March 8, 2016
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Tuesday, March 8, 2016. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
SCOTUS sends clear pro-abortion signal by temporarily blocking Louisiana abortion law
The stakes facing the nation in terms of the future of the nation’s highest court became very clear in recent days as the Supreme Court blocked a Louisiana abortion regulation, effectively stopping that state from requiring doctors to hold admitting privileges at local hospitals while, as the Wall Street Journal reported,
“…litigation over the issue continues.”Show Full Transcript
Reporter Jess Bravin for the Journal reminds us that the unsigned order came just two days after the Court heard arguments over a similar legislation in Texas. Now, as we note the report coming from the Court, it was clear that only Justice Clarence Thomas indicated publicly that he would’ve allowed the Louisiana law to take effect. So what’s really going on here? Well, what we are seeing is that the nation’s highest court has sent a very clear signal, a 14-word, very clear signal about how it is likely to rule in the very abortion case that it heard oral arguments about on last Wednesday. And that’s what makes this story and this development so very, very important, because what we’re looking at here is the fact that only one justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Clarence Thomas, was willing to say publicly that he believed that the law in Louisiana should have been allowed to go into effect, at least until the High Court turns in its decision, hands it down in what is expected to be several months’ time.
This is a very ominous signal and, as was noted, it came just two days after the oral arguments in the most important abortion case to come before the Supreme Court in at least a generation. And that court has only eight sitting justices because of the recent death of justice Antonin Scalia, and what we’re looking at here is that the very best that pro-life forces could’ve hoped for in terms of the current court is a 4-4 split that would’ve allowed at least the decision in the fifth U.S. circuit Court of Appeals upholding the Texas law to stand—or least to stand until another appeal when there might be nine justices on the Court.
We need to face clearly the picture that is becoming clear to us. The court made a very clear statement in blocking the Louisiana law, but Justice Thomas also made a very clear statement in breaking from his colleagues. Now as a matter of constitutional principle and as a matter of the common procedure of the Court, justices in the minority in a decision like this do not have to publicly announce that fact. But Justice Thomas did. That doesn’t mean that it was a 7-1 vote, what it does mean is that Justice Thomas appears to be sending pro-life forces a very clear signal, the signal that a majority on the Court is intending to strike down the Texas legislation. We’ve discussed this very thoroughly on The Briefing. This is legislation that would put into effect laws in Texas and elsewhere that would require abortion doctors to have admitting privileges in a local hospital and for abortion clinics to have to meet the same kind of medical specifications and requirements as similar surgical centers. But what we’re seeing here—make no mistake—is a head-on collision between pro-life and pro-abortion forces at the U.S. Supreme Court. And the death of Justice Antonin Scalia is making a huge difference. It appears at the very least, that Justice Clarence Thomas was attempting to send a clear signal, a signal that things have changed at the nation’s highest court and, in this case, with very ominous consequences.
Single women now most powerful political force driving progressive agenda
Next, one of the most important cover stories in recent American journalism is found in the cover of the recent addition of New York Magazine. The current edition has a cover story with the title,
“Single women are now the most potent political force in America.”
Rebecca Traister wrote the cover story, and it is a blockbuster. From a Christian worldview perspective, it takes us to the intersection of a change in family life and a larger change in the culture—and there are huge lessons here. Traister writes about her own experience getting married; she said she did so in 2010 at the age of 35. She then wrote this,
“I had lived 14 independent, early-adult years that my mother had spent married. I had made friends and fallen out with friends, had moved in and out of apartments, had been hired, fired, promoted, and quit. I had had roommates and I had lived on my own; I’d been on several forms of birth control and navigated a few serious medical questions; I’d paid my own bills and failed to pay my own bills; I’d fallen in love and fallen out of love and spent five consecutive years with nary a fling.”
But the point Traister is seeking to make in this cover story is that the lives of young women have changed in this country—the expectation of womanhood and marriage, that expectation has been broken, especially for younger women. And as Traister says, this will have profound implications for the culture not just in the future, but in the present. She writes,
“In 2009, the proportion of American women who were married dropped below 50 percent. In other words, for the first time in American history, single women (including those who were never married, widowed, divorced, or separated) outnumbered married women. Perhaps even more strikingly, the number of adults younger than 34 who had never married was up to 46 percent, rising 12 percentage points in less than a decade. For women under 30, the likelihood of being married has become astonishingly small: Today, only around 20 percent of Americans ages 18–29 are wed, compared to nearly 60 percent in 1960.”
