Monday night court evangelical roundup

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What have Trump’s evangelicals been saying since our last update?

Mike Pence’s nephew hosted a court evangelical conversation with Paula White, Johnnie Moore and Samuel Rodriguez. This is an event sponsored by the Trump campaign. Watch:

At the 5:30 mark, Moore starts out with a lie. Joe Biden does not want to prosecute people for going to church. Moore is outraged that St. John’s Church in Washington D.C. was burned during the protests earlier this month. Please spare us the sermon, Johnnie. If this was any other moment, Moore, who likes to fashion himself a “modern day Dietrich Bonhoeffer,” would be attacking the rector of the church and its congregation for its liberal Protestant theology and commitment to social justice. (By the way, Bonhoeffer adhered to both liberal Protestantism and social justice. Moore’s Bonhoeffer comes directly out of the pages of Eric Metaxas’s popular, but debunked biography).

If you watch this video, you will see nothing but fear-mongering.

At one point in the conversation, Paula White says that Trump is fighting for the First Amendment and the Second Amendment. Since when was the right to bear arms a Christian concern? White claims that the Democratic Party platform says that it is a “party of the Godless.” Just to be clear, there is no such language in the platform. She also goes into what I call the “they are coming for our Bibles” mode. Here’s White: “We can basically kiss our churches goodbye, our houses of worship…we very well could be home churches at that.” As I wrote in Believe Me, this kind of fear-mongering reminds me of the Federalists during the election season of 1800 who thought Thomas Jefferson, if elected, would send his henchman into New York and New England to close churches and confiscate Bibles. (It didn’t happen. In fact, Jefferson was a champion of religious liberty). White believes that we are in a spiritual war for the soul of America. She mentions a conversation with Ben Carson in which the HUD Secretary told her that the forces of Satan are working to undermine Trump.

Moore defends Trump’s record on global religious freedom. Indeed, Trump seems to have made religious persecution abroad a priority. Only time will tell how successful this campaign has been or will be. But notice that Moore says nothing about the president’s approval of Muslim concentration camps in China. Why? Because Moore is not here to tell the whole truth about Trump as it relates to religious freedom. He is here to help Trump get re-elected. Or maybe talking about the religious persecution of Muslims in China won’t help Trump with white evangelical voters, many of whom still believe Obama was a Muslim. Most of Trump’s evangelical followers only talk about religious liberty when it relates to their own causes. Moore knows this.

Moore then attacks Democratic governors for trying to close churches during COVID-19. He has a lot of nerve. It was Democratic governors like Andrew Cuomo (and GOP Ohio governor Mike DeWine, among others) who showed leadership during the coronavirus while Trump was tweeting “liberate Michigan.”

Samuel Rodriguez basically says that if you vote for Trump, you are voting against the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

OK, that was hard to stomach. Let’s move on.

Moore is also tweeting. He is upset about today’s Supreme Court decision on abortion, especially Chief Justice John Roberts’s decision to join the liberal justices in blocking a Louisiana abortion law restricting abortion rights:

What does Moore mean when he says that this is the “Scalia-moment” of the 2020 campaign? Here is a passage from Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump:

Already hitting his stride with his base, [GOP presidential candidate Ted] Cruz gained a new talking point in mid-February, with Super Tuesday only a couple of weeks away. When conservative Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly on a quail hunting trip in Texas, and it became clear that the Republican-controlled Senate would not provide a hearing for Merrick Garland, Barack Obama’s appointee to replace Scalia, the presidential election of 2016 became a referendum on the future of the high court. Scalia was a champion of the social values that conservative evangelicals hold dear, and it was now clear that the newly elected president of the United States would appoint his successor.

Cruz seized the day. Two days after Scalia died and five days before the 2016 South Carolina primary, Cruz released a political ad in the hopes of capitalizing on evangelical fears about the justice’s replacement. With a picture of the Supreme Court building as a backdrop, the narrator said, “Life, marriage, religious liberty, the Second Amendment. We’re just one Supreme Court justice away from losing them all.” In an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press, Cruz said that a vote for Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, or Donald Trump could lead American citizens to lose some of their rights. “We are one justice away from the Second Amendment being written out of the constitution altogether,” he said. “And if you vote for Donald Trump in this next election, you are voting for undermining our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.” Cruz pushed this appeal to evangelical fear even harder at a Republican Women’s Club meeting in Greenville, South Carolina. He told these Republican voters that the United States was “one justice away” from the “the Supreme Court mandating  unlimited abortion on demand,” and for good measure he added that it was only a matter of time before the federal government started using chisels to “remove the crosses and the Stars of David from the tombstones of our fallen soldiers.”

I wonder if the modern-day Dietrich Bonhoeffer has learned the right lesson from 2016? Some might say that the recent Bostock decision, and today’s Louisiana abortion decision, should teach evangelicals to stop relying on the Supreme Court to “reclaim” America, especially when such an approach to “Christian” politics requires them to get into bed with a president like Trump. But, alas, Moore would never even consider such a lesson because it does not conform to the Christian Right’s political playbook.

Meanwhile, Paula White is supernaturally praying for her Twitter followers:

I’m just curious. Is there  a way to “pray” for a non-“supernatural provision?” Sorry, I had to ask.

Jentezen is also upset about the SCOTUS decision:

Tony Perkins too:

I agree with the idea that every life is valuable, including unborn babies. But putting faith in SCOTUS and POTUS is not the answer.

