Donald Trump's griping about evangelical 'disloyalty' was an order to get in line

Donald Trump's griping about evangelical 'disloyalty' was an order to get in line
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In politics, if you’re looking for something, you’ll find it. Washington’s newsspeakers and opiniontalkers have been searching, since last year’s congressional elections, for evidence underscoring the suspicion that, for the Republican Party and the criminal former president, the thrill is gone.

Specifically, that Trump’s relationship with white evangelical Protestants, the hardest of his hardcore supporters during his presidency, is soft. The occasion was his appearance Monday on Real America’s Voice. The evidence was his mewling about white evangelical Protestant leaders, who have been withholding support, he claimed, for his third run for the White House.

“It’s a sign of disloyalty,” Trump told the host, David Brody. “There’s great disloyalty in the world of politics and that’s a sign of disloyalty.”

READ MORE: Trump could end DeSantis' presidential hopes with a series of surprising attacks: analyst

If you’re looking for something, you’ll find it. For Vanity Fair’s Caleb Ecarma, Donald Trump’s deathless remonstrations were enough to suggest that “several high-profile evangelical leaders and activists have signaled that they want a new standard-bearer to lead the Republican Party into 2024.”

No. Yeah, no.

Get in line

It might not be what you’re looking for.

READ MORE: Donald Trump is smothering the religious right

Monday’s complaint about “disloyalty” has been taken to mean there’s a growing divide between white evangelical Protestants who labored to bring down Roe and the president who made that gothic dream come true.

But just as possible, Trump’s remarks could be a warning.

The interview brought up Robert Jeffress, the Texas pastor whose sermon at Trump’s inauguration focused on the moment “When God Chooses a Leader.” According to the Religion News Service, Jeffress will endorse Trump only if he wins the forthcoming Republican primary race.

“That’s a sign of disloyalty,” Trump said.

Thing is, he never asked for it.

Jeffress said “evangelicals would ultimately coalesce around him as the GOP nominee for 2024 and I would happily and enthusiastically support him.” Jeffress hopes, however, that Trump “doesn’t think of me as being disloyal for not volunteering a primary endorsement he has not requested from me.”

In that hope is a recognition.

Recognition of authority.

If you’re looking for division between Trump and white evangelical Protestants, you’ll find it. But what you’ve really found is a Republican leader ordering the hardest of his hardcore supporters to get in line.

There can be only one

The idea, popular among newsspeakers and opiniontalkers, that the thrill is gone is made possible by Ron DeSantis’s inborn talent for getting attention from the rightwing media apparatus without drawing Donald Trump’s ire.

Businessweek’s Joshua Green summed up “the DeSantis formula”: use the media to “create a cultural imbroglio that outrages liberals and that is Trump-adjacent but features himself, not Trump, in the role of alpha male.”

The DeSantis formula is giving Republicans, who desire victory more than they desire owning the libs, the impression that the Florida governor is a viable option. The problem? The “formula” is, nearly all of it, a media fiction.

If you’re looking for something, you’ll find it.

But it might not be what you’re looking for.

Larry Hogan, the former governor of Maryland whose name comes up sometimes in conversations about the 2024 presidential election, told CNN’s Jake Tapper that sure, DeSantis is great – when he’s on Fox.

Would DeSantis be good at “reaching out to the middle?” Tapper asked.

“He hasn’t done it so far,” Hogan said. “He’s done a good job of getting on Fox News and he’s capturing a lot of attention. … He’s doing well with the base, but he’s going to have to figure out a way, if he wants to have a political future beyond Florida, to appeal to a broader audience.”

If you’re looking for something, you’ll find it.

Republicans who desire victory more than owning the libs appear to be looking for viable options. They have searched and they have found Ron DeSantis. But DeSantis might not be what they’re looking for, because they are looking for an alternative alpha male. Great, there’s just one problem.

There are no alternatives.

There can be only one alpha male.

“Old-standby rationalizations”

For Republicans who desire victory more than owning the libs, the midterms demonstrated conclusively the liabilities of Donald Trump. These Republicans tend to be older, more educated and richer.

But the rest of the party never got that memo, wrote Alex Theodoridis, a political scientist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

His new poll shows that the GOP base – its floor of less affluent and white working class voters – has yet “to fully receive the post-2022-midterms memo about quitting Trump and his election denialism, and seeing him and his ilk as an albatross fettered to the Party's electoral fortunes.”

Professor Theodoridis said only 10 percent of Republicans “blame Trump for the party's lackluster midterm.” They attributed that “to old-standby rationalizations,” like media bias (30 percent) and voter fraud (21 percent).

Would things be better if Trump stepped away from politics, as some Republicans would seem to believe in their search for a new alpha male?

Maybe, Theodoridis said, but most Republicans still don't think so. Sixty percent of them “think it would be better” for the Democrats, though.

Still in the grips

If you’re looking for something, you’ll find it.

But it might not be what you’re looking for.

Theodoridis found that:

• DeSantis has made up ground in 2024, “but Trump still gets most first-choice votes and is among the top three choices for almost two-thirds of Republicans. Nobody else appears to draw meaningful support.”

• Two years after the J6 insurrection, the poll shows a GOP electorate that’s still “in the grips of the Big Lie and intent on minimizing” its seriousness.

• Only a quarter of Republican respondents are willing to “recognize the legitimacy of Biden's election.” That’s unchanged since before the midterms.

• “The vast majority of Republicans continue to characterize the events of January 6, 2021 as a ‘protest’ and those involved as ‘protesters.’"

• Only 13 percent of Republicans blame Trump for insurrection, with most choosing to blame the Capitol Police, the Democratic Party or Antifa” for it.

• Fewer than one in five Republicans believe Donald Trump should be charged for inciting J6, a proportion unchanged since pre-midterms.

What you’ll find is Trump

Washington’s newsspeakers and opiniontalkers have been searching, since last year’s midterms, for evidence underscoring the suspicion that, for the Republican Party and the criminal former president, the thrill is gone.

Thrill has nothing to do with it.

Trump commands a vast Republican audience. They are in thrall to the party’’s alpha male, despite longing to find an alternative in Ron DeSantis.

With that, Trump has the authority to order white evangelical Protestant leaders, who are the most endebted to his presidency, to get off the fence. You’re going to support me and you’re going to like it, he said, basically.

If you’re looking for something, you’ll find it.

But what you’ll most likely find is Donald Trump.

READ MORE: Former RNC spokesperson reveals what could make Trump 'most vulnerable' for the 2024 presidential election

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