Garrison Keillor: “How is being struck by a hurricane so different from being hit by cancer?”

Garrison_Keillor_6190507095

In his weekly column, Garrison Keillor wonders what happens when conservatives who don’t like big government need the help of big government.  It’s an entertaining critique of Texas conservatives.

Here is a taste:

I’m all in favor of pouring money into Texas but I am a bleeding-heart liberal who favors single-payer health care. How is being struck by a hurricane so different from being hit by cancer? I’m only asking.

Houstonians chose to settle on a swampy flood plain barely 50 feet above sea level. The risks of doing so are fairly clear. If you chose to live in a tree and the branch your hammock was attached to fell down, you wouldn’t ask for a government subsidy to hang your hammock in a different tree.

Ronald Reagan said that government isn’t the answer, it is the problem, and conservatives have found that line very resonant over the years. In Sen. Cruz’s run for president last year, he called for abolition of the IRS. He did not mention this last week. It would be hard to raise an extra $150 billion without the progressive income tax unless you could persuade Mexico to foot the bill…

I was brought up by fundamentalists who believed it was dead wrong to get tangled up in politics. They never voted. Our preachers had no time for that. They knew that we were pilgrims and wayfarers in this world, and we shouldn’t expect favors from the powerful. We were redeemed by unfathomable grace and preserved by God’s mercy and our citizenship was in heaven. We looked to the Lord to supply our needs.

This has changed and godly Republicans now believe in the power of the government to change the world in their favor, of the Department of Education to channel public money freely to religious schools, of the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade and prohibit Joshua from marrying Jehoshaphat.

Conservatives blanch at spending additional billions to subsidize health care for the needy, but a truckload of cash for Texas? No problem…

Read the entire piece here.

Court Evangelical Says Trump’s “Two Corinthians Gaffe Was a Set Up”

Paula White is back and she has a story about what “really” happened with Trump and “Two Corinthians.”  Apparently it was a double-agent “preacher” secretly working for Ted Cruz who, according to White, was “being used by bad spirits.”  It was this preacher who told Trump to say Two Corinthians in his speech at Liberty University.

You can’t make this stuff up.

 

“The Coalition That Made American Independence Possible”

Brothers in ArmsEducation and Culture: A Critical Review is running my review of Larrie Ferreiro’s Brothers in Arms: American Independence and the Men of France and Spain Who Saved It.

Education and Culture is John Wilson’s new venture.  For over two decades Wilson edited Books and Culture.

Here is a taste of my review:

The recent decision by President Donald Trump to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement was the impetus for an interesting Twitter exchange between Joyce Chaplin, the James Duncan Phillips Chair of Early American History at Harvard University, and Ted Cruz, the junior US Senator from Texas. Chaplin was not happy about Trump’s decision to pull the country out of the Paris Agreement and used the 140 characters allotted to her on Twitter to express her dissatisfaction. On June 1, 2017, she wrote, “The USA, created by int’l community in Treaty of Paris in 1783, betrays int’l community by withdrawing from #parisclimateagreement today.” Cruz, appalled by the suggestion that the “international community” created the United States, fired back: “Just sad. Tenured chair at Harvard, doesn’t seem to know how USA was created. Not a treaty. Declaration+Revolutionary War+Constitution=USA.” Later in the day, the Texas Senator continued on the offensive: “Lefty academics @ my alma mater think USA was “created by int’s community. No—USA created by force, the blood of patriots & We the People.” As might be expected, most academic historians rushed to defend Chaplin, while conservative websites viewed the exchange as another battle in their war against so-called liberal élites.

We should not make too much of this short Twitter exchange. Both Chaplin and Cruz used the social media platform to marshal historical evidence in support of their own political preferences. But the Chaplin-Cruz dust-up, and the reaction to it, does tell us a lot about how Americans understand and misunderstand, use and abuse, the past. Chaplin’s attempt to connect the Treaty of Paris to the Paris Climate Agreement was a stretch. On the other hand, her insistence that the United States was not forged in a vacuum is a point worth making. Cruz’s tweets reflect an older version of the American Revolution that serves the cause of American exceptionalism. Scholars sometimes describe this historiography of exceptionalism as “Whig history.” Cruz’s understanding of the nation’s founding—one that celebrates the “blood of the patriots” and “We the People”—ignores the fact that the colonies were part of a larger transatlantic world that influenced the course and success of their Revolution. Cruz’s brand of Whig history offers a usable past perfectly suited for today’s “America First” foreign policy and the Trump administration’s skepticism regarding globalization. It is also wrong.

Read the entire review here.

