November 5, 2015
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Thursday, November 5, 2015. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Dramatic conservative victories reveal 2015 elections to be a bellwether election
Sometimes Election Day represents a cultural and moral bellwether, sometimes now. It’s now evident that Tuesday was and in a very particular way. In Kentucky a very clear signal was sent when Republican candidate Matt Bevin was not only elected governor but was elected by a very comfortable margin and what amounts to a traditional landslide. He was elected by a margin of 52.5 percent to 43.8 percent for the Democratic candidate incumbent Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway. There was an independent candidate, but by any measure this was a landslide election for the Republican nominee. Here’s what makes it so historically significant. Democrats have held the Kentucky Governor’s office for all but four of the last 44 years. This means that what was sent in terms of the signal from the voters in Kentucky was not only very significant but unmistakable.Show Full Transcript
This also points to a larger political realignment in the United States. After World War II, the solid South as it was known was overwhelmingly Democratic. It was loyal to the Democratic Party in virtually every Governor’s office, most Senatorial elections and in the state delegations to the United States House of Representatives. It was also solidly Democratic in terms of the state legislatures. Now all that is virtually transformed. The transformation began in the 1968 presidential campaign when the election was won by the Republican candidate Richard Nixon. Carrying many southern states for the first time by any Republican nominee in recent history and we’re also looking at the fact that it continued as this realignment expanded throughout the next several decades. By the time you reach the beginnings of the 21st century, the South has been reversed, rather than being solidly Democratic it was increasingly solidly Republican. As you look at electoral map what states had been traditionally blue are now traditionally red. The solid South is still solid, but as the vote in Kentucky made clear, the realignment towards the Republican Party is now almost complete.
Now this is what makes this particular issue very interesting. It’s because this partisan realignment is actually a sign of a far deeper realignment. Political realignments always point to very important shifts at the worldview level and when it comes to the South what hasn’t changed is a basic moral conservatism. What has changed is which party represents that same kind of moral worldview and what we’re looking at in contemporary America is that the Democratic Party is now representing the far left when it comes to moral issues in America and the Republican Party represents far more traditional and conservative positions. So you have an alignment where on the two coasts, the West Coast and East Coast, you have predominantly liberal representation, that’s particularly true in the Northeast and also in the Pacific West and that is now trending overwhelmingly Democratic. For example, it’s hard to imagine a major Republican winning a statewide race in the state of California at present. Something fundamental would have to change for that political reality to change as well. But what we’re looking at in terms of the signal sent by voters in Kentucky on Tuesday is something that reminds us of that realignment and it also tells us something else. There still is a large component of the American electorate that isn’t taking electoral signals and directives from the cultural elites.
That was certainly clear in Ohio where citizens faced a proposed constitutional amendment that would have legalized recreational marijuana, but in a significant complication would also have established what amounts to a marijuana Monopoly. Voters in Ohio turned it down by a margin of nearly two to one, even after the proponents of legal marijuana had spent upwards of $20 million in the effort to achieve its legalization. Now one of the things to note here is that we’re not exactly certain how voters voted in terms of the question of why. We do understand that they voted overwhelmingly to turn down the constitutional amendment but we’re not sure exactly why and it comes down to this. Even some of the proponents of legal marijuana were opposed to the intrusion of big business in terms of the marijuana industry. The largely hippie culture of the cultural left that first began to popularize marijuana in the 1960s and 70s has been opposed to the man, that is corporate interests, and they were opposed to this particular Monopoly as would be established by the constitutional amendment. But by any measure the decisive vote here was huge. It was nearly two to one. And yet we also are already being given warning that the forces seeking to legalize marijuana will be back.
One of the interesting things was reported by the Columbus Dispatch and the Cincinnati Enquirer, and that came down to the fact that the forces who will be pushing for legal marijuana in Ohio are now going to be shifting their attention to the intermediary step in other states and that is legalizing so-called medical marijuana. There was another interesting aspect to the defeat of legal marijuana in Ohio in this case, and is Anne Saker of the Cincinnati Enquirer reported, it came down to Buddie. As we reported on Monday, Buddie was,
“A cartoonish mascot with the head shaped like a marijuana bud.”
And this particular animated character was intended to be,
“A kitschy, ironic statement for college kids. Instead, the character turned off adults who thought Buddie would appeal to children.”