Robert Jeffress is still basking in the idolatrous glow of yesterday’s Lord’s Day political rally at his church. Here is his retweet of Mike Pence:

A spokesperson for Liberty University’s Falkirk Center retweets Princeton University scholar Robert George. As you read this retweet, please remember that The Falkirk Center supports Donald Trump and Trump is a pathological liar:

She is also upset with John Roberts:

And this:

Sadly,  in light of what we have seen thus far from the Trump presidency as it relates to race and Confederate monuments, this “idiot activist” seems to be asking a reasonable question.

Charlie Kirk is also mad at John Roberts:

It looks like the court evangelicals are very upset about an abortion case in the Supreme Court, but they have said nothing about Trump’s racist tweet over the weekend. I guess this falls under the “I don’t like some of his tweets, but…” category.

John Zmirak, who is an editor at court evangelical James Robison’s website The Stream, is back on the Eric Metaxas Show. He is comparing Black Lives Matter to Jim Jones and Jonestown. The entire conversation, ironically, is about people blindly putting their trust in a strongman. Metaxas wastes no time in connecting Jonestown to today’s Democratic Party. A Christian Right bromance may be forming between these two guys.  Metaxas tells Zmirak: “we are so glad you are on the program today, thank the Lord.”

They also condemn Black Lives Matter. Zmirak calls BLM a “slogan, a “trademark,” and a “brilliant piece of marketing” that is “raising money off of white guilt.” Sounds a lot like another slogan, trademark and brilliant piece of marketing. This one is raising money off of white supremacy.

In another part of their conversation, Metaxas and Zmirak say that Black Lives Matter is wrong from a Christian point of view because all men and women are created in the image of God. In other words, anyone who wants to say that only Black lives matter is actually racist (reverse racism, as they say) because in God’s eyes “all lives matter.” I’ve heard this argument before. Here is a quick response:

Indeed, Christians believe that we are all created in the image of God. As the civil rights movement taught us, Christian faith offers plenty of theological resources to combat racism. Moreover, the Black Lives Matter movement is very diverse. Author Jemar Tisby makes some important points in this regard in Episode 48 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podast.

I am sure Metaxas and Zmirak are correct about some of the abuses of the Black Lives Matter movement. But notice what is going on here. Metaxas and Zmirak are really only interested in attacking the Black Lives Matter movement. Since the killing of George Floyd, Metaxas has not offered any sustained empathy or acknowledgement of the pain and suffering faced by African-Americans, either now or in our nation’s history. Yes, he had some black guests on the program, but they were invited on the show for the purpose of undermining Black Lives Matter and rejecting systemic racism. At this moment, when white evangelicals have a wonderful opportunity to think more deeply about the problems of race in America, Metaxas has chosen to divert attention away from these issues by going after the extreme fringes of a generally anti-racist movement.

In his second hour, Metaxas hosts a writer named Nick Adams, the author of a book titled Trump and Churchill: Defenders of Western Civilization. He runs an organization called The Foundation for Liberty and American Greatness. Adams makes it sound like Trump has some kind of agenda to save Western Civilization. This strikes me as very far-fetched since I don’t think Trump even knows what Western Civilization is. Metaxas, of course, loves his guest’s ideas, going as far to say, in reference to World War II (Churchill) and COVID-19 (Trump) that both men carried their respective nations through their “darkest hours.”

Until next time.

Tuesday night court evangelical roundup

COurt Evangelicals

What have Trump’s evangelicals been saying since yesterday’s update?

Franklin Graham is on the stump for Trump. This is from his Facebook page :

In the last presidential election in 2016, I reminded people across the country that the election was not about Donald Trump’s previous lifestyle or Hillary Clinton’s lost emails, but it was about the courts—Who do you trust to appoint conservative judges to the courts? Donald J. Trump won the election, and in the next few days he will be making his 200th judicial appointment. That’s more than any president in the last four decades during the same time frame. Thank you Mr. President! This will be a legacy that truly will keep on giving—in the lives of our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.

And Twitter:

Al Mohler is questioning science and COVID-19 experts and promoting a Trumpian populism:

Charlie Kirk is running a “Students for Trump” convention in Arizona featuring Donald Trump.

A few observations:

  • In the opening prayer of this convention, the minister thanked God that “All Lives Matter.” The prayer was filled with Christian nationalism, law and order, and Trump talking points. The crowd cheered during the prayer at the appropriate points.
  • Ryan Fournier, the founder of Students for Trump, calls the event “the most aggressive political outreach movement in political presidential campaign history.” Wow!  That’s specific.
  • Florida Matt Gaetz spoke. So did Donald Trump Jr.
  • Trump said nothing new to the 2000 students who showed-up. It was just another campaign rally.

Eric Metaxas interviews one of his “mentors in terms of thinking of race in America,” conservative talk show host Larry Elder. Elder talks about his new documentary film “Uncle Tom.” Elder makes the common claim that the Democrats opposed the 13th Amendment (ending slavery), 14th Amendment (equal protection under the law for African.Americans), and 15th Amendment (African American right to vote). This is largely true, but he fails to consider that the Democratic Party of the 1860s and 1870s is not the Democratic Party of today. See Princeton historian Kevin Kruse’s debate (if you can all it that) with conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza. This entire argument ignores a fundamental element of historical thinking: change over time. Metaxas totally endorses Elder’s approach, claiming that Americans “don’t know the facts.” Elder and Metaxas are peddling some really bad history here.