Just a few weeks ago, we looked at a report coming out of the state of California indicating that in just a matter of a couple of years, a majority of the adults in the nation’s most populous state will be in an unmarried state. In itself that represents a demographic, a social, a cultural, and a moral revolution. Traister’s article is pointing to the liberalization of American culture and American politics by the rise of single womanhood as a potent political force, a very powerful cultural force and the coming wave in terms of demographics. She writes very openly. She says,
“Whether you regard this shift as dangerous or thrilling, it is having a profound effect on our politics. While they are not often credited for it, single women’s changed circumstances are what’s driving a political agenda that seems to become more progressive every day.”
“The practicalities of female life independent of marriage give rise to demands for pay equity, paid family leave, a higher minimum wage, universal pre-K, lowered college costs, more affordable health care, and broadly accessible reproductive rights; many of these are issues that have, for years, been considered too risky to be central to mainstream Democratic conversation, yet they are policies today supported by both Democratic candidates for president.”
So what should we be seeing here? In recent election cycles, something has become profoundly clear. The marital status of women has had almost everything to do with predicting whether they will vote Democratic or Republican, whether they will lean liberal or conservative. The clearest example of this in terms of documentation was the most recent gubernatorial election in the state of Virginia. The Democratic candidate won largely on the support of the votes of single women. Married women overwhelmingly favored the Republican candidate. Married women with their husbands in the home and with children in the home voted for the Republican by an amazing percentage. On the other hand, childless, unmarried women went overwhelmingly for the Democratic candidate. Traister’s point is that that’s not an isolated example. What we are seeing here is a changed expectation in terms of younger women when it comes to marriage, and that is leading to a marked liberalization of their worldview. And by their numbers of the larger American culture, in an absolutely astounding paragraph, Traister writes,
“Perhaps more dramatically than any other voting block, unmarried women — comprising as they do other liberal-voting groups including young women and women of color — lean left. Way left.”
She documents that in terms of recent presidential elections, and then she points to the fact that marital status, when it comes to women, is one of the most important indications not only of how they will vote but of how the nation will be directed in terms of its trajectory. Traister cites columnist Jonathan Last who wrote in the Weekly Standard,
“…that the marriage rate for these women that is women voters in the 2000 election was a greater influence on vote choice than any other variable.”
It’s a very interesting insight, and Traister points out that if you fast-forward from 2000 to 2016, we’re looking at a tidal wave of younger women who are unmarried and, as he points out, that can now be generalized not only to younger women but even to older women who either have never married or are now unmarried by one reason or another. And these women, as she points out, lean left politically or as she says, “way left.”
Traister understands what we understand, and that is that there is a basic link between marital status and marital expectation and worldview. As she writes,
“This reorganization of our citizenry, unlike the social movements that preceded it and made it possible — from abolition and suffrage and labor fights of the 19th and early-20th centuries to the civil-rights, women’s, and gay-rights movements of the mid-20th century — is not a self-consciously politicized event.”
Her argument here is very important. She says,
“Today’s women are, for the most part, not abstaining from or delaying marriage to prove a point about equality. They are doing it because they have internalized assumptions that just a half-century ago would have seemed radical: that it’s okay for them not to be married; that they are whole people able to live full professional, economic, social, sexual, and parental lives on their own if they don’t happen to meet a person to whom they want to legally bind themselves.”
Now from a Christian biblical worldview perspective, this is absolutely explosive and it affirms the link between marital status and the expectation of marital status and worldview. Or, we might say, it demonstrates the link between worldview and one’s understanding of marriage, sex and family. They are absolutely interdependent. She makes a stunning point, and that point is this: She argues that these millions of young women who are unmarried, and many of their older peers as well, are not seeking to make a feminist statement. Instead, her language here is really, really important. She says,
“It is because they have internalized assumptions.”
In other words, they’re not so much logically, rationally thinking this through as it is true that their worldview has changed. The way they see the world now increasingly decouples sex from marriage, children from marriage, vocation and meaning in life from marriage—their future vision of the good life from marriage. That is a fundamental shift that is not only new in terms of American history, in one sense it is new in terms of human history, the very history of the world.
