A couple of decades ago, the idea of a Bernie Sanders socialist as president of the United States was unthinkable. Now, here he stands, chugging up the poll numbers, climbing up the primary ranks, scooping up the millennial love.

What’s changed? Much, but mostly, morals and faith.

And if President Donald Trump’s supporters, conservatives, Republicans, moderates and yes, even Democrats, and the rest think he’s an easy-peasy, cue-the-laugh-track kind of guy to beat — think again.

He could truly win.

Sanders the socialist — Sanders the “communist,” as Trump called him in a recent Fox News interview — could actually take over the White House as America’s most powerful leader.

Ridiculous?

To repeat: Two decades ago, he wouldn’t even have dared a run. Now, he’s beating former Vice President Joe Biden and the rest with regularity.

America has morphed massively in the last 20 years, culturally and politically.

In 2000, the idea of opening girls’ bathrooms and dressing rooms in schools to boys, just because they say they’re girls that day, would’ve been unthinkable — yet here we are.

In 2000, the idea of health care, paid by taxpayers, as a human right was laughable — and in fact, when Hillary Clinton introduced it while first lady just a few years prior, it was laughed at and derided. Yet here we are.

In 2000, the notions of free college tuition for all, businesses too big to fail and driver’s licenses for illegals would all be considered fringe issues, more comical for their anti-American radicalism than true-blue political platforms. Yet here we are.

The point is: America 2020 is not America 2000.

What used to be unthinkable has become accepted — normalized, even.

That goes for socialists in political office.

Trump — American voters — cannot afford to underestimate this socialist. His reason for being is due almost entirely to the changing shape of the nation’s religious landscape.

“[In a] survey of more than 35,000 Americans by the Pew Research Center,” Pew Forum wrote, back in 2015, “the percentage of adults (ages 18 and older) who describe themselves as Christians has dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years, from 78.4% in … 2007 to 70.6% in 2014.”

At the same time, the percentage of these adult Americans who identified as “atheist, agnostic or ‘nothing in particular’ ” grew by 6 percentage points, from 16.1% to 22.8%, Pew found.

In later years, other surveys showed more of the same.

“In U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace,” Pew reported in October 2019. “Meanwhile, the religiously unaffiliated share of the population, consisting of people who describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or ‘nothing in particular’ now stands at 26%, up from 17% in 2009.”

It’s no coincidence that as the nation’s loses sight of God, voters turn more to Big Government for solution. Secularism and Big Government go hand-in-hand. The Founders knew this; that’s why they counseled that this democratic-republic, this great experiment called America, could only sustain with a properly morally compassed people — with a citizenry grounded in the faith and principles of Judeo-Christian culture and teachings.

Into this, Sanders treads.

It’s really no surprise he’s drawing lots of love from voters, particularly from the millennial crowd, the same segment that’s scored higher than other demographics on ye olde secularism scale.

This 2020 election for the presidency isn’t just a pit of freedom versus Big Government, capitalism versus socialism — the Constitution versus Something That’s Not the Constitution.

It’s a time of testing for the faith of the nation.

Will Western Civilization prevail — or will America fall, like Rome, in depravity, secularism and finally, political and cultural chaos? A vote for Sanders is certainly a vote for collapse. But the long-term fate of the nation rests with the ability of America to recapture its majority alignment with the Judeo-Christian, with its majority embrace of and return to church and biblical teachings.

Freedom, true freedom, only comes from above. It is not for government to decide or distribute — or disperse.

• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com or on Twitter, @ckchumley. Listen to her podcast “Bold and Blunt” by clicking HERE. And never miss her column; subscribe to her newsletter by clicking HERE.

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