Hillary Clinton: Methodist Preacher

Hillary nominated

Over at The Atlantic, Emma Green has a great piece on the Christian faith of Hillary Clinton.  It turns out that the next step in Clinton’s career may have a lot do with her Methodist faith.

Here is a taste:

Hillary Clinton wants to preach. That’s what she told Bill Shillady, her long-time pastor, at a recent photo shoot for his new book about the daily devotionals he sent her during the 2016 campaign. Scattered bits of reporting suggest that ministry has always been a secret dream of the two-time presidential candidate: Last fall, the former Newsweek editor Kenneth Woodward revealed that Clinton told him in 1994 that she thought “all the time” about becoming an ordained Methodist minister. She asked him not to write about it, though: “It will make me seem much too pious.” The incident perfectly captures Clinton’s long campaign to modulate—and sometimes obscure—expressions of her faith.

Now, as Clinton works to rehabilitate her public image and figure out the next steps after her brutal November loss, religion is taking a central role. After long months of struggling to persuade Americans that she is trustworthyauthentic, and fundamentally moral, Clinton is lifting up an intimate, closely guarded part of herself. There are no more voters left to lose. In sharing her faith, perhaps Clinton sees something left to win, whether political or personal.

Read the rest here.

Two Princeton American Historians Discuss the Election of 2016

KruseCheck out Princeton historians Sean Wilentz and Kevin Kruse discuss the 2016 presidential at a Princeton alumni event from back in February 2017.  (Thanks to History News Network for bringing this video to my attention).

Here is a taste of the transcript:

Sean Wilentz: I take it our charge is to be historians. Whether you reacted to the events of Nov. 8 with elation or despair or something in between, I think it’s been difficult to get our heads around what happened. Our charge is to try and lend some historical perspective, to put our own loyalties aside for a moment. Thinking historically means trying to understand where this all fits in the recent past, and everything that led up to the recent past, to try and understand the larger historical dynamics that brought us to the place that we were on Nov. 8, and what that portends for the future. I think that’s what we’re here for.

Kevin Kruse: Look, I get asked to comment on the present, or, God forbid, to make predictions about the future, and I always have to remind people that as a historian my professional training is in hindsight. As historians we can look back on snap opinions made after other big elections and see just how wrong those were. After 1964, lots of accounts had said, “My God, this is it for conservatism. You’ll never see a conservative president in America again. Barry Goldwater has killed it. Liberalism is here to stay.” After 1980, “Well, the New Deal is dead. It’ll never come back. It’s going to be swept off the face of the Earth by the Reagan revolution. Social Security is on its last legs.” After Obama in 2008, “Well, we’re now in a post-racial America. Racism is gone. Congratulations, we did it.” 

So there’s this trend of overreacting to a presidential election, and we have to remember that a presidential election, for all of the very real ramifications it has on contemporary politics and policy, is but one data point in a much larger stream. And it’s a data point that I think we need to take in its proper context, because we had 123 million votes cast in this election. If you moved 50,000 of those in just three states, we’d be talking about President Hillary Clinton today, and drawing a whole bunch of other wrong, big conclusions about what that meant. 

SW: Well, let’s look at the proper data point in order to start to understand this. Certainly something happened 50 years ago, and you mentioned the Johnson–Goldwater election. A rupture did occur, I think, in American political life about the time of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Vietnam War, and then Watergate. And I think, in some ways, anything we’re talking about is still a product of that rupture. 

Conservatism didn’t fade away at all. It was just clearing its throat, if you will. Certainly something happened, and it had to do with civil rights, and it had to do with foreign policy, and how the two collided. And it had to do, I think, with — and this is very pertinent to what happened in November — the legitimacy of the political parties and of the political system, between the credibility gap of the late ’60s that was laid at Johnson’s door, and then Watergate. And I think what we’re seeing today, in part, can be seen as the final denouement of the delegitimization that occurred back then. Wilentz

KK: That makes a lot of sense. If we think back to that period from the mid-’60s to the mid-’70s, you can see all sorts of … for lack of a better term, the establishment cracks up. First and foremost the political firmament, the kind of postwar consensus, for all of its flaws; people believed there was a certain center of gravity there, a certain trust in the political system that gets badly eroded first by Vietnam and then obliterated by Watergate. There had been a certain trust in the postwar economy, a sense that the industrial economy, in its kind of catering to a consumer culture, was constantly on the rise. That, too, peaks at about the same time for a different set of reasons: the rise of deindustrialization; the new competition from abroad, like West Germany and Japan; the shift of factories to places from China to Mexico. So the manufacturing economy starts to crumble, too. And then there are changes that I think we would regard as good: The crack of the old racial order and the old systems of segregation, the old systems of immigration restriction — those fall in ’64 and ’65, and set apace a brand new world, a world that is much more open but I think a lot more chaotic, too. And so the ground had shifted underneath people’s feet in a variety of ways, all at the same time. 

Read the entire transcript here.