In a very important section of her article, Traister gets right to the economic argument at the root of this. She makes very clear that a woman who takes time out for professional sequence in order to get married and to have a child or children falls significantly behind in terms of salary of a woman who remains in the workplace uninterrupted by either marriage or child rearing. One of the most shocking sections of Traister’s article is where she points to the fact that for many young women, marriage is simply not a part of their future expectation, or, if so, it’s something way in the future if they ever get to that, if they ever want to get to that. She cites a senior at Northwestern University who said,
“I know it sounds hyperbolic. But I mean it when I say that getting married right now would ruin my life. I want freedom. I want the chance to pick up and move to a new city for a new job or for adventure, without having to worry about a spouse or a family. I need to be able to stay at the office until three in the morning if I have to and not care about putting dinner on the table.”
Now we just need to step back and consider what’s being said here. Here you have a young woman, a senior at Northwestern University, one of the nation’s most prestigious academic institutions, who is simply saying that she needs a life in which marriage is not a part of the expectation, nor is having to prepare dinner, nor is in this sense an obligation to anyone. And that’s one of the things we really need to note. This is the feeling on the part of so many in this generation that their primary obligation is to themselves, and this is one of the internalized assumptions that Traister is writing about. It is the assumption that the most significant unit of moral meaning is the self. Now we need to note that this is not unique merely to young women. Some young men may think in similar terms, but not according to the same pattern. This is one of the big changes in terms of recent American life. There are more young men who are actually interested in getting married—or at least say that getting married is a part of their expectation and earlier rather than later at the point they’re asked—than young women. In most recent American generations—in fact one would consider in most generations throughout human history—that pattern had been reversed.
Make no mistake, however, when it comes to explaining the link between the rise of single women and this wave of political liberalism, what are defined here as reproductive rights takes a very front-and-center position. Traister writes,
“This is why the expansion of the population of unmarried women across classes signals a social and political rupture as profound as the invention of birth control, as the sexual revolution, as the abolition of slavery, as women’s suffrage, and as the women’s-rights, civil-rights, gay-rights, and labor movements that made this reordering of society possible.”
Now just consider that sentence. Here she is saying that the moral revolution, the cultural change being brought about by the rise of single women in the population, is as big as the Civil Rights movement, as big, she says, as the abolition of slavery, as big as the gay-rights movement. She then continues,
“By their very growing presence, single women are asking for a new deal from their government. The Democratic platform, suddenly more liberal than it has been in a generation, is more liberal largely in response to this new segment of the American population.”
When it comes to reproductive rights, she raises the issue of abortion right away. And as we have seen in terms of recent Democratic issues, she goes directly to the Hyde Amendment—that is the legislation that prevents federal funds—taxpayer funds—from being used to subsidize and pay for abortion. That is something that was adopted with wide bipartisan support in the aftermath of Roe v. Wade, but now liberal Democrats have it right in the center of their bull’s-eye. Traister writes,
“The Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of federal funds for those women seeking abortion, has gone largely unchallenged by mainstream Democrats for decades. But in Congress, California representative Barbara Lee has proposed a bill that would reverse it, and Hillary Clinton recently became the first mainstream Democratic presidential candidate in history to campaign vocally for its reversal on the grounds that it is a restriction that disproportionately limits the ability of poor women of color to exercise their reproductive rights and make decisions about whether and when to have children.”
Now here we need to note something else of profound importance from the Christian worldview. What we’re seeing here is a kind of argument that only makes sense when a worldview has been largely secularized and divorced from its biblical foundations. This is a worldview in which you can talk about abortion as a reproductive right and when in the argument for equality you can argue that those who are unable to pay for an abortion should have equal access to abortion, even if that requires taxpayers to pay for those abortions. We’re looking here at a dramatic political revolution. As Traister notes accurately, Hillary Clinton has become the first mainstream Democratic candidate in history to vocally campaign for the reversal of the Hyde Amendment. This is a stunning and unprecedented development. In moral terms, it is massive; it’s absolutely huge. And what we need to note is that it seems to have overwhelming support from Democratic voters and, in particular, from these Democratic voters. The rise of single women is the single most liberalizing force in American political and cultural life.
