My last dispatch from America ended with a question for the GOP powerbrokers: what’s it gonna be, a principled conservative who admittedly will shrink the belts of the lobbyists et al, or screw the base and the country to preserve their power?

They answered in the latter.

Despite dismal polling and not even placing in the first two votes, the Bush campaign, the brain child of the establishment, backed by 100 million bucks and seasoned political know how, stayed in South Carolina and soaked up about 8 per cent of the vote in a three-way tie for last.

Rumours leaked out the day before the vote that the staff would not be paid after Saturday. He knew the end was coming yet he stayed in until the returns started coming in. That is simply unconscionable for a seasoned political team that claims it cares about America. They should have done as the other governors, Perry, Walker, and Jindal did; exit and allow the field to consolidate.

Kasich and Carson, the other losing campaigns that still have money, remain. Carson’s consultants are misleading him and his naive supporters for their paycheck.

Kasich, the last establishment candidate standing, has at least a theoretical chance at becoming the rising moderate for the party elite thanks to his New Hampshire showing. Although after he couldn’t convince Bush to go out before South Carolina, he should’ve left. He’s staying in for the long shot scenario in which Rubio and Cruz will beat each other up – plausible – and he will be left to best Trump – laughable. This is not a year of establishment popularity on either side of the aisle.

If for simplicity’s sake, we combine their three zombie campaigns and divide them between Cruz and Rubio – Trump is not a popular second choice – then we have a tight three-way race. And if the zombie block didn’t split evenly, then we’d be hearing how this is Cruz or Rubio’s race to lose. But the zombies remain, giving Trump all the room he needs to manoeuvre.

A Trump v. Clinton matchup is still not a sure thing, it is now just the way to bet.

Trump’s chances of securing the Republican nomination are still less than Clinton’s chances of securing the Democratic nomination. For anyone interested in detailed analysis of how the party delegates work, start with RealClearPolitics. The short version: the individual state parties determine if their delegates are proportional or winner take all and if they are free to vote their own preferences at the national conventions and under what circumstances. For all of the sensational coverage, Trump has only secured about 6 per cent of the Republican delegates he needs to win. By contrast, Clinton has 21 per cent of the delegates she needs to win. (The Democrats have a Super Delegate system and the Clinton machine locked up the vast majority of those.)

So what about Cruz and Rubio? Why aren’t the two Tea Party senators, two experienced and credible populists, doing better against the wild populist?

If you recall from earlier articles, Bush and Christie beat up Rubio in a vain effort to bolster their own campaigns. What stuck was Rubio’s willingness – or weakness – for the DC game. After Bush I, Dole, Bush II, McCain, and Romney the base will not accept another happy-warrior, Washington DC player. They want DC curbed, not coaxed.  Bush III and Christie crippled Rubio’s campaign and got nothing for it.

Cruz, the more disciplined conservative, rose to beat Trump while Bush and Christie kneecapped Rubio. This would be a Trump vs Cruz race now but for two issues in the Cruz camp. First, his communications director went rogue and doctored some photographs to illustrate some of Cruz’s political arguments. Cruz promptly fired him, but the photoshops hurt his credibility.

Second, everyone, including the Cruz camp, has misjudged the evangelical voters’ motivation.

Evangelical voters are those outward Christians that everyone else finds so strange about America. Few outsiders get them, and with our infamous culture wars like abortion and gay marriage, most outsiders assume that these voters are issue voters. Since Trump is not with them on the issues, they won’t vote for Trump.

The connection between religion and politics in America is more fundamental than issues. The American political system is the secular parallel to Protestantism. The road to “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal…” starts with the crucifixion, and the 95 Theses. These milestones in individual responsibility get lifted out of religious thought in the Enlightenment and eventually become the popular sovereignty of the US Constitution.

But US Christianity has changed. For decades our churches have been filled with the Prosperity Gospel. It tells people that if they pray hard enough, the right Way – if they have enough faith – then God will do for them. They will have rich and prosperous lives of good health and peace. It’s a horrible theology, one that leaves people to despair when they pray and act just as they were told but still don’t get what they expect.

