Stormy Daniels Has Put The Trumpvangelicals Into A Yuuuuge Pickle (TWEET)

Donald Trump’s approval rating seems to have ticked up in March. But according to FiveThirtyEight’s average, it’s still pretty brutal–40.7 percent. At risk of sounding like a broken record, this is the lowest approval rating on record for a newly-elected president at this early stage.

But Trump should be lucky it’s even that high. One of the few demographics that hasn’t abandoned him is the religious right. According to a poll earlier this month from Morning Consult, 69 percent of white evangelicals approved of Trump’s performance. While that represents a decided drop from the 81 percent who backed him in 2016, it still far outstrips how the nation at large sees him. Only 44 percent of all registered voters polled by Morning Consult approved of Trump’s performance.

When Washington Post columnist Elizabeth Bruenig peered into the guts of the Morning Consult poll, she noticed that Trump’s support among white evangelicals briefly tailed off after The Wall Street Journal revealed that longtime Trump lawyer had paid Stormy Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about her affair with Trump. But since then, his evangelical support has actually ticked back up. See for yourself.

Specifically, Trump’s approval/disapproval rating among white evangelicals dropped 14 points after the Journal first revealed the details of the hush money payment–from +42 to as low as +28. But as of the current poll, it’s back up to +42.

Granted, this should have been expected. For instance, rabidly pro-Trump pastor Paul McGuire harrumphed that even if Daniels is telling the truth, it shouldn’t matter since Trump has given the religious right everything it’s wanted and then some.

But to the mind of Bruenig–herself an evangelical–the fundies’ continued loyalty to Trump is absolutely staggering.

“On the one hand, churchgoing white evangelicals are among Trump’s most loyal supporters. On the other, there’s simply no way to square the way the president lives with the cultural vision these Christians seem to share.”

Bruenig has come to the same conclusion that a lot of commentators reached a long time ago–the religious right hasn’t just made “a strategic bargain” with Trump, but has “embraced him fully.” In the process, she believes the religious right is extending what German pastor and Nazi-fighter Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace”–or “the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance.”

It’s hard not to agree. For the better part of two years, Trump-worshiping pastors and evangelicals have insisted that Trump is a baby Christian whose faith is so important to him that he has spared no effort to not only make America great again, but make it Christian again. But a cursory glance at Trump’s Twitter feed proves not just beyond reasonable doubt, but beyond ALL doubt that Trump is still the same man who was caught on tape reveling in how he could treat women any way he pleased–even “grab ’em by the p***y”–because he was a celebrity.

Oh, that’s right. None of that really matters. What really matters to the nation’s so-called moral guardians is that Trump wants to roll back abortion and marriage equality, as well as throw every bone the religious right has wanted in recent memory. That’s why, as Tony Perkins put it, they’re giving him a “mulligan.”

After watching Daniels’ interview on Sunday, one has to wonder just how far this “mulligan” will go. After all, Daniels claims that she was essentially browbeaten into signing that non-disclosure agreement because the renewed attention she received during the campaign brought back memories of how a pro-Trump thug made a threat on her life. What does it say that we even have to wonder what Cohen and Trump knew about this, and when they knew it?

And even without that to consider, there is no dispute that Cohen’s role in arranging the payment was unethical at best and illegal at worst. After all, New York bar rules do not allow lawyers to offer financial assistance to their clients in most circumstances. What’s more, it’s possible that the payment could amount to an illegal campaign contribution–which could potentially void the non-disclosure agreement.

Oh, silly us. Cohen was perfectly justified in making that payment because God wanted Trump to be president, and he was therefore fulfilling God’s plan for this country. That’s what the fundies would essentially be saying if they still stand by Trump even if it’s proven that the payment broke the law, his ethical obligations as a lawyer, or both.

If they’re willing to extend their “mulligan” that far, then it will prove beyond any doubt that the religious right is bowing before a golden calf. Or in this case, an orange calf.

(featured image courtesy ASACP RTA, available under a Creative Commons BY-SA license)

Darrell is a 30-something graduate of the University of North Carolina who considers himself a journalist of the old school. An attempt to turn him into a member of the religious right in college only succeeded in turning him into the religious right's worst nightmare--a charismatic Christian who is an unapologetic liberal. His desire to stand up for those who have been scared into silence only increased when he survived an abusive three-year marriage. You may know him on Daily Kos as Christian Dem in NC. Follow him on Twitter @DarrellLucus or connect with him on Facebook. Click here to buy Darrell a Mello Yello.