March 2, 2016
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Wednesday, March 2, 2016. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Christians may face tough decision November as Trump and Clinton gained momentum on Tuesday
Well, at the midpoint in the week it is now clear that indeed we know a great deal more about the contours of the 2016 U.S. presidential race. Nothing happened yesterday in the first of the so-called Super Tuesdays that would change the perception that the frontrunner in the Republican race for the presidential nomination is Donald Trump. Similarly, nothing changed yesterday in terms of the perception that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is indeed the front runner for the Democratic nomination. And nothing happened yesterday that would indicate in any major way that there is likely to be a change in that direction, and now something else kicks in: About this point in a nomination process, voters begin to vote on the basis of who they perceive to be the winner. Although it’s not unprecedented or impossible that there could be a change in the race at this point—in both parties at this point in the race—traditionally in presidential election cycles, voters begin to predict who they think will be the winner. And in that sense a pattern of reinforcement—they begin to vote for the perceived frontrunner, and that kind of momentum generally begins to build about this point in a presidential nomination race.
A look at the picture within the two parties reveals a rather striking contrast. Going back several years, just about everyone expected that Hillary Clinton would have the inside track for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. She had the experience, she had the track record, she had the resume that would put her in a position for that traditional Democrat frontrunner status, not to mention the fact that her last name is Clinton. On the other hand on the Republican side, no one expected Donald Trump to be a serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination, and virtually no one saw, as recently as just a few months ago, the very real possibility that Trump could become the 2016 Republican presidential nominee. So the pattern within the two parties is very different at this point. Most Democrats are now beginning to align themselves with the idea of an inevitable Clinton victory and that is, on the other hand, what they had expected until the insurgent campaign of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders appeared to put that question very much at the forefront. On the Republican side, there’s a very different kind of adjustment being made. And on the Republican side, it is likely to lead to a basic crisis within the Republican Party. That’s already evident in the number of Republicans who have decided that they would state publicly that they could never ever vote for Donald Trump nor support him even if he were the standard-bearer for their own party in the 2016 presidential race.Show Full Transcript
To look at that contrast in a clearer light, just consider the fact that Hillary Clinton is a Democrat of Democrats. She has been right at the center of Democratic Party conversation for more than two decades now. On the other hand, Donald Trump, though he has occasionally dabbled in politics, has not been a part of ongoing Republican conversations and, to say the very least, he has not been committed to political positions that would be identified with the Republican Party in the past several Republican presidential cycles, at least the last nine of those cycles. At this point in the race it’s very important that we do not speak of inevitabilities. History reveals there are actually very few historical inevitabilities. But in terms of likelihood, now we see the likelihood that the eventual heads-up between the two parties in the fall election will be between the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and the Republican nominee Donald Trump. We are not there yet, but nothing happened yesterday that would indicate that that is less likely as a prospect. Indeed, as of yesterday, it’s incredibly more likely.
The impending crisis in the Republican Party is one of basic conviction, vision, and partisan identity. The Republican Party is going to have to face some very difficult questions about what exactly it intends to represent in the fall campaign. If Donald Trump is the standard-bearer for that party, it will lead to a crisis of conscience, not only among Republican voters, but also among Republicans who are holding elective office. Every single one of them in one way or another will have to take a stand over against the likely nomination of Donald Trump. As of Wednesday morning, not enough detail is yet known in terms of the voting patterns within the voting that took place on Tuesday to draw adequate conclusions about what may not have been known just in the immediate aftermath of the reporting of the vote. But this much is clear. It is now clear that Donald Trump has a far more credible claim towards momentum to the Republican presidential nomination, and similarly Hillary Clinton has the very same claim in the Democratic Party. And one of the things we need to understand is that stopping either of those candidacies at this point is an unlikely political prospect. And that means that intelligent Christians thinking carefully through the lens of the biblical worldview now have to look ahead to the likely head-to-head confrontation between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in the fall. This is going to raise a host of new worldview issues with incredible urgency for confessing Christians, for biblical Christians, for those who are operating out of a biblical worldview.
At the very least this is going to require of conservative Christians in America a fundamental rethinking of what we believe about the purpose of government and the character of political leadership. We’re going to have to be thinking through and praying through how Christian faithfulness, biblical fidelity, gospel faithfulness can be channeled into very real but finite political choices that are going to be presented to the American people on the presidential ballot form this coming November. As Christians wake up in America this morning, one thing is clear: We’re going to have to spend a great deal of time thinking and praying together about what faithfulness will look like in a way we never have before in terms of recent American presidential cycles, indeed in a way that has never been true in this sense before in American political history. We’re also about to find out if biblically-minded Christians in this country are up to that task.
Arguments for a woman's right to abortion neglect rights of unborn in case before SCOTUS
Next, the scale and scope of what is at stake in the 2016 presidential election will be graphically displayed at the United States Supreme Court today when the nation’s highest court will hear today oral arguments in a Texas-based case on abortion, which will be the most important abortion case before the Supreme Court in a generation. And we need to note that yesterday’s lead editorial in USA Today, an editorial that called upon the Court to take an essentially, very clearly pro-abortion position, that editorial included an amazing admission buried in the conclusion of the editors’ argument. At the end of the editorial, the editors wrote,
“The Texas case is a watershed moment. Abortion has been a constitutional right for all women since 1973.”
