This should surprise nobody, seeing as Falwell was more than happy to gush effusive praise of the billionaire when he appeared at Liberty University last Monday. “In my opinion,” Falwell said, “Donald Trump lives a life of loving and helping others as Jesus taught in the great commandment.” If you say so, Jerry.
Still, Trump is excited by the news.
The endorsement is notable for at least two reasons.
One, Trump doesn’t actually need the endorsement or support of Evangelical elites to reach Evangelical voters. Polls show that Evangelicals are flocking to Trump, with 37 percent of white Evangelicals nationally rallying behind the candidate. Trump’s success with Evangelical voters comes in spite of condemnation from well-regarded Evangelical leaders like the Southern Baptist Convention’s Russell Moore, again suggesting his luck with the base is not really contingent upon his relationship with their religious leaders.
Two, Trump isn’t actually all that interested in the issues that have historically concerned Evangelicals, like abortion, religious liberty, and same-sex marriage. His appeal seems rather harder to pin down, aside from a generalized narrative of decline coupled with an anti-politically correct persona. In Trump, we may be seeing a new kind of Evangelical appeal, or a new set of priorities emerging from the Evangelical base rather than from the Evangelical leadership.