…after two debates, it should look like this:
…after two debates, it should look like this:
Barack Obama warned on Saturday that US progressives risk creating a “circular firing squad” at a time when prospective presidential candidates are competing fiercely against each other to run against Donald Trump.
The former president was speaking in Berlin, at an Obama Foundation event.
“One of the things I do worry about sometimes among progressives in the United States,” he said, “maybe it’s true here as well, is a certain kind of rigidity where we say, ‘Uh, I’m sorry, this is how it’s going to be’ and then we start sometimes creating what’s called a ‘circular firing squad’, where you start shooting at your allies because one of them has strayed from purity on the issues.
“And when that happens, typically the overall effort and movement weakens.”
Read the rest here.
Who does Obama have in mind? Bernie? Or perhaps he is responding to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez”s comment that moderation is “meh.”
Who the heck is Richard Ojeda?
Read more about him here.
As Duke Univeristy law professor Jedidiah Purdy reminds us, socialism is as American as baseball, apple-pie, and Chevrolet. “Much of today’s socialism,” he argues, “was once the bread and butter of the Democratic Party.” Here is a taste of his piece at Politico:
Recent elections are bringing the largest crop of self-described socialist candidates in nearly a century, not just in New York and on the Left Coast, but in places like Virginia and Pennsylvania. For critics, this represents a futile and dangerous radicalism; for some who welcome it, it’s nothing more than a youthful resurgence of Ted Kennedy-style liberalism.
The reality is more interesting. The new socialism is both thoroughly American and pretty damned radical. Much of today’s “socialism,” like Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, has deep roots; it’s basically the left wing of New Deal and Great Society liberalism, promising free higher education and universal health care, stronger unions and more support for affordable housing. These were once the bread and butter of the Democratic Party. But the new socialism is also genuinely radical—and not just because the country has moved so far away from the goals of widely shared wealth and leisure of Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society.
Read the rest here.
One of the best books I read in graduate school was Nick Salvatore‘s Eugene V. Debs: Citizen and Socialist. Salvatore argued that Debs’s socialism was rooted in the republican and democratic traditions at the heart of the American experience. I highly recommend it.
In 1979, the progressive/democratic socialist magazine In These Times ran an anti-abortion essay. It was written by Elizabeth Moore, a Catholic right-to-life advocate, and Karen Mulhauser, a leader of NARAL.
Yesterday, the current deputy editor of In This Times wrote that the magazine was “wrong” for publishing the piece. Here is a taste of Jessica Stites’s piece “Why Did We Run an Anti-Abortion Piece in 1979?“:
In February 1979, In These Times published the debate, “Pro and Con: Does free abortion hurt the poor and minorities?” The then-newspaper was flooded with letters to the editor from a who’s who of feminists objecting to both the framing of the debate and its participants—Elizabeth Moore, a Catholic right-to-life advocate, and Karen Mulhauser, a leader of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL).
The editorial decision-making process is lost to history, but this much we know: The Catholic Left held sway with ITT in the 1970s. A July 1977 editorial called for “serious dialogue with sincere ‘right-to-life’ advocates [who oppose abortion] out of genuine religious or moral concern for the sanctity of life.” ITT ran pieces by Juli Loesch, a major force in the Catholic “consistent life” movement, which wedded anti-nuclear, antiwar and anti-abortion politics. Loesch and other Catholic feminists were eventually pushed out of anti-abortion leadership by patriarchal evangelicals, who kept the Catholic leftists’ direct action tactics of clinic pickets and harassment, which escalated into murder.
Read the entire piece here.
Whatever you think of her argument (or the argument of Moore and Mulhauser in 1979), Stites’s piece reveals that the Christian Right did not have a monopoly on the anti-abortion movement in the 1970s.
Here’s a question: Can you be a socialist today and be pro-life on abortion? I once indirectly asked Bernie Sanders this question.
