High School Yearbooks are Historical Documents

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We learned this during Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings.

John Thelin, a historian at the University of Kentucky, reminds us that “yearbooks are documents that can go beyond casual nostalgia.”  Here is a taste of his piece at Inside Higher Ed:

Campus yearbooks are in the news. This unlikely attention came about with recent media coverage of Senate confirmation hearings for the U.S. Supreme Court nomination. For several days, The New York Times provided readers with front-page articles featuring clinical dissections of the biographical profiles of graduating seniors. Reporters analyzed yearbook inscriptions with the care usually reserved for decoding the Dead Sea scrolls.

The spotlight was surprising because higher education usually relies on databases such as the National Center for Education Statistics’ IPEDS, which lead to projections on enrollments, percentage returns on endowments, scorecards on institutional compliance or rankings of federal research funding. One of my colleagues, who is a statistician, exclaimed, “Yearbooks? Is this some kind of a joke?”

It was no joke. Yearbooks from high school and college are an American tradition, familiar to alumni whose photographs and captions lead them to say, “Thanks for the memories!” They also are documents that can go beyond casual nostalgia. Yearbooks have potential for serious research, but only if handled with care in analyzing their scripts of stilted, ritualized images and selective coverage of student life. Reliability, consistency, validity and significance — the concepts that shape statistical analysis — are equally pertinent in the content analysis of yearbooks.

These dusty, heavy bound volumes that end up in used bookstores, garage sales and library storage centers can be thoughtfully mined to reconstruct campus life and student cultures. They are simultaneously a source about the biography of an individual as well as a key to understanding the statistics of group patterns and dynamics of a college or high school class.

Read the rest here.

Court Evangelical Robert Jeffress is Bad for America

Jeffress SWBTS

Jeffress is more concerned with his theocratic agenda–an approach to American culture driven by fear, the raw pursuit of power, and a nostalgic longing for an age that is long gone or may never have existed in the first place–than he is the good of the nation.  He is a cancer spreading over our democracy.

Why else would he describe the Kavanaugh nomination as an example of “good” triumphing over “evil?”  In Jeffress’s world view, “evil” is the product of Satan and his minions.  The Dallas pastor has no interest in finding common ground.  He only wants to demonize his opponents and divide the country.  This is what culture warriors do.  They claim to be patriots, but they are not.

David Brooks: “A Complete National Disgrace”

Senate Holds Confirmation Hearing For Brett Kavanugh To Be Supreme Court Justice

There is little I disagree with in David Brooks’s analysis of Kavanaugh hearings.  Here is a taste:

These hearings were also a devastating blow to intellectual humility. At the heart of this case is a mystery: What happened at that party 36 years ago? There is no corroborating evidence either way. So the crucial questions are: How do we sit with this uncertainty? How do we weigh the two contradictory testimonies? How do we measure these testimonies when all of cognitive science tells us that human beings are really bad at spotting falsehood? Should a person’s adult life be defined by something he did in high school?

Commentators and others may have acknowledged uncertainty on these questions for about 2.5 seconds, but then they took sides. If they couldn’t take sides based on the original evidence, they found new reasons to confirm their previous positions. Kavanaugh is too angry and dishonest. He drank beer and threw ice while in college. With tribal warfare all around, uncertainty is the one state you are not permitted to be in.

Read the rest here.

Brooks’s point about intellectual humility is an interesting one, especially for historians.  How do we treat out sources?  How do we use those sources to find out “what happened?”  What can and can’t we know?  Any historian knows that this is a difficult task and one in which knee-jerk reactions and political rhetoric are not always helpful in getting at the truth.

Chris Dudley Could Wield a Bar Glass, but He Couldn’t Hit a Free Throw to Save His Life

Have you seen the latest in the Brett Kavanaugh affair?  During his junior year at Yale, Kavanaugh got into a bar fight.  During the fight his friend Chris Dudley, a 6’11” center on the Yale basketball team, smashed a glass over the head of a guy who they original thought was the lead singer of UB40.  (Yes, you are reading this correctly).

As a long-suffering New York Nets fan, I can safely say that Dudley was more accurate with a glass in a bar fight than he ever was from the free-throw line.  I think Marv Albert would agree:

 

University of Illinois Undergraduate: “Conservatism killed Christianity”

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Trump shakes hands with Pat Robertson

Joseph Diller, a junior at the University of Illinois, is correct.  Here is a taste of his piece in The Daily Illini: Conservatism killed Christianity“:

The Kavanaugh issue is just a small part of the Republicans’ deal with the devil. In this deal, the party gets tax cuts and Supreme Court appointments in exchange for giving President Trump the highest office in the land, all while ignoring affairs with porn stars and pussy-grabbing.

