Essays

Trump vs Clinton: America’s First Post-Christian Election?

trump-religion

FOR EUROPEAN NATIONALISTS, American politics traditionally seem alien in several respects, including the role of religion. Christianity (usually in its protestant, ‘fundamentalist’ variants) has been an essential ingredient of ‘right-wing’ political movements in the USA, whereas in most of Europe it was marginal (at best).

Donald Trump seems to have changed all that. During the Republican presidential primaries, it was obvious that he had little support among Christian fundamentalists, most of whom rallied behind Trump’s main rival, Ted Cruz. Similarly the main Jewish Republican power-brokers, such as casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, whose financial clout has traditionally been allied to Protestant fundamentalists in promoting Republican presidential candidates since the Reagan era, have been lukewarm at best towards Trump.

As the critical phase of the campaign begins, the so-called Christian Right is now (mostly) coming off the fence and declaring for Trump as the lesser of two evils, given that Hillary Clinton would be a nightmare candidate for traditional Christians on issues such as abortion and homosexual marriage.

One influential Christian Right leader, Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention, remains hostile to Trump. Moreover there is now a clear divide within American Christianity: Catholic voters are heavily pro-Clinton according to latest polls. This is partly because of the large bloc of Hispanic Catholics, who are for obvious reasons likely to be especially hostile to Trump: but this cannot wholly explain the swing. Clearly Trump is also losing heavily among White Catholics.

Around one-quarter of the US electorate is Catholic, and in recent polls they have split 55-32 or 61-34 in favour of Clinton. When Mitt Romney lost to Barack Obama in 2012, he was only 50-48 behind among Catholics. In 2004 George W. Bush won the Catholic vote, as did his father in 1988.

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, leader of Scotland’s Catholics until his disgrace in a homosexual scandal, with former SNP leader Alex Salmond. Among the most significant changes in recent Scottish politics has seen many Scottish Catholics abandoning their traditional adherence to Labour.
Cardinal Keith O’Brien, leader of Scotland’s Catholics until his disgrace in a homosexual scandal, with former SNP leader Alex Salmond. Among the most significant changes in recent Scottish politics has seen many Scottish Catholics abandoning their traditional adherence to Labour.

In the UK, there has traditionally been a clear lead for Labour among Catholic voters, although one of the most interesting aspects of last year’s general election was that Scottish Catholics for the first time backed the Scottish National Party in large numbers. (The SNP was once seen as a Protestant party, but its former leader Alex Salmond assiduously cultivated the Catholic hierarchy.)

However in the UK the vast majority of voters are not genuine practitioners of any religion. Only 11% of Britons now claim that they attend some form of religious service at least once a month, though there are much larger numbers of nominal Christians.

In the most recent detailed survey of England and Wales, those openly admitting that they have “no religion” amounted to 48.5%: for the first time this is now the largest sub-group, ahead of all Christians combined, who amount to 43.8% (though most of these do not practice their religion in any meaningful sense). All non-Christian religions combined add up to just 7.7% of the UK population, though of course this is a growing minority, and most of these have more than a nominal attachment to their religion.

The sharpest declines are among practising Anglicans, once the bedrock of the Conservative Party, and the various (White) non-Anglican Protestant churches. Every undergraduate history student, for example, was once familiar with the argument that the origins of the Labour Party “owed more to Methodism than to Marx”, yet the House of Commons post-2015 now has not a single Methodist MP. The typical non-Anglican Protestant today is more likely to be an inner-city African than an English or Welsh chapel-goer.

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Source: Heritage and Destiny magazine

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