 

Some Very Quick Thoughts on What Historians Might Write About Trump’s Election

trump-pressJohn Lewis may be correct.  The Russian hacking controversy and the last-minute Comey/FBI revelations about Hillary Clinton’s e-mails has deligitimized Donald Trump’s presidency. Yes, the Electoral College selected him last month.  Yes, he will assume office next week. Yes, Clinton was not a perfect candidate. She probably should have offered a more compelling message to the American people and finished the campaign in a stronger fashion.  And we may never know if Putin’s hacks and Comey’s announcement had any direct effect on voting in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania or elsewhere.

I am afraid that Lewis’s remarks about Trump’s legitimacy, while important, will get little traction outside of the Democratic Party.  But historians will write about all of this.  People will always wonder if Trump won fair and square.  There will always be a figurative asterisk next to Trump’s name in the history books.  Some historians will try to defend Trump, but in order to do so they will need to dredge all of this stuff up again and bring it to the attention of the American public.

And if Americans ever get around to doing away with the Electoral College, the Trump victory (and the Bush victory in 2000 and others) will be seen by many as a betrayal of democracy made possible by an antiquated and out of date electoral system.  Al Gore and Hillary Clinton will be portrayed as victims of such a system.

Of course this is all very preliminary.  Historians will also judge Trump on what happens in the next four years and beyond.  We do know, however, that Trump’s kryptonite is the idea that he is not a legitimate POTUS.

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.

More Historical Context on the Electoral College

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The work of historians in helping ordinary Americans make sense of the electoral college has been stellar.  We have already called attention to pieces by Kevin Gannon and Robert Tracy McKenzie.  Today I want to recommend Andrew Shankman‘s Historical News Network essay, “What Were the Founders Thinking When They Created the Electoral College?

Andy reminds us that if the original framers of the Constitution (and the Electoral College) had their way Donald Trump would be President and Hillary Clinton would be Vice President.

Here is a taste:

Created by the Constitution, the original Electoral College worked like this: each state appointed electors equal to its number of senators (2) plus representatives, apportioned at a ratio of 1 for every 30,000 residents. Each elector cast two votes for president and at least one of those votes had to be for someone outside the elector’s state. If someone received the most votes and a majority, he became president. The second highest vote-getter became vice president. If no one received a majority, the decision went to the House of Representatives, which could choose the president from among the top five vote-getters, and had to make the highest vote-getter vice president if they chose not to make him president. To us these original procedures may sound insane, this year they would make majority vote-getter Donald Trump president and Hillary Clinton vice president.

So, what were the Founders thinking? The Founders were inspired by the classical republics of Greece and Rome and believed they had collapsed when they stopped seeking the public good as their citizens divided into parties to pursue their own interests. For the Founders the public good emerged from a coherent set of values, and understanding how to achieve it required a deep knowledge of the classics, of natural law, common law, and the law of nations, and of the new science of political economy that arose during the Enlightenment. Above all, one had to possess disinterested virtue–putting aside personal interests for the sake of the public good. The Founders thought that most citizens were not capable of fully comprehending the public good. For the United States to succeed, the small group of great and talented men who could would have to guide them. Believing in a unifying singular public good, the Founders saw no value in political parties. Parties existed to promote competing interests, which was contrary to the public good. Citizens either embraced the public good or they behaved selfishly and badly.

Only by starting with these assumptions did the Electoral College make sense. After George Washington’s presidency, the Founders assumed their Electoral College would routinely place the decision of who would be president with the House of Representatives. They reasoned that the small group capable of comprehending the public good was evenly distributed geographically. A reasonable number of them would stand for election. Each would be equally qualified virtuous gentlemen. Without political parties to inflame passions and mobilize voters into a few large groups, only rarely would a candidate gain majority support in the Electoral College. The Electoral College would helpfully sort out five from the larger group of the equally qualified, but usually would do little more than that.

Yet almost immediately after ratification of the Constitution, reality obliterated the Founders’ plan….

Read the rest here.

Interpreting Trump’s *60 Minutes* Interview

trump-60

Donald Trump on the wall:

Lesley Stahl: So let’s go through very quickly some of the promises you made and tell us if you’re going to do what you said or you’re going to change it in any way. Are you really going to build a wall?

Donald Trump: Yes.

Lesley Stahl: They’re talking about a fence in the Republican Congress, would you accept a fence?

Donald Trump: For certain areas I would, but certain areas, a wall is more appropriate. I’m very good at this, it’s called construction.

Lesley Stahl: So part wall, part fence?

Donald Trump: Yeah, it could be–it could be some fencing.

Lesley Stahl: What about the pledge to deport millions and millions of undocumented immigrants

Interpretation:  The wall has been reduced to a fence.

Donald Trump on the Supreme Court and abortion:

Lesley Stahl: One of the things you’re going to obviously get an opportunity to do, is name someone to the Supreme Court. And I assume you’ll do that quickly? 

Donald Trump: Yes. Very important. 

Lesley Stahl: During the campaign, you said that you would appoint justices who were against abortion rights. Will you appoint– are you looking to appoint a justice who wants to overturn Roe v. Wade? 