That’s an interesting aspect of the story in itself, because it tells us that many voters are really concerned about the impact of so-called legal marijuana on children and teenagers. And they have good reason to be so, because increasing scientific reports tell us that the impact of marijuana on the teenage and adolescent brain is particularly dangerous. We also have evidence of states like Colorado that the first cigarette smoked by most adolescents in Colorado is not made out of tobacco but rather marijuana. Once you legalize marijuana it’s virtually impossible to keep it out of the hands of teenagers and of course this was a very undisguised ploy to try to get college students behind the effort. Indications are college students voted overwhelmingly to legalize marijuana, but the measure itself went down by a two to one margin. Similarly, all eyes were on Houston Tuesday where that city’s voters face the question as to whether or not they would repeal and ordinance known as hero, H-E-R-O, the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance. That ordinance was put in place by the city Council largely under the leadership of Houston’s openly gay Mayor, Annise Parker, the first openly gay Mayor of any major American city.
But as soon as the Houston city Council adopted the ordinance in 2014, there was an effort to repeal the ordinance on the part of concerns Houston citizens, including several prominent Houston pastors. This led to a religious liberty crisis in the city of Houston when the city attorney prompted by the mayor sought to subpoena sermons preached by evangelical pastors on the issue of homosexuality. It was a true imbroglio, it was a head-on collision between the coercive power of government and religious liberty and it was a near win for religious liberty. The sermons almost were successfully subpoenaed, but the voters eventually got to face the issue because the Texas Supreme Court just a matter of a few weeks ago ruled that either the citizens would have to approve the ordinance or they would repeal it. And when put before the voters on Tuesday it went down to a vote by a margin of 61 to 39 percent. As Manny Fernandez and Mitch Smith reported for the New York Times, a year-long battle over gay and transgender rights that turned into a costly ugly war of words between this city’s lesbian Mayor and social conservatives ended as voters easily repealed an antidiscrimination ordinance that had attracted attention from the White House, sports figures and Hollywood celebrities.
Now what’s really interesting about this situation is that the Houston ordinance was indeed supported by so many people outside of Houston and there was outside pressure brought on voters in this case, but the voters resisted it very clearly. One of the issues about this ordinance is that it became known popularly as the bathroom ordinance and that’s because one of the provisions in the ordinance would’ve meant that individuals claiming a transgender identity could use whatever restroom in public facilities they identified with in terms of gender and that led to an incredible controversy in Houston and to the overwhelming vote on Tuesday. But it’s interesting that even the proponents of the bill had to admit that indeed the bathroom argument was pertinent, that indeed ordinance would have made bathrooms very much an issue. And that’s what makes the Houston issue also very interesting, because even as the proponents of the hero ordinance tried to argue that it was a generic nondiscrimination ordinance that would cover many people in many classifications including race and religion and marital status, the reality is that all those issues are already covered by local, state and sometimes federal statutes. What would’ve made this ordinance new was its nondiscrimination when it came to sexual orientation and gender identity and the very clear understanding that this would lead to a transformation of many dimensions of Houston society.
We also saw that outside pressure brought not only by Hollywood celebrities in the White House, but also the question about the evolvement of big sports with the question of the 2017 Super Bowl right at the center currently scheduled for Houston. We’re going to be watching this issue very closely, Mayor Annise Parker is going to be leaving office, she’s term limited, she’ll leave office in January, but she’s doing her very best to set up the incoming city Council and Mayor to form a similar alliance and to pass a similar ordinance. But what we need to note in terms of all three of these votes in Kentucky and Ohio and in Houston is that the votes weren’t even close. The Kentucky governorship turned out to be a vote that was a landslide. The marijuana question in Ohio went down two to one. The gay-rights ordinance in the city of Houston went down 60 to 40. We are looking at a dramatic reversal of expectation. As recently as the day before the election in Kentucky, the polls were showing the Republican losing and in terms of the Ohio and Houston votes, the polls were saying that it was going to be very close. It turned out; the polls weren’t even close to accurate.
But what is also clear is that voters in at least these three cases, very dramatically weren’t accepting the cues that were being sent from Hollywood, the White House and other cultural authorities. Voters make clear they weren’t excepting the political dictates being sent down from the cultural elites. That is very noteworthy as we think about America in the year 2015 and it’s likely to get at least some attention when people look forward to the 2016 presidential election.
