Robert P. Jones writes: On the surface, the answer to why the campaign rallies of Donald Trump have been frequently marked by vitriolic and racist outbursts, harsh rhetoric and even violence is simple: the candidate has encouraged it. But the raw materials Trump has at his disposal have been mined and refined for nearly half a century. Trump is not the source but an igniting spark.
The apocalyptic rhetoric that regularly escapes the bounds of civil discourse at Trump events is fueled by the particular energies that are unleashed when a long-dominant group senses the looming end of its era. Certainly, the boarded up shop fronts of small towns that testify to the disappearance of reliable working class jobs are a critical part of this sense of loss and distress. But the watershed moment that many analysts have missed, and that Trump’s most ardent supporters feel in their bones, is this: During Barack Obama’s tenure as president, the United States has crossed the threshold from being a majority white Christian country (54 percent in 2008) to a minority white Christian country (45 percent in 2015). The passing of a coherent cultural world — where working class jobs made ends meet and white conservative Christian values held sway — has produced this powerful politics of white Christian resentment. [Continue reading…]