What Trump Followers Believe:

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Anthropologist Robert Leonard listened to Trump’s speech at the recent Values Voter’s Summit.  Here his take on Trump voters:

Trump began by saying we are a nation of believers and that “together we are strengthened and sustained by the power of prayer.” Democrats want prayer out of the public sphere.

Trump called the Las Vegas shooting a “horrific mass murder” and an “act of pure evil.” Democrats blame the guns and want to take yours away.

Trump honored the heroes of Las Vegas, including the police officers and other first responders. Democrats elevate thugs and view our protectors in blue with disdain.

Trump quotes scripture. Democrats ridicule those who do.

Trump stresses unity. Democrats divide American society into victims and oppressors.

Trump says, “We love our country.” Obama went on an international apology tour.

Trump says, “We cherish the sacred dignity of every human life.” Democrats murder babies.

Trump says, “We believe in strong families.” Democratic policies pull them apart.

Trump says, “We are proud of our history.” Democrats tear down monuments.

Trump says, “We respect our great American flag.” Democrats take a knee.

I could go on. There’s much, much more in Trump’s speech that’s fodder for conservative thought.

The first instinct among Democrats, moderate Republicans and other anti-Trumpers will be to point out that many of these statements are wrong.  But does that really matter?  This is what Trumpers believe. The more you condemn these beliefs, the more they will be ensconced among the Trump faithful.  The real question is whether or not it is possible to change a few hearts and minds on at least some of these issues.

Read Leonard’s entire piece in the Kansas City Star

Ranking the Top 2020 Democratic Nominees for POTUS

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Will California governor Jerry Brown for POTUS in 2020?  He will be 82-years-old.

Aaron Blake of The Washington Post gives us his top 15:

15.  Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook)

14.  Eric Garcetti (Mayor of Los Angeles)

13.  Tim Kaine (Virginia Senator)

12. Deval Patrick (former governor of Massachusetts)

11. Oprah Winfrey/Mark Cuban/Howard Schultz/Bob Iger/Sheryl Sandberg

10.  Sherrod Brown (Ohio Senator)

9.   Andrew Cuomo (Governor of New York)

8.  Cory Booker (New Jersey Senator)

7.  Kamala Harris (California Senator)

6.  Kirsten Gillibrand (New York Senator)

5.  Jerry Brown (Governor of California)

Who are the top 5?  Click here and find out.

 

This Irresponsible Historical Thinking Has to Stop!

Read Jennifer Kerns‘s recent piece on politics and Charlottesville at The Washington Examiner.  Kerns is a GOP communications strategist who has worked for the California Republican Party and Fox News.

Here is a taste:

In the aftermath of Charlottesville, an awful lot of awful things have been said about Republicans and race relations.

However, the Left’s accusations of racism couldn’t be further from the truth that has played out in the halls of Congress over the last 150 years.

It is shocking that as talk of statues and historical racism is being bandied about, no one has mentioned the Democrats’ utterly shameful treatment of African Americans throughout history.

Over the last 100 years, Republicans have stood up for African Americans while Democrats not only stood on the sidelines, but in fact served as obstructionists to civil liberties.

Here are at least 12 examples in which Democrats voted against African Americans, and Republicans voted to free them:

Democrats voted against every piece of civil rights legislation in Congress from 1866 to 1966 – a whopping 100 years. That is a dismal record for today’s Democrats who would like you to believe that history has been on their side on this issue.

It hasn’t.

Democrats voted to keep Africans Americans in slavery, opposing the 13th Amendment which officially freed the slaves. Only four Democrats voted for it.

Republicans also passed the 14th Amendment which granted slaves U.S. citizenship; Democrats voted against it.

Republicans also passed the 15th Amendment which gave slaves the right to vote. Not a single one of the 56 Democrats in Congress voted for it.

Shame on them.

Furthermore, Republicans passed all of the Civil Rights laws of the 1860s — including the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the Reconstruction Act of 1867 following the Civil War.

And it goes on

I thought we were done with this kind of stuff after CNN fired Jeffrey Lord.

As any of my liberal or conservative students will tell you, one of the key components of historical thinking is change over time.  In the case of Kern’s article, let’s remember that political parties change over time.  They are not frozen in time, as she suggests.  The Democratic Party of the 19th century is not the Democratic Party of the 21st century.  The Republican Party of the 19th century is not the Republican Party of the 21st century. Things changed in the 20th century, particularly as each of these parties addressed the questions of race in America.  A political realignment took place.

