Religious right urged to back DeSantis against 'cult leader' Trump
Ron DeSantis (Photo via AFP)

Religious conservatives need “to get off the sidelines” to support Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in wresting evangelical support from Donald Trump, a political strategist urged Saturday in the Religious News Service.

“Despite a penchant for blunders in his campaign’s soft-launch rollout, DeSantis has a great opportunity to snatch away the religious right from Trump,” wrote Jacob Lupfer, a self-described “political reformer” who advised Gov. William Weld in a 2020 primary challenge to Trump.

“Perhaps foolishly, I believe that there are enough pastors and other leaders who still harbor a hope that the Republican Party, with the help of Christians of conscience, can be a force for good if they can work themselves out of the Trumpian knot and their own badly damaged moral credibility,” Lupfer wrote.

But Lupfer worried aloud about the failure of evangelical Christians to make a choice against Trump. And he cites the phrase “it’s time for choosing” that Trump uttered in announcing he’d blackball any campaign professional who worked for DeSantis.

“Why are evangelicals holding back on choosing? Faith leaders (or Republican operatives) who still cling to notions about integrity and decency may determine that DeSantis can only get the nomination if he outdoes Trump in sheer ugliness, not by pointing to a better, more honorable way,” writes Lupfer.

In that regard, the commentary damns DeSantis with faint praise: “DeSantis wages war on trans people and demonizes anyone who advocates for LGBTQ people. Trump has a record of catering to gay Republicans. Trump may have appointed conservative judges, but DeSantis directly and maximally exerts his will through expanded appointive powers to shape the ideology of Florida’s state offices and institutions. Trump whines about the media; DeSantis shuts out mainstream outlets, humiliates their reporters and gives unprecedented access to worshipful right-wing bloggers.”

Still, DeSantis is presented as an antidote to Trump, who the author, who described Trump’s recent Waco rally as “disturbing and quasi-religious even by the bizarre standards of Trumpist rallies” And he said it “underscored the extent of DeSantis’ problem. He has to in effect dislodge a cult leader.”

And he added this: “Trump may not prevail even with evangelicals on his side. He is consumed with legal trouble. At points it’s hard to watch his campaign without the creeping suspicion that it’s little more than a money racket, or a vanity project for a man as self-obsessed as ever.”