Trump: God's chaos candidate?

Trump: God's chaos candidate?
Comment: A 'wrecking ball' type leader has arrived. He will knock the establishment over, and facilitate the rise of the religious right in the mainstream, writes Mohamed ElMeshad.
5 min read
06 Dec, 2016
Trump's campaign visits an evangelical church in Nevada, hoping to inspire the GOP base [Getty]

During his campaign, President-elect Donald Trump employed an ultimately winning strategy of mobilising as much of the conservative base as possible, and moving those disenchanted with politics from within that realm, to go out and vote.

His rhetoric and promises struck a chord with many, helping him to win the electoral college, in a system of elections that plays out more like a game of Risk, than a direct, one-person-one-vote game of numbers.

His heavy loss of the popular vote, clearly illustrates the parameters of his strategy: Win where winning matters.

A year ago, Trump's triumph in the primaries was an unthinkable prospect. His outlandish and vulgar manner, not to mention his chequered moral past were distasteful for much of the conservative base, and seen as untenable by the Republican establishment.

Ironically, one of the ways he was able to seal the deal over the last few weeks of his campaign, was by somehow appealing to the social conservatism within the party.

Conservative campaigns in the US tend to normally run on a mixed bag of economic and social policy platforms. This election, the stakes for the Republicans were suddenly raised, as it brought the opportunity to define identity politics in various ways.

Perhaps most importantly, the incoming president would definitely have one Supreme Court Justice to appoint, albeit to replace the late Antonin Scalia, who himself was conservative. However, with two other Justices over 80 and with prior health issues, Trump could potentially shift the court - whose members are lifetime appointees - far to the right for a significant period of time.

Trump's heavy loss of the popular vote, clearly illustrates the parameters of his strategy: Win where winning matters

The issue weighed heavily on the minds of many within his party. As the highest federal court and final interpreter of federal constitutional law, the Supreme Court decides on many issues of an ideological nature.

In the second presidential debate, Trump said that the Supreme Court nominations is, "what it's all about". He was priming his supporters for an existential battle, and this was something that ran deeper than a normal election cycle for many of them.

Travelling around some of the more conservative US states in the run-up to the elections, I was amazed at how deep-lying the belief in Trump as the man to deliver their mainstream, Christian values, was. A Puerto Rican pastor told me flat out, that Trump's win would be "delivered by God".

Somehow, the man who seemed to lose more major Republican endorsements than win them, had a devout and almost cult-like following, within some of the very conservative areas. 

A disturbing number of voters, especially in Houston and Southern Florida, reproduced - almost verbatim - Trump's line on how Hillary would sanction ripping completely developed foetuses from a full-term mother.

The religious base is one Trump cannot do without, and his Supreme Court picks will almost certainly be to their liking

When I confronted them with Trump's rich history of very "un-Christian" behaviour, some of the responses teetered along the lines of, "don't believe the lying media," or "these are exaggerated".

However, one Texas Republican told me, with a straight face, "he did and said all of those terrible things when he was a democrat, he's since changed his ways, and as a Christian, I believe in forgiveness".

Despite being wary at first, the majority of the Christian conservative establishment reconciled itself with endorsing him, as the better candidate.

A recently released book by Evangelical speaker Lance Wallnau, nicely sums up one of the main reasons why someone with such a chequered past, and who doesn't seem to have changed much, could experience such a following.

"God's Chaos Candidate," by Lance Wallnau, lays out the thesis that the time has come for a "wrecking ball" type candidate to knock the establishment over, and set the scene for Christian domination again.

Evangelicals especially took up Wallnau's likening of Trump to Cyrus II; the Persian emperor mentioned in the Bible who dismantled the Babylonian Empire to deliver the Jews to the promised land. Whether or not Cyrus is mentioned, there is a genuine belief that he will be the reason the conservative right are able to rise again.

Now, anyone observing the elections from afar, realised that Trump promised to be many things to many people. His long stall on disavowing racist white-supremacy groups, gave these groups reason to be believe that the Trump presidency would harbour them.

He always advocated to 'make America great again,' but gave no blueprint as to what that even means

He ultimately sold out to them, but while keeping close ties to such groups through some of his appointments. Also, despite making many, many promises, he doesn't seem to have taken all of them seriously.

However, the religious base is one he cannot do without, and while his Supreme Court picks will almost certainly be to their liking, there are many questions to be asked about where Trump's seemingly haphazard play on identity politics will take the US. He always advocated to "make America great again," but gave no blueprint as to what that even means.

The emboldening of his religious base, and of far right extremist groups generally, will mean that the American mainstream will involve more of these groups and their representatives.

The world will be watching the conversation and identity negotiations unfold within the US, which is ostensibly the world's largest secular power. So far, the President elect's penchant for social media attention and ultra-hawkish or conservative advisors, is worrying development.

The loose nature of Trump's campaign and ideological standpoint means that there will now be many demands and expectations resting on his presidency. This is all the more so, as many have wagered a lot on a man who has no credible track record to show that he can deliver what they seek, as they continue to hope he will be the Cyrus that will deliver America to them.

Mohamed ElMeshad is a journalist and a PhD candidate at SOAS, focusing on the political economy of the media. He extensively worked in Egypt, Bahrain, West Africa, the UK and US. Recently, he contributed to the Committee to Protect Journalists' book, Attacks on the Press (2015).

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.