Republican and Democratic voters disagree about a lot. But the divide between each party’s members is much wider than simply distinct policy positions and different evaluations of candidates. Each party’s supporters define the terms and stakes of political competition quite differently. Republicans believe they’re battling over two opposing ideologies, while Democrats view partisan conflict instead as a fight between different social groups.
The Republican Party defines itself in ideological terms as the vehicle of symbolic conservatism. The Democratic Party, in contrast, is organized as a social group coalition.
Republicans tend to emphasize what they view as ideological disagreement between the parties:
.. Democrats tend to describe a clash between competing group interests:
- Democrats “support the poor and middle class.” Republicans “look out for the rich and don’t care about the poor and middle class.”
.. we find that Republicans are consistently more likely to identify themselves as conservatives than Democrats are to consider themselves liberals. Republicans are also more likely to say they believe that their party should stand up for its principles and become more ideologically pure, while Democrats tend to favor pragmatic compromise and a more moderate party.
.. On the whole, Americans call themselves conservative . . . but prefer liberal policies
.. Democratic candidates, in contrast, prefer to emphasize disagreements over individual policies: Should health-care access be expanded? Should public education
.. Even Republican voters who identify as strong conservatives frequently depart from conservative orthodoxy on specific policy questions. For example, many Republicans say that they strongly support smaller government in the abstract but want specific federal programs to keep going or even expand. Former
.. Democrats, meanwhile, nominated a candidate who rarely employs abstract rhetoric, courts an array of social groups by promoting specific policy initiatives aimed at their concerns
Asymmetric Politics offers a comprehensive explanation: The Republican Party is the vehicle of an ideological movement while the Democratic Party is a coalition of social groups. Republican leaders prize conservatism and attract support by pledging loyalty to broad values. Democratic leaders instead seek concrete government action, appealing to voters’ group identities and interests by endorsing specific policies.
Jerry Falwell Jr.: No other president “in our lifetimes has done so much that has benefited the Christian community” so quickly as Trump.
.. Third, without really knowing it, Trump has presented a secular version of evangelical eschatology. When the candidate talked of an America on the brink of destruction, which could only be saved by returning to the certainties of the past, it perfectly fit the evangelical narrative of moral and national decline. Trump speaks the language of decadence and renewal (while exemplifying just one of them).
In the Trump era, evangelicals have gotten a conservative Supreme Court justice for their pains – which is significant. And they have gotten a leader who shows contempt for those who hold them in contempt – which is emotionally satisfying.
The cost? Evangelicals have become loyal to a leader of shockingly low character. They have associated their faith with exclusion and bias. They have become another Washington interest group, striving for advantage rather than seeking the common good. And a movement that should be known for grace is now known for its seething resentments.
.. the idea that the robustly vulgar, fiercely combative, and morally compromised as Trump will be an avatar for the restoration of Christian morality and social unity is beyond delusional. He is not a solution to America’s cultural decline, but a symptom of it.
.. There is first the temptation to worship power, and to compromise one’s soul to maintain access to it. There are many ways to burn a pinch of incense to Caesar, and some prominent pro-Trump Christians arguably crossed that line during the campaign season. Again, political victory does not vitiate the vice of hypocrisy.
.. to believe that the threat to the church’s integrity and witness has passed because Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election is the height of folly.
One reason the contemporary church is in so much trouble is that religious conservatives of the last generation mistakenly believed they could focus on politics, and the culture would take care of itself.
.. if Trump’s presidency collapses, that Christians in general and Evangelicals in particular are going to be the scapegoats.
.. These diehard Trump-backing Christians will have provided progressives, as well as factions within the GOP who are sick of Christians’ influence in the party, with the pretext they need to crack down. Good luck defending religious liberty when it is associated with Donald Trump
.. He has given no evidence of humility or dependence on others, let alone on God his Maker and Judge. He wantonly celebrates strongmen and takes every opportunity to humiliate and demean the vulnerable. He shows no curiosity or capacity to learn. He is, in short, the very embodiment of what the Bible calls a fool.
