March 16, 2016
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Wednesday, March 16, 2016. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Major political realignment in both parties reflects underlying worldview realignment
We need to put last night into perspective in terms of the 2016 presidential race. It was clear that what was billed as Super Tuesday the Second would indeed turn out to be just that; it was a very big Tuesday, and what it revealed was not only what we’re likely now to see in terms of the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees, but we also see a great deal about the American voting public. The big winners last night were former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side and on the Republican side, Donald Trump and Governor John Kasich of Ohio. Kasich joins the list because he won in his own state, denying Donald Trump the 66 delegates in that winner-take-all primary election. But Trump won in Florida, in North Carolina, and in Illinois. In Florida alone, another winner-take-all primary, he took 99 delegates. This puts him much closer to the 1,237 delegates needed to win the Republican presidential nomination.
But even as it puts Donald Trump much closer to that nomination, it does not assure him of gaining either the 1,237 votes or the eventual nomination. But every scenario that would deny him that nomination becomes less likely and to some degree less plausible with every passing day, especially with a day like yesterday. But John Kasich did win 66 delegates in Ohio, and that means that Donald Trump does not have them, and that increases the likelihood that there might be a contested convention, much less a brokered convention.Show Full Transcript
Now that raises a host of interesting issues. It raises the question as to whether or not the Republican Party actually has the will in order to deny Donald Trump the nomination and to defy the voters who have been voting in the millions behind him. On the Republican side what we’re seeing is the materialization of a scenario that virtually no one saw coming.
Dropping out of the race last night after losing his home state of Florida, Senator Marco Rubio spoke directly to that reality when he said,
“America’s in the middle of a real political storm, a real tsunami,” he said. “And we should have seen this coming.”
He went on to say,
“While we are on the right side, this year we will not be on the winning side.”
Last night had to be a very hard night for the Florida Senator, for his family, and for his supporters, because the Rubio campaign had begun with such promise. As the New York Times reports this morning,
“Mr. Rubio’s ill-fated campaign for the White House, which was virtually broke by the time Tuesday’s primary arrived, was built on mistaken assumptions about the mood and preferences of the electorate, a misplaced faith in the charisma of the candidate and misguided predictions about the course of the Republican race.”
But what we need to note as we consider Senator Rubio dropping out of the campaign last night is that no one saw this race materializing. No one saw it coming until it did. Now we face the reality that the front runner for the Republican presidential nomination, someone who has never held electoral office previously, is someone who is running on a platform that includes positions that would’ve been anathema to any previous cycle of Republican voters. He holds to positions that the Republican Party has either avoided or repudiated. Running on a dangerous mix of populism and nativism, he has also resorted to language and to tactics in the campaign that would’ve been an embarrassment to any major American political party until the 2016 cycle where it should be an embarrassment.
On the Democratic side, there has been an opposite picture of populism with independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders running as an avowed Democratic Socialist and running a very credible campaign against a woman who is the former First Lady of the United States, the nominee expected in the year 2008 and by any measure the front runner for the 2016 race for the Democratic presidential nomination.
So what we’re looking at here is a radically changed picture in both political parties in the United States. And looking at this from a Christian worldview perspective, this raises a host of issues far larger than just the 2016 election. For many decades now, the two major political parties in this country—the Democrats on the one side and the Republicans on the other—have represented contrasting worldviews—not just contrasting policies and proposals, but contrasting worldviews. And for the better part of that time, both of these parties have held to a coherent worldview, which is to say in any number of recent election cycles, going all the way back at least to the early 20th century, you pretty much had an idea of the kind of candidate that both parties would put forth as a nominee and the expected positions and policies that would be represented by that candidate.
But in a brilliant article that ran in yesterday’s edition of the Wall Street Journal, columnist Gerald F. Seib points out that the 2016 race “shatters the Reagan and Clinton coalitions.” That’s a very important insight just in that headline. Because what this tells us is that the great political reset that took place in the Republican Party in the 1980 election and the corresponding Democratic revolution in 1992—the Republican Revolution symbolized by Ronald Reagan and the Democratic Revolution symbolized by Bill Clinton—those have now faded into American history. As Seib writes,
“Regardless of the outcome of Tuesday’s crucial big-state primaries, Campaign 2016 already has produced one big change: It is winding down the two big coalitions that have dominated American political life for the last three decades.”
