Evangelicals and White Conservative Identity

Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church in Houston, shown during service on Feb. 27, 2011, seats 17,000. Its church service is broadcast to more than 7 million weekly.
Robert Seale/USA Today Network

Sobering facts. For the United States, Vox finds that a large majority of the population is still white (Non-Hispanic). According to Pew, the percentage of Protestant evangelical white voters has bumped up from 25 to 29 and Trump’s vote among white evangelicals bumped up significantly from 77% to 84%. Among more mainstream Americans, there was some expectation that the evangelical population would either decrease or become less committed to Trump once they realized how “vile” or “disgusting” he was. But the opposite occurred. Although 2% of evangelical voters did defect from that type of Christianity but more than enough 2016 Trump voters became evangelicals to more than make up for the defections.

Basic implications. Trumpism coalesced around white evangelicals and evangelicals further coalesced around Trump. Given that the proportion of the white evangelical population is declining slowly and white evangelicals are about 20% of the whole (according to these Pew numbers), there’s going to be no dramatic demographic shift allowing the Democrats to count on a stable majority. If the Democrats want to win elections, expand their House and Senate majorities, and turn the five big purple states of Arizona, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas blue, they have to fight and scrap at every turn.

More Positive Indications. But Biden did win the election and increased his vote shares in the suburbs, among white non-college voters, and white college voters. Black primary voters defined the basic Democratic strategy of securing the urban multicultural center-left base while appealing to white suburban voters by avoiding positions that could be smeared by Republicans. That’s a strategy that has a great deal of power in a large nation that’s still urbanizing and the Democrats should build from there.

White People on Earth 1

Earth Views: Earth From Space Seen From The ISS - YouTube
Space Videos, Youtube

A debate has been brewing about whether the mainstream media has over-emphasized vaccine refusal among Republicans and not paid enough attention to vaccine hesitancy and refusal black and Hispanic minorities. Lt Gov Dan Patrick of Texas challenged Democrats to do a better job of promoting vaccination among the black population and the comic blow up between Nicki Minaj and Joy Reid over vaccine hesitancy in the black community is a good example of the heightened “concern” about vaccination rates among minorities.

But the much more significant racial gap in vaccination is WITHIN the white population rather than between whites and blacks. Conservatives like Dan Patrick were arguing that “whites as a whole” had a higher vaccination rate than the black population as a whole. But that’s not even true. An August 24, 2021 NBC poll had the black vaccination rate at 76% and the white rate at 66%.

Here’s an abbreviated breakdown by demographic group, white and black rates in bold:

  • All adults: 69 percent
  • Men: 67 percent
  • Women: 71 percent
  • Whites: 66 percent
  • Blacks: 76 percent
  • Latinos: 71 percent
  • White evangelicals: 59 percent
  • Democrats: 88 percent
  • Independents: 60 percent
  • Republicans: 55 percent
  • Republicans who support Trump more than party: 46 percent
  • Republicans who support party more than Trump: 62 percent
  • Democratic Sanders-Warren voters: 88 percent
  • Democratic Biden voters: 87 percent
  • Biden voters in 2020 general election: 91 percent
  • Trump voters in 2020 general election: 50 percent

Even though NBC does not give a straight partisan breakdown of the white population, it’s pretty clear that white Democrats have a vaccination rate well-over 90% while white Republicans are in the low to mid 50’s. This hypothetical 40% difference between White Democrats and White Republicans tracks across the partisan numbers of Democrats (88%), Democratic Biden voters (87), and Biden voters (91%) as well. Republicans (55%), especially Trump voting Republicans (50%) have low vaccination rates and are the primary reason for the Delta surge over the last two months. To the contrary, white Democrats are more aligned with the Black and Hispanic populations than they are with white Republicans.