The facts of Kern’s piece seem generally fine, (although I have not checked them thoroughly).  If they are accurate, they might make for a nice Wikipedia entry. But when you are trying to make the past speak to the present, as Kern does here, there are a set of historical thinking skills–such as change over time–that must be considered. Kern is not writing history here.  She is using the past irresponsibly to make a political point.

I think I will use this piece in my Introduction to History course this semester at Messiah College.

Want to learn more about historical thinking?  Try this. You can read it along with my students this semester.

Or watch this for starters:

 

 

 

The Ball Is In The GOP’s Court

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Let’s face it.  No one cares what the Democrats in Congress and elsewhere think right now.  That is because we all know that the Democrats condemn Trump’s refusal to distinguish white supremacists from those protesting against them.

But we should all care about what Republicans in Congress and elsewhere are saying. They are the only ones with the power to rebuke the POTUS.  This is not a political issue. Any Republican who fails to speak out strongly against Trump right now either shares his views on moral equivalency or is more concerned about politics than the moral state of the country they serve.  If there is another option I would like to know about it.

Here are some of the Republicans who have spoken out after Trump’s remarks on Tuesday.  Notice that only a few of them name the office of the POTUS by name.  I think that’s significant.

Progressive Values, Secular Values, Religious Values

Coons

Over at The Atlantic, Delaware Senator Chris Coons is the latest Democrat to urge his party to embrace religion.

Here is a taste:

A pro-life church can still work with progressive groups to defend and welcome immigrants. An environmental organization that wants to fight climate change can team up with a faith-based organization that shares that goal, even if their members disagree on other issues. Jews, Muslims, and Christians can unite with Americans who practice no faith to march against a discriminatory ban on refugees.

The Democratic Party has to recognize that progressive values can’t be just secular values. It needs to see that we can only solve our nation’s most urgent problems and shape a more equitable America if we trust each other, listen to each other, and engage with those who are traveling along secular and scriptural paths.

Democrats welcome and celebrate our differences. Whether it’s race, religion, nationality, or sexual orientation, we are fighting for a country that is open, tolerant, and accepting—and we shouldn’t yield an inch in that fight.

But we also need to recognize when we aren’t living up to our own admirable standard. We need to acknowledge when our own disagreements or beliefs keep us from engaging and working with those who might see the world differently.

Social progress is not a zero-sum game. Democrats can open our arms to new allies even if we don’t share all of their views. If we do, I suspect we won’t just move our party closer toward achieving our policy goals—we’ll move our nation closer to the promised land of civility, compromise, and progress.

Read the entire piece here.

Democratic Party Will Fund Pro-Life Candidates

williamsIt makes perfect sense.  The Democrats have long been the party of the weak and vulnerable.  For most of the twentieth century it was the anti-abortion party.  Is the Party’s decision to reject a pro-choice litmus test a return to its roots?  I highly doubt it.  This is a strategy for winning back Congress.  Whatever the case, I applaud the move.

 

Kate Shellnut reports at Christianity Today:

Representative Ben Ray Luján, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), said yesterday that the party has “no litmus test” on abortion and won’t withhold financial backing from pro-life candidates in the 2018 mid-term elections, The Hill reported.

His remarks came a week after the party released a new set of policy plans and goals that push economic concerns and don’t mention abortion at all.

As Luján looks to a “broad coalition” to shift control of the US House of Representatives away from the Republican Party, core supporters within his own party are questioning the move away from a firm pro-choice stance.

Will the potential of luring voters who have avoided the party over the issue of abortion be worth the backlash from the Democratic base, including outspoken abortion-rights advocates?

Read the entire piece here.

I am reminded of this passage from Duke University theologian Stanley Hauerwas:

Take for instance the political issue of abortion, which some Christians cited as their reason for voting for candidate Trump. When Christians think that the struggle against abortion can only be pursued through voting for candidates with certain judicial philosophies, then serving at domestic abuse shelters or teaching students at local high schools or sharing wealth with expectant but under-resourced families or speaking of God’s grace in terms of “adoption” or politically organizing for improved education or rezoning municipalities for childcare or creating “Parent’s Night Out” programs at local churches or mentoring young mothers or teaching youth about chastity and dating or mobilizing religious pressure on medical service providers or apprenticing men into fatherhood or thinking of singleness as a vocation or feasting on something called “communion” or rendering to God what is God’s or participating with the saints through Marian icons or baptizing new members or tithing money, will not count as political.

