You might remember Perry Stone as the preacher who checks his smart phone while speaking in tongues. In the video below, he reminds us again that the debate over the impeachment of Donald Trump, at least according to his most ardent evangelical supporters, is a spiritual battle. More mainstream conservative evangelical Trump supporters like Robert Jeffress or Franklin Graham do not talk with the charismatic fervor of a Perry Stone or Paula White, but they believe the same thing about impeachment.
Over the past couple of weeks several reporters have asked me if I think impeachment will draw conservative evangelicals away from Donald Trump. At this point, I can’t imagine such a thing happening. As I recently told The Huffington Post, impeachment will only rally parts of the evangelical base.
Here, for example, is court evangelical Robert Jeffress:
The Dems relentless crusade to impeach President @realDonaldTrump is really an attempt to “impeach” the traditional faith values of millions of Americans. I’ll discuss with @LouDobbs tonight at 7 and 10pm ET on @FoxBusiness.
— Dr. Robert Jeffress (@robertjeffress) November 1, 2019
No Bob Jefffress–the attempt to impeach Trump has nothing to do with the “traditional faith values of millions of Americans.”
Jeffress and other court evangelicals are incapable of believing Trump did anything wrong. Sure, they will admit he is a sinner. But God uses sinners to fulfill his purpose. Trump is God’s anointed. He was elected to restore America to its Christian roots and, like King Cyrus of old, lead evangelicals out of the captivity of the Obama era. How could the attempt to impeach him be any thing other than a demonic attempt to thwart God’s plan for America?
To the People of the State of New York:
THE remaining powers which the plan of the convention allots to the Senate, in a distinct capacity, are comprised in their participation with the executive in the appointment to offices, and in their judicial character as a court for the trial of impeachments. As in the business of appointments the executive will be the principal agent, the provisions relating to it will most properly be discussed in the examination of that department. We will, therefore, conclude this head with a view of the judicial character of the Senate.
A well-constituted court for the trial of impeachments is an object not more to be desired than difficult to be obtained in a government wholly elective. The subjects of its jurisdiction are those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself. The prosecution of them, for this reason, will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community, and to divide it into parties more or less friendly or inimical to the accused. In many cases it will connect itself with the pre-existing factions, and will enlist all their animosities, partialities, influence, and interest on one side or on the other; and in such cases there will always be the greatest danger that the decision will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties, than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.
The delicacy and magnitude of a trust which so deeply concerns the political reputation and existence of every man engaged in the administration of public affairs, speak for themselves. The difficulty of placing it rightly, in a government resting entirely on the basis of periodical elections, will as readily be perceived, when it is considered that the most conspicuous characters in it will, from that circumstance, be too often the leaders or the tools of the most cunning or the most numerous faction, and on this account, can hardly be expected to possess the requisite neutrality towards those whose conduct may be the subject of scrutiny.
The convention, it appears, thought the Senate the most fit depositary of this important trust. Those who can best discern the intrinsic difficulty of the thing, will be least hasty in condemning that opinion, and will be most inclined to allow due weight to the arguments which may be supposed to have produced it.
What, it may be asked, is the true spirit of the institution itself? Is it not designed as a method of NATIONAL INQUEST into the conduct of public men? If this be the design of it, who can so properly be the inquisitors for the nation as the representatives of the nation themselves? It is not disputed that the power of originating the inquiry, or, in other words, of preferring the impeachment, ought to be lodged in the hands of one branch of the legislative body. Will not the reasons which indicate the propriety of this arrangement strongly plead for an admission of the other branch of that body to a share of the inquiry? The model from which the idea of this institution has been borrowed, pointed out that course to the convention. In Great Britain it is the province of the House of Commons to prefer the impeachment, and of the House of Lords to decide upon it. Several of the State constitutions have followed the example. As well the latter, as the former, seem to have regarded the practice of impeachments as a bridle in the hands of the legislative body upon the executive servants of the government. Is not this the true light in which it ought to be regarded?
Where else than in the Senate could have been found a tribunal sufficiently dignified, or sufficiently independent? What other body would be likely to feel CONFIDENCE ENOUGH IN ITS OWN SITUATION, to preserve, unawed and uninfluenced, the necessary impartiality between an INDIVIDUAL accused, and the REPRESENTATIVES OF THE PEOPLE, HIS ACCUSERS?