The yawning gap between white Democrats and white Republicans is an underestimated and crucial cultural and political fact in American life. In terms of vaccination, the 40% gap between white Republicans and white Democrats is significantly larger than the difference between both Republicans and blacks and Republicans and Hispanics. The alienation of rural white conservative from the multiracial, socially liberal Democrats has been investigated at enormous length. Sometimes it seems that no diner in Middle America has gone unvisited by political journalists. But there has been practically no writing on the white Democratic side of the divide and an almost total embargo on interviews with white Biden voters.

My own speculation is that the mainstream media really doesn’t want to know the withering contempt with which many center-left white Democrats regard Republicans. But the differences between the two separate and mutually opposed white groups are important to understand. There are broad journalistic ideas that white Democrats pay more attention to the mainstream media, have less racial hostility toward black people and Hispanics, are more supportive of education, feminism, and gay rights, and more oriented toward the authority of science than white Republicans. But part of what’s now driving the culture and politics of white Democrats is their (our) hostility to white Republicans and that needs to be investigated in much more detail. Joy Reid often refers to conservatives as Earth 2, but white people in Earth 1 need to be better understood.

Why Wait for the Next Coup

Newsmax, bottom video

I’m not sure Trump wants to wait to the 2024 election before trying to take over again.

Trump argued “our country has gone really downhill in the last eight months like nobody’s ever seen before. . . . And you go to these elections coming up in ’22 and ’24 — we’re not going to have a country left. The election was rigged and we’re not going to have a country left in three years, I’ll tell you that.”

Trump garbles and deflects enough to create plausible deniability but this statement reads like an argument that Joe Biden and the Democrats should be removed from office without having elections in 2022 and 2024.

The argument would go that the “country is being destroyed so quickly that we aren’t going to have a country left in three years.” Given Trump’s premise that the country is quickly being destroyed, the logical conclusion would be that the Biden administration needs to be overthrown as soon as possible.

In other words, Trump seems to be trying out an idea for a much larger-scale insurrection than Jan. 6 with the qualification that he’s not willing to take any risks himself.

Depths That Cannot Be Plumbed


Sympathy for the Analyst: Kudos for effort Paul Campos puts into exploring the depths of right-wing derangement in this short article for the Lawyers, Guns, and Money blog. Campos focuses on the manifestation of the “sociopathic style” of right-wing politics in extreme libertarian individualism of conservative politicians and the “paranoid style” in American politics that Richard Hofstadter identified in the 60’s as going back to the Know-Nothing anti-immigration movement of the 1840’s. Much of Campos’ position is articulated below:

This is the sociopathic style in action. In contemporary conservative thought, anti-social personality disorder is, via the magic of ideology, transformed into an all-purpose political doctrine. In its cruder forms, as illustrated 24/7 by the workings of the nation’s massive right wing mass media propaganda complex, this ideology manifests itself as a kind of oppositional defiant disorder, as millions of chronological adults are encouraged to behave like cranky toddlers, whenever they are asked by the Liberal Conspiracy to perform the political equivalent of picking up their toys and going to bed on time.

In the tonier regions of the right wing ideological bubble, emotionally stunted sociopathy is tarted up constantly with ponderous (and highly selective) citations to Burke, Hayek, Orwell, Milton Friedman etc. But in both the Limbaughverse or the Buckleyverse the idea is the same: the invocation of the word “freedom” is supposed to cut off all higher cognitive function, just as surely as the word “God” is supposed to do in some adjacent ideological zip codes.

But Campos doesn’t quite get there and it’s because he focuses so much on conservative politicians and intellectuals as opposed to the everyday white conservatives who form the popular backbone of conservative politics. Far from being individual, their “oppositional defiance” is grounded in the GROUP LIFE of small rural towns, white evangelical churches, facebook chat groups and conspiracy theory and entails a large-scale willingness to SACRIFICE their spouses, children, parents, friends, and co-workers to Covid in the name of rejecting the larger society. In their visit to tiny Carter County, MO, CNN found a community engulfed in Covid infection (32% positivity rate) with gossip concerning who has Covid and how sick they were on everybody’s lips but people still seeing those who get the vaccine as traitors to the community, conservatism, and Donald Trump.

