Donald Trump says he is “surprised” not to have obtained more Catholic votes in 2020
WASHINGTON (RNS) – In another sign that Donald Trump is considering a race to return to the White House, the former president and his religious advisers announced the launch of a National Faith Advisory Council on Thursday, September 2, apparently aimed at reinvigorating its conservative Christian base.
The new initiative, first reported by Jewish media outlet The Forward, was officially unveiled in a conference call hosted by Intercessors for America and led by longtime Trump adviser Paula White. The pastor of the Pentecostal mega-church said the new effort, which includes the participation of “70 cadres,” is intended to continue the “great work that we have done,” referring to the efforts she oversaw as as head of Trump’s White House denominational office.
In another sign that Donald Trump is considering a race to return to the White House, the former president and his religious advisers announced the launch of a National Faith Advisory Council.
White drew parallels with the establishment of a previous “faith advisory committee,” a likely reference to a group of largely evangelical Christian leaders who advised Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016 and functioned as an informal council on religious issues throughout his presidency.
“It has become the strongest coalition in modern history,” White said of the work of the board. “Our unity has brought unprecedented victories, influence and access. “
White was joined by Jennifer Korn, who was previously Special Assistant to then-President Trump through her White House Public Liaison Office. Korn told listeners that the new National Faith Advisory Board “will continue the work of the White House Public Liaison Office outside to ensure that we are one strong voice.”
Trump echoed most of the rest of the call with lengthy remarks in which he wavered between criticizing President Joe Biden’s record on denominational issues – “a lot has happened in regards to faith and religion , and these are not good things “—and praising his own mandate, saying:” One of my greatest honors has been to fight for religious freedom and to defend the Judeo-Christian values and principles of the foundation of our nation. “
Trump echoed most of the rest of the call with lengthy remarks in which he oscillated between criticizing President Joe Biden’s record on religious issues and praising his own mandate.
He listed various accomplishments of the Trump administration popular with conservative Christians, such as the designation of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the founding of a new religious office in the White House, the declaration of “essential” churches during the coronavirus pandemic and the appointment of conservative justices to the federal bench and the Supreme Court.
Trump hinted at last week’s Supreme Court decision not to block a controversial Texas abortion ban, saying, “Even last night you get some very powerful rulings, more powerful than anyone else. ‘would have thought. “
He also reiterated the claim he had “totally wiped out” the Johnson Amendment, a section of the US tax code that prohibits religious groups and other nonprofits from supporting candidates. (Trump’s 2017 executive order was intended to hamper its enforcement but did not remove the law.)
Trump then answered questions from leaders of various faith-based organizations, most of which are policy-oriented, including Jason Yates, CEO of My Faith Votes; Brian Burch, director of CatholicVote.org; Dave Kubal, head of Intercessors for America; Rabbi Yaakov Menken, Director General of the Coalition for Jewish Values; and Dave Donaldson, co-founder of CityServe.
Responding to their questions, Trump criticized Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, calling it a “mad rush” and lamenting the Taliban’s seizure of US military equipment.
Discussing the Catholic vote, he admitted that he had lost ground with the bloc during his four years in power.
Trump referred to hypothetical future scenarios “if we are able to come back”, while repeating the widely discredited claim that the 2020 election was “stolen” from him. Discussing the Catholic vote, he admitted that he had lost ground with the bloc during his four years in power.
“I’m a little surprised that we didn’t do better with the Catholic vote,” Trump said. “I think now they would give us a vote. I think we got about 50 percent of the vote. And yet, we have done a lot for the Catholic vote. So we’ll have to talk to them. We’re going to have to meet the Catholics.
According to a recent election analysis published by Pew Research, Trump won the support of 50% of Catholics overall in 2020, a drop of 2 percentage points from 2016 (Biden took 49%, compared to 44% for the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016).
The change was most dramatic among White Catholics, a key constituency on the battlefield, according to Rust Belt: Trump’s share in that vote rose from 64% to 57% between 2016 and 2020, while Biden gained 42% , an improvement of 11 percentage points over Clinton. in 2016.
The former president expressed frustration at the lack of support from Jewish voters, despite his administration’s support for Israel.
The former president expressed frustration at the lack of support from Jewish voters, despite his administration’s support for Israel. “Look at what I did with the embassy in Jerusalem and what I did with so many other things. … Israel has never had a best friend, and yet I got 25% of the vote, ”Trump said. “I think they have to get together. There needs to be a little more unity with the religious groups all represented on this call.
Polls of Jewish voters in the 2020 election have varied, with a Republican Jewish Coalition poll finding 30 percent support for Trump and a separate poll by the liberal J Street group reporting only 21 percent .
Trump made similar remarks when answering a question from Yates of My Faith Votes.
“All I can tell you is I think we have to have a great election and we have to have a strong vote,” Trump said. “If we don’t have a very strong vote, then Jason, I’ll talk to you in the future, but it won’t be very positive.”
Trump, a former Presbyterian who converted to non-denominational Christianity towards the end of his term, was also asked directly about his belief in God.
“Everything is based on God, it’s so important,” Mr. Trump said of his religious beliefs. “God is so important to the success of what we do. Because without God we have nothing.
“Everything is based on God, it’s so important,” he replied. “God is so important to the success of what we do. Because without God we have nothing.
The call ended with a prayer from Robert Morris, pastor of Gateway Church near Dallas, which Trump visited during his 2020 campaign. Morris was among the religious leaders who gathered in the White House rose garden to celebrating Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment to the Supreme Court in September of that year, a no-mask case later called a COVID-19 spreading event.
Morris prayed for Trump and his family, saying they “have suffered more attack from the enemy than any president we can remember.” He added, “And yet, Lord, he continues to stand strong for the Jewish people, and for Christians, and Lord, for the Judeo-Christian foundation of our nation. “
Morris then concluded by echoing Trump’s criticisms of Biden and reiterating the debunked suggestion that the election was “stolen.”
“I pray for Americans who voted the wrong way,” he said. “I pray, God, that they will see what … bad administration, what it does to a great nation.” I pray, Lord, that You will do something even, too, Lord, for our electoral system. That we’ll never have another election stolen from the American people, the American people. We should be concerned about it. So Lord, whatever we have to do to fix the electoral process, I pray for it. “
At the end of the session, White told listeners that there would be monthly calls and to keep an eye on “instructions.”
“Thank you for this coalition of unity which has always had such influence and such power to make things happen,” she said. “We are in a great battle, but I feel we have the capacity to achieve great victories.”