The Corner

The GOP, Religion, and Conscience

Two days ago, I recorded a podcast with Rosa María Payá. Yesterday, I did a little blogpost about it. I’d like to say something further.

Rosa María, you recall, is a Cuban democracy leader, the daughter of another Cuban democracy leader, the great Oswaldo Payá, who was murdered by the Castro regime. Rosa María said any number of interesting things in the course of our conversation. But one thing made me want to write a post about American presidential politics.

She said that there is a great diversity of religious belief in Cuba. I have long known this, because of my acquaintance with Cubans, on and off the island. But she is a real student of that society, so her words carry extra force.

I thought of the recent Republican campaign — the primaries and the caucuses. Campaigning against Ted Cruz, Donald Trump said this:

“Just remember this. Just remember this. You gotta remember: In all fairness, to the best of my knowledge, not too many evangelicals come out of Cuba. Okay? Just remember that. Okay? Just remember. In all fairness, here we are.”

At this point, Trump held up a Bible.

“Just remember that, folks. When you’re casting your ballot, remember.”

On another day, targeting another candidate, Ben Carson, Trump said this:

“I’m Presbyterian. Can you believe it? I’m Presbyterian. I’m Presbyterian. I’m Presbyterian. Boy, that’s down the middle of the road, folks, in all fairness. I mean, Seventh-Day Adventist, I don’t know about. I just don’t know about.”

To do this kind of thing with other people’s religions used to be regarded as un-American. Profoundly, discordantly un-American. But in this new America, and in the new Trump GOP, it is something like normal, evidently.

The Trump army — the core of it — is probably unreachable. But I’d like to ask Trump apologists and normalizers and sweepers-under-the-rug: Are these your values? Is this what you want to get in bed with? Really? This is what you want to reward, with your votes and support?

Ben Carson, of course, was an early Trump supporter. Apparently, he does not have as much respect for himself as others do for him. Asked to explain his support, in light of what Trump did to him, he said, “I understand politics, and particularly the politics of personal destruction, and you have to admit, to some degree, it did work. A lot of people believed him.”

You have to admit. You have to admit that the Republican party has sacrificed conscience, in its nomination of Trump, its enshrinement of Trumpism.

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