Individualism is the dominant ideology among white Americans in general, but the extreme individualism of rural anti-vaxxers is an element of an intense group life in solidarity against the larger American society. And rural white conservatives are willing to sacrifice everything that’s closest to them to maintain that solidarity.

Grand Canyon America

The Ultimate Grand Canyon Travel Guide | Outside Online

A few remarks on the deeper divide in American life.  The conventional wisdom is that the denizens of Trump World view themselves as real Americans and white liberals, Black people, Hispanics, Muslims, Jews, Asian-Americans, LGBT folks, and disabled people as the “others” of not really real America. Certainly, Rep. Jim Jordan (Trump-OH) provided an example of that yesterday when he tweeted that “Real America is done with #COVID19. God Bless” after seeing last weekends packed football stadiums.

But the conventional wisdom on Trumpism doesn’t cover much of the complexity over who is or is not a “Real American.” I think an underlying question for both Trumpers and the multi-racial socially liberal constituencies associated with mainstream American culture is whether white conservatives are still “really” a part of American society themselves and there’s a big “NO” coalescing on both sides of the divide. The Reagan conservatism of small government, social conservatism, and national defense is barely serving as a polite mask for the Republican Party as the GOP core re-orients around a culture of conspiracy theorizing, the religious right, and gun culture.

For Missouri Republican Josh Hawley conservatives are already separate and opposed to the larger society. Hawley claimed in the New York Post that “for some time, conservatives, recognizing that we’re now the counterculture, indulged in the delusion that we could opt out of all this.” And Hawley is right. Conservatives have not been an integral part of mainstream American culture “for some time” and began to array themselves against the dominant culture as the mainstream became more multicultural and socially liberal. Birtherism was perhaps the first big example of right-wing counter-cultural opposition followed up by Trump’s 2016 campaign, anti-trans activism and the growth of an internet conspiracy network. All this built on the existing conservative culture of Fox News, evangelical churches, and anti-abortion activism to transform conservative “counter-culture” into oppositional activism and insurrection against the dominant American culture.

Mainstream American culture has also been changing dramatically. With Black Lives Matter, Me- Too, and anti-Trump activism built up from popular culture, public educational institutions, and the sciences, mainstream American culture has internalized civil rights tradition, normalized climate activism, and brought much more black, LGBT, Native, and immigrant influence into the workings of the Democratic Party, mainstream media, and popular culture. While white supremacy is far from finished in mainstream culture, the dominant idea of American citizenship is now identified with a rejection of racism, woman-hating, nativism, Christian conservatism, and the other strands of culture and politics identified with conservatism. Likewise, Trump’s election focused mainstream America to focus much more on partisan warfare with conservatives and the Trump administration, and that partisan warfare has continued into the current conflicts over conservative vaccine refusal, police murders, and everyday bigotry involving conservatives.

Real questions about whether conservatives are part of society and thus citizens in the full sense of the word, have popped up on twitter. For Prof. Elizabeth Cohen of Princeton writing on twitter under “Dr. Elizabeth Sacha Baroness Cohen,” conservative vaccine refusal calls into question their commitment both as human beings who “can’t be bothered to keep their own neighbors out of the ICU” and their status as people who don’t think of themselves as “part of a society.” Cohen portrays vaccine refusal in terms of a rejection of any society, but it is white conservatives who refuse to be part of their own society or concern themselves with their own children, parents, and extended family as well as teachers, the children at public schools, etc. One question that comes up here is the extent to which conservatives are willing to sacrifice their own loved ones to support their principled rejection of “American society” and the cultural mainstream.

Mainstream Americans also raise questions concerning the societal status of conservatives in relation to social bigotry. For “Michael Mc,” this is the key issue in relation to a video of “Jill’s” bigoted behavior toward Mexican restaurant workers at a Mexican restaurant in Parksburg, West Virginia.