Where is the admission in that editorial? Well, just go back to those words,
“Abortion has been a constitutional right for all women since 1973.”
Why 1973? The stunning admission there is that the U.S. Constitution, when it came into force in 1789, would never have been assumed to speak to the issue of abortion, much less to have included any right to a woman to have an abortion on demand. But that is exactly what the editors of USA Today claim came into force in 1973. Now we need to note, it wasn’t because the Constitution was amended in order explicitly to suggest this right. No, nothing like that happened. Instead, a mere majority on the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973 in the Roe v. Wade decision invented virtually out of thin air what they called a woman’s right to abortion. And here you have the editorial board of USA Today doing everything it can in this editorial to protect a right they identify as being dated to 1973. What that points to is what many have called the judicial usurpation of politics. The question of abortion was taken up by the Court and it was taken away from the states, and thereby taken away from the American people. Instead, a majority of justices on the Supreme Court made a moral decision and enforced it on the American people, subsequently constructing a legal argument in order to justify their moral analysis.
Yesterday’s New York Times included an article by Erik Eckholm, indicating that the two major attorneys who will be arguing pro and con on this question before the U.S. Supreme Court are Stephanie Toti, age 37, who is going to be representing the pro-abortion position—she also represents the Center for Reproductive Rights—and on the other hand, Scott Keller, at age 34, the Solicitor General of Texas. Now notice that one of these attorneys is 37 and the other is 34, which means neither was alive in 1973 when the Roe v. Wade decision was decided.
Again, yesterday’s edition of the New York Times included an article by reporter Adam Liptak in which he indicates that some of the arguments to be made today—indeed many of the arguments—are going to be addressed not so much to the eight sitting justices who will sit on the Court today, but rather to just one of them, by no surprise justice Anthony Kennedy, the so-called swing justice who has been at the center of so many the most contentious decisions handed down by the High Court, especially many the most controversial 5-4 decisions, such as the decision that was handed down just this past June on the issue of same-sex marriage, with the majority opinion written by none other than Anthony Kennedy.
As Liptak tells us, there are several women, and the attorneys for those women, who are framing their arguments to Justice Kennedy. And as Liptak writes,
“The briefs tell the stories of women who say their abortions allowed them to control their bodies, plan for the future and welcome children into their lives when their careers were established and their personal lives were on solid ground.”
Now what we need to note is how these arguments are being made and addressed specifically to justice Kennedy, expected to be the decisive swing vote on this case. And we need to note, thinking through a Christian biblical worldview, the reasons for abortion that are celebrated in these arguments. Let me just read it again. This is coming directly from the New York Times. These are women who said that their abortions,
“…allowed them to control their bodies, plan for the future and welcome children into their lives when their careers were established and their personal lives were on solid ground.”
Now notice once again who is completely missing from that entire argument: that is the unborn child. What is completely missing here is the understanding that there is a moral obligation to the unborn, and that an unborn human life is indeed a human life. One woman included in the article who obtained an abortion at age 18 said,
“I was about to be the first person in my family to graduate from high school. And I had a scholarship to college, and I knew that I wanted to go to law school. And I knew that being a mother was not compatible with any of those things at that time in my life.”
So that unborn child, we are told, arrived at a time that was not convenient for the plans of the mother and that led to the decision to abort, a decision that is not only detailed in this article, but celebrated as ample justification for the killing of an unborn human being. Yesterday, I posted on my website a prayer for primary day. Christians today need to pray for the United States Supreme Court. We need to pray that in the proceedings today and in the future deliberations of the Court—justice and righteousness will be upheld and consistent with that, we have to hope and pray that the justices will uphold the dignity and sanctity of human life. But as I said in beginning of this segment, the oral arguments held before the Supreme Court today underline the importance of electoral choices in the 2016 presidential election, not only as we look at the fall, but right now at this very strategic point in the 2016 primary season.
South Dakota Governor under LGBT pressure vetoed bill that bars opposite-sex bathroom access
Next, yesterday, there was huge news out of the state of South Dakota, as Emma Brown of the Washington Post reported late yesterday,
“South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) has vetoed a bill that would have been the first in the nation to restrict transgender students’ access to school restrooms and locker rooms, a move that came after LGBT rights activists waged a furious campaign against the measure.”
The proposed law in South Dakota had sailed through the legislature and had arrived at the Governor’s desk. He had to sign it into law yesterday or veto it or allow it to pass into law without his signature. In a stunning reversal of what had been expected even last week, Governor Dugard vetoed the measure, and he did so as a Republican governor after meeting with representatives of LGBT activist groups. In vetoing the bill late yesterday, Governor Dugard said that the bill would have introduced legislation that,
“…does not address any pressing issue concerning the school districts of South Dakota.”
