Kristen Soltis Anderson, interview by Ezra Klein, Ezra Klein Show, podcast, New York Times, March 26, 2021


[…] But I also think that part of what you saw animate the rise of Donald Trump within the party is a real sense among many in the Republican coalition today that they are under siege. And whether it’s a sense of losing cultural power or losing economic power, that many people who have gravitated to the right don’t just feel like what’s happening in Washington these days is, oh, a debate over what should the top marginal tax rate be or what’s your government spending look like or those sorts of things. But rather, they feel the way of life that they have known is changing rapidly. And that makes them very anxious. And that, I think, is driving a lot of their views.

EZRA KLEIN: You do a lot of focus groups with Republicans. So what does this actually look like? What would it look like for the country’s survival to be assured? What would it look like for the perceived sense of siege to end?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON: I think for a lot of Republicans, it would mean some combination of feeling like they’re able to practice their religion freely. There was some great research that was done by Henry Olsen on behalf of the Ethics and Public Policy Center that showed one of the most unifying beliefs of the Trump coalition was the idea that there is religious persecution of Christians in the U.S. these days.

I think that’s a big piece of it and why you saw Donald Trump, despite his sort of personal ethical issues, still being quite beloved by evangelicals, that he sort of seemed as though he was somebody who was going to defend their right to practice their religion as they saw fit and not be told by the government that they couldn’t, or be told — and this is, I think, the crucial part — not just by government, but by other institutions — by schools that their children go to, or by the media, by their employers that they’re not allowed to hold certain beliefs.

I think that that is increasingly why you see so many on the right talking about things like cancel culture, even though, in my research, I actually find that the term cancel culture isn’t something that rises up to the very tiptop of Republican concerns. I think there is, in some ways, the more libertarian, get the government out of my life and let me live, is still a strain that is very big within Republican circles these days, even as sort of economic libertarianism may be less in fashion than it was 10 years ago.

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