Former Republican National Committee Chair endorses Joe Biden

Michael Steele, the first African American to serve as chairman of the RNC, endorsed Biden today. Here is CNN:

“Many of Donald Trump’s supporters bring legitimate concerns to the table. During my time leading the GOP, I endeavored to address these and other grievances through the lens of unity and growth. But Trump has energized the party through the exact opposite means — by focusing on stoking division and eroding our core principles,” Steele said in a statement issued by the Lincoln Project.

“Although Vice President Biden and I disagree on some policy points, I believe he will earnestly pursue options that work towards healing the divide exacerbated by Trump and his administration,” Steele added. “My support for Biden is because we share an everlasting loyalty to what is ultimately best for our nation.”

Read the entire piece here.

Why is the GOP rushing the Barrett confirmation? The answer is simple: the Democratic coalition is growing

Another great piece at The Atlantic by Ron Brownstein. I find him to be the most astute political analyst working today.

Here is a taste:

Nothing better explains the Republican rush to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court than the record crowds that thronged polling places for the first days of early voting this week in Georgia and Texas.

The historic number of Americans who stood in long lines to cast their ballot in cities from Atlanta to Houston symbolizes the diverse, urbanized Democratic coalition that will make it very difficult for the GOP to win majority support in elections through the 2020s. That hill will get only steeper as Millennials and Generation Z grow through the decade to become the largest generations in the electorate.

Every young conservative judge that the GOP has stacked onto the federal courts amounts to a sandbag against that rising demographic wave. Trump’s nominations to the Supreme Court of Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, and Barrett—whom a slim majority of Republican senators appears determined to seat by Election Day—represent the capstone of that strategy. As the nation’s growing racial and religious diversity limits the GOP’s prospects, filling the courts with conservatives constitutes what the Princeton University historian Sean Wilentz calls “the right-wing firewall” against a country evolving electorally away from the party.

And this:

Jefferson’s irritation in the early 19th century may most closely resemble the frustration building among Democrats, as the GOP races to seat Barrett before an election that could provide Democrats with unified control of government, perhaps resoundingly. In the 1800 election, Jefferson ousted Adams, and his Democratic-Republican Party took the House and the Senate, beginning a quarter-century of complete political dominance. But in a long lame-duck session after their 1800 defeat, Adams’s Federalists passed legislation substantially expanding the number of federal judges. Adams, much like McConnell now, worked so tirelessly to fill those positions that Jefferson privately complained he had “crowded [them] in with whip & spur.” (Separately, Adams and the Senate rushed to confirm John Marshall as the Supreme Court’s chief justice after the Federalist in the job resigned weeks after Election Day.) Even “at 9 p.m. on the night of March 3, 1801, only three hours before officially leaving office, Adams was [still] busy signing commissions,” wrote James F. Simon in his book What Kind of Nation.

Is the GOP pro-coronavirus?

It sure looks that way. Trump has held two rallies so far this week and, with the exception of some people behind the stage, few people wore masks. Trump claimed that he may be “immune” from the virus. He is so immune that he wants to kiss people:

And then there is this:

Over at The Week, Ryan Cooper wonders if the Republican Party is “objectively pro-coronavirus.” Here is a taste:

Monday saw the beginning of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Staggeringly, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) actually appeared in person, a mere 10 days after testing positive for COVID-19. He apparently has not tested negative or even been examined by a physician to confirm he has no symptoms — and removed his mask before giving his opening remarks. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), meanwhile, who was exposed to Lee in an Oct. 1 hearing and had one negative test, has since refused to take another one even as a precaution. In one particularly ghoulish moment, both Lee and Graham stood chatting over Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who is 87 years old (and has also refused to get tested).

Read the rest here.

The Lincoln Project war room

Check out Paige Williams’s interesting New Yorker piece about the anti-Trump “Lincoln Project“:

Here is a taste:

The Project’s founders are a murderers’ row of conservative operatives. Wilson, who has worked for Rudolph Giuliani and Dick Cheney, counts hundreds of elections, from “dogcatcher to U.S. Senate,” that he and the other founders have helped Republicans win. Schmidt served in the George W. Bush White House, where he was instrumental in seating the Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and John Roberts. He is widely known for having suggested Sarah Palin as a running mate for McCain, in 2008. Schmidt clearly regrets choosing someone whose crude populism presaged Trump. He was a source for “Game Change,” a book about the McCain campaign that characterized Palin as unprepared and difficult; in September, he said that Palin represented “the beginning of the politics of cowardice and fear.”

Another founder, Reed Galen, whose father worked for Newt Gingrich and Dan Quayle, oversaw with Schmidt the reëlection campaign of the California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. John Weaver, a Texan whom the Democratic strategist James Carville nicknamed Meat Cleaver Weaver, spent a decade trying to get McCain elected to the Presidency. Stuart Stevens was Mitt Romney’s chief strategist in the 2012 race against Barack Obama. A notable early Project participant was George Conway, the lawyer who antagonizes Trump on Twitter—“You. Are. Nuts.”—and whose wife, Kellyanne, was a top White House adviser until she resigned, in August. The couple, citing family demands, receded from public life, and George Conway quit the Project.

The consultant Sarah Longwell, who heads a group called Republican Voters Against Trump, said, of the leaders of the Lincoln Project, “They’ve very successfully tapped into the rage that a lot of people feel, including me.” The Project’s scorched-earth approach distinguishes it from similar organizations: the founders, some of whom have entirely shed their Republican identities, have left themselves no clear path of return. (Wilson and Schmidt are now registered Independents.) Longwell said, “In many ways, this is their last stand.”

