It’s Complicated

Trump laying on

David French, The Great White Culture War, posted at nationalreview.com:

[C]onservative white Americans look at urban multicultural liberalism and notice an important fact: Its white elite remains, and continues to enjoy staggering amounts of power and privilege. So when that same white elite applauds the decline of “white America,” what conservatives often hear isn’t a cheer for racial justice but another salvo in our ongoing cultural grudge match, with the victors seeking to elevate black and brown voices while remaining on top themselves.

Mr. French see a key distinction among separate white cultures as that between evangelicals and secularists. But, in The Church of Trump, Alex Wagner argues that less affluent whites are losing their traditional religion, and substituting a messianic belief in Trumpism.

You could draw a straight line from a disenfranchised, pessimistic, resentful audience to Trump’s brand of fear-driven, divisive politics, but this would leave out an equally important part of the Trump phenomenon, and something critical to its success: the elation. Go to a Trump rally, speak to Trump supporters, and the devotion is nearly evangelical. …

In his research, [W. Bradford] Wilcox noted the particular isolation of the white working class in the institutional church:

Moderately educated Americans may feel less attracted to churches that uphold the bourgeois virtues—delayed gratification, a focus on education, self-control, etc.—that undergird this lifestyle. As importantly, working class whites may also feel uncomfortable socializing with the middle and upper class whites who have increasingly come to dominate the life of religious congregations in the U.S. since the 1970s, especially as they see their own economic fortunes fall.

The declining economic position of white working class Americans may have made the bourgeois moral logic embodied in many churches both less attractive and attainable.

Trumpism proposes a system of worship formed in direct opposition to bourgeois moral logic, with values that are anti-intellectual and anti–politically correct. If mainline Protestantism is a bastion of the educated, upper-middle class, the Church of Trump is a gathering place for its castoffs. Trump’s rhetoric about the “silent majority” is indeed a racial dog whistle, but it is also a call to his supporters to unmask themselves. He offers a public embrace of a worldview that has been, at least until this point, a mark of shame.