The real reason for Donald Trump’s desperate church reopening gambit – and it may not be what you think

The trouble with falling further and further behind is that you start running out of good options. With Donald Trump’s poll numbers continuing to worsen heading into general election season, and no clear path for him to turn it around, he’s only left with risky low-percentage gambits to choose from.

Take, for instance, Donald Trump’s decision on Friday to call for churches to reopen during the pandemic. He’s clearly trying to show conservative evangelicals, one of his core voting constituencies, that he’s favoring them. But there are so many ways this can go wrong for him.

This will lead to outbreaks in numerous churches and religious communities, and Trump runs the risk that the people who get sick will blame him for having told them that it was safe to go to church during a pandemic. There is also the morbid reality that Trump is going to get some of his own supporters killed before they can vote for him. And of course Trump will look like an ineffectual idiot when he fails to follow through on his promise to override the governors on this, because under the 10th Amendment he literally can’t override them on this. So why is he doing this?

The short answer: Trump is desperate. It’s not just that his poll numbers are down across the board. It’s that Trump’s poll numbers with conservative evangelicals in particular have begun falling since the pandemic began. He needs huge turnout from these types, and he can’t afford to lose even a fraction of their support – yet he’s begun incrementally losing their support. So he’s trying this risky gambit to win them back in the short term, even though it could end up costing him even more evangelical support in the long term once they start getting sick and dying.

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