McKay Coppins reports: On July 17, 2015, Donald Trump received a caps lock–heavy campaign memo from one of his advisers containing instructions on how to communicate with a voter species that was especially exotic to the candidate at the time.
“The audience is CHRISTIAN SOCIAL CONSERVATIVES,” the Trump adviser wrote on the eve of the the 2015 Family Leadership Summit in Iowa. “They are open to your candidacy but NEED TO KNOW that their issues are IMPORTANT TO YOU.”
The document — along with several other internal Trump camp memos recently obtained by BuzzFeed News — illustrates just how tenuous the New York billionaire’s connection was to his party’s religious base at the outset of this election cycle. Throughout 2014 and 2015, Trump’s small political team coached him on how to make himself more palatable to conservative Christians.
On the issue of abortion, one memo urged, “Unless you are specifically asked, it is not beneficial to state that you support the exceptions of life of the mother, rape, and incest.” Another suggested that Trump “DEFLECT” any debate questions about school prayer by saying, “I employ thousands of individuals and make sure my employees have the freedom to express their faith however they see fit.” If asked whether he believed in “creationism or evolution,” an adviser suggested the candidate respond, “I believe in both” — and then added in a parenthetical, “(Mr. Trump — we may want to follow up on this.)”
For all his advisers’ best efforts, of course, Trump never did master the language of the religious right — but it has hardly held him back. Not only has Trump succeeded in capturing the Republican nomination, but according to a recent Pew survey, he is also currently polling better among white evangelicals than any GOP nominee on record. This success has dismayed many of Trump’s Christian critics, who have spent much of this year fretting that a biblically illiterate adulterer was fleecing their fellow believers.
But in fact, some devout detractors argue, the real threat Trump poses to the conservative Christian movement may be in just how many of his god-fearing supporters know exactly what they’re getting. Never before has the Republican Party nominated a standard-bearer so nakedly illiterate on religious matters — and so unwilling to even pretend. [Continue reading…]