Policy trumps character for Trump backers
People say they value integrity in their elected officials. Voting trends, however, indicate increasing interest in effectiveness. That’s probably why “values voters” like Family Research Council President Tony Perkins are willing to give President Donald Trump a “mulligan” on his personal foibles.
Consider how Alabama voters chose Doug Jones over the very flawed and scandal-plagued Roy Moore in last year’s special Senate election by less than 2 percent. Despite allegations of sexual misconduct involving teenage girls during the height of the #metoo movement, Moore almost won because he was the conservative candidate in a traditionally conservative and religious state.
A poll by JMC Analytics, conducted just after the first allegations against Moore came out, gave him 71 percent support among Alabama’s evangelical voters. Values voters undoubtedly held their noses as they voted for Moore over Jones.
Evangelical Christians may desire candidates with moral character, but they ultimately want someone who will fight for them. A 2015 poll by the Barna Group, a Christian-oriented research organization, found evangelicals placed policy positions over character by a margin of 58 percent to 46 percent. The economy was as important to them as abortion.
A 2016 Barna poll found 87 percent of evangelicals “frustrated” with the government. A 2015 poll by LifeWay Research found 82 percent of evangelicals feared increasing anti-Christian intolerance.
President Trump may not embody values they cherish in themselves, but he has repeatedly vowed to protect their religious liberty and proclaimed his administration “will always stand up for the right of all Americans to pray to God and to follow his teachings.”
In our increasingly polarized political environment, character is becoming a want instead of a need.
My wife and I differ on fundamental criteria for selecting a presidential candidate. It personifies the divide between personality and process. She wants someone better than she sees herself. Alternatively, I’ve always wanted a president to hire people I’ve worked with during my Washington tenure. It’s not my scheme to get on the White House Christmas card list, but an assurance that people I trust are setting policy.
Neither of us supported Trump in the primaries, but we did in the general election. We’ve been happy with his administration. President Trump met my standard, with many of my colleagues becoming high-ranking members of his team (while remaining absent from the Christmas card list). My wife is happy with her raise and bonus at work, among other things.
It’s not just me. The Heritage Foundation is happy the president embraced 64 percent of its policy priorities during his first year in office — a feat outpacing the Reagan administration.
Heritage, my wife and I, and evangelical voters will weather Stormy Daniels to benefit from tax reform, deregulation and more effective immigration policy.
Character is nice, but getting things done — now, more than ever — is key.