Earlier in the article, Traister pointed to the fact that single women in America are now pressing for a new social compact from their government, and it looks a great deal like the political platform of Senator Bernie Sanders. Traister goes on to argue that’s why so many single women are supporting Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries rather than Hillary Clinton. It is because he actually reflects their internalized assumptions better than Secretary Clinton. That also tells us something massive. Here you have a liberal Democrat, Hillary Clinton, who seems to be baffled and shocked by the fact that her anticipated primary constituency, young women in America, single women in America, have veered considerably to her left. As I said, this cover story in New York Magazine is one of the most important in recent years, and its importance becomes more clear when we consider the worldview issues that are really at stake here.
The biblical worldview reminds us that as human beings, we were made for marriage. That is to say, the normative expectation of most people moving into adulthood was that they would get married and that they would take on the obligations of marriage, and that would include the raising of children. There can be absolutely no doubt that marriage and the raising of children puts a disproportionate responsibility and burden upon women. That’s in part simply a fact of biology. But what we’re seeing here is a reversal not only of the expectation of marriage, but we’re seeing a redefinition of what it means to be a woman in terms of modern society. And, especially in this country, we’re seeing that that is driving a liberal process of social and political change. And we see that that is now requiring a new social compact to be arranged between government and its female citizens, at least in terms of the agenda of these voters. I conclude this with just one sentence from Traister’s report. She says,
“Across classes, women are living more years independent of marriage both because it is now possible to do so, and because it is often the emotionally and economically more sensible choice.”
Just let those words sink in. What we’re being told here is that across classes—that means economic classes in America—women are now living more of their lives as single women because,
“…it is often the emotionally and economically more sensible choice.”
That sentence just taken on its own should land like a thunderclap.
Blue cities, red states: worldview and living environment often go hand in hand
Finally, another really important article appeared in yesterday’s daily edition of the Los Angeles Times. Columnist Harold Meyerson wrote an article entitled,
“Blue cities, red states.”
This goes back to two things we’ve often discussed. On the one hand, political liberalism, moral liberalism in this country, secularization as a matter of fact, is more pronounced along the two coasts and near academic campuses and in metropolitan areas, in particular urban areas—America’s larger cities. The blue cities, red states phenomena that Meyerson’s pointing to comes down to this: Even though a record number of states are now in Republican hands, a record number of large cities, even in those red states, are now blue—that is, largely democratically controlled. He writes this,
“Today, 27 of the nation’s 30 largest cities have Democratic mayors — the greatest partisan imbalance since the advent of the party system in the age of Andrew Jackson. Even cities in rock-solid Republican states have Democratic mayors. In deep red Texas, Democrats govern Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio and El Paso.”
But he goes on to say that,
“States, meanwhile, have seldom been more Republican. The GOP controls the governor’s office and both houses of the legislature in 23 states, while Democrats can boast the same in just seven.”
This is pointing to something that is also of deep worldview significance. Where one lives matters. In one sense that makes a difference whether you live in the inland of the country or on the coast. It makes a difference whether or not you live near an academic campus, much less on that campus. But it also matters a great deal whether or not you live in one of America’s larger cities, because if you do, the demographic population is likely to be far more liberal, far more secularized, far more morally progressive—to use contemporary vocabulary—than what you would find in more rural areas or even—and this is very dramatic—in suburban areas. Meyerson makes very clear that the suburbs trend Republican, they also trend towards, well, you see where we’re headed here, they trend toward people who are married and are raising children. And one of the things we need to note here is that the opposite is true in cities. Cities tend to attract overwhelming percentages of young people and of single people, unmarried people, people who are far more likely not to be raising children. What does this tell us? Well, it tells us something that we need to note with great care, something that is very similar to what we saw in that New York Magazine cover story. Being married and raising children changes one, changes one’s worldview, and the fact is that raising children and being married tends to make one far more conservative in moral terms. And we can understand why. And thus you can see how a society in which increasing numbers, much less a majority, are moving from married into an unmarried state, how that would fundamentally change the moral outlook of the civilization. But that raises a very interesting question. Where are these new patterns of life taking us? What will be the moral impact, and can civilization survive?