A recent poll has found that almost fifty percent of evangelicals say a Donald Trump recommendation would make them more likely to vote for a candidate. Meanwhile, fifty-four percent of evangelicals said a Hillary Clinton endorsement would make them less likely to vote for a candidates.
Here is the list of evangelicals’ most-trusted celebrity endorsers:
Here is the list of evangelical’s least-trusted celebrity endorsers:
Kate Shellnut has a story on this survey at Christianity Today. Read it here.
A few quick observations:
In his recent call for a bill to introduce universal healthcare legislation, Bernie Sanders said “This is a pivotal moment in American history. Do we, as a nation, join the rest of the industrialized world and guarantee comprehensive health care to every person as a human right?….”
Let’s be clear about one thing. We have no idea if we are living in a pivotal moment of American history. Every generation believes that they are living in the most important moment in human history. This is why we need historians. They will help us sort it out. But they will not be able to do so until enough time passes to get some perspective.
When a present-day politician says that “this is a pivotal moment in American history” it is just as bad as the politicians who talk about the right and wrong side of history or say that we have “the most dangerous president in American history.” These kinds of statements are political, not historical.
You may recall our recent post on Princeton University president Christopher L. Eisgruber’s criticism of the Democratic Senators who may have violated Article VI of the Constitution in their questioning of University of Notre Dame Professor Amy Barrett during her recent confirmation hearings for a federal judgeship.
Over the last several days, a host of smart people have joined Eisgruber in his criticism of Diane Feinstein, Dick Durbin, and Al Franken. The latest is Notre Dame president John Jenkins. Here is the bulk of his letter to Feinstein:
Dear Senator Feinstein:
Considering your questioning of my colleague Amy Coney Barrett during the judicial confirmation hearing of September 6, I write to express my confidence in her competence and character, and deep concern at your line of questioning.
Professor Barrett has been a member of our faculty since 2002, and is a graduate of our law school. Her experience as a clerk for Judge Laurence Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is of the highest order. So, too, is her scholarship in the areas of federal courts, constitutional law and statutory interpretation. I am not a legal scholar, but I have heard no one seriously challenge her impeccable legal credentials.
Your concern, as you expressed it, is that “dogma lives loudly in [Professor Barrett], and that is a concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for years in this country.” I am one in whose heart “dogma lives loudly,” as it has for centuries in the lives of many Americans, some of whom have given their lives in service to this nation. Indeed, it lived loudly in the hearts of those who founded our nation as one where citizens could practice their faith freely and without apology.
Professor Barrett has made it clear that she would “follow unflinchingly” all legal precedent and, in rare cases in which her conscience would not allow her to do so, she would recuse herself. I can assure you that she is a person of integrity who acts in accord with the principles she articulates.
It is chilling to hear from a United States Senator that this might now disqualify someone from service as a federal judge. I ask you and your colleagues to respect those in whom “dogma lives loudly”—which is a condition we call faith. For the attempt to live such faith while one upholds the law should command respect, not evoke concern.
Many people have defended the Senators’ line of questioning, including some of the readers of The Way of Improvement Leads Home. They say that if the faith of a religious judge is going to result in taking away the rights of others, then asking questions about religious belief is perfectly fair. Some can get quite passionate about it. But the bottom line is this: The people who have interpreted this line of questioning as a possible violation of Article VI are no intellectual slouches. They also represent, to one degree or another, a significant portion of the American electorate.
This debate over religious liberty and test oaths reveals the deep divide in this country right now. What makes this so intense is the fact that both sides of the debate appeal to American ideals–religious liberty, individual rights, and the disestablishment of religion, to name only a few. I am not sure how these social issues can be resolved as long as people like Franken, Durbin, Feinstein, Sanders, the authors of the Nashville Statement, the court evangelicals, and many others continue to dig-in their heels.