The Public Religion Research Institute and Brookings put out a poll that asked if respondents believe whether “an elected official who commits an immoral act in their personal life can still behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life.” In 2011, while Evangelicals were the most likely group in America to say no, only 30 percent answered yes. By 2016, their opinion on an immoral personal life flip-flopped — 72 percent (more than any other group) believed that an official could ethically fulfill their duties despite their personal life.

Other mainline American Christians also experienced a spike. Why did the religious right shift their opinion to allow Trump in at all? Because they’re badly losing the culture wars.

Winners do not make deals with the devil; it’s a Hail Mary strategy. It has been 40 years since they have not been able to stop Roe v. Wade, gay marriage has been legalized and church attendance is in decline.  As further evidence of their downfall, not only are these things legal, but most Americans support abortion and gay marriage.

Read the entire piece here.

White Evangelicals and the New Marist Poll

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Here are some of the findings:

  • 72% of white evangelicals approve of the job Donald Trump is doing as president (and 44% “strongly approve).
  • 71% of white evangelicals say that they will vote for a Republican in the 2018 midterms.
  • 58% of white evangelicals say that they are likely to vote for a congressional candidate in November 2018 who supports the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. (27% of white evangelicals say that the confirmation of Kavanaugh will not make any difference in how they vote in November 2018).
  • 56% of white evangelicals have a “favorable impression” of Brett Kavanaugh. (31% are either “unsure” or have “never heard” of Kavanaugh).
  • Only 9% of white evangelicals have a “favorable impression” of Christine Blasey Ford.  59% of white evangelicals are “unsure” of her or have “never heard” of her.
  • 51% of white evangelicals have been following the Kavanaugh news coverage “very closely” or “closely.”
  • If Kavanaugh did commit the acts that Christine Blasey Ford said that he did, 48% of white evangelicals would still support his confirmation to the Supreme Court.
  • Only 14% of white evangelicals think Christine Blasey Ford told the truth about what happened at the party in high school.  41% are “not sure” who to believe.
  • 64% of white evangelicals support the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh.

Liberty University Students Came to the U.S. Senate on Thursday to Support Kavanaugh

Liberty U Kavanaugh

Liberty University staged a rally for Kavanaugh (Huffington Post photo)

And their president, court evangelical Jerry Falwell Jr., was with them.

The Lynchburg News & Advance reports:

About 300 Liberty University students traveled to Washington, D.C. Thursday to support Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who is under fire with two accusers alleging sexual assault and another claiming to have witnessed such behavior.

While the marathon Senate Judiciary Committee hearing unfolded on Capitol Hill, Liberty students attending a Concerned Women for America and Women for Kavanaugh rally. They also visited the office of Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to show their support for the Judiciary Committee chairman.

“We wanted [Kavanaugh’s] voice to be heard … and to support him and his family,” said Victoria Belk, an LU student and president of LU’s Young Women for America, a college chapter of CWA. “True equality is hearing from both sides; hearing him out was important to us.”

Read the rest here.  The Huffington Post has posted a video of the rally here.

Over at Religion News Service, Jason Lupfer argues that conservative evangelical support for Kavanaugh will cost them.  Here is a taste of his piece:

Politically,  white conservative Christians have been invaluable to the country club wing of the Republican Party, which put their zeal to work to end an era of social progress on civil rights, economic equality and fiscal health. The old guard used its newfound clout to enact deficit-financed tax cuts, decimate the labor movement and shift an ever higher percentage of the national income to those at the very top.

Meanwhile, their own principles suffered.

Few white evangelicals or conservative Catholics were put off by the party’s embrace of leaders who demonized Islam, disparaged undocumented immigrants and rolled back voting rights. They helped ensure that the Republicans ended up abandoning morality altogether and nominating for president a vulgar, spiteful man who boasted of his own sexual assaults.

Now it seems that president has nominated a judge who shares the political values of conservative evangelicals but may have violated many of their morals. Drunken parties and sexual assault are the kinds of things that Liberty University — and Concerned Women for America — have abhorred in the past.

But they no longer seem to give these conservative evangelicals pause.