Elder claims that racism “is no longer a problem” in American life. This reminds me of a family member who recently told me that I was “living in the past” by suggesting that the history of racial discrimination in America might have something to do with race in America today.

In his second hour, Metaxas and his crew argue that the division in the country is the work of Satan, “the accuser.” Metaxas has the audacity to say that Satan “takes things that are true and twists them into a lie.” Wait, I thought Metaxas supported Trump! 🙂

Metaxas wants a view of history that celebrates all that is good in America. He extols all the Bible-believing Christians who were abolitionists. Yes, this is true. There were many good Christians who fought against slavery. But the present always shapes how we think about the past. As the country is trying to come to grips with racism–both individual acts of racism and the deeper problem of systemic racism–now is the time to take a deep, hard look at how we got here. That will mean taking a hard look at the dark moments of the white evangelical past. This is not the time to get defensive and engage in whataboutism. (Hey, what about Harriet Beecher Stowe!).

Metaxas then interviews Jenna Ellis of the Liberty University Falkirk Center.  In this interview, Metaxas says that “the only reason we abolished slavery is because of the Bible.” This is not entirely true, as I argued in Believe Me.  Slaveholding southerners actually used the Bible to justify slavery and accused northern abolitionists of not being biblical enough. As multiple historians have shown, the Bible was used to fortify racial discrimination to a much greater extent than the Bible was used to end slavery or advance racial justice in America. But Metaxas doesn’t care about that. He needs a usable past. Everything else can be conveniently ignored.

Speaking of the Falkirk Center at Liberty University:

And Lance Wallnau brings the fearmongering:

Until next time.

The Biden Avengers

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Should Biden announce his cabinet picks NOW? It’s an interesting idea.

Here is Ron Brownstein at The Atlantic:

For Democrats playing the political equivalent of fantasy baseball, it’s not hard to identify a range of potential appointments for Biden—whether he wants to identify individuals for specific jobs or just nod more broadly by indicating several names that would be part of his team in any policy area.

Conversations with Democrats suggest a Biden national-security team, for instance, could include Susan Rice and Tom Donilon, both of whom served as national security adviser to Obama; retired Admiral William McRaven, who organized the raid that killed Osama bin Laden; and Buttigieg, the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor whose experience as a married, gay, religiously devout, polyglot veteran has some Democrats viewing him as the ideal vehicle to represent a changing America to the world as UN ambassador.

A Biden environmental and climate-change team could include Washington Governor Jay Inslee, who set the pace on the climate debate during his own brief bid for the 2020 nomination; former Senator and Secretary of State John Kerry, who might lead U.S. efforts to revive the Paris climate agreement after helping negotiate the original pact; and Mayors Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles and Francis Suarez of Miami, who have pushed for cities to adapt to the growing risk. (Suarez would also advance Biden’s stated goal of appointing Republicans to his government.)

Booker (on job training and America’s workforce), the businessman Andrew Yang (on managing technological change), the former Obama official Julián Castro (on immigration and expanding opportunity in minority communities), and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (on housing and urban development) might all fill positions in his domestic-policy team.

Biden’s Justice Department—encompassing those working on racial-equity and voting-rights issues—might include former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates; Senators Harris, Amy Klobuchar, and Elizabeth Warren; and former Georgia state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams. (One of them, aside from Yates, could be picked for vice president instead.)

Many on the left would also thrill to see Warren as treasury secretary, though that would send shockwaves through the party’s Wall Street supporters. Easier to imagine is Biden turning to the Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates to help lead the government’s response to the coronavirus and plan for potential future epidemics.

If the talent among younger Democrats represents the opportunity in this approach, the necessity is this: Public polling consistently suggests that Biden, a 77-year-old white man first elected to office in 1970, won’t ever inspire an eruption of enthusiasm among the activist liberals and young voters who were drawn to Sanders, or among younger people of color more broadly.

Read the entire piece here.

Of course this will also create more targets for Trump.

The Author’s Corner with Christopher Leahy

President without a partyChristopher Leahy is Professor of History at Keuka College. This interview is based on his new book, President Without a Party: The Life of John Tyler (LSU Press, 2020).

JF: What led you to write President Without a Party?

CL: This book is a dramatic revision and expansion of my doctoral dissertation. To start, I wanted to focus my attention on a president most people knew nothing about, thinking that might help my publishing prospects. There had been no full-scale biography devoted solely to John Tyler since 1939, so I thought a fresh look at his life and career was warranted. As a political historian, I had always been interested in the dynamics of the two-party system, and by how that system both energized and constrained our presidents. That led me to the larger thematic question of what it meant to be a president who had been excommunicated by his party. I wanted to know how President Tyler’s banishment from the Whig ranks affected him personally, how it impacted his agenda, how exactly it affected his chances to win election in his own right, and what all of this had to say about the importance of political parties to presidential politics in the mid-nineteenth century.

I also became fascinated by how a former president of the United States, one whose father (whom he idolized) had played a small role in creating the Union out of the American Revolution, could have turned against the country he once led and formally ally himself with the government of the Confederacy.

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of President Without a Party?

CL: John Tyler was portrayed by his contemporaries and by many historians as an ideologue whose rigid devotion to states’ rights and strict construction of the Constitution forestalled compromise and made him a failed president. While the view of him as an ideologue contains merit for his pre-presidential career, I argue that he largely favored a middle-of-the road, bipartisan approach to the nation’s problems once he became president, and that it was his status as a president without a party and rejection by both the Whigs and opposition Democrats that doomed his presidency.