Richard Bernstein Weighs-In on the Chaplin-Cruz Dust-Up

BernsteinLast night while scanning Facebook I ran across Richard Bernstein’s take on this whole Joyce Chaplin-Ted Cruz debate. He was gracious enough to let me share it here.

Bernstein is a historian who teaches law at New York Law School.  He is the author of several books, including The Founding Fathers: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2015); The Founding Fathers Reconsidered (Oxford, 2009); and Thomas Jefferson (Oxford, 2003).

Not familiar yet with the Chaplin-Cruz dust-up?  Get up to speed here and here.

There is a dust-up on Twitter between Harvard’s Joyce Chaplin and Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) about the consequences of President 45’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement. Prof. Chaplin argued that the US was created by the international community as a result of the Treaty of Paris of 1783, and Cruz fired back an angry and bitter retort insisting that the United States was entirely self-created by the following equation: “Declaration+Revolutionary War+Constitution=USA.”

Well, Prof. Chaplin is a bit off, but Senator Cruz is way off. Here’s one historian’s take on the matter, rooted in various books that I’ve written and in the research supporting them:

The United States was self-created on either 2 July (the adoption of the independence resolution) or 4 July (the adoption and promulgation of the Declaration of Independence) 1776. Its first form of government (omitted by Cruz from his equation) was the Articles of Confederation, framed in 1777 and ratified in 1781. Of the three resolutions introduced by Richard Henry Lee (VA) in the Second Continental Congress in June 1776, one pertained to declaring independence; a second pertained to framing articles of confederation; and a third pertained to securing foreign alliances, showing the importance that the founding guys placed on the international dimension of the struggle.

* The treaty between the US and France in 1778 was the first by which a foreign power recognized the United States; other treaties with other nations confirmed American independence in the eyes of those nations making the treaties.

* The Treaty of Paris of 1783 is the instrument by which Britain officially recognized American independence, though one could argue that, by entering into full negotiations with American diplomats, Britain recognized American independence earlier than 1783. The step of opening negotiations was the first step in a process culminating in the treaty, and thus in full recognition.

The creation of the United States is a process with domestic and international dimensions, as set forth above. It ended with the adoption of the U.S. Constitution in 1788 and its effectuation on 4 March 1789. On receiving news of the Constitution’s ratification, Benjamin Rush (a signer of the Declaration) said, “‘Tis done. We have become a nation.” One could argue that the United States first took shape as a confederation of states in 1776 and then reformulated itself into a federal republic, an independent nation, by 1789. Note, however, that the Constitution does not include the word “nation” — in fact, during the Convention, the delegates were so leery of that word that they specifically excised it from the document.

Apparently, Ted Cruz is an idiot. He seems not to realize that a formal treaty between Britain and the United States, under which Britain recognized American independence and nationhood, was an essential part of the creation of the United States. John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay did not make that mistake, nor did they miss the importance of the treaty they were appointed by Congress to negotiate. It is sad that a graduate with honors of the Harvard Law School is so stupid as to miss that essential point about the origins of the United States. Cruz insists on the Battle of Yorktown (1781), but he misses that the treaty negotiations were the direct consequence of the UH-French victory over Britain at Yorktown.

Indeed, regarding the use of the word “nation,” Abraham Lincoln was the critical figure in establishing the legitimacy and importance of defining the United States as a nation. His predecessor in that argument, of course, was Alexander Hamilton, who in THE FEDERALIST No. 85 wrote, “A nation without a national government is to my mind an awful spectacle.”

In sum, the creation of the United States as an independent nation was a long, arduous process, one with both domestic (national) and international elements – one that can’t be contained in a tweet.

Chaplin vs. Cruz: Part 2

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As far as I can tell, this is the first thing I have read from Joyce Chaplin since Ted Cruz attacked her on Twitter.  As I have now said a couple of times, I hope she will write something to put this all to bed.  On the other hand, I would fully understand if Chaplin does not want to open herself up to more attacks.

Here is a taste of Joanna Walter’s Guardian piece:

Fighting broke out in Britain’s American colonies on 18 April 1775, at Concord, Massachusetts. On 4 July 1776, Congress issued the Declaration of Independence. British forces did not surrender until 1781, after the battle of Yorktown, in Virginia.

In 1783, representatives of King George III met in Paris with Americans including founding fathers Benjamin Franklin and John Adams. Representatives of France and Spain also signed the United States of America into formal, internationally-recognised existence.

Chaplin said: “The Declaration of Independence was necessary but not sufficient. The American patriots knew that they needed international assistance to win the war. Even before [4 July] 1776, they sent a diplomatic envoy to Paris – foreign aid and recognition were top priorities.”