After showing the video of Jill’s behavior, Michael Mc slowly intones that “we have no place for you in our society.” In pronouncing this anathema on “Jill” of Parksburg, Michael Mc is asserting that the U.S. is a multiracial, socially liberal society in which the bigotry of Jill has no place. My own politics are much the same as Michael Mc’s but it would now be best to see the United States in larger terms as a society that encompasses a mile-wide division between a dominant multiracial, socially liberal majority and a white conservative minority which has dramatically different institutions, principles, and values, and opposes the larger society at every point—i.e. “Grand Canyon America”

All That Sympathy for Assholes?

Bill Maher, Bari Weiss (Photo by Janet Van Ham/HBO

Sympathy for Assholes? Anne Applebaum is a well-known writer with a Pulitzer Prize to her credit who made her name primarily through her writing on Russia and Central Europe. Currently, she’s plying her trade for The Atlantic and recently wrote an article on the culture wars (mostly) at America’s elite universities and the difficulties experienced by liberal professors who find themselves on the wrong side in the battles over race, gender, and changing norms of professional conduct.

What jumps out at me though is this quote from her tweet announcing the article:

If we drive all of the difficult people, the demanding people, and the eccentric people away from the creative professions where they used to thrive, we will become a flatter, duller, less interesting society.

This made me laugh. The “difficult” people in Applebaum’s testimonial are better known as “assholes” whose digs, insults, cutting comments, bullying, and selfishness supposedly contribute to the “diversity” of academic and journalistic life. During my career at Morehead State University in KY, I encountered my share of difficult/asshole colleagues, chairs, deans, presidents, and heads of various and sundry things, and the sum total of their contribution was to make everyone else miserable. I hated and still hate this kind of crap and almost everyone else hated it as well. But I’m a pretty aggressive guy who still has a linebacker mentality from high school football (Waverly, NY Wolverines, 1970-71, Great Fight Song). So I spent a chunk of my time fighting it.

And as a result, I had a reputation as a “difficult” person in many quarters myself.

Grieving the Divide. Applebaum is one of a number of writers who are antsy about the contempt directed at conservatives, libertarians, Republicans and Trump voters since 2016. There was plenty of conversation about “urban liberal elites,” their “bubbles,” and the need to “understand” rural white conservatives. Journalists fanned out to small town diners all over Middle America and were very interested in the Frosty Freeze in Sandy Hook, KY. But the more the NY Times, Washington Post, and Politico wrote about rural whites, the more left-leaning voters fortified their bubbles and tuned out conservatives. The same is the case among rural lefties. I hardly ever talk to Republicans despite being in Trump+60 Eastern Kentucky and my lefty friends from my home town are extra glad they left now that Waverly is such a Trumpy place. Liberal/ conservative debates over small government, abortion, climate, and foreign policy mostly disappeared because liberal/lefties refused to continue debating and began to view the white conservative side as “so foul” (in the words of Andrew Sullivan) that they refused to work, have lunch, or perhaps even speak with them. Sullivan’s always been a conservative, but more liberal or at least previous figures like Bill Maher, Glenn Greenwald, and Matthew Yglesias are various degrees of hostile, dissenting, or grieving over the liberal/left hostility to conservatism. Grief would be a good term for Elizabeth Breunig’s pained plea for more attention to convincing the unvaccinated. All these figures still have large audiences for their articles, blog posts, and podcasts and it’s not like they’ll never have lunch in DC again. But non-conservative dissenters also seem to be working in a splendid isolation in which their primary audiences are no longer in the center-left mainstream but mostly “difficult people,” assholes, or even worse, conservatives.

Manchin as Lone Conduit

Like so many political discussions since Biden’s inauguration in January, this one starts with Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Whether it’s Manchin’s testimonials to bipartisanship, protection of the filibuster, insistence on addressing Republican ideas in the Covid Relief Bill, or conference calls with corporate Democratic groups like Third Way and No Labels, Joe Manchin’s name is on the tip of every writer’s typing fingers and the top of every call list from Joe Biden’s and Chuck Schumer’s to the humble but well-heeled lobbyists for coal and chemical companies in West Virginia.