Donald Trump: So look, here’s what’s going to happen.  I’m pro-life. The judges will be pro-life. They’ll be very— 

Lesley Stahl: But what about overturning this law– 

Donald Trump: Well, there are a couple of things. They’ll be prolife, they’ll be— in terms of the whole gun situation, we know the Second Amendment and everybody’s talking about the Second Amendment and they’re trying to dice it up and change it, they’re going to be very pro-Second Amendment. But having to do with abortion if it ever were overturned, it would go back to the estates. So it would go back to the states and– 

Lesley Stahl: Yeah, but then some women won’t be able to get an abortion? 

Donald Trump: No, it’ll go back to the states. 

Lesley Stahl: By state— no some. 

Donald Trump: Yeah, well, they’ll perhaps have to go, they’ll have  to go to another state. 

Lesley Stahl: And that’s OK? 

Donald Trump: Well, we’ll see what happens. It’s got a long way to go, just so you understand. 

Interpretation:  Trump is not opposed to abortion on principle.  In his answer to Stahl he presents this as an issue of federalism.  Women will still have the opportunity to get an abortion–they will just need to go to a state that allows them.  This is NOT the way the Christian Right thinks about abortion.Donald Trump on “locking-up” Hillary Clinton:

Lesley Stahl: Are you going to ask for a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary Clinton over her emails? And are you, as you had said to her face, going to try and put her in jail?

Donald Trump: Well, I’ll tell you what I’m going to do, I’m going to think about it. Um, I feel that I want to focus on jobs, I want to focus on healthcare, I want to focus on the border and immigration and doing a really great immigration bill. We want to have a great immigration bill. And I want to focus on all of these other things that we’ve been talking about.

Lesley Stahl: You– you know, you–

Donald Trump: And get the country straightened away.

Lesley Stahl: You called her “crooked Hillary,” said you wanted to get in jail, your people in your audiences kept saying, “Lock em’ up.”

Donald Trump: Yeah. She did–

Lesley Stahl: Do you

Donald Trump: She did some bad things, I mean she did some bad things–

Lesley Stahl: I know, but a special prosecutor? You think you might…

Donald Trump: I don’t want to hurt them. I don’t want to hurt them. They’re, they’re good people. I don’t want to hurt them. And I will give you a very, very good and definitive answer the next time we do 60 Minutes together.

Interpretation:  Despite the wild chants of his followers, Trump does not look like he will “lock-up” Hillary.

Donald Trump on marriage equality:

Lesley Stahl: Well, I guess the issue for them is marriage equality. Do you support marriage equality?

Donald Trump: It–it’s irrelevant because it was already settled. It’s law. It was settled in the Supreme Court. I mean it’s done.

Lesley Stahl: So even if you appoint a judge that–

Donald Trump: It’s done. It— you have–these cases have gone to the Supreme Court. They’ve been settled. And, I’m fine with that.

Interpretation:  Trump claims to overturn Roe v. Wade, but he will not appoint judges who will overturn Obergfell v. Hodges.

So much for the romance between the Christian Right and Donald Trump.  Oh, and by the way, he has appointed a strategy chief who is no fans of Jews.  So much for religious liberty.

It is also worth noting that Trump condemned racial violence in this interview. This is a step in the right direction.  But Trump has a lot more work to do on this front.  Incidents of racism have been cropping up all over the country.  I don’t blame Trump for racism, but I do blame Trump for making racism acceptable and empowering and inspiring the racists. If he really wants to bring the nation together he needs to address the culture he has created.

Americans Went to the Polls Yesterday and Chose the Nation’s First Female President

Hillary nominatedShe just didn’t get elected.

Trump secured more Electoral College votes and thus won the election.  (Technically, he needs to wait until the Electoral College votes on December 19, 2016.  By the way, there is such a thing as a “faithless elector“–just saying).

But it looks like Hillary Clinton will win the popular vote.

This has happened four other times in American history: 1824, 1876, 1888, and 2000.

This is what I was talking about in Episode 13 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home podcast when I said that it was actually the Founding Fathers who were the first politicians to “undermine our democracy.”

Or as my friend Paul Harvey put it:

 

Will Hillary Clinton Be the President of ALL Americans?

Clinton in Church

Here is a taste of a piece I wrote for today’s Harrisburg Patriot-News.  (Regular readers of The Way of Improvement Leads Home will recognize some of my points here from a previous post).

What would it take for the majority of white evangelical Christians to vote for Hillary Clinton on Tuesday or, should she win, support her as President of the United States?

A lot. 

But a Clinton détente with evangelicals is not out of the realm possibility.

Some evangelicals will never vote for Hillary Clinton.  She is connected to Barack Obama. She supports a women’s right to choose.

 She promises to appoint Supreme Court justices that will undermine religious liberty. She is married to Bill Clinton, a man who cheated on her in the White House and was impeached.

 She lied about the e-mail server.

In any other election, most evangelicals, when faced with a Hillary Clinton candidacy, would vote for the GOP candidate. But this election, if you have not figured it out by now, is different.  

In this election a significant portion of evangelicals believe that the GOP candidate is not qualified to be president.

We don’t really know the size of the Never-Trump evangelical coalition.  A very recent survey from the Public Religion Research Institute found that 69 percent of white evangelicals are voting for Trump and only 15 percent back Clinton.  

