It’s All About Race

I have previously shared my youngest son’s analysis of the 2016 presidential election–an analysis with which I have come to agree, and which subsequent academic research has confirmed. As he put it, “there were two–and only two–kinds of people who voted for Trump: those for whom his racism resonated, and those for whom it wasn’t disqualifying.” 

I was initially reluctant to accept so oversimplified an analysis, but in the years since, study after study has confirmed its essential accuracy, and research clearly connects the importance of racism to the continued allegiance of Evangelical voters to Trump.

An article from the Brookings Institution is instructive. The linked article begins by looking at the characteristics of  White Evangelical voters, and finds that, overall, they are older and predominantly Southern. The aging of the cohort is due to America’s declining religiosity, and the departure of younger Americans from a Christianity seen as intolerant of racial diversity and the LGBTQ community. As the authors delicately put it, younger Americans are more “progressive”(i.e., less threatened) when it comes to “diversity.”

Evangelicals are 30% of self-identified Republicans–and they vote. Fifty-nine percent of them are older than 50; 52% hail from the South; 42% have a high school diploma or less; 69% identify as conservative. They have been shrinking as a percentage of the population–White Evangelicals are currently 14% of all Americans.

Interestingly, the current political divide between Evangelicals and others  on the issue of abortion is actually rooted in racism,  as has documented:

The movement to end legal abortion has a long, racist history, and like the great replacement theory, it has roots in a similar fear that white people are going to be outnumbered by people believed to hold a lower standing in society. Those anxieties used to be centered primarily around various groups of European immigrants and newly emancipated slaves, but now they’re focused on non-white Americans who, as a group, are on track to numerically outpace non-Hispanic white Americans by 2045, according to U.S. Census projections.

It’s been decades since the anti-abortion movement first gained traction — and the movement has changed in certain ways — but this fundamental fear has never left, as demonstrated by attacks on people of color, such as the shooter in Buffalo, New York, who expressed concern about the declining birth rates of white people. That’s because the anti-abortion movement, at its core, has always been about upholding white supremacy.

The Brookings  report focuses on Evangelicals’ continued devotion to Trump, which it attributes to “shared anger and resentments rather than a shared faith.” As the authors write,

White Evangelical politics is now predominantly the politics of older, conservative voters for whom ‘owning the libs’ and pushing back against cultural and demographic change has become a sacred obligation.

The movement of White Evangelicals to the GOP began long before Roe v. Wade–it was prompted by backlash against civil rights and voting rights. The continued role of racial reaction, which also prompts opposition to immigration, has been well documented.

In a 2018 poll conducted by the Pew Research Center,  38 percent of Americans said that the U.S. becoming more diverse would “weaken American customs and values.” This opinion was most prevalent among Republicans, who by a margin of 59 to 13 percent said that having a majority nonwhite population would weaken rather than strengthen the U.S. (Twenty-seven percent said it wouldn’t have much impact either way.) Another poll, conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, found 47 percent of Republicans (compared with 22 percent of Democrats and 22 percent of independents) agreeing with the statement that “there is a group of people in this country who are trying to replace native-born Americans with immigrants who agree with their political views.”

It has to be emphasized that the allegiance of White Evangelicals to the GOP under Trump isn’t new–they have voted overwhelmingly Republican for a long time. What I’ve found hard to wrap my head around was the fact that more White Evangelicals “converted to Trump’s cause” during his presidency than defected from it. How rational people could view Trump’s bizarre behaviors in office and increase their support simply astonished me–and is inexplicable without reference to the increasingly blatant racism displayed by Trump and the contemporary GOP.

So what does all of this mean for the 2024 election?

The historical affiliation of White Evangelicals and other “racial grievance” voters with the GOP means they are probably unmovable. They can be counted on to vote–and to vote for any candidate with an R next to the name. They are not a majority even in very Red states–but absent effective GOTV efforts, their anger and cohesion can elect truly despicable people.

Massive turnout has never been more important.


  1. Earlier I watched a clip from Trae Crowder (Liberal Redneck from TN) who mentioned that not only are trump supporters racist, just like him; but they are all for letting everyone know OUT-LOUD how racist and despicable they are. They announce it everywhere they go. The counter to that nonsense is to shame them to SHUT UP with that kind of racism. They crawled out from under their rocks of shame because 45 made it entertainment. What do most retired boomers do? Watch 24/7 right wing tv and they need to be “woken up” from their silo and told that that bigotry needs to go back in the closet. We don’t need that kind around here no more!