JF: Why do we need to read President Without a Party?

CL: I don’t think we can fully understand the long process that led to secession and civil war without understanding John Tyler. For one thing, his career-long defense of the South and slavery provides a case-study of why the planter class turned against the Union and led the South to secede in 1860-61. Moreover, his successful pursuit of the annexation of Texas as president re-ignited the sectional controversy over slavery’s expansion into the nation’s territories and served as a long fuse for the start of war in April 1861.

There is also an aspect to Tyler’s experience that speaks more broadly to the presidency itself. All of the nation’s chief executives have maintained that the press has harassed them and that they suffer unfair attacks at the hands of their opponents. John Tyler, however, likely wins the prize for partisan abuse—and his opponents could be found in both parties. My book demonstrates the lengths to which the Whigs and Democrats went to undermine his presidency.

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

CL: I became interested in American history, and specifically American presidents, as a child. I went to college, however, intent on becoming an attorney. When I was an undergraduate, I read the first volume of William W. Freehling’s The Road to Disunion. The book sparked my interest in antebellum politics, and it made me think that I’d like to research and write and become an historian. I was fortunate to take courses in college with professors who were riveting lecturers as well as demanding instructors. In speaking with them over the course of my college years, I got to understand the life of an academic historian and decided that I wanted to pursue that career.

JF: What is your next project?

CL: My wife, Sharon Williams Leahy, and I are collaborating on a biography of First Lady Julia Gardiner Tyler. Sharon has published an academic journal article in New York History that overturns a key piece of the historiography on Julia Tyler and we have published book chapters for two anthologies that re-orient the historiography on her. So, we are off to a great start on our work!

JF: Thanks, Christopher!

The Author’s Corner with Michael E. Woods

Arguing until DoomsdayMichael E. Woods is currently Associate Professor of History at Marshall University. Starting in August 2020, he will be Associate Professor of History and Director/Editor of the Papers of Andrew Jackson at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. This interview is based on his new book, Arguing until Doomsday: Stephen Douglas, Jefferson Davis, and the Struggle for American Democracy (The University of North Carolina Press, 2020).

JF: What led you to write Arguing until Doomsday?

MW: Initially, I envisioned Arguing until Doomsday as an article, not a book. The inspiration came from two sets of sources I encountered during the research for my first book (Emotional and Sectional Conflict in the Antebellum United States [Cambridge, 2014]). The first surfaced in the archives: I spent some time exploring Stephen A. Douglas’s papers at the University of Chicago and was struck by the amount of supportive mail he received from Republicans, including staunchly antislavery Republicans, during the late 1850s. The second appeared in the Congressional Globe, a staple for anyone doing work on antebellum political history: the extended debate between Douglas and Mississippi senator Jefferson Davis in May 1860, which unfolded just as their Democratic Party was tearing itself apart over selecting a presidential candidate and writing a platform. Together, these sources suggested that we needed to rethink the relationship between antebellum sectionalism and the Democratic Party. Specialists are familiar with the Democratic split in 1860, but in some narratives it appears almost out of nowhere. Yet there were portents of the rupture—such as Douglas’s rather surprising fan mail in 1857 and 1858—that appeared well before 1860. I decided to use Davis and Douglas’s careers to tell the longer history of that intraparty conflict. And because I wanted to situate both men in the contexts of their home states, I realized that I would have to write a book-length study.

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of Arguing until Doomsday?

MW: The 1860 rupture of the Democratic Party was the product of long-term conflicts over balancing property rights and majoritarianism: Stephen Douglas’s primarily northern faction pressed for localized white men’s majority rule, while Jefferson Davis’s primarily southern faction demanded the federal defense of slaveholders’ property rights. In the context of rapid expansion and heightened pressure from pro- and antislavery activists, Democrats like Davis and Douglas could not permanently reconcile these competing agendas, and their efforts to control the party ultimately tore it apart.

JF: Why do we need to read Arguing until Doomsday?

MW: The book reexamines a vital topic—antebellum sectional strife and the origins of secession and the Civil War—from a fresh perspective, enlivened by a dual-biographical approach. Davis and Douglas are typically paired with Abraham Lincoln, but Arguing until Doomsday revisits them from the vantage point of a rivalry that played out within the Democratic Party but across sectional lines. This perspective helps us to understand how sectionalism and partisanship intertwined in sometimes surprising ways. Some southern Democrats, for instance, called for secession in the event that Lincoln or Douglas won the 1860 presidential election. Simultaneously, there were southern critics who denounced Davis as too soft on defending slavery, even as northern Democrats worried that Davis would destroy the party by forcing a proslavery platform on them. These dynamics become much easier to understand if we trace the long rivalry between Davis and Douglas, who began speaking for frankly sectional constituencies when they entered Congress in the mid-1840s.

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

MW: I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t fascinated by American history, but my inspiration to make a career of it came near the end of my undergraduate studies, when I took a seminar (on Chinese history, actually). History is all about conversations, whether carried out in person in the classroom or in print, from one scholar to another. I relished participating in both types of conversations in that seminar and I decided I wanted to continue with them, as a teacher and a scholar.

JF: What is your next project?