Most of the Project’s core founders are in their fifties and came of age under Ronald Reagan. They were drawn to Reagan’s optimism and to his belief in fiscally responsible government, which, as Galen points out, “doesn’t necessarily mean lower taxes—it means being smart with taxpayers’ money.” Socially, they favor individual liberty: worship however you want, marry whomever you want. They support responsible gun ownership and a judiciously interventionist foreign policy. Weaver served in the Air Force, and Wilson worked in the Defense Department, but all the founders revere military service. In 2015, Trump disgusted them when he mocked McCain—a fighter pilot who was a P.O.W. during Vietnam—by saying, “I like people that weren’t captured.”

Read the rest here.

What Matthew 4 REALLY says about Christians and power

Recently an evangelical pastor who was a college of classmate of mine wrote to me praising Donald Trump’s decision to nominate Amy Coney Barrett as Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s replacement on the Supreme Court. He seemed very excited about the nomination and was surprised when I was not as excited as he was.

As I have argued, I think what McConnell did was wrong in 2016 when he refused to give Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, a hearing and a vote in the Senate. As many of you recall, McConnell claimed that since it was an election year the American people, through the ballot box, should decide who would replace the late Antonin Scalia on the bench. Trump won in 2016 and he nominated Neil Gorsuch. The GOP-controlled Senate confirmed him.

2020 is an election year. In fact, the election will take place in about a month. McConnell now seems to have no problem with confirming a Supreme Court justice in an election year. He is hard at work pushing Barrett through the system.

This evangelical pastor friend did not see any problem with McConnell’s blatant hypocrisy. Actually, I don’t even think he understands what McConnell did as a form of hypocrisy. As my old college acquaintance put it in his note to me, we now have a Republican president and a Republican Senate and “elections have consequences.”

Based on other exchanges I have had with this pastor, I highly doubt he would have said “elections have consequences” if the same thing happened with a Democratic president’s nominee and a Democratic-controlled Senate. He would instead be making an appeal to the Constitution or perhaps the scriptures. But I digress.

The GOP is licking its chops to confirm Barrett. Its members thus need some kind of argument to save face and explain that they are not hypocrites. Most of these GOP Senators and pundits believe that the Constitution should be interpreted based upon the original intent of the framers. But they are not consistent in this belief. They only claim original intent when it meets their needs. There is nothing in the Constitution that says a Supreme Court nominee in an election year can only get a Senate hearing if the president making the nomination is of the same political party as the party controlling the Senate. The GOP just made this up.

And if the GOP really believes the original intent of the founders is important, they should be talking about how the founders would be appalled at the rank partisanship driving this whole nomination and confirmation process.

But perhaps most revealing is the way this pastor reconciles 2016 (Obama and Garland) and 2020 (Trump and Barrett) with an appeal to raw power. Again, notice that he did not appeal to the Constitution, the Bible, or some other moral code to defend McConnell’s decision. The exact words he used to justify Barrett’s nomination were “Republicans in power. Elections have consequences.” In a single sentence he confirmed a major part of my argument in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

Of course Jesus had a chance to obtain worldly power as well.

I recall that passage in Matthew 4 when Satan offered Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor” if he would just bow down and worship him. When Jesus turned down Satan’s offer (“away from me Satan!”) God sent angels to attend to him. Jesus rejected worldly power and God was there to offer comfort and assurance in the form of the angels. The rest of the Gospel story, of course, is God showing how he would carry out his plan in another way–The Way–a way that did not require the kind of earthly power Satan was offering to Jesus.

But most people don’t know that in the 1980s Jerry Falwell Sr., while conducting a Moral Majority Holy Land tour, discovered early manuscripts of the Matthew 4 that show Jesus actually taking Satan’s deal. According to these ancient manuscripts, Jesus drove a hard bargain with Satan. In this manuscript Jesus specifically defined the “kingdoms of the world” as the future United States and demanded that Satan bring “splendor” to this kingdom by one day raising-up a morally bankrupt pagan leader (similar to King Cyrus of old) who would have the opportunity to appoint three Supreme Court justices. Satan agreed to deal, but fitting with his cunning spirit, took over 2000 years to fulfill his promise to Jesus.

What? You’ve never heard this before? It’s all there in the Lynchburg scrolls. The reason people don’t know about these scrolls is because the fake media won’t report on them.

🙂

What the Christian Right, court evangelicals, and GOP said about Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland

In a previous post on whether Trump should pick the next Supreme Court justice I wrote:

Politics is not about integrity, ethics, or standing by one’s word. It is about power. And let’s not pretend that the Democrats wouldn’t do the same thing if they were in the GOP’s shoes right now. Plague on all their houses!

In 2016, the Senate would not allow Merrick Garland, president Barack Obama’s SCOTUS pick, a hearing and vote because the GOP members in the Senate, led by Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell, believed that the next president should choose the next justice.

What did the court evangelicals say about McConnell’s decision in 2016?

Ralph Reed and his Faith & Freedom Coalition issued a statement on March 21, 2016:

We strongly oppose Judge Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court.  We urge the U.S. Senate to await the final judgment of the American people rendered in the 2016 election before acting on any nomination to the highest court.  We will undertake a muscular and ambitious grassroots effort in the states of key U.S. Senators to defeat the Garland nomination and prevent President Obama from shifting the balance of the court for a generation.”

