The studied naïveté of the mainstream media lost its charm for me a long time ago. Donald Trump has never been “presidential” and he never will. It also ceased being shocking that so many of Trump’s cronies, operatives and White House functionaries are under criminal investigation, indictment or flat out in prison. Everything Trump does has an ulterior motive, and if it accidentally serves his reputation by being actually beneficial to the American people it’s a bonus, but hardly the original point.
Straight reporting of this administration needed to end a long time ago. Trump needs to be reported in a way that reflects his actual purpose: he is a criminal who has conned his way into the presidency, and he is using the presidency to advance his criminal empire.
Now it is true, even Rodrigo de Borgia, who became Pope Alexander VI, underwent a momentary metamorphosis. At first he recognized the solemnly majestic aspect of the position he had inherited, and for a time approached his new responsibilities with equivalent gravitas. But in the end he was a Borgia, and he inevitably ruled like one. Trump has always been a Trump, which means he never even had a Borgia’s potential. He has always been too crass, too obvious, too vulgar. He is a criminal, nothing more.
But one puzzle the press hasn’t solved, and reasonably so, is the question of why does Trump’s white evangelical base continue to support him with such zealous fidelity? Writer, liberal thinker and reformed evangelical Frank Schaefer may have put his finger on the answer. Steve Bannon, he maintains, was caught red handed doing what evangelical leaders have always done, raising money for a false cause and stuffing their pockets full of that money.
When the evangelical con artists, such as Franklin Graham or Jerry Falwell Junior, understood who and what Trump was, they recognized him immediately as one of their own. Or, as Schaefer puts it, they followed Trump precisely because they are Trump. Steve Bannon got caught doing what Trump has always done, lying, deceiving and ripping off suckers. But since he’s not an evangelical he can’t hide behind the tortuous and outdated tax and liability laws that protect “religious freedom.” It’s much easier to arrest secularists like a Steve Bannon or a Jack Abramoff than an evangelical like Ralph Reed.
“When you see that Steve Bannon is arrested,” Schaefer explains, “you have to understand that it proves something I wish people would really understand, my friends in the media for instance, who keep asking me, ‘Why are these white evangelicals still voting for Trump when he’s against everything they stand for?’ … I just have to remind you that, based on evangelical leadership itself … they don’t have family values,” except, Schaefer adds, as far as their con games benefit their own families. “That’s how Pat Robertson of the 700 Club became a billionaire.” Schaefer concludes, “So when Trump comes along and people say how could white evangelicals support him, they already are supporting people like that.”
The evangelical rank and file bought into it because they have been carefully groomed and cultivated by their evangelical master manipulators over the years. They are hypnotized into seeing no inconsistency between their glittering leaders with their Rolex watches, multiple mansions and private jets, and the humble, homeless carpenter who spoke of love, mutual respect and the repudiation of money.
Steve Bannon’s fatal mistake, perhaps, was that he didn’t hide behind the cloak of the religion of the televangelists. He’s quite probably going to jail, while the evangelicals will continue to increase in wealth and power and remain free. Bannon and his ilk are overt grifters without that cloak of religion. They are what the evangelicals have been covertly all along.
So massive is their protection and so devoted are their followers, it may be a long time before we can unseat this evangelical menace that has, vampire-like, attached itself to the neck of American Democracy. But at least we can deprive them of their god in November. So let’s get together and vote Trump out of the White House and straight into prison. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.