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Hannah Chan is eagerly anticipating Easter Sunday, the most important date in the Christian calendar.
She, her husband Leo and their 16-year-old daughter plan to dress up, go to church and have an afternoon supper with friends.
“This Easter we will be spending at a new church, so we are really looking forward to coming together with the community,” she says with a smile.
Chan, 45, became a Christian growing up in Hong Kong, where she attended the city’s Baptist University and met her husband before moving to the US in 2002. Eventually the family settled in Cary, NC, and Hannah said she has since enjoyed meteoric success as a real-estate agency owner, starting with a $600 course to get her license.
But first and foremost, Chan identifies as a Christian — and that extends to every part of her life, including politics.
“My beliefs go with me in the voting booth,” she said. “Christians want to support the leader who will have a backbone. And who will stand up for all others to protect religious freedom. That protection is why my family came to the United States.”
For her, that meant a vote for Donald Trump in 2020, and she isn’t alone. White evangelical and conservative Christian voters robustly supported Trump’s reelection last November. Exit numbers show he earned 76 percent of their support — just 5 percentage points less than in 2016, according to exit poll data.
Trump also carried the Catholic vote by 15 percentage points over Biden, a practicing Catholic, although that support was far less than the 33 point margin he beat Hillary Clinton with in 2016.
Trump’s rough talk may have put off some religious voters the second time around, but many forgave him for his rhetoric, said Pastor Andy Doll, who runs the Bible Baptist Church in Prairie du Chien, Wis.
“We all fail,” Doll said of Trump’s rhetoric. “I mean, really, outside of the Lord Jesus Christ, I have yet to meet a perfect candidate or a perfect Christian.”
A post 2020 election Gallup survey showed about one-fourth of all US voters are white evangelical Christians. The other quarter define themselves as non-believers, while the rest are a mix of Catholics and non-Christian religious voters.
In the Trump era, faith voters regained some of the cultural capital they had lost in the past 30 years. During his first campaign, he repeatedly said he would back religious freedom issues, and he proved it after his inauguration with the Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty Executive Order, which gave regulatory relief to companies who objected to an ObamaCare mandate for contraception in health care.
“Faith is deeply embedded into the history of our country, the spirit of our founding and the soul of our nation,” Trump said at the signing. “We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore.”
So, in a post-Trump world, do faith voters like Chan and Doll worry they’ve lost a champion for good?
Absolutely not, said Tim Meehan, 72, a devout Catholic from Newtown Square, Pa. He said conservatives in the past too often voted for candidates who professed to share their religious beliefs, but then buckled to secular pressures as soon as they got to Washington.
“Those days are gone and Trump changed that forever,” he said. “While future candidates may not share his unorthodox comportment, they need to share his unwillingness to cave.”
In the ’60s, Meehan started out as a Catholic Democrat whose high school rock band opened for a Bobby Kennedy rally. As his party started to nudge out pro-life Catholics, he cast his last vote for a Democrat with Jimmy Carter.
“I thought he was a good man of God,” Meehan said. But while Carter spoke of being personally against abortion when he ran for office, “he did nothing when he got to Washington,” Meehan said. Now, many faith voters are feeling the same way about Biden.
Last month, the organization Pro-life Evangelicals for Biden released an open letter saying they felt “used and betrayed” that the president’s COVID-19 relief package excluded the Hyde Amendment, the bipartisan policy that prevents taxpayer funding for abortion.
“Many evangelicals and Catholics took risks to support Biden publicly,” the statement read. “President Biden and Democrats need to honor their courage.” It added that they “have no intention of simply watching these kinds of efforts happen from the sidelines.”
Meehan, a retired teacher and businessman, agrees.
“In the last campaign we heard constantly what a devout Roman Catholic Joe Biden was, right?” Meehan said. “And then he signs onto removing all restrictions from any state abortion laws and funding Planned Parenthood. There’s a great space between what people are identifying as a man of faith and what his actions are.”
Doll points to Wisconsin Republican Derrick Van Orden, the retired Navy SEAL who nearly toppled Democrat Rep. Ron Kind for Congress last year, as the type of candidate who will commit to religious liberty issues.
“We expect that same kind of candidate for president will emerge,” said Doll, 45.
In fact, even though Trump lost the presidency, many Republican candidates won down ballot last year, not just in the House races where they were expected to lose by double digits (and instead gained 12 seats), but also in state legislative chambers, such as Pennsylvania and North Carolina, where GOP majorities swelled — all because of candidates who ran on protecting religious liberty.
Chan said she did not lose faith when Trump lost “because I saw candidates like Mark Robinson, our new lieutenant governor in North Carolina, win. He is like a breath of fresh air. Candidates like him are the future of our party.”
Salena Zito is the author of “The Great Revolt: Inside the New Coalition Reshaping American Politics.”
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