Who are the people
supporting Donald Trump for a second term as president?
Theory Number One,
which I have tended to accept, is that they are people who have been left
behind in today’s culture, a culture that has turned a useful human invention,
the market, into a demonic force. The divinized market has been immensely
successful in allocating to itself an unfair share of the products of labor,
and in the process has robbed a growing segment of the population of resources
needed for a life of dignity and reasonable security. Theory Number One is that
this latter segment, the “left behind” folks, the rust-belt casualties residing
in mid-America, is rebelling against the system that is robbing them. Trump is
their hero because Trump will blow up the system.
Theory Number Two
is that there is another segment of our society that is not at all a casualty
of the system. This segment is not disadvantaged. It is people who have done
everything right—are blessed with stable marriages, are members of a faith
community, have a decent education and a job that provides a dignified
living—these people are also leaning towards Mr. Trump. Many of these people—most
of the ones I know are Catholic—are speaking favorably about Mr. Trump for a
People of faith
accept as true the statement that human affairs are not totally under human
control. There is something beyond human capability that needs to be taken
account of, especially as we face unprecedented environmental disasters. People
of faith take a higher power seriously. People of faith take God seriously.
Theory Number Two says
that people of faith look favorably at Mr. Trump because his Democratic
opponents look down on people of faith, mostly by ignoring them.
leadership, and probably a lot of what middle America calls the “coasts,”
suffer from a disability that keeps them from appreciating how most people in
the world see the world. The sense that we are all responsible to some kind of
“higher power” is common to men and women with religious roots in every part of
The theory labeled
“secularization” says that as a society becomes more industrialized or
“modernized,” religious faith disappears. But as Ryan Burge asks, from his
study of survey data about religion, why is it that the poor in our country are
the least churched and most secularized among us? And that it is people who
have done everything right, “checked all the boxes,” that are more likely to be
members of a religious community?
Shaun Casey was
appointed to a post in the Obama State Department, a post charged with making
government officials aware of how religion can affect political behavior around
the world. Mr. Casey, in his book Chasing the Devil at Foggy Bottom,
quotes Madeleine Albright, in a book she published five years after her term as
Secretary of State in the Clinton administration, a book titled The Mighty
and the Almighty, regarding the role of religion in political affairs:
Drawing on her
experience, she noted that while religion had played important roles in varied
locations, including Vietnam, the Balkans, Iran, Poland, Uganda, Lebanon,
Israel and Palestine, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, the State Department in her tenure
had no experts for her to draw on.
theory has not fared well in explaining and predicting trends in modern
history. A theory more accurately telling the story of modernity might be
called “hubris theory.” As people become politically and economically
successful, they move in circles that reward success, both real and imagined.
They feel less responsibility to anything or anyone beyond themselves—they are
self-made men and women. It is that attitude, “we can solve any problem,” that
people to think that they are the wave of the future, that the important people
are all like them, that their opinions are self-evident. They do not realize
that their world is limited in space and time. Not everyone is as self-made as
It is that
attitude that is infecting the Democratic leadership. They are discarding
important segments of the voting public, segments that accept the idea that
there is something or someone beyond themselves to which they are responsible.
When those segments feel disenfranchised, they react by throwing bombs—casting
their vote for Mr. Trump.
claim that the Catholic vote will be critical in November’s election. Many
Catholics I know are turned off by the confident secularity of Democratic
leaders, especially by their full-throated acceptance of abortion. They are
influenced by an American Catholic hierarchy that has been cultivated too
successfully by Republican leadership.
Abortion is evil.
The term “pro-choice” used to mean that a decision about abortion should be
made by the woman carrying a child, with or without the support of a physician.
A Catholic can accept that as a morally legitimate position, because not all
moral evils should be dealt with by governments and their laws. Democratic
strategists have discarded choice and replaced it with a claim that abortion is
a positive good. That is something that many Catholics see as morally
repugnant. It enough to turn them into Trump supporters.
The Catholic vote
is not the only such vote, though it is the largest in numbers. There is a huge
ex-Catholic population that may be as religious as the Catholic faithful who
are still committed to the church, and those two populations, ex-Catholic and
Catholic, make up a significant voting bloc, more significant even than
evangelical voters. Democrats should not
discard this important group that traditionally voted Democratic, and includes
a growing Hispanic segment that, Catholic or ex-Catholic, takes the existence
of God seriously.
not seek to control, but they do wish to be respected and taken seriously. Few things anger human beings more powerfully
than when people disrespect them.