Ever since Trump's recent meeting with the soldiers of the Religious Right, followed by Dobson claiming the presumptive nominee became a born again Christian, there’s been a never-ending stream of articles asking how Evangelicals could support such a decidedly anti-values type. These pieces always ring both true and yet somewhat hollow. The excess of “don’t judge, you aren’t perfect either” and “think of the Supreme Court vacancies” rhetoric already acknowledge the contradictions from which constituents must be (only slightly) distracted. Those contradictions have no effect. When he eventually quotes approvingly from that most infamous leader to which he is always compared, it won’t matter either. There is literally nothing he could say or do that would dissuade the loyalties of those who believe themselves in favor of family values and so-called common sense. I’d wager these types of articles always seem powerless as a critique, because they start with the assumption that hypocrisy is something most people desire to avoid. On the contrary, if you accept a working theory that hypocrisy produces significant pleasure and actually is a primary (if unconscious) value within conservative American Evangelicalism, not a side effect, then you get a more straightforward analysis. I wouldn’t at all say the American version of Evangelicalism is unique in valuing hypocrisy (after all, the ego is the source of error in all of us), but a number of doctrinal and, most of all, political requirements for group cohesion make the problem more pronounced.
So when these articles point out such blatantly obvious hypocrisy in the hopes they will dissuade supporters, what they are actually doing is highlighting the exact qualities that trigger feelings of “Hey, he’s just like me!” Trump is popular among conservative religious leaders for the same reason their pastors are taken seriously even while preaching values totally at odds with the way they lived in the past; as long as one only sins in the past and swears it off in the present and future, this hypocrisy works as a tool for solidarity with co-religionists who get pleasure from feeling the leader is like them. Trump is remarkably effective at triggering several moral solidarity markers simultaneously, and even though he is almost certainly what a psychoanalyst would diagnose as a pervert, he is brilliantly intuitive with the use of phobic, hysterical, and psychotic language patterns to convince the public he is a well-adjusted neurotic just like them. There definitely isn’t anything necessarily bad about being diagnosed perverse, and it's definitely problematic to try psychoanalyzing from a distance, but if I’m right to suggest he's a pervert, his “split-ego” and dependence on disavowal and fantasy might suggest he truly does not experience the same type of cognitive dissonance most of us would feel at such constant contradictions. His personal beliefs aren’t all that important to them so long as his multi-vectored strategy of affect works to trigger a critical mass of moral indicators. I’m thinking here of Jonathan Haidt’s work, where he demonstrates how authority, sanctity, and in-group loyalty are actually considered moral values for conservatives, whereas these three generally aren’t considered a matter of morality for liberals or the left (who usually consider morality to be a matter limited to care/harm, liberty/oppression, and fairness/cheating). A populist doesn’t need to be consistent, wise, or good; he just needs to keep triggering authority, sanctity, and loyalty sentiments.
I don't think articles pointing out hypocrisy are bad (I certainly enjoy reading them), and there are many other reasons people are supporting him. In Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, Freud describes the process of identification as a change from the leader-as-ideal (ideal ego) to the leader-as-superego (ego-ideal). To some extent, all identity works this way—we begin by valorizing a certain idea, command, or value and then it ends up being the voice in the back of our heads judging us and authorizing the worst. The problem is more pronounced for the populist who desires to emulate the most aggressively awful devil in the room. Knowledge has no effective function in a populist's discourse, and rage must find a target. When Lacan met Derrida, he told him “Your problem is that I’ve already said everything you want to say.” That’s how I’m starting to feel about Freud versus every new article on the 2016 election.
Leftwing populist movements are fairly rare in America, so, according the the theory I’m developing in my dissertation with regard to a Populist’s discourse, all contemporary instances of theocratic and nativist populism in the US (Religious Right, Tea Party, Trump movement) seem to be ultra-rightwing movements aiming to reinforce a false-consciousness that will give up its labor and surplus back to the capitalist. Whatever other reasons for the Trump movement—anti-immigrant sentiments, desire for white supremacy, the failures of neoliberalism for the working class—they are all points of excess which, as a whole, serve to create a good laborer.
I wrote this in God Is Unconscious about highly-controlling religion, but it could just as easily be about nativist populism.
"I claim that we see this general pattern in religious communities: perversion pressures neurosis to reorient as obsessionalism via hysterical and/or psychotic language. The choice of hysterical or psychotic language is arbitrary and depends on the inclinations of the group, but the generally neurotic community tends to reward leaders or ideologies of knaves. The cynical leader able to co-opt the submissive tendencies of the neurotic public will experience remarkable success in building the collective, but the collective will begin to manifest problems based in inter-psychopathological difference that it will continuously mislabel as merely differences of opinion."