Despite Afghanistan withdrawal, the Covid surge among the unvaccinated, and Hurricane Ida scoring a daily double of flooding both New Orleans and New York, Manchin still drew attention with a Susan Collins-like op-ed expressing what The Hill calls “concerns” about the impact of the Democratic leadership’s $3.5 trillion reconciliation package on inflation and the federal debt. Key passages read like lobbyist boilerplate and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez quickly called attention to Manchin’s meeting with energy lobbyists once a week and history of being “one of many senators who gives lobbyists their pen to write so-called ‘bipartisan’ fossil fuel bills.” It’s not just energy lobbyists either. Manchin has been taped doing a call with No Labels, one the main representative of corporate interests in the Democratic Party and was involved with the amateur hour, abortive moderate rebellion against Nancy Pelosi.

Since January, Manchin has become the main conduit for Republican, corporate, and Lieberman-style, GOP leaning, moderation in the Democratic caucus. Manchin’s opposition to removing the filibuster and suspicion of all the Democratic proposals he ends up supporting makes him the best available perfect foil for many of the most important interests opposed to the Biden administration. But Manchin’s importance is a real curiosity. Why does Joe Manchin represent GOP interests as he did with the Covid Relief Bill? Why couldn’t Mitch McConnell or GOP Senate whip John Thune? Why not Ted Cruz? Why is Manchin such a focus of lobbying efforts? Are there any Scoop Jacksons to be the Senator from Boeing? Why isn’t Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal up to his eyeballs in corruption like former Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd or his father and yet another Connecticut Senator Thomas Dodd? Why doesn’t Chuck Schumer find someone to rid him of the meddlesome Bernie Sanders as Budget Chair? Joe Manchin is an important man but outside Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (to whom Manchin doesn’t seem much allied), Manchin is also isolated within the Democratic caucus with his colleagues talking to him more because they have to than anything else.

Ironically, Joe Manchin is at the center of the budget debate because the Senate GOP, corporate lobbying interests, and Democrat moderate groups have so little impact on either Biden administration proposals or Democratic legislation as it moves through Congress. Conservative and corporate interests have surprisingly leverage in relation to the Democratic Party and Joe Manchin is pretty much the only vehicle they have for influence. Manchin and Sinema themselves only have leverage because the Democrats have such a small margin in the Senate. Otherwise, the Democrats are a highly unified political party with skilled leadership and a radical reform agenda.

Hitting the Heart of the Texas Heartbeat Act

Wednesday at midnight, the Supreme Court let stand the Texas Heartbeat Act which makes abortion illegal after the 6th week of pregnancy and enforces the law through civil suits brought against those who assist a woman receiving what the bill defines as an illegal abortion. The Wikipedia entry (in bold blue) explains the Texas Heartbeat Act pretty well:

The act allows any person to sue someone who provides abortion care once a signal of “cardiac motion” in an embryo can be detected via transvaginal ultrasound, which is usually possible beginning at around six weeks of pregnancy. Though patients may not be sued, anybody who provides support can be sued, including doctors, staff members at clinics, counselors, lawyers, financiers, and those who provide transportation to an abortion clinic, including taxi drivers. The act incentivizes this process by offering pay-outs of at least $10,000 in addition to court costs if a defendant is proven guilty, and shields those who sue but lose from paying court costs. Plaintiffs do not require any personal connection to a provider in order to bring forth a lawsuit. The law contains exceptions in the case of medical emergency, but not in the case of rape or incest.

In response to the Supreme Court decision, there has been a great deal of depression, anxiety, panic, and rage among the multiracial and socially liberal center-left which has worked hard to preserve the abortion rights laid out in the classic Roe v Wade decision (1973). In particular, feminist groups have been fighting to protect Roe as the Supreme Court has gotten more conservative and have been worried that this day would arrive since the 1980’s.

Well, that day has arrived.

