Home Politics Trump Frames Election as Battle Against ‘Wicked’ System Bent on Attacking Christians

Trump Frames Election as Battle Against ‘Wicked’ System Bent on Attacking Christians

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Trump Frames Election as Battle Against ‘Wicked’ System Bent on Attacking Christians

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Former President Donald J. Trump often characterizes his presidential campaign as a battle for America’s future. But speaking at a Christian broadcast media convention in Nashville on Thursday, he wrapped that depiction within a stark good-versus-evil framework, portraying his political opponents as part of a “wicked” system.

Mr. Trump also revived his claim that America’s “greatest threat is not from the outside of our country” but “from within,” language that drew alarm last year from experts who saw in it echoes of autocratic leaders.

During Thursday’s speech at the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Nashville, Mr. Trump portrayed the threat as liberals — more specifically, a “radical left, corrupt political class” — whom he broadly cast as intrinsically bent on attacking Christianity.

“Christians, they can’t afford to sit on the sidelines in this fight,” Mr. Trump said. He later added, without offering evidence, that liberals were persecuting Christians because “they know that our allegiance is not to them. Our allegiance is to our country, and our allegiance is to our creator.” (There are many Christians who are Democrats.)

Before running for office, Mr. Trump made little show of being particularly religious, which he acknowledged early in his speech, and he does not often give faith-focused speeches on the trail. But evangelical voters in 2016 were drawn to his populist message and his pledges to appoint “pro-life” judges, and they have remained loyal to him.

During his third run for office, Mr. Trump has often cast himself as a staunch defender of the Christian right. He also often boasts of his appointment of three justices to the Supreme Court who, in 2022, voted to overturn Roe v. Wade.

On Thursday, he praised those justices — Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — from the stage, calling them “great justices” and “great people.” (All three will be deciding on constitutional issues tied to Mr. Trump’s criminal cases and his election bid.)

Mr. Trump has often appeared uncomfortable or unwilling to discuss abortion at length on the campaign trail. During his speech, he took credit for the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, without using the word “abortion” or mentioning the case by name.

“I was able to bring this issue for the first time in 54 years back to the states,” Mr. Trump said, before falsely declaring that “on both sides, everybody agrees that’s where it should be.”

Many voters did not want to see Roe v. Wade overturned, a fact that became more evident after abortion rights emerged as a campaign issue that lifted Democrats in elections across the country in 2022 and 2023.

Mr. Trump has avoided taking a clear position on restrictions to abortion in the wake of those elections, and his emphasis on states’ rights during Thursday’s speech is part of that pattern.

He also did not address a recent Alabama Supreme Court ruling that embryos in test tubes should be considered children, a decision that cited anti-abortion language. The Biden campaign has criticized Mr. Trump’s silence on the issue.

Mr. Trump has previously said Republicans must find a way to talk about the issue that does not threaten them at the ballot box, and he previously criticized a six-week abortion ban signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a Republican and a former political rival, as a “terrible mistake.”

But Mr. Trump has told advisers and allies that he likes the idea of a 16-week national abortion ban with three exceptions, in cases of rape or incest, or to save the life of the mother, The New York Times reported last week, citing two people with direct knowledge of Mr. Trump’s deliberations.

On Thursday, he tied the issue to his legal troubles, criticizing the Justice Department for prosecuting six anti-abortion protesters who in 2021 obstructed a reproductive health clinic in Tennessee in violation of federal laws. They were convicted by a jury in the state last month, in a case that has been a flashpoint for conservative activists.

He also repeated a vow to create a federal task force to focus on “anti-Christian” bias. Mr. Trump has tried to appeal to Christian voters by accusing the Biden administration of criminalizing Americans for their faith, though experts have said that many of his claims are baseless or misleading.

But Mr. Trump — who faces 91 felony counts in four criminal cases, including one tied to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election — uses those characterizations to support a larger theme of his campaign: that President Biden and Democrats are severe threats to democracy.

That tendency was on display on Thursday. Before Mr. Trump was introduced, loudspeakers sounded out “Justice for All,” a song featuring the J6 Prison Choir, which is composed of men who were imprisoned for their parts in the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021.

That song — which features the men singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” while Mr. Trump recites the Pledge of Allegiance — is part of a broader effort by Mr. Trump and his supporters to reframe the effort to overturn the 2020 election as an act of patriotism.

During his speech, Mr. Trump referred to the singers as “the J6 hostages,” a term he has repeatedly used to describe those serving sentences in connection with the Jan. 6 attack.

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