The G.O.P.’s Holy War

Feb 2, 2016

Photo credit: Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

By Frank Bruni

IN the final, furious days of campaigning here, it was sometimes hard to tell whether this state’s Republicans were poised to vote for a president or a preacher, a commander or a crusader.

The references to religion were expansive. The talk of it was excessive. A few candidates didn’t just profess the supposed purity of their own faith. They questioned rivals’ piety, with Ted Cruz inevitably leading the way.

A rally of his devolved into an inquisition of Donald Trump. Speakers mocked Trump’s occasional claims of devout Christianity. Rick Perry, the former Texas governor, pointedly recalled Trump’s admission last summer that he never really does penance.

Cruz, in contrast, “probably gets up every morning and asks God for forgiveness at least a couple of times, even before breakfast,” Perry told the audience.

The evangelist or the apostate: That’s how the choice was framed. And it underscored the extent to which the Iowa caucuses have turned into an unsettling holy war.

Religion routinely plays a prominent part in political campaigns, especially on the Republican side, and always has an outsize role in Iowa, where evangelical Christians make up an especially large fraction of the Republican electorate.

But there was a particular edge to the discussion this time around. It reflected Trump’s surprising strength among evangelicals and his adversaries’ obvious befuddlement and consternation about that.


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29 comments on “The G.O.P.’s Holy War

  • I suppose from a secularist point of view, Trump the lying hypocrite is the better bet. The last thing anyone needs is a sincere evangelical President. Trump slightly resembles Tricky Dicky and given the choice between a competent(ish) crook and a sermonising bigot, I know what I’d choose. Fortunately I don’t have to make the choice, not being a US citizen, at least our crazy demagogues in the UK rave on idiotically about other things than the supernatural



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  • Fortunately I don’t have to make the choice, not being a US citizen

    I think we should get to choose. Because anything America does affects the rest of the world, sometimes big time like invading Iraq. Given American voters have shown repeatedly that they can’t be trusted to vote for someone based on the rational evidence based policies they propose, and seem to think that choosing a President is actually a reality TV show, the rest of us should have a veto.

    I can understand your thinking in vaguely pointing at Trump, but I’ve been through the entire list of Republican candidates, and not one of them scores highly enough on the Rational / Evidence meter, that the Republicans should just all withdraw. Even third place Rubio is on record about Climate Change,

    Rubio also argued that Americans should resist efforts by the federal government to curb carbon dioxide emissions, stating that such programs would be “against God’s Will,” since “for all we know, God wants the Earth to get warmer.”

    Rubio is the preferred Republican establishment candidate. These are very scary people. So I propose that the rest of the civilized democratic world gets a veto, if the ill informed American voters choice some idiot to run the most powerful country in the world, we send them back to stay in after class until they get it right.



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  • I’m tempted to agree, but if as you say he’s merely a lying hypocrite and a semi-competent crook then he might just be in it to make even more money than he already has.

    The danger there is even he doesn’t have any strong principles or position on religion, and the various contentious issues it brings in its wake (abortion, church-state separation), he will nevertheless be happy to go with the flow (of the nutter wing of the GOP) if it doesn’t cost him money and doesn’t endanger his position.

    Best case is, since he has more money than he can spend anyway, he actually might want a “legacy” and achieve “respectability”. In which case he might turn out to be more sensible than expected, and shed all his lunatic positions if he’s elected.

    (Tricky Dicky wasn’t that bad if you look at his positive achievements; Watergate is positively tame compared with the doings of more recent presidents.)



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  • Yeah, nostalgia for Tricky Dicky, the last Honest Crook in the White House. How low we’ve sunk.

    BTW I think it’s a non-choice, a lying self-serving hypocrite vs a “sincere” true-believer evangelical.

    What’s the difference, again?



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  • I think we should get to choose.

    Really? Veto?!?

    Be grateful that the US is not really an empire yet as such talk could move your corner of the world up the colonial ladder!

    if the ill informed American voters choice some idiot to run the most powerful country in the world, we send them back to stay in after class until they get it right.

    You don’t see the problem with a sentence that includes ” the most powerful country in the world” and ” send them back to stay after class?”

    Here is a condescending pat on the head from the most powerful country in the world!



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  • Poe’s Law in action. Tongue firmly in cheek.

    If an Australian candidate for a local town council said what Rubio said, his political career would be over. If a political candidate anywhere in the civilized free world behaved like Trump or said what Cruz says, his political career would be over. And yet America people think this is great.

