Erick Erickson is editor of TheResurgent.com, host of Atlanta’s Evening News on WSB radio and former editor of RedState.com.
From Sept. 17-25, 1944, Allied forces began a military push into Europe called Operation Market Garden. Market was code for the airborne forces ordered to seize bridges. Garden was code for the ground forces. It was an ambitious operation designed to strangle Germany’s industrial region. It also failed spectacularly. The Allied forces were unable to capture necessary bridges and therefore could not cross the Rhine.
Before Operation Market Garden, British Lt. Gen. Frederick Browning, the deputy commander of the First Allied Airborne Army charged with seizing the bridges, told Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, “I think we may be going a bridge too far.” The phrase has remained in Western vernacular ever since.
Evangelicals in America have similarly reached their bridge too far with today’s news about Donald Trump’s conversation with Billy Bush.
In January, Jerry Falwell Jr. threw his endorsement to Trump saying, “In my opinion, Donald Trump lives a life of loving and helping others as Jesus taught in the great commandment.” He raised many an eyebrow comparing Trump to Christ. Falwell had previously compared Trump to King David.
During debates in the primaries, Donald Trump defended funding Planned Parenthood. That led Robert Jeffress, the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas and a Trump endorser, to say, “There are some positive things Planned Parenthood does for women.” But many pro-life women reacted with hostility toward Trump. Leading pro-life women released a statement saying, in part, “as women, we are disgusted by Mr. Trump’s treatment of individuals, women, in particular.” Once Trump won Indiana, however, many of these women got on board his campaign.
Since then nothing has changed. Evangelicals still bitterly cling to the hope of Trump changing.
They still think he can be controlled. They still chant “but the Supreme Court.” They still think he is at least not Hillary Clinton.
Today they may have gotten to their bridge too far.
A video has been leaked of Trump talking to Bush, of Access Hollywood, in 2005, after his marriage to Melania Trump. In the video, Trump jokes about trying to sleep with a married woman. He went so far as to take her furniture shopping to try to get her to sleep with him. Then he bragged about the perks of being famous.
“And when you’re a star they let you do it,” Trump says. “You can do anything.” “Grab them by the p—y,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”
Evangelicals resistant to Trump have, for months, pointed out the Republican nominee’s repeated statement that he has never found the need to ask God for forgiveness. Those evangelicals who have been publicly championing Trump have consoled themselves and justified their support premised on both the Supreme Court and Trump not being Clinton.
But after a poor debate performance, a spectacularly bad week after the debate, and now this, evangelicals have got to be looking at the bridge deciding it is not worth crossing it.
Already skeptical of Trump winning and aware of how many evangelicals have lost their integrity supporting Trump, a great many just want it over and do not expect to join the Trump train. Angry evangelicals overreached in the primary. They landed inside the primary, stormed the beaches of the GOP, and got Trump the nomination. But they could not cross the bridge into mainstream acceptance.
Their candidate has too much baggage and his evangelical supporters are now too weighed down trying to defend the prior statements. They cannot even begin to defend the new. Plus, there is a nagging feeling starting to creep in. If this is what is leaked 30 days from the election, what might be leaked 10 days before the election?
While evangelicals probably will not publicly walk away from Trump, I suspect we will see them start to fade into the shadows as defeat draws near. If they are still concerned about saving the Supreme Court, they might want to publicly call on Trump to get out of the race in favor of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. That is the final option.