Could the Supreme Court have been relied upon as answering this description? It is much to be doubted, whether the members of that tribunal would at all times be endowed with so eminent a portion of fortitude, as would be called for in the execution of so difficult a task; and it is still more to be doubted, whether they would possess the degree of credit and authority, which might, on certain occasions, be indispensable towards reconciling the people to a decision that should happen to clash with an accusation brought by their immediate representatives. A deficiency in the first, would be fatal to the accused; in the last, dangerous to the public tranquillity. The hazard in both these respects, could only be avoided, if at all, by rendering that tribunal more numerous than would consist with a reasonable attention to economy. The necessity of a numerous court for the trial of impeachments, is equally dictated by the nature of the proceeding. This can never be tied down by such strict rules, either in the delineation of the offense by the prosecutors, or in the construction of it by the judges, as in common cases serve to limit the discretion of courts in favor of personal security. There will be no jury to stand between the judges who are to pronounce the sentence of the law, and the party who is to receive or suffer it. The awful discretion which a court of impeachments must necessarily have, to doom to honor or to infamy the most confidential and the most distinguished characters of the community, forbids the commitment of the trust to a small number of persons.
These considerations seem alone sufficient to authorize a conclusion, that the Supreme Court would have been an improper substitute for the Senate, as a court of impeachments. There remains a further consideration, which will not a little strengthen this conclusion. It is this: The punishment which may be the consequence of conviction upon impeachment, is not to terminate the chastisement of the offender. After having been sentenced to a prepetual ostracism from the esteem and confidence, and honors and emoluments of his country, he will still be liable to prosecution and punishment in the ordinary course of law. Would it be proper that the persons who had disposed of his fame, and his most valuable rights as a citizen in one trial, should, in another trial, for the same offense, be also the disposers of his life and his fortune? Would there not be the greatest reason to apprehend, that error, in the first sentence, would be the parent of error in the second sentence? That the strong bias of one decision would be apt to overrule the influence of any new lights which might be brought to vary the complexion of another decision? Those who know anything of human nature, will not hesitate to answer these questions in the affirmative; and will be at no loss to perceive, that by making the same persons judges in both cases, those who might happen to be the objects of prosecution would, in a great measure, be deprived of the double security intended them by a double trial. The loss of life and estate would often be virtually included in a sentence which, in its terms, imported nothing more than dismission from a present, and disqualification for a future, office. It may be said, that the intervention of a jury, in the second instance, would obviate the danger. But juries are frequently influenced by the opinions of judges. They are sometimes induced to find special verdicts, which refer the main question to the decision of the court. Who would be willing to stake his life and his estate upon the verdict of a jury acting under the auspices of judges who had predetermined his guilt?
Would it have been an improvement of the plan, to have united the Supreme Court with the Senate, in the formation of the court of impeachments? This union would certainly have been attended with several advantages; but would they not have been overbalanced by the signal disadvantage, already stated, arising from the agency of the same judges in the double prosecution to which the offender would be liable? To a certain extent, the benefits of that union will be obtained from making the chief justice of the Supreme Court the president of the court of impeachments, as is proposed to be done in the plan of the convention; while the inconveniences of an entire incorporation of the former into the latter will be substantially avoided. This was perhaps the prudent mean. I forbear to remark upon the additional pretext for clamor against the judiciary, which so considerable an augmentation of its authority would have afforded.
Would it have been desirable to have composed the court for the trial of impeachments, of persons wholly distinct from the other departments of the government? There are weighty arguments, as well against, as in favor of, such a plan. To some minds it will not appear a trivial objection, that it could tend to increase the complexity of the political machine, and to add a new spring to the government, the utility of which would at best be questionable. But an objection which will not be thought by any unworthy of attention, is this: a court formed upon such a plan, would either be attended with a heavy expense, or might in practice be subject to a variety of casualties and inconveniences. It must either consist of permanent officers, stationary at the seat of government, and of course entitled to fixed and regular stipends, or of certain officers of the State governments to be called upon whenever an impeachment was actually depending. It will not be easy to imagine any third mode materially different, which could rationally be proposed. As the court, for reasons already given, ought to be numerous, the first scheme will be reprobated by every man who can compare the extent of the public wants with the means of supplying them. The second will be espoused with caution by those who will seriously consider the difficulty of collecting men dispersed over the whole Union; the injury to the innocent, from the procrastinated determination of the charges which might be brought against them; the advantage to the guilty, from the opportunities which delay would afford to intrigue and corruption; and in some cases the detriment to the State, from the prolonged inaction of men whose firm and faithful execution of their duty might have exposed them to the persecution of an intemperate or designing majority in the House of Representatives. Though this latter supposition may seem harsh, and might not be likely often to be verified, yet it ought not to be forgotten that the demon of faction will, at certain seasons, extend his sceptre over all numerous bodies of men.