Interested in the history of the pro-life movement?  Check out our interview with historian Daniel K. Williams in Episode 2 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast.

Are Democrats Rethinking “Abortion Orthodoxy?”

 

Charles Camosy, a theologian at Fordham University, thinks we could see some change on this front.

Here is a taste of his piece at Crux:

Stories about how badly the Democratic Party has performed in recent years have been so prevalent they hardly bear mentioning.

The coalition put together by Franklin Roosevelt appears to be on its last legs, hemorrhaging an astonishing 1000 legislative seats since 2008. There are now only four U.S. states with a Democratic governor and legislature. Remarkably, the party has approval ratings comparable to that of Donald Trump.

The explanation for this sorry state of affairs is complex, but a big part of it comes from the enforcement of a coastal moral and political orthodoxy that has dramatically shrunk the party in the Midwest and South. This has been particularly true when it comes to abortion policy.

Indeed, when Democrats had a big tent on the most divisive issue of our time, welcoming the one-in-three members of the party who identify as pro-life, it turns out that they actually won majorities. In 2005, for example, then-DNC chair Governor Howard Dean beautifully executed a 50-state strategy in which the party supported pro-life Democrats who could beat Republicans in battleground districts.

This strategy netted, among other things, the seats necessary to pass the Affordable Care Act, the most important piece of Democratic legislation passed in two generations. Let’s be clear about this remarkable and under-reported fact: without pro-life Democrats, the legislation that has forever changed how American culture thinks about its duty to the most vulnerable would not have passed.

In 2009, however, the 50-state strategy went away, replaced with the simplistic abortion orthodoxy of coastal elites. And with it went the Democratic majority. Tellingly, 88 percent of seats formerly occupied by the pro-life Democrats who supported the ACA are now in Republican hands.

Trump’s stunning victories in formerly blue states in the Midwest, subsequent losses in special elections, and the real threat of losing the ACA have caused some rethinking of abortion orthodoxy in the party.

Democrat James Thompson, for instance, ran for a special election seat in Kansas this past April. He cut Trump’s margin of victory over Clinton by 75 percent, but was unable to get over the hump. In a Think Progress interview, Thompson blamed his loss on pro-life activists who were able to tie him to the current Democratic platform which insists that abortion for any reason-including sex-selection-should not only be legal, but paid for by pro-lifers with their tax dollars.

Read the rest here.  The Atlantic covers this issue here.

As I argued here, a pro-life position on abortion is perfectly compatible with the historic Democratic Party’s commitment to the protection of the most vulnerable members of society.

Watch Bishop Vincent Matthews Jr. of the Church of God in Christ, the largest African American denomination in the country, connects the Pro-Life movement to Black Lives Matter:

 

Jimmy Carter: I Voted for Bernie

Bernie

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.

Some Historical Context on the Democratic Party’s Debate on Abortion

WilliamsThe 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…

The Author’s Corner with Mark Lempke

My brothers keeper.jpgMark Lempke is a visiting instructor  at the University at Buffalo–Singapore. This interview is based on his new book, My Brother’s Keeper: George McGovern and Progressive Christianity (University of Massachusetts Press, 2017).

JF: What led you to write My Brother’s Keeper?

ML: When I was an undergraduate at Houghton College- an evangelical school in New York’s Southern Tier- I wrote a research paper on the 1972 election for one of my history classes. I was just curious how anybody could lose forty-nine states—especially to Nixon! In the process, I discovered an intriguing tidbit: George McGovern’s father, a Wesleyan pastor, had been an early alum of Houghton. Back then, it felt like every evangelical I had encountered was a conservative Republican, so it seemed very strange to me that perhaps the most leftist figure ever nominated by a major party had ties to that tradition. Over many years, curiosity gave way to research, and I found that George McGovern’s life could serve as a useful narrative arc to study the fortunes of Christian social justice in American politics.

JF: In 2 sentences, what is the argument of My Brother’s Keeper?