Here is Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council:

In the end, the Senate’s position isn’t about the person — it’s about the principle. “The only reason that they’re complaining about a hearing on the nominee is because they want to make the process as political as possible,” Grassley said. “And that goes to the heart of the matter. We’re not going to politicize this process in the middle of a presidential election year.” The other 10 GOP members of his committee have already made up their minds. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) couldn’t have been clearer when he said, “We’re not going to confirm anyone. Period.” But America’s law professor-in-chief still insists: “In putting forward a nominee today, I am fulfilling my constitutional duty. I’m doing my job. I hope that our senators will do their jobs, and move quickly to consider my nominee. That’s what the Constitution dictates…”

Wrong again. As scholars like Noah Feldman remind him, “Here’s what the Constitution says about filling Supreme Court vacancies: nothing.” Yet, as they’ve done with abortion and same-sex marriage, liberals are quite content to point to its invisible ink to suit their narrative. The reality is, President Obama has the right to nominate a replacement for Justice Scalia, just as the Senate has a right to ignore it. This is exactly what the Americans people wanted when it elected a GOP majority: a Senate that would rein in the president’s unchecked powers. Now they have it. And on the biggest decision in a generation, we can all be grateful its leaders are doing their part.

I am sure, based on the above statement, Perkins sees no hypocrisy in McConnell’s decision to give Trump’s nominee a hearing in an election year.

Let’s see if Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse will meet with Trump’s appointee. He refused to meet with Garland in 2016. And what about all those “principled constitutionalists” (like Ted Cruz) who would not give Garland a hearing in 2016, but will support Trump’s nominee?

The Huffington Post has collected the comments of several GOP senators in 2016 about Obama’s appointment of Merrick Garland. Here are some of those comments:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa: “Given that we are in the midst of the presidential election process, we believe that the American people should seize the opportunity to weigh in on whom they trust to nominate the next person for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina: “As I have repeatedly stated, the election cycle is well underway, and the precedent of the Senate is not to confirm a nominee at this stage in the process. I strongly support giving the American people a voice in choosing the next Supreme Court nominee by electing a new president.” 

Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina: “It is essential to the institution of the Senate and to the very health of our republic to not launch our nation into a partisan, divisive confirmation battle during the very same time the American people are casting their ballots to elect our next president.”

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas: “It has been 80 years since a Supreme Court vacancy was nominated and confirmed in an election year. There is a long tradition that you don’t do this in an election year.”

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida: “I don’t think we should be moving forward with a nominee in the last year of this president’s term. I would say that even if it was a Republican president.”

Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado: “I think we’re too close to the election. The president who is elected in November should be the one who makes this decision.”

Sen. Mike Lee of Utah: “We think that the American people need a chance to weigh in on this issue, on who will fill that seat. They’ll have that chance this November, and they ought to have that chance.” 

Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania: “With the U.S. Supreme Court’s balance at stake, and with the presidential election fewer than eight months away, it is wise to give the American people a more direct voice in the selection and confirmation of the next justice.”

Sen. John Thune of South Dakota: “Since the next presidential election is already underway, the next president should make this lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.”

GOP Convention: Night 3

pence and trump at ft mchenry

Yesterday was my first day of face-to-face teaching since March. I am not yet in “classroom shape,” so I was exhausted by the end of the day. Mentally, I was still reeling from multiple technology failures (mostly due to my ignorance) and the panic (and sweat) that ensues when half of the class is watching you desperately trying to get the other half of the class connected via ZOOM.

This morning my youngest daughter headed-off to Michigan for her sophomore year of college, so we spent most of last night packing the car and spending a few hours together before the empty nest syndrome returns later today.

Needless to say, I did not get much time to watch the third night of the 2020 GOP Convention, but I did manage to see a few speeches and catch-up with the rest via news and videos.

Let’s start with American history:

  • In her speech, Lara Trump, the president’s daughter-in-law (Eric Trump’s spouse), tried to quote Abraham Lincoln: “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedom,” she said, “it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” These are strong words. Lincoln never said them.
  • In his speech, Madison Cawthorn, a GOP congressional candidate from North Carolina’s 11th district, said that James Madison signed the Declaration of Independence. Here is the exact line: “James Madison was 25 years-old when he signed the Declaration of Independence.” Madison was indeed 25 in July of 1776, but he did not sign the Declaration of Independence. (He did serve in the Second Continental Congress from 1777 to 1779).
  • Clarence Henderson, who was part of the 1960 lunch counter sit-ins at the Greensboro, North Carolina Woolworths, deserves the appreciation of every American. (Just to be clear, Henderson was not one of the famed “Greensboro Four“). He is free to vote for anyone he wants in November. But it is sad to see this civil rights activist buy into the idea that African-Americans should vote for Trump (or the GOP in general) because Lincoln freed the slaves and the Democrats (in the South) were the party of segregation. While this is true, it fails to acknowledge an important principle of historical thinking: change over time.
  • Finally,  Burgess Owens, a GOP congressional candidate from Utah (and former NFL player), talked about his father and World War II. He said, “mobs torch our cities, while popular members of Congress promote the same socialism that my father fought against in World War II.” Owens is confused. The socialists (communists) were actually on the side of the United States during World War II. The Nazi’s were opponents of Soviet-style socialism. This can get a little tricky because “Nazi” is short for “National Socialist.” Sort it all out here.

OK, let’s move on.