MW: I’m working on another biographical project that focuses on John H. Van Evrie, a shadowy figure who was one of the most extreme and outspoken racist propagandists of the mid-nineteenth century. Born in Canada, Van Evrie built a twenty-five year career in New York City as a writer, newspaper editor, and publisher who dedicated himself to promoting white supremacy—a phrase he actually introduced into popular usage. Van Evrie is neither sympathetic nor inspirational, but I think he can help us to trace precisely how ideas about race and slavery and freedom circulated at a time when information was moving more cheaply and swiftly than ever before. We usually think of the nineteenth-century communications revolution, made possible by innovations like the telegraph and the rotary printing press, as a good thing. But Van Evrie’s career exposes a sinister side of that revolution. New communications technologies are only as edifying as the messages they carry and the people who use them.

JF: Thanks, Michael!

It’s Time for Bernie to Drop Out

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Bernie Sanders made a nice run. He has secured his place in American history for the way he has pushed the Democratic Party to the left. I fully expect many of his policy ideas will one day become a reality, not unlike how the views of the late 19th-century populist movement found their way into the political mainstream or how the conservative ideals of Barry Goldwater influenced the Republican Party. (See Michael Kazin on these historical developments).

Last night Joe Biden scored overwhelming victories in Florida, Illinois, and Arizona. He has an almost insurmountable delegate lead.  There are now three main reasons why Sanders must drop out.

  1. He has very little chance of winning in the nomination.
  2. If the primary race ends here, the Democratic Party can unify early and thus more effectively prepare for November.
  3. States can cancel or postpone primaries and thus follow the advice we are getting from the health care community about social distancing.

I am Hearing About Two Different Generational Divides

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First, there is the general divide in the Democratic Party. The millennials and Gen X-ers  seem to like Bernie Sanders. Baby boomers like Joe Biden. Read Eric Levitz’s piece at New York Magazine.

Second, there seems to be a divide in how Americans are responding to the coronavirus. Read Rana Foroohar’s piece at Financial Times or this recent Wall Street Journal piece.

If all this reporting is correct, younger Americans love socialism, the environment, socialized medicine, and free college, but they are also selfish and more than willing to ignore the advice of older Americans who have scientific expertise.

It must be more complicated than this, but as a college professor of a certain age who spends a lot of time with young people, I find this discussion to be very interesting.

ADDENDUM: I just thought of another generational divide. Older and younger evangelicals on the Trump presidency.

Assessing Last Night’s Democratic Debate

Biden Sanders

Over at The New York Times, an impressive group of commentators and intellectuals evaluate last night debate—perhaps the last–between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. The group includes Gail Collins, Nicole Hemmer, Michelle Goldberg, Wajahat Ali, Peter Wehner, Jamelle Bouie, and Elizabeth Bouie.

Here is Hemmer on Biden’s performance:

The smartest move Biden made in the debate — other than committing to a female running mate — was tying revolution to disruption. At a moment when the world’s been turned upside down, he offered to flip it right side up, not shake it up more. His reassurances send a powerful general-election message — and why he won the debate.

Here is Elizabeth Bruenig on Sanders’s performance:

That’s odd about Sanders is that he’s simultaneously the ideas candidate — unlike Biden, he has a philosophical brief against the excesses of American individualism — and the practical, materially focused candidate, worrying over how low-wage workers will survive this crisis financially. That breadth of interests came through strongly in this debate, and the no-audience format suited him well.

Read the entire piece here.

Ron Brownstein on the Democratic Primary: “It’s Over”

Bernie

Here is the veteran political writer at The Atlantic:

After two insurgent campaigns that rattled American politics, Bernie Sanders’s dream of becoming the Democratic presidential nominee is effectively over.

Tapping an enormous wave of grassroots energy in both bids for the White House, Sanders galvanized young people, transformed online fundraising, and changed the terms of debate in the Democratic Party on issues ranging from health care to college affordability. But as his defeats last night made clear yet again, his unflinching call for a “political revolution” could not build a coalition broad enough to capture the ultimate prize.

For now, Sanders is staying in the race. “While our campaign has won the ideological debate, we are losing the debate over electability,” he said today in a short speech from Burlington, Vermont. He still plans to attend an upcoming debate with former Vice President Joe Biden, who remains well short of the 1,991 delegates needed for a nomination on the first ballot at the Democratic National Convention in July. But Biden’s resounding victories last night, and his widening delegate lead, have prompted even some of Sanders’s ideological allies to question whether the senator from Vermont should continue his campaign.

Read the rest here.  Bernie will not be president.  But American political historians will study his 2016 and 2020 campaigns for a long time.

Michael Walzer: “Sanders is alone with his excited followers”

Bernie Sanders

Michael Walzer is a public intellectual, co-editor of Dissent, and a life-long democratic socialist. Over at Tablet, he offers his take on Bernie Sanders:

What should lifelong democratic socialists and social democrats, like me, think about Bernie Sanders, the democratic socialist? He isn’t like the socialists whom we know from other countries, where this kind of politics is much more common than it is in the United States. Socialist politicians usually emerge from powerful social movements like the old labor movement or from political parties like the Labour Party in the United Kingdom or the Social Democrats in Germany. Sanders does not come out of, nor has he done anything to build, a significant social movement. That wouldn’t be an easy task in the United States today; in any case, it hasn’t been his task. He has, moreover, never been a member of a political party—not even of the Democratic Party whose nomination he is now seeking. He has never attempted to create a democratic socialist caucus within the party. For all the enthusiasm he has generated, he has no organized, cohesive social or political force behind his candidacy. If he were elected, it is hard to see how he could enact any part of his announced program.

