"What’s more, Bryan was equally skilled at making long, popular defenses of Christianity as he was at standing up for what he called “the producing classes” against the “money power.” He gave one speech, “The Prince of Peace,” more than 2,000 times before audiences all over the world. In it, Bryan managed to merge his belief in Biblical literalism with a case, inflected with the Social Gospel, that men and women who had a “personal responsibility to God” should learn to restrain their selfish, individualistic ambitions and serve the common welfare. As we know from Trump’s awkward reference last January to the Biblical book of “Two Corinthians,” he knows very little about the religious text he professes to revere.
There are historical figures Trump calls to mind, of course. The president’s heated bombast resembles that of several right-wing populist figures from America’s more-recent past: Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s unsubstantiated attacks on Communists in the federal government and Alabama Governor George Wallace’s digs at Washington bureaucrats who allegedly let criminals run rampant. Like those men, Bryan was a provocative and polarizing figure. But he did not simply stir audiences to vote for Democrats or be good Christians, he strove to convince people with rational arguments. And he wrote every speech he gave himself."