Election results exposes major error in liberal narrative of American culture
Molly Balls, writing for The Atlantic, wasted no time in getting right to that issue. In an article that appeared yesterday with the headline,
“Liberals Are Losing the Culture Wars.”
Now to pause just a moment. I don’t actually believe the liberals are losing the culture wars. But they are losing some significant battles and that was clear in Tuesday’s election. But Molly Ball writes some incredible insight when she says,
“In Tuesday’s elections, voters rejected recreational marijuana, transgender rights.”
They rejected other things as well in some local elections.
“And they handed a surprise victory to a Republican gubernatorial candidate who emphasized his opposition to gay marriage.”
She then writes,
“Democrats have become increasingly assertive in taking liberal social positions in recent years, believing that they enjoy majority support and even seeking to turn abortion and gay rights into electoral wedges against Republicans.”
That’s a very important argument, but note where she goes with it.
“But Tuesday’s results—and the broader trend of recent elections that have been generally disastrous for Democrats not named Barack Obama—call that view into question. Indeed, they suggest that the left has misread the electorate’s enthusiasm for social change, inviting a backlash from mainstream voters invested in the status quo.”
Now while we might not describe the issue, just as she has, in terms of language. She is raising a very important point and one that she hopes will get the attention of Democrats, because her point is fascinating. She is saying here that there is no question that Democrats have won on so many issues on the social left, so long as Barack Obama is on the ballot. Twice in this article she points out that if the Democratic candidate is not Barack Obama or if he’s not at the head of the ticket, Democrats have not fared very well. She points back to the 2014 congressional and Senatorial elections and points out that Democrats fared very poorly even as they tried to run on many of these issues. Just think Democratic candidate Wendy Davis in Texas and of course that was a Governor’s race in that case as well. But she also says that Democrats are following a false narrative when it comes to many of these issues. Looking back to the 2014 election and saying the problem was voter turnout. She makes the argument that had turnout been larger Democrats would’ve lost by an even larger margin Molly Ball is writing from the cultural left, she’s writing to the political left and she’s telling them that they’re misreading the cultural moment and the political opportunity.
She actually points to the fact that many in the media look to the Republican presidential candidates in 2016 and note the rather significant disagreement among those candidates and then she says many Democrats pride themselves on the lack of a similar kind of conflict on the candidates running for the Democratic presidential nomination. She then cites Matt Yglesias who pointed out that the Republican divisions actually point to a party that can still have a political argument, whereas, on the Democratic side, everyone’s rushing to get to the same positions on the left. She’s giving a very clear indication that just might not be a winning political strategy.
But let’s back up for a moment and look at her overarching argument. She says that the left is not winning but actually losing the culture wars. There is every bit of evidence to suggest that that’s an over reading of the situation and conservatives should not assume that looking at these votes on Tuesday indicate there’s been some major turn in the culture. We’re going to be looking very carefully at the in-depth analysis of these elections, but there’s no question that in terms of so many of the long-term trends, the liberals are indeed winning the culture wars. But wars are not made up simply of a single event. Wars are made up of battles and those battles come in different places at different times and it is very significant that on Tuesday, virtually all the major political battles were won, not by the left, but by the right. The long-term trend is still very much in question and in terms of long-term moral change, especially measured generation by generation, there is every reason to expect that the liberals are still pretty much in control of the culture war. But this is a signal that the left may have overread its strength and may have overestimated its political opportunity. That’s going to be a very interesting discussion on the left, even as already there are very interesting political discussions on the right. We’ll be following them both.
'Suffragettes' movie avoids early suffragette and feminist opposition to abortion
Next, a couple of really interesting cultural developments that tell us a great deal about where we are in 2015 and from whence we have come. Marjorie Dannenfelser writing for Time magazine is pointing to a new movie, popular on both sides of the Atlantic, getting a lot of attention. The movie is Suffragettes and it’s about the effort for women to gain the vote, particularly in Great Britain, but a similar story took place here in the United States. The movie is getting a lot of attention. This was a major political event on both sides of the Atlantic. It’s a major part of the modern world. But what Dannenfelser is pointing to is the fact that much of the story isn’t going to be told and the issue that particularly isn’t likely to be discussed in this movie or in the cultural conversation about it is the question of abortion. And she points out in the headline at Time,
“The Suffragettes Would Not Agree With Feminists Today on Abortion.”