ML: Despite its reputation for secularism, left liberalism in the 1960s and 1970s was deeply indebted to a religious tradition rooted in the social gospel and ecumenical activism. George McGovern’s use of the prophetic tradition on the campaign trail acted as something of a conduit, channeling support from both mainline and evangelical Protestants concerned with social justice.

JF: Why do we need to read My Brother’s Keeper?

ML: My Brother’s Keeper tries to shed some light on the question of why a “Christian Left” has been so elusive. One of the big differences between the postwar “Christian Right” and the “Christian Left” is that the latter views its activism as essentially prophetic in nature. That means eschewing nationalism while supporting the vulnerable and marginalized, but it also means a willingness to strike it out on your own as well. You can’t very easily tell a prophet what to do or who to vote for! In electoral politics, there is no such thing as a “caucus of prophets;” it’s a bit like herding cats.

Each faction of a theoretical Christian Left had its own understanding of what it meant to speak prophetically against injustice. And the problem was made worse by the longstanding political, cultural, and theological disagreements between mainline and evangelical Protestants. I spend a chapter on McGovern’s visit to Wheaton College during the ’72 campaign as an act of evangelical outreach. One reason why the visit is unsuccessful is because McGovern insisted on speaking as a theological liberal. When he used words like “redeem,” he purely meant social redemption, not redemption of the soul. Even evangelicals at Wheaton who were sympathetic to McGovernism would have found that message difficult to swallow. So when the Evangelical Left took shape under Jim Wallis and Ron Sider soon after the campaign, they went to considerable lengths to distance themselves from the mainline. They often cast liberal theology as backsliding and heretical, even if they shared many of the political priorities of Clergy and Laity Concerned or the National Council of Churches. In a way, it was a form of identity politics, with evangelicals viewing themselves as a historically disadvantaged group that was just now learning to take pride in what made them distinctive.

As readers of TWOILH are probably aware, we’re had an outpouring of great scholarship on postwar social justice evangelicals recently, with David Swartz and Brantley Gasaway leading the way. Mainliners, too, have seen a revival of top-notch work—just look at Elesha Coffman, Kristin Du Mez, David Hollinger, Jill K. Gill, and many others. Each of these historians produced insightful scholarship that influenced my own, but I came to understand that the mainline and evangelical stories needed to be told in tandem. Their mutual distrust toward one another goes a long way toward explaining why Progressive Christians have struggled to be effective in the public square.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

ML: Like most eventual historians, I was a pretty strange kid. When the Mini Page children’s newspaper published a special edition on the U.S. presidents when I was five, I took to memorizing the presidents and interesting facts about them. It was fun to learn, but it was just a cool parlor trick that my grandparents loved showing off to their friends. As I grew older, some great teachers helped me see the value of a more thorough understanding of the past. My social studies teachers in high school, Jeff Jennings and Danielle Hugo, pushed me hard to make connections and explain my reasoning. When I took a class at my local community college, the late Bill Barto mesmerized me with his compelling lecture style and strong focus on narrative. At Houghton, Cameron Airhart ran the First Year Honors Program, where two dozen or so undergrads spent a semester of their freshman year abroad learning the gamut of Western history using the city of London as a resource. When you have such sharp, incisive mentors in your life, it’s hard not to want to emulate them. Once I learned that history wasn’t just facts—it could be debated, observed, touched, or turned into a story—I knew it was the career I wanted to pursue.

JF: What is your next project?

ML: After all this time in McGovernLand, I think I would like to work outside of my immediate field for a short while. My next project will explore the questions that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame raises for public history. I think that one of the great challenges of our time is the seeming contest between populism vs. intellectual expertise. Every year, music industry insiders nominate and induct a set of rock and roll artists, usually from a diverse range of subgenres that include R&B, rap, alternative, and even disco. And just as surely, every year rank-and-file rock and roll fans are angered that their favorite bands have been snubbed, believing in their hearts that it is a travesty that Grand Funk Railroad or Styx isn’t in the Hall. There is a very public debate over who controls rock and roll which taps into the anti-elitism that seems so rampant today. While some common themes do emerge, this is certainly a very different project from George McGovern and the Christian Left!

JF: Thanks, Mark! 

Mark Silk: GOP is Not the Only Party That Makes Abortion a Litmus Test

Bernie

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.

Nevertheless, after NARAL issued its condemnation, the liberal website Daily Kos withdrew its endorsement. The Democratic National Committee began waffling.