But though one or the other of the substitutes which have been examined, or some other that might be devised, should be thought preferable to the plan in this respect, reported by the convention, it will not follow that the Constitution ought for this reason to be rejected. If mankind were to resolve to agree in no institution of government, until every part of it had been adjusted to the most exact standard of perfection, society would soon become a general scene of anarchy, and the world a desert. Where is the standard of perfection to be found? Who will undertake to unite the discordant opinions of a whole commuity, in the same judgment of it; and to prevail upon one conceited projector to renounce his INFALLIBLE criterion for the FALLIBLE criterion of his more CONCEITED NEIGHBOR? To answer the purpose of the adversaries of the Constitution, they ought to prove, not merely that particular provisions in it are not the best which might have been imagined, but that the plan upon the whole is bad and pernicious.
For more context I recommend this book.
Have evangelicals been reshaped by Trump? Or has this dark side of evangelicalism always been present? I made the latter argument in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.
Here is Gerson:
Consider the matter of immigration. Republicans who are WEPs are the most likely group to say that immigrants are invading America and changing its culture. More than 90 percent of WEPs favor more restrictive immigration policies. They support the policy of family separation at the border more strongly than other religious groups and more strongly than Americans as a whole.
How have we come to the point that American evangelicals are significantly crueler in their attitude toward migrant children than the national norm? The answer is simple enough. Rather than shaping President Trump’s agenda in Christian ways, they have been reshaped into the image of Trump himself. Or, more accurately, they have become involved in a political throuple with Trump and Fox News, in which each feeds the grievances and conspiracy thinking of the others.
The result has properly been called cultlike. For many followers, Trump has defined an alternative, insular universe of facts and values that only marginally resembles our own. According to the PRRI poll, nearly two-thirds of WEPs deny that Trump has damaged the dignity of his office. Ponder that a moment. Well over half of this group is willing to deny a blindingly obvious, entirely irrefutable, manifestly clear reality because it is perceived as being critical of their leader. Forty-seven percent of WEPs say that Trump’s behavior makes no difference to their support. Thirty-one percent say there is almost nothing that Trump could do to forfeit their approval. This is preemptive permission for any violation of the moral law or the constitutional order. It is not support; it is obeisance.
An extraordinary 99 percent of WEPs oppose the impeachment and removal of the president — which probably puts me in the smallest political minority I have ever had the honor of occupying.
Read the rest here.
Earlier this week, Donald Trump compared the impeachment inquiry against him to a lynching. Both Republicans and Democrats reminded Trump about the history of lynching in the United States. Over at The Washington Post, Lawrence Glickman, the Stephaen and Evalyn Milman professor of American Studies at Cornell University, provides some additional context.
Here is a taste of his piece:
Notwithstanding the shocked reaction to the outrageous comparison, Trump’s comments were in keeping with a long-standing strand of conservative rhetoric that might best be dubbed “elite victimization.” This is a mode of speech typically used by wealthy, powerful white men in which they employ the language of enslavement and Jim Crow to describe their plight and claim to be victims of everything from government programs to social movements they dislike to investigations into wrongdoing.
This language marks a double appropriation. First, it is a reaction to the increasing power of claiming rights by minority populations. In the 20th century, African Americans and other oppressed groups forced the country to confront its violent, racist history and demanded full rights and citizenship. By casting themselves as victims, elites frame their individual sense of being wronged as a violation of their rights, even though those rights are well-secured. Second, it is to demand sympathy for a kind of physical and spiritual suffering akin to that experienced by racial minorities that elites claim to endure when they feel under attack.
But the language may also feel true to them. Given that wealthy white men do not face discrimination on the basis of race, the slightest feeling of vulnerability or threat might feel like oppression, however distinct it is from the lived experience of oppressed groups. In 1946, for example, J. Howard Pew, the conservative oil man, condemned what he called “continued unfair and discriminatory legislation granting special privileges for favored minorities at the expense of the general welfare.”
But this language perversely minimizes the plight of African Americans for much of American history and compares systemic wrongs with hideous consequences to legal actions or social movements that conservative white men happen to dislike.
Read the entire piece here. Then head over to Episode 55 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast and listen to Glickman talk about his new book Free Enterprise: An American History.
It is becoming more and more common for Republican members of Congress to speak-out against Donald Trump and then fail to act on their words. (Think Ben Sasse).
Mitt Romney, the politically fickle former Massachusetts governor turned U.S. senator from Utah, is mounting an increasingly vocal opposition campaign against President Trump. In recent speeches and press interviews, Romney has staked himself out as an intraparty detractor of the Republican president, taking aim at both his policies and his character. And he’s even left the door open to supporting impeachment.
But open questions remain, among them: Will Romney keep up his steady stream of criticism and put action behind it? And if so, could he convince many other GOP members on Capitol Hill to join him, or would he remain a lone wolf?
So far, the jury is out.
Read the rest here.
It is worth noting that Metaxas is not referring to the corruption of the Trump White House here.
