You Can’t Impeach a Messiah
Officials from the Trump administration and the President himself have made fairly outlandish claims since Trump’s election in 2016. Recently, these have reached new levels when several officials have argued that the President has some sort of divine right to rule — claims more typically made in feudal regimes. For example, Energy Secretary Rick Perry recently said that “God wanted Donald Trump to be President.” This should be very concerning to all Americans.
Secretary Perry isn’t unfortunately the only official spewing rhetoric depicting the President as some sort of messiah; Sarah Sanders, the former White House press secretary made similar comments recently and so did Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — he agreed that it is a possibility that God raised Trump to protect Israel from Iranian aggression. These claims from White House official eerily sound like words authoritarian leaders would use to justify their rule.
This all ties back to Donald Trump being a very crafty populist leader, one who understands he needs to appeal to his evangelical base right now. His pullout in Syria which left the Kurds undefended from Turkish aggression even though they are seen as allies by the Christian community. This doesn’t play well with the Evangelical Christian base that got Trump elected; and of course the looming question of impeachment still plagues the President as well. It took an 81% share of Evangelical Christian votes to elect Donald Trump as President, something he can’t afford to lose amid his impeachment proceedings. Donald Trump has so much riding on the support of the Christian right, in Wisconsin he only won by 23,000 votes and within that state Evangelical account for 17% of the voting population.
Donald Trump’s campaign for re-election is completely reliant on the unwavering support of the Christian right; and without reassurance they may lose enthusiasm for their controversial leader. So the administration is sticking to the script, painting the President as some vilified religious hero taking the heat from society while carrying out God’s plan for America.
It also is very clearly a populist strategy to solidify support and consolidate power. Jan Werner Müller in his book, “What is Populism?”, argues that populists claim sole legitimacy in representing the people. When the administration is saying God chose Trump they are actually trying to tell millions of Christians exactly who to listen to; by not supporting the President you would be betraying your faith. However, even these slight ripples in the red curtain that is the evangelical right are probably not enough to cripple the unwavering support the President has enjoyed from his base to date.
Before the announcement of impeachment proceedings white evangelical protestants polled nearly unanimously at 99% in disagreeing with impeaching the President. Throughout a tumultuous presidency, the Evangelical Right has stood in unison with the President. It’s no wonder why in 2020 we are hearing arguments that legitimize one’s seizing of power that are so antiquated it is comparable to the arguments of feudal lords and kings which granted them sole power over their subjects. It’s a prime example of the breakdown of democracy that is threatening the United States, alluding to some selection made by God that undermines all opponents of this ‘chosen one’. Framing issues so the critics of the administration are not just opponents of Trump but also opponents to their Christian faith.
Burke, Daniel. 2019. “Rick Perry says Trump (and Obama) were ‘ordained by God’ to be president”. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2019/11/25/politics/rick-perry-donald-trump-god/index.html
Bidgood, Jess. 2019. “Trump’s evangelical support mystifies his critics, but in Wisconsin, it looks stronger than ever”. The Boston Globe. https://apps.bostonglobe.com/nation/politics/2019/11/voters-2020-election/wisconsin/new-london/
Gallagher, Julie, 2019. “Pompeo agrees it’s possible God raised Trump to protect Israel from Iranian aggression”. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2019/03/22/politics/mike-pompeo-donald-trump-israel-golan-heights/index.html
Fitzgerald, Frances. 2019. “Why Evangelicals Support Trump”. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/07/books/review/who-is-an-evangelical-thomas-s-kidd.html
Orr, Gabby. 2019. “Evangelicals have stuck by Trump. But polls hint at trouble ahead.”. Politico. https://www.politico.com/news/2019/10/24/trump-evangelical-christian-support-056121
PRRI. 2019. “Fractured Nation: Widening Partisan Polarization and Key Issues in 2020 Presidential Elections”. Public Religion Research Institute. https://www.prri.org/research/fractured-nation-widening-partisan-polarization-and-key-issues-in-2020-presidential-elections/
Jan-Werner Müller. What Is Populism?. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016.