I saw this today at Alan Jacobs’s blog Snakes and Ladders:
I write, as a university president and a constitutional scholar with expertise on religious freedom and judicial appointments, to express concern about questions addressed to Professor Amy Barrett during her confirmation hearings and to urge that the Committee on the Judiciary refrain from interrogating nominees about the religious or spiritual foundations of their jurisprudential views. Article VI of the United States Constitution provides explicitly that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” This bold endorsement of religious freedom was among the original Constitution’s most pathbreaking provisions. The Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in Torcaso v. Watkins (1961), holding that the First and Fourteenth Amendments render this principle applicable to state offices and that it protects non-believers along with believers of all kinds, is among the greatest landmarks in America’s jurisprudence of religious freedom. Article VI’s prohibition of religious tests is a critical guarantee of equality and liberty, and it is part of what should make all of us proud to be Americans.
By prohibiting religious tests, the Constitution makes it impermissible to deny any person a national, state, or local office on the basis of their religious convictions or lack thereof. Because religious belief is constitutionally irrelevant to the qualifications for a federal judgeship, the Senate should not interrogate any nominee about those beliefs. I believe, more specifically, that the questions directed to Professor Barrett about her faith were not consistent with the principle set forth in the Constitution’s “no religious test” clause.
Here is Al Franken:
I should add that the Blackstone Legal Fellowship has an advisory board that includes law professors from University of Texas, University of Nebraska, Harvard (Mary Ann Glendon), Princeton (Robert George), and Notre Dame.
Here is Diane Feinstein:
Here is Dick Durbin:
And let’s not forget Bernie Sanders from earlier this year:
Here is Emma Green’s reporting on this at The Atlantic.
We did a post on this story last week. Sanders was clearly out of line in suggesting that Trump nominee Russell Vought was not equipped to be the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget (or any other federal office for that matter) because Vought believes in an exclusive message of salvation. Michael Gerson of The Washington Post also wrote about the matter.
Court evangelical Robert Jeffress, the pastor of Dallas’s First Baptist Church, has now added his two cents. The church website announces:
Dr. Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, releases the following statement in response to Senator Bernie Sanders’ application of an unconstitutional religious test to Russell Vought, President Trump’s nominee for deputy White House budget director:
“Senator Bernie Sanders, in declaring his intention to vote against Russell Vought because of his Evangelical Christian faith, has not only launched a direct attack against the Constitution by applying a religious test, he has also attacked tens of millions of Evangelicals, who embrace the same historical Christian beliefs as Vought.
This attack by Senator Sanders is abhorrent first of all because Article VI of our Constitution provides that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” Vought’s comments in a blog post, published in the context of a controversy at the Christian college from which he graduated, affirmed the words of Jesus Himself who said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Yet the affirmation of this core Christian doctrine led Sanders to conclude that Vought failed Sanders’ religious test: “I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee is really not someone who is what this country is supposed to be about. I will vote no.” These words, and this sentiment, are not only unconstitutional, but unconscionable by a public official.
Second, this attack by Sanders is abhorrent because he has effectively said that Evangelicals, who make up 41 percent of the population of our country, are not qualified to serve in public office, and “not what this country is all about.” It seems that Secretary Clinton isn’t the only one who looks at our great country and sees a brimming basket of deplorables.
Because of this assault on the Constitution and on fully 41 percent of the American people, there are only two responsible courses of action for Senator Sanders—apologize to the country for his foolhardy attempt to introduce an unconstitutional litmus test that would exclude 41 percent of the country, or resign.”
Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson recently commented on the Bernie Sanders-Russell Vought controversy. Here is a taste of his column “Bernie Sanders’s Crusade Against…Believing in Hell?”
Here is a taste:
Perhaps Sanders was just meaning to deny a government job to someone whose theology he finds objectionable. Which is not only presumptuous but unconstitutional (see Article VI). The same would be true in the case of a Muslim nominee or anyone else willing to serve the country and uphold the Constitution. A pluralism too weak to protect Christian believers is too weak to protect Muslim believers, and vice versa. And both have the right to think they are right.