That leaves about 15% of white evangelicals who have either not yet made up their mind, will vote for a third-party candidate, or will not vote in the presidential election.  

Can anti-Trump evangelical conservatives be convinced to vote for Clinton? 

If Clinton were to make an appeal to this demographic she would need to address two main issues: abortion and religious liberty.

Read the entire piece here.

Not Just Bare-Knuckled Politics?

Final Presidential Debate Between Hillary Clinton And Donald Trump Held In Las Vegas

In the past week I have had three very smart people who I respect (two have Ph.Ds) give credence to a story circulating among some conservative politicians in Washington.  The story goes something like this:  Hillary Clinton is very sick–perhaps deadly sick. If she is elected POTUS and cannot serve, Barack Obama will try to b bring stability to the nation, possibly declare  martial law, and remain in office for a third term.

What makes smart people believe these stories and what does it say about American democracy?  Over at The Washington Post Paul Waldman wonders if “something extraordinary” is happening.  Here is a taste of his article:

I know, my conservative friends will say that this kind of talk is just fear-mongering and exaggeration. But there is something deeply troubling happening right now, and it goes beyond the ordinary trading of blows in a campaign season. Consider these recent developments:

  • There appears to be a war going on inside the FBI, and from what we can tell, a group of rogue agents, mostly in New York, may be in such a fervor to destroy Hillary Clinton that they may be aggressively leaking damaging innuendo to the press against her in the waning days of the campaign. They succeeded in their apparent goal of making FBI director James Comey a tool of their campaign — and the basis for their investigation is an anti-Clinton book written under the auspices of an organization of which the CEO of the Trump campaign is co-founder and chairman. Pro-Trump FBI agents now seem to be coordinating with Trump surrogates to do maximal possible damage to Clinton.
  • Republicans continue to cheer the fact that the electronic systems of American political groups were illegally hacked, and then private communications were selectively released in order to do damage to one side in this election. The Republican nominee has explicitly asked a hostile foreign power to hack into his opponent’s electronic systems.
  • High-ranking Republican officeholders are now suggesting that they may impeach Clinton as soon as she takes office. These are not just backbench nutbars of the Louie Gohmert variety, but people with genuine power, including Ron Johnson, the senator from Wisconsin,Michael McCaul, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and veteran legislators like James Sensenbrenner and Peter King. The message is being echoed by top Trump surrogates like Rudy Giuliani.
  • There is a growing movement among Republicans in the Senate to simply refuse to approve any nominee appointed by a Democratic president to the Supreme Court, leaving open any and all vacancies until a Republican can be elected to fill them.
  • State and local Republican officials are engaged in widespread and systematic efforts to suppress the votes of African-Americans and other groups likely to vote disproportionately Democratic; in many cases officials have been ordered by courts to stop their suppression efforts and they have simply ignored the court orders.
  • Republican elected officials increasingly feel emboldened to openlysuggest violence against Clinton should she be elected.

It is important to understand that is not normal. This is not just bare-knuckle politics. Something extraordinary is happening.

Read the entire article here.

What Would It Take for Anti-Trump Evangelicals to Vote for Hillary Clinton?

hillary-christian

A lot.

Some evangelicals will never vote for Hillary Clinton.  She is connected to Barack Obama. She supports a women’s right to choose.  She promises to appoint Supreme Court justices that will undermine religious liberty. She is married to Bill Clinton, a man who cheated on her in the White House and was impeached.  She lied about the e-mail server.

In any other election, most evangelicals would vote for the GOP candidate.  Never Hillary.

But this election is different.  In this election a significant portion of evangelicals believe that the GOP candidate is not qualified to be president.

We don’t really know the size of the never-Trump evangelical coalition.  One survey has found that 65% of white evangelicals are voting for Trump and 16% back Clinton.  That leaves about 20% of white evangelicals who have either not yet made up their mind, will vote for a third-party candidate, or will not vote in the presidential election.  This 20% is led by group of outspoken evangelicals such as Southern Baptist Russell Moore and Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse.

Can these anti-Trump evangelical conservatives be convinced to vote for Clinton?

If Clinton were to make an appeal to this demographic she would need to address two main issues: abortion and religious liberty.

On abortion, it goes without saying that President Hillary Clinton is not going to be working to overthrow Roe v. Wade.  Nor will she appoint Supreme Court justices who will do so. But what if she would propose, policy wonk that she is, a systematic plan to limit the number of abortion in the United States?  I am not talking about returning to the old pro-choice Democratic mantra of “safe, legal, and rare.”  Evangelicals will need more than a catchphrase.  They will need to hear Clinton connect her public policy pronouncements with a specific a plan to reduce the number of abortions in the United States.

Some evangelicals would possibly vote for Clinton if she spoke out more forcefully about the controversial Planned Parenthood videos released in 2015.  When these videos appeared she called them “disturbing.”  Since then her comments about Planned Parenthood have been nothing but positive.  Actually, Trump has been more nuanced on this issue than Clinton.

We know, for example, that Clinton has worked hard in her career to reduce teenage pregnancies.  She might get more evangelical votes from the never-Trump crowd if she would connect this work more directly to the reduction of abortions.  This might also bring her closer to the position of her own church.

