Nov 2, 2022 - Podcasts

Christian nationalism makes its mark on the campaign trail

More than 4 in 10 Americans think the U.S. should be a Christian nation. And one-third say it already is. That’s according to a new poll from the Pew Research Center. But views on what that means vary. And on the campaign trail, overt Christian nationalist language is showing up more and more from right-wing candidates.

  • Plus, COVID makes China’s economic woes even worse.
  • And, the price of turkey is on the rise.

Guest: Council on Foreign Relations' Zoe Liu, and Calvin University's Kristin Kobes Du Mez .

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Emily Peck, Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Robin Linn, Fonda Mwangi and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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EMILY PEAK: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Wednesday, November 2nd.

I’m Emily Peck in for Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what we’re following today: Christian nationalism makes its mark on the campaign trail. Plus, the price of turkey is on the rise. But first, COVID makes China’s economic woes even worse. That’s today’s One Big Thing.

COVID makes China’s economic woes even worse

EMILY: Shanghai Disney Resort shut down Monday as COVID cases rose in the city — and the day before, visitors actually became essentially trapped in the park, and were only allowed out with a negative COVID test.

Meanwhile, Apple’s biggest iPhone factory in Zhengzhou is struggling with supply disruptions as workers flee to avoid being caught in a lockdown.

These kinds of strict COVID measures – going back almost 3 years – are taking a toll on China’s already struggling economy.

Here for more, and for what this all means for the U.S. – is Zoe Liu, a fellow for international political economy at the Council on Foreign Relations. Hi Zoe!

ZOE LIU: Hey, Emily.

EMILY: So what is going on with China's economy right now? Big picture.

ZOE: So what everybody's familiar with is the zero-Covid policy and in addition to zero- Covid policy, people probably have also been familiar with the slowdown in China's property market. China's looming demographic change, which means, this year is going to be the first time that China is going to have a negative population growth. But, I would summarize strict zero-Covid policies not the most challenging economic problem in China right now,

EMILY: But I mean, Zoe, if the COVID restrictions were lifted, would we see some improvement in China's economy?

ZOE: Oh yeah, sure. Absolutely, temporary relief would be just the same as the United States when we first came out of Covid restriction, you know, we had people, spending a lot of money go on trips, go on vacations and all that temporary recovery, that's foreseeable. But that cannot be sustained and plus, there are structural issues that constrain demand, especially domestic demand from growing. And part of that is actually related to the fact that the majority of Chinese families, household income are tied to the property market. So when the housing market or the housing price goes down, and the overall level of indebtedness is not necessarily sustainable, that put additional toll the aggregate demand.

EMILY: And so, how is all this impacting China's economic relationship with the US? It seems like this is a place of fracture at the moment.

ZOE: I would say zero-Covid. And, the way China, the Chinese government handled the Covid really, put additional strain to the already fractured relationship between the United States and China. These two countries are still major economic trading partners with each other, especially when you look at US export to China in this bigger context though, we do see a lot of tensions being, on increasingly broader and fuller display, especially in the tech sector. More specifically export control, the Biden administration has, Implemented or issued, export controls with regard to semiconductor industries. The idea was not, allowing China to have or regain a tech edge relative to us. So from that perspective, China is not necessarily going to have ready access to cheap technologies, or at least the cost of R&D inside of China is going to be way much higher than before. When China was able to have access to Western market.

EMILY: So that’s another long term strain for China that lifting the covid restrictions wouldn’t address?

ZOE: Exactly.

EMILY: Zoe Liu is with the Council on Foreign Relations – thanks Zoe.

ZOE: Thank you, Emily.

The price of turkey is on the rise

EMILY: And here’s an update to another economic story we've been following...the spiking cost of food. Especially…turkey.

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, Axios’ Kelly Tyko reports that you can expect to pay more for your holiday meal this year. USDA data shows turkey prices are up around 28% from this time last year.

Inflation’s a factor, but this year's avian flu outbreaks — which killed more than 8 million turkeys, according to CDC data – are playing a big role too.

The Biden Administration is also trying to lower the price of meat before it hits stores. This morning, the White House announced a $223 million investment to expand meat and poultry processing capabilities in the U.S.

In a moment, the power of Christian nationalism on the campaign trail.


Christian nationalism makes its mark on the campaign trail

EMILY: Welcome back to Axios Today! I’m Emily Peck.

More than 4 in 10 Americans think the U.S. should be a Christian nation. And a third say it already is. That’s according to a new poll from the Pew Research Center. But views on what it means to be a Christian nation vary. And on the campaign trail, overt Christian nationalist language is showing up from right-wing candidates.

GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS: Our country is worth fighting for. So put on the full armor of God and take a stand against the left’s schemes.

That’s Governor Ron DeSantis at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference.

Axios Today host Niala Boodhoo recently sat down with professor Kristin Kobes Du Mez on the campus of Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan to talk about what Christian nationalism is and why it matters…

NIALA: Hi, Kristin.


NIALA: Kristin, we've heard politicians like Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Green, use the words Christian nationalism. How do you define that? What does that mean?

KRISTIN: Yeah, it means essentially the idea that America was founded as a Christian nation and needs to be defended as such. Christian nationalism essentially reflects the idea that there is a special privilege for Christians, a certain type of Christians, in particular, and that their rights are going to preempt the rights of others. And that's really what's at stake right now.

NIALA: So when you say a certain set of Christians, who are we talking about?

KRISTIN: Conservative white Christians for the most part, particularly conservative white evangelicals, although we also have a contingency among conservative Catholics. People like Lauren Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Doug Mastriano who will say he's not a Christian nationalist, but, in fact, checks all of those boxes. So if you look at Republican candidates in particular across the country, down to state and local level races, you are going to find a lot of Christian nationalism at work.

NIALA: How does this intersect among the voting population and how much do American voters also subscribe to this?

KRISTIN: So you've got kind of strong Christian nationalists, or what sociologists might label ambassadors, right? So they're all in, fully committed and we're looking at certainly not a majority of Americans and not even a majority of Republicans, somewhere around like 20% or so. But then when you look at other categories of, kind of accommodationists, so people who are not necessarily out there on the front lines like Marjorie Taylor Green, but still will hold many of those values. That's a much broader category. It's influential. It's not all Americans. But it is influential, and particularly when we look at issues like voter suppression, stop the steal, right, the free and fair elections and accepting the results. That's where we see a very close correlation between those who hold to Christian nationalism and lack of support for these basic, Democratic norms.

NIALA: For many Americans this was first apparent to them after January 6th. How do you think that changed this conversation?

KRISTIN: We saw so much Christian symbolism at the Capitol on January 6th, so it became impossible to ignore. It's true that this is not something new. What is new, I think, is the connection to violence, or at least to, to outright violence, to political violence. We have survey data that suggests that those who hold to Christian nationalism are also more likely to believe that violence might be necessary to restore proper order, to restore Christian America.

NIALA: How do you see this affecting the midterm elections?

KRISTIN: I think what we will see is for many Christians, for many evangelicals, it would be very, very hard to, check any box that's not Republican and when they hear language like ‘put on the full armor of God,’ or when they hear candidates calling on God, when they hear that that language is intimately familiar to them and they are likely to think “yes, they are on our side, that is the candidate that I have to vote for.” And so I would not expect much movement among conservative evangelicals, among many Christians, actually in terms of where we're going to see their votes.

NIALA: Kristin Kobes Du Mez is a Calvin University professor and author of Jesus and John Wayne, How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation. Thanks for being with me.

KRISTIN: Thank you so much.

EMILY: That’s all we’ve got for you today!

I’m Emily Peck in for Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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