The affair that President Donald J. Trump allegedly carried on with a pornographic film star, whose stage name is Stormy Daniels, is hardly the most scandalous thing about his presidency. There are other facets of his behavior that are far more troubling -- and dangerous.
He subverts the rule of law, threatening the constitutional separation of powers on which our democracy is founded. He has been busy creating a kleptocracy, using his office to further enrich himself and his family. He has aided and abetted white supremacists, widening the chasms of race and religion.
But the alleged affair with Daniels (her real name is Stephanie Clifford) does highlight the peculiar and hypocritical bond between Trump and the white churchgoers who call themselves committed Christians. Those conservative Bible-thumpers have bonded with the president and stayed fiercely loyal, despite his many moral and ethical transgressions.
If nothing else, the Trump presidency should end the claim that ultraconservative churchgoers have staked to the moral high ground, with public positions that they describe as the gold standard for Christian ethics. They are vehemently opposed to abortion (although they also oppose support for poor children outside the womb), they castigate gay, lesbian and transgender people, and they claim to abhor extramarital sex. (Yes, they are most vociferous about issues related to sex and gender. Poverty and violence matter much less to them.)
But they have been more than willing to overlook Trump's many sexual transgressions, from his multiple marriages to his admitted sexual assaults to his extramarital affairs. Before he was elected, news outlets aired a video recording in which he admitted groping women without consent, and, at the time, he conceded that the tape was authentic. But his fundamentalist Christian supporters stood by him.
Daniels' story, which is quite believable, also illustrates the point. She says they met at a golf tournament at Lake Tahoe in 2006, and he invited her to his room for consensual sex. At the time, he was married to his current wife, Melania (his third); their son, Barron, was an infant.
Trump, of course, vehemently denies the affair. But one of his lawyers, Michael Cohen, paid Daniels $130,000 in hush money just days before the 2016 presidential election, and Cohen has recently gone to court to force Daniels to keep quiet. Besides, Trump lies as easily -- and as frequently -- as he breathes. There is no reason to believe his version of events.
Even if they believe her, Trump's supporters among the Bible-thumping crowd don't care. The president has appointed several conservatives to the federal bench; he has moved to oust transgender soldiers and sailors from the U.S. military; he has continued to bash Muslims, who are popular scapegoats in many conservative churches. That's enough for them.
For all their fervor over limiting reproductive rights, the movement of conservative Christians into contemporary politics didn't start with the Supreme Court's 1972 ruling in Roe v. Wade. The late Jerry Falwell liked to recast history to fit that narrative, but the Moral Majority was founded six full years after Roe.
Falwell and his associates started the organization after federal judges ruled that private schools that refused to admit students of color could not enjoy the tax exemptions that other nonprofits use. Segregation academies throughout the South, including Bob Jones University, run by a Falwell ally, were incensed. (Founder Bob Jones claimed that segregation was mandated by the Bible.)
In other words, the offensive started by Falwell was, at its heart, a white nationalists' crusade from the outset.
No matter his moral failings, Trump fit that movement perfectly, running a campaign that castigated Mexicans, disparaged Muslims, and patronized and insulted black Americans. It's no wonder preachers such as the bigoted Franklin Graham -- so different from his late father -- followed after Trump with reckless abandon.
By the time he leaves office, Trump will have done untold damage to the presidency and the nation. And by supporting him blindly, conservative Christians will have done the same to their cause.