Donald Trump has had no bigger fan and friend on the Religious Right than Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. On Monday, Falwell invited political operative Ralph Reed, another Trump booster, to speak to Liberty’s students in the wake of a very bad week for Trump. In his speech to the Christian school, Reed made the case that Christians have a duty to vote for Trump.
Reed’s speech offered brief criticism of Trump’s recently unearthed bragging about getting away with kissing and groping women without their consent, saying he did not “appreciate” the “offensive and inappropriate” comments. He then shifted immediately into a much longer discussion of the controversies around Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
Reed criticized those tempted to sit out the election or vote for a third party candidate, drawing an analogy to Ronald Reagan’s statement that Christians who portrayed capitalism and communism as equally flawed chose to remove themselves “from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil.” Said Reed:
We must confront the choice before us and vote for someone who actually has a chance to become president. We dare not and we cannot surrender our vote during such an important election. Retreating to the stained-glass ghetto from whence we came, refusing to muddy our boots with the mire and muck of politics is not an option for followers of Christ. We are called to put away our “my way or the highway” pride, forsake cynicism and negativity, and participate fully as citizens, always cheerful, always winsome, always ready to defend our faith.
Reed argued that “on issue after issue on matters involving grave and intrinsic moral evil, there are stark differences between the two major-party nominees for president.” Among the issues he cited were abortion, religious freedom, the Hobby Lobby case, judges, the Iran nuclear deal, repeal of Obamacare, education reform and school choice, the “redefinition” of marriage and “rebuilding our hollowed-out military.” He said Trump “has pledged to protect life from conception to natural death” and praised Trump’s list of “20 outstanding conservative jurists” for future Supreme Court appointments.
Reed told the Liberty students not to be discouraged by the election, saying that the “pro-family, religious conservative movement is only about 40 years old” in contrast to the centuries of slavery and Jim Crow that preceded the passage of federal civil rights laws.
Reed said evangelical Christians have it in their power to win elections if they would only turn out in greater numbers:
According to exit polls, self-identified evangelical Christians comprise roughly 27 percent of the electorate; faithful, frequently Mass-attending Roman Catholics made up another 10 percent of the electorate. Together they are the largest, most vibrant, and most dynamic single constituency in the electorate today; a larger force than the Latino, the African-American, and the union vote combined.
Reed recalled that Falwell’s father, Jerry Falwell Sr., described his mission as getting people born again, baptized, and registered to vote. Falwell Jr. has said before that Trump reminds him of his father, and in reality the similarity is getting stronger as a super-Bannonized Trump ramps up his attacks on Hillary and Bill Clinton and says that if he were in charge she would be in jail. After all, it was Jerry Falwell Sr. who in the 1990s used his Old Time Gospel Hour to hawk videotapes that accused Bill Clinton of being involved in drug smuggling and murder when he was governor of Arkansas.
There’s at least one way in which Trump himself does not seem to be taking the advice Reed offered Liberty students: “Honey attracts more than vinegar, and a winsome attitude wins our fellow citizens more than harsh language or angry words.”