Christianophobia Cost Clinton the Election

Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton speaks to the Children's Defense Fund in Washington, U.S., November 16, 2016. |

There's no shortage of explanations for why Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump in November: the failure of Clinton's own political machine, the actions of F.B.I. director James Comey, interference from Russia, and voter desire for a "change" from tiresome establishment politicians.

George Yancey
George Yancey, professor of sociology, University of North Texas |

None of these tell the whole story. It took a combination of factors to bring about the greatest political upset since Harry S. Truman beat Thomas E. Dewey in 1948. But there's one more factor that has been left mostly undiscussed: Christianophobia in the ranks of the Clinton campaign.

Inattention to Evangelicals Cost Her the Election

Much has justifiably been made of the fact that 81 percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump and only 16 percent voted for Clinton. In 2012 Romney won 78 percent of the white evangelical vote, while Obama won 21 percent of that vote.

According to my calculations, if the same percentages of white evangelicals had voted Democrat and Republican in 2016 as they did in 2012, Clinton would have won Ohio, Michigan and Florida. (I was not able to find enough data to calculate what would have happened in Pennsylvania.). In other words, if Clinton had simply done no worse with white evangelicals in those states than Obama did in 2012, today she would be our president-elect.

Why then did she do so much worse with those voters than Obama did, despite their similar political positions on social and religious liberty issues? For one thing, she did not even take the time to ask for their vote — which is surprising, given that this group makes up about one fourth of the voting population. At least Barack Obama tried to court the white evangelical vote.

Voters notice these things. If a candidate is uninterested in you or what you have to say before an election, you can be sure she is not going to be interested afterward. White evangelicals had no reason to believe that Clinton respected either them or their issues of concern.

Why Did She Overlook Them? Christianophobia

It's odd that a presidential candidate would ignore and dismiss such a large voting population as Clinton did. Why would she be so hesitant to treat white conservative Christians with respect? I believe that Christianophobia is the best explanation.

I have been studying Christianophobia — a highly intolerant form of antagonism toward Christians and Christianity — from the perspective of a sociologist for the past few years, and while I do not know if Clinton herself has Christianophobia, I am confident that many people in her political circle do. Those with this type of bigotry tend to be white, highly educated, politically progressive and wealthy — characteristics that probably describe Clinton's team.

Christianophobia Dehumanizes

Christianophobia dehumanizes Christians. In my academic research on this topic I encountered too many opinions from my respondents like, "I want them all to die in a fire" and "Would like to give them all a frontal lobotomy." That kind of thinking represents a tendency not to see conservative Christians as fully human, and it's one likely factor in Clinton's choosing to ignore Christians.

Beyond this dehumanization, my research also uncovered a Christianophobic belief, held by many, that conservative Christians should not be allowed to participate in the public square. One respondent spoke for many by saying that "Christian Right people can do what they want in their churches and homes, but not in the public arena." Couple that with other respondents' opinions that Christians are irrational, bigoted, ignorant, childish, anti-science and backward thinking, and we have a strong case that people with Christianophobia want to keep conservative Christians locked out of serious political conversation.

From my research I think it's safe to assume Clinton was surrounded by individuals who hold such beliefs about conservative Christians. It is little surprise, then, that she did almost nothing to court them. It's easy to overlook those whom you think have nothing worthwhile to say. It's also likely that Clinton and those around her did not want to be beholden to persons they considered so unworthy.

A Golden Opportunity, Missed

They missed a golden opportunity. This could have been an ideal time for Democrats to make inroads into the white evangelical vote.

The Republican candidate was known for breaking up two marriages and having had numerous affairs. He demonstrated a lack of knowledge about the Christian faith ("Two Corinthians," anyone?) and we had that video of him bragging about his exploits with women. Some Christians may not have liked Mitt Romney's Mormonism, but no one questioned that he was a good moral man. This was a great chance for Democrats to play on Christian morality and win over a few white evangelical voters — they did not need many — to cinch the election.

But they blew it. I suspect the idea of appealing to white evangelicals was so distasteful to members of Clinton's political team, they couldn't bring themselves to take the necessary steps to get there. And thus it is that a thrice married, known adulterer with relatively little Bible knowledge received the largest percentage of the white evangelical vote in history.

If Democrats and progressives do not want to hear "President Trump has been re-elected" four years from now, then perhaps they should recognize it's time to purge the Christianophobic intolerance from among their leadership.

Originally posted at

George Yancey is professor of sociology at the University of North Texas.

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