She declined to comment on the tone of Cruz’s criticism and his more personal points, saying: “Personal attacks cannot alter the historical record.”

On the history, she added: “Before they recognised the US, the French referred to the Americans as “insurgents” … not citizens of a separate nation … the full spate of recognitions only came after the treaty. Those who recognised the US before were demonstrating antagonism to Great Britain.”

The 1783 Paris treaty formalised the boundaries of the US: north of Florida to the Great Lakes and east of the Mississippi.

“The treaty … in terms of law created the US as one nation among others,” Chaplin said. “By relinquishing claims to the US, Britain also gave force of law to its territorial boundaries, which had not been clear before, from anyone’s perspective …There is scholarly consensus on this.”

She called 4 July 1776 “a first step” on the road to national independence.

Asked if the US now owes it to the rest of the world to stick with the Paris climate deal, Chaplin said that accord was the culmination of centuries of quid pro quo.

“If we turn our backs on the rest of the world now,” she said, “when climate change requires all hands on deck, we are denying centuries of cooperation in a community of nations.”

As linked above, I wrote about this here.

A few more thoughts:

  1. The conservative backlash is very revealing.  Most of it comes from political pundits who, like Cruz, see this as another chance to pounce on so-called liberal Harvard professors.
  2. Cruz and the conservatives, as I wrote in my original post, are incapable of seeing the nuance on this issue because they cannot see Chaplin’s remarks as anything other than politically motivated.  (And yes, Chaplin opened herself up to this critique by making the connection between Paris 1783 and Paris 2017. This is a stretch. It is not as sensitive to change over time as it should be). This is why we need more historical thinking in our schools and in our society.
  3. In reality, the creation of the United States was a very complex process that included the Declaration of Independence, the Revolutionary War, the years under the Articles of Confederation, the Treaty of Paris (international recognition WAS essential), and the Constitution.  When this complex history is subordinated to contemporary politics, any attempt to understand the past in all its fullness stalls.
  4.  Twitter is no place to deal with these complex issues.
  5. Anyone who wants to really explore these issues should begin here:  David Armitage, The Declaration of Independence: A Global History; Eliga H. Gould, Among the Powers of the Earth: The American Revolution and the Making of a New World Empire; Larrie Ferreiro, Brothers at Arms: American Independence and the Men of France and Spain Who Saved It.  This is a start.  Feel free to add new works in the comments or via Facebook and Twitter.  Let’s turn this unfortunate incident into an opportunity for learning more about the American Revolution.
  6. Some of the conservative stuff written in defense of Cruz is simply hogwash. This was especially the case with Jay Cost’s piece at The Weekly Standard.  I like John Haas’s take on Cost at his Facebook page.  Here is a taste:

Jay Cost–who knows a thing or two about US history, btw–has weighed into the Twitter kerfuffle that’s erupted between Senator Ted Cruz (a Harvard grad) and Joyce Chaplin (a Harvard historian)…

They both have some of the truth here. If Cruz is insisting that the war was necessary to get Britain to the table, that’s obviously true–but it’s also nothing Chaplin denied. Cruz and his followers are assuming that if Chaplin didn’t mention it, she must be denying its importance. That’s silly. (If Cruz is going further, as many of his followers seem to be going, and is saying our “total victory” over GB allowed us to just dictate terms to them, well, no. There’s such a thing as “total war” I suppose (it’s meaning isn’t entirely clear, but people say it); there is “unconditional surrender”; but I don’t know what “total victory” is.

Chaplin is also correct that without international recognition, you’re not a nation yet. That’s why the Confederate States of America was so eager to gain recognition. Just ask the Basques about that.

As for Cost: This isn’t his finest hour. He makes six points:

1) The Treaty of Paris was bilateral, US and GB, not multilateral. Sure. But now every nation with relations with Great Britain knew the US was now no longer its colonial possession, and was free to treat us as sovereign without incurring the wrath of Great Britain. Point to Chaplin.

2) “The Treaty was a recognition of the facts on the ground, which were that, after their defeat at Yorktown, the British had no chance of reclaiming their American colonies.” A very weak point from Cost. Better to say Britain had no interest in reclaiming the colonies, not “no chance.” As with the US and Vietnam, if GB had really determined to fight that war all out, who knows what might have happened. They were nowhere close to “defeated.” They just lost interest.

3) He says there was no international community. Well, no UN, but sure, there was a community of nations that generally respected each others’ nationhood, accepted their delegations, made treaties with each other, etc.

4) “Insofar as the international community did exist, it was on the side of the United States.” Irrelevant.

5) Also irrelevant.