A few questions for the senator: Does he really want to begin examining Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Zoroastrians and everyone else for theological beliefs that offend his ideal of liberalism? How strongly does a belief need to be held to be disqualifying for employment? Would he permit a Christian colleague to shoot down a government job seeker if that man or woman believed that the universe is an echoing void and that human beings are merely bags of chemicals?
Read the entire column here.
This is why many evangelicals turn to a strongman like Donald Trump. They believe that their religious liberties are under attack and Trump will defend them.
Whatever one thinks about Russel Vought’s religious beliefs or the way he handled Bernie’s grilling, what happened here should concern all of us. Even atheists are concerned.
This seems to me to be a clear violation of Article VI of the United States Constitution: “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
Here is a taste of Emma Green’s piece on the incident at The Atlantic:
Article VI of the U.S. Constitution states that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” On Wednesday, Senator Bernie Sanders flirted with the boundaries of this rule during a confirmation hearing for Russell Vought, President Trump’s nominee for deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Sanders took issue with a piece Vought wrote in January 2016 about a fight at the nominee’s alma mater, Wheaton College. The Christian school had fired a political-science professor, Larycia Hawkins, for a Facebook post intended to express solidarity with Muslims. Vought disagreed with Hawkins’s post and defended the school in an article for the conservative website The Resurgent. During the hearing, Sanders repeatedly quoted one passage that he found particularly objectionable:
Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ his Son, and they stand condemned.
“In my view, the statement made by Mr. Vought is indefensible, it is hateful, it is Islamophobic, and it is an insult to over a billion Muslims throughout the world,” Sanders told the committee during his introductory remarks. “This country, since its inception, has struggled, sometimes with great pain, to overcome discrimination of all forms … we must not go backwards.”
Later, during the question-and-answer portion of the hearing, Sanders brought this up again. “Do you believe that statement is Islamophobic?” he asked Vought.
“Absolutely not, Senator,” Vought replied. “I’m a Christian, and I believe in a Christian set of principles based on my faith.”
Where Sanders saw Islamophobia and intolerance, Vought believed he was stating a basic principle of his belief as an evangelical Christian: that faith in Jesus is the only pathway to salvation. And where Sanders believed he was policing bigotry in public office, others believed he was imposing a religious test. As Russell Moore, the head of the political arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, said in a statement, “Even if one were to excuse Senator Sanders for not realizing that all Christians of every age have insisted that faith in Jesus Christ is the only pathway to salvation, it is inconceivable that Senator Sanders would cite religious beliefs as disqualifying an individual for public office.”
Read the entire piece here.
Many conservative evangelicals are likely to turn this into another culture war issue. Few will try to use this incident to think more deeply about how to balance the exclusivist claims of religious faith with participation in a pluralistic society. The former is easy, and because it is easy it often becomes our default position. The latter takes hard work–work I am not sure many evangelicals are interested in, or capable of, performing.
This is not very surprising, but it is worth pointing out.
Here is a taste of a piece at Salon:
In an interview an hour prior to his discussion with Sanders, Carter told AJC that the longest-serving independent senator was a perfect representation for what Carter Center’s forum stands for.
“I think during the last election in America, Bernie Sanders represented the best of all the candidates what this conference is about,” Carter said. “When you lose your opportunity to have some reasonable chance of a decent income, you lose a lot of other things as well. One of the key things people feel is that they’ve lost a voice in their own government.”
Carter, 92, listed ideals that the American people need to continue to fight for. “Basic human rights, income, status in society, health care, education, justice,” he said. “The things in which we used to have complete faith have now been distorted by rich people getting richer.”
Read the entire piece here.
The articles on the Democratic Party’s abortion problem continue to appear. Check out Graham Vyse’s “Why Democrats Are Debating Abortion Yet Again.” I also recommend Clare Foran’s “Is There Any Room in the ‘Big Tent’ for Pro-Life Democrats?”
Once again, if you want some historical context I encourage you to read Daniel K. Williams, Defenders of the Unborn: The Pro-Life Movement before Roe v. Wade. (Or listen to our interview with Williams in Episode 2 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast).