Nope, he refers to Trump’s corruption as a “chimera” and an “illusion.”
Metaxas is actually referring here to the “corrupt” politicians and journalists who want to impeach Trump. Metaxas says that these politicians and journalists are following a “narrative” that will lead to the “end of America.”
Of course there are other narratives out there as well.
For example, there is the narrative, which now seems to be held by about half of the country, that the impeachment and removal of Donald Trump will not lead to the “end of America,” but will actually save America.
And then there is the court evangelical narrative to which Metaxas subscribes. In this narrative, Trump is God’s anointed who was raised in the world of Manhattan real estate and reality television for such a time as this. God has placed Trump here to restore America to its supposed Christian roots. As a result, we must overlook his nativism, racism, constant lying, misogyny, use of Twitter to demonize his enemies, utter disregard for American institutions, cozying-up to dictators, failure to do anything about Russian interference in American elections, and attempt to get the president of the Ukraine to investigate a political opponent. Come on Eric Metaxas, admit that you are following your own narrative. It is a narrative that many Americans have tested and found wanting.
And as long as I am the topic of Metaxas, I am have been meaning to write something about his recent interview with Katrina Trinko of The Daily Signal. Here is a taste of that interview:
Trinko: What I thought was really interesting about your answer was you brought up, of course, Trump’s policies, which most conservative Christians would agree are good, but you also seem to really like his personality.
Is there a time that you think in his presidency that his character or his way of approaching things came through in a very … crystallizing way, a way that helped a lot?
Metaxas: Yeah. Well, I think for me it’s a little weird. I grew up in Queens, New York, so I’m a New Yorker, I’m a Queens New Yorker. I was raised in a working-class environment. I grew up with people kind of rough around the edges like Donald Trump, so I really feel like I speak that language in a way that a lot of people don’t.
People in the Beltway, people in certain social circles in Manhattan where I have traveled in certain educational environments—I graduated from Yale—do not speak that language.
And it’s horrifying to most of them to try to make sense of what he says, because it’s like you’re listening to somebody who talks like a comedian, who talks completely differently in cartoon phrases and things, and then you try to parse it as though it was spoken by an aide to Eisenhower. You really can’t do that. You have to be able to hear him correctly.
But I’ll tell you, I used to really despise this president. I was horrified by him culturally. I just thought that this is a man who is contributing to the vulgarization of the culture. And to some extent, I think that that was true. But when he was in the primaries, I began to listen to him on the stump.
A friend of mine kind of rebuked me and said, “Hey, you need to give him a listen. I think you’re missing something. He’s like a folk hero.” And I began to listen, and I was shocked to hear him making sense on a level that was so simple that I thought, “Nobody talks like that. Nobody talks to the common man.” People are always, you know, virtue-signaling to their super intelligent, educated friends that are going to blog about it tomorrow or something like that. I thought, “That’s really refreshing.”
Metaxas says that he grew up in Queens with people “kind of rough around the edges.” As a result, he finds Trump’s way of speaking to the “common man” to be “refreshing.” He adds, “I speak that language in a way that a lot of people don’t.”
Like Metaxas, I also grew-up in the New York metropolitan area around people who were “kind of rough around the edges.” In fact, I am only a few years young than the radio pundit. My North Jersey working class upbringing taught me to spot an immoral huckster like Trump from a mile away.
A few evangelical leaders were not happy when Trump pulled out of Syria. Most of them, however, have made peace with the decision. Court evangelical Franklin Graham, who originally opposed the move, now says that he respects Trump’s decision and won’t “second-guess” him on Syria. Robert Jeffress and Jerry Falwell Jr. have been silent. Tony “Mulligan” Perkins spoke out against the remove of American troops from Syria, but he has been pretty quiet since Trump went to the Values Voter Summit and promised $50 million in aid to Syrian Christians.
Would Trump evangelicals like to see the president to do more for the Kurds? Of course. But Trump’s policy in Syria will have very little bearing on white evangelical support for the president. Why?
- Most evangelicals do not see foreign policy as a primary issue informing how they will vote. Many rank and file evangelicals are not closely following developments in Syria.
- Most evangelicals will stick with Trump as long as he remains strong on conservative Supreme Court nominations, opposition to abortion, and religious liberty for American evangelicals. As I told NPR’s The Takeaway last week, religious liberty for Christians in the Middle East is a tertiary issue at best.
- There is no Democratic candidate right now who will attract 2016 Trump voters in large numbers.
Yesterday, I told all of this to Politico reporter Gabby Orr. Here is her piece. None of what I said made the cut. I am guessing that my thoughts did not fit well with her focus on the potential break-up of Trump’s evangelical base.
