With evan­gel­i­cals in dither, it is time to men­tion Pence

Austin American-Statesman - - NATION & WORLD - Ross Douthat He writes for the New York Times.

A few days ago, which is to say an eter­nity in our Trump-di­lated time, there was a story on NPR about anx­ious evan­gel­i­cals’ seek­ing a meet­ing with the pres­i­dent.

The sub­ject of their agita, not en­tirely sur­pris­ingly, was the Stormy Daniels af­fair, in which the pres­i­dent’s lawyer-fixer, Michael Co­hen, ap­pears to have averted a pos­si­ble Oc­to­ber sur­prise by buy­ing the si­lence of a porn star (and per­haps more than one) with whom Don­ald Trump com­mit­ted adultery shortly af­ter the birth of his third wife’s only son.

But the promi­nent evan­gel­i­cals seek­ing the meet­ing were ap­par­ently less con­cerned about the adultery than about the politi- cal ram­i­fi­ca­tions — low re­li­gious-right turnout in 2018, a de­feat for Repub­li­cans, and from there de­feats on the pol­icy is­sues that forced re­li­gious con­ser­va­tives to make their peace with Trump in the first place.

The sud­den in­ves­ti­ga­tory fo­cus on Co­hen and Daniels might turn out to be a le­gal tem­pest in a D-cup. But still, for evan­gel­i­cals con­cerned that their agenda is yoked so closely to the for­tunes of that Hefne­r­ian pres­i­dent, this seems like a good time to con­tem­plate a sim­ple ques­tion: Why not Mike Pence?

In the 2016 elec­tion, once Marco Ru­bio was de­feated and Ted Cruz dis­patched, re­li­gious con­ser­va­tives faced a bi­nary choice: Vote Trump or get Hil­lary.

But the pol­i­tics of the com­ing year, once the Robert Mueller in­ves­ti­ga­tion de­liv­ers what­ever it’s go­ing to de­liver, might of­fer a very dif­fer­ent choice. If Trump were im­peached, the pres­i­dency would de­volve to pre­cisely the kind of man whom much of pre-Trump re­li­gious con­ser­vatism in­sisted that it wanted in the Oval Of­fice: an evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tian fam­ily man with a bluenose’s tem­per­a­ment and a bor­ing Rea­gan­ite check­list of be­liefs.

Lots of Repub­li­cans who once re­sisted the Trumpian takeover have now ac­cepted the var­i­ous nar­ra­tives that cast him as an in­dis­pens­able man — be­cause he’s the only Repub­li­can who knows how to fight, be­cause his re­moval would be a vic­tory for the hated es­tab­lish­ment and the even more hated me­dia and the many-ten­ta­cled Deep State, be­cause what­ever else hap­pens you can’t let the lib­er­als win. And evan­gel­i­cals have their par­tic­u­lar ver­sion of these Trump-the-in­dis­pens­able con­ceits.

There is no way of know­ing ex­actly what would have hap­pened, of course, had Bill Clin­ton been pushed out by Sen­ate Democrats and Al Gore in­stalled in his place. But there are good rea­sons to sus­pect that as an in­cum­bent ste­ward of late-1990s pros­per­ity un­tainted by his stead­fast sup­port for a ly­ing boss, Gore would have had an eas­ier time dis­patch­ing Ge­orge W. Bush in 2000, and the en­tire tra­jec­tory of the early 2000s would have been more fa­vor­able to Democrats. And there are also good rea­sons to think that pro­fes­sional fem­i­nists, who con­torted them­selves ab­surdly in de­fense of Clin­ton’s preda­tory con­duct, would have been bet­ter off ac­cel­er­at­ing their reck­on­ing with the pigs of lib­er­al­ism rather than wait­ing for the age of Trump and the old age of Har­vey We­in­stein.

Plus, there’s the prov­i­den­tial as­pect. Sure, mak­ing use of Don­ald Trump to keep Hil­lary Clin­ton from be­ing pres­i­dent is a fas­ci­nat­ing flour­ish by his­tory’s Au­thor, but the idea that the Almighty might use a porn star to make Mike Pence pres­i­dent rep­re­sents, if any­thing, an even more amazing mir­a­cle.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.