6) “Chaplin’s logic leads to ridiculous propositions. Did the ‘international community’ sanction the Glorious Revolution of 1688? Of course not. But, per Chaplin’s logic, Queen Elizabeth II is not the legitimate monarch of Great Britain . . .” This is just dumb. The international community did sanction 1688 by treating William & Mary as legitimate. But more important, it wasn’t really a “revolution,” much less a civil war; it was a major assertion of Parliamentarian authority and a change of monarch. Not at all comparable to our Revolution.

Cost calls Professor Chaplin “pathetic,” “ridiculous,” and “embarrassing.” He should probably apologize. But he won’t. It’s the #AgeOfTrump

Joyce Chaplin vs. Ted Cruz

Perhaps you have seen the Twitter battle taking place between Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Joyce Chaplin.   Cruz ran for POTUS In 20016.  Chaplin is an early American historian and chair of Harvard’s American Studies program

Chaplin’s claim that the United States was formed by an international community through the Treaty of Paris (1783) is true.  Having said that, to connect the Treaty of Paris with Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement seems to be a bit of a reach. I hope Chaplin will write a longer piece on this.  I am less interested in the connections between Paris 1783 and Paris 2017 and more interested in Chaplin’s understanding of the relationship between the past and the present on matters like this.

Cruz, of course, can’t stay away.  His tweets reveal his simplistic understanding of the American Revolution.  As Cruz proved during his presidential campaign, he is incapable of nuance, especially when history does not conform to his view of American exceptionalism.

I wonder what Cruz would say about me if he ever found out that I tell my students that the Americans would not have won the Revolutionary War without the help of France, Spain, and other European powers.

Here are the tweets:

Glenn Beck: “I guarantee you the [history] professors at college will have the wrong answer”

Do you want your kids to have a two-week internship in the “historic library of [Glenn Beck’s ) Mercury One?”  You can participate in this internship program with Beck’s studio historian David Barton for $375.

If you want to be part of this Beck-Barton attempt to promote Christian America you can expect to learn things like this:

Mercury One is opening up our library for a hands-on experience to research original historical documents from our incredible collection, providing specialized teaching and instruction, and the opportunity to gain a wealth of knowledge from our speakers and guest lecturers.

This unique, once in a lifetime experience is two weeks of nonstop projects, research, lectures, and outings for people who want to know more about America’s incredible history, learn about the people directly involved with the founding of our nation, and identify the philosophies and ideologies that shaped our laws and original documents.

We spend our mornings in a classroom-like setting and each afternoon we dig through online resources as well as our unique, original library. We will delve into topics such as:

  • A Biblical Worldview
  • The Truth in History
  • America’s Godly Heritage
  • Early Education in America
  • How the Bible Influenced America
  • American Exceptionalism
  • God and the Constitution
  • Reclaiming the Land

We will research our Founding Fathers, discovering their accomplishments, families, and faith, giving individual presentations at the end of each week.This is a specialized training for 18-25 year old. Apply now for this limited space opportunity. The cost is $375.

All interns are required to provide their own transportation, food and lodging in the Dallas area.

Let me take a guess about how the topics listed above will be taught:

A Biblical World View:  This means that Barton will teach you that the founding fathers upheld a view of the world just happens to be identical to the “world view” of the Christian Right wing of the Republican Party.

The Truth in History:  I am guessing that this means you will be learning some form of providential history.

America’s Godly HeritageYou will learn that all or most of the founding fathers were Christians and that they were trying to build a Christian nation.

Early Education in America:  You will learn that all of the founding fathers were graduates of theological seminaries and Bible colleges.

How the Bible Influenced America:  You will learn that the separation of powers actually comes from the Old Testament and that preachers used the Bible to serve their own political ends.  You may even learn that the use of the Bible to serve political ends is a good thing.

American Exceptionalism: You will learn that America is a “city on a hill.”  It is exceptional because it is the new Israel–God’s chosen people.

God and the Constitution:  Not sure how this one will be taught since God is not mentioned anywhere in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.

Reclaiming the Land:  You will learn about Seven Mountain Dominionism and the need to restore America to its supposedly Christian roots.  In other words, you will learn the same lessons that Ted Cruz learned from David Barton.

Want to learn more about David Barton?  Click here.

For a more nuanced view of all of these issues click here.

 

“The Theology of Ted Cruz” Wins Award From The Evangelical Press Association

Cruz

I just got some exciting news.

Some of you may remember my April 2016 piece at Christianity Today:  “The Theology of Ted Cruz.” Today the Evangelical Press Association released its “Higher Goal Awards” for the best evangelical writing of 2016 and this piece won first prize in the “Article Series” category.

Just to be clear, it was actually Christianity Today that won the award for its 3-part “The Theology of Political Candidates” series.  My piece on Cruz was honored alongside essays on the religious beliefs of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders by (respectively) Michael Horton and Yehiel Poupko.

