Editorial: The Symbiotic Relationship between Trump and the Evangelicals

The co-dependent and symbiotic relationship between Donald Trump and the American Evangelical Christians seems to grow stronger with each Coronavirus Task Force update. The bond of enablement between the two factions has existed since Trump’s candidacy, but with each uninformed proclamation and every falsehood that issues from the president’s mouth, the bindings tighten.
It’s not news to most Americans that evangelicals see Donald Trump as their modern-day savior. Donald Trump has indicated that he sees himself as having in fact done more for evangelicals than even Christ himself did.
Indeed, Donald Trump has appointed two conservative Supreme Court Judges and numerous conservative federal judges who evangelicals hope will overturn Roe v. Wade for them. He has moved the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem after having earlier declared the U.S. as officially recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital—moves that evangelicals see as crucial to fulfilling their biblical “End Times” prophecy (Trump himself likely didn’t understand that at the time; he just knew that Israel, and especially Jerusalem, are important to the evangelicals). He’s done numerous photo ops with famous evangelical leaders, where he appears to have his head bowed in prayer. He mirrors the evangelicals’ disdain for science, especially when it contradicts their worldview.
Like a teenage boy who wants to date your daughter, Trump has learned to work the evangelical room, aiming to impress with words and phrases that, while not often accurate, are close enough to sound like he’s making a sincere effort.
“He gets us,” they think, willfully overlooking his gaffs.
“I get you like no one else in the history of the world ever has,” adds Donald Trump.
And what pandering scheme would be complete without promoting Bible-thumping capitalists at his Coronavirus Task Force briefings?
“God gave us grace on November 8, 2016 to change the course we were on,” said Mike Lindell, inventor and CEO of MyPillow from the podium. Lindell’s company will convert 75 percent of its pillow-making production to making masks to help combat the COVID-19 crisis.
“God had been taken out of our schools and lives, a nation had turned its back on God. I encourage you to use this time at home to get back in the Word. Read our Bibles and spend time with our families.”
To be sure, Americans are grateful that Lindell and the folks at MyPillow have stepped up. Evangelicals, however, are over the moon that Trump chose to showcase someone (Lindell) who wants America to “get back in the Word.” Their president’s gross mishandling of the coronavirus crisis, now a pandemic, is canceled out by what they see as his heroism in anointing people who are fond of quoting New Testament scripture.
The rest of us know that Donald Trump’s evangelical posturing isn’t genuine. The evangelicals know it, too, on some level, and Donald Trump almost certainly knows that they know it.
Why does it all continue to work?
For the hard-core evangelicals, if one has faith, one should not be interested in proof. One does not need science or data—in fact, they are to be scorned—if they are in conflict with what evangelicals believe to be true. Hence, in the evangelical Christians, Donald Trump has found the ideal base of supporters who will be with him as long as he vaguely refers to something biblical once in awhile, and continues to disregard science.
Though Donald Trump likely can’t consciously cite the neuroscientific phenomenon, he is instinctually aware of what neuroscientist Dr. Michael Shermer calls The Believing Brain. Shermer’s thesis is, “We form our beliefs for a variety of subjective, personal, emotional, and psychological reasons in the context of environments created by family, friends, colleagues, culture, and society at large; after forming our beliefs we then defend, justify, and rationalize them with a host of intellectual reasons, cogent arguments, and rational explanations. Beliefs come first, explanations for beliefs follow.
Donald Trump knows that, like most human beings, the evangelicals will sooner disregard or shape facts and contrary evidence to fit their narrative than abandon their faith. He knows, too, that this applies not only to their religious faith, but also to their faith in Donald Trump.
This is a gift to Donald Trump, especially because many evangelicals go a step further by believing that God chose Donald Trump to be president. Because of this, he knows they will forgive, overlook, deny, or rationalize every corrupt, dangerous, perilous, or irrational move he makes. And in return, they will get their judges, their hoped-for reversal of Roe v. Wade, their “godly” government. Or not.
With symbiotic relationships in the plant and animal kingdoms, participants benefit mutually from each other. Donald Trump, however, knows that his symbiotic relationship with his evangelical base only requires that as long as they see him as appointed by God, it’s only important that they feel like the relationship is mutually beneficial.

MyPillow CEO Speaks at Trump’s Coronavirus Press Conference |
Late Night with Seth Meyers [2020-04-01]

Christian Leaders Pray Over Trump During Launch Of Evangelicals For Trump Coalition | NBC News [2020-01-03]

Trump Proposes Larger Holes in Safety Net for Low-Income People

The Trump administration says that it plans to reduce poverty in the U.S. by cutting, changing, or limiting a number of safety net programs designed to help low-income people. Claiming he wants “to get more people off government aid and into the workforce so they can become self-sufficient,” Trump says his various proposals will do this by “promoting opportunity and economic mobility” for those who live in poverty or are low-income.

One such item put in place by the Trump administration is a memorandum that calls on federal agencies to enforce a law that requires sponsors of green card holders to reimburse government agencies for cost of government benefits the sponsored immigrant has used. 

Though Trump insists this legislation will help immigrants to be “more self-sufficient,” Immigrant rights advocates say that the change is intended to discourage green card holders from applying for needed benefits; and also to restrict immigration, both legal and illegal.

A related proposal by the Department of Homeland Security would make it more difficult for immigrants to get green cards if they receive benefits such as SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or “food stamps”) or housing assistance. Immigrant rights advocates point out that this change would impact not only immigrants, but their family members who are already U.S. citizens. 

A pending proposal, ironically coming from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, would rescind a requirement for payday lenders to determine whether a potential borrower will have the ability to repay a requested loan. Because of easy availability of payday loans, many low-income people find themselves burdened with interest rates of up to 300 percent, and the inability to repay them. Often, they borrow more to repay earlier loans. 

Trump has also proposed stricter enforcement of the work requirement for low-income people to continue to be eligible for SNAP benefits. After three months of receiving SNAP benefits, able-bodied adults would be required to work, volunteer, or get job training for at least 20 hours a week. A related proposal that would impose work requirements for Medicaid recipients has been challenged in court.

An estimated 750,000 current SNAP recipients could lose their benefits because of the inability to find work or meet other requirements.

“They really are trying to use every agency to make life harder for people who are low-income,” says Elizabeth Lower-Basch, director of income and work supports at the Center for Law and Social Policy.

Other proposed pieces of legislation aimed at the safety net for those with low incomes include recalculation of the poverty line, and restriction of waiving the asset and income limits for SNAP eligibility.

Trump is fond of framing his proposed trashing of the safety net as a way to “help people help themselves.” He says he wants to ensure that taxpayer money is spent on “those who are truly in need.” 

But if one doesn’t have enough food, doesn’t have an address to list on a job application, or can’t get healthcare to remain healthy in order to work, isn’t that what it is to be “truly in need”? It seems ironic for a group of legislators who have never experienced poverty to make the determination that others who experience it daily, aren’t “low-income” enough to deserve help. 

Cuccinelli Unveils Trump Policy That Favors Wealthier Immigrants
Bloomberg [2019-08-12]

Why Trump’s new limit on food stamp eligibility will affect working families most | PBS NewsHour [2019-07-23]