  2. I had always thought that the abortion issue was always about power over women (barefoot, pregnant, in the kitchen) than about racism. Perhaps the two are connected by the thread of desperation as the White Male begins to lose power.
    I was reminded recently of the basic premise of the sociologist C. Wright Mills, who studied power, and made the conclusion that those in power will do whatever it takes to stay in power. (Thanks, Mr. Obvious!)
    I would draw your attention to a recent article by David Atkins in Washington Monthly, “Who’s Really In charge of the GOP?”. A summary of the article is that the lunatics are in charge of the asylum.

  3. I hadn’t ever considered the racist/anti-abortion angle before. The irony is that these same Republicans don’t want to pay for the single mothers’ babies after they’re born. Yes, most of those babies are babies of color, but there are still very large numbers of white babies born to young, un-wed mothers. In another stroke of irony, by making abortions illegal those poor people of color will be producing still MORE people of color. DUH.

    It might be worth noting that most cult leaders are messianic with lots of charisma. Trump exhibits only hate and grievance. His psychopathy is what drives the hard-line acolytes. That speaks very loudly about the evangelical churches too. No love there. All these folks have is their bigotry, hate and racist dogma. Pathetic.

    Yes. Rational people who want to keep our democracy and the Constitution must vote in huge numbers. We must overwhelm the gerrymandering and voter suppression actions of the party of bigots. That means getting off our asses and going to those places where voter turnout is traditionally low. We’re actually going to have to work to save our democracy… you know, like a good, solid marriage.

  4. So people who oppose abortion do so because they are racist? I haven’t read the 5/3 article, but that would be a pretty absurd conclusion. I would point out that African-Americans have long polled as more pro-life than whites. So those black voters are racist?

    ( A commentator on her says it’s about “power over women.” Really? Women poll as less supportive of abortion rights than men. So those women just want to control other women? )

    Maybe, just maybe, people who oppose abortion do so because they view a fetus as a growing, developing human being worthy of legal protection, at least at some point in the pregnancy. I don’t know why there is such an insistence to demonize opponents of abortion as having an illegitimate reason for their position.

    Both sides have legitimate concerns on the abortion issues. The pro-choice focuses on a woman’s bodily integrity and the right to make a choice regarding her body. The pro-life side focuses on the undeniable fact of fetal development. Neither side is wrong…they just focus on different things. It’s the fact that both sides have a legitimate, logical reason for their position that makes the abortion issue so difficult.

  5. Vernon, In the confused logic of racist abortion policies, “those people” are the ungodly ones that are getting abortions and because they have no morals, they will continue to get abortions even after it’s illegal. So I don’t think the idea that birth rate will go up for everyone has occurred to them.

  6. Dan,

    LOL. You give those “other” people the benefit of the doubt that they do, in fact, think at all.

  7. That’s why authoritarianism is so appealing to bigots it’s because they feel large and in charge over those whom they deem somehow inferior.

    If you compare the religious authoritarian movement across the globe, it mirrors what happened before the first and second World war. And all of the authoritarian governments, the Axis powers, we’re obviously not identical, but racism against others not like them, was prevalent in their society. Maybe not as much concerning the average citizen, they nonetheless went along with their government on a willfully dilutional bent.

    In this country they had plotted and planned their takeover after World war II. It was due to the influence of authoritarian systematic racists. The German Nazi party in the United States, “Bund,” melted into society to work clandestiny to build a network powerful and convincing based on all forms of grievance! Without a doubt, the underpinnings were there from the beginning of America being a sovereign government. But those sovereigns were all wealthy white slave owning land barons. And at that time, it was supposed to be about Manifest Destiny, and, using slaves to bring about an agrarian white based powerhouse ruling the western hemisphere, eventually touting American exceptionalism!

    Those wealthy slave owning landowners were very well aware of how powerful religion was in uniting the factions of Rome which existed much longer than people actually realized. The Church of Rome ie Catholics, were instrumental in quelling the conscience of slave merchants and those who used those slaves as building blocks to spread their power beyond the borders of this continent. The Germans actually gave credit to the United States for opening their eyes! And, the Germans actually thought the United States would fight on their side eventually.