Now we can actually take Seib’s argument and point it far further backwards than just three decades; but I know what he’s doing here. He’s pointing in particular to the Reagan revolution among the Republicans and to the Clinton revolution among the Democrats. But that was Bill Clinton, very different from the campaign now being run by his wife, Hillary Clinton. Seib goes on to explain that now both of these coalitions are splintering in plain view. He cites Rahm Emanuel, the Mayor Chicago, a very close political associate of former President Bill Clinton, who also worked in the administration of President Barack Obama. He said,
“The coalitions that have represented the parties for the last few decades are over. This is a major election that will be a realignment of not just the coalitions, but of the two parties.”
In both cases, the Reagan revolution and the Clinton realignment, you could look at the previous experience of the Republican and Democratic parties and understand a certain continuity. They did not come as bolts out of the blue. On the other hand, you can also look at the fact that the 2016 race has so shifted the political debate that neither Ronald Reagan nor Bill Clinton would be at home in the 2016 presidential nomination race, at least if they were holding to the positions that they held when they led their respective parties to victory in 1980 and in 1992. But the bigger point being made here and what’s really important from a Christian worldview perspective is understanding that it is the worldview contrast between these two parties, it is the coherence of the long-term political and moral arguments that represented the two parties, it is that coherence that is now breaking down. And that means that we are entering a new period in American public life that’s far bigger than politics.
We can’t look at the 2016 presidential election and say this is just about politics, that somehow the people who are voting in this election are operating differently politically than they are in other arenas of life. No, what we’re seeing here is something that should really have our attention and, furthermore, our concern. We’re looking at a major realignment in the United States on issues far greater than politics and there is no assurance at this point where this is going to take us. On the Democratic side, it appears that it’s taking that party far further to the left. Hillary Clinton was the anticipated front runner for the Democratic nomination this year and it was already expected that not only would she represent positions far to the left of her own husband, but also markedly to the left of the incumbent Democratic President Barack Obama, himself a very avowed liberal. But the pressure that came into the Democratic race in the form of Bernie Sanders, a Democratic Socialist who, after all, won the New Hampshire primary and some other races, including last week Michigan, that has forced Mrs. Clinton to run even further to the left than she had intended shortly in the beginning of the 2016 race.
On the Republican side is a very mixed picture precisely because we don’t really know where that party is headed. But it is clearly headed away from the coherent, consistent worldview policies and approach to politics that had marked at least the last nine presidential election cycles in the United States. But this is where Christians are going to have to look very carefully, because it had been the case for the last several decades that party identification and the likely Democratic and Republican Party platforms and the almost assured nominees of those two parties would represent a continuous argument that can be traced to the nominee before them, and to the nominee before that, and to the nominee before that, to party platforms that had developed over time. Just to take an issue like abortion, the Democratic Party platform became ever more insistent on abortion under almost any circumstance as a presumed liberty and even calling for taxpayer support for those abortions, an abortion for any reason or for no reason, paid for by the taxpayer. On the corresponding opposite side, the Republican Party platforms in recent years have moved towards more consistent and more explicit argumentation in defense of a pro-life position.
Well, where do we stand now in the year 2016? The fact is we really do not know. An uncertainty has been entered into the political process that is going to make any kind of prognostication or prediction very difficult, and it’s going to raise a new level of responsibility for Christian voters in this country. Christian citizens are going to have to think in a far more concentrated and strategic way than Christians have had to think in recent American political cycles, because partisan affiliation has been enough in most of those cases, as represented by the nominee, as represented by the party platform to indicate where not only Christians, but most American voters, anticipated far in advance they would vote. That is to say quite bluntly that if you went to most conservative Christians in this country and you asked them would they expect in the last Republican cycle to vote for the Democratic or the Republican nominee, they wouldn’t actually have to know the identity of the nominee to know how they would expect to hear themselves answer the question.