    You might be able to help me here. I want to know why America has drifted so far to the right when the rest of the free democratic world has advanced what is considered the civilized norm. Normal things like universal health care. Social Security. Education for all. In Australia, Bernie Sanders would be considered a free market conservative. I like him. Around the rest of the world, the Republicans would only get media time when some news service wanted some comic relief to fill in a few minutes.

    De Speigel, the premier German political magazine has declared Trump to be insane. The UK Parliament discussed banning Trump from entry because his statements were inconsistent with civilized norms.

    Why. What happened to America after WW2.

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/donald-trump-is-the-most-dangerous-man-in-the-world-a-1075060.html

    Donald Trump is the leader of a new, hate-filled authoritarian movement. Nothing would be more harmful to the idea of the West and world peace than if he were to be elected president. George W. Bush’s America would seem like a place of logic and reason in comparison.



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  • 10
    Pinball1970 says:

    “Here is a condescending pat on the head from the most powerful country in the world!”

    If Cruz gets in I say we invade, nothing too heavy, perhaps land in Florida and stay there for a few weeks to acclimatize before getting our equipment out.



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  • I see all the “cousins” are getting their knickers in a bunch over nothing again!

    If a political candidate anywhere in the civilized free world behaved like Trump or said what Cruz says, his political career would be over. And yet America people think this is great.

    Really? I don’t think it any greater than uppity future colonies trying to remove our mote while leaving in their own beams.

    If Cruz gets in I say we invade, nothing too heavy, perhaps land in Florida and stay there for a few weeks to acclimatize before getting our equipment out.

    More knicker twisting?

    A. Cruz WILL NOT get in.
    B. Invade? You must be crazier than Trump, or have a death wish.



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  • @ Alan4discussion

    A. There will be no rematch as the caucus results are final.

    B. The fraud he is talking about is leaflet slinging of a “dirty” nature, so not really fraud, just US politics as usual.

    So Trump may bray away to his heart’s content!



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  • @Neodarwinian

    I just don’t understand. Looking in from the outside, the election process seems to have more in common with a B Grade reality TV show than the politics of policy. Again, I can only go on what I consume on the web or see reported on our news fees (I try to read extensively) but it seems to me that to get a citizen to vote your you, you have to appeal to motivations which as less than rational. I worry that the American voter wouldn’t finish with a medal in the Democracy Olympics compared to the voters of other free western democracies. What am I missing.



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  • @ David R Allen

    That is your problem, you are looking from the outside in.

    Think of US elections as a big sales event. Some people are buying what is being sold by Trump and Cruz. They are overselling to an increasingly smaller base of religious nut bags and conservatives in states that do not have the electoral votes to do anything but pick losers( these are primaries—politically closed ). For every 2 Republicans registered there are 3 Democrats registered. Then you must think of the electoral power of the coasts and their strong secular population. Romney lost when he was sure he would win. The primaries, restricted to party, are not the elections. Independents do not generally vote in primaries.

    My analysis is that one of the establishment Republicans ( Rubio, perhaps ) will step over the Cruz/Trump wreckage and secure the Republican nomination.

    The Republicans are many things, but they are not stupid enough to run either of the top running clowns, regardless of what pundits may say. The candidate must be nominated to run by the party, so now is not the time to panic.



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  • The candidate must be nominated to run by the party, so now is not the time to panic.

    Thank you. It seems curiouser and curiouser for us colonials. I saw a picture of Democrats standing in a barn with a line down the middle with both sides trying to woo people to join their side as they walked in. Sanders / Clinton. Not even a paper ballot, let alone an electronic ballot tally system. The polite observation would be “Quaint”.

    How is the number of delegates decided per state. Does Iowa have the same number as California. Are the republican and democrat delegate processes the same. Is the population of a state a determining factor. A large population state gets 10 delegates while a small state gets two?

    I’ve heard Rubio is the establishment choice. But this is a guy who thinks god’s in charge of climate change. That would disqualify him in Australia. Career ending statement.

    It also seems that policy plays only a small part in electoral choice. It seems, again to an outsider, that personality and performance in front of the TV seem far more important than the policies or skill set needed to run the world’s most powerful democracy. I suppose I can’t understand why even card carrying party members from both sides seem so infatuated with “celebrity” issues, instead of issues of substance.

    Thank you for helping. Us people in the Southern Hemisphere think differently due to the reverse Coriolis Force.



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  • Game Changer.

    I am old enough to remember it. It’s a Pavlovian response. It works, so lets keep doing it. The only way for the Un-Reality TV show politics to be stopped, is if voters are not impressed and say so in the polls. I wonder what candidates would talk about in a debate if they knew that just sprouting killer one liner responses had no effect. Again, I come back to the quality of the voters.