This is the evangelical voter today. They’ve done everything they were supposed to do for Uncle Sam. They were the good patriots, working hard, raising families. Yet life isn’t going their way. From terrorism to taxes, jobs, budgets, public safety, insurance, family law, mortgages, small business regulation – all of it goes wrong. They reached despair. They feel forsaken.

Trump’s principles don’t hurt his vote percentages because they aren’t looking for principles. They’ve lost hope in principles. They are looking for the strongman. If we must have a government that quashes people, then they’d like one that quashes the other guy.

Some observers noted this strongman theory for general Trump supporters, but I don’t think anyone expected it among the evangelical voters. Christians are issues voters. Everyone knows that.

And that has been the one thing that has remained reliable and true this election cycle: the media and elites know precious little about the emotional lives of Christians.


(Image: Gage Skidmore, Flickr)


  1. What a fascinating article, the best I’ve read in a while.

    When you have some time, can you please expand on your paragraph about the development of the US Constitution from Christian values (at least, that’s what I read it to mean)?

    From this side of the pond, it seems that the single thread running through your Constitution is that the Founding Fathers recognised that bad people pursue power and that constraints need to be put in place to control that desire. I’ve found Jefferson to be particularly illuminating on this subject.

    In that context, the separation between church and state may not be a rejection of religion but a recognition that the structures of a religious hierarchy encourage, like all hierarchies, personal ambition and provide concentrations of power that will attract megalomaniacs. To me, this is the reason that the Constitution provides no place in government for an established religion.

    It’s therefore hard to see how “These milestones in individual responsibility get lifted out of
    religious thought in the Enlightenment and eventually become the popular
    sovereignty of the US Constitution.”
    , particularity as the enlightenment was largely a rejection of religious belief in favour of reason and scientific discovery.

    I did wonder if you were saying that the Constitution observes Christan values while rejecting any formal recognition of religion in the establishment, but I’m not convinced that the values running through the Constitution are based in Christian values anyway. I don’t see that the ideas of personal liberty and constraints on central government are necessarily Christian in origin.

    • I think the author is saying that the “milestones of individual responsibility”, originally derived from religious thought also sat well within Enlightenment thinking – i.e. there was no conflict…

      I agree with your final paragraph. The values running through the constitution recognise that the USA was born out of violent insurrection against oppressive government and that the individual citizen should always stand ready to emulate the original revolutionaries, should the need arise – hence the second amendment.

      • Yes, after I’d written it I wondered if I was giving the impression that religion and reason were mutually exclusive. I don’t believe that they are, and I’m not bashing religion, but I don’t see how concepts of individual responsibility or freedom derive from there.

        I’m not saying that religion encourages group-think or anything so simplistic, it’s just that I see no inherent link between the concept of individuality and religious belief.

        We are Christians and we also believe in individual freedom – but that doesn’t mean that one automatically springs from the other.

        • The genius behind Christianity of course is that it’s open to individual interpretation…

          Take the ten commandments. For me, the commandments:Thou shalt not murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not covet and Thou shalt not bear false witness, enshrine the rights of the individual and his/ her property.Thou shalt honour thy father and thy mother is speaking to the individual. Others, of shall we say a more leftish persuasion, would argue for the more collectivist themes in those commandments exhorting one God, observing one day etc etc.

          Interestingly, the “redistributionist” giving of alms is not a commandment – unlike one of the pillars of Islam which is a far more collectivist religion, in my view

          • “The genius behind Christianity of course is that it’s open to individual interpretation…” Yes, and, therefore, responsibility. As for “genius”, it is easy for us centuries later to forget just how radical the idea of individual understanding was. No worldly intercessor or authority required. Just you and God. What was a remarkable relationship in Job, became the potential for all of us. Now, export that radical idea into Caesar’s world.

          • That’s why socialism corrupts societies, I think. Alms giving must be a voluntary act to have any meaning whatsoever for the giver. Nothing about socialism is voluntary and therefore breaks “Thou shalt not steal”.