At the same time, people on the center-left have started planning their own attacks on the Texas Bill and the Supreme Court. Justice Sotomayor wrote a scathing dissent, lawyers have been posting about possible legal arguments against the Texas Abortion Act, a national Women’s March has been planned for Oct. 2, and Elie Mystal has useful and creative suggestions about giving abortion providers qualified immunity as agents of the federal government. For its part, the Biden administration has condemned the Supreme Court decision as “constitutional chaos” and the Texas law as “so extreme it does not even allow for exceptions in the case of rape or incest.” President Biden has also promised a “whole-of-government” effort to counter the decision.

Much more can be done though.

In terms of resistance to the Texas Law, people on the multiracial, socially liberal center-left can:

  1. Create fund to support anyone losing a suit for aiding an abortion past six weeks in Texas.
  2. Create an “Underground Women’s Railroad” to get women out of state for abortion care
  3. Finance research for earlier detection of pregnancies.
  4. Flood the state with “Morning After” abortion medications
  5. Campaign hard on Texas GOP distraction from the disaster with the 2021 winter storm.

Democrats on the federal level can also do a lot to attack the Texas Abortion Law

  1. Money. Pledge to spend federal money to repay anyone who loses a civil suit under the Texas Abortion Law.
  2. Civil Rights. Investigate Texas abortion vigilantes for violating federal civil rights laws. Among other laws, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 specifically protects the Civil Rights of all women. This and other laws should be scoured for clauses that render the enforcement of the Texas Abortion Law illegal.
  3. Fire a Warning Shot. It would only take ONE Democratic Senator to file a bill calling for the number of Supreme Court Justices to be reduced from 9 to 6. That kind of UNPACK THE COURT bill could not pass over Manchin and Sinema but it would get everyone’s attention, including the Supreme Court itself.
  4. Get Political. The Biden administration and Democrats in Congress need to get much more political about the Supreme Court. Specifically, they need to go after Court conservatives for their attack on abortion rights and voting rights as “Assaults on the “Fundamental Rights of Americans.” In the same way, the overturning of the rent moratorium is an “Assault on the Basic Functions of Government.” It shouldn’t be too hard. All the court conservatives (Thomas, Roberts, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett) are hacks who came up through the Republican Party and Thomas, Alito, and Kavanaugh are notable snowflakes who would respond in partisan and reckless ways.

The point is that Mitch McConnell and Trump made conservative dreams come true by stacking up a 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court. Given the Court’s reactionary decisions on voting rights, immigration, and abortion rights, that majority has to be challenged at every turn. Needless to say, the Democrats should fire the Trump Three justices the first chance they get.

Top image from New York Times

Is Vaccine Refusal about Faith

I live in Bible Belt KY and @tatereeves is mostly full of crap. White evangelical religion is important, but attitudes toward Covid are more about the authority of pastors, the group life of church communities, and conservative political identity than “belief in eternal life.”

Secular patterns are also involved and probably more important. In fact, the over-arching value for rural whites in this areas is “family” instead of “faith.” It’s hard to over-estimate the importance of family in this region. I remember a student withdrawing from school for six weeks to join in a deathbed watch in Louisville (two hours away) for an uncle. As a “Yankee” from Upstate NY, that was unimaginable. In fact, my aunt in Pennsylvania banned me from the funeral of my favorite uncle–“You have a job to do” she told me.

Within the family context, there’s BOTH a powerful orientation toward self-sacrifice within a family context that makes people get out of deathbeds to greet a daughter coming home from soccer practice, take in relatives, worry themselves half to death over addicted children, and sacrifice everything for a child’s education.

But there’s simultaneously an ethic of indulgence that feeds into the rampant pill, meth, heroin, and meth addictions, extreme over-eating, and daredevil stunts with ATV’s, cars, and motorcycles. Health takes a seat at the back of the bus and just as many people age quickly from booze, obesity, and addictions as from extreme worry.

My NP wife says that Covid patients our age (65-67) look more like they’re in their 90’s. I’ve read that rural whites have an “illness” culture with prevention and wellness seen as foreign if not absurd. Doctors and pharmacists being seen as outsiders adds to that foreignness.