The conventional wisdom is that Ted Cruz has the evangelical vote on lock down and that’s got the Donald worried enough to rattle the cage about Cruz’s religious origins. Trump’s ploy to sway the religious right away from Cruz appears to be that real evangelicals can’t support Cruz because his family emigrated from Cuba. Cuba equals Catholicism. Catholicism is worse than evangelicalism. Trump never disappoints, does he?
Last month, Trump said that “not too many evangelicals come out of Cuba.” Yesterday on Face the Nation, he doubled down saying “it just means that Cuba, generally speaking, is a Catholic country. And you don’t equate evangelicals with Cuba. I don’t.”
Trump is obviously smart enough to realize that the success of his campaign is based on a singular human emotion: fear. It makes since, then, that his strategy to eliminate his competitors is to give his supporters a reason to be afraid of them. However, I’m hoping that this desperate grasp to somehow equate Cuba to Catholicism and Catholicism to secularism will backfire. If nothing else, it’s just another example of Trump’s lack of basic religious knowledge.
For starters, while Cuba is certainly a historically Catholic country, native religions like Santeria and a variety of evangelical Protestant denominations are currently more popular than Catholicism. In fact, only a quarter or so of Cubans identify as Catholic. So even if we fail to consider that Cruz’s dad became a Baptist preacher after coming to the US, it’s been a long time since being from Cuba meant you were most likely Catholic.
Of course, Trump wants you to believe that he is the authentic evangelical presidential candidate. It’s really hard not to laugh at that.
“I think of evangelicals, and I have a – I guess I am. I’m Presbyterian. I’m Protestant,” he said yesterday.
Sure, Donnie. I guess you’re the next Billy Graham.
There are Presbyterian churches that are considered evangelical but it’s certainly not the first denomination that comes to mind. Trump’s claimed denomination has been relatively progressive on many social issues and despite his desperate attempts to appeal to the religious right, it’s clear he has no clue what constitutes an evangelical.
However, the biggest mistake here is his apparent belief that tying Cruz to Catholicism would somehow take some of the evangelical vote away from Cruz. Back in 2012, Rick Santorum won Iowa because he garnered support from both groups. While Catholics and evangelicals have been hostile toward each other in the past, conservatives from both groups now share common ground on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage that “trump” that their theological disagreements like scriptural authority and transubstantiation. (Horrible pun definitely intended.)
If Trump ever decides to join us in the real world, he’ll realize that he’s going to need Catholics if actually wants to win the GOP nomination. That’s especially going to be true during the later part of the primary calendar when the attention turns to “Catholic-heavy” states like New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Ohio. Then Trump may find out that it’s one thing to fuel prejudices toward Muslims – a religious minority that isn’t exactly booming in popularity with white voters these days – but it’s another thing to suggest some sort of negative connotation about a denomination that accounted for a quarter of the electorate in the last three presidential elections.
Let’s just hope that by the time Trump realizes all of this that it’ll be too late for him to recover.