The issue here is not whether the overwhelming majority of white evangelicals will vote for Trump in 2020. They will. (Assuming, of course, that he survives impeachment in the Senate). The issue is whether impeachment, Trump’s behavior over the last four years, and, to a much lesser extent, Syria will prompt just enough (maybe 5-10%?) white evangelicals who voted for Trump in 2016 to vote for a Democrat, a third candidate, or not vote at all in 2020. Orr’s reporting seems to suggest that the Trump campaign is aware of this. She writes:
“If he’s going to win in 2020,” said the longtime Trump friend, “he has to be north of the 81 percent [of white evangelicals] he won in 2016. I’m not suggesting that the polling is all of a sudden going to show that his support is plummeting because of Syria. But if it stays stagnant, he’s a one-term president.”
Just like in 2016, Trump’s opponent will make all the difference. If it is Joe Biden, evangelicals may feel more comfortable voting third party or not voting at all. Perhaps some will even vote for Biden. But if it is Warren or Sanders, expect most white evangelical 2016 Trump voters to reject the progressivism of these New England candidates and vote for Trump.
Yesterday we highlighted historian Joanne Freeman’s tweet about the GOP Congressman who disrupted a deposition in the Trump impeachment inquiry. Today we have a video of Freeman offering some historical context for this event in an appearance on MSNBC:
In case you missed it, a bunch of pro-Trump Republican members of the House of Representatives tried to barge into a closed-door deposition conducted by the House Intelligence Committee. The committee was preparing to interview Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Laura Cooper as part of the Trump impeachment inquiry.
Watch it all here:
This is a pathetic political stunt.
Here is Arizona representative Andy Biggs:
This morning, I joined dozens of my colleagues to storm Adam Schiff’s secret, Soviet-style, Stalinist chamber to demand truth, transparency, and due process. We may have received threats for attempting to hear from today’s witness, but we are more resolved than ever to fight. pic.twitter.com/pvmEHJC6Uz
— Rep Andy Biggs (@RepAndyBiggsAZ) October 23, 2019
And here is Yale historian Joanne Freeman:
THERE WERE ALREADY REPUBLICAN COMMITTEE MEMBERS IN THE ROOM.
This isn’t a secret Stalinist chamber.
It’s a BIPARTISAN committee.
You’re talking absolute nonsense.
Shame on you. https://t.co/1ob0rYycd1
— Joanne Freeman (@jbf1755) October 23, 2019
Addendum: The GOP members of the House Intelligence Committee are: Devin Nunez (CA), Mike Conaway (TX), Mike Turner (OH), Brad Wenstrup (OH), Chris Stewart (UT), Rick Crawford (AR), Elise Stefanik (NY), Will Hurd (TX), and John Ratcliffe (TX).
President Trump has described the impeachment proceedings as a “coup,” and his White House counsel has termed them “unconstitutional.” This would come as a surprise to Alexander Hamilton, who wrote not only the 11 essays in “The Federalist” outlining and defending the powers of the presidency, but also the two essays devoted to impeachment.
There seems little doubt, given his writings on the presidency, that Hamilton would have been aghast at Trump’s behavior and appalled by his invitation to foreign actors to meddle in our elections. As a result, he would most certainly have endorsed the current impeachment inquiry. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Trump embodies Hamilton’s worst fears about the kind of person who might someday head the government.
Among our founders, Hamilton’s views count heavily because he was the foremost proponent of a robust presidency, yet he also harbored an abiding fear that a brazen demagogue could seize the office. That worry helps to explain why he analyzed impeachment in such detail: He viewed it as a crucial instrument to curb possible abuses arising from the enlarged powers he otherwise championed.
Read the rest here.
There’s no need to talk about the “whistleblower” and his findings any longer, and there’s no need for the whistleblower to be heard any further. We have a veteran U.S. diplomat on the record saying that a Trump intimate told him Trump was holding up Congressionally authorized and appropriated military aid to Ukraine because he wanted a public statement from the Zelensky government that it was investigating Joe Biden’s son.
Taylor said this of a September 1 phone call with Gordon Sondland, our ambassador to the European Union about the $275 million in U.S. security assistance to Ukraine as well as a possible meeting between Trump and Ukranian president Zelensky:
“Ambassador Sondland told me that President Trump had told him that he wants President Zelensky to state publicly that Ukraine will investigate Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. Ambassador Sondland also told me that he now recognized that he had made a mistake by earlier telling the Ukrainian officials to whom he spoke that a White House meeting with President Zelenskyy was dependent on a public announcement of investigations—in fact, Ambassador Sondland said, ‘everything’ was dependent on such an announcement, including security assistance. He said that President Trump wanted President Zelenskyy ‘in a public box’ by making a public statement about ordering such investigations.”