See all the winners here.

Is Steve King Really on the Fringes of the GOP?

Was right-leaning political commentator Margaret Hoover correct earlier this evening on CNN when she described Steve King as part of the Republican Party’s lunatic fringe?

In case you have not heard, King, a congressman from Iowa,  has been making some rather racist comments of late.  (Get up to speed here with our earlier post placing King’s comments in some historical perspective).

If King is part of the white nationalist wing of the GOP, then Ted Cruz might be right there with him.  Let’s remember that King was influential in helping the Texas Senator and GOP presidential candidate win the Iowa primary last January.  In fact, Cruz made King the national co-chair for his campaign.

Here is Ted Cruz praising his good buddy:

I have yet to see a Cruz condemnation of King’s remarks.

When “Principled Constitutionalists” Put Politics Over the Constitution

Watch the first five minutes of this CNN interview with Texas Senator Ted Cruz:

Cruz is rejoicing today that Trump nominated a “principled Constitutionalist” to the Supreme Court.  He is not alone.  Conservatives all over the country are singing the praises of Neil Gorsuch.  As I argued last night, it seems Gorsuch is more than qualified to serve on the bench.  But what disgusts me is the hypocrisy of it all.  “Principled Constitutionalists” like Cruz DID NOT FOLLOW THE CONSTITUTION with the Merrick Garland pick.  In this interview Cruz said that he and his fellow GOP Senators thought it was best to keep open the seat vacated by the death of Antonin Scalia because it was an election year and “the people” should be able to decide who the next Supreme Court justice should be through their choice for POTUS.  That may sound like a reasonable request, but it has no Constitutional support.  The Constitution requires the POTUS to nominate a justice and the Senate to advise and consent.  In this case, the Senate did not fulfill its duty.  It did not follow the Constitution.  So please spare me the “principled Constitutionalist” language.

Ted Cruz is a product of the Christian Right’s rise in the 1980s.  He has no political career without the culture wars.  He touts his credentials as a strict constitutionalist but he is really just another politician who will depart from his constitutional principles at the drop of a hat if he can gain political points.

I would love to hear what Gorsuch thinks about the Senate’s failure to give Garland a hearing?  Heck, I wish I could hear what Scalia would have thought about it.

Revisiting Ted Cruz’s Dominionism

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Ted Cruz speaks with moderator Eric Metaxas at the National Religious Broadcasters Annual Convention at Oryland in Nashville

Ted Cruz, left, speaks with moderator Eric Metaxas at the National Religious Broadcasters Annual Convention at Oryland in Nashville, Tennessee, on February 26, 2016. 

Earlier this year I wrote a few things that connected Ted Cruz to the Christian political philosophy known as dominionism.  In a piece I wrote for Religion News Service which was published in The Washington Post, I suggested the Cruz’s campaign for POTUS was “fueled by a dominionist vision for America.”  A few months later I wrote a piece for Christianity Today titled “The Theology of Ted Cruz.”  If my e-mail box is any indication, a lot of Cruz supporters were not happy about these articles.

Cruz, of course, did not get the GOP nomination and I moved on to other things.  But this conversation about Cruz’s ties to dominionism will no doubt resurface if he becomes the GOP candidate for POTUS in 2020 or 2024.  If Cruz does run again, Frederick Clarkson, a senior fellow at Political Research Associates and an observer of the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) dominionism that often informs the rhetoric and policy of the Christian Right, will be ready.

In a very thorough and extensively researched report titled “Dominionism Rising: A Theocratic Movement Hiding in Plain Sight” Clarkson offers an introduction to the dominionist movement and how it is shaping GOP politics.  Clarkson draws on some of my stuff on Cruz and on an excellent book by Florida State University professor Michael McVicar titled Christian Reconstruction: R.J. Rushdoony and American Religious Conservatism (University of North Carolina Press, 2015).  Readers of The Way of Improvement Leads Home will recall our Author’s Corner interview with McVicar.

Here is a taste of Clarkson’s piece:

All of this was pretty hot stuff and dominionism would no doubt have become more of an issue had Ted Cruz’s 2016 campaign lasted longer. But Cruz is 45 years old in 2016 and appears to have a bright—and perhaps historic—political future. He won statewide office on his first try and has benefited from being underestimated. Since arriving in the Senate in 2103, he has made a show of sticking to his principles, much to the chagrin of his colleagues. But following his presidential run, Cruz is now one of the best known politicians in the country and possible heir- apparent to the Reagan revolution. No small achievement for a freshman senator.