Trump press secretary Kayleigh McEnany repeated the popular mantra about liberals “removing God” from public schools and “erasing God from history.” A few quick thoughts on this:

  • From the perspective of Christian theology, I don’t think it is possible to remove God from public schools or anywhere else.
  • Ironically, McEnany’s statement about erasing God comes at a moment when American religious history is one of the hottest fields in the historical profession. We know more about Christianity’s role in America’s past today than at any other point in the history of the nation.

I want to spend the rest of this post on Mike Pence’s speech last night. Watch it:

I did not recognize much of the America that Pence described in this speech. He began with an attack on Joe Biden: “Democrats spent four days attacking America. Joe Biden said we were living through a ‘season of darkness.'”

In January 2017, Donald Trump used the word “carnage” to describe the United States. Is America any better four years later? 180, 000 are dead from COVID-19. Colleges and schools are closed. There is racial unrest in the streets. We are a laughing stock in the global community. Millions are out work. Less than half of Americans have any confidence in the president. And Pence has the audacity to say “we made America great again.”

Pence continues to peddle the narrative that the coronavirus derailed the accomplishments of Trump’s first term. This is partly true. But when historians write about this presidency, the administration’s handling of COVID-19 will be at the center of the story.  COVID-19 is not just an unfortunate parenthesis in an otherwise successful presidency. COVID-19, and Trump’s failure to act swiftly, will be this president’s defining legacy.

Like Kayleigh McEnany earlier in the night, Pence also made reference to the current conversation about monuments and their relationship to our understanding of the American past. “If you want a president who falls silent when our heritage is demeaned or insulted,” Pence said, “then he’s [Trump’s] not your man.”

It is important to remember that “heritage” is not history. Those who sing the praises of “heritage” today are really talking more about the present the past. The purpose of heritage, writes the late historian David Lowenthal, is to “domesticate the past” so that it can be enlisted “for present causes.” History explores and explains the past in all its fullness, while heritage calls attention to the past to make a political point. Since the purpose of heritage is to cultivate a sense of collective national identity, it is rarely concerned with nuance, paradox, or complexity. As Lowenthal writes, devotion to heritage is a “spiritual calling”–it answers needs for ritual devotion.

When Trump and Pence talk about defending an American “heritage,” they are selectively invoking the past to serve their purposes. Such an approach, in this case, ignores the dark moments of our shared American experience. This administration is not interested in history.  They reject theologian Jurgen Moltmann’s call to “waken the dead and piece together what has been broken.”

Pence’s speech was filled with misleading statements, half-truths, and blatant lies. He claimed that Joe Biden wants to defund the police. He said that Biden “opposed the operation” that killed Osama bin Laden.” He said that Donald Trump has “achieved energy independence for the United States.” He said Joe Biden wants to “end school choice.” He said Joe Biden wants to scrap tariffs on Chinese goods. He said that “no one who required a ventilator was ever denied a ventilator in the United States.” He said that Trump suspended “all travel from China” before the coronavirus spread. He said that Biden did not condemn the violence in American cities. He said that Biden supports open borders. All of these statements are either false or misleading.

Trump is a liar. So is Pence. But Pence is an evangelical Christian. How can anyone reconcile the peddling of such deception with Christian faith? It doesn’t matter if the Bible-believing vice president lies about his political opponent, as long as his lies are effective in scaring Americans to vote for Trump. Pence claimed that “you won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.” Of course this kind of fear-mongering has a long history in American politics. But when people claim the mantle of Christian faith and engage in such political rhetoric, we must always call it out.

Finally, Pence has proven to be a master at fusing the Bible with American ideals. Again, this is not new. The patriotic ministers of the American Revolution did this all the time. It was heretical then. It is heretical now. Such a rhetorical strategy manipulates the Bible for political gain.

For example, Pence said, “Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom, and that means freedom always wins.” Pence is referencing 2 Corinthians 3:17: “now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” This passage has NOTHING to do with the political or “American” freedom Pence was touting in his speech. St. Paul spoke these words to encourage the Corinthian church to live Spirit-filled lives that would free them from the bondage sin, death, and guilt. Pence has taken a deeply spiritual message and bastardized it to serve partisan politics and this corrupt president.

In the same paragraph, Pence says, “So let’s run the race marked out for us. Let’s fix our eyes on Old Glory and all she represents, fix our eyes on this land of heroes and let their courage inspire. Let’s fix our eyes on the author and perfecter of our faith and freedom.”
Here Pence is referencing Hebrews 12: 1-2. That passage says: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

Again, see what Pence is doing here. Instead of fixing our eyes on Jesus, we should fix our eyes on “Old Glory,” a symbol of American nationalism. The “heroes” he speaks of are not the men and women of faith discussed in the previous chapter of Hebrews (Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Issac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jepthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets), they are the “heroes” (as he interprets them) of American history. Jesus is the “author and perfecter” of our faith and [American] freedom.”

The use of the Bible in this way is a form of idolatry. My friend and history teacher Matt Lakemacher gets it right:

On to day 4!

How did the court evangelicals respond to the first night of the Republican National Convention?

Short answer: They loved it.

Jack Graham retweeted several speeches. In the end, he summed it up this way:

I don’t think I was watching the same convention as Tony Perkins. (I will, however, say that much of Maximo Alvarez’s speech was moving):

Gary Bauer thought it was “powerful”:

Many of the court evangelicals really liked Natalie Harp’s speech:

Court evangelical journalist David Brody has some interesting things to say:

This tweet seems to suggest that the Democrats need to be fact-checked to the same degree as Trump. The only reason “fact-checking” during political convention has become popular is because Trump lies so much. There is no moral equivalence here.

