If you want to understand how evangelical Christians have so thoroughly embraced President Trump — one of the most libertine men ever to occupy the White House — you might examine the path of Karen Pence, who will speak tonight at the Republican National Convention.
Pence, the wife of Vice President Mike Pence — who refers to her as “Mother” — nearly threw a giant monkey wrench into Trump’s election in 2016. The Pences are evangelicals, notoriously strict about sexual ethics, and they were reportedly quite offended when the Access Hollywood tape came out, featuring Trump making crude comments about women.
“She was apoplectic,” Politico’s Tim Alberta wrote last year, “warning her husband that she would no longer appear in public if he carried on as Trump’s running mate. He, in turn, hinted to his advisers that his time on the trail might be up.” Mike Pence stayed on the ticket. But when Trump won, Karen Pence reportedly refused to kiss her husband. “You got what you wanted, Mike,” she reportedly said. “Leave me alone.”
Tonight, Karen Pence will ask Americans to vote for Trump. “I see a president who cares about this country,” she told USA Today last November. So what changed?
One likely answer: Power. Before Trump came calling, Mike Pence’s political career was at a dead end. Now he’s a contender for the GOP nomination in 2024. Similarly, evangelicals were used to hearing socially conservative promises from Republican politicians who then prioritized getting stuff done for their wealthy donors. Trump didn’t just seek their support — he actually kept his promise to appoint conservative judges more likely to narrow abortion rights and prioritize Christian “religious freedom” over LGBT civil liberties. (There have been mixed results on that front, so far.)
“Is he a man of integrity? Absolutely not,” one Trump supporter recently told The New York Times. “Does he stand up for some of our moral Christian values? Yes.”
Power has a funny way of making morals pliable. Evangelical Christians have mostly gotten what they want from Trump. So have Karen and Mike Pence. Will it be worth it? Joel Mathis