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Jim GallowayJim Galloway

Donald Trump, evangelicals, Peter Thiel, and a cultural shift in Cleveland

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Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, delivers a speech during the evening session on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on Thursday at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. John Moore/Getty Images

Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, delivers a speech during the evening session on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on Thursday at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. John Moore/Getty Images

Don’t look now, but presidential nominee Donald Trump may be prompting at least a slight cultural shift at this Republican National Convention.

Let’s start with the cleric who offered the invocation, a very mainstream Steve Bailey, the superintendent of North Coast District United Methodist Church. Emphasis ours:

Make us courageous. Make us tireless in seeking a more just nation for all that live in this land. We are united in our discontent, for we know that the world can be made better.

We know that it’s not right that racism continues to wound and destroy the lives of many in this land. From judgments made in response to language or ethnicity, to inadequate schools that fail to serve their students, to incivility received at the grocery store or on college campuses.

We know that we will only be a great nation when we are a good nation. When every citizen is fully vested in the promises of citizenship and shares in the opportunities of this great land.

We know that it’s not right when lives are destroyed by addiction, when our justice system favors some, and punishes others. When children and women are trafficked in our streets. Or when people are denigrated because of who they are or whom they love.

We know that it’s not right when we stand in the streets and shout insults at each other. When we attack those who risk their lives to protect us. When we harden our hearts to those we call the enemy….

Two high-profile religious conservatives were on tonight’s speaking list. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, is a convention delegate and was a member of the committee that composed a very conservative party platform that continues GOP opposition to same-sex marriage.

Jerry Falwell Jr., the leader of Liberty University and son of the Moral Majority leader of the 1980s, followed quickly thereafter.

Neither Perkins nor Falwell cited Trump’s religious beliefs or his personal commitment to Christianity.

Said Perkins:

“I will be voting for Donald trump in November, and I will urge my fellow Americans to do the same.”

Perkins’ expressed reasons were strictly transactional:

“From his judicial nominees to his running mate, to the party platform and the policies it promotes, Donald Trump has committed to upholding and protecting the first freedom – and therefore our ability to unite our nation once again under God.”

Falwell noted that his father offered the opening prayer at the 1980 Republican National Convention that nominated Ronald Reagan for president – a measure of the shift that’s underway. Said Falwell:

“My family has grown to love and respect the …. We have never met such a genuine and loving family. I truly believe Mr. Trump is America’s blue-collar billionaire.”

And again, the transaction:

“Mr. Trump has added a plank to this party’s platform to repeal IRS rules sponsored by Lyndon Johnson in 1954 barring churches and non-profits from expressing political free speech.

“Conservative universities and churches have been investigated while authorities have too often turned a blind-eye toward liberal groups, including universities where left-wing ideology is so pervasive that they have in effect become Democratic-voter indoctrination camps. Trust me, this will create a huge revolution for conservative Christians.”

Then there was Peter Thiel, the West Coast tech titan who helped bring you both Pay Pal and Facebook. Said Thiel:

Now we are told that the great debate is about who gets to use which bathroom. This is a distraction from our real problems. Who cares? Of course, every American has a unique identity. I am proud to be gay. I am proud to be a Republican. But most of all, I am proud to be an American.

I don’t pretend to agree with every plank in our party’s platform. But fake culture wars only distract us from our economic decline. And nobody in this race is being honest about it except Donald Trump.

Ladies and gentlemen, the needle has moved.