Morales and Trump: Weaponizing Religion to Gain Impunity
President Jimmy Morales of Guatemala is following the lead of President Trump as he uses issues like abortion and “family values” to maintain power in spite of obvious incompetence and criminality. In the US, white evangelicals are the group most likely to forgive criminality, corruption, and un-Christian behavior as long as their goals are being met. Morales hopes Guatemala’s religious feel the same.
By Richard Brown / Editor
When Morales announced that he would expel the international prosecutors investigating him for corruption, he finished the press conference with this line: “Guatemala and our administration believe in the right to life, in the family based on a man and a woman. Our administration and Guatemala want free elections without foreign intervention. Guatemala wants freedom, because it believes in freedom.”
Meanwhile, in the US, polls show that President Trump has the support of over 75% of white evangelicals, even though:
He lied about how often he attends church; he said he never asks God for forgiveness; he is being investigated for corruption by the FBI; his campaign chairman and personal lawyer have been convicted of fraud; he has been divorced twice and married three times; he sought to profit off gambling as a casino magnate (though he failed and went bankrupt); he was caught on tape bragging profanely about sexual assault; he cheated with a porn star on his current wife while she was caring for his four-month-old son; he paid off the porn star and a Playboy Playmate to cover up infidelities; [*the list is so long it continues at the end of this article].
How can he remain so popular with people so concerned with living virtuous lives as defined by the Bible?
The answer is simple. Trump panders to their priorities. He has been called the most “pro-life president in history.” He is the first president to speak at the annual Right to Life anti-abortion rally. He has appointed many anti-abortion judges. Yet before he was a politician, he called himself “very pro-choice.” And it’s not only abortion. A Baltimore Sun editorial put it best:
“The central theme of the Trump campaign to make American great ‘again’ plays into this reactionary thinking that the country has drifted away from its white, Christian-centered, heterosexual past and turned toward something with which white evangelicals do not identify. They don’t want to just turn back the clock to 1972 on women’s reproductive rights, they’d like to turn it back on immigration, civil rights, separation of church and state, who serves in the military or merits a wedding cake and on and on.”
It is logical for President Trump to change his views on abortion and adopt policies popular with white evangelicals. White evangelicals are the group most likely to forgive criminality, corruption, and un-Christian behavior as long as their goals are being met.
Are the religious in Guatemala any different? President Morales hopes they are not. He thinks that talking about abortion and family values will convince people to support him even though he is fighting off a corruption probe and thereby protecting the rest of the country’s corrupt.
Just as Morales is appealing for support from religious people to fight off an anti-corruption investigation, Trump is trying to fight off impeachment by appealing to religious voters. There are congressional elections in November and if the Democrats take the House of Representatives, they may vote to impeach him based on the outcome of the Mueller investigation.
Trump told evangelical leaders at a recent meeting in the White House:
“You have tremendous power… you have people who preach to almost 200 million people… You have to hopefully get out and get people to support us. If you don’t, that will be the beginning of ending everything that you’ve gotten.” He added that the elections are “very much a referendum on not only me, it’s a referendum on your religion.”
Trump and Morales want people to think that to support Christianity, they must support them and their allies. That is the only way out of trouble, and possibly jail time, for the two leaders.
*The list continues:
he supported the people who participated in a Nazi march in Charlottesville, Virginia even after one of the participants murdered a young woman; he regularly insults people in public and called women “fat pigs,” “dogs,” “slobs,” and “disgusting animals”; he divides refugee families at the border; he speaks fondly of dictators like Vladimir Putin and Rodrigo Duterte; he said in a press conference with Putin that he does not believe the US intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia is influencing the US election through cyber warfare and that he instead believes Putin, who says Russia would never do such a thing; he refuses to release his tax returns; he refuses to divest from his companies while president; he has attempted to take away people’s health insurance; he supports cuts to public services to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy; he lies constantly and 76% of the time his statements are verifiably false; Trump University officials were convicted of fraud; he has said, “My whole life I’ve been greedy, greedy, greedy. I’ve grabbed all the money I could get. I’m so greedy. But now I want to be greedy for the United States. I want to grab all that money. I’m going to be greedy for the United States”; etc.