    • Thank you.
      I would love to write on the development of the US Constitution from Christian thought. I’ve had it in my head and in draft so long. It is long. Its hard to do in 700ish words. Not original to me, certainly. But summarizing these big ideas, that’s what I claim to do. I should bump that one up my ‘to write’ list.

      It isn’t so much Christian values as it is the individual’s relationship with authority. It’s the structure of the power relationship that made it into our government, not the rules themselves.

      • Please do, I’ve tried with mediocre (at best) results, and never yet have gotten below 2500 or so words. One thought that occurred to me upstream in the comments, is that the Constitution is based on original sin, especially as illuminated by Luther.

        I (and Ben Domenech, for that matter) agree with you on the evangelicals. What they want now is someone who has got their back, a lot think we’ve lost the culture wars, and are now simply looking for cover. If so, I see little point other than not going quiet into the night, because the Great Experiment is over then. And, yes, the dominoes will fall.

        We became the keepers of the flame, because our original founders left at the height of English freedom, and we wrote it down before it diluted too much, but the flame is guttering.

        I think the equation may have changed though last night, if Cruz and Rubio have finally figured out that Trump has to be beat, rather than competing to be the first loser. Time is short, but, as always, will tell.

        • Re: 2500 words, I know. I know.

          Re: debate, I don’t think it hurt Trump much at all. Grabbing what I posted with this on FB: Despite all the media noise, Trump will not be significantly hurt by his debate performance. The media gave him easy post interviews to recover and they are focused on making Marcomentum happen. He had a good night attacking Trump–it felt satisfying to Trump detractors, but they aren’t the audience he needed to reach. Attacks have repeatedly failed to sway Trump’s supporters. Cruz, however, dissected Trump’s positions and articulated his own, but the media and DC crew are not mentioning that much. By some accounts, it’s easy to think that Cruz wasn’t even there. Focus groups saw Cruz’s performance, so maybe he swayed some of Trump’s tentative support. But likely, little changed, numbers wise.

    • I would suggest considering the difference between the enlightenment of the anglosphere (particularly centered in Scotland) and the continental enlightenment. That along with the difference between the American “Revolution” (which many U.S. conservatives, like myself, contend wasn’t really a revolution) and the French Revolution (which definitely was) helps to explain some of this. Many of our terms and definitions and concepts in politics come from continental Europe and that confuses things when looking at the Anglo-American world.

    • In fact, the recently deceased Justice Antonin Scalia’s take on what the 1st Amendment ban on an Established Church was about, was that enough people at the founding of the Republic were not well-disposed to the idea of having to pay taxes to support the Episcopal Church (the North American colonial C of E communion church) AND contribute to their own church (if different, i.e, Congregational, Presbyterian, Friends, Baptists, and in some colonies, RC). The Free Exercise Clause was meant to appeal to those who would exercise their choice NOT to have to attend any service at all, and by choosing that way, not to face fines for their non-attendance.

      What that did, of course, was to say to the religious, “Go for it, we won’t stop you, but don’t impose upon others.” Those not imposed upon, being satisfied with that state of affairs, let the believers practice. This had the effect of no “religious wars” in America, which tended to make the churches thrive, as their membership was totally voluntary and hence, more zealous.

      This second-order thought of “You can paradoxically be more actually Christian by being less officially Christian,” and trust to the individual’s conscience to accomplish their own salvation, is possibly what is meant by the Constitution deriving from Christian belief. Enlightenment Reason would have told the American Founding Fathers to set up something that would later be called a Pareto-optimality– everyone’s religious liberty is such that it cannot be improved upon without worsening things for someone in the game, and everyone’s contentedness is key to that.

  2. I think you are spot on. I do think the the political and media elites across the western world lost touch with the common populations and they seem to hold in such contempt. In fact their attitude is somewhat sneering. I think your three words “they feel forsaken” hits the nail on the head. Both the USA and the Uk feel so very much like oligarchies. Social mobility has stalled in both countries for decades now. The GOP only have themselves to blame for the Trump phenomenon. They are reaping what they sowed.