Meanwhile Cruz and other national pols comprise the tip of a very large, but hard to measure political iceberg. There are untold numbers of dominionist and dominionism-influenced politicians and public officials at all levels of government and who even after leaving office, shape our political discourse. Roy Moore, the elected Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, has been a rallying figure for dominionists of all stripes for the better part of two decades. Most recently, he has led efforts to exempt Alabama from federal court ordered compliance with marriage equality, citing his view of “God’s law.” Moore’s fellow Alabaman, Justice Tom Parker, has been on the court since 2004, and has employed theocratic legal theorist John Eidsmoe as his chief of staff.15 Others at the top of recent American political life have included Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee,16 and Newt Gingrich.17 Other prominent elected officials in the dominionist camp include Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R-TX),18 Gov. Sam Brownback (R-KS),19 Sen. James Lankford (R-OK),20 and Rep. Steve King (R-IA).21

Prominent politicians’ involvement in dominionism is certainly the most visible evidence of the movement’s advances over the past half-century, but it’s not the only result. Dominionism is a story not widely or well understood. Because this is so, it is important to know what dominionism is and where it came from, so we can see it more clearly and better understand its contemporary significance.

Read the entire thing here.

 

Will Ted Cruz Be Reaganesque Tonight?

Cruz and Trump debate

Ted Cruz has yet to endorse Donald Trump.  Some of you may remember that during the campaign Trump liked to call Cruz “Lying Ted” and mocked the appearance of Cruz’s wife Heidi. Cruz called Trump a “pathological liar” and a “narcissist at a level I don’t think this country has ever seen.”  Oh yes, Cruz also called Trump a “serial philanderer.”

When Gerald Ford ran for POTUS in 1976 he faced strong opposition in the primary season from then former California Governor Ronald Reagan. At the time of the GOP convention in Kansas City, Ford had a slight delegate lead over Reagan, but he did not have the 1130 delegates needed for the nomination.  Reagan, the favorite of the conservative wing of the GOP, came to the convention with 1070 delegates.  After a tough battle on the convention floor the Mississippi delegation switched its support from Reagan to Ford and secured the nomination for the sitting POTUS.  Ford would go on to lose the general election to Jimmy Carter.

After he realized he had lost the nomination, Reagan took to the microphone and called for party unity.  Here is what he said:

No historical analogy is perfect. Trump came to Cleveland this week with enough delegates to get the nomination.  Cruz has no chance.  But the Texas Senator will be speaking tonight.  It will be interesting to see what he says.  Will he endorse Trump and call the GOP and his delegates and supporters to rally around the pathological liar, narcissist and serial philanderer?

Remember what happened to Reagan.  In 1980 he ran again and was elected POTUS. Rumor has it that Cruz wants to run again in 2020.  Whatever he says tonight will leave an important legacy that GOP voters might remember in four years.

What If Cruz Makes a Third-Party Run?

US-VOTE-REPUBLICANS-DEBATE

Noah Millman of The Week is asking this question.  Here is a taste:

Moreover, if you were still trying to woo enough delegates to win outright, why would you announce your VP choice now? At the convention, that very choice could be the prize that nets you precious delegates from the Marco Rubio or Kasich corner, as well as their admirers among the uncommitted.

So what are you up to?

Well, if Trump is really unacceptable to true conservatives, then presumably true conservatives shouldn’t vote for him, even at the risk of electing Hillary Clinton. And if Trump is really an unprecedentedly dangerous person to elect president — because of his temperament, his blithe ignorance, or his manifest insincerity — then nobody should vote for him, regardless of their ideology.

And if either or both of those things are true, then neither should you. Or your supporters.

The Cruz campaign set out to redeem the Republican Party from its pusillanimous pessimists and appeasers, the very people who are now prepared to pussyfoot with Trump in the hopes of achieving some semblance of party unity. But what if they can’t achieve unity that way at all — because if they try, you’ll free Cruz-Fiorina 2016 from the party?

Read his entire article here.

Some of you may have seen the comments Cruz levied against Trump earlier today. It is clear that he hates Trump.  He called him “amoral,” a “narcissist,” a “pathological liar.” And that was the mild stuff.  Cruz will also not say he will support Trump if he is the GOP nominee.

Is it possible that Cruz sees Trump as a greater evil than Hillary Clinton?  If he does, is it out of the question that he and Fiorina will make a third-party run that would ultimately hand Hillary the presidency?

If Cruz’s loses tonight in Indiana I am not sure he will exit quietly.

