Religious Minorities

Christian Nationalists Grapple With Unexpected Election Results

  Rob Boston

I like to keep tabs on Christian nationalist groups, so I signed up for their emails, and I visit their websites and social media accounts regularly.

Days before the midterm elections, these groups were positively giddy. They were sure the Democrats were about to get pasted. One self-styled pundit even opined that voters were so upset over the high cost of gas and groceries that they didn’t care about abortion bans.

We all know what happened: The GOP failed to capture the Senate and will probably take the House of Representatives with only a thin majority – a dramatic departure from the “red wave” pundits anticipated and typical midterm election results that usually see the president’s party lose seats in Congress. Several high-profile Christian nationalist candidates went down in flames, and a flock of election deniers backed by former President Donald Trump was defeated. Furthermore, abortion rights were buttressed in five states, including Kentucky and Montana, which are hardly bastions of progressivism.

How are Christian nationalists dealing with this? They seem to be embracing a couple of different arguments:

Don’t worry, be happy: Ralph Reed at the Faith & Freedom Coalition decided to ignore the situation in the Senate, the loss of several far-right gubernatorial candidates and the passage of measures protecting abortion rights in five states and just be happy that Republicans are likely to take the House. Reed can’t wait for U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to become speaker – assuming, of course, that Trump says it’s OK.

The Democrats cheated!: Tony Perkins at the Family Research Council (FRC) is certain something fishy is going on. Since the election, FRC has issued several tweets (see here and here) asserting that something’s not right about the way people vote these days, particularly early voting (maybe Perkins needs to talk to his buddy Reed, who bragged about voting early). Christian nationalist organizations, which jumped on the voter suppression bandwagon big time after Trump’s defeat in 2020, don’t want voting to be convenient or easy.

The American Family Association (AFA) is flirting with this as well, citing a far-right activist who asserted that late counting of ballots is a plot by Democrats to figure out how many votes they need to steal. He offered no proof.

Desperately seeking a silver lining: The AFA quoted longtime Christian nationalist operative Gary Bauer, who asserted that the results would somehow force the Democrats to engage in “soul-searching” and move to the center. Another “expert,” evangelist Alex McFarland, grumbled, “The fact that the liberal, progressive, socialist Democrats [have] resorted to fearmongering and lies, I think that’s acknowledgment that they really don’t have a message for us.”

Actually, one message did come through loud and clear last week: Trump, the Christian nationalists’ emperor-god, has become toxic. By all rights, the Democrats should have been shellacked this year. Inflation remains stubbornly high, and President Joe Biden isn’t exactly Mr. Popularity. But exit polls showed that many voters who aren’t crazy about Biden’s job performance swung away from the GOP because the party is just too extreme – and much of that extremism can be laid at the feet of Christian nationalists and Trump.

If anyone needs to do some soul-searching, it’s them. Don’t hold your breath.

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