      • Just followed the link and read that article and its comments also, thank you. I do wonder if the liberal media in the USA even have ability to grasp what is going on? They are so set in thier ways I dont know if they have the capability to critically review themselves.

        • It is a running joke that the MSM in the US are, just like the BBC, “the fish wot don’t know it’s wet.” It is chalked up to the “indoctrination,” as opposed to “education,” that those in the media have had at the sort of school from which the news departments of networks would hire “the best and brightest.” This is why FOX, hardly the voice of the US Conservative movement in terms of outright shilling, is so reviled– it takes something of a jaundiced view of the Dem shibboleths and a somewhat-more-tolerant view of the Repub viewpoint in its reportage.

  3. If Trump is elected and effective he will have to act on the fact that the US does not need so many well paid, low skilled workers. The middle classes will continue to shrink and maybe then the christians will see the folly of following a Casino owner.

    • a somewhat ‘dodgy’ …. er …..’casino owner’, Young A!

      Should be interesting IF we could get a glimpse at his ‘un-massaged’ tax details?

      I humbly ……… suggest!

  4. I think you’re over-complicating things. Trump is the only politician on either side of the Atlantic that has called out Islam as a mortal threat. Evangelicals believe that their Christian faith is directly threatened by Islam – which it is, of course. So Trump gets their vote.

    • Re: ‘Evangelicals believe that their Christian faith is directly threatened by Islam’

      Call me innocent here Young GS, …….. but is not MORE accurate to state ….”Evangelicals believe that their particular Christian faith, ….. of THEIR particular Christian ‘sect’ …… is directly threatened by Islam’….?

      i humbly ………………… ponder!

        • I was brought up in the Roman Catholic Faith, Young L!

          ‘Scripture’ was ‘interpreted’ to me that my Non Catholic friends would certainly burn in the fires of hell and damnation …….. er ……. unless they converted to Christianity ….. as would my Non Catholic mother , Gran, Aunts, Uncles and Cousins!

          Is it ‘inconvenient’ to mention here the times, in the UK, where Protestants and those of OTHER sects were done to death by Catholics as ‘Agents of Satan’ …….. and when Catholics and those of other sects were … done to death…. as ….er…… ‘Agents of Satan, with the psychpaths taking part in the mass murder BOTH claiming that THEY had a right to do it because THEIR version of the BIble told them to!

          What exatly was happening in Northern Ireland a mere few decades ago?

          Not that far from the views of the OTHER psychopaths, … in one swivel eyed and loonish sect of Islam……. who back up THEIR …. er ….’faith’ proclaiming THEIR ‘right’ to carry ‘arms’!

          Now WHERE do we hear THAT Swivel Eyed And Loonish ‘right’?

          Oh, Yes! The National Rifle Association in the U.S. and THEIR members who label themselves as .’Christians’!

          I humbly ………………… ponder!

          • John

            You offer no solutions only despair.

            I want a future for my kids that is not more of the same failed policies of manipulation, spin and Fabian social engineering the lib/lab/con.

            I want a new direction. Trump in America clearly offers that for the right and Hillary clearly offers our lib/lab/con failed option.

            If Cruz wants to win, he needs to be more like Trump.

            Offering Trump but with with more of a brain and a tad more compassion, might work for Cruz, but it is probably too late.

            Whatever happens we will get more Trumps on offer for voters in the West and that can only be a good thing.

    • That is certainly part of it, but here the worry is more theoretical. 9/11 was almost 15 years ago and the wave of Christian persecution goes on far from our shores, as does the “refugee” crisis. Or shorter, that mood can get much, much worse. The current fear level is not enough to explain Trump’s success, especially with an option like Cruz available.

  5. ‘Trump’s principles don’t hurt his vote percentages because they aren’t looking for principles. They’ve lost hope in principles.

    Sadly, many modern day politicians with self-proclaimed principles have turned out to be nothing more than self-serving opportunists.

    To quote Groucho Marx : ‘Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.’

  6. ‘They are looking for the strongman. If we must have a government that quashes people, then they’d like one that quashes the other guy.’