Several conservative writers have said it: Sanders is best understood as a left populist. He stands to the Democratic Party today very much like Trump stood to the Republican Party in 2016. I understand that Sanders stands for policies radically different from Trump’s. He speaks to the needs of millions of vulnerable Americans and to the anxieties of young people entering an unwelcoming economy—and, like populists everywhere, he promises to solve all their problems. But he stands in the political arena without the political support necessary to do that or even to begin to do that. He claims to be leading a movement. Look closely: He is alone with his excited followers.

Read the rest here.

Joe Biden: Interim Pastor

Did you watch Joe Biden’s speech last night after his primary victories in Michigan, Mississippi, and Missouri?

Last night Wes Granberg-Michaelson, a churchman who has had a distinguished career in denominational life, politics, letters, and academia, wrote this on his Facebook page:

Listening to Joe Biden give his speech this evening, he impresses me like a strong interim pastor who comes into a congregation devastated by conflict and finally has removed its pastor, but needs someone who projects calm, confidence, trust and allows for healing. But then, the effective interim pastor has to open up space for the congregation to clarify again its values, its core mission, and its vision for the future. Pastor (or Father) Biden will have to do both things.

I know that many Bernie fans are upset tonight because the Democratic Party does not seem to be listening to the youth vote. Perhaps this is true. I am sure that a new, young, contemporary pastor is finishing seminary right now and he will soon take the pulpit.  But right now it looks like the country just needs a good interim pastor.

Thanks to Wes Granberg-Michaelson for allowing me to quote him.

What Bernie Sanders Might Learn from Jesse Jackson

Sanders and jackson

Here is Georgetown University historian Michael Kazin at The Washington Post:

It was the 1988 election and the insurgent candidacy of Jesse Jackson that provides insights into the current fight and why Sanders’s campaign has captured such passionate support, particularly among young people who want to transform the political and economic system.

Unlike the more liberal contender in other primary fights — figures such as Ted Kennedy in 1980, Mondale in 1984 or Bill Bradley in 2000 — who mostly wanted to extend the liberal reforms of the Great Society, Jackson, the minister and civil rights leader, dreamed of something much bigger. He proposed a sweeping egalitarian overhaul of American society. He set forth, in stirring cadences, a program that included single-payer health care, free community college, equal pay for women, LGBTQ rights, some form of reparations for black people — and a vast plan to build affordable housing and mass transportation that resembles Sanders’s program now.

Like the Vermont insurgent, Jackson proposed reversing tax cuts for the richest Americans that the incumbent Republican president had signed into law and advocated sizable cuts in the defense budget, moving away from a foreign policy dependent on force to one that advanced disarmament.

Both candidates share another similarity: They transformed themselves from protest candidates into serious contenders for the nomination by building a multiracial coalition of the working class and the young. Jackson’s “rainbow coalition” posed the most direct and far-reaching alternative to the party “establishment” before Sanders battled Hillary Clinton nearly three decades later. And unlike their moderate rivals, each man inspired a mass of ardent followers who dedicated themselves to the cause.

Jackson exceeded expectations in 1988 and won over 1,200 delegates. At the convention, he delivered a bravura oration that easily overshadowed the technocratic Michael Dukakis’s rather tedious acceptance speech. When it seemed he might actually win enough delegates to take the nomination, most white Democrats — officeholders and ordinary voters alike — got cold feet. One of Jackson’s closest advisers reflected, “As long as people could vote for him as sending a message to Democrats [that] we support this kind of economic populism and moral voice, they were anxious to vote for him. But as soon as he got close to actually winning the nomination … people just said: ‘Whoa, We’re never going to do this.”

Read the entire piece here.

Father Joe

Munich Security Conference in Munich

Los Angeles Times columnist Virginia Heffernan says America needs a father figure right now.  Here is a taste of her recent column, “Joe Biden just turned into the aspirin America needs for its Trump headache”:

An idea from progressive Catholic theology might be useful for our times: pater patitur— the father suffers.

It goes like this: A father figure, divine or otherwise, isn’t meant to relieve our suffering. Nor should he suffer for us, which suggests condescension. And he certainly shouldn’t inflict suffering on us, as too many parents do with their children. Rather, the father’s role is to suffer withus.

We’ve seen this gracious and ultimately progressive model of fatherhood from Joe Biden in recent days in his run for the Democratic nomination.

Of course, a father is a father, and in this case a white one. Biden doesn’t speak from the political or social margins. Rather he speaks from the head of the table, where — likely as not — he’s having his pot roast served to him by a woman. And that woman may be simultaneously fighting off a lunging animal-rights protester, as Jill Biden, Joe’s wife, and Symone D. Sanders, his campaign advisor, did during Biden’s Super Tuesday speech.

But if we must have a white man as president, as we have had all but once in American history, let it be a well-intentioned one, a self-critical one, one who suffers with us.

Let it be the one who, like Biden, shows up at to sit shiva and to comfort a widow and to mourn in at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., after the 2015 massacre. Biden is a man practiced in grief, who has learned vulnerability, resilience and how to give comfort.

And isn’t that what America needs right now as we fight against despair after Trump’s desecrations?

We don’t need the agitations of Bernie Sanders; we need a salve. And though this is much harder to admit, we collectively lack the fortitude and solidarity to respond to the clarion call of the peerless Elizabeth Warren, who in stronger times could have led us to a more perfect union

Read the entire piece here.

Does Bernie Sanders Still Want to Challenge the Rules of the Democratic Convention?

