September 19, 2018


Is Trumpism a new religion?: The loss of churches leaves a gap which populist politics can fill (Peter Franklin,  19 SEPTEMBER 2018, UnHerd)

Which brings us to the actual subject of this UnPacked: Trumpism - and, in particular, Alex Wagner's argument in the Atlantic that Trump worship, if not quite a religion in its own right, is a religion substitute:

"You could draw a straight line from a disenfranchised, pessimistic, resentful audience to Trump's brand of fear-driven, divisive politics, but this would leave out an equally important part of the Trump phenomenon, and something critical to its success: the elation. Go to a Trump rally, speak to Trump supporters, and the devotion is nearly evangelical."

As Henry Olsen explains in regard to both America and Germany, there's strong evidence for a link between support for populism and decline of religious adherence among previously religious populations. The loss of churches - and also other community institutions - leaves a gap which populist politics is well placed to fill.

Of course, it's a poor substitute for community, let alone true faith. Populism is to social capital what junk food is to nutrition, but on it other hand it's cheap, accessible and habit-forming.

Wagner quotes W Bradford Wilcox who has tweeted a wealth of evidence on the difference between Trump voters who do attend church regularly and those who don't. Those who never or seldom went to church were significantly more likely than the weekly congregants to have less favourable views of ethnic minorities, to say white identity was very important to them, to want stricter controls on immigration and to have supported Trump in the Republican Primaries. Perhaps most significantly, the 'unchurched' group were less likely to be satisfied with their family relationships, neighbourhoods and communities than those at the other end of the churchgoing scale.

The cultlike fanaticism with which they deny reality is especially revealing.

Posted by at September 19, 2018 7:57 AM