    Again, the underpinnings of history show how identical the use of religion had been not just for the Roman empire, but Germany and later on, the Dixiecrats along with the German Bund in this country, which launched a world of disunity and pain for the past 75 or 80 years. Back then, the useful idiots were the Klan, which actually had the ear of President Wilson decades earlier. Again, based on false interpretation of scripture, and Christian religion this created a bedrock foundation of systematic racism and white grievance.

    The lessons learned back then, in Germany, in Japan, in Italy, was to attack educators, actual news organizations, and religious groups that didn’t go along with the program. The Holocaust museum in Skokie Illinois right outside of Chicago makes a tremendous case for all of this. History is the enemy to these movements, because it shows the inhumanity of man to his neighbor. Demonizing those of other races, creeds, nationalities, and what have you, for the sake of power!

    Will the backlash completely annihilate this country? The pendulum will swing back with a devastating effect. And instead of well qualified and compassionate surgeons, who could dismantle this racist foundation surgically, it will be an explosive demolition, replacing one authoritarian power with another.

    All of this promoting more grievance, and the cycle repeats!

    Hilariously, you hear folks talk about the youngest generation, and how they will fix it all, I’m surprised at that thought process. Because, if anyone was paying attention to world history, which was one of my favorite subjects in school, The realization is just the opposite.

    Once people are removed from any source of enlightenment, they descend into the pit of inequity! They are susceptible to the grievance everyone hates, on one side or the other. It never unites, but the grievance hangs in the air like a dark fog, continuing to foment disunity! Using this maladictive muckedy muck of moral turpitude, absolute corruption can be achieved! Thereby, not just enslaving minorities, or non-whites, but enslaving everyone to repeat devastating conduct that never has worked, and will never work, to make things better for humanity.

    Love God? Love your neighbor? Love your enemy? Take care of the foreign resident? Take care of the widows and orphans? Take care of, love, and respect any that might be indentured to you? No matter which way the pendulum swings, most of these things will be poo pooed by the naysayers and tossed into that trash bin of history.

  8. Per the quoted article – 69% of Evangelicals self identify as conservative. I would guess the remaining 31% identify as “the rational middle” while at the same time holding beliefs significantly to the right of Mussolini.

  9. “Evangelicals are 30% of self-identified Republicans–and they vote. Fifty-nine percent of them are older than 50; 52% hail from the South; 42% have a high school diploma or less; 69% identify as conservative. They have been shrinking as a percentage of the population–White Evangelicals are currently 14% of all Americans.”

    Here’s a question: are Evangelicals shrinking as a group because of the experiences of the people leaving the group instead of staying or because of how the message from the pulpit has changed?

    More the latter, I think. Like Republicans everywhere the pulpit has only doubled down on the message that the people who stayed want to hear and that drives those who don’t believe that the message reflects reality to leave.

  10. Permission to be as nasty as you like is what 45 gives to the holier than thou Evangelicals. That means you can hate out loud.

    Paul, you describe the exact point of “choice”. If you sincerely believe that the fetus is a person, you might choose to have the baby. If you sincerely believe that a person is more than dna, you might choose to abort. It’s only problematic when there is no choice. When you might be forced to carry an unviable fetus to the point of risking death for the woman. The so-called Pro-life people are not Pro-life, merely pro-birth.

  11. The more DEMs who chant “it’s all about race”; the more voters get turned off from voting. “Identity politics” is like poison when it seems to be the only thing your party (newspapers, TV news, etc.) talks about. Biggest concerns for voters right now are inflation and cost of health care. Guess who “owns” those? Corporate America – guess who the DEMs won’t take on?

  12. I just read a thought-provoking opinion piece by Thomas Edsall in the NYTimes and would encourage everyone with access to the Times to read it. I’d provide a link but it’s behind a paywall. Racism, abortion and religion used to gain power at all costs for the “greater good” if the objective is “noble”. Lies, violence, bigotry.

  13. “There is a group of people in this country who are trying to replace native-born Americans with immigrants who agree with their political views.” So, the influx of immigrants is a PLANNED, ORCHESTRATED, rather than spontaneous thing???

    Sheila, your assumption that these are “rational people” flies in the face of their deep adherence to the fairy tale of their religion.
    I’m sorry, but if one believes, firmly, in the cherry-picked compilation of the biblical stories, one is not basing one’s life on a rational foundation. One can
    believe what one wants to, but let us not forget that includes all of the believers in the QAnon stories.
    But, the idea that “It is all about race,” fits in with the concept that these people are there, with TFG, because they hate the same people he hates.