So often when religion and politics mix, religion is sullied. As the evangelicals have risen in prominence, we have heard less and less about the Old, Old Story, and wondered if they even believed it at all.

The country has suffered under this partnership as well.

Read the entire piece here.  Much of what Lupfer writes here meshes well with my own work in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

Believe Me 3d

Franklin Graham, Al Mohler, Eric Metaxas, Russell Moore and Rachel Held Evans on the *Second* Kavanaugh Accusation

Senate Holds Confirmation Hearing For Brett Kavanugh To Be Supreme Court Justice

Kayla Koslosky has rounded-up some tweets and other commentary from evangelicals on the Deborah Ramirez accusation.  Here is a taste of her piece at “Christian Headlines”:

Many Christian leaders are offering their opinions on Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh, and they are divided. 

Though the schism has only become greater since Kavanaugh was accused of sexual assault on two occasions, faith leaders were divided on his potential appointment well before then.

Here is what they have had to say:

Read the rest here.

If Kavanaugh Did It, Will Evangelicals Turn Their Backs On Him?

U.S. Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh meets with Senate Majority Leader McConnell and VP Pence on Capitol Hill in Washington

Of course not.

If it turns out that Kavanaugh did sexually assault Christian Blasey Ford (or someone else), he will still have the support of many conservative evangelicals.

As Franklin Graham recently implied, the conservative evangelicals of the Christian Right will overlook Kavanaugh’s indiscretions as long as they continue to believe he will be the deciding vote in overturning Roe v. Wade or as long as he remains an originalist.  They will argue that this incident happened a long time ago and is no longer “relevant.”

Quote of the Day

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Liberty University English professor and author Karen Swallow Prior on the Kavanaugh nomination and the Blasey Ford accusations:

“I don’t expect we will ever know the truth about what did or did not happen. But as an evangelical Christian, I am convinced Dante himself could not have devised a more fitting circle of hell for my faith community than the one in which we find ourselves: being destroyed from the inside out by the sexual sin we spent decades pointing out everywhere but in our own house. For us, this is the real trial.”

Source

The Court Evangelicals are Getting Antsy about the Possibility that Kavanaugh Will Not be Confirmed

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Here is Jeremy Peters and Elizabeth Dias at The New York Times:

Worried their chance to cement a conservative majority on the Supreme Court could slip away, a growing number of evangelical and anti-abortion leaders are expressing frustration that Senate Republicans and the White House are not protecting Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh more forcefully from a sexual assault allegation and warning that conservative voters may stay home in November if his nomination falls apart.

Several of these leaders, including ones with close ties to the White House and Senate Republicans, are urging Republicans to move forward with a confirmation vote imminently unless the woman who accused Judge Kavanaugh of sexual assault, Christine Blasey Ford, agrees to share her story with the Senate Judiciary Committee within the next few days.

Ralph Reed thinks that the failure to confirm Kavanaugh before the November 2018 elections will make it “very difficult to motivate and energize faith-based and conservative voters.”  I don’t understand the logic here.  If Kavanaugh is not nominated, most conservative evangelicals I know would be highly motivated to vote in November. They will want to make sure the GOP controls the Senate so that Trump’s replacement for Kavanaugh will be confirmed.

Tweets of the Day: Merrick Garland

 

What Will Evangelicals Do if Kavanaugh’s Nomination Fails?

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An MSNBC White House correspondent believes that white conservative evangelicals will “crucify Trump” if the Brett Kavanaugh nomination fails.

Here is a taste:

MSNBC White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor said Monday that if President Trump loses his fight to put conservative Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, his religious base may lose whatever faith they have in the man many of their sect believe was chosen by God to lead the country.

“Sarah Sanders is echoing a lot of the reaction of a lot of evangelical Christians when I asked them how they support President Trump,” Alcindor said. “They say this is someone who can be used even if he’s problematic, even if he in their mind has sinned, that he can still be someone who puts forth policies that can help people’s lives.”

But in the event that Trump fails to appoint Kavanaugh to the court, where he could be the deciding vote on an number of their political goals, conservative Christians will like flee, Alcindor believed. “This is one of the number one things that evangelical Christians wanted out of this president,” she said. “They wanted a Supreme Court that was going to try to overturn Roe v. Wade, that wasn’t going to be pro-choice, that was going to be a pro-life Supreme Court.”

I don’t see it this way.  If the Kavanaugh nomination fails, Trump evangelicals will blame the liberals.  They will not blame Trump.  Trump will nominate another conservative justice off the Federalist Society or Heritage Foundation list and we will go through all of this again.  A failed Kavanaugh nomination will not weaken conservative evangelical support for the president, it will strengthen it.

