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

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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.

Depths That Cannot Be Plumbed

0110Ideas_flag2
HistoricIndianapolis.com

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
outsideonline.com

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”

Conservative Alienation: A Brief Genealogy

The language changes as conservatives grow more alienated from mainstream America.

2015–“Trump and “political correctness.” Conservatives were bitter about MORAL CRITICISM in relation to race, gender, gay rights, immigrants, and disabled people. Trump kept yelling “we don’t have time for that.”–

2017–“Me Too” and “cancel culture.” The “Me Too” movement caught fire in relation to rape and sexual harassment and men were excluded from their jobs, peer groups, and families as a result. But conservatives now felt vulnerable to EXCLUDED from things they had dear, or “cancelled” as a result of run of the mill conservative Trump support, bigotry, and conspiracy theorizing. “Cancel culture” haunts conservatives on many levels.–

2020–Mainstreaming of “replacement theory.” The idea that white people are being “replaced” by immigrants was once held only by mass shooters, but has been mainstreamed by Fox News. The idea of being REPLACED indicates a heightened sense of vulnerability and marginality. It’s as if white conservatives are aware that society would do just fine, perhaps be a happier place, if conservatives no longer counted. I remember Ainsley Earhardt of “Fox and Friends” saying conservatives worried about “being forgotten.”

THE FUTURE? I think white conservatives are already moving on to viewing themselves as the enemies of an American society that rejects both their values and them.

A White Conservative F You to America

“To many medical providers working today, the rejection of lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines feels like a giant “Fuck you” from 29 percent of American adults.”

Media outlets like the Atlantic under-estimate the extent to which medical people and their research are suspected by white conservatives–especially in deep rural areas like my area of Eastern KY, my hometown of Waverly, NY, or Northern PA where men and women both sides of my family settled in the 1700’s.

Doctors and pharmacists are often viewed as “outsiders” and bear a stigma of “not being one of us” in a place where being “one of us” is important. That’s even more the case when medical people are from places like India, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, and especially when they aren’t white. The sense of medical people as outsiders in this part of Kentucky is increased by the lengthy education of MD’s in a region where barely 10% of the population has undergraduate degrees in most counties. There is also a felt opposition between medicine and evangelical religion and an association of science with “liberalism” that’s looked on with suspicion as well.

However, the FU being given by white conservatives to vaccines is a deeply felt rejection of American “society” as it’s developed over the last 20 years. First black president, gay marriage, Black Lives Matter, women in the military, “Me too,” trans rights, climate change, the environment,–Billy Joel could write another version of “We Didn’t Start the Fire” about everything that bothers white conservatives about America but it all adds up to America becoming a foreign country that conservatives especially hate because they think it used to be theirs. In the sense, white conservatives are saying FU to the vaccine as a way of saying FU to America (while waving the flag).

White Conservatism and Child Sacrifice

White conservatives in the State of Tennessee are now triggering a large-scale, ritualistic sacrifice of their own children. The relevant event is an edict by the Tennessee Department of Health to suspend communications concerning childhood and adolescent vaccines. From the Tennessean:

The Tennessee Department of Health will halt all adolescent vaccine outreach – not just for coronavirus, but all diseases – amid pressure from Republican state lawmakers, according to an internal report and agency emails obtained by the Tennessean. If the health department must issue any information about vaccines, staff are instructed to strip the agency logo off the documents.

The rationalizations from the Department of Health seem to be that Tennessee wants to stress the authority of (white conservative) parents in relation to vaccinations and that the public health authorities avoid attacks from the right-wing media apparatus.

But there’s something more archaic going on. Republican state lawmakers, conservative media types, and religious leaders are all aware of the statistics on Covid and equally aware that a percentage of children would become seriously ill or die from diseases like hepatitis, rubella, whooping cough, measles, mumps, chicken pox, and polio.

The areas of concern span much farther than just the COVID-19 vaccine, though. The new TDH policy applies to all vaccines — even common childhood vaccines such as Chicken Pox, Measles, Mumps, Polio, and even hepatitis.

What it gets down to is that white conservatives in Tennessee are not only willing but INSIST on a percentage of their children being sacrificed. Of course, human sacrifice has a long history in Western culture. Agamemnon’s sacrifice of his daughter Iphigenia to change the winds was part of the Homeric saga of the Trojan War, written anew in Classical Greece by poets like Euripides, and re-staged recently in “Troy: Fall of a City.” However, the champions of child sacrifice around the ancient Mediterranean appear to be the Carthaginians who practiced child sacrifice on a massive scale right up to the final conquest by Rome in 146bce.

There was a peculiar dualism in Carthage . . . in which the thrust for commerce, prosperity and the good life were blended with a religion so intense that the richest Carthaginian could cheerfully consign a son or daughter to the flames of the sacrificial pit to redeem a pledge to the gods.”

What’s different about Tennessee conservatives (really white conservatives in general) is that the Carthaginians sacrificed their children to propitiate the gods while Tennessee conservatives are setting up the sacrifice more as a PROTEST against public health as am emblem of science as an element of the emergence of the United States as a multicultural, socially liberal, and secular society. Conservatives in Tennessee are so deeply offended by all of these developments that they’re willing to see their kids die rather than cooperate in science-based vaccination.

Keeping Out the Mainstream

What conservatives are smearing as Critical Race Theory is mostly just the civil rights perspectives that have long been mainstreamed into American society. In the final analysis, Laura Ingraham and other white conservatives are objecting to children being taught the underlying perspectives and values of mainstream America.

Luis M Alvarez/AP

LAURA INGRAHAM (HOST): “Universal pre-K is also in the bill. I’m all for educating our youth, but really educating them, not brainwashing toddlers with racist drivel. You think that can’t happen in preschool? Guess again.”