Saturday, January 07, 2017

Why white Christian America Voted for Trump

In contrast to the New York Times apology piece/op-ed yesterday I noted in a prior post today, the Washington Post has a piece that looks at what really drove white Christians to vote for Trump, especially in rural America.  The answer is not pretty and largely boils down to exactly what the Times op-ed tried to argue was not the case.  Hate, bigotry, a sense of rage at lost white privilege and extremist religious beliefs were the main motivators and it is clear that to these folks "Make America Great Again" translated to "Make America White and Christian Again."  And be assured that LGBT individuals have no place in their white Christian America.  The only good new is that towns like the one in the article are dying precisely because of the white "godly: Christians who have made such locales toxic to progressive and forward looking businesses that have not desire to turn back time to the 1950's. Here are some article highlights:
  From a perch on Main Street, the home town of actor Andy Griffith looks this day like it was plucked right out of the television show that bears his name. And it was.
And yet even as this city of about 10,000 nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains fills its coffers by selling nostalgia, many of its residents would agree with the now-popular saying “We’re not in Mayberry anymore.”
If only the real Mount Airy, which has experienced decades of economic and social decline, were like the Mayberry facade, muses Mayor David Rowe. If only his city and the rest of America could return to the 1950s again.
“Now it’s about secular progressivism, not the values you get out of this book,” such as honesty and hard work, said Rowe, 72, jabbing his finger at the leather Bible on his office desk.
But as Donald Trump prepares to move into the White House, Rowe and many of his constituents are hoping for a return to the past.
Visitors to Surry County spent $116.62 million in 2015, compared with $66 million 12 years ago, according to Jessica Icenhour Roberts, who heads tourism partnerships for the county, whose largest city is Mount Airy.  But Mount Airy cannot live on tourism alone, the mayor said.
“We try to live the good old days, but it’s hard,” Rowe said. Just down the street from a bronze statue of Griffith and a museum dedicated to his memory, out of sight of the boutiques selling Norman Rockwell and Thomas Kinkade artwork, sit many dilapidated textile mills that have closed in the past decade. From early 2000 to about 2010, about 9,000 private-sector jobs were lost when factories that made clothes went overseas.
Despite the steady stream of tourists, business owners are still struggling to create new jobs that will attract a younger generation, said Lizzie Morrison, 30, who runs an art studio and is the Main Street coordinator with Mount Airy Downtown.
Morrison said the city’s younger residents tend to be socially liberal, while most in the older generations look to the past. That tension makes it harder for someone like her to push for new ideas, she said.
A group of developers has been working on a project to redevelop an old mill, Morrison said, but the proposal has moved slowly because of resistance from residents. 
Many Mount Airy residents applauded the president-elect’s promise to revoke the Johnson Amendment, which effectively bars pastors from endorsing a candidate from the pulpit, Rowe said. They were heartened by his suggestion that Christians will be able to once again see “Merry Christmas” signs in department stores.
But the mayor acknowledges that the 1950s and ’60s were not idyllic for all Americans. He wouldn’t, for example, want to go back to the days when there were separate water fountains at the local Sears for whites and blacks. At the same time, he said, African Americans often bring hardship on themselves. . . . He noted that the Hispanics he has hired to work at his construction company are hard workers. He doesn’t encounter people who aren’t white in social settings much because folks tend to self-segregate, he said. Mount Airy is 84 percent white, 8.2 percent black and 6.7 percent Hispanic, according to 2010 census data.
Not everyone is nostalgic for the 1950s.  Ron Jessup, 68, who grew up in Mount Airy during that era, found the place generally friendly then, he said — as long as he and other blacks obeyed the racist laws and social mores of the time.
If African Americans went to the theater, they sat upstairs, he said. If they went to the restaurants, they avoided the counter. “We understood what was considered our place,” said Jessup, who is retired from his job as a high school principal in nearby Winston-Salem. Even now, all five Surry County commissioners are white.
As for Trump, Jessup believes his “Make America Great Again” slogan was code for “take America back again,” and a reaction to President Obama’s election.
“Sometimes we use Christianity when it’s convenient for what we want,” Jessup said. “You can’t allow someone to have racist remarks and then go to church and talk about Jesus as the center of your life.”
When she travels with her pastor husband, Thresa Tucker hands out an evangelistic tract that uses “The Andy Griffith Show” as an entry point for talking about Jesus. . . . . Tucker and her husband, David, said they voted for Trump because they want a more limited federal government. They mentioned social issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage and school prayer.
The Tuckers were also dismayed when their health insurance bill skyrocketed. Before Obamacare, they had no health insurance and paid out of pocket. Their monthly bill will rise from $115 a month now to $435 next year, Thresa Tucker said.
Many of those who have lost jobs seek help at White Plains Baptist Church, where her husband is preacher. But not all who seek help are worthy of it, she said. The church has to be a good steward of its money, so there are criteria for assistance, and she asks whether people attend church regularly. African Americans who have voiced concerns over what Trump will do for the poor would have a different perspective if they tried harder to help themselves, she said.
People just aren’t committed to church, anymore, he said. The church he attends used to attract up to 600 people on a Sunday in the 1960s, but is lucky to get a third of that now. Young people leave for college and come back with more progressive, secular values, he said.
If Trump does manage to “make America great again,” Rowe said it will involve preventing the government from encroaching on religion.  Christianity has come under attack in America, he said. “It’s subtle, not in your face, but that’s the way Satan works,” he said.
 I suspect that Mount Airy will continue on the road to further economic decline and obscurity. Sadly, its residents will not look in the mirror and realize that they, not modernity or secularism is the root of their problems.   

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