There has been a good deal of hand-wringing by evangelicals regarding who they should vote for this election cycle. Last year, many touted that there was no way Trump could end up the official nominee for the Republican party. There were 17 candidates for the GOP, many who looked like they would fit the checklist for conservative Christian voters. So many viable options to defeat Hillary.
Yet here we are, one year later, with Trump as the nominee. In June, Trump met with more than 500 evangelical leaders, mainly to persuade them that he was on their side. Passionate about the things they were passionate about. Wanting to raise evangelicals back into voting power. The meeting seemed to soothe many, with endorsements coming shortly after that meeting from Dr. James Dobson and Tony Perkins among others.
Now, it seems Hillary Clinton is attempting to woo evangelicals and Catholics in her own way. Unlike the meetings with Trump, Clinton’s meetings with evangelicals have been private, with many leaders unidentified. Time reports that Clinton has met with top leaders in Washington, with the agenda centering around global development if Clinton becomes president. These meetings were less about swaying leaders to her side and more about listening to Clinton and her aides talk about priorities like poverty and refugee assistance.
“The goal of both of these meetings has been to a) learn about the priorities of people of faith engaged in humanitarian work and b) work with supportive leaders to help get them and their communities involved in our field organizing efforts in Virginia and elsewhere,” a spokesperson for the Clinton campaign told TIME.
The meetings happened June 23 with Catholic leaders and July 19 with evangelical and Protestant leaders. At one meeting, Galen Corey, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, raised concerns about focusing on issues outside of America, saying, “If the government tries to impose ideological constraints [i.e., Democratic views on marriage and sexuality] on civil society groups, then we could be written out of the picture, and that would be a lose-lose, certainly for our organizations, but much more importantly for the work that needs to be done.”
There have been no formal endorsements that have come from these meetings with the Clinton campaign. However, they seem to come at a prime time. With Trump touting evangelical voting power and Clinton seeking support from social justice organizations, evangelicals themselves seem to be splintering on who to vote for. Christianity Today says that the God Gap (meaning how often someone attends church and how important faith is to them is usually a good indicator of which party they belong to or how they vote) is now extinct, with Trump leading Clinton by only four percentage points in polling.
Rachel Held Evans, a well-known left-leaning Christian blogger, encouraged pro-life evangelicals to vote for Hillary Clinton, touting her record on poverty and saying that in the eight years of a Democratic, pro-abortion president, abortion rates have actually fallen.
Wayne Grudem of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood wrote a piece on Townhall regarding why Trump is now the moral voting choice for conservatives. He cites Trump’s ability to set the Supreme Court for the next 30-40 years, repealing Obamacare and ISIS as just a few reasons that evangelicals can vote no other way.
It remains to be seen if Clinton’s meetings will continue, and if they do, the impact they will actually have on evangelicals and how they vote in the election.