David Barton at Liberty University

 

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David Barton

Russ Allen did his undergraduate degree in history at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and just completed his M.A. in history from Liberty University where he wrote an excellent thesis on Jonathan Edwards and children.  Yesterday Russ found his way into a David Barton conversation with Liberty University government students and agreed to write something about the experience for The Way of Improvement Leads HomeEnjoy.  –JF

On Thursday afternoon David Barton came to speak at an event at Liberty University. Barton is an acclaimed (and criticized) evangelical author and political activist. He is also the director of Ted Cruz’s “Keep the Promise” super-PAC.

This is not the first time that Barton has spoken at Liberty University. Barton spoke during two convocations in years past and has been a regular guest at the Helms School of Government. The event held on Thursday was sponsored by “Christians 4 Freedom,” a student organization that seeks to “inform and educate Christians on the Bill of Rights.”

The first time that I heard Barton’s name was in a graduate-level history classroom at Liberty University. In that setting Barton was almost unanimously viewed as a model of someone engaging in historical fallacy. His works are discussed only in light of their faults and supplemented with strong scholarly criticism.

Barton’s appearance on Thursday went largely under the radar, at least from my perspective as a student in the Liberty History Department. The History Department did not promote or advertise his talk.  Frankly, I am not sure if they even knew about it. I was invited by a friend via Facebook on the day of the event. I was under the impression that Barton would be speaking to a large group about government and religion, but when I arrived  at the event I found myself sitting right next to Mr. Barton at a conference table with about 25 people in attendance.

Barton was in friendly territory. Most students, a majority from the Helms School, support his ideas. Barton is a very likable guy. I had a personal conversation with him and he offered me well-wishes for my future. As for the discussion, it focused mainly on two key areas:

FirstBarton traced the beginning of his work in history and politics to a research inquiry that he was asked to investigate many years ago. In a quest to discover the cause of the steep decline in SAT scores among American high school students, Barton concluded that this decline began the same year that prayer was removed from public schools. Convinced that this was not a coincidence, Barton began to publicly argue that moral and social decay in America was caused by the removal of “Christian values” from the public sphere.

While I have numerous concerns about Barton’s argument on this front, several are worthy of mention. Anyone who takes an entry-level statistics class knows that “correlation ≠ causation.” While it remains uncertain how Barton concluded that the removal of school prayer directly affected SAT scores, one can only assume that it stems from his preconceived view of America as a Christian nation. He believes that when God is not honored by the country, “bad things happen.”  Along these lines, Barton also suggested that the legalization of abortion is causing global warming.

SecondBarton spoke strongly in support of Ted Cruz’s decision to appoint Carly Fiorina as his running mate and  suggested that her role  in a Cruz presidency will be much more significant than the Vice President’s role in years past. If elected, the Cruz campaign plans to reinstate the VP’s reign over the Senate in the hopes of nullifying the influence of the president pro tempore, who commonly acts in the VP’s absence. This is another interesting development given the history of Cruz’s clashes with the GOP establishment.

Barton also expressed frustration over liberal media outlets that are refusing to report “dirt” on Donald Trump until after the GOP convention in Cleveland. Barton claims that members in the media already possess damning information regarding Trump but want to withhold the material until the general election in order to “sink him” in favor of Hillary. Barton believes that if this information were rightly exposed now, Cruz would easily win the GOP nomination.

After the formal discussion, I had the opportunity to ask Barton if he or Ted Cruz was a Dominionist.  Barton seemed annoyed at the question, insisting that in no way could he (Barton) be linked to Dominionism because he holds a pre-millennial eschatology that affirms that Jesus will come back to gather true believers before a one-thousand year reign of peace. He claims that Dominionism stems from a post-millennial view in which Christians need to reclaim the earth in order to usher in Christ’s second coming.

Barton did, however, confirm his belief in the “Seven Mountains” approach to culture.  He believes that Christians need to influence every aspect of society. His denial of Dominionism, but his embrace of the “Seven Mountains” approach, is a bit confusing, as it seems the word “mountains” implies “dominion.” Barton also insists that Cruz’s silence on the the Seven Mountains approach is a political tactic.

Barton thinks that the use of the word Dominionism to describe Cruz is just a way for liberals to attach an unfavorable label to the Texas Senator. Calling Cruz a Dominionist is the same as skeptics calling Jesus a “glutton and a drunkard (Matt.11:19).” Rather than address the claim that he is a Dominionist, Barton advises Cruz instead to talk openly about liberty and freedom in order to squelch accusations that he is a theocrat.

David Barton’s support at Liberty University should not be surprising. Many of the students and faculty share his concern for the growing immorality that surrounds them. I certainly sympathize with this view. This mutual concern makes Barton’s historical claims understandably enticing for those who are only “casually” involved in the study of history.