Here is a pertinent passage (p.247-249) from Williams’s Epilogue
Many pro-lifers were reluctant to leave the party of Franklin Roosevelt, but a larger cultural shift in both the party and the nation made it impossible for them to remain loyal Democrats. Until the 1960s, both parties had championed the male-headed, two-parent family as a social ideal, and that idea had undergirded Catholics’ loyalty to the Democratic Party. For three decades following the creation of the New Deal, most liberal Democrats had grounded their calls for social welfare programs and economic uplift in the principle of helping the male-headed household–a concept closely accorded with the Catholic Church’s teaching that the family unit was the foundation of society. But in the late 1960s and 1970s, liberal Democrats exchanged this family-centered ideal for a new rights-based ethic grounded in individual autonomy and social equality, thus alienating many theologically conservative Catholics, including the pro-lifers who viewed the defense of fetal rights as a liberal campaign and who had hoped to ally with Democrats…
At first, pro-lifers tried to meet liberals on their own ground by defending the rights of the fetus in language that seemed indistinguishable from the constitutional rights claims that women, gays and African Americans were making, while eschewing references to the larger ethic of sexual responsibility and the family-centered ideal that might have branded their campaign as a throwback to an earlier era. Yet in the end, despite their approbation of rights-based liberalism, their campaign failed to win the support of liberals who realized that fetal rights were incompatible with the values of bodily autonomy and gender equality.
Once autonomy and equality became liberal Democrats’ primary concerns, it was only a matter of time before many devout Catholic pro-lifers who had long been loyal Democrats faced a stark choice. Would they swallow their reservations about the Democratic Party’s position on abortion in order to further other goals? Or would they abandon their other political convictions and work with the Republicans?…
While most pro-life activists decided that they could not countenance the national Democratic Party’s stance on abortion, many were nevertheless happy to work with individual Democratic politicians who embraced the pro-life label and were willing to endorse the HLA [Human Life Amendment]. This was an especially popular strategy for pro-life liberals in the mid-1980s, when they still thought they had a chance to regain influence in the party. Democrats for Life refused to endorse the Democrats’ presidential tickets (since those always featured pro-choice candidates), but nevertheless worked for pro-life Democratic candidates at the local level and attempt to elect pro-life delegates to the Democratic National Convention. Yet the chilly reception that these conventions gave to Democratic politicians who refused to toe the party line on abortion rights only served to confirm pro-lifers’ growing suspicions of the party. When the organizers of the 1992 Democratic National Convention refused to Pennsylvania’s Catholic Democratic governor Bob Casey a speaking slot to present a defense of his pro-life views, the snub confirmed many pro-lifers’ belief that the Democratic Party wanted nothing to do with their cause…
Over at Christianity Today, Kate Shellnut reports on some interesting developments this week in the world of abortion politics.
It turns out that the country’s most well-known progressive is defending a pro-life candidate for mayor of Omaha, Nebraska. At the same time, the Trump Justice Department is still defending the Obamacare contraception mandate.
Here is a taste of Shellnut’s piece:
Despite Trump pledging to dismantle Obamacare and to defend religious groups against “bullying” by the federal government, his administration has opted to still stand by the birth control requirement in court.
The Washington Post reported that the Justice Department requested on Monday that a federal appeals court continue to negotiate with Christian schools like East Texas Baptist University, Houston Baptist University, and Westminster Theological Seminary for another two months, rather than dropping their case and allowing the schools to continue to not offer contraception coverage per a lower court decision.
The colleges are among many evangelical and Catholic groups—most notably the Little Sisters of the Poor—who challenged the Obamacare requirement that employers’ heath plans include emergency contraception, intrauterine devices (IUDs), and other birth control. Some believe that certain methods prevent implantation of an embryo, and others object to all artificial birth control. While exemptions for schools and nonprofits allow them to delegate employee coverage to a third party, theses organizations are requesting the full religious exemption that churches qualify for.
