As June begins, the millions of Christians who think Donald Trump is the only person who can stop the spread of “Pride” throughout our culture may want to temper their expectations. I’m not sure whether the former president’s base is ready to reconcile hopes of getting drag queens out of K-12 schools with the prospect of a Lady MAGA performance at the next inauguration ball.
Conservatives are in danger of falling victim to the “Obama effect,” the blind loyalty to a political candidate that makes people minimize or abandon their pre-existing principles. Trump’s Christian base voters should consult the religious backbone of his Democratic predecessor for a window into their potential future.
Black Christians – among the left’s most socially conservative voters – experienced the Obama effect while the 44th president was in office. The black church, even its more progressive wing, was nearly uniform in its belief that marriage is between one man and one woman. But once the first black president signaled his support for same-sex marriage and the Supreme Court legalized it nationwide with the Obergefell decision, megachurch preachers like T.D. Jakes started to send signals that a shift was coming.
The number of black preachers who linked last year’s Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v. Wade to threats to “marriage equality” are proof that “rainbow” is officially the new black.
The reason is quite simple: Barack Obama was a dynamic, inspirational figure to his millions of supporters, many of whom saw his election to the White House in messianic terms. Obama was more than a politician to his most loyal supporters. He was God’s chosen man to usher in a new era of American leadership.
What Obama was to progressives, Donald Trump has been to conservatives. He has been likened to the Messiah and shown being crucified by his enemies. This doesn’t mean that every Trump voter has bought into the cult of personality, but it is fair to say that some have. And as with Obama, the light from Trump's halo can be blinding.
In 2016, Trump said Caitlyn Jenner – formerly known as Bruce – could use any bathroom he wanted in Trump Tower. The trans- and Republican-identifying former Olympian responded by recording himself going into a women’s restroom in the iconic Fifth Avenue residence of the former president.
Jenner expressed his frustration with Trump in 2017, however, after his administration reversed the Obama-era guidance to schools that supported students using restrooms and locker rooms that align with their chosen gender identities. Jenner chided Trump for breaking his “promise to protect the LGBTQ community.”
Trump was also criticized in 2018 for not acknowledging Pride Month in 2018. His message in 2019 would have put him squarely in line with the Biden administration’s opposition to Uganda’s recently signed Anti-Homosexuality Act.
As we celebrate LGBT Pride Month and recognize the outstanding contributions LGBT people have made to our great Nation, let us also stand in solidarity with the many LGBT people who live in dozens of countries worldwide that punish, imprison, or even execute individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation. My Administration has launched a global campaign to decriminalize homosexuality and invite all nations to join us in this effort!
This message would put Trump at odds with the conservative Christians today whom he needs to win the Republican primary. The Christian conservatives who feel bombarded by Pride apparel from Target also wouldn’t be fans of the Trump Pride tees selling for $24 on his old campaign website.
The same goes for the Log Cabin Republican event at Mar-a-Lago last December that included a celebration of the misnamed Respect for Marriage Act. That law, signed by President Biden and supported by 39 House Republicans and 12 GOP senators, codified a definition of marriage that is out of step with the majority of Trump's evangelical base. Here is how Politico characterized the festivities:
The long-planned event in honor of the conservative LGBTQ organization’s 45th anniversary brought in Republican notables like former Ambassador Ric Grenell, Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.), former State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus, who emceed the evening in a feathered turquoise gown, and former GOP gubernatorial candidate from Arizona Kari Lake, who was swarmed by guests eager to meet her and take a photo.
But the main attraction, obviously, was Trump. He received a standing ovation after delivering an enthusiastic affirmation of gay rights not often heard in the GOP.
“We are fighting for the gay community, and we are fighting and fighting hard,” the former president and 2024 candidate said. “With the help of many of the people here tonight in recent years, our movement has taken incredible strides, the strides you’ve made here is incredible.”
The evidence of Trump's shakiness on matters of sex, sexuality, and gender identity is quite clear, but he is not alone. The Bible is clear that no one can serve two masters, because one will end up being loved and the other hated. This is especially the case when one master is power, money, wealth, and material possessions. Unfortunately, the Republican Party has been beholden to “mammon conservatism” for decades.
This is why Trump, Mike Pence, and Nikki Haley have all criticized Governor Ron DeSantis for his public fights with Disney. Haley said she would be more than willing to make South Carolina the new home for the global media giant if it decides to leave Florida. Pence made it clear that the “business of America is business.”
Slavish devotion to corporations is how we ended up with our current pipeline from tax cut to top surgery. The GOP needs to stop worshiping the golden idol of GDP to rein in the companies that are the tip of the scalpel that is mutilating American children.
What does this all mean? It means that conservatives, especially Christians, who believe that a second Trump presidency will be marked by strong principled stances against the Pride movement are basing their beliefs on a wish and a dream. This is “hope and change,” MAGA-style. It also reflects another hallmark of the “Obama effect”: the tendency of voters to impose their own hopes, beliefs, and values on candidates who are driven by pragmatism rather than conviction.