Tim Alberta writes: Donald Trump’s supporters always had diverging interpretations of his campaign mantra, “Make America Great Again,” yet they all centered on returning the country to a better and more comfortable time.
To economic nationalists, it meant going back to an era of high tariffs and buying American. To defense hawks, it meant returning to a time of unquestioned military supremacy. To immigration hard-liners, it meant fewer jobs for foreign-born workers—and, for some of those voters, fewer dark faces in the country, period.
But for many evangelicals and conservative Catholics, “Make America Great Again” meant above all else returning to a time when the culture reflected and revolved around their Judeo-Christian values. When there was prayer in public schools. When marriage was limited to one man and one woman. When abortion was not prevalent and socially acceptable. When the government didn’t ask them to violate their consciences. And, yes, when people said “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays.”
This explains one of the more striking lines in Trump’s speech Friday to the Values Voter Summit, which in just 10 years has become one of the premier annual gatherings of social conservatives in Washington. Touting the “customs, beliefs and traditions that defined who we are as a nation and as a people,” the president recalled the Founders’ repeated reference to a “Creator” in the Declaration of Independence. “How times have changed,” Trump said. “But you know what? Now they’re changing back again. Just remember that.”
The audience roared with a 20-second standing ovation.
Of course, much of the cultural drift the “values voters” fear seems irreversible as America’s demographic transformation yields an electorate that is younger, more ethnically diverse, more urban, more educated and less religious. Same-sex marriage is settled law with ever-broadening public support; abortion rights are probably impossible to fully retract. And the country’s steady secularization, decried for decades from church pulpits, appears to have accelerated in recent years: According to a comprehensive Pew Research Center poll of more than 35,000 Americans, the share of self-identified Christians decreased nearly 7 percent between 2007 and 2014, while the share of religiously unaffiliated citizens increased nearly 7 percent in that time.
What, then, can a thrice-married Manhattan billionaire—or any politician, for that matter—realistically offer Christian voters who hope for a cultural and spiritual revival in America? [Continue reading…]