It isn’t just Pennsylvania–but most of the GOP candidates in that state’s primaries were terrifying and all-too-representative of whatever it is that the Republican Party has become.
All of the GOP’s primary candidates were Trumpers, but Doug Mastriano, who won the Republican gubernatorial primary by twenty points, is probably the most representative of the Christian Soldiers and White Supremicists who now dominate the party. He was described by Talking Points Memo as
the Trumpiest of the Trumpists, having received the former president’s “Complete and Total Endorsement” on Saturday. It’s not just because he has enthusiastically promoted Trump’s stolen election lie, participated in the January 6 insurrection, and signaled his intent to abuse his power as governor to overturn any Democratic presidential victory in Pennsylvania in 2024. It’s because Mastriano believes he is on a mission from God — and has an energized Christian nationalist movement at his back.
In the GOP’s Senate primary, Cathy Barnett (a Black right-winger too weird and Trumpy even for Trump) appealed to Christian Nationalists with all-out bigotry. CNN has reported that Barnette argued for discriminating against Muslims and compared rejecting Islam to “… rejecting Hitler’s or Stalin’s worldviews.” She has also said that accepting homosexuality would lead to the acceptance of incest and pedophilia. She called a transgender person “deformed” and “demonic.” Barnett lost, but took an all-too-respectable portion of the primary vote.
The Christian Right has long been an important part of the Republican base, but as Talking Points Memo reports, that constituency has become more highly radicalized, “a trend that was validated and accelerated by Trump’s candidacy and presidency — and especially by his stolen election lie.”
A movement that elevated Trump to messianic status and shielded him from his 2019 impeachment was able to convince millions that satanic forces had robbed God’s man in the White House of his anointed perch as the restorer of America’s white Christian heritage. Their duty, as patriotic spiritual warriors, was to go to battle on his behalf.
Mastriano, a state senator, has not only ridden the wave of this radicalized movement, he has openly embraced it. He spoke at the December 12, 2020, Jericho March on the National Mall, which promoted the stolen election lie and pledged to rally a spiritual army to overturn the election results. Earlier this year, he announced his run for governor at a Christian nationalist event at which a shofar was blown, an increasingly commonplace occurrence as a symbol of Trump’s victory over satanic forces, otherwise known as our democracy. As Brian Kaylor and Beau Underwood detail in their newsletter, A Public Witness, Mastriano has been campaigning at events like Pennsylvania For Christ, whose organizers claim their goal is to “reestablish the kingdom of God in PA,” and Patriots Arise for God, Family, and Country, where he pledged, “in November, we’re going to take our state back. My God will make it so.”
According to an article in the Washington Post, Mastriano is part of a far-right group that calls itself the “Thursday Night Patriots.” The group originally promoted a variety of far-right conspiratorial beliefs: that the coronavirus vaccine is causing cancer, that President Biden’s election was suspect and that racism is being overblown in public schools. Then participants began using an ahistorical “curriculum” for studying the Constitution “that emphasized self-defense, free enterprise and above all the belief that America was founded to be — and should remain — a Christian country.”
Christian nationalists fervently believe that America had a divine, Christian founding, and that it is their job as patriotic believers to rescue it from secular and satanic forces–i.e., from the rest of us. Mastriano is one of them, and he is now the official Republican candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania. If that doesn’t make your blood run cold, I don’t know what would.
The Talking Points Memo article identified some “key inflection points”–events that we now understand operated to integrate this Christian zealotry into Republican presidential politics. John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin, a charismatic Christian, was one.
Another was then-Texas governor Rick Perry’s enormous prayer rally in Houston’s professional basketball stadium in 2011, on the eve of his announcement of his 2012 presidential run, where speakers focused on spiritual warfare, obedience to Jesus, and reclaiming a Christian America.
The article in Talking Points Memo ends with an obvious–but terrifying–observation:
If Trump’s religious acolytes are elected to offices from which they can unlawfully manipulate election outcomes because God told them to, election subversion in 2024 could, even more than in 2020, be wrapped in a flag and a cross.