So that’s it. Unless Trump and Sondland deny this, and offer evidence that Taylor is wrong or lying, we now have contemporaneous confirmation that the president intended to hold up military aid to the Ukranians to secure domestic political advantage.
That’s the ballgame. That’s impeachment. In doing this Trump was contravening U.S. law, which does not give the president the right to deny Ukraine the money appropriated by Congress for Ukraine.
Read the entire piece here.
Harvard historian Jill Lepore asks this question at The New Yorker. Here is a taste:
Bird-eyed Aaron Burr was wanted for murder in two states when he presided over the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase in the Senate, in 1805. The House had impeached Chase, a Marylander, on seven articles of misconduct and one article of rudeness. Burr had been indicted in New Jersey, where, according to the indictment, “not having the fear of God before his eyes but being moved and seduced by the instigation of the Devil,” he’d killed Alexander Hamilton, the former Secretary of the Treasury, in a duel. Because Hamilton, who was shot in the belly, died in New York, Burr had been indicted there, too. Still, the Senate met in Washington, and, until Burr’s term expired, he held the title of Vice-President of the United States.
The public loves an impeachment, until the public hates an impeachment. For the occasion of Chase’s impeachment trial, a special gallery for lady spectators had been built at the back of the Senate chamber. Burr, a Republican, presided over a Senate of twenty-five Republicans and nine Federalists, who sat, to either side of him, on two rows of crimson cloth-covered benches. They faced three rows of green cloth-covered benches occupied by members of the House of Representatives, Supreme Court Justices, and President Thomas Jefferson’s Cabinet. The House managers (the impeachment-trial equivalent of prosecutors), led by the Virginian John Randolph, sat at a table covered with blue cloth; at another blue table sat Chase and his lawyers, led by the red-faced Maryland attorney general, Luther Martin, a man so steady of heart and clear of mind that in 1787 he’d walked out of the Constitutional Convention, and refused to sign the Constitution, after objecting that its countenancing of slavery was “inconsistent with the principles of the Revolution and dishonorable to the American character.” Luther (Brandybottle) Martin had a weakness for liquor. This did not impair him. As a wise historian once remarked, Martin “knew more law drunk than the managers did sober.”
Impeachment is an ancient relic, a rusty legal instrument and political weapon first wielded by the English Parliament, in 1376, to wrest power from the King by charging his ministers with abuses of power, convicting them, removing them from office, and throwing them in prison. Some four hundred years later, impeachment had all but vanished from English practice when American delegates to the Constitutional Convention provided for it in Article II, Section 4: “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
It’s one thing to know this power exists. It’s another to use it. In one view, nicely expressed by an English solicitor general in 1691, “The power of impeachment ought to be, like Goliath’s sword, kept in the temple, and not used but on great occasions.” Yet this autumn, in the third year of the Presidency of Donald J. Trump, House Democrats have unsheathed that terrible, mighty sword. Has time dulled its blade?
Read the rest here.
I agree with David French here:
About that recent polling showing zealous Evangelical opposition to impeachment — The “lesser of two evils” mask is off. The alternative here isn’t Hillary but Pence.
Under similar facts for a Democrat, they’d want to remove.
These Evangelicals are just Trumpists now.
— David French (@DavidAFrench) October 21, 2019
I think French is referring to this recent PRRI survey.
Emma Green provides some context at The Atlantic.
I was on the NPR show “The Takeaway” today for a segment on Trump, evangelicals, and Syria. Listen here.
Here is historian John Haas:
“Corruption So Foul: Joe Biden’s Conspiracy to Ruin America Forever and Why It’s Wrong to Profit from Family Connections in Politics,” a panel discussion at Hunterdom College, October 31, 2019 at 7:30.
Panelists will include Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Callista Gingrich, Elaine Chao-McConnell, Liz Cheney, Ronna Romney McDaniel, and many more.
I think Donald Trump Jr. was just added to the panel:
Dumpster fire at Biden HQ! “It is impossible for me to be on any of the boards I just mentioned without saying that I’m the son of the vice president of the US. I don’t think that there’s a lot of things that would have happen in my life that if my name wasn’t Biden” Hunter Biden
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) October 15, 2019
Addendum: No, this conference is not real. Apparently I needed to say this.
Here are a few quick takeaways from a recently released Axios poll of college students:
- 97% of college Democrats approve of impeachment
- 76% of college Independents approve of impeachment
- 22% of college Republicans approve of impeachment
- The number of college students who approve of impeachment is growing, especially among independents
- The number of college students who approve of impeachment is much higher than the general public
Read it all here.
I was on Fall Break this weekend and probably spent way too much time reading and watching the news, following the Values Voter Summit, and tweeting. With the exception of the beautiful central Pennsylvania weather, I leave the weekend pretty discouraged.