Clinton has said very little about abortion on the trail.  When asked about abortion at the third debate she defended a traditional pro-choice position and seemed to dodge Chris Wallace’s question about her support for late-term abortions.  Many evangelicals were turned off by this.

Clinton has also been very quiet on matters of religious liberty.  Yes, she pays lip service to religious liberty when Trump makes comments about barring Muslims from coming into the country, but she has not addressed some of the religious issues facing many evangelicals.  This is especially the case with marriage.

Granted, evangelicals should not expect Clinton to defend traditional marriage or set out to overturn Obergfell v. Hodges.  (I might add here that evangelicals should not expect this from Trump either).  But is she willing to support some form of principled or “confident” pluralism?  Some evangelicals of the never-Trump variety would be very happy to live in a society in which those who believe marriage is only between a man and a woman, and those who do not believe this, can live together despite their differences.

The recent attempts in California to cut financial aid for students at faith-based colleges that uphold traditional views of marriage is one example of a threat to religious liberty that has many evangelicals concerned.  So does the earlier Gordon College case and the recent news about the Society of Biblical Literature considering banning InterVarsity Press from their national conference book exhibit.

Or perhaps none of this matters.  Why would Hillary Clinton address these issues when she probably doesn’t need the votes of the anti-Trump evangelicals to win the election?

Ron Sider Endorses Hillary Clinton

siderI must have missed this when it was first published at Christianity Today last month. (Thanks to David Swartz for bringing it to my attention in the piece I blogged about last night).

Ronald Sider, perhaps the most well-known representative of the evangelical left, has endorsed Hillary Clinton president.  This is Sider’s first public endorsement of a candidate since he endorsed George McGovern in 1972.

Here is a taste of his endorsement:

So what about Clinton?

I have major disagreements with her. She and the Democratic platform are wrong on abortion—period. And I disagree with Clinton on gay marriage.

Further, I fear that Clinton will not retain the longstanding right (protected by Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama) of faith-based organizations that receive government funding to hire on the basis of their beliefs. She is too close to Wall Street billionaires and made a serious mistake using private email servers as Secretary of State.

But there is also much to like about Clinton. She has a decades-long history of working hard for racial and economic justice. One of her earliest jobs was working as a lawyer at the black-led Children’s Defense Fund to improve the lives of poor children. At a time when racial injustice and mistrust threaten to tear the nation apart, her experience and trust in minority communities is invaluable.

Clinton realizes that lower-income Americans have lost ground in the past 30 years, and has advocated concrete policies to alleviate the growing divide between rich and poor. Her $350 billion college affordability program would help lower-income students afford higher education. Raising the minimum wage to $12 and tax cuts (15%) for companies that share profits with workers would help. According to officials at One Sure Insurance, her proposed expansion of health insurance to cover all Americans is surely pro-life.

Clinton has a realistic and just way to pay for these programs. The middle class would get a modest tax cut, while those with annual incomes over $5 million would have a 4-percent tax increase. She has promised to close tax loopholes that allow corporations to avoid their fair share of taxes. Warren Buffett supports Clinton, saying she would help poor working Americans. The independent, bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget says Clinton’s plan would not add significantly to the national debt.

Read the entire endorsement, including Sider’s thoughts about Donald Trump, here.

We are Only NOW Realizing That Our Democracy is in Trouble?

Final Presidential Debate Between Hillary Clinton And Donald Trump Held In Las Vegas

At Wednesday night’s debate Donald Trump refused to say that he would concede the election to Hillary Clinton if she defeats him in November.  Then yesterday he said that he would accept the election results, but only if he wins.

The media is going crazy over Trump’s remarks.  Last night on CNN,  historian Douglas Brinkley, political adviser David Gergen, and law professor Alan Dershowitz were talking about how Trump’s comments, if he acts on them, undermine American democracy.  These commentators and others are correct.  The peaceful transition of power is vital to the success of American democracy.  On November 8 the people will speak through the ballot box.  They will elect Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.  Democracy works when the loser concedes to the will of the people.

What strikes me the most is that the media is just waking up to the fact that our democracy might be in trouble.

Let’s remember that for a democracy to thrive, citizens need to learn how to live together with their differences.  Today, sociologists, cultural critics, and public intellectuals often connect the success of democratic life to the cultivation of a civil society.  A civil society is one in which citizens foster a sense of community amid their differences.  Such a society, as writer Don Eberly describes it, “draws Americans together at a time of social isolation and fragmentation.”  A successful democracy rests on our ability to forge these kinds of connections and behave in a civil manner toward one another.

A democracy needs citizens–individuals who understand that their own pursuits of happiness must operate in tension with obligations and responsibilities to a larger community.  Citizens realize that their own success, fate, and ability to flourish as humans are bound up with the lives of others.  Such commitment to the common good requires citizens who are able to respect, as fellow humans and members of the same community, those with whom they might disagree on some of life’s most important issues.  It requires empathy, the willingness to imaginatively walk in the shoes of our neighbor.  As Mary Ann Glendon puts it, “A democratic republic needs an adequate supply of citizens who are skilled in the arts of deliberation, compromise, consensus-building, and reason-giving.”