    Spot on – unfortunately, a rather smug and self-serving elite have introduced ruthless policies through the years that have ensured the survival of their exclusive political club but the death knell for everybody else – usually the good American people who have played the game by the rules all their lives and did the all right things only to get cheated and treated unfairly by a very remote political establishment.

    Excellent article Leslie – fully agree with you.

    • You could substitute the word British in you comment and it would read the same.

      The thing is we don’t have a strong individual to vote for. (The last was Mrs T). We have the Blair, Cameron consensus and the BBC to ensure that we think “correctly” and are values are not “extremist”.

      Would Mrs T be arrested today for “hate speech”? In our country that loves every aspect of Newspeak, it seems likely

        • Call me innocent here, Young W, …………. but, …….

          Are you saying that any ‘success’ by Trump will mark a decidedly ‘lowering of the bar’ of who, …….. in the Swivel Eyed And Loonish Brigade, …… will be allowed entry into circles political!

          Well! It COULD be ‘spun’ as an extension of ……. er ……… ‘inclusion’!!!!!!

          I humbly ask ……. and ……….. comment!

      • There ARE actually some questions being asked in the UK about She Who Rusts In Peace’s ‘fiddling’ of a number of issues, Young PR!

        There is the protection of crooked police lying over their evidence over the Hillsborough Tragedy! ………..

        The is the suppression of the true role of police/army in Northern Ireland,………..!

        There is the question of her role in the political protection of those involved in child abuse…… apparently as a ‘strategy’ to keep them ‘under FULL control’…..!

        And there are questions over what she hid from the public in the run up to that ‘very convenient’ war with Argentina…….. and the sinking of the Belgrano!

        Should we mention her connections to child abuser Savile ……. and the manner in which any police officer raising the ‘question’ soon found themselves ‘silenced’ by those ‘in high political places!

        I humbly ………………………. remind!

          • Germany followed Hitler because he ‘could lead’, Young PR!

            German citizen voters. at THAT time, ….. er ……. did NOT question the Ulterior motives of THEIR perceived ‘Saviour’ and HIS political accomplices!!!!

            Will the U.S. have to compose their OWN version of …. Pastor Niemölle’s poem, one version of which, ……. somewhat perversely, can be found in the The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum !

            The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum quotes the following text as one of the many poetic versions of the speech ….

            ‘Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

            Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

            Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

            Because I was not a Jew.

            Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

            Will the version tailored for the U.S. begin……….

            ‘First they came for the Muslims…… and I voted for THAT …….

            Because I was NOT a Muslim …………………..”!

            Then they came for the Hispanics ….. and I voted for THAT……

            Because i was NOT Hispanic ……!

            The I thought it would STOP there ……………. but, …………

            My views NO LONGER COUNTED !………..

            And ….. then………. they came for ……….’

            I humbly …………………….. ponder!

          • I said principles mattered with Mrs T

            We have travelled far neater to totalitarian rule with the CamTwitterair Fabian consensus than we ever did under Mrs T.

            Simply commenting unfavourably or against the State’s consensus on certain issues will lead you to being investigated by the “Thought” Police.

            Voters want more from their leaders than spin and policy decided on principles. Not what will get a good response on Twitter.

          • Re: Young PR’s comment ….’Voters want more from their leaders than spin and policy decided on principles, not what will get a good response on Twitter. ‘

            And, Young PR, they want MORE than the Snake Oil Salesman’s ‘spiel’ peddled by Non-Stick Nigel or the absolute bile spouted by Trump!!!!

            I humbly ….. suggest!

          • John. The snake oil is Cameron. Everyone sees that.

            Voters in the UK have no choice. They go to the ballot box year after year and the three main parties offer three menus, all serving the same food under different headings.

            We want a leader who stops the sale of jobs and livelihoods overseas. We want a leader who protects us, will punish crime (Real crime not as the Police currently do. Punish the crime of having the wrong opinion) , will put out country first, will stop the theft of jobs. They want a future for their children (and time with them while they are children) they don’t want their town or city to resemble Raqqa or Tripoli in 20 years.

            Would we vote for a Trump in the UK?


