MAGA faithful draft plans for America's Christian nationalist future

 Photo composite of Trump, a cross, and Bible passages.
Photo composite of Trump, a cross, and Bible passages.

Barring some unforeseen seismic upheaval in America's political landscape, Donald Trump will likely secure a decisive primary victory and become the Republican nominee to face President Joe Biden in the November general election. Although poll after poll shows much of the nation deeply resigned and unenthusiastic about the prospect of a 2020 electoral rematch, one group of former President Trump's closest allies is not only excited about but actively planning for his potential return to the White House.

Under Trump's former Office of Management and Budget director Russell Vought, the right-wing Center for Renewing America think tank has emerged at the forefront of a "conservative consortium preparing for a second Trump term," Politico said. Vought, in particular, has "embraced the idea that Christians are under assault" in the United States, and has "spoken of policies he might pursue in response." To that end, the CRA has worked to "elevate Christian nationalism as a focal point in a second Trump term" thanks in large part to Vought — considered a top contender for Trump's potential chief of staff — and his proximity to the once-and-possibly-future president.

As Vought himself wrote in 2021, Christian nationalism is a "rather benign and useful description" for people who want to preserve "our country's Judeo-Christian heritage" and make policy decisions accordingly. Should Trump win a second term in office, will his administration help usher in an era of American theocracy?

'A conduit for all sorts of bad actors'

Although a draft document of CRA priorities for a second Trump administration obtained by Politico does include a bullet point for "Christian nationalism," the document is "short on specifics," Vanity Fair said. Instead, it focuses on pushing Trump to "ignore undesirable funding allocations approved by Congress and invoke the Insurrection Act on his first day in office." Despite the lack of specifics, Vought and his allies — including fellow former Trump administration official William Wolfe — have "long used interpretations of Christian doctrine as the basis for hard-line stances against abortion, immigration, and same-sex marriage," The Daily Beast said. This past October, Wolfe told attendees at a "Jesus and Politics" conference that "now is the time to arms again, I think we are getting close." Two months later, Wolfe shared then deleted a post on X calling for ending no-fault divorces, reducing access to contraceptives, ending surrogacy, ending public school sex education, and several other policies designed to "restore the American family." Vought has said he is "proud" to work with Wolfe on "scoping out a sound Christian Nationalism."

While Trump himself represents a unique danger to American democracy, CRA's overt push for a Christian nationalist agenda is a reminder that the former president "also serves in an additional role as a conduit for all sorts of bad actors," Talking Points Memo said. Ultimately, a second Trump term could be more "potentially threatening, dangerous, and long-lived than any and all Trump transgressions to date."

'A rehashed version of standard social conservatism'

Politico's focus on the specter of "Christian nationalism" hovering over Trump's second term is an attempt to "fearmonger" about his election, The Washington Examiner said. That "socially conservative policy organizations want to enact socially conservative policies" is hardly worth reporting. The instances of CRA's purported Christian nationalism are really just "a rehashed version of standard social conservatism" but with more transparency about the belief that "the United States was founded as a Christian nation and should be governed by Christian morality."

The linkage between Christian nationalism and broader Trump-infused conservatism extends throughout Republican politics, former Christian nationalist Brad Onishi said to NPR this month. Highlighting the recent partnership between New Apostolic Reformation figure Lance Wallnau and Turning Points USA leader Charlie Kirk, Onishi called their union a "crossover" and a "joining in a way that promises, I think, to be quite potent."

In addition to leading the CRA, Vought also advises the Heritage Foundation's "Project 2025" initiative, which has "proposed a flurry of other objectives for a potential second term, including repealing policies that help LGBTQ+ people and single mothers, on the basis that these laws threaten Americans' fundamental liberties," The New Republic said.