Trump's Apocalyptic CPAC Speech Aimed Squarely at Southern Evangelicals

tags: CPAC, apocalypse, evangelicals, Donald Trump

Thomas Lecaque is Associate Professor of History at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa, located on Baxoje, Meskwaki and Sauk lands. He has written for The Washington Post, Foreign Policy, and The Bulwark. Follow him @tlecaque on Twitter.

Donald Trump has, in the past, dallied with apocalypticism in his rhetoric and policy, but it was usually interpreted as a sop to his evangelical base. He made an excellent secular hero for evangelicals like Rick Perry, who referred to him as “the chosen one.” Rapture-focused evangelicals also saw him as fitting into biblical fan fiction like the “Left Behind” series. And he found a coterie to support him who also viewed apocalypticism as part of their identity: Mark Meadows texting Ginni Thomas, “This is a fight of good versus evil. Evil always looks like the victor until the King of Kings triumphs. Do not grow weary in well doing. The fight continues. I have staked my career on it. Well at least my time in DC on it”; Robert Jeffress and John Hagee’s comments on the movement of the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem; and, of course, Steve Bannon’s apocalyptic vision for the world. Apparently he was even good for the “apocalypse economy.”

All of this, of course, is the Trumpian zeitgeist—it’s not Trump, it’s the way the world around him sees him. It’s QAnon, it’s Jericho March, it’s the ongoing White Christian nationalist obsession with him. And despite all of his bombast and rhetoric, all of his violence and self-obsession, Donald Trump doesn’t usually get all apocalyptic himself. Until last week at CPAC

Many have focused on Trump’s statement “I am your retribution,” and that angle of divine vengeance is certainly worrisome. But we should perhaps pay more attention to the aggressively apocalyptic bent of his speech, full throated and violent and accelerationist. Because again, Donald Trump does not usually lean into the apocalyptic. It’s all around him, but that’s usually not what he is vomiting forth. The people around him hold him up as an apocalyptic totem, and he either conveniently ignores it or makes jokes.

This latest speech is only a joke in the sense of a DC comic—The Killing Joke maybe. 

The former president opened his speech—after a long list of far-right celebrity shout outs—by framing the 2024 election as a battle: “the greatest in our history, most important battle in our lives is taking place right now as we speak. For seven years, you and I have been engaged in an epic struggle to rescue our country from the people who hate it and want to absolutely destroy it.” The stakes aren’t just political control—though political control is part of it—but existential

Read entire article at Religion Dispatches

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