By Kobby Barda
The importance of the State of Israel to evangelicals goes back to the mid-1970s, as an important basis for this belief. It was Jerry Falwall Sr., who began the tradition of supporting Israel as an important part of supporting the candidate, back in President Reagan’s first campaign in 1980. He did so, through the movement he founded, the “Moral Majority” Movement, and through its own political action committee: “Our emphasis will be on the line of support for the many candidates, who support the State of Israel and the many traditional values we uphold,” as Pastor Jerry Fallwell told United Press International at the time.
In this article, I will review the importance of the evangelical community in the United States and how candidate Trump and now President Trump acted at the time, in order to preserve and woo that community.
The US electoral system is based on electors (representatives) derived from the population size of each of the 50 States +D.C, with the goal of crossing the 270-elect line. The characterization of the “religious vote” in America is an important milestone when it comes to trying and analyzing the various options of candidates to score the way to victory in elections, through victory in key swing states. A survey conducted by the Democracy Institute at the end of August teaches us a lot about the nature of the division of the religious voice in the run-up to the 2020 elections. According to the survey, the rate of satisfaction of the American voter, by religion, indicates the following data: atheists: 10%, Jews 33%, Catholics 64%, Protestants 62% and evangelicals testified to 90% satisfaction with the president’s performance. It is particularly interesting to compare this survey, to a survey conducted by the PPRI Institute, which surveyed the religious voice during October 2016, and gave “only” 66% support to Trump’s candidate for the 2016 election. The evangelists who finally voted for President Trump estimated at 79%.
Evangelicals are the largest religion in America, with about a quarter of the U.S. population defining themselves as evangelicals, with numerical values of about 80 million believers, scattered mostly in the periphery rather than the big cities. Shows us that the proportion of evangelicals in these countries, compared to the difference Trump won in that country:
|State||The estimated number of evangelists in the state||Difference in the 2016 election|
The projected rise in evangelical support polls, estimated at several hundred thousand votes relative to the turnout in the previous election, could be the difference between losing and winning the upcoming election to Donald Trump.
President Trump, who is well acquainted with these figures and numbers, has worked throughout his term to satisfy the evangelicals in general, and their leaders in particular. A long list of reforms in the field of religion and evangelical affairs led by the President, in which the most important can be noted:
- Appointment of Mike Pence, Evangelist, to the position of Vice President.
- Protector of Christianity from Islam: As a candidate, President Trump reiterated the need to fight “radical Islam,” which decapitates Christian believers around the world. On various occasions he addressed this directly, such as in his speech to students at the Evangelical University “Liberty” on January 18, 2016, where he said: “We are going to defend Christianity from Islam and I should not be politically correct in this regard.”, Or after the nightclub bombing in Orlando, in a telephone interview with him the next morning, Trump attacked the position of President Obama, who hides behind a politically correct culture: ” he won’t even use the term radical Islamic terror which is insulting… and if you don’t describe the problem you will never solve it”.
- Restoring honor to Christian rites and customs: President Trump, attacked the establishment of political correctness that turned the Merry Christmas greeting, into a Happy Holidays greeting, further as a candidate at an Evangelicals conference held at Liberty University: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgCv9cqwhDY Which led to a campaign by Christian organizations of over a million dollars ads that: “The President allows us to say Marie Christmas again“.
- Announcement by Presidential Order on Religious Freedom Day.
- The March of Life: President Trump became the first incumbent president ever to march as part of a “PRO-LIFE” march that, according to the religious-conservative approach of preferring the right to life of the fetus (PRO – LIFE), over the right of a woman over her body (PRO – CHOICE) . The issue was decided in the famous Supreme Court ruling, 1973 “Row v. Weed.” In recent years, rulings on both sides of the hill have been challenged. Trump himself, in 1999, declared himself a “PRO – CHOICE” in an interview he hosted on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Despite this, and perhaps because of this, the evangelical religion, which greatly appreciates the institution of “rebirth,” greatly appreciates the very fact that the president changed his position, so that any attempt to attack him on the basis of “hypocrisy” was actually appreciated and strengthened by the evangelical wing.
The Israeli angle
President Trump, when it comes to the “apple of the eye” of the evangelists, who is the subject of the State of Israel, acts in a way that many belong to another biblical figure, King Cyrus. The comparison to a biblical leader is of course not accidental, for those who believe in the Bible. But what is particularly interesting is the search for signs of visibility and similarities to Cyrus, not only in his actions but also in his appearance, as described in a column by Catherine Stewart entitled: “Why the Trump Rule as Cyrus’ Rule“. Even the Iasraeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, a man who understands a thing or two of the right feelings and buttons, that must be pressed in order to reach the hearts of evangelicals, called on President Trump “Cyrus” during his visit to the White House in March 2018.
The announcement of recognition of the city of Jerusalem, and the relocation of the embassy to Jerusalem.
As early as 1995, a law was passed in the American Congress, which requires the relocation of the American embassy to the capital of Israel, Jerusalem. But at the last minute, and in order to be able to leave an escape route, the law introduced the possibility of postponing the transfer of the embassy, by the president by signing a special order for six months.From the day the law passed in 1995 (with massive evangelical support) to the election of President Trump,All the presidents since Bill Clinton have signed off on the postponement of the relocation of the embassy. The reasons for this are many and varied, but it can always be explained that “this is not the right time”. The constant fear of American presidents is that the relocation of the embassy will create a shock wave that will shock the entire Middle East, and that was at the basis of the decisions of Democratic and Republican presidents when they signed the (so-called) interim order.A day before the last presidential decree signed by former President Obama, postponing the move of the American embassy to Jerusalem, President Trump signed the decree rejecting the transfer at the end of May 2017, with the order meaning that the embassy will remain in Tel Aviv for the time being.