Brody is also pushing this piece from The Spectator:

Brody is right about this:

But let’s admit that both Haley and Scott are among the few pro-Trump speakers who hold the president at arms length. They both have political ambitions.

Brody also seemed to like this line from Matt Gaetz:

I am not sure what to make of the following tweet. One could argue that Fox’s decision to keep Tucker on air during the convention may have been MORE helpful to the Trump cause:

Charlie Kirk spoke last night. He also had some time to tweet this:

Kirk’s colleague at the Liberty University Falkirk Center was in usual form:

Here Ellis tries to dance around the Falkirk Center’s connection to Jerry Falwell Jr.:

And here, the Christian spokesperson for Liberty’s Falkirk Center, calls AOC an ass:

Another Falkirk Center fellow is attacking CNN and Chris Cuomo:

It’s a big week for the court evangelicals!

Monday in Trumpland

rncLogo2020

It was a rough start to the week for the president. White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, a Trump loyalist who is one of the few staff members who has not left the administration, announced that she is leaving her position. The resignation comes after Conway’s teenage daughter blasted her mother on Twitter and claimed that she was seeking emancipation from Kelly and her husband, GOP anti-Trumper George Conway. This is yet another tragic story of how Trumpism has negatively affected an American family. I wish the Conways well.

While the Conway story unfolded, we learned that Jerry Falwell Jr., one of Trump’s most loyal evangelical defenders, was involved in a sexual tryst that included his wife Becki and a Miami pool boy. Falwell Jr. resigned late last night, but this story is not going away. I am guessing we will know more when former Trump fixer Michael Cohen releases his tell-all book.

Trump continues his efforts to stop the use of mail-in ballots for the November elections. Watch Trump yesterday at the GOP convention in Charlotte as he accepts his party’s nomination. My “favorite” part of this off-script rant in the video below is when Trump claims that this is the “greatest scam in the history of politics, I think, and I’m talking beyond our nation.” Well, I am sure Hitler, Stalin, and others, wherever they are right now, are glad that they are off the hook as the worst political scammers in world history.

Almost all of what Trump says in this clip is either misleading or untrue. Meanwhile, Trump’s Postmaster General Louis DeJoy told Congress yesterday that the U.S. Postal Service should have no problem handling mail-in ballots.

And then came the evening session of the Republican National Convention. Over and over again we heard Trump’s supporters say that he cares about America and all Americans. Unfortunately, this entire first night seemed more like a Trump rally–a direct appeal to the president’s political base. There was very little effort to expand the Trump coalition. And anyone who suggests that Trump is for “all Americans” has had their head in the sand the last four years. He has demonized all his enemies–even dissenters within the Republican Party.

Court evangelical Charlie Kirk started off the night by claiming that Trump is the “bodyguard of Western Civilization” who will protect our families and neighborhoods from the “vengeful mob.” We should all be afraid. He also praised Trump for cultivating a “civil society” in the United States. But if the young court evangelical’s bombastic rhetoric is any indication, I am not sure if he understands the meaning of the phrase “civil society.”

At the beginning of his speech, Kirk identified himself as the leader of Turning Point USA. Why didn’t he mention his role as the founder of Liberty University’s Falkirk Center? Can there be a Falkirk Center now that Jerry Falwell Jr. is gone?

At one point, Kirk surprisingly acknowledged “the complexities of the past.” But there was nothing complex about his speech, nor do we see complexity in anything Kirk writes every day on his Twitter feed.

Here is Kirk’s idea of “complexity”:

 

And then there was this piece of COVID-19 revisionism. Pick it up at the 56:18 mark:

This video looks like something that might have run on state television in the Soviet bloc. There was a lot propaganda last night. This was the worst.

And let’s not forget the former Fox News host and Donald Trump Jr. girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle. I haven’t seen anything like her speech since Howard Dean in 2004. Actually, Guilfoyle’s speech made Dean sound like an academic historian reading a paper at a professional conference.

Watch:

I doubt many people noticed, but former Heisman Trophy-winning running back Herschel Walker praised Donald Trump’s ownership of the New Jersey Generals, a team that was part of the short-lived United States Football League (USFL):

Walker said that when Trump became owner of the Generals in 1984 he “learned about the history of the team.” I am not sure what to make of this claim since the USFL and the  Generals were founded in 1983. But it is good to know that Donald Trump is such a sports historian.

There were really only a few speeches that could have been delivered at a non-Trump GOP convention. Two of them came from former South Carolina Governor and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and South Carolina governor Tim Scott.

The show continues tomorrow.

GOP: No platform this year. We are just supporting Trump

Trump Bible St. Johns

Here is a “Resolution Regarding the Republican Party Platform” with commentary in bold.

WHEREAS, The Republican National Committee (RNC) has significantly scaled back the size and scope of the 2020 Republican National Convention in Charlotte due to strict restrictions on gatherings and meetings, and out of concern for the safety of convention attendees and our hosts;

WHEREAS, The RNC has unanimously voted to forego the Convention Committee on Platform, in appreciation of the fact that it did not want a small contingent of delegates formulating a new platform without the breadth of perspectives within the ever-growing Republican movement;

“Breadth of perspectives?” The fact that the GOP is just going to support Trump’s “agenda” (see below) suggests that the only legitimate “perspectives” in the party are those who conform to the ever-changing winds of the Trump administration. And since when is the Republican Party a “movement?” And if this is a “movement,” I don’t think it is “ever-growing.” 