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.

Read the entire post here.  Robert David Sullivan, the editor of America, makes a similar argument.

Is the Democratic Party Divided Over Abortion Rights?

Casey

The late Pennsylvania governor Bob Casey was reportedly denied a speaking slot at the 1992 Democratic Convention because he wanted to give a pro-life speech

What should the Democratic Party do with its pro-life members?  Over at The Atlantic, Clare Foran reports that the politics of abortion threaten to divide the party.

Here is a taste:

Ahead of an event on Thursday where Bernie Sanders, the independent Vermont senator who remains the left’s most popular figure, was slated to appear with Representative Keith Ellison, the Democratic National Committee’s deputy chair, and Heath Mello, an Omaha, Nebraska Democratic mayoral candidate, NARAL Pro-Choice America, an organization that endorsed Hillary Clinton in the presidential primary, harshly criticized the DNC for what it called the party’s “embrace” of “an anti-choice candidate.”

The statement followed a report in The Wall Street Journal that Mello once supported legislation “requiring women to look at ultrasound image of their fetus before receiving an abortion.” The liberal website Daily Kos withdrew its endorsement of Mello over the report.

On Thursday, Mello told The Huffington Post, however, that he “would never do anything to restrict access to reproductive health care,” if elected. Jane Kleeb, the chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party and board member of Our Revolution, a group that emerged out of the embers of the Sanders campaign, said in an interview that The Wall Street Journal and NARAL had “mischaracterized” Mello’s legislative record.

“Heath is a strong progressive Democrat, and he is pro-life, and you can be both things,” Kleeb said, adding: “What Heath did actually was stop a bill to make ultrasounds mandatory by getting Republicans in our legislature to agree to make them voluntary.”

Mello’s vow did not satisfy NARAL, however. “It’s not enough to issue a statement for political expediency when your record is full of anti-choice votes,” Ilyse Hogue, the organization’s president, said in a follow-up statement. “The Democratic Party’s support of any candidate who does not support the basic rights and freedoms of women is disappointing and politically stupid.”

Read the entire piece here.

I did not think the pro-life faction of the Democratic Party was that strong. Or at least I have not heard the divisions in the Party framed this way recently.  I assumed that pro-life Democrats lost all power in the Party sometimes shortly after the election of Bill Clinton.

If you want some perspective on how the Democrats became a pro-choice party I recommend Daniel K. Williams’s book  Defenders of the Unborn: The Pro-Life Movement Before Roe v. Wade (Oxford 2016).  Before you go out and buy the book you may want to hear Williams talk about the history of the pro-life movement in Episode 2 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast.

As I have argued, particularly in a piece I published a couple of years ago in USA Today, the modern Democratic Party should really be the party of life.

Why Didn’t Hillary Reach Out to White Evangelicals?

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Clinton at Messiah College in 2008

Two days before the 2016 presidential election I wrote a piece in the Harrisburg Patriot News titled “Here’s What Hillary Clinton Has To Do To Win Over Evangelicals.” In this piece I argued that Clinton has said very little to win over white evangelicals concerned with abortion and religious liberty.

My piece was written very late in the election cycle.  At the time I wrote it was clear that Clinton was not really trying to win over white evangelicals during the campaign.  As journalist Ruth Graham writes in a fascinating piece at Slate, Clinton seemed to almost ignore white evangelicals.

Here is a taste of Graham’s piece:

In 2008, candidate Barack Obama sat down for an interview during the primary with the evangelical magazine Christianity Today. He spoke about his conversion, his longtime church membership, and his belief in “the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.” He said abortion should be less common and that “those who diminish the moral elements of the decision aren’t expressing the full reality of it.” The interview was a valentine to evangelicals, and inside it read: “I’m listening.”

This election cycle, Christianity Today made multiple attempts to request an interview with Hillary Clinton, according to Kate Shellnutt, an editor there. The campaign never responded. Of course, campaigns turn down interview requests all the time. But the Clinton campaign was the only one that didn’t reply at all. And this wasn’t the only sign this year that the Democratic candidate had no interest in speaking to evangelical Christians. She spent little energy explaining her views on abortion to them and little time talking about religious freedom. She didn’t hire a full-time faith outreach director until June and had no one focused specifically on evangelical outreach. She didn’t give a major speech to the evangelical community and never met publicly with evangelical leaders. Religious publications reaching out to her campaign with questions were frequently met with silence. Some evangelical insiders are now asking: Why didn’t Hillary Clinton even try to get us to vote for her?

