March 2021 Church & State Magazine | Editorial

Ex-President Donald Trump is out of office and stewing in Florida. But that doesn’t mean he’s no longer a threat to the nation. In fact, Trump lackeys in several states are working on voter suppression bills, a possible precursor to his political second coming.

White Christian nationalist organizations, led by the Family Research Council (FRC), have backed this anti­democratic scheme.

Last month, FRC President Tony Perkins penned a column that began, “If the mess of 2020 accomplished anything, it was lighting a fire under conservative states. After weeks of election counting, recounting, and questions, more legislatures than ever are determined to stop Democrats from taking advantage of COVID again. Cheat-by-mail is going to end, they warn. And a record number of states are lining up to prove it.”

This passage is crammed full of lies. First off, the 2020 election was not a “mess.” It was, according to relevant government officials, our most secure election ever. Voting took place during a raging pandemic, and the fact that we pulled it off so flawlessly is a testament to a lot of hard work by Americans of various political beliefs all over the country who served as election judges, vote tabulators, etc. 

Secondly, the only reason we had “weeks of election counting, recounting and questions” is because Trump refused to accept the results. In Georgia, Trump insisted on three separate recounts, only to learn anew each time that he did, in fact, lose the state. And those “questions” Perkins mentions? They exist only in the fever dreams of QAnon boosters, tin-foil conspiracy theorists and other reality-denying Trump partisans. By now, anyone with even a lick of sense knows Trump lost.

Finally, no one took “advantage of COVID,” and of course there was no such thing as “Cheat-by-mail.” With the pandemic death toll soaring, millions of people did the smart thing and voted by mail, avoiding crowds and lines.

Did mail voting lead to cheating? Nope. Despite what Trump and his toadies said, voting by mail worked. Ironically, we know this in part thanks to Trump’s attorneys. They had ample opportunity in court to make the case that cheating had occurred and failed.

Remember, Trump and his allies filed an astounding 62 lawsuits in state and federal courts – and lost 61 of them. (Their sole victory, over a minor technical point in Pennsylvania, didn’t come close to changing the outcome in that state.) Trump’s legal team floated fantastic conspiracy theories in the media, but when forced to put up or shut up in courts of law, where actual evidence is required, they couldn’t provide even one shred.

So Perkins backs voter suppression. He wants to do it because we learned in 2020 that if you make it easier for people to vote, record numbers of them will, and many of them will be people of color. In 2020, Black and brown voters showed up in record numbers to oust Trump. This alarms white Christian nationalists. Their answer to Trump’s defeat is not to offer better candidates, end offensive policies or cease their racist dog whistles – it’s to make it harder for people of color to vote.

The Brennan Center for Justice put it well: “The new surge in voter suppression bills is a backlash to the historic voter turnout of the 2020 general election. It flows directly from the bid to cut out the votes of majority Black cities during the bid to overturn the results. Politicians who push and support voter suppression aim to rob Black and brown Americans of their say in our democracy.” 

This is what white Christian nationalist groups like FRC are backing. These extremist groups don’t support democracy. They proved that after the election when they backed Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of fraud. They proved it again on Jan. 6 when they failed to condemn a marauding band of insurrectionists that assaulted the U.S. Capitol with the goal of keeping Trump in power. They’re proving it now with their attack on the right of Americans to vote. They want theocracy, not democracy.

An army of Trump factotums in Washington, D.C., and state capitals have embraced a new, un-American scheme: punishing the millions of Black and brown people who voted against Trump by restricting their access to the ballot box. 

Much to their eternal shame, Perkins and his fellow white Christian nationalists are lining up to help. All decent people must see to it that they don’t succeed.