WHEREAS, All platforms are snapshots of the historical contexts in which they are born, and parties abide by their policy priorities, rather than their political rhetoric;

I have no idea what this means.

WHEREAS, The RNC, had the Platform Committee been able to convene in 2020, would have undoubtedly unanimously agreed to reassert the Party’s strong support for President Donald Trump and his Administration;

Wait, what happened to the “breadth of perspectives?” This statement suggests that if the Platform Committee convened they would UNANIMOUSLY agree to support Trump.

WHEREAS, The media has outrageously misrepresented the implications of the RNC not adopting a new platform in 2020 and continues to engage in misleading advocacy for the failed policies of the Obama-Biden Administration, rather than providing the public with unbiased reporting of facts; and

Who wrote this? This document announces that the GOP will not have a platform this year. So how could the media have already “outrageously misrepresented” the GOP’s decision to not have a platform? What does any of this have to do with the Obama-Biden Administration?

WHEREAS, The RNC enthusiastically supports President Trump and continues to reject the policy positions of the Obama-Biden Administration, as well as those espoused by the Democratic National Committee today; therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the Republican Party has and will continue to enthusiastically support the President’s America-first agenda;

What is this agenda? It seems like the “agenda” is whatever happens to come out of Trump’s mouth on any given day. GOP Agenda=What Trump wants.

RESOVLVED [sic], That the 2020 Republican National Convention will adjourn without adopting a new platform until the 2024 Republican National Convention;

RESOVLVED? I understand spelling mistakes and typos, but this makes me wonder how many people actually read this statement before is was released.

RESOLVED, That the 2020 Republican National Convention calls on the media to engage in accurate and unbiased reporting, especially as it relates to the strong support of the RNC for President Trump and his Administration; and

RESOLVED, That any motion to amend the 2016 Platform or to adopt a new platform, including any motion to suspend the procedures that will allow doing so, will be ruled out of order.

Read the Democratic Party platform here.

Christianity is more than the mere embrace of a Christian Right view on abortion politics

Listen to court evangelical Robert Jeffress’s recent commentary on Fox News:

Jeffress addresses Trump’s recent claim that if Joe Biden is elected in November there will be “no religion.” He added that Biden would “hurt the Bible” and “hurt God.” As any good court evangelical must do, Jeffress defends Trump’s remarks.

Jeffress comes just short of suggesting that Biden is not a Christian. (I realize I may be too generous to Jeffress here). Why? Because Biden is “pro-choice” on abortion.

Jeffress knows that the Christian faith is more than merely the embrace of a Christian Right view on abortion, but if he can use abortion to demonize Biden by questioning the legitimacy of his faith, he will gladly do it. Let’s face it, Jeffress is not interested in developing a public theology informed by the entire message of the Bible. Neither is the Christian Right movement that he represents.

Those who read this blog know my position. I am pro-life. But I do not believe that overturning Roe v. Wade is the best way of reducing abortions. Just search “abortion” or read Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump for my views on this.

Abortions are on the decline in America. Let’s keep this downward trajectory going by electing candidates who care about poverty, systemic racism, the economic plight of families, and the health of women.

GOP: Let’s stop using “pro-life” as a political litmus test for the purpose of fundraising.

Democrats: let’s start talking again about abortion as a serious moral problem facing our society. And yes, I am referring to the Biden-Harris ticket here.

Will the GOP listen to John Kasich?

Kasich

The Washington Post‘s Jennifer Rubin thinks the common-sense approach of the former Ohio governor may be the GOP’s best hope. Here is a taste of her recent column:

Former Ohio governor John Kasich — a pro-life, fiscal-hawk Republican — will speak at the Democratic National Convention and has said he will vote for former vice president Joe Biden. In contrast to the equivocating Republican governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan (who has not ruled out voting for President Trump), Kasich makes as compelling a case as any politician that it is not enough to simply voice displeasure with Trump. We have to vote him out.

Kasich appeared with CNN’s Don Lemon on Monday to call for an end to the Trump era. “We can’t continue to go down this path. . . . I mean, people are now speaking to each other if they disagree with them with through clenched teeth. There’s almost hatred going on,” he explained. “This has to stop because the great things that happened in our country — whatever they are, women suffrage, civil rights — they happen when we come together, not when we’re divided.”

Kasich thinks Biden is the kind of unifier we need. More precisely, the former Ohio governor argues that, if one thinks Trump is a threat to the republic, it is not enough to stay home or write in a third party. “I’ve had enough of this. I’ve had enough of the division and everything else, and not getting anything done,” Kasich said. “So, to just sit it out again and say well I’m not going to be for Trump and not lend my support to somebody, I — it doesn’t make sense for me this time around.” You can either accept Trump as the new normal, or you can recognize he is a dangerous detour into unhinged populism and unfit for the job.

Read the rest here.

Historian Manisha Sinha on a possible Trump “Gettysburg Address”

2e894-gettysburg10web

As we noted yesterday, Trump may accept the GOP nomination for president at Gettysburg battlefield. Manisha Sinha, a historian who is no stranger to followers of The Way of Improvement Leads Home blog and podcast, shares her thoughts at CNN.