Becket, the religious liberty defense firm representing the two Baptist schools, issued a filing last Thursday requesting the Justice Department drop the cases given the new White House administration’s stance…
While the Trump administration takes an unexpected course on the birth control mandate case, one-time presidential candidate and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders recently made headlines with a twist of his own. The pro-choice Independent supported a pro-life Democrat in Nebraska, spurring debate over abortion’s place in the party’s platform.
Sanders (himself a secular Jew) campaigned for Omaha mayoral candidate Heath Mello, who is Catholic and pro-life. Sanders defended his decision, saying, “You just can’t exclude people who disagree with us on one issue.”
NARAL Pro-Choice leadership and the Democratic National Committee chairman disagreed, arguing that abortion policy is a fundamental, “non negotiable” part of Democratic identity.
Read the entire article here.
Bernie Sanders supporters are trying to launch a “People’s Party” and convince Sanders to lead it. The movement is led by Nick Brana, the former outreach coordinator for the Bernie Sanders campaign.
The movement appears to have the blessing of Cornel West.
Here is West and Brana discussing the “People’s Party at “Democracy Now”:
West takes the same line as Bernie Sanders on abortion.
Over at his blog Spiritual Politics, Mark Silk chides the Democratic Party for get so bothered by the fact that Bernie Sanders backed a pro-life Democratwho is running mayor of Omaha, Nebraska.
“Abortion access is not a ‘single issue’ or a ‘social issue,’” said NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue in a statement. “It is a proxy for women to have control over our lives, our family’s lives, our economic well-being, our dignity, and human rights.”
Let’s stop right there.
For many Americans, abortion is no such proxy. They support equal pay for equal work and raising the minimum wage and a human right to health care and doing away with the death penalty. They believe in climate change and want there to be a serious effort to combat it.
Mello, like a lot of his fellow Catholics, is one of them.
But Bernie Sanders, the Independent who is now the Democratic Party’s biggest star, did not hesitate to show up at a rally for Mello in Omaha. And on Face the Nation yesterday, he stuck to his guns:
If you have a rally in which you have the labor movement and the environmentalists and Native Americans and the African-American community and the Latino community coming together, saying, we want this guy to become our next mayor, should I reject going there to Omaha? I don’t think so.
I don’t think so either.
After John Kerry narrowly lost the 2004 election, the new Democratic National Committee chair, Sanders’ fellow Vermonter Howard Dean, decided over the objections of the D.C. Democratic establishment to pursue a 50-state strategy. That involved recruiting candidates who were, yes, pro-life.
In 2006, the Democrats recaptured both houses of Congress.
You can be seriously pro-choice and embrace that approach again. Or you can mirror the Republican base and sacrifice all your other values on the altar of abortion.
Bernie Sanders vs. Tom Price, Trump nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services:
In light of some of the things I have been writing on identity politics lately, someone on Facebook who disagrees with much of what I have written so far asked me to respond to this New York Times article by Michael Eric Dyson.
First, let me say that I have learned a lot from Dyson over the years. I would love to host him at Messiah College some time.
Last Winter I was driving through Alexandria, Virginia listening to C-SPAN radio and heard Dyson talking about his book The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America. I found the interview so compelling (I have written about this before here at the blog) that the following week I bought a copy of the book at Hearts and Minds Books, Byron Borger’s bookstore in Dallastown, PA. I took it home and read it in two sittings. It helped me to better understand the Obama presidency and the subject of race in America more broadly. (You can see that interview with Dyson here).
Here are some thoughts on Dyson’s current piece:
OK–there are some quick thoughts.
The study of history teaches us to make evidenced-based arguments. Unfortunately, in today’s culture, people do not seem to have a problem with making bold statements in public speeches and interviews that are not backed up by evidence. Does evidence matter any more? We need history more than ever.
Just as an aside, I am continually amazed at how influential Bernie Sanders has been in this election. When was the last time a POTUS candidate (especially a GOP candidate) tried to separate himself or herself from Wall Street money.