Former US President Donald Trump has accused Evangelical Christians of disloyalty.
Trump’s term in office was punctuated by evangelical and Jewish faith leaders praying over the president in the Oval Office. But as he gears up to campaign for the 2024 presidential election, a schism is appearing.
On Monday, Trump appeared on Real America’s Voice where he was interviewed by The Water Cooler host David Brody. Trump took the opportunity to rail against the evangelical leaders. Though the evangelical vote played an important role in his successful 2016 victory, Trump complained that the same evangelical leaders were reluctant to support him in his bid for a second term in 2024.
“That’s a sign of disloyalty,” Trump said. “There’s great disloyalty in the world of politics and that’s a sign of disloyalty because nobody, as you know…has ever done more for [the] right to life than Donald Trump. Three Supreme Court justices and they all voted [to overturn Roe v. Wade]…they won, they finally won!”
He went on to blame the evangelical leaders for the lackluster results of the recent midterm elections that failed to present a decisive victory for the Republican party.
“I was a little disappointed because I thought they could have fought much harder during the election,” Trump said. “A lot of them didn’t fight or weren’t really around to fight, and it did energize the Democrats. But a lot of the people that wanted and fought for years to get it, they sort of…they were there protesting and doing what they could have done.
“But with all of that being said, there’s nobody that did more for the movement than I have. And that includes the movement of evangelicals and Christians and the movement very much of ‘right to life,'” he said.
In November, Trump announced his intention to run in 2024. His announcement was considered to be earlier than usual to begin campaigning. Following the announcement, Robert Jeffress, an influential pastor who has described himself as “Trump’s Apostle”, said that he will wait for the Republican Party nomination to endorse the former president.
A recent article in Vanity Fair cited several prominent evangelical leaders as saying they are shifting their support away from Trump. Bob Vander Plaats, one of America’s top evangelical thought leaders, who backed Trump in 2016, told Vanity Fair that he would not support Trump in 2024 and that he knew many other evangelical leaders who agreed.
Everett Piper, a Washington Times columnist and the former president of an evangelical university, published an article last month critical of Trump, saying that the former Republican president was “hurting…not helping” American evangelicals. “The take-home of this past week is simple: Donald Trump has to go,” Piper wrote. “If he’s our nominee in 2024, we will get destroyed.”
“There’s a lot of people who share a lot of our similar thoughts but don’t want to go on record,” Vander Plaats said. “You can see that it’s almost a silent majority right now.”
Mike Evans, a devout Christian Zionist leader, told The Washington Post in November that Trump “used” evangelical voters.
“We had to close our mouths and eyes when he said things that horrified us,” Evans told the newspaper. “I cannot do that anymore.”
Trump has lashed out at Jewish leaders in the same manner. After hosting the notorious antisemitic personalities, Kanye West and Nick Fuentes, at his Mar-a-Lago resort, many prominent Jewish leaders publicly broke with Trump. Rather than apologize or denounce the two, the former president posted on his Truth Social platform, lashing out at the Jewish leaders who criticized him.
“…How quickly Jewish leaders forgot that I was the best, by far, president for Israel,” he wrote. “They should be ashamed of themselves. This lack of loyalty to their greatest friends and allies is why large numbers in Congress, and so many others, have stopped giving support to Israel,” he added.
In an Oval Office press conference in August 2019, Trump criticized Jews who voted for Democrats.
“I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat,” Trump said. “It shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”
Evangelical support is essential if Trump hopes to win in 2024. About one in four American adults belongs to an evangelical Christian denomination according to a Pew Research Center 2014 study, making evangelicals the most common religious group. This demographic boosted Trump to victory in 2016. The 2016 National Election Pool Exit Survey had Donald Trump leading Hillary Clinton among white evangelicals by a staggering 79% to 16%. In that exit survey, white evangelicals composed 46% of Trump’s coalition compared to 9% of Clinton’s coalition.
In 2021, the Pew Research Center published a poll showing Trump’s widespread support from the evangelical community. The poll found that 59 percent of respondents who “frequently attend religious services” voted for Trump, while 40 percent sided with Biden.
“Among those who attend services a few times a year or less, the pattern was almost exactly reversed: 58% picked Biden, while 40% voted for Trump,” the poll said.
The poll also found that 85 percent of “white evangelical Protestants” voted for Trump in the 2020 election. Among white Catholic voters, the poll found 63 percent voting for Trump in the election compared to 36 percent who sided with Biden.