The sixteenth-century writer Montaigne once said, “Every man calls evil what he does not understand.”  Our everyday lives will always be filled with disagreements and misunderstandings, but a democratic society will survive only if we are able to live civilly with them.  We are correct to believe that in the United States we have a “right” to our opinions and beliefs, but there are also times when we must rise above private interests and temporarily sacrifice our rights for the greater good of the larger community.  Such a view of the common good, which the late Pope John Paul II called “solidarity,” requires that we see others, even those who we may believe are “evil,” as neighbors and “sharer[s] on par with ourselves in the banquet of life to which all are equally invited by God.”  To put an alternative spin on Montaigne’s quote, “The more you know about another person’s story, the less possible it is to see that person as your enemy.”

Because we all have our own views and opinions, civil society requires conversation.  We may never come to an agreement on what constitutes the “common good.,” but we can all commit ourselves to sustaining democracy by talking to and engaging with another.  As author and activist Parker Palmer puts it, “Democracy gives us the right to disagree and is designed to use the energy of creative conflict to drive positive social change.  Partisanship is not a problem. Demonizing the other side is.”

The inner working of this kind of democracy is described best by the late historian and cultural critic Christopher Lasch in his book The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of DemocracyHis description of the mechanics of democratic conversation is with citing in full:

“The attempt to bring others around to our point of view carries the risk, of course, that we may adopt their point of view instead.  We have to enter imaginatively into our opponents argument, if only for the purpose of refuting them, and we may end up being persuaded by those we sought to persuade.  Argument is risky and unpredictable, there educational.  Most of us tend to think of it…as a clash of dogmas, a shouting match in which neither side gives any ground.  But arguments are not won by shouting down opponents.  They are won by changing opponents’ minds–something that can only happen if we give opposing arguments a respectful hearing and still persuade their advocates that there is something wrong with those arguments.  In the course of this activity, we may well decide that there is something wrong with our own.”

These are the virtues necessary for a democracy to thrive.  I am glad that the media is talking about the fate of democracy.  The peaceful transition of power is important, but there is so much more needed to making democracy work.

(This piece is drawn partially from my book Why Study History?: Reflecting on the Importance of the Past).

Pro-Life Family Physician: Trump Is Not Our Man

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Matthew Loftus is a family doctor who works at hospital for women and children in South Sudan.  He is pro-life and believes that Donald Trump will do more to harm the pro-life movement than Hillary Clinton.

Here is a piece he published today at the conservative The Federalist:

If Hillary Clinton is taking shots at the culture of life from the outside, Donald Trump is a rot poisoning us from the inside. Any time he has spoken about abortion (which is not often, indicating how unimportant the cause is to him), he has only managed to embarrass the pro-life cause by associating himself with it. Some have suggested that Trump will be held in check or redirected by the “good people” he has surrounded himself with. But he has only managed to corrupt and debase those associated with him. He talks about “the evangelicals” like a pimp who owns them. In turn, far too many pro-lifers have acted like the Biblical character of Oholibah, who prostituted herself to pagan political powers in exchange for protection.

The most pro-life argument for Donald Trump revolves around his promise to appoint conservative Supreme Court justices, who would at some point find some way to overturn Roe v. Wade. But in the words of Leon Wolf, “If you believe that Trump has actual pro-life principles or that he will honor any sort of pledge to only appoint pro-life justices, then you have to be one of the most monumental suckers who has ever lived.” Trump’s promises to the pro-life movement are as worthless as a Trump University degree or one of his previous marriage contracts. There is simply no pro-life case for Trump.

But even in the best-case scenario, where Trump does win and does appoint a Supreme Court justice or two that’s favorable to the pro-life cause, his foolish antics will undoubtedly punish down-ballot Republicans in the next few election cycles (assuming that they aren’t battered hard enough this November). With Trump as the de facto standard bearer for the pro-life movement, any anti-abortion measures will have to overcome the gravitational force of his sleaziness to get anywhere. Despite claims that Trump would be a life preserver for the pro-life movement, he is a millstone around our neck. The only way to survive is to let go and keep swimming.

Read the entire piece here.

Glenn Beck Will Oppose Trump Even If It Means Hillary Wins

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I never saw this coming.  I wonder if Beck’s court “historian” David Barton who has said that Christians who do not support Trump will need to answer to God, will still appear on the show.  Should be interesting.

Here is the CNN report:

Conservative political commentator and media personality Glenn Beck said opposing Donald Trump is a “moral, ethical” choice — even if that results in Hillary Clinton becoming the next president.

The outspoken opponent of the GOP’s presidential nominee wrote on Facebook over the weekend that every voter had to decide for themselves what constitutes “a bridge too far,” after the release of footage last week in which Trump can be heard making lewd and sexually aggressive comments about women.

“It is not acceptable to ask a moral, dignified man to cast his vote to help elect an immoral man who is absent decency or dignity,” Beck wrote on Facebook in reference to Trump. “If the consequence of standing against Trump and for principles is indeed the election of Hillary Clinton, so be it. At least it is a moral, ethical choice.”