David Brooks: “Don’t make up your mind about Kavanaugh without reading this”

Read Caitlin Flanagan’s story at The Atlantic.  It is worth your time.  Here is a taste:

“Dear Caitlin,” an inscription in my 12th-grade yearbook begins. “I’m really very sorry that our friendship plummeted straight downhill after the first few months of school. Really, the blame rests totally on my shoulders. To tell you the truth, I’ve wanted to say this all year. I know you’ll succeed because you’re very smart and I regard you with the utmost respect … Take care—love always.”

He was headed to a prestigious college. I was headed to a small, obscure liberal-arts college, which was a tremendous achievement, not just because I was a terrible student, but also because I had nearly killed myself as a response to what he apologized for in my yearbook. He had tried to rape me during a date that I was very excited to have been asked on, and his attempt was so serious—and he was so powerful—that for a few minutes, I was truly fighting him off.

Read the rest here.

Hey Ben Sasse, What About Merrick Garland?

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This morning I praised Ben Sasse for his powerful speech yesterday during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings.  I still do.  Sasse chided his fellow Senators for not doing their jobs as defined by the Constitution.

But where was Sasse’s constitutional principles when his party decided not to give a hearing to Merrick Garland, Barack Obama’s choice to replace Antonin Scalia?  Where was the Senate’s lively and engaged debate, the kind of stuff Sasse talked about in his Kavanaugh speech?  At the time, Sasse didn’t say much about Garland. But as I see it, he certainly didn’t defend the Senate’s constitutional requirement to advise and consent.  Sasse was complicit in this partisan attempt to undermine Obama’s appointee.

Here are a couple links:

According to this Washington Post graphic, Sasse did not support hearings for Garland and refused to meet with him.

When NPR’s Steve Inskeep asked him about why the GOP turned the Merrick nomination into a partisan issue, Sasse dodged the question.

What Conservatives Need to Consider if the Court Overturns Roe v. Wade

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With the Brett Kavanaugh hearings in the news, Politico writer and historian Joshua Zeitz takes the long view in his piece “Why Conservatives Should Beware of a Roe v. Wade Appeal.”  He writes:

To understand what’s potentially at stake, one need turn only to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an abortion-rights supporter who led the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project in the early 1970s. Ginsburg has long argued that Justice Harry Blackmun’s polarizing 1973 Roe v. Wadedecision—on the surface an abortion rights victory—was actually a poison pill for the movement. By predicating abortion rights on an expansive but implied right to personal privacy, Ginsburg observed years after the fact, “the Court ventured too far in the change it ordered and presented an incomplete justification for its action.” What’s more, the decision “stopped the momentum on the side of change.” It provided little impetus for advocates of reproductive rights to win hearts and minds, one legislative or ballot initiative at a time, and instead inspired opponents of reproductive freedom to do just that.

He adds:

As they stand poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, political conservatives may be in danger of extreme overreach. Indeed, they may fall into the same trap that befell abortion rights activists in the 1970s. In the mid-1970s, most Americans—54 percent—told Gallup that abortion should be legal in some but not all cases; far fewer Americans responded that abortion should never (21 percent) or always (22 percent) be legal. In effect, there was a broad political center, and in the wake of the court’s decision, the abortion rights movement no longer faced as much urgency in persuading abortion-rights moderates.

But in the years since, although abortion opponents have animated their base in ways that fundamentally shifted the political landscape, they haven’t succeeded in moving public opinion their way. Today, Gallup finds that only 18 percent of respondents believe that abortion should always be illegal. Fifty percent believe that abortion should be legal in some circumstances, and 29 percent support abortion rights without condition. In other words, the center has contracted, hard-line opposition has dropped, and supporters of reproductive rights have increased their share of the Gallup sample.

If Roe v. Wade sparked a political revolution in an era when hard-line opposition to abortion was soft, one can only imagine the strength of the counter-reaction should a conservative court all but criminalize a right that currently enjoys the qualified support of 79 percent of the American population.

Will overturning Roe v. Wade mobilize the pro-choice movement like never before?  Perhaps.  But I think most social conservatives are willing to take that chance.  History cannot predict the future, but it is worth reflecting on whether overturning Roe will, in the very long run, lead to more abortions and not less.

Read Zeitz’s entire piece here.