            So would 50% or more of most European countries if they got the chance ………..

            Whatever happens, he is rewriting the rules of politics and that can only be a good thing.

        • The police and the BBC either lied to Prime Minister Thatcher, either directly or by omission.

          And that was her fault in what way, exactly?

          • As Prime Minister SHE carried the can, Young TH!!!

            I humbly ……. remind!

            After all, this was BEFORE the adoption of the policy …….. ‘When Caught Out In Some Shenanigans Or Other, …….. The Posh Boys ALWAYS Blame the Servants!’

            I humbly ………………….. remind!

  7. There was an interesting report somewhere; it showed that Trump did best in SC among “evangelicals” who don’t actually go to church much. That is, they identify as “evangelicals”, but they don’t have strong or well grounded convictions.

    The evangelicals who are regular church-goers mostly voted for Cruz.

      • We are regular Evangelical Church goers. My wife also leads Bible Studies and prayer groups etc.

        Her take on Trump? “I like him, he tells it as it is and if he was here he would offer a better future for our family and our kids”

        “Telling it as it is” and “better future for our family and out kids”. Articulating that you can deliver these two I suspect, is key with most voters.

        Trump does it and with colour. The rest seem like cardboard cut-outs in comparison.

        She also says “If America does not want him, send him over here”. Now that, a lot of us would agree with.

  8. Call me innocent, ………………………………………………………… but, ………..

    Would the ‘Christians’ who worship at the temple of Trump, ……… be the ‘Love God … and Love Thy Neighbour!’ of a certain Jesus Christ?

    …Or some pseudo-sect ‘Non Believer Slaughtering Sect of their OWN invention?

    A bit like their FELLOW psychopaths in Daesh, ………. er …….. really!

    I humbly …….. ponder!

    • In general, yes American Christianity has been led astray by their own false teachers. They aren’t non-believers, but flocks who have been taught to focus on worldly things. There are many ways to research, but searches for Prosperity Gospel or Sun Stand Still prayers should pick up many options for background reading.

  9. The candidates, the regular candidates, are all looking down at their shoes, carefully ignoring everything.

    Then that pesky Trump comes along and starts shouting stuff. Stuff like: “Hey! Hey! You guys! Did you see what that person did? Are we gonna stand for that stuff?”

    The candidates ignore Trump, staring even harder at their shoes.

    But members of the electorate are noticing that, despite his “problems” Trump is only shouting out stuff that actually concerns them, the electorate.

    The problem for the candidates isn’t if they ignore Trump, the problem for the candidates is what happens if they continue to ignore what Trump says, the things that concern the members of the electorate?

  10. Re: ‘”We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal…”

    Call me COMPLETELY innocent, here, …. but, ……. would, perhaps, the same type of U.S. citizen who currently see Trump as some ‘Messiah’…. er ……ALSO have have a ‘bit of a problem with …. ‘”We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal…”… when it was suggested that this ALSO applied to the humans they ‘owned’ as …. er ……’slaves’?

    I humbly, ……… and a tad ‘inconveniently’, ……… ask!

    • In my theory they don’t see Trump as some “Messiah.” They think the “Messiah” has forsaken them. In which case they just want a worldly strongman to get them through their existence. That’s despair. Not that God, the ideal, doesn’t exist, but that it doesn’t serve them, so there is no point in serving it anymore.

      In a way, it is a perfect failure. Elites have made many comments to the effect that they don’t trust the American people anymore. Peggy Noonan noted that shift sometime last summer. Used to be said that we’d rather be ruled by 50 random names in a phone book than privileged and polished betters. She noticed that sentiment had changed. At the same time, the people gave up on the structure. We used to trust the checks and balances. No more. Our system depends on a certain amount of faith. Without that, well…

    • They don’t see him as the Messiah.

      I suspect that women in particular look to the long term. They don’t want to wake up in their town in 20 years time, finding that a group of guys taken over in the night and now shooting their husbands and sons and raping their daughters.

      Also if you want to debate the slavery thing I suggest you chose a different thread. Or change gender and visit certain parts of the ME to learn first hand.

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