January 2021 Church & State Magazine | Editorial

A national election was held on Nov. 3. Due to a large number of mail-in votes, it took a few days to determine the results, but we now know that Joseph R. Biden Jr. defeated incumbent President Donald J. Trump. Biden secured 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232. The popular vote was an even bigger blowout, with Biden besting Trump by more than 7 million votes.

That is what happened in the real world. Since the election was called for Biden, Trump has been peddling an alternate version of events in which he actually won. Depending on the day of the week, Trump may have lost because dead people voted, because voting machines changed votes for him to votes for Biden or because the people tabulating the votes manipulated the ballots.

All of this is nonsense, and every crazy story Trump and his lawyers have trotted out in state and federal courts has been rejected. Yet Trump, aided and abetted by his Christian nationalist allies, continues to press these falsehoods.

Groups like the Family Research Council, the American Family Association (AFA), Liberty Counsel and others have circulated unsubstantiated stories and wild rumors. In one case, the AFA made a big deal about an alleged “bombshell” videotape that supposedly showed election officials in Georgia doing something shifty with ballots. Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s election system implementation manager, quickly pointed out the video showed normal vote-tabulation procedures.

American elections, several experts have pointed out, are secure. These officials have noted that any conspiracy capable of shifting large numbers of votes from Trump to Biden in several states would have to be so vast as to be unfathomable.

The claim that Trump was the real winner on Nov. 3 is a fantasy. The leaders of Religious Right groups must know this, so why do they continue to spread lies? Part of the answer may be that they’re so beholden to Trump that they look upon him as a veritable cult figure, and their behavior post-election is a form of payback to him for the past four years.

But there’s another reason that is more nefarious: These organizations have given up on democracy – if they ever supported it in the first place.

Trump’s response to his loss was not to accept defeat with grace but to try to “game the system” to secure a victory he didn’t earn. Trump pressured GOP lawmakers and governors in several states, demanding that they replace Democratic electors with new Republican slates that would override the will of the people and name him president.

You would expect something like this in a “banana republic,” or perhaps in a totalitarian country like Russia or North Korea. In the United States, such behavior should be called out for what it is: an attempted coup d’état, something befitting a dictator accustomed to perpetuating a vise-grip on power through one-party rule.

What has been the Religious Right’s response to this appalling attack on American democracy? Silence would be had enough, but these groups haven’t been silent. They have egged Trump on. They’ve endorsed his delusions. They’ve magnified his lies.

Remember, the people doing this call themselves “values voters.” In the past, they claimed to be part of a “moral majority.” They are quin­tessentially judgmental. They never hesitate to examine dissenters’ lives and find them wanting.  Their “truth” is the only truth. They press legislators to pass bills that will allegedly make the country “moral” and “decent.”

They do these things – yet in this case, they have happily joined forces with a deranged and defeated egomaniac who is doing all he can to stay in power after the American people clearly told him, “You’re fired!” This president is so determined to keep a job he no longer legally holds that he’s willing to burn down American democracy with a scorched-earth policy in the process.

Religious Right groups backed Trump in demanding recounts. In some states, we counted and recounted more than once – and Trump still lost. Then they shifted to nebulous complaints of “fraud.” All they were missing was anything like evidence.

Christian nationalists have never been terribly keen on democracy. After all, allowing people to choose their leaders means that sometimes voters will settle on someone the Religious Right doesn’t like. But the post-election antics we’ve all lived through make clear something groups like Americans United have been saying for decades: Despite their perpetual self-righteous pro­tests, these organizations don’t care one bit about the “American values” they claim to love and live by.

Like Trump, they are positively un-American.