Donald Trump's time in the White House will likely be remembered not only for his endless scandals and gaffes, but also for the way Republicans (who once warned Trump would be the death of their party) have fallen behind him in perfect lockstep, too frightened of political consequences to speak out against obvious corruption and immorality.
Sitting Republican Congressmen speaking out against Trump has become so rare that even the smallest sign of dissent has become a newsworthy event.
For instance, on a recent edition of CBS' Face the Nation, Senator James Lankford (R-OK) said President Trump wasn't a "role model" for children.
Though many would consider this an extreme and ultimately meaningless understatement, it represents one of the largest breaks a sitting Senator has made from Trump since the death of John McCain.
Senator Lankford Joins Face the Nation youtu.be
During the interview, host Margaret Brennan asked Lankford and Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) about Republicans' treatment of Bill Clinton compared to Donald Trump:
"During the Clinton impeachment, we often heard from Republicans that criticism and the call for an American president to be a moral leader. And we heard about moral failings."
"These days you will quietly hear criticism of the President from Republicans, but you don't hear that loud criticism in the way we did 20 years ago. What has changed?"
"I'm not sure if anything has changed. There's still this ongoing conversation about policy and about responsible leadership and about role models."
"I don't think that President Trump as a person is a role model for a lot of different youth, that's just me personally. I don't like the way that he tweets, some of the things that he says, his word choices at times are not my word choices."
Please pass on to Sen Lankford that old saying “actions speak louder than words” Im sick of how disturbed all the… https://t.co/zqsBZzqq72— WTFGOP? (@WTFGOP?)1577721605.0
Lankford went on to comment on the challenge of working with Trump, but predictably insisted it was ultimately worth it.
"I'll tell you that praying for the President is probably one of the greatest spiritual challenges I've had to work through in my life..."
"[Trump has] been very, very protective of areas like life and very protective of areas of religious liberty to be able to allow people to be able to live their faith out."
If this is what Senator Lankford said on the record, imagine what he says off the record. https://t.co/I1MQRVG6gW— Michael McFaul (@Michael McFaul)1577689473.0
The interview took place as conservatives across the nation debate the morality of President Trump and whether he's worth supporting despite his corruption and personal shortcomings.
While many Christians are willing to get behind any President who will nominate anti-abortion judges, others feel pro-life policies aren't worth validating a man who goes against most Christian principals.
@CBSThisMorning Blah, blah, blah. Get back to me when one of these “enlightened” Republicans breaks ranks and votes against Trump/McConnell.— Jo Miller (@Jo Miller)1577642774.0
@CBSThisMorning A Senator has a responsibility not only to family & state, but to country, Constitution and rule of… https://t.co/s4rXYlfYG7— A New Day Is Rising, People Are Changing 🌊☮️💜 (@A New Day Is Rising, People Are Changing 🌊☮️💜)1577668726.0
@CBSThisMorning “Lankford conceded he doesn't get to choose the people he works with in Washington” There’s a trial… https://t.co/G70mTTeNlq— Owl In (@Owl In)1577644524.0
This conflict came to a head through an editorial from Christianity Today editor-in-chief Mark Galli, in which he called for the removal of President Trump from office.
In his piece, he wrote about how President Trump's anti-abortion policies didn't outweigh the evidence of crimes brought against him during the impeachment inquiry.
“His public morality is what makes him unfit for office,” @MarkGalli tells @margbrennan on his rebuke of… https://t.co/WEAZl1LzLf— Face The Nation (@Face The Nation)1577030882.0
In response, over 200 evangelical leaders wrote that Galli's op-ed was "offensively" dismissive of their support for the President. They did not address the evidence brought against Trump, though they did attack Galli for characterizing their faith as "far-right."
The debate continues despite the fact that President Trump himself weighed in a very un-Christian manner, slamming Christianity Today as "far-left" and saying Galli was a "nonbeliever."
Will evangelical Christians continue to support Trump in 2020?
It certainly seems so.
The book The Immoral Majority: Why Evangelicals Chose Political Power over Christian Values is available here.