Some have compared Trump to King David, who himself committed adultery and murder. But David’s story began with a profound reliance on God who called him from the sheepfold to the kingship, and by the grace of God it did not end with his exploitation of Bathsheba and Uriah. There is no parallel in Trump’s much more protracted career of exploitation. The Lord sent his word by the prophet Nathan to denounce David’s actions—alas, many Christian leaders who could have spoken such prophetic confrontation to him personally have failed to do so. David quickly and deeply repented, leaving behind the astonishing and universally applicable lament of his own sin in Psalm 51—we have no sign that Trump ever in his life has expressed such humility. And the biblical narrative leaves no doubt that David’s sin had vast and terrible consequences for his own family dynasty and for his nation. The equivalent legacy of a Trump presidency is grievous to imagine.
.. Important issues are indeed at stake, including the right of Christians and adherents of other religions to uphold their vision of sexual integrity and marriage even if they are in the cultural minority.
But there is a point at which strategy becomes its own form of idolatry—an attempt to manipulate the levers of history in favor of the causes we support. Strategy becomes idolatry, for ancient Israel and for us today, when we make alliances with those who seem to offer strength—the chariots of Egypt, the vassal kings of Rome—at the expense of our dependence on God who judges all nations, and in defiance of God’s manifest concern for the stranger, the widow, the orphan, and the oppressed. Strategy becomes idolatry when we betray our deepest values in pursuit of earthly influence. And because such strategy requires capitulating to idols and princes and denying the true God, it ultimately always fails.
Enthusiasm for a candidate like Trump gives our neighbors ample reason to doubt that we believe Jesus is Lord. They see that some of us are so self-interested, and so self-protective, that we will ally ourselves with someone who violates all that is sacred to us—in hope, almost certainly a vain hope given his mendacity and record of betrayal, that his rule will save us.
.. If — if — we learn that Trump did what he is alleged to have done, and you stand behind him even so, how do you answer the charge that Christians care so much about access to power that they will turn a blind eye when the president they support blabs extremely sensitive national security secrets to the Russians? Are we really idolaters who would sell our souls to stay in the king’s good graces?
.. There was a time when we condemned Democrats and liberals for standing by Bill Clinton, despite how he disgraced the Oval Office. We accused them of caring more about power than principle — and we were right to. Remember when the liberal journalist Nina Burleigh said in 1998, amid the Lewinsky scandal, that she would fellate Bill Clinton to thank him for keeping abortion legal? Are conservative Christians really prepared to walk a mile in her kneepads for Donald Trump? And for what?
God is not mocked.
Roger Stone began his career in political dirty tricks young. In 1960, he was eight, and decided he liked John F. Kennedy’s hair more than Richard Nixon’s. It was important to him for Kennedy to win the mock election at his school, which leaned Nixon, so he began sidling up to kids in the cafeteria line to ask, “Did you know Nixon has proposed school on Saturdays?” Kennedy won in a landslide unexpected enough that the local newspaper picked up the story.
.. Jeffrey Toobin of The New Yorker wittily dubs “the sinister Forrest Gump of American politics — this Machiavellian, almost crazy guy who shows up at every key moment in recent American history.”
.. a highly placed New York political figure told me that it was Stone who convinced Donald Trump not to enter the Empire State’s gubernatorial race in 2014, thereby saving him from what would likely have been a humiliating loss. Instead, Stone argued Trump should keep his powder dry for a White House run in 2016, an idea that appealed to the future president’s predilection for the big and bold.
.. Manafort adds that Stone was deeply involved in campaign messaging even after Trump fired him (Stone says he quit) around the time the candidate began taking heat for his contretemps with Megyn Kelly.
.. Toobin says. “He doesn’t worry that you think he’s a sleazeball; he wants you to think he’s a sleazeball.”
.. But if Stone helped turn politics into a joke, maybe that joke isn’t funny anymore, if it ever was. Stone is a reason why we have a president who is more at home in a professional-wrestling ring than he is discussing the origins of the Civil War. Over footage from The Apprentice, Stone explains that Trump looked tough and authoritative and decisive on the show: “Do you think voters, non-sophisticates, make a difference between entertainment and politics?” If we did once think that, we don’t anymore.
.. Weekly Standard writer Matt Labash captures the upshot of that understanding with characteristic pithiness: “Now the children’s table is the adult table and Alex Jones is passing the dinner rolls.” Donald Trump turned out to be the president for this American moment. Roger Stone saw that, but he didn’t Jedi-mind-trick the rest of us into playing along.