The following is an op-ed in The Hill by Doug Pagitt, executive director of Vote Common Good:
On Friday, President Trump is holding an “Evangelicals for Trump” rally in Miami to try to shore up support for what is supposed to be his most reliable voting bloc.
The rally is notable in that it follows closely on the heels of the Christianity Today editorial calling for President Trump’s removal for office, which set off what some are calling a “civil war” in the evangelical world. Clearly, the president and his advisers feel a display of force is needed to show their most reliable constituency is not wavering in its support.
The president can hold as many “Evangelicals for Trump” rallies as he wants, but the reality is the community that was so critical to his election in 2016 is not as sure a bet for him as it once was–and may not be as strong as he needs it to be if he wants to win re-election.
Members of the faith community are finally figuring out how to express outwardly their inner conflict and lack of support for President Trump’s actions and policies, and the Trump campaign is scrambling to respond.
So many people who identify as evangelical made a choice to vote for Trump that they did not feel good about, and immediately began to regret. As I’ve traveled across the country with Vote Common Good, an organization I started to get evangelicals to make the common good, and not political party, their voting criteria, I’ve heard their stories.
I met a man in Holland, Mich., who told me, he has never been all that politically engaged, but voted for Republicans most of the time because for some reason he thought that was the right thing for a Christian to do. But, not this time, he assured me. Trump has changed all that, and as a 71-year-old man, he said faith is calling him to vote against the president.
A woman at my local bank in Minneapolis stopped me asked about what I do. I told her Vote Common Good is encouraging Christians to look deep into their faith and pursue the common good by voting to stop the reelection of Donald Trump. Her eyes filled with tears as she said, “Thank you. I knew there had to be others who are feeling the way I do. I voted for Trump because I thought a change would be good, but now I’m just so sad. I feel so conflicted when my faith is used to defend separating children from their mothers.”
There are many reasons why people have lost their faith in Donald Trump. We are not telling people to stop being Republicans; we are asking Republicans to not vote for this one. We are not trying to turn everyone into a Democrat. We are asking people to consider voting for one this time.
We know that it doesn’t take all that many people changing their voting patterns to make a significant impact. It doesn’t take all that many evangelicals to change a vote from 2016 to make a Trump re-election mathematically impossible. Moving just 5 percent of the faith voters away from Donald Trump guarantees that he will not be reelected.
What we are trying to get people to do is to break a habitual behavior. It is hard to turn your back on your own choice. We don’t think we can convince hardened Trump supporters to change their minds. We are seeking to help those whose hearts and minds have already changed to match their actions with their convictions. What I saw in the Christianity Today editorial was that very thing. Some try to say only a small number of people subscribe to the magazine. While that is true, it is also influential. And, more importantly, it is a leading indicator.
Sure, the numbers represent a stunning level of support for Trump. Evangelicals’ changing views of the president and if they will vote for him, however, are not best recorded by polls, but by the growing level of internal discomfort with this president I see when I travel the country. As that internal discomfort is supported by outward expressions, we will see the numbers change.
Many evangelicals are feeling deeply in their spirits that they cannot support President Trump any longer. While some are reluctant to make a point of that in polls a year out, I believe that change will manifest during the only one poll that matters, the one taken on Election Day at more than 100,000 voting sites across the country. Some evangelicals may be rallying for the president in Florida Friday, but there are many more who are starting to articulate what they’ve been feeling for some time: that they cannot and will not support the president anymore.