White evangelicals make up about one-quarter of the electorate, a huge group to ignore in an election that turned out to be won by very narrow margins in a handful of key states. In the end, according to exit polls, only 16 percent of that cohort voted for Clinton, compared with Obama’s 26 percent in 2008 and 20 percent in 2012. Trump’s share of the white evangelical vote, 81 percent, exceeded that of Mitt Romney in 2012 (78 percent), John McCain in 2008 (74 percent), and George W. Bush in 2004 (78 percent). “Not to have anyone reaching out to a quarter of the electorate is political malpractice,” the Obama campaign’s 2012 faith outreach director, Michael Wear, told me. Wear, whose book Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned from the Obama White House About the Future of Faith in America will be published in January, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post recently that argued that the “simple difference between Obama’s two presidential campaigns and Clinton’s 2016 campaign is that Obama asked for the votes of white evangelicals and Clinton did not.”

Read the entire post here.

Clinton campaign did not seem to learn anything from John Kerry’s failed 2004 presidential run.  In the wake of Kerry’s loss, the Democrats found religion. They turned to progressive evangelical Jim Wallis to help them develop a faith-based strategy.  Wallis, who had been toiling for faith-based progressive causes in relavative obscurity during the 1980s and 1990s, suddenly became a religious celebrity.  His 2005 book God’s Politics became a best-seller and unofficial blueprint for the Democratic appeal to religious voters.  During the 2008 primaries Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama made appearances at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in California and at Messiah College.  In 2008, Obama won nearly 25% of the evangelical vote.  No such forums took place in 2016.

Clinton’s failure to reach out to white evangelicals continues to baffle me, especially when this election was so close.

Why a Clinton Victory in November Won’t Be a Moral Victory

Hillary_Obama

Over at Religion Dispatches, Peter Laarman argues that the Hillary Clinton campaign lacks the kind of moral vision that Democrats need to win back the House of Representatives.

He writes:

Put simply, the only force that could break the GOP’s lock on the House is the force of a morally awakened electorate. Were Obama running again, I believe that the Republican House just might crumble and fall. The president remains America’s Idealist In Chief, and he would run on his evident moral passion to bind up the nation’s wounds. He would take the high ground and smite the sworn enemies of American ideals–of liberty and justice for all–on both hip and thigh. He would chastise the Republicans as a group for their decades-long stirring of the toxic slime from which Trumpism emerged.

Secretary Clinton, on the other hand, often sounds moralistic when speaking of the nation’s problems, but she never comes across as a deeply ethical reformer in the mold of Barack Obama, Franklin Roosevelt, or even 1964’s Lyndon Johnson. Her pandering to groups representing underdogs—women’s rights groups, civil rights groups, trade unions—feels in both intonation and gesture exactly like that: highly calculated pandering. Tom Kaine’s down-to-earth Joe Biden impersonation can’t compensate for this defect at the top of the ticket. No number of morally-impassioned surrogates can compensate.

We should not forget that a widely-shared yearning for a moral revolution formed the heart of the Sanders movement. We shouldn’t forget that this surge of moral energy surprised the Vermont senator himself, or that it was really a remarkable thing to behold, especially considering the many liabilities of the senator as a credible candidate. We shouldn’t forget that what many read as “class warfare” and raw resentment of the overclass always arises from a deeply moral center. It’s not just that the 1% sucks up more than 90% of all new the new wealth generated in this country; it’s that their arrogance and presumption regarding their entitlement to power and wealth is widely seen to be undemocratic and simply wrong.

But it appears that Clinton and her team may have forgotten all of this.

Read the entire piece here.  Morality, of course, is a loaded term.  The anti-Hillary faction would agree that Clinton lacks a moral vision, but they would define such a vision in a very different way.  Yet, for a left-leaning publication such as Religion Dispatches, Laarman’s piece makes perfect sense.

The New York-Virginia Connection in the History of American Politics

Kaine and Clinton

Manisha Sinha, who has moved on from the University of Massachusetts to become the Draper Chair in American History at the University of Connecticut, has turned to the New York Daily News to remind us that the Hillary Clinton-Tim Kaine Democratic ticket is yet another chapter in a longstanding New York-Virginia political alliance.