First, there was Beto O’Rourke’s remarks about removing the tax exempt status from churches, charities, and institutions that uphold traditional marriage. Read my posts here and here and here. I know that O’Rourke has no chance of winning, but his statement at the CNN Equality Forum has fired up pro-Trump conservatives. I did not watch all of Tony Perkins’s Values Voter Summit this weekend, but in the time I did watch I noticed that Trump, Oliver North, and Todd Starnes all used the remarks to rally the base.
Will the removal of the tax-exempt status of religious organizations be bad for the church? Not necessarily. Jesus said that if Christians are persecuted they should consider themselves blessed. When Christians are persecuted they share in Christ’s sufferings and join “the prophets who were before you.” We enter into a community of saints whose members followed Jesus in circumstances that were much more difficult than what American Christians are facing today. This, I might add, is one of the reasons why more Christians should study history. We need to know more about this communion of saints as it has unfolded over time.
In other words, Christians who believe that God is committed to preserving His church should have nothing to fear. This does not mean that the church should not make intelligent and civil arguments to defend religious liberty, but, as I wrote in one of the posts above, it should also prepare for suffering.
Will the removal of the tax-exempt status of religious organizations be bad for the United States? Yes. On this point I agree with University of Washington law professor John Inazu. Read his recent piece at The Atlantic: “Democrats Are Going to Regret Beto’s Stance on Conservative Churches.” Here is a taste :
First, pollsters should ask voters about O’Rourke’s comments and the issue of tax-exempt status, both now and in the exit polls for the 2020 presidential election. We can be certain this issue will be used in Republican political ads, especially in congressional districts that Obama won in 2012, but that Trump won in 2016. And I suspect this issue and O’Rourke’s framing of it will lead to increased turnout of evangelicals in states that matter to Democrats, such as Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. O’Rourke’s comment may quickly fall out of the national news cycle, but it won’t be forgotten among churches, religious organizations, and religious voters. And if the Democrats lose in 2020, this issue and their handling of it will likely be a contributing factor. That will be true regardless of who the eventual Republican or Democratic candidates are.
Second, journalists should ask O’Rourke and every other Democratic candidate how this policy position would affect conservative black churches, mosques and other Islamic organizations, and orthodox Jewish communities, among others. It is difficult to understand how Democratic candidates can be “for” these communities—advocating tolerance along the way—if they are actively lobbying to put them out of business.
Third, policy analysts should assess the damage O’Rourke’s proposal would cause to the charitable sector. O’Rourke’s stance—if played out to its end—would decimate the charitable sector. It is certainly the case that massive amounts of government funding flow through religious charitable organizations in the form of grants and tax exemptions. But anyone who thinks this is simply a pass-through that can be redirected to government providers or newly established charitable networks that better conform to Democratic orthodoxies is naive to the realities of the charitable sector.
Read the entire piece here.
Second, there is Elizabeth Warren. Here is what I wrote at the end of this piece:
Warren seems to suggest that a man who believes in traditional marriage will not be able to find a woman to marry because women who uphold traditional views on marriage are few and far between. Really? This answer reveals her total ignorance of evangelical culture in the United States. (It may also reveal her ignorance of middle-American generally). If she gets the Democratic nomination she will be painted as a Harvard elitist who is completely out of touch with the American people.
If you watch the video, and interpret Warren’s body language, it is hard to see her come across as anything but smug. But my primary criticism here is political. Warren has a legitimate chance to win the Democratic nomination in 2020. If she gets the nomination, and hopes to win the general election, she needs to convince middle America that she wants to be the president of all America. Her response to this question about gay marriage reminds me of something I wrote in Believe Me about the Hillary Clinton campaign against Donald Trump in 2016:
Though Clinton would never come close to winning the evangelical vote, her tone-deafness on matters of deep importance to evangelicals may have been the final nail in the coffin of her campaign. In 2015, when a conservative pro-life group published videos showing Planned Parenthood employees discussing the purchase of the body parts and the fetal tissue of aborted fetuses, Clinton said, “I have seen the pictures [from the videos] and obviously find them disturbing.” Such a response could have helped her reach evangelicals on the campaign trail, but by 2016 she showed little ambivalence about abortion, or any understanding that it might pose legitimate concerns or raise larger ethical questions. During the third presidential debate, she defended a traditional pro-choice position and seemed to dodge Fox News host Chris Wallace’s question about her support for late-term abortions. There seemed to be no room in her campaign for those evangelicals who didn’t want to support Trump but needed to see that she could at least compromise on abortion.
