The Washington Post sent a reporter and photographer recently down to Crenshaw County -- yes, the one in Alabama -- to better understand what conservative church-goers in America's Bible Belt think today about President Trump.
Why Crenshaw County?
I'll let The Post's Stephanie McCrummen, who is from Birmingham, explain:
"In Crenshaw County, where Luverne is located, Trump had won 72 percent of the vote. Recent national polls showed the president’s approval among white evangelical Christians at a high of 77 percent. One survey indicated that his support among Southern Baptists was even higher, surpassing 80 percent, and these were the people arriving on Sunday morning to hear what their pastor had to say."
That's why. Alabama is Trump Country, and Crenshaw County is about as Trump as you can get. It's a source of pride there, as it is throughout most of our state.
Another question: Why bother with another attempt to understand America's Trump supporters? Hasn't that been done?
Again, I'll let the author explain:
"The presidency of Donald Trump has created unavoidable moral dilemmas not just for the members of First Baptist in Luverne but for a distinct subset of Christians who are overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly evangelical and more uniformly pro-Trump than any other part of the American electorate. In poll after poll, they have said that Trump has kept his promises to appoint conservative Supreme Court justices, fight for religious liberty, adopt pro-life policies and deliver on other issues that are high priorities for them.
"At the same time, many have acknowledged the awkwardness of being both self-proclaimed followers of Jesus and the No. 1 champions of a president whose character has been defined not just by alleged infidelity but accusations of sexual harassment, advancing conspiracy theories popular with white supremacists, using language that swaths of Americans find racist, routinely spreading falsehoods and an array of casual cruelties and immoderate behaviors that amount to a roll call of the seven deadly sins."
Three thoughts about all this:
First, McCrummen's story is well done and nicely written. I enjoyed it.
Second, I didn't learn anything new -- maybe because I'm an Alabama journalist and knew what she was going to discover when she visited Luvurne.
Third, critics say these stories do a disservice both to Southern voters and Trump supporters, and I tend to agree. (A little bit, that is.) It's been proven that Trump's support is hardly exemplified solely by rural addresses and a lack of college education. Plus, the South is much more diverse than Lurvurne.
I'd suggest reading McCrummen's piece and then reading this one by Sarah Smarsh in The New York Times: "Liberal blind spots are hiding the truth about 'Trump Country.'" Together, they make a nice, balanced pair.
-- Phillip Tutor