Beck, who founded media venture TheBlaze after rising to prominence as host of his eponymous radio and TV show, campaigned for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz during the Republican primaries, and has consistently criticized Trump throughout the primary campaign and even after Cruz endorsed him.

He joined a growing chorus of conservative leaders over the weekend who are appealing to Trump to withdraw his candidacy for president, adding that a vote for the businessman was “validating his immorality, lewdness, and depravity.”

But Beck said his public stance against Trump did not equate to unfettered support for the Democratic presidential nominee.

Read the entire piece here.

Wayne Grudem Has Second Thoughts About Trump

grudemIn light of the recently released tape of Donald Trump saying horrific things about women, evangelical theologian Wayne Grudem has backed off his earlier view that Trump is a morally acceptable candidate for evangelicals.  (It is also interesting that the links to his original TownHall argument lead to a general page of Grudem’s writing for Town Hall that does not include the piece).  If I read today’s TownHall article correctly, Grudem has not ruled out voting for Trump, but he also sees serious moral problems with the GOP nominee.

Here is a taste:

There is no morally good presidential candidate in this election. I previously called Donald Trump a “good candidate with flaws” and a “flawed candidate” but I now regret that I did not more strongly condemn his moral character. I cannot commend Trump’s moral character, and I strongly urge him to withdraw from the election.

His vulgar comments in 2005 about his sexual aggression and assaults against women were morally evil and revealed pride in conduct that violates God’s command, “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). I have now read transcripts of some of his obscene interviews with Howard Stern, and they turned my stomach. His conduct was hateful in God’s eyes and I urge him to repent and call out to God for forgiveness, and to seek forgiveness from those he harmed. God intends that men honor and respect women, not abuse them as sexual objects.

Some may criticize me for not discovering this material earlier, and I think they are right. I did not take the time to investigate earlier allegations in detail, and I now wish I had done so. If I had read or heard some of these materials earlier, I would not have written as positively as I did about Donald Trump. I am grateful that Townhall.com has agreed to remove my earlier statement.

But if Trump refuses to withdraw, where does that leave us? Hillary Clinton is no better. She vilified the victims of Bill Clinton’s sexual advances; she abandoned our diplomats to be killed by terrorists in Benghazi and then lied about it; she illegally handled classified emails on her private server and put national security at risk; she left much of the world in chaos after four years as Secretary of State; and she has a lifelong pattern of acting as if she is above the law, protected by the Obama administration’s Justice Department, the FBI, and the mainstream media.

Read the entire piece here.

Quote of the Day

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity:

“I feel a strong desire to tell you – and I expect you feel a strong desire to tell me – which of these two errors is the worse. That is the devil getting at us. He always sends errors into the world in pairs – pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking about which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between those errors. We have no other concern than that with either of them.”

HT:  Joe Terrell

“The Atlantic” Endorses Hillary Clinton

am-18601860. 1964. 2016.

These are the only years in which The Atlantic (previously known as the Atlantic Monthly), the historic American magazine of politics and commentary, endorsed a candidate for President of the United States.

Abraham Lincoln.  Lyndon B. Johnson. Hillary Clinton.  The Atlantic endorsed these candidates.

The editors of The Atlantic explain their decision to endorse Clinton.  Interestingly enough, the title of the article is “Against Trump” with the phrase “The Case for Hillary Clinton” in the subtitle.

A taste:

But The Atlantic’s endorsement of Johnson was focused less on his positive attributes than on the flaws of his opponent, Barry Goldwater, the junior senator from Arizona. Of Goldwater, Weeks wrote, “His proposal to let field commanders have their choice of the smaller nuclear weapons would rupture a fundamental belief that has existed from Abraham Lincoln to today: the belief that in times of crisis the civilian authority must have control over the military.” And the magazine noted that Goldwater’s “preference to let states like Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia enforce civil rights within their own borders has attracted the allegiance of Governor George Wallace, the Ku Klux Klan, and the John Birchers.” Goldwater’s limited capacity for prudence and reasonableness was what particularly worried The Atlantic.

We think it unfortunate that Barry Goldwater takes criticism as a personal affront; we think it poisonous when his anger betrays him into denouncing what he calls the “radical” press by bracketing the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Izvestia. There speaks not the reason of the Southwest but the voice of Joseph McCarthy. We do not impugn Senator Goldwater’s honesty. We sincerely distrust his factionalism and his capacity for judgment.

Today, our position is similar to the one in which The Atlantic’s editors found themselves in 1964. We are impressed by many of the qualities of the Democratic Party’s nominee for president, even as we are exasperated by others, but we are mainly concerned with the Republican Party’s nominee, Donald J. Trump, who might be the most ostentatiously unqualified major-party candidate in the 227-year history of the American presidency.