  14. Everything in America is about race. The very structures of our government and society are about race. We have barely begun to address the problem, and of course, if we did address the problem, the right, which maintains power by frightening those without reason, would have no way to exist. They feed the fires of anxiety among ignorant people because that is how they make their livings.

  15. Does anyone thing it possible that the allegiance to Trump might be about how people who have been oppressed and taught to bow to authoritarian ways, tend to bow also to authoritarians, whomever they are? Do these people sometimes think that if they bow to Trump or any other despot, then said despot wont’ come for them? Of course, the despot always throws anyone under the bus if it helps the despot.

  16. Per a prominent DEM political strategist in the NY Times (gulp) today: “If you want to solve some of the underlying problems of the party, this should be a gimme,” he said of pivoting from racial and ethnic identity to class. But, he added, “in the short term, the enormous pressure will be not to do that.”

  17. I am surrounded by Evangelical’s–when I lived in Terre Haute and certainly in TN and I telling you–their mega-churches and their tiny churches in the backwoods have told their attendees that Democrats are anti-Christian and to get to heaven and weed out the evil, the only party protecting them is Republicans. Shoot–The Southern Baptists are now telling churches if they have a female pastor they can not longer be apart of the Baptist movements.

    They judge everyone from a narrow lens and if we do not believe their crap, we are going straight to hell. Critical thinking and questioning things is prohibited as well as logic. I had a friend who was not allowed to go to the movies because that is giving $ to liberal Hollywood; but it was okay to rent movies from Blockbuster Video??? He was dumbfounded when I told him renting videos also gives money to Hollywood. It is conditioning–brain washing and logic has no place–its simple prescription–you vote this way, you dress this way, you think this way, you marry this person, do not question the pastor and don’t question them when they are molesting your children. Politics is no different–

    One of our drug reps is Jewish and we were talking one day and she just said…”I am Jewish!” I said–okay, I have been to Temple several times–I was not sure what she was getting at but she said she felt safe to tell me she was Jewish and then proceeded to tell me how the South hates Jews–aka: Evangelicals hate Jews and she doesn’t feel safe telling folks.

  18. Paul:
    The loudest and strongest opponents of abortions are women who wrap themselves (and their blonde children) in a cloak of evangelism and faux Christianity and present themselves as representatives of God. They can’t be questioned because they represent God. And as has been stated many times, they really don’t care about living poor children of any color. That is my problem with the “pro-life” movement.

  19. I still think the anti-abortion movement is at least as much about religion as it is about racism. As Vernon pointed out, criminalizing abortion could very well cause birth rates of people of color to increase more than birth rates of the white population. But both racism and fundamentalist religion grow out of the same kind of ignorant, fearful attitudes characterized by close-minded rigidity of thought. It all wraps up together in a bigoted, dangerous package that threatens to explode into violence at the drop of a hat.

  20. If so many whites are worried about white replacement, it makes no sense for them to oppose abortion for poor, minority women. I would expect them to promote contraception and abortions among minority women to make sure they don’t replace whites. But that group has never been logical.

    If they really wanted to stop abortions, they’d want reliable birth control available to all, regardless of ability to pay. They’d also acknowledge that paying for contraception is far less expensive than paying welfare for more children born into poor families.

    Some opposed to abortion will argue – fiercely – that contraception violates THEIR religion. If you don’t agree with contraception or abortion, then don’t do either. Just don’t force your version of religion onto me and everyone else.

  21. When pro-life became an issue in public/political discourse after 1972 Roe vs. Wade many Christians (Catholics) became single issue voters (pro-life). and voted against their own self-interest on other issues. Prior to Roe many more Christians had voted democratic supporting worker’s rights and safety on the job, lower taxes on working people and regulations on big business to protect consumers and environment.
    It’s ironic that pro-life was such a sacred issue with Catholics that they voted in sync with KKK types who were and are against them! Talk about self-sacrifice.
    Also, the generational religions promoting large families might be color blind. There are a lot more biracial babies/children than there used to be. We’re pushing for the rule of law where every citizen has a fair shot at creating a descent, safe and happy life for themselves.

  22. This may seem to be slightly off-topic, but the comment about the shooter in Buffalo, who shot black people because he was worried about the white contingent of the population being outnumbered and suppressed, says something about his mentality. How can shooting a few people prevent the white population from being outnumbered?

    The event also says something about the ability of ANYONE to buy a gun.

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