As a matter of fact, the Susan B. Anthony fund named for one of the suffragette leaders in the United States is a pro-life organization and that’s because the early suffragettes, some of the earliest contenders for the rights of women to vote, also were solidly explicitly publicly pro-life. They also held up the understanding of women as mothers as essential to why women should have the opportunity to vote. This article is really important not only because of what it says, but because of where it appeared at Time magazine. Dannenfelser writes,
“Would those early pioneers [that is the suffragettes] recognize the movement that claims to speak for the rights of women today?”
She then concludes,
“On the issue of abortion, they would not. Many of today’s feminists see abortion as one of the touchstones of their movement. Yet many of the early leaders of the women’s suffrage movement in the U.S. believed that the rights of mother and child are inextricably linked and that the right to life and the right to vote are rooted in the inherent dignity of each human person.”
That to be honest, is one of the most morally significant paragraphs I’ve seen in major media in a very long time. It’s really important. And it tells us that modern feminism is even at odds with the origins of the movement and with the suffragette movement in terms of the question of abortion and it also tells us that the argument made by these suffragettes as they were called for women’s suffrage for their right to vote, was an argument based in the dignity of women as human beings and that was extended to the dignity of the unborn as well. That tells us just how radically at odds the modern feminist movement is from the very origins of the same movement.
View of modern parenting as more difficult than parenting in past reflects historical naiveté
Time magazine also has another piece and this one’s kind of morally dumbfounding, it’s by Belinda Luscombe and the headline is,
“Husbands and Wives Have Different Perceptions of Who Runs the House.”
Now the headline and the parts of the story that match the headline are interesting but not all that interesting. She writes about a survey undertaken by pew that looked at 1800 or so United States parents and found that while very few dads in working parent couples believe that they do more around the home than their wives do, many of them believe they do just as much but moms disagree. Now the story turns out to be not so much who’s in charge, but whose working hard and as just about anyone in any household knows, just about every parent is working hard. But it’s later in the article that it actually goes off the rails and the way it does so is very revealing in and of itself. Luscombe writes,
“The home front is beginning to catch up with the workplace, but many working parents are still feeling their way.”
The next sentence, pay close attention to this,
“This is complicated by the fact that raising children has become a much more demanding and complex activity in the modern era, particularly administratively.”
Honestly, reading a paragraph like that I’m tempted to laugh out loud. Is the author seriously suggesting that raising children in 2015 is more difficult, indeed the words are “much more demanding and complex” than they were in times past? Are we really telling people who lived in times of war, and pestilence and plague and Great Depression that somehow now raising children is more difficult than it was in decades and centuries past? The paragraph continues, she’s not misunderstood here, this is the point she wants to make. The paragraph continues, indeed it concludes with this sentence,
“But because childcare is so much more work than it used to be, it’s possible that moms are still pulling a heavier load.”
Now let me just ask again, how can anyone with a straight face say that childcare is much more work than it used to be? Now life is more complex, no doubt, and many families face far more complex situations. But how in the world can anyone suggest that raising children in 2015 is somehow much more demanding than it was, well, I don’t know in 1950 or in 1500 or in 500 B.C.? That’s a fundamentally ludicrous statement and yet it’s one that’s not only evidently written with a straight face, but published right in Time magazine. Actually one of the things this tells us from a worldview perspective is that we always have to watch our own historical context, understanding that everything seems harder because it involves us. If we think back to previous times, we actually can’t enter into their experience, but we certainly can look at their historical circumstances and that should humble us against saying that somehow we have it harder now than they had it in the past.
Russian plane crash possibly downed by ISIS, despite previous Western denial
Finally, after days of denial, late yesterday Western intelligence organizations began to confirm the suspicion that the Russian airliner taken down over the Sinai Peninsula may been brought down by an ISIS bomb, killing over 200 persons. What makes this really significant is that in the beginning of the breaking of the story there was an almost insistent denial that ISIS could’ve had a part, because the assumption was that ISIS was claiming to have brought down the airliner by use of a missile. As of late yesterday, the use of a bomb is becoming far more likely. The investigation will continue, but it also tells us a great deal about how we think and how we think in the wake of a disaster like this that even as we note the sheer horror of what it means for an airliner to fall apart in the sky, and for over 200 people to die. The immediate question that comes to us is not only a scientific or technical question. It’s a moral question. Why? We need to brace ourselves for this because the answer that might come in terms of these investigation, may be even more terrifying than the aircraft crash itself.