Salena Zito: 'Not a morally upstanding guy,' yet Trump has the love of millions of Christian conservatives

KENOSHA, Wis. — Jill Gilmore is one of those voters who have confounded both Democrats and Never Trump Republicans the most. She is a college-educated, gun-owning female conservative Republican who voted for Donald Trump. But here’s the real kicker: She is also a devout Evangelical Christian.

“In the list of what is most important to myself and my family, faith is always first,” said the striking 34-year-old mother of seven, small business owner, and community volunteer who says she and her husband teach their children daily that behavior and respect towards others is not an option, but a requirement.

Contrast the Gilmore Golden Rule with her vote for Donald Trump — who is accused of an affair with a porn star, and who does not have a reputation for politeness and respect for others — and her decision stuns the sensibilities of both his resisters and experts.

From their perch they see a moral conflict, but she sees her support for Trump as a pragmatic, not ideological, decision. This was a calculation made by millions of religious conservatives, a cadre my co-author Brad Todd and I call the “King Cyrus Conservatives” in The Great Revolt.

Gilmore sees that calculation as paying off, especially now.

“I don't agree with President Trump’s morality. But that doesn't make him a good or a bad president,” she says. “I couldn't agree more with what he's done since he has been in office.” Gilmore listed tax reform, job creation, decreased regulations, talks with North Korea, and his Supreme Court pick of Neil Gorsuch among other acts.

“He's moved this country forward, he's kept his promises that he made on the campaign. I am much more pleased with him than I thought I would be,” she said.

Gilmore was in particularly thrilled with last week’s Supreme Court 7-2 decision written by Justice Anthony Kennedy where the court ruled in favor of Jack Phillips, a Colorado baker and owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, stating that tolerance goes both ways, and that he could not be could be forced by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to design a cake for a ceremony he said contradicted his religious belief system.

It should be noted that the court did limit its decision to the specific ruling by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Justice Kennedy said the commission relied on a “ hostility” towards religion which is forbidden by the Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution.

For Gilmore, the ruling was a step in the preserving religious liberty, “The court acknowledged, at least some religious liberty for Christian businesses to not have to participate in same-sex wedding based on their belief system that has been in place for thousands of years,” she said.

“But it is only a start. The ruling left a lot of holes that need to be addressed in the near future. Which comes back to why I felt it was important to support Trump for president. The appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court was incredibly important, and going forward it is clear as religious liberties and individual rights will continue their tug of war with power of the government and this will come back up again,” she explained.

“And he will place more conservatives on the bench to stand up for those freedoms.”

Since the 2016 primary contests, Trump has astonished with his strength among fundamentalist Christians, Catholics, and evangelical voters.

His appeal was two-fold. First, he wasn’t Hillary Clinton. But it is what he is that really cemented the deal with voters like Gilmore. He is someone willing to actually fight back in the culture war in which religious voters have felt under siege for years.

“He promised to replace Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia with a conservative, he thanked us for our support when the first major accomplishment he had as president was the confirmation of Gorsuch to the highest court in the land,” she said.

Gilmore has no problem drawing the line between Trump’s personal behavior and his accomplishments and proposals in the White House. She adds to the list: prison reform, a policy proposal that prevents federal family-planning funds from going to Planned Parenthood, moving the new embassy to Israel in Jerusalem, his moving and historic speech during the March for Life, marking the first time a sitting U.S. president directly addressed the pro-life rally in Washington.

Gilmore and her husband do not have their head in the sand about Trump’s comportment, and they are honest with their children about it, “We openly talk with our kids about it. And they know why we voted for President Trump. They understand that he is not morally upstanding guy. They get that. They also understand that he aligns with our beliefs of religious freedom in America, sanctity of life,” she said.

What drove Gilmore and the millions like her to Trump? It was the decades of attacks on their values not just by politicians, but also businesses, government, Hollywood, entertainment and pop-culture that made them go for the guy who was going to go to the mattresses for their liberties, but probably won’t sit in a pew with them.



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