Clinton was also quiet on matters pertaining to religious liberty. While she paid lip service to the idea whenever Trump made comments about barring Muslims from coming into the country, she never addressed the religious liberty issues facing many evangelicals. This was especially the case with marriage. Granted, evangelicals should not have expected Clinton to defend traditional marriage or promise to help overturn Obergefell v. Hodges, but she did not seem willing to support something akin to what law professor and author John Inazu has described as “confident pluralism.” The question of how to make room for people with religiously motivated beliefs that run contrary to the ruling in Obergefell is still being worked out, and the question is not an easy one to parse. But when Hillary claimed that her candidacy was a candidacy for “all Americans,” it seemed like an attempt to reach her base, not to reach across the aisle. Conservative evangelicals were not buying it.
Here is my point: If my conversations with evangelicals are any indication, there seem to be some of them who voted for Trump in 2016 and are now looking for a reason–any reason– to vote for another candidate in 2020. This is obviously not a significant number of evangelical voters, but after the close election in 2016 we should have learned that every vote counts. If O’Rourke, Warren, and other Democratic candidates keep up their assaults on religious liberty, these voters will vote again for Trump. The Christian Right will use these assaults to rally the base and perhaps get some pro-Trumpers who did not vote in 2016 to pull a lever in 2020.
Third, as noted above, I watched some of the Family Research Council’s “Values Voter Summit” this weekend. I tweeted a lot about it. Check out my feed here. Last night Donald Trump gave a speech at the summit. You can watch it here.
Trump spent most of his talk lying about the impeachment process. He demonized his political opponents. At one point he mocked the physical appearance of Adam Schiff. He used profanity. And the evangelicals in the room cheered:
Trump is speaking to a room full of evangelicals right now at the Values Voter Summit He is blatantly lying, mocking Adam Scihiff’s physical appearance, and demonizing his political opponents. The audience is loudly cheering these points. God help us. #vvs2019
— John Fea (@JohnFea1) October 12, 2019
Hey @tperkins: you should be embarrassed by what is happening right now at your Values Voter Summit. Look around the room and see your fellow evangelicals cheering Trump’s depravity. You and your fellow #courtevangelicals have created this. #vvs2019
— John Fea (@JohnFea1) October 12, 2019
A few folks on Twitter this weekend chastised me for attacking the president and his evangelical supporters. They told me that I was not being “Christ-like” and suggested that I am being just as “uncivil” as Trump. I will admit that I am still angry about the way my fellow evangelicals have rallied around this president. Anger is wrong, and I am still wrestling with how to balance “righteous anger” with just pure, sinful, and unhealthy “anger.”
But I keep coming back to the limits of “civility.” Here is what I said to a group of evangelical academics last weekend at Lee University. I said something similar to a group of Christian college provosts, chief academic officers, and student life-leaders in January:
Donald Trump has exacerbated a longstanding American propensity for conflict and incivility.
I think many in the room today would agree when I say that Christian Colleges must continue doing what we’ve always done, that is stepping into the breach as agents of healing in the places, communities, neighborhoods and regions where we have influence. Sadly, the fact that so many white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump means that we may have to go back to square one. We need to keep reminding our constituencies and our students about the work of reconciliation across racial lines, gender lines, political lines, class lines, denominational lines. We must model empathy and civility. This means resisting the historic American propensity for conflict—the usable past that Trump exploits. We much chart another—more countercultural—path.
Our schools must be places of prayerful conversation, not cable news-shouting matches. Conversation is essential on our campuses. We need to be intentional about creating spaces for civil dialogue. We must learn to listen. We must be hospitable. But it is also important to remember that dialogue does not always mean that there must be a moral equivalence between the two parties engaged in the exchange. We come to any conversation from a location, and that is the historic teachings of biblical faith. We can debate whether Trump’s policies are good for America or the church, but when the president of the United States engages in endless lies, petty acts of jealousy and hatred, racist name-calling, and certain policies that undermine the teachings of Jesus Christ—we must reject such behavior and model an alternative way. At Christian colleges we cannot allow those defending such behavior and policies to operate on an equal moral footing. When Trump’s antics are celebrated by MAGA-hat wearing white evangelicals at rallies screaming “Lock Her Up” and then those same Christians inform pollsters that they are “evangelical or born-again” as they leave the voting booth, something is wrong. Something that should concern us deeply.
Maybe I’ll feel better by the end of the week. I am seeing my daughters next weekend, I get to teach U.S. history to some great students this week, I will hear some Messiah College history alums tell their stories on Thursday at my department’s annual “Career Night,” and I will be speaking to Kansas history teachers on Monday afternoon. There is much for which to be hopeful!
Cory Gardner, GOP Senator from Colorado:
An August 20 poll has former Colorado governor and Democratic presidential candidate John Hickenlooper leading Gardner by 13 points early in the 2020 senate race.