Your presidential candidate is here to help — whether that’s President Trump or presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Beyond personality and policy, pandemic and protests, both are running on the same promise to their base: “I will keep you safe. I will let you rest. With me in office, you can unclench your jaw, let down your guard, at least for the next four years.”
Trump’s version of this promise has been evident for some time, most obviously in its reception among his white evangelical supporters. As I’ve argued, their relationship to Trump is not like flock and preacher or even constituency and politician. It’s more like vassal and lord or racket client and mafia don.
The value Trump offers them is protection. He’ll fight for them, be their champion in a duel they can’t hope to win themselves. “If that were the only thing the electorate cared about — which one’s more moral? — I’d go with Ted [Cruz]. But Donald has the skill set we’re looking for,” one evangelical said in 2016. “So yeah, we’ll put our blinders on.” Now-suspended Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., a vocal Trump ally, has made clear this is his primary rationale, too: “I’ve never talked to him about that in particular,” he said of Christianity in an interview late last year. Anyway, “you don’t choose a president based on how [personally] good they are,” Falwell told The Washington Post in January 2019.