The desperate attempt

From “The Hidden Roots of White Supremacy: and the Path to a Shared American Future” by Robert P. Jones

The juxtaposition of our forty-fourth and forty-fifth presidents – and the new identity politics of white Christian nationalism that has emerged across these last dozen years – exposes the heart of the conflict. Obama’s election in 2008, and his reelection in 2012, were unmistakable signs that the old cultural foundations were failing. Trump’s narrow election win in 2016 – fueled by a wave of anger and resentment among conservative white Christians who were increasingly feeling displaced from the center of a new American story – was the desperate attempt to shore them up.

The 2016 presidential election provides unambiguous evidence of America’s identity crisis. One of the public opinion survey questions most predictive of the 2016 vote was this one: “Do you think that American culture and way of life has changed for the better or changed for the worse since the 1950s?” The country was, remarkably, evenly divided in its evaluation of American culture today, compared to an era prior to school desegregation, the civil rights movement, the banning of Christian prayer by teachers on public school grounds, the widespread availability of the pill and other forms of contraception, legalized abortion, and marriage equality.

Attitudes among partisans were striking mirror opposites. Two-thirds of Democrats said things have changed for the better, but two-thirds of Republicans said things had changed for the worse since the 1950s. White Christians also stood out from other Americans. Majorities of white evangelicals (74 percent), white mainline Protestants (59 percent), and white Catholics (57 percent) believed things had changed for the worse since the 1950s.