Abdullah Muradoğlu graduated from Marmara University’s public administration and political science program in Istanbul. He has been active in the press and media for more than 15 years. Since 1997, he has written myriad exclusive reports, research articles, interviews, history pages, and columns for Yeni Şafak. He was deemed worthy of an award by the Journalists Association of Turkey in the 2004 Turkey Journalism Achievement Awards. He has published four biographical books and held various positions in non-governmental organizations.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump's announcement that he will run for office in 2024 started a civil war in the Republican Party. This war is not just between Mainstream/Centrist Republicans and Trumpists. There is also a serious division among the White Evangelical Christians, also known as Christian Zionists. Meanwhile, it is said that a more theoretical division in the form of Religious Conservatives and National Conservatives is getting deeper. Likewise, all these debates, conflicts and divisions are shaped around the Trump effect on the Republican Party base.
The scope of my column today is about the Christian Zionists who were the most active supporters of Trump after 2016. It was not a serious option for Christian Zionists before Trump was elected President in 2016. Trump was not seen as a political personality to be supported in terms of his private life. Trump's preference for Mike Pence as the Vice Presidential candidate in the 2016 election was considered a huge win for Evangelists. After being elected President, Trump prioritized policies that advanced the Israeli agenda of the Christian Zionists.
During Trump's presidency, Republicans lost their majority in the House of Representatives in 2018. In 2020, they lost both the Senate and the White House. In the 2022 elections, the Republicans were expecting a huge victory wave. Such a wave did not occur. While the Republicans narrowly won the majority in the House, they also lost control of the Senate to the Democrats. Most of the candidates Trump supported lost in the elections. These results sparked debate over whether Trump would be the right candidate in 2024. This debate also found wide repercussions in Evangelical Christian Zionist circles.
There are around 100 million Evangelical Protestant Christians in the United States. Only 15 to 20 million of this number are said to be Christian Zionists. Christian Zionists who voted overwhelmingly for the Republican Party are much more pro-Israel than Jewish Americans who vote Democrats, as Trump often emphasizes. According to some recent studies, support for Israel among young Evangelists has decreased by half.
Christian Zionist leaders are turning to other names that have a chance to win the election, on the grounds that it is difficult for Trump to be elected President in 2024. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are among these names. All three names participated as speakers at the 2022 Leadership meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition held in Las Vegas and felt the pulse for the 2024 elections. The Republican Jewish Coalition is a very important fundraiser for the Republican Party.
Apart from Desantis, Pence, and Pompeo, there are of course many other names from the Republican Party who want to run for President in the 2024 elections. Presidential candidates will compete fiercely in the Republican Party's primary elections next year. As I mentioned above, Christian Zionist leaders are refraining from making an open commitment to support Trump for now.
Robert Jeffress, one of the evangelical leaders who previously served as Trump's religious adviser at the White House, says that the Republican Party does not plan to support Trump in the primary elections. The Republican Party is heading towards a civil war that I don't want or need to be a part of, Jeffress told Newsweek magazine. Jeffress also emphasized that he would be happy to support Trump if he wins the nomination race. It can be said that many Evangelical leaders agree with Jeffres.
Some popular Evangelical commentators, on the other hand, openly state that Trump should not be a presidential candidate. One of these names, Everett Piper, one of the columnists of the Washington Times newspaper, complained that “if Trump is our candidate in 2024, we are doomed”. Likewise, Mike Evans, a prominent Christian Zionist leader, pointed out that the American Evangelical Movement was divided and said, “Trump cannot save America. He can't even save himself."
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