Here is a taste:

Yet, Trump aspires to Lincoln-like greatness, clumsily suggesting to the pliant Republican governor of South Dakota that he would like his likeness on Mount Rushmore, which he used for his highly partisan and forgettable Fourth of July speech this year. That this is a desecration of sacred ground of the Lakota people, who protested his rally, predictably does not cross his mind.

Trump’s potential choice of Gettysburg for his acceptance speech is even more offensive given his fondness for Confederate leaders and generals like Robert E. Lee. He has defended the Confederate battle flag and “beautiful” Confederate statues and has included neo-Confederates and White supremacists among “very fine people.” So much so that a few political commentators have called him the last Confederate president.

Gettysburg, site of one of the biggest Confederate debacles of the war, is a standing monument to the defeat of a despicable cause. If Lincoln consecrated Gettysburg with one of the most famous speeches in American history, Trump would just as surely desecrate it by his proposed Republican convention address.

Agreed.

Read Sinha’s entire piece here.

Who freed the slaves?

Lincoln GOP

Did this guy have anything to do with it?

Princeton historian Matt Karp talks with Jacobin magazine’s Megan Day and Micah Uetricht about his recent Catalyst essay, “The Mass Politics of Anti-Slavery.” This is a wide-ranging discussion about abolitionism, Karl Marx, Abraham Lincoln, the Republican Party of the 1850s, and contemporary politics.

Here is a taste:

MU: Let me ask the classic question that is debated by Civil War–era historians: Who freed the slaves?

MK: I will answer this, but I have to preface it with a lame disclaimer, because in some ways I think that question actually was framed by people who want to produce a simplistic answer. In fact, Jim McPherson, God bless him, wrote an essay called “Who Freed the Slaves?” and the last sentence of that article is “Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves.” You have to give the man credit. He asks historical questions. He doesn’t complicate; he doesn’t do a dialectic. He answers the fucking question.

Whereas I’ve got my hands waving, I’m all over the place. But I think I would say the antislavery movement freed the slaves. That would include antislavery politicians; antislavery voters; the Union Army, which became an armed wing of that movement; and, of course, the slaves themselves, who both took part in the Union Army and destabilized the system of slavery on the ground during the war.

I think a lot of the other answers are actually pretty ahistorical. I think “Abraham Lincoln” isn’t a historical answer. You see people trying to find a line of transmission, like “Lincoln wrote this document, and that empowered the army to do this.” They’re trying to solve it like it’s an engineering problem. Same thing for people who say the slaves freed themselves. While it’s true that thousands of slaves did free themselves, if you’re actually trying to give a historical answer to this question and not an engineering answer, you have to think about the forces that brought a situation about in which slaves could free themselves in the first place.

That’s why I would say that the answer is this antislavery movement — not the abolitionists narrowly, but the broad movement against bondage in America. W. E. B. Du Bois wrote about “the abolition democracy” in the North, which ultimately formed a political alliance with slaves in the South. I think that’s the coalition that freed the slaves.

MU: What’s useful about your article is the way that it focuses on each of those pieces of the antislavery movement, which includes the slaves themselves but understands that what the slaves were able to do was often stoked by the organizing of the Republican Party. So there’s a complex interplay between all of these components of the antislavery movement.

MK: Not to be too polemical, but to say that the slaves freed themselves entirely is to say that all of the other enslaved people that did not free themselves at other points in history, and in other countries, etcetera,to free themselves every day that they were enslaved. Which is insane, because this is an overwhelming system of power and oppression that made the individual will to free oneself almost irrelevant. In terms of challenging the system of slavery, obviously that resistance was a necessary ingredient, but not sufficient. You needed, as you need now, a larger political movement to challenge something that powerful.

Read the entire interview here.

Thursday night court evangelical roundup

Trump Court Evangelicals 2

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

Court evangelical Tony Perkins joins several other evangelical Trump supporters to talk about the 2020 election:

A few quick comments:

15:58ff: Perkins says that Christians “have a responsibility” to vote along “biblical guidelines” and “biblical truth.” He adds: “if you notice lately, truth is under attack.” As I said yesterday, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I hear Trump supporters try to defend truth. When will they speak truth to Trump? If Perkins wants to talk about biblical principles he should read about Jesus before Pilate in John 18 or Nathan’s words to King David in 1 Samuel 12. How dare Perkins sit there and say that “it is the truth that will make men free.”

Shortly after Perkins finishes speaking, the host shows a video comparing the GOP and Democratic platforms. The GOP platform, Perkins believes, is biblical. The Democratic platform, he believes, in unbiblical. “It’s like oil and water,” Perkins says. This is what we call the political captivity of the church.

And then comes the fear-mongering. Perkins implies that if evangelicals do not vote for Trump, the Democrats will come for their families, their religious liberty, and their “ability to worship God.” Listen carefully to this section. It begins around the 17:40 mark. I wonder what the earliest Christians would think if they heard Perkins say that unless America re-elects a corrupt emperor they would not be able to worship God. I wonder what the early Christian martyrs, those great heroes of the faith, would say if they heard Perkins tell the audience that “your ability to share the Gospel in word or in deed” rests on a Trump victory. As Bonhoeffer says in The Cost of the Discipleship, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

20:00ff: The audience does not start applauding until conservative pastor-politician E.W. Jackson tells them that Black Lives Matter is a “Marxist ploy to get people to buy into some sort of socialist, communist world view….” See what’s going on here. An African-American evangelical politician gives an audience full of white people the freedom to cheer against an anti-racist organization.

27:00ff: William Federer, probably known best in certain white evangelical circles for publishing a book of quotations from the founding fathers, implies that the CIA, Department of Justice, and FBI are planning a “coup” against Trump.