However, it seems that there is also a growing number of Barton opponents on campus. They disagree with him not as much for his faulty views of  history, but for his theology. Barton’s belief that the United States is “Christian nation” or that God will judge the country for its sins, is a regurgitated version of the Puritan belief that America is a “City on a Hill.”  Barton’s conviction that God can bestow blessing and wrath on a nation is a deterrent for many young evangelicals who see a problem with comparing the United States to the biblical nation of Israel.

It is unclear how much impact Barton and Cruz have among young conservative evangelicals.  Liberty University’s voting precinct voted 44% in favor of Marco Rubio. Cruz garnered 33% of the vote.  Russell Moore’s placement of Cruz in the “Jerry Falwell wing” of the GOP evidently did not apply to the students at Falwell’s school. With politics, history, and theology woven together so tightly in the Barton/Cruz campaign, it remains to be seen which thread will be strongest among young Christian voters.

Why Trump’s Rise Does Not Spell the End for the Christian Right

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Trump and rival candidate Cruz cross paths during a break at the Fox Business Network Republican presidential candidates debate in North Charleston

Here is a taste of my latest column at Religion News Service:

(RNS) There is a lot of evidence to suggest that the rise of Donald Trump represents the decline of the Christian right in American politics.  

In a recent article at The Atlantic, political commentator David Frum suggests Trump has all but captured the GOP nomination by driving social conservatives from power in the party.

In this line of thinking, Ted Cruz is the candidate of the Christian right. Indeed, he has the support of culture warriors such as James Dobson, Tony Perkins and Glenn Beck. Trump is the candidate of “New York values” who has just happened to attract a few evangelical leaders (Jerry Falwell Jr., Robert Jeffress, Pat Robertson, for example).  

But what Frum and others miss in this analysis is the fact that many evangelical conservative voters who affiliate with the agenda of the Christian right believe they can support Trump without sacrificing any of their moral convictions about abortion, marriage and religious liberty — the primary Christian right talking points in 2016.

The beliefs of the conservative evangelicals who support Cruz, and the conservative evangelicals who support Trump, are really two sides of the same coin — two ways of understanding evangelical politics that differ only in minor points of emphasis. The Christian right is far from dead; it is just having a bit of an intramural squabble.

Read the rest here.

Randall Balmer Has My Back on Ted Cruz’s Dominionism

Cruz founders

For some folks who read The Way of Improvement Leads Home the sentiment expressed in the title of this post is a good thing.  For others it might be a bad thing.  Whatever the case, I want to thank Dartmouth’s Randall Balmer for referencing some of my stuff on Ted Cruz in his recent piece at Religion & Politics.

Here is a taste of Balmer’s “The Paradoxes of Ted Cruz“:

The paradox that most intrigues me, however, is Cruz’s ties to evangelicalism. At one level, judging by evangelical politics over the past several decades, that claim is unexceptional. As John Fea, of Messiah College, has written for Religion News Service, one of Cruz’s biggest supporters is the faux historian David Barton, who has fashioned an entire career out of arguing, against overwhelming historical evidence to the contrary, that the United States was founded as a Christian nation. Although Barton and his arguments have been widely discredited—he apparently fabricated quotes to buttress his specious claims, so many that Thomas Nelson Publishers recalled one of his books—Cruz has not renounced Barton’s support. The payoff, according to Fea, is that, having asserted America’s Christian origins, Cruz can more credibly spin his campaign yarn about America’s declension from the piety of the founders, a decline that reaches its predictable nadir in Barack Obama’s presidency.

It doesn’t take much imagination to script the altar call for this declension narrative: Return the United States to its “Christian origins” and restore American righteousness by electing Ted Cruz president.

The corollary, and once again one not unfamiliar to those who have tracked the Religious Right over the past several decades, is the doctrine of “Dominionism” or “Christian Reconstructionism.” This ideology, examined nicely in Julie Ingersoll’s recent book, Building God’s Kingdom: Inside the World of Christian Reconstruction, traces its lineage to the 1970s writings of Rousas John Rushdoony and aspires to replace American legal codes with biblical law. At the outer fringes of this movement, seldom articulated publicly, is the conviction that capital punishment should be administered for such biblically mandated “crimes” as blasphemy, heresy, witchcraft, astrology, premarital sex, and incorrigible juvenile delinquency.

Cruz himself, of course, is politically savvy enough not to be caught articulating such specifics, but there can be little doubt that he falls within the general ambit of Reconstructionism. When he inveighs against the media or complains about the abrogation of religious freedoms, for instance, the underlying conviction is that the media are controlled by diabolical forces and that people of faith are being forced by an evil government to accommodate sinners—by providing business services to gays, for instance, or, in the case of Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk, issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.