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  • @ David R Allen

    You still don’t get it.

    Policy does not mean shit until you are elected and to be elected you need to sell you! If you fuck up policy you will not be elected again. Use Jimmy Carter as that example.

    personality and performance

    Yes, to show leadership personality and rely on past performance or the promise of future performance. The “establishment” candidates have neither much in the way of personality or too much in performance, past or present. Rubio is just the example I used. We could survive a Rubio administration. Sales talk is one thing, being in the office of the president is something else. Power is tripartite in the US.

    How is the number of delegates decided per state. Does Iowa have the same number as California. Are the republican and democrat delegate processes the same. Is the population of a state a determining factor. A large population state gets 10 delegates while a small state gets two?

    As I said, the primaries usually supply enough delegates to nominate. Perhaps not this time. In the party convention is where the nomination takes place. Delegates are won, lost and dealt to people in a fashion that confuses the experts. Especially when there is no clear winner.

    http://www.thegreenpapers.com/P16/R-Alloc.phtml

    A breakdown of this process. Confusing enough in itself.

    P.S. The Iowa caucus is just that and it is informal, as these people like to do things.



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  • You still don’t get it.

    I apologize for being dumb. I am trying and I do appreciate your responses. Having read the “Green Paper” (My eyes are only just now resetting their colour balance.) I realized I am way out of my depth.

    President: States casting a majority of their 2012 Electoral Votes for the Republican Candidate receive 4.5 + 0.60 × the jurisdiction’s total 2012 Electoral Vote in bonus delegates. Should the District of Columbia cast the majority of their electoral votes for the Republican Candidate, the District will receive 4.5 + (0.30 × 16) in bonus delegates. Round any fractional remainder UP to the next whole number. [Rules 14(a)(5) and 14(a)(8)]

    I think I will give up. Political life is so simple in Australia.



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  • @ David R Allen

    I think I will give up. Political life is so simple in Australia.

    Yes, politics are complicated in the New Rome! Complicated, but not yet as interesting as it will be when the knives come out in the Senate!



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  • Political life is so simple in Australia.

    Hmm, maybe too simple.

    David, I agree with your perceptions of modern America, for the most part. But I reckon you’re reflecting on us (Aussies) with rose tinted glasses. Bernie Sanders would romp home if he was one of our candidates, whichever side of our politics he chose, be it the right flank, or the extreme right flank. Here The Left (Greens) are equally despised by our major right wing parties.

    To me the biggest difference between us and Americans is their self-confidence, versus our cultural cringe, whereby we’re still psychologically reliant on the British monarchy. Lately there’s been a tendency to mimic America in lieu of that, and we adopt their culture across the spectrum of social activities without hesitation. Holdens and Falcons are NOT Aussie cars. Elements of Tea Party policies have been imported and our military tries to mimic America’s on a budget. Useless (to us) Abrams tanks, unsuitable naval assets and the worst (and costliest) fighter aircraft ever designed, the F-35, have been eagerly purchased. Just like America who dislikes buying non-American products, so do we, religiously. We’re just like mini-me Yanks, wannabes who can’t afford it, lacking their self confidence completely, simultaneously complaining about them and their television which we can’t get enough of.

    Our once admirable health and education policies are being abandoned in favour of the US model. This dismantling is being rapidly implemented by both major parties. The elderly, the sick and the young are being taxed to fund tax breaks for US corporations operating here. While the US wouldn’t tolerate federally funded chaplains in state schools, we’re installing them everywhere. Our xenophobic attitude to refugees mirrors their fear of Mexicans, except they don’t resort to imprisoning children in off-shore concentration camps. We lack the death penalty but we (Federal Police) inform on our citizens overseas, allowing other countries to kill our criminals on our behalf. We installed a paedophile-friendly bishop to be our head of state. Naturally he had to resign subsequently, but we picked him through a popularly elected government. Yanks wouldn’t install a head of state over their president, would they? Tony Abbott has barely half the brains of Donald Trump, which is quite an indictment. And we have Bernadi, Abetz, Andrews and Clive Palmer, who most closely resembles Trump.

    The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area is one of the greatest regions of cultural and natural heritage on Earth. It is one of only 13 World Heritage properties that satisfy all natural criteria for selection and one of only 24 that satisfies both natural and cultural criteria. Tasmania’s unique wildlife, ancient plants, stunning landscapes and rich cultural heritage satisfied seven of a possible ten criteria – more than any other World Heritage Site worldwide.

