Why Aren't Evangelicals Turning On Trump? | Opinion

The news today may be full of Roseanne Barr, but sooner or later things are going to inevitably turn back to the matter of the president and the porn star. Stormy Daniels (aka Stephanie Clifford), whom Barr's tweets about former Obama aide Valerie Jarrett may have pushed off the front pages for a while, is a story too juicy not to come back.

She's become, oddly enough given her chosen line of work, a symbol of the left's resistance to Trump. On May 24 the city fathers in West Hollywood, one of the seedier parts of the City of Angels, gave her the key to the city in recognition of her efforts to help bring down Trump with whom, she says, she engaged in an illicit and adulterous encounter.

At its heart, the Daniels story is being promoted, not just because of its impact on ratings and its ability to bring eyeballs to news sites but because the left believes it will drive a wedge between Trump—who was not president at the time Daniels alleges they were intimate—and the bloc of politically-active, conservative evangelical voters who are his strongest supporters.

On the surface it should be an easy sell: The porn star and the president, illicit sex, adultery, cultural collapse, all the things the mainstream press and liberal political analysts tell us over and over again will drive these voters to distraction. After all, it's what turned them against Bill Clinton who, as a church-going, choir-singing Arkansas Baptist was one of them, right?

Well, no. There's a lot the mainstream media doesn't understand about the politics of evangelicals, their relationship to Clinton and to Trump, and what really motivates them. They, like just about everyone else, have core beliefs, some of which the secular community simply cannot comprehend. They think talking non-stop about Trump and allegations of infidelity taps into concerns about character that only evangelicals have and that makes it a winning issue for the left.

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Adult film actress Stormy Daniels (Stephanie Clifford) exits the United States District Court Southern District of New York for a hearing related to Michael Cohen, President Trump's longtime personal attorney and confidante, April 16, 2018 in New York City. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

In reality most of them do care whether the president is faithful to his marriage vows, but they're more concerned about the actions he's taken as president. He's been the most pro-life president since the Roe v. Wade decision came down, his judicial appointments have been ideologically impeccable—even if some of them, once they got before the U.S. Senate, showed they weren't ready for primetime. He's been a stalwart defender of U.S. interests abroad and, unlike several of his predecessors, has refused to knuckle under to the demands of the North Koreans, Iran, and other nations unfriendly to the United States.

The economy is growing again, people are back to work, unemployment is lower than it's been since before Barack Obama became president, and unemployment among blacks and Latinos is at its lowest point since the U.S. government started keeping track by race in the 1970s. It's no surprise, therefore, that his approval numbers are climbing, slowly, with one poll recently showing him at the magic 50 percent mark. While the number of people who think the country is headed in the wrong direction is down by almost a third over what it was during the last year of Obama's presidency.

Which brings us back to Stormy Daniels and sex. Evangelical voters are not, for the most part anyway, the blue-nosed puritans most liberal publications and analysts make them out to be. They also, almost to a person, put a premium on grace and forgiveness. The idea they think and act otherwise is due in part to the angry, vocal, and lucrative—in a fundraising sense—comments from a few who somehow always manage to find a TV camera close by.

As for Clinton, it was the Democrats—particularly James Carville—who made the La Affaire Clinton about sex. He said as much on television, repeatedly, in an effort to keep the sensible center from joining with those calling for his impeachment and removal from office. But the reason they wanted him out was not because he engaged in sexual conduct with a woman working in the White House young enough to be his daughter, but because he lied about it under oath. Trump may have disassembled, repeatedly, but he's yet to hold a press event in the Oval Office where he's claimed to "not have had sex with that woman," as Clinton did.

All that, remember, came after the entire liberal establishment went overboard during the 1992 presidential campaign to disguise, ignore, hide, and obfuscate Clinton's perpetual infidelity. Suddenly infidelity and harassment in the workplace didn't matter anymore. Conservatives were aghast, but because of the hypocrisy being exhibited by the same liberals, politicians and journalists alike, who believed to the depths of their collective souls a comment allegedly made in the workplace by Clarence Thomas about a pubic hair on a can of soda pop was reason enough to deny him a seat on the United States Supreme Court.

Trump's personal conduct may be unsettling to many evangelicals, but it's not enough to break the link he's established with them by pushing for policy outcomes of which they approve. To do that, for it to be just sex that separates them from him, he'll have to, in the immortal words of former Louisiana democratic Gov. Edwin Edwards, be "found in bed with a dead girl or a live boy." It's the policy outcomes that matter.

Peter Roff is a former senior political writer for United Press International and former contributing editor for opinion at U.S. News and World Report and is affiliated with several Washington, D.C.-based organizations. You can write to him at roffcolumns@gmail.com

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.​​​