Here is a taste:

The Democratic Party nomination of Hillary Clinton of New York for President and Tim Kaine of Virginia for vice president is historic — and not just because a woman for the first time in American history heads the ticket of a major party.

The political alliance Clinton-Kaine represents is as old as the American Republic itself: The Empire State and the Commonwealth of Virginia have played starring roles in American history since the country’s founding.

The first party system, Hamiltonian Federalists versus the Jeffersonian Republicans, involved towering figures from both states. The father of the nation, George Washington, and the influential fourth chief justice of the Supreme Court, John Marshall, were staunch Federalists and Virginians.

The architect of the Federalist national bank and currency was Alexander Hamilton of New York. Washington took the oath of office in New York.

The “Revolution of 1800,” which brought Thomas Jefferson to the presidency, was masterminded by Jefferson and his Virginia ally James Madison. Along with Hamilton and John Jay of New York, Madison authored the Federalist Papers, which argued for a strong federal government and paved the way for the U.S. Constitution. Jefferson and Madison, followed by James Monroe, would cement the hold of the so-called Virginia Dynasty on the presidency, and won the political battle over Hamilton and the Federalists even while adopting many features of their program.

Read the rest here.

Also check out our interview with Sinha at The Author’s Corner.  We talked about her recent book The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition.

Evangelicals, Democrats, and Super Tuesday

Clinton in Church

Pew Research Center has just republished a 2014 report on the religious affiliation of voters in the states with primaries on “Super Tuesday” (March 1, 2016).  The evidence on the GOP side is pretty predictable. With the exception of Massachusetts and Minnesota, all of these states have very large evangelical populations.

Of course the number of white GOP voters who identify as “evangelical” does not tell us much since all of the candidates seem to be taking a slice of the evangelical pie.

The Pew report also measures the religious affiliation of Democratic voters in the Super Tuesday states.  It shows that evangelicals make up nearly 40% of the Democratic voters in Tennessee and Oklahoma. Alabama, Arkansas, and Georgia also have large numbers of registered Democrats who identify as evangelicals.

I assume that many of these voters will vote for Clinton.  If South Carolina is any indication, I am assuming that she will also carry the large historically Black Protestant populations of Alabama, Arkansas, and Virginia.  Clinton’s reference tonight to the so-called “love chapter” (I Corinthians 13) will not hurt.

But will these evangelical Democrats stay with Clinton in a general election?

The Freedom Caucus’s Obstructionist Tactics Are Not New

The men of the Freedom Caucus

If you follow American politics you know about the Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative members of the House of Representatives that champion limited government, don’t like outgoing Speaker John Boehner because he is too moderate, and have been making a mess of the process of selecting his replacement.  

As have noted before here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home, the Freedom Caucus likes to describe its members (and I assume it constituency) as “Valley Forge Americans.”

The obstructionist tactics of the Freedom Caucus have a long history in American politics.  Michael Todd Landis reminds us of this fact in a recent article at History News Network.  The article is drawn from Landis’s recent book Northern Men with Southern Loyalties: The Democratic Party and the Sectional Crisis

Here is a taste of his article:

Despite what media pundits and talking-heads may say, and despite Americans’ clear displeasure with Congressional inactivity (a recent Gallup poll puts public approval of the legislative branch at an embarrassing 14 percent), federal obstructionism is nothing new. Extreme conservatives have long aimed to gum-up governmental works, decentralize authority, and return power to the states and local elites. The fight dates back to the US Constitution itself, a document vehemently opposed by “Anti-Federalists” suspicious of centralized power and a new, united nation (rather than thirteen separate states).
In the antebellum era, the most energetic obstructionists were Southern enslavers fearful that an empowered government might one day strike at slavery. They opposed all manner of federal action, including seemingly mundane and benign projects such as road and canal building, harbor improvements, river dredging, and western land sales. North Carolina’s Nathaniel Macon declared in 1818, “If Congress can make canals, they can with more propriety emancipate [slaves].” And in 1824, John Randolph of Virginia announced in the House, “If Congress possess the power to do what is proposed in this [internal improvements] bill, they may emancipate every slave in the United States.” For these men, any government action whatsoever was unacceptable, as it would surely lead to the destruction of their “peculiar institution.”

Read the entire essay here.