Robert P. Jones is the founding CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute. His new book is The End Of White Christian America. From his interview with NPR's Linda Wertheimer:
WERTHEIMER: You wrote an op-ed piece for The New York Times which basically grows out of this book. And in it, you ask the question, how have white evangelicals values voters become such big supporters of Donald Trump? I mean, this is a man who has married three times, who owns gambling businesses. He would not appear to be their kind of guy. What is the answer to that question?--Marshal Zeringue
JONES: (Laughter) You know, this has been, I think, one of the questions, if not the question, of the election campaign so far. Trump has essentially appealed to this group, not on the basis of values but on the basis of his willingness to, quote, unquote, "make America great again," right? And the most important piece of that is that last word, again, this harkening back. So Mr. Trump saw this early on.
Back in Iowa, when he was campaigning at the very beginning of the primary seasons, he made a speech at an evangelical college in Iowa and he said, I'm going to restore power to the Christian churches. We're not going to be saying Happy Holidays. We're going to be saying Merry Christmas again in this country. And it is this kind of direct appeal, and I think it's the power of that that really let him get leverage over Ted Cruz, right?
So Ted Cruz should have been the evangelicals' candidate by so many measures. He's southern Baptist himself, his father's a Baptist preacher. But yet I think the difference that people saw, ultimately, was that Ted Cruz was promising to carve out exemptions for evangelicals to the new realities while Donald Trump was promising to restore them to power. You know, Ted Cruz was trying to say, I'm going to find us a respectable retreat strategy, while Donald Trump was saying, no, I'm going to...[read on]