As December approached, rumors of the president’s intention to postpone the , only was it another postponement, it was a postponement of a historic date, 2017, the jubilee year…Something happened. In an interview on Christian television with John Hagee (sitting with the US and Israeli flag behind him), who founded CUFI (Christian United for Israel), and dined in an intimate dinner with the president, during the month of November 2017, he explains: ” Interviewers: Can you tell us about your meeting with the President and his commitment to the State of Israel?
Hagee: “When you meet the president, he is a warm, encouraging man. He was with us for dinner for two hours, and we talked about the geopolitical situation and the crisis in the Middle East and then we talked about his thoughts on moving the embassy. I talked to him about the importance of moving the embassy in the Jubilee year. I told him that God measures everything at fifty-year intervals, starting in 1917 with the Balfour Declaration, the Six Day War in 1967 that connected the city of Jerusalem to Israel. When you add another 50 years, you come to 2017. Then I told him, this is the year to move the embassy, and it’s time to declare the declaration, because these are blessed days from the Bible. Thank God he made the decision to do just that. ”
Indeed, only recently has President Trump acknowledged that the entire move to relocate the embassy was made with the goal of fulfilling a commitment he made to his evangelical base, which, as he was recently quoted, convenes in front of an audience held in August this year in Wisconsin: “And we moved the capital of Israel to Jerusalem. It’s for the evangelists. You know what’s amazing about it: the evangelists are more excited about it than a Jewish people.”
In conclusion, President Trump, as the one who understands his support, worked during the current term to deepen his relations with the evangelicals, when all the moves he made for Israel, from the cancellation of the agreement with Iran, to the recognition of Israeli sovereignty in the Golan, and above all the relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem , Were made out of this desire.The evangelical audience in its turn returns love, such that even dictators who publish the “election results” do not stand for 90% support ….This relationship, between President Trump and the evangelical community, which passes through the Land of Israel, just might be, the difference between a loss and a victory in the upcoming November 2020 elections.
(1983) Moral majority forming political action committee pro-Israel , Key West Citizen Newspaper Archives, February 18, 1983, Page 11. Available at: https://us-israel.org.il/2020/02/04/%d7%92%d7%a8%d7%99-%d7%a4%d7%90%d7%9c%d7%95%d7%95%d7%9c-%d7%9e%d7%9b%d7%a8%d7%99%d7%96-%d7%a2%d7%9c-%d7%aa%d7%9e%d7%99%d7%9b%d7%aa-pac-%d7%a9%d7%9c-%d7%94%d7%a8%d7%95%d7%91-%d7%94%d7%9e%d7%95%d7%a1/ [Accessed at September 8, 2020].
 Maddox B. US election 2020: Trump handed huge boost as Biden makes major mistake – Exclusive poll, express.co.uk. Available at: https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/1329041/US-election-2020-donald-trump-joe-biden-latest-polling [Accessed at September 8, 2020].
 Cox D., Jones R, (2016), The 2016 Religion Vote, prri.org, Available at: https://www.prri.org/spotlight/religion-vote-2016/ [Accessed at September 8, 2020].
 Notional Christians: The Big Election Story in 2016, barna.com, Available at: https://www.barna.com/research/notional-christians-big-election-story-2016/ [Accessed at September 8, 2020].
 Cummings W. (2017), TV ad thanks Trump for letting us say ‘merry Christmas’ again, USA TODAY, Available at: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2017/12/22/thank-you-trump-commerical/978155001/ [Accessed at September 8, 2020].
 Proclamation on Religious Freedom Day, Issued on January 15, 2020 . , Available at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/proclamation-religious-freedom-day-2020/ [Accessed at September 8, 2020].
 Egan L. (2020), Trump becomes first sitting president to attend March for Life rally, www.nbcnews.com, Available at: https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/donald-trump/trump-becomes-first-sitting-president-attend-march-life-rally-n1122246 [Accessed at September 8, 2020].
 Trump in 1999: ‘I am Very Pro-Choice’, nbcnews.com, Available at: https://www.nbcnews.com/meet-the-press/video/trump-in-1999-i-am-very-pro-choice-480297539914 [Accessed at September 8, 2020].
 Stewart K (2018), Why Trump Reigns as King Cyrus, New York Times. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/31/opinion/trump-evangelicals-cyrus-king.html [Accessed at September 8, 2020].
 SILOW-CARROL A (2018) , Who is King Cyrus, and why did Netanyahu compare him to Trump?, Times of Israel, Available at: https://www.timesofisrael.com/who-is-king-cyrus-and-why-is-netanyahu-comparing-him-to-trump/ Accessed at September 8, 2020]
 Vitali A (2017), Trump Signs Waiver to Keep Embassy in Tel Aviv, nbcnews.com Available at: https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/white-house/trump-signs-waiver-keep-embassy-tel-aviv-n767026 [Accessed at September 8, 2020]
 STAFF T. (2020) , Trump says he moved US embassy to Jerusalem ‘for the evangelicals’, Times of Israel, Available at: https://www.timesofisrael.com/trump-says-he-moved-us-embassy-to-jerusalem-for-the-evangelicals/ [Accessed at September 8, 2020]
Kobby Barda is a PHD candidate at the University of Haifa, and head of the “Gal program” for political leadership The Academic Center of Law and Science in Hod Hasharon, Israel. He is the author of the books: The Key to Understanding Donald J. Trump and AIPAC’s Grassroots Path to Congress: How Isaiah Kenen Built AIPAC to Be A Powerhouse and scholar of the CHAIKIN CHAIR IN GEOSTRATEGY.