Of course, that was exactly what the legislators were attempting to do. They were attempting to be ahead of any legal challenge that might come to a school district in the state of South Dakota. The Governor went on,
“Instead of encouraging local solutions, this bill broadly regulates in a manner that invites conflict and litigation, diverting energy and resources from the education of the children of this state.”
What this amounts to is a massive case of political cowardice. Here you have a Republican governor that had received legislation adopted by the legislature of his state, and he decided to veto the bill after he received a great deal of political opposition from LGBT groups. The issue of bathrooms has become an inevitable issue of cultural controversy with the LGBT revolution. We saw this late last year in Houston and we have seen it over and over again thereafter. And school districts are right in the middle of the bull’s-eye of this particular cultural target, and that includes the schools in South Dakota. In announcing his veto, the Governor said that he was going to forfeit a statewide solution in order to send the issue back to local school districts. But the Governor had to know based upon what has already happened—for instance, in a suburban Chicago local school district—that that is basically throwing the school districts to the wolves. As the Washington Post said in its report,
“Had it been enacted, the South Dakota law would have been in direct conflict with federal civil rights policy, and schools could have faced the possibility of losing millions of dollars in federal funding.”
It was the threatened loss of that federal funding that led to the reversal of the policy there in suburban Chicago. And it was the same kind of threat that the Governor held out in vetoing the legislation. But here’s what we need to note: There has been in this country from the beginning of the public school movement, sometimes called the common school movement, the understanding that the governance of schools was best left to local communities. That’s why on the part of both parties, you hear politicians give lip service to local control of schools. But what this article makes very clear, and what this Governor’s veto makes equally clear in South Dakota, is that there is nothing but an illusion of local control of the schools. That comes when you see in this article as I just read that the South Dakota law—that is a law that codifies the policy already in place in most South Dakota school districts—would’ve been direct conflict with federal civil rights policy under the Obama Administration and thus,
“Schools could have faced the possibility of losing millions of dollars in federal funding.”
From the perspective of how government works, there is a huge lesson here. Once you have local school districts in South Dakota that are dependent upon federal funding for education then you have a recipe for disaster. And what you also have is inevitable federal control no matter what you call it. What we have in this country is a growing national government that federalizes everything it can get its hands on, including the local schools. And make no mistake, when it comes to setting the future worldview and the future of this culture, it is very clear that those who want to force a revolution in this country in sexual morality and other fronts know that the place to get that done is in the schools.
There have been times in American history where the abrogation of basic citizen rights has required the federal government to be involved in local schools. But that is not what we’re looking at here. We are looking at a pervasive effort by the federal government to control virtually every dimension of the local schools and, to do so, both by policy and by economic coercion. And make no mistake, what we’re seeing here is coercion from the federal government as we saw in Chicago, where a Chicago school district was required to give open access, unrestricted equal access, to someone who was born as a biological male, a student who now claims to be female in terms of changing facilities, restrooms, and general locker room facilities. On this issue we need to note something else. The dateline on this story in terms of the Governor’s veto was the state of South Dakota.
It tells us very great deal about the moral revolution that the Governor of South Dakota, the Republican governor of South Dakota, who was not even eligible to run for reelection, felt sufficient political pressure locally, nationally, and otherwise to veto a bill he had been expected to sign which was adopted by the legislature with the overwhelming support of the voters in the state of South Dakota. In other words, this news would be headline news if it came from a state like Oregon or Washington State or Massachusetts or New Jersey, but it didn’t. It comes from South Dakota, and this tells us something about just how fast this moral revolution is spreading across the country and how pressure is being brought everywhere all at once.
Something else is revealed in polling data on the issue. A front-page story in USA Today recently was about bathroom laws, what the paper claimed was the new LGBT fight for rights, but in the article we read this,
“Polling shows Americans overwhelmingly back laws providing transgender people protections from discrimination in schools and the workplace, but the country is more divided when questioned about the issue of access to bathrooms and locker rooms.”
That in itself tells us something about how far this moral revolution has progressed and yet where it has also met some opposition, and the opposition is coming in the restroom. We saw this last year in Houston where voters overwhelmingly rejected an ordinance that had been passed by the City Council, an ordinance that would have called for an openness to allowing persons of the opposite biological sex into restrooms in that city. USA Today seems to understand that access to locker rooms and restrooms is understood by the American people to be different than other issues related to the LGBT agenda, and we can understand why. When you get to actually adopting policies on restrooms and locker rooms, especially for students and schools, you are no longer dealing with some kind of abstract idea. You’re dealing with the reality of taking moral responsibility for very real people in a very real situation that includes the realities of a locker room or a restroom. And that’s where the LGBT revolution is meeting a pushback at the door of the locker room and the restroom, and we can understand why that would be the case.
And once again we have a clear demonstration of the importance of the 2016 presidential election, because the pressure being brought there in South Dakota and on school districts in Chicago and elsewhere is coming directly from the administration of President Barack Obama. Once again we understand that it really does matter who sits in the Oval Office and whose administration decides where the federal government will use its power of influence and, as we have seen once again, its threat of coercion. That’s exactly what was faced in South Dakota, and it’s not only people in South Dakota who had better notice.