The sun rises behind the steeple of a church, Aug. 23, 2015, in Plains, Ga.
Photo by David Goldman/AP

The wrong campaign picks the wrong fight over religion

Updated
Of all the controversial emails stolen from the DNC’s network and leaked online, arguably none was more damaging than a message related to religion.
 
On May 5, the week after Hillary Clinton effectively wrapped up the nomination, one DNC staffer raised the prospect of someone making an issue of Bernie Sanders’ faith. If voters in Kentucky and West Virginia were led to believe that the senator is an atheist, it “could make several points difference” in the results, the staffer said.
 
There’s no evidence any kind of plan was ever hatched, and according to Sanders himself, the senator is Jewish, not an atheist. But the fact that such a topic was even discussed in this way is impossible to defend.
 
There are, however, limits to the pushback. Don Trump Jr., for example, appeared on CNN yesterday, and seemed eager to discuss this controversy. Referencing the May 5 email, Trump, in his capacity as a surrogate for his father’s Republican candidacy, told Jake Tapper:
“If Republicans did that it would be disgusting and that’s what you’re going to see in a Clinton administration. This sort of divisiveness has to stop. They should be ashamed of themselves.
 
“And again, if we did that, if the RNC did that, if my father’s campaign did that they’d be calling for people to get the electric chair.”
Actually, it’s a funny story, because whether he realizes it or not, his father’s campaign has actually done this more than once. In fact, Trump’s actions are worse: he didn’t just talk about the possibility of attacking a rival’s faith in a private email; he explicitly went after others’ religious beliefs over and over again.
 
Donald Trump went after Hillary Clinton’s religious beliefs just last month. In October, Trump criticized Ben Carson’s faith. In January, Trump took a shot at Ted Cruz’s religion. [Update: Several readers have reminded me this doesn’t include Trump’s many attacks on President Obama’s religion.]

As the Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne Jr. explained a month ago, “Absent anything substantive to say about his belief system, Trump lashes out at others. And lacking an affirmative vision, he plays on fears and tells evangelicals … that our nation’s leaders are ‘selling Christianity down the tubes.’ Well. If religion is being sold out, it’s Trump who is orchestrating the deal.”
 
If Don Trump Jr. hasn’t heard about any of this, he really ought to do more to keep up.
 
 
 

Donald Trump and Religion

The wrong campaign picks the wrong fight over religion

Updated