Bernie

Joe Biden had a big night on Super Tuesday.  He now has the delegate lead. It is likely that he will still have the delegate lead when the 2020 Democratic National Convention begins on July 13th in Milwaukee.

Here are the convention rules regarding the selection of a presidential nominee:

A candidate will need 1,991 of the 3,979 pledged delegates to win the Democratic nomination on the first ballot. Per the Democratic National Committee, a candidate needs a majority of those eligible to vote on the ballot. Most importantly for the calculation, the candidate needs “a whole unit of delegate above half.”

Half of 3,979 is 1,989.5. As there are no delegates in this round with a half vote, a whole unit of delegate is one. Therefore, the requirement is 1,990.5 (1,989.5 + 1) delegates, which is rounded to 1,991.

If no candidate wins on the first ballot, all delegates become unpledged. There are 4,750 delegate votes on the second – and any subsequent – ballot. This total is comprised of the 3,979 formerly-pledged delegates from the first ballot as well as 767 automatic delegates [or so-called “super delegates”] with a full vote and 8 automatic delegates with a half vote.  This means there are 775 automatic delegates with a total of 771 votes, with 4,750 equal to 3,979 + 771.

Since there are delegates with a half vote, a half vote is considered a whole unit of delegate for any ballot after the first round.  Half of 4,750 is 2,375. Therefore, the requirement is 2,375.5 delegates to win the nomination when all delegates are voting.

Note that since automatic delegates are specific people or positions, the number can vary slightly – up or down – over time. For example, all Democratic members of the U.S. House are automatic delegates. If there was to be a new vacancy that remained unfilled at the time of the convention, there would be one less delegate in this category.

Before Super Tuesday, Bernie Sanders said that these rules were unfair. He is opposed to super delegates because they are not chosen by the people. Sanders probably also opposed these rules because he thought he might be leading on July 13, 2020, but would not have the 1,1991 needed to nominate.  Watch this:

Now that Biden has the delegate lead I wonder if Sanders still believes this. It may not matter since most super delegates support Biden.

Pete Buttigieg is Out: What Does It Mean?

Buttigieg 3

Pete Buttigieg is about to suspend his candidacy.  As I wrote last night, he has no path to the nomination. So what does this mean? Some comments/predictions:

  • Most of the Buttigieg votes will go to Biden.
  • Buttigieg was the smartest and most articulate person in the race.
  • If Biden becomes the next president, Buttigieg will be in the cabinet. I doubt that he will be Biden’s VP.  I think the frontrunner here is Kamala Harris.  (Of course anything can happen over the course of the next month or two and Bernie Sanders is still leading the delegate race).
  • Let’s see if Buttigieg uses his speech tonight to endorse another candidate.
  • Expect Amy Klobuchar to drop-out on Tuesday night.  Her votes will also go to Biden.

Biden Wins South Carolina. What Does it Mean?

Biden 2

The networks are telling us that Joe Biden has won South Carolina. There is also a chance Biden will be the overall delegate front-runner in the Democratic race for the nomination after the votes are counted.

We now move to Super Tuesday when Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia will hold primaries.  Biden is now the candidate of African Americans. But I also think he will be the candidate of older white working-class voters.  This coalition, with the help of the mainstream Democrats who are scared to death of a Bernie Sanders nomination (including the super delegates at the conventions, if they are needed), will lift the former Vice-President to the nomination.

So what should we expect in these states:

Alabama:  I have not seen a recent poll for this primary.  I imagine that Biden’s success among African Americans in South Carolina will help him win Alabama.

Arkansas:  This will be a close race between Bloomberg, Biden, and Sanders. I think Biden’s success in South Carolina will help him win Arkansas.  These three candidates will split the delegates.

California: Sanders in a landslide. I will be looking to see if Biden’s finishes second over Elizabeth Warren.

Colorado: Sanders in a landslide.

Maine:  Sanders will win.  After South Carolina, it now looks like second-place will be a toss-up between Buttigieg, Warren, Bloomberg, and Biden.

Massachusetts:  Sanders should win. Warren will finish second.

Minnesota: Amy Klobuchar will do well here since she is a Minnesota Senator, but I am going with Sanders.

North Carolina: This is going to be a close race between Sanders and Biden, but I think Biden will ride his win in South Carolina to victory.  It will not be a big delegate sweep for either candidate.

Oklahoma:  I am going to predict a Biden victory over Bloomberg.  Bloomberg will pick-up some delegates here.

Tennessee: Biden in a landslide.

Texas:  I think this is going to be a toss-up between Biden and Sanders.  Bloomberg is also running strong in Texas.  The winner will not have a big delegate sweep.

Utah: Sanders in a landslide.

Vermont: Sanders in a landslide.

Virginia: Sanders is leading in the polls, but I think Biden’s win in South Carolina, coupled with endorsements from Tim Kaine and Terry McAuliffe, will lift Biden to victory.  Again, whoever wins will not have a huge delegate victory.

Final thoughts:

  • Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Steyer, and Warren do not have a path to victory.  They need to drop out, but I doubt they will.  (We will see what Steyer does tonight).
  • Sanders seems to have the progressive lane all to himself, but it is worth noting that Biden is polling very well in some of these Super Tuesday states despite the fact that moderate Democratic vote is still divided between Bloomberg, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar. Biden can only go up after tonight’s win in South Carolina.
  • After Super Tuesday it will be a two candidate race.
  • Finally, Biden’s victory tonight will help him in primaries and general elections in places like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.  More people will start looking at him as the overwhelming front-runner in the moderate lane.  I still believe Biden has the best chance of beating Trump in Pennsylvania.

