trump was a ‘great’ (37%) or ‘good’ (37%) president. Roughly half of White Catholics and White non-evangelical Protestants share this view,” the Pew survey found.

“When it comes to Biden, atheists and Black Protestants rate the current president’s performance most favorably. Roughly half of voters in each of these groups say Biden is a great or good president.”

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Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.