This was a white election. It was a race election. Contrary to all the data and demographics about a changing America, Donald Trump defied the conventional wisdom and believed he could win by mobilizing the white vote and turning out angry white voters in greater numbers than others believed was possible — and finally winning in an overwhelmingly white vote. And he did.
This wasn’t only non-college-educated white voters (that the elites and pundits like to pick on); it wasn’t only white male voters or older white voters. A majority of all white voters voted for Donald Trump. A vast majority of white voters of all levels, classes, and genders came out to put Donald Trump in the White House.
Clearly, Trump used and abused the economic marginalization of many white working class people, taking advantage of how angry and forgotten they have come to feel. The economic system clearly is rigged, with politics that follow the money of that rigged system. But Trump turned that populist anger into hatred for “the other” by turning economic resentment into racial resentment. Donald Trump making himself into the champion of the forgotten outsiders is the not only a ridiculous joke, but shows the marketing brilliance of someone who has never had a commitment beyond his own ego and self-aggrandizement.
Most white evangelicals didn’t seem to mind that they sold their souls to a man who embodies the most sinful and shameful worship of money, sex, and power.
Donald Trump ran on racial bigotry and misogyny — not implicitly and covertly, but explicitly and overtly. In an America that is rapidly changing demographically and culturally, Donald Trump chose to run on white identity politics and to bring white nationalism back into the mainstream of American public life. The beginning and foundation of his political career was to become the primary promoter of a racist, conspiratorial birther movement, saying our first black president wasn’t really one of “us” — that he was not a real American. At the core of his opening speech to launch his presidential campaign, he chose to denigrate Mexicans and immigrants as “criminals” and “rapists.” Then he called for the banning of all Muslims coming to America. Trump ran as the “law and order” candidate, promised to build a wall, and regularly boasted of his endorsements from police, border patrol officers, and the ICE agents who round up and deport undocumented immigrants. His ubiquitous hat that famously says “Make America Great Again,” now clearly does mean “Make America White Again.” Donald Trump ran a campaign based on racial bigotry, misogyny, and xenophobia — and an overwhelming majority of white American men voted for him. And, very sadly, a majority of white Christians voted for him.
Patriarchy also played a powerful role. Per a CBS news analysis of the exit polls: “While Mr. Obama won 35 percent of white, male voters in 2012, Clinton lost to Trump among this group by 63 percent to 31 percent.” And it wasn’t just among white men. Donald Trump over performed expectations among black and Latino voters — doing 7 points better among black voters and 8 points better among Latinos than Mitt Romney — not because women of color voted for him, but because a small but significant number of men of color did.
Most white evangelicals didn’t seem to mind that they sold their souls to a man who embodies the most sinful and shameful worship of money, sex, and power, and — perhaps more than any other public figure in America — represents the very worst values of what American culture has become. We have never witnessed such religious hypocrisy as we saw in this election, with the majority of white Christians voting for a man like Donald Trump, including an overwhelming number of white evangelicals: 81 percent, 8 points better than Romney, including 75 percent of white evangelical women. It is a real tragedy that most of America’s well-known white megachurch pastors were not heard from in this election, and their silence in the face of Trump’s racial politics may end their own moral credibility. The religious right leaders, who supported Trump politically over all their previously expressed religious values, showed once and for all that they have always been primarily right-wing political operatives and should never be taken as “religious” again.
Today, many people are frightened — mostly the people whom the now president-elect has regularly attacked. If I read my Scriptures right, those are the people Christians and other people of good conscience should now turn to in solidarity and support.
Christians, in particular, will have to defend and protect the religious liberty of Muslims in America.
I am getting calls all the time. They are from the people who feel most vulnerable: parents of young black and brown children, Hispanic pastors who are dealing with the terrified undocumented families in their congregations, African-American ministers who fear the emboldened white police officers who no longer fear the scrutiny of a justice department, a president, or anyone else who might hold them accountable. And, of course, many of our Muslim brothers and sisters are wondering whether this can be a country for them anymore.
Where must we start as Christians and faithful churches after such a devastating election that brings the most dangerous man to the White House that we have seen in our lifetimes?
First, we must reach out in solidarity and protection to those who feel and are most vulnerable — undocumented immigrants, young black and brown Americans, and Muslims.
Second, we must make very public and very clear: Honest and prophetic truth-telling about race in America will be needed as never before in our time — especially from white Christians, who must call for the replacement of white identity politics with faith identity politics. Whiteness is an idol that has separated white Christians from God. Nothing less than biblical repentance from the white identity politics that dominated this election, and even most white churches, is now required from all of us white people in America who call ourselves Christian.
Solidarity must be very practical: Churches may need to open themselves up as sanctuaries taking in the undocumented immigrants whom Donald Trump has pledged to deport. Massive civil disobedience may be called for. And if the federal government and its agencies will not protect young people of color from the violence of racial profiling, religious communities, denominational leaders, local pastors, and congregations will have to. Meetings that insist on dialogue and accountability with local sheriffs and law enforcement officials will be necessary. And Christians, in particular, will have to defend and protect the religious liberty of Muslims in America.
All this will be risky and costly. Thus, it will be important that our first call is to go deeper into our faith, to find the courage to act, stand alongside our brothers and sisters under attack, and to confront the “principalities and powers.” Perhaps the most encouraging calls to me since the election results last night have come from young people of all ethnicities — many of whom I know well and have mentored. Several have independently said, “I just wanted you to know that I AM IN for whatever this will require of us.”
Thanks be to God.
At Sojourners, we will be in for whatever it takes to stand with our brothers and sisters under attack, and we need your help now more than ever in our 45-year history to build on this movement. We must offer our resistance to the racial bigotry and misogyny that the new president-elect has run on, to call the churches away from that bigotry and back to the miracle of the multiethnic body of Christ that God has called us to and that we celebrate around the world, to nurture our own children in a faith that unites and not divides, and to re-commit ourselves to love, care for, and sustain each other as we embark on a new moment in our mission. We can’t do it without your help. If you are a part of this movement, join us now.
After this election, faith communities’ faithful role is imperative — for prayer, discernment, speaking and standing up, solidarity and support for those most fearful right now, and for speaking the truth to power. Our call and our ministry, in such a time as this, will be both healing and resistance. Lord have mercy on us all.
Jim Wallis is president of Sojourners. His book, America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America, is available now.