36:00ff: Tony Perkins says that if one believes human beings are created in the image of God, it will “direct all of your other policy.” He adds that the violence in the streets after George Floyd’s death was fomented by people who did not believe that women and men are created in the image of God. Was their unnecessary violence in the streets? Of course. But most of what happened in the streets after Floyd was killed had everything to do with the kind of human dignity Perkins is talking about here. How could he miss this?

41:35ff: Perkins notes the high levels of abortions among African-American women and blames the problem on Planned Parenthood. He fails to see that there is a direct connection between systemic racism, poverty, and abortion in Black communities. Of course, if one does not believe in systemic racism, then it is easy to blame Planned Parenthood and continue to ignore the structural issues of inequality and racism in our society.

1:30:00ff: Federer starts talking about the Second Great Awakening and how it led to abolitionism. This is partly true, but Frederick Douglass offers another perspective on this. When his master got saved during the Second Great Awakening, Douglass said that he became more brutal in his beatings. Why? Because he was now following the teachings of the Bible as understood by the Southern preachers who led him to God. Don’t fall for Federer’s selective history. It is a selective understanding of the past used in service of Trumpism. The 17th, 18th, and 19th South was loaded with white evangelicals who owned slaves and embraced white supremacy.

1:32:00: Perkins makes a connection between the Democratic Party and the French Revolution. He sounds like Os Guinness here.

There is a lot of other things I could comment on, but I think I will stop there.

And in other court evangelical news:

The Falkirk Center at Liberty University is tweeting a quote from Jerry Falwell Sr.

In case you can’t read the quote:

The idea that religion and politics don’t mix was invented by the Devil to keep Christians from running their own country. If there is any place in the world we need Christianity, it’s in Washington. And that’s why preachers long since need to get over that intimidation forced upon us by liberals, that if we mention anything about politics, we are degrading our ministry. —Jerry Falwell Jr.

I will counter with a quote from C.S. Lewis in The Screwtape LettersScrewtape (Satan) is giving advice to his young minion Wormwood:

Let him begin by treating the Patriotism…as part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important. Then quietly and gradually nurse him on to the state at which the religion becomes merely a part of the “cause,” in which Christianity is valued chiefly because of the excellent arguments it can produce…Once [he’s] made the world an end, and faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing.

Samuel Rodriguez is holding a 4th of July prayer meeting at his church. The meeting is built upon his “prophetic decree” that America is “one nation, under guide, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.” I wonder if he would have received the same prophetic decree prior to 1954, the year the words “under God” were added to the pledge.

James Robison tweets about the founders as if slavery did not exist.

Ralph Reed seems to think that Donald Trump’s “sins” are only sins of the “past.”

Robert Jeffress is ready to prove it:

Until next time.

The Republican Party’s failure of conscience was on full display in the House yesterday

If you want to get a sense of the current state of the Republican Party, watch this debate  in the House Judiciary Committee over the Democrats’ Justice in Policing bill:

Read Dana Milbank’s summary of the entire debate. Here is a taste:

The Black Lives Matter movement may have gripped the nation since George Floyd died under a police officer’s knee. But the GOP hijacked the committee debate over the Democrats’ Justice in Policing bill Wednesday to revisit complaints about the treatment of former national security adviser Michael Flynn who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Before there was even a basis for this embarrassing hoax, you had Jim Comey telling the FBI to go and entrap General Flynn,”complained Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.).

The director of the FBI,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), told “the agents, ‘No, no, no don’t drop the case, we’re going after Michael Flynn.’”

Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) wanted “the FBI held accountable for the gross misconduct that it engaged in with investigating the Trump campaign.”

And this:

Democrats tried to steer the debate from that straw man to the topic at hand. “Can anyone on the Republican side say unequivocally, black lives matter?” Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) asked.

“Unequivocally, all lives matter,” Gaetz replied. Gaetz, who later called Swalwell’s “theatrics” not “super productive,” added: “It would be as if I were willing to yield to any Democrat willing to say that blue lives matter.”

So what was “super productive”?

Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) spoke of “unborn children that are born alive from a botched abortion.”

Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) wanted it to be known that “antifa is without a doubt a domestic terrorist group.”

Gaetz described protesters’ “autonomous zone” in Seattle as “racially segregated,” with “all kinds of violent acts,” a “lack of sleep, screaming, gunshot, terror,” and a demand issued for “everyone who is white to give someone who is black $10.”

Read the entire piece here.

2020 GOP Platform Condemns the Sitting President

Trump GOP Convention

Yes, you read that correctly. Here is The New York Times:

When Republicans read the platform their party is using for the 2020 campaign, they may be surprised to see that it is full of condemnations of the sitting president.

“The survival of the internet as we know it is at risk,” the platform reads. “Its gravest peril originates in the White House, the current occupant of which has launched a campaign, both at home and internationally, to subjugate it to agents of government.”

The warning about speech online is one of more than three dozen unflattering references to either the “current president,” “current chief executive,” “current administration,” people “currently in control” of policy, or the “current occupant” of the White House that appear in the Republican platform. Adopted at the party’s 2016 convention, it has been carried over through 2024 after the executive committee of the Republican National Committee on Wednesday chose not to adopt a new platform for 2020.

Read the rest here.

This is what happens when someone sends a cover letter and forgets to change the name of the institution to which they are applying. Faculty also do this sometimes when they write letters of recommendation.