Will Pete Buttigieg Get Any Traction in South Carolina?

Buttigieg 2

Mayor Pete won Iowa. He finished second in New Hampshire. He finished third in Nevada. But he is not doing very well in South Carolina largely because he does not appeal to African-American voters in the state.  Over at Religion & Politics, Myriam Renaud wonders why.  Here is a taste of her piece:

The majority of black Americans—almost eight in ten, according to a 2018 Pew Research Center report—identify as Christian and three out of four say religion is “very important in their lives.” In one sense, Buttigieg, an Episcopalian, should appeal to these voters. Of all the Democratic candidates, he is perhaps the most fluent in the language of faith. He calls climate change a sin, telling Stephen Colbert that, because it harms today’s and tomorrow’s generations, “I don’t imagine that God is going to let us off the hook.” He also told Colbert that Christianity says “that we are obliged to serve the poor and heal the sick and clothe the naked and welcome the stranger.” During a Democratic debate question on immigration and the border, he accused Republicans of hypocrisy because they associate their party with Christianity and yet “suggest that God would smile on the division of families at the hands of federal agents.”

Multiple factors affect how Buttigieg is seen by black voters, including religious ones; these include his tense relationship with parts of South Bend’s black community, especially after a black man was killed by a white police officer last June. The now 38-year-old candidate has also stirred controversy with comments he made in 2011 about the lack of role models who value education for low-income minority students, and by comparing his struggles as a gay man with those of African Americans. Also, his campaign’s Douglass Plan for Black America received negative publicity when an accompanying image turned out to be a stock photo of a woman from Kenya and when several African Americans described as endorsing the plan said their views were misrepresented.

The conventional campaign wisdom is also that his identity as a gay, married man is at least partly responsible for his low levels of support among black South Carolinians—a belief that has some merit but that also reinforces racist stereotypes. Most black churches embrace progressive views on a range of issues but many hold conservative attitudes toward same-sex relationships. A 2019 Pew Research Center study shows that only 44 percent of black Protestants are in favor of same-sex marriage. Sociologist Samuel Perry’s research reports that, over the past decade, the majority of twelve sociological studies exploring a possible link between religion and attitudes toward same-sex marriage identified black Protestants, along with white evangelicals, as the least supportive religious group. And yet, Pew also found that the majority (65 percent) of black Protestants support laws “protecting LGBT people from discrimination in housing, public accommodations, and the workplace.”

Read the entire piece here.

When Bernie Sanders Tried to “Primary” Barack Obama

Sanders and Obama

Here is a taste of Edward-Isaac Dovere’s piece at The Atlantic, The Hidden History of Sanders’s Plot to Primary Obama“:

Bernie Sanders got so close to running a primary challenge to President Barack Obama that Senator Harry Reid had to intervene to stop him.

It took Reid two conversations over the summer of 2011 to get Sanders to scrap the idea, according to multiple people who remember the incident, which has not been previously reported.

That summer, Sanders privately discussed a potential primary challenge to Obama with several people, including Patrick Leahy, his fellow Vermont senator. Leahy, alarmed, warned Jim Messina, Obama’s presidential reelection-campaign manager. Obama’s campaign team was “absolutely panicked” by Leahy’s report, Messina told me, since “every president who has gotten a real primary has lost a general [election].”

David Plouffe, another Obama strategist, confirmed Messina’s account, as did another person familiar with what happened. (A spokesman for Leahy did not comment when asked several times about his role in the incident.)

Messina called Reid, then the Senate majority leader, who had built a strong relationship with Sanders but was also fiercely defensive of Obama. What could you be thinking? Reid asked Sanders, according to multiple people who remember the conversations. You need to stop.

Read the rest here.

Is Pete Buttigieg the New Jimmy Carter?

Buttigied

Over at The Washington Post, historian J. Brooks Flippen compares the two Democratic political outsiders.  Here is a taste of his piece “Is Pete Buttigieg Jimmy Carter 2.0“:

Like Carter, the former long-shot mayor has emerged as one of the front-runners by winning Iowa and performing well on Tuesday in New Hampshire, finishing a close second. Like the former president, Buttigieg grew up in a middle-class household — Carter’s father was a prominent landowner and Buttigieg’s father a professor. Both served in the Navy, Carter having attended the U.S. Naval Academy and Buttigieg having served with the Naval Reserve in Afghanistan. When they declared their presidential ambitions, both were derided as too inexperienced and thus garnered little media attention.

In response, both demonstrated remarkable self-assurance and confidence, proposing an ambitious agenda early. Both welcomed the civil rights debates that their respective candidacies engendered. Carter had promoted desegregation in his governorship and even in his Southern Baptist Church, while Buttigieg championed gay and lesbian rights, even touting his marriage to a man. In response to ensuing questions and attacks, both cited their faith. In fact, both men made their religions central to their candidacies, Carter famously declaring himself a “born-again Christian” while Buttigieg proclaimed that his faith demanded LBGQT equality.

As they launched their presidential campaigns, both men confronted an energized Democratic electorate, anxious to repudiate the scandal-tarred Republicans. Both faced large Democratic fields initially crowded with accomplished candidates — 17 in 1976 and in 28 in 2020. Neither field, however, had a clear front-runner.

Read the entire piece here.