    No other country on the planet would have allowed the near total destruction of these forests over the last few weeks. Despite being described as the bushfire capital of the world, we’re the only fire-prone country to religiously avoid using proper, full-sized firebombers. Late last year massive Indonesian forest fires were extinguished using Beriev B-200 firebombers.

    Morocco, Croatia, Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Greece, Canada, Malaysia, in fact every country but Australia employ purpose built firebombers to prevent mega-fires developing. Australians blithely accept them as an act of Gawd, about which little can be done. In Tassie 14 individuals (RATS) with shovels and a picnic basket are trying to contain the current forest fires. 500 homes in Canberra, hundreds more in Healesville, hundreds of homes over Xmas in Yarloop and Wye River were lost to bushfires that we fought using early 20th century techniques. Even America has relented by allowing the Bombardier CL-415 firebombers to be used, after decades of relying on obsolete military and civilian planes converted to “tankers” rather than proper firebombers. But we don’t have any at all, which is strange for the bushfire capital that can afford $15billion for a fighter than can’t fly, much less fight.

    So I reckon we should go easy complaining about any other country, given our grotesquely ignorant national approach to life. Struth mate, we’re the only country in the world to wind-back programs mitigating AGW; The only place to have instituted a price on carbon and then to rescind it, with consequent increases in national carbon emissions.

    What happened to Australia after WW2 David? We’re pretty dumb these days, compared to anyone else.



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  • What happened to Australia after WW2 David? We’re pretty dumb these days, compared to anyone else.

    Little I disagree with Len. I just think our dirty laundry is a little cleaner than Americas. We may have more skid marks than Europe, but we do have universal health care. I think our share price and credit rating will go up now that the mad monk is gone. They will write about his time in opposition and the Prime Minister ship as a dark age. A time of regression. While he is not of my politic, if Turnbull gets a mandate of his own, he has a back pocket full of policies I could endorse. He just have to get off the conservative leash.

    Sadly the opposition needs a few first round draft picks if they are to present a threat.

    So I note your chastisement, agree with most of it, but we’re still ahead of the yanks on points.



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  • Aw David, it wasn’t meant to take a swing at you. I’m fuming over the Tassie fires (and the Great Ocean Rd ones around the corner from me) and I just heard that Malware Turncoat is sacking hundreds more CSIRO scientists. He’s trying to position himself as the innovative PM, simultaneously destroying our peak science body. One of the scientists announced this was the end of climate research for us. So I’ve been boiling a bit. I shouldn’t have ranted on the GOP Holy War thread (sorry mods) but I got carried away.

    I’d hoped Abbott’s demise would improve things, but they’re continuing to deteriorate.

    I do agree with your proposal to extend the US vote to the rest of us. Our local guvmint doesn’t hurt anyone but ourselves, whereas the US government effect is global. Perhaps the UN should select the US president from candidates elected by US citizens. If they fail to provide a suitable world leader type we (the UN) could send in an Administrator to tide them over until they furnish a sensible candidate. How’s that for an idea?

    Sorry for taking a shot at you mate. I admire pretty much everything you ever say here.



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  • One of the scientists announced this was the end of climate research for us. So I’ve been boiling a bit.

    We wear the same Guernsey. I know what you were saying.

    One of the scientists announced this was the end of climate research for us. So I’ve been boiling a bit.

    I’m livid on this as well. I’ve just posted a comment on the ABC News Facebook page expressing my disgust and have lots of support. My comment.

    This is a crime against humanity and in particular, my grand children. It will be organizations like the CSIRO that ensure we have a future, not politicians. This decision by a conservative government that denies the science of climate change, universally accepted by 190+ countries in Paris, should disqualify them for holding political office until they support rational evidence based decision making.



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  • Nice comment David, spot on.

    The GOPs Holy War is declared pretty much at least. Here the fundies are a bit more concealed, working away behind the scenes. The Aussie Xian Lobby is very influential. They convinced our ostensibly atheist former PM (with Baptist leanings) to double up on the chaplains in schools program. I can’t believe Malware is sacking scientists. That shocked me, especially as so many had already been fired by his predecessor. Truly, I doubt Bush would have been this stupid.

    I’m the only person in Australia that goes on and on about firebombers, so far as I know. The ABC is reporting a potential inquiry into the Tassie fires. I usually submit work to these things so I’ll have another go. As I said, I find it amazing we avoid firebombing aircraft, and even more amazing that nobody seems to be aware of it.

    Anyway, I suppose I should quit intruding with this topic here, but thanks for your support mate. And good luck with your FB endeavours too… well done so far.



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