But in 2016, it’s not so easy. As a matter fact, nothing at this point is quite so easy. The significance of this political realignment, this worldview realignment we are witnessing in the United States, has caught the attention of others as well. The Economist, one of most influential periodicals in the United Kingdom, ran a cover story in recent days on the decline of the two-party system in the United States. And what makes this important is that they pinpoint the worldview issues of our concern. As The Economist writes,
“Political parties are never monoliths. As those inside them are ceaselessly aware, they are fractious and fractured. And yet, especially in two-party democracies, they endure.
“They even manage, much of the time, to look more or less coherent while doing so. For most of the 20th century most Americans knew, more or less, what their two parties stood for.”
But the whole point of that paragraph is to point to the contrast of the 2016 election when Americans in both parties basically at this point don’t know exactly what their party stands for; and that’s dangerous for democracy. There is a political stability that has existed in this country in which the two parties have occupied very recognizable political real estate. But now the entire map is being rewritten, and the rules for re-writing that map are anything but clear. One of the most noteworthy aspects of much of the support behind Donald Trump’s candidacy is that he in his own way is threatening to blow up the political system, including the two-party system. And what is also very remarkable is that there are many who consider themselves conservatives who have somehow begun to believe that that’s a good idea. But this is where Christians have to think very carefully, operating on a view of the world that is marked by human sinfulness and knowing that sin corrupts every arena of life, including politics. Christians should be free from the expectation that a political party can operate as something other than a political party. But we also have to recognize that if we are holding to conservative principles, that means that we are looking for stability in society, a rationality and coherence in our society that would help the society to deal with problems in an orderly way, not to give itself over to populism and chaos.
The Economist concludes its article with these words,
“Parties exist to distil a complex set of questions into a binary choice; it is impossible to imagine a big democracy staying healthy without them. Yet in 2020, with Mr. Trump in mind, the strongest candidates may start from the assumption that they do not need their parties much at all.”
What we really need to note there is that here you have a very influential British periodical looking at the chaos of the 2016 American presidential race, an understanding that more is at stake than the popularity or lack of popularity of respective candidates. Again, they say that parties exist, here’s a very helpful definition, “to distil a complex set of questions into a binary choice.”
That’s a very important insight. Political parties are not perfect, but at least we’ve been able to count on the fact that the two parties have had coherent arguments and Americans have had a very clear choice, a predictable choice between the two parties, their two platforms, and the eventual presidential nominees. Christian citizens must always be thinking citizens, and especially those Christians who want to be faithful to our biblical responsibility to think about all things through the lens of the Christian worldview. Christian voters also have to be thinking voters, intelligent voters, and Christian faithfulness requires that we think in the voting booth according to the principles of God’s Word, to the Christian worldview that is revealed in every word of Scripture. And that means that in the 2016 race, that’s going to be more difficult for faithful Christians in the United States. That’s not something we chose, but as history reminds us, we don’t choose the times, the times choose us. And in this case, the time has chosen this generation of Christians for a very serious challenge in thinking as Christians in the voting booth.
Influential political theory upended by 2016 race reminds of uncertainty in prediction
Next, it’s also noteworthy that this same edition of The Economist has a major article on how the 2016 presidential race in the United States has upset the entire field of political science. They point to a very influential 2008 book written by four leading American political scientists entitled The Party Decides.
The whole point of that book was that the way to understand American presidential races is to understand that before primary voters cast the first vote, the leadership of the two parties will have already set the stage for what’s going to happen. That’s why they call this the invisible primary. But the year 2016 has dismissed the very idea of an invisible primary; if there had been such a primary, we wouldn’t be looking at what we’re talking about this morning. No, it is the visible primary that has refuted the very idea of that invisible primary. But to the credit of these political scientists, they were right looking backwards; they just weren’t right looking forwards, which is a reminder to us that predicting human behavior is not so easy as anyone might assume, including those who are economists or, for that matter, political scientists.
Coca-Cola joins LGBT coalition to put economic pressure on sexual revolution dissenters
Finally, a very revealing article that appeared in the business section of yesterday’s edition of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the headline reads,
“Coke joins coalition fighting for LGBT equality.”
