Having grown up in such a family, I'd like to remind folks that there are liberal Democrats of faith out there in America, and while white evangelical Christians have increasingly sided with Donald Trump and the GOP, the shame of the state of that "Christianity" leaves the door open for a more liberal Catholic Joe Biden to make his case.
Biden, a lifelong Catholic, has performed better in recent polling among white evangelicals — and other religious groups — than Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton did in 2016, and is widely perceived as more religious than the current White House occupant. A Pew Research study conducted earlier this year showed that a majority of U.S. adults (63 percent) think Trump is “not at all” or “not too religious,” versus 55 percent who said they believed Biden is somewhat or very religious.
Many conservative evangelical leaders have argued that Biden’s positions on cultural issues — like abortion, judges and religious freedom — are disqualifying. Still, anxiety is growing inside Trump’s orbit about the former vice president’s ability to peel off Christian voters who supported him in 2016, including the 81 percent of white evangelicals he carried, according to eight administration officials, White House allies and people involved with the Trump campaign.
Such an outcome could deal a fatal blow to the president’s reelection, which largely hinges on expanding his support with religious voters to compensate for enthusiasm gaps elsewhere.
“Here’s the problem for Trump: he needs to be at 81 percent or north to win reelection. Any slippage and he doesn’t get a second term, and that’s where Joe Biden comes into play,” said David Brody, chief political analyst at the Christian Broadcasting Network. “In this environment, with everything from the coronavirus to George Floyd and Trump calling himself the ‘law-and-order president,’ Biden could potentially pick off a percent or two from that 81 percent number.”
“It would behoove him to take a play out of the Obama playbook in 2008,” Brody added.
Some of Biden’s campaign appearances and debate answers have been infused with religious undertones, and his campaign reportedly hosts a weekly call with faith leaders to crowdsource policy and personnel suggestions.
At a CNN town hall in February, Biden said his faith “gives me some reason to have hope and purpose” and praised the “ultimate act of Christian charity” shown by members of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., after they forgave a white supremacist who murdered nine members of their congregation in a 2014 mass shooting.
In an op-ed last December that included references to Scripture and Pope Francis’ second encyclical “Laudato Si,” Biden described “the core concepts of decency, fair play and virtue” that he learned through his Catholic upbringing as guiding principles in his political career.
A person familiar with the talks said the Biden campaign is also in the early stages of potentially scheduling an on-camera sit-down with Brody, who conducted several interviews with Obama during his 2008 campaign. The Biden campaign declined to comment on the record.
Rob Stutzman, a Republican strategist who has argued that Biden has an opening to make inroads with Christian conservatives, said the candidate should invoke his faith more often, as opposed to constantly referencing his accomplishments from his time as vice president and a member of the U.S. Senate.
“He would be well-served to talk more in those terms, instead of telling people to check out his record,” Stutzman said. “There are a lot of themes that fit the moment related to justice, authority and loving your neighbor and not in a way that would necessarily make white evangelicals uncomfortable if Biden could speak to them.”
Even Trump allies recognize that Biden has an opening to strike the empathetic and compassionate tone that Trump eschewed in many of his comments about the coronavirus pandemic and nationwide protests over racial inequality.
I don't expect a national shift in the evangelical vote away from Trump. The conservative religious establishment has made their bed with a man who gets them what they want and have decided his own plethora of personal sins are necessary in order to serve "the greater good" of transforming America into the theocracy of Gilead.
But if Biden knocks that Trump 81% of white evangelicals number down to even 75%, he wins. Biden's belief that the teachings of Christ require service to your community and to those less fortunate instead of the purpose of being Christian meaning punishing those who have differing views is what I was taught growing up.
I think that's entirely possible, if not very likely that he gets enough that Trump loses spectacularly.