These concerns compel us, for the third time since the magazine’s founding, to endorse a candidate for president. Hillary Rodham Clinton has more than earned, through her service to the country as first lady, as a senator from New York, and as secretary of state, the right to be taken seriously as a White House contender. She has flaws (some legitimately troubling, some exaggerated by her opponents), but she is among the most prepared candidates ever to seek the presidency. We are confident that she understands the role of the United States in the world; we have no doubt that she will apply herself assiduously to the problems confronting this country; and she has demonstrated an aptitude for analysis and hard work.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, has no record of public service and no qualifications for public office. His affect is that of an infomercial huckster; he traffics in conspiracy theories and racist invective; he is appallingly sexist; he is erratic, secretive, and xenophobic; he expresses admiration for authoritarian rulers, and evinces authoritarian tendencies himself. He is easily goaded, a poor quality for someone seeking control of America’s nuclear arsenal. He is an enemy of fact-based discourse; he is ignorant of, and indifferent to, the Constitution; he appears not to read.

Read the entire piece here.  Then head over to Episode 3 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast and listen to our interview with Yoni Appelbaum,  Washington Bureau Chief of The Atlantic.

 

Miroslav Volf on Why Christians Should Vote for Hillary Clinton

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Volf is the Henry B. Wright professor of theology at Yale Divinity School.  (Yes, Yale does have Christian theologians on the payroll).  Check out his interview with journalist Jonathan Merritt that is currently running at Religion News Service.

A taste:

RNS: In a given election, is there ever a “Christian” candidate?

MV: With just a bit of facetiousness, we could say that Jesus Christ is the only Christian candidate. Short of him, just as, strictly speaking, there are no Christian nations, so there are also no Christian candidates for the public office. Candidates can be more or less aligned with the commitments, convictions, and character that we see displayed in Christ, in the New Testament as interpreted in the context of the entire Scripture and taking into account the changed economic, political and cultural conditions under which we all live.

RNS: Who, in your opinion, is a more “Christian” candidate in this presidential election?

MV: It seems clear to me that Hillary Clinton is not only the more competent of the two major party presidential candidates running for office now, but that the kind of vision she stands for is more in line with the Christian faith than is Donald Trump’s. It is important to keep in mind the whole range of convictions and virtues when making an assessment, rather than zeroing in on just one or two. In Public Faith in Action, we discuss some 25 of them, ranging from positions on wealth and education, though positions on abortion and euthanasia to positions on war, policing and religious freedom.

RNS: I want to get to these issues. But first, make your best case for the candidate you think Christians should vote for.

MV: The best case to be made for Hillary Clinton is that on balance she better represents the convictions and character that should concern Christian citizens. No candidate is perfect. There are certainly areas where Secretary Clinton’s policies and record might give Christians pause. But she takes the threat posed by climate change seriously. Her policies, such as paid family leave, would actually strengthen American families. She is committed to a just and welcoming approach to immigration that does not unduly compromise the legitimate good of security. She supports major reforms to America’s overly retributive and racially-biased criminal justice system. And, perhaps most importantly, she has demonstrated much deeper commitment to supporting the disadvantaged and the vulnerable than her opponent has, his grandiose rhetoric notwithstanding.

RNS: What about the traditionally conservative issue of abortion? How should Christians think about this?

MV: Human life should be inviolable. That follows from the fact that human beings were created in the image of God and that God is attached to them in love. No matter who we are — how underdeveloped, incapacitated, and unproductive or how brilliant, diligent, and productive – we all have equal dignity before God and equal worth. That holds true for the new one in the mother’s womb, for the dying, and for everyone in between. The debates about the point that life in a mother’s womb becomes human life should not obscure that basic conviction.

Some food for thought.  Read the entire interview here.

Is the Culture War Really Over?

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The culture war is over, the liberals won, and the victory was so decisive that the Republican nominee for president doesn’t even try to deny it. He just talks about other things, and hardly anyone (least of all the very voters who once demanded that presidential aspirants demonstrate fealty to the religious right) notices or cares.

So says Damon Linker in a piece at the Week.

He concludes:

Trump called the religious right’s bluff, and no Republican running for president will again feel the need to make an appeal to the dwindling number of conservative religious voters.

None of which means that the issues wrapped up with the religious culture war have gone away entirely. Worries about an ongoing or looming assault on religious freedom persist among many social conservatives. And abortion remains a highly potent issue at the state level, with legislatures across the South and Midwest moving to restrict abortion rights (and the courts often blocking their efforts).

But at the national level — especially when it comes to presidential politics — the culture war is well and truly over.

Read the entire piece here.

Is the culture war over? I don’t think so.  Linker is certainly correct about the lack of religion in the Clinton-Trump race.  But let’s remember two things.

First, the Christian Right is still out there.  They are getting older, but they will be a significant factor in American politics for several more presidential elections.  Many are Trump supporters for decidedly religious reasons.  They believe Trump will deliver the Supreme Court.  They also have a long memories.  The Clintons were polarizing figures in the 1990s.  The Bill Clinton impeachment and Monica Lewinsky affair galvanized the Christian Right.  Those conservative evangelicals who remember the 1990s will follow their religious conscience and refuse to vote for Clinton.

Second, the Christian Right remains a strong force in the GOP.  In the 2016 primary season the Christian Right vote was divided between Cruz, Rubio, Carson and, to some degree, Kasich, Bush, Huckabee, and Santorum.  If all of the Christian Right voters rallied around one candidate Trump would have been defeated.

So let’s not write the culture wars off too quickly.  The cultural warriors will be back again.