In the article by business writer Leon Stafford, we read,
“Coca-Cola is a member of the newly formed Business Coalition for the Equality Act, a group of 60 prominent employers that are officially backing the Human Rights Campaign’s efforts to add federal protections for the LGBT community.”
“Coke joins other notable giants such as Apple, Nike, Target, Google, Amazon, Best Buy and Coke’s beverage industry rival Pepsi in the coalition. HRC said coalition members represent 4.2 million employees, have combined revenue of $1.9 trillion and have operations in all 50 states.”
Stafford goes on to explain that the Equality Act was introduced last July after the Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states. The Equality Act is an effort to put into federal law antidiscrimination provisions for the LGBT community. This is exactly what many Christians have seen coming and we’ve talked about for some time. This is the inevitable legal, legislative, and judicial collision—the larger cultural collision between erotic liberty and religious liberty—and now we see it in an economic format, in an economic context. That’s what’s really so important here. We’ve noted the fact that if you are driving a moral revolution, one of the engines of change is financial and economic, it is pressure upon major American corporations to choose sides in this cultural conflict. And choosing sides is exactly what’s taking place.
This headline story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is no accident, because Coca-Cola is headquartered internationally in Atlanta. It is a major factor in Atlanta’s public life; it is a major employer, of course, not only in Atlanta, but throughout the world. And now we have this article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution telling us that, unabashedly, Coke is choosing sides. But there’s a subtext here we also need to note when you go back to that paragraph where we read that,
“Coke is one of 13 metro Atlanta companies and law firms to whom HRC gave perfect scores last year.”
Now that’s really interesting. This tells us something else. The Human Rights Campaign, one of most influential and aggressive LGBT groups in the nation, has a scorecard for American employers and corporations. They keep this scorecard, they make it a public scorecard, and that’s a major factor in terms of bringing economic pressure, political pressure, even shareholder pressure, upon these major corporations. But the other thing we need to note is the list of companies that Coke has now joined and that verb tense is very important.
We are told that Coke has joined “other notable giants such as Apple, Nike, Target, Google, Amazon, Best Buy”—and here’s the crucial language—“Coke’s beverage industry rival Pepsi in the coalition.”
Now this is headline news because Coke has joined the coalition. This tells us something. Pepsi was there first along with many of these other very iconic American corporations. Why is Coke making headline news now? Because under this political pressure in the midst of this sexual and moral revolution, Coke could not be left off this list. Only the Coca-Cola Corporation can explain why it joined this coalition at this specific time, but it’s clear that sufficient pressure was brought on Coke that now they had to join this coalition in order to make the public statement that they wish to make on this issue, to take sides publicly. But this also tells us something else; we should watch for others that will now join the list. Because even as some other corporation may have been the catalyst for Coke having now to join his coalition, you can count on the fact that there are many other employers, some of them much smaller than Coca-Cola, who will be influenced by this headline to say we’ve got to be a part of that coalition as well.
The other thing we need to note very carefully is that holding to Christian convictions in any public arena in this life is simply recast as discrimination. This again is how a moral revolution takes place. It changes the language, it changes the logic of the culture. It puts political pressure and cultural and moral pressure in every arena of political and cultural and public life—that includes our economic life; that includes major American corporations who are falling all over themselves to make sure that when someone looks at this list their name is on it.
Now it should tell us something that a year ago, Coca-Cola’s name was not on this list, but now it is. That tells us something of the pace of moral change in America between just a year ago and right now. Just imagine the list a year from now, and you begin to see how this revolution gains speed. The political impact of a scorecard like this, a report card in effect, is also important. Because it’s not just American corporations who are on the receiving end of this kind of public evaluation, this kind of scorecard. It’s also American colleges and universities. It’s American associations, including, as we know, the Boy Scouts, in virtually every major cultural arena. In associations, organizations, corporations, institutions like colleges and universities, and even some liberal Protestant denominations, the effort now is to get as fast as possible on what they see as the right side of history, the right side of that report card, the right side of the LGBT moral revolution.