An annual Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) survey reveals massive racism that drives the White Chrisitan evangelical movement that also controls much of the Republican Party in a bigoted and intolerant America, especially in rural areas like Southwestern Virginia.
This racism, the survey says, drives an increasing “massive generational divide on the same issues between older evangelicals and “more tolerant Millenials and Generation Xers.”
“Many essentially see politics as a great battle between White, Christian America and the multiracial, religiously diverse reality of 21st century America,” writes Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post. “They want someone to help them win that existential fight. Government is there not to produce legislative fixes to real-world problems but to engage their enemies on behalf of White Christianity.”
PRRI chief executive Robert B. Jones notes:
Among the 42% of Virginia voters who believe that Confederate monuments should be taken down, nearly nine in ten (87%) voted for the Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe. By contrast, Among the 51% of Virginia voters who believe that Confederate monuments should be left in place, more than eight in ten (82%) voted for Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin.
In other words, it is inbred racism of an aging, dwindling white minority who put keeping control over the growing mix of varying ethnic groups that are an increasing majority in a nation founded on the belief that diversity is an American way of life.
It’s racism and hate. We see growth in pubic comment periods of school boards and local governing bodies. We see it in loud, often obscene, claims that books they feel are “obscene” must be removed in school libraries and demands that education must be sanitized to remove critical facts about the racism that still drives our society.
Religious researcher Jones adds:
Among voters who hold an unfavorable view of the Black Lives Matter movement, believe the U.S. criminal justice system treats all people fairly, or believe that racism is a minor problem or not a problem at all, more than eight in ten voted for Donald Trump. At the national level, the divides produced by these attitudes are stronger than the divides over abortion. Among those who believe abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, 76% voted for Trump.
Columnist Rubin expands on what Jones says:
The fixation with defining the United States as a White Christian nation is on full display nightly on Fox News, where replacement theory — not abortion or gay rights — drives so much more of the conversation.
In this context, White evangelical Christians’ attraction to the thrice-married philanderer Trump is understandable, as is their support for the cruelest immigration policies (e.g., child separation) and the anti-Muslim travel ban. It’s all about race and religious identity, not policies founded in Christian values and certainly not about finding a role model for civic virtues. Trump was determined to protect White evangelicals against people of color and the decline in Christian identification; that was all they could hope for in a politician.
For these voters, government is a means of enforcing (they would say “preserving”) domination of Whites and Christianity as essential to America’s identity. That’s why they support politicians who demonize Black Lives Matter, demand that corporations meekly accept voter suppression, express outrage over a publisher’s decision about Dr. Seuss titles or fixate on saying “Merry Christmas.” It’s also why insurrectionists marauded through the Capitol on Jan. 6 bearing Confederate flags and wearing T-shirts mocking the Holocaust. They keep telling us who they are and what they want, but well-meaning Americans and the media often refuse to accept that their fellow Americans’ motives are so antithetical to American values.
Jones underscores that this MAGA resentment translates into “fears about the rising number of Latino Americans, fears about Islam, and anti-Black attitudes tied to a ‘law and order’ mentality where African Americans are associated with criminal activity and lawlessness in major cities. You won’t need to search far to find each of these interpretations made painfully explicit in former President Trump’s speeches and in the content of the 2016 and 2020 Republican National Conventions.”
The fixation on race and Christian nationalism has serious ramifications for American political life. First, White evangelical Christians are fighting an impossible crusade against demographic inevitability (their minority status is what has fueled the MAGA movement). Because they can never win (at least in a democracy with free and accurate elections), their political venom will not abate.
We can see some hope, however, even here in GOP bastions like Floyd County, where voters in Courthouse District turned back a Trumpism-spouting “Christians conservative” challenger who tried to unseat independent supervisor Jerry Boothe and town of Floyd voters rejected, by a massive majority, an attempt by another such loud troublemaker to take over the mayor’s post.
A school board candidate, driven more by common sense, won over the louder, profane pretenders to the post.
Those are small victories in an election driven too much by racism and hate. We will still see assaults on common decency. The board of supervisors has a new member coming on in January who has caused troubles in public meetings and was removed from a school board meeting by a deputy sheriff because she refused to follow written regulations and mandates. A new General Assembly delegate brags mostly about her cowboy hat while spouting Trumpisms.
Last month, a protestor who has verbally assaulted school board members in public comment periods unleashed his verbal diarrhea on Little River Supervisor Linda DeVito Kuchenbuch, along with threats of “we will remember” when her seat is up for re-election. Since he doesn’t live in the district, he can shout but he can’t vote there.
Rubin writes that “the aims of White evangelicals run smack into the American ideal that ‘all men are created equal and constitutional protections that allow no bias against any particular religion or racial group. In that regard, they have become deeply antidemocratic.”
“A Democratic Party committed to social justice and racial tolerance is never going to win over the hardcore White evangelical base of the GOP,” she adds. “We face a battle over the meaning of America. All defenders of a diverse democracy must stand shoulder to shoulder for an inclusive system of government.”