The Briefing 11-04-14

The Briefing 11-04-14

The Briefing


November 4, 2014

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


It’s Tuesday, November 4, 2014.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) Election Day looms large on America’s political, cultural and moral horizons 

Today is Election Day in America and the midterm elections for this year loom very large on America’s cultural, moral, and political horizon. This comes for good reason; this is the midterm that comes at the midpoint of President Obama second term. This is the election that will set the stage for the final two years of the Obama administration and given the stakes on so many issues, this will be the most expensive midterm election in American history. A little footnote to that by the way, it’s almost certain that every subsequent election is more expensive than the one that came before, but these midterm elections have now taken on an entirely new importance. The crucial issue in this election is not just who was elected to represent which state from which position, but which party will control both houses of Congress. Right now the Republicans control the House of Representatives; the Democrats have, for several cycles now, controlled the United States Senate. The Senate becomes especially crucial given that bodies responsibility for the confirmation of presidential appointments. Given the fact that there will be hundreds of such appointed positions even in the last two years of the Obama Administration, this points to the importance of the control of the Senate and it points to why Republicans have such high hopes and why President Obama and Democrats have invested so much in trying to retain control of the upper body in Congress.

Both parties are taking a particularly close look at 10 Senatorial elections. These 10 are expected to decide the control of the Senate. They include contests in Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina, Kansas, New Hampshire, Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Iowa, and Alaska. If you’re wondering about the order of those states, they’re not in alphabetical order, nor are they simply in order from East to West, but they are in order of the closing of polling times. In other words, as you look to that list of states – a list that begins with Kentucky and ends with Alaska – you’re looking at the likely indicators of which way this midterm election will go. It’s going to be a long night – of that you can be sure. But it may also be the fact that we do not know the conclusion of the election today. That has to do the fact that in at least two states, Louisiana and Georgia, there is not only the possibility but indeed the likelihood of a runoff election. Because given the fact that there are independence running in the race, it’s very likely that neither candidate of either the Republican or the Democratic Party will be able to gain the necessary 50% plus one to enable the election to be declared. In the case of Georgia, that state will not hold a runoff if a runoff is necessary until after the first of the year – which could raise some very interesting constitutional questions since the congressional term begins before that runoff election will even be held.

An interesting aspect in terms of the midterm elections is offered by veteran political writer Susan Page of USA Today. She writes,

“As Election Day nears, America is the Land of the Fearful.”

As she explains,

“Voters are rattled by the Ebola virus, braced for years of conflict against the terrorist group the Islamic State and still worried about jobs, [that according to a] USA TODAY Poll finds. [She said] Two-thirds say the nation faces more challenging problems than usual; one in four call them the biggest problems of their lifetimes.”

Many, she says, lack confidence in the ability of government to address these challenges. Susan Page then quoted Laurie DeShano, she’s an instructor at Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan, who said:

“There’s this cornucopia of icky that’s going on right now,”

That’s a very interesting way of describing the current political and global environment. There is indeed ‘a cornucopia of icky.’ Just about everywhere voters turn there are issues to be deeply concerned about and this leads many voters to a sense of confusion about what’s really important. But it also is deeply humbling when you recognize that the two issues there that frame the beginning of Susan Page’s analysis and that is the Ebola crisis and the rise of Islamic State; a year ago we would’ve been discussing neither of those two issues and yet Americans right now say that those are the two main issues of their immediate concern. And even though those issues are not going to be on the ballot, they are on the minds of voters and that is what’s important.

2) Partisan divide in America points to a demographic divide

In addition to all that, as election day arrives it becomes increasingly clear that the partisan divide in America is not only an ideological and moral divide, it’s not only in some cases a generational divide, it’s also a demographic divide. Jackie Calmes writing in Saturday’s edition of the New York Times points out that Democrats are basically betting the bank in this election on the votes of women; and not just on the votes of women, but on the votes of minority women and unmarried women. In the current political context, Calmes explains, minority women and unmarried women are actually the Democratic Party’s most loyal voters. Christians looking at this phenomenon would recognize the importance of family context in marriage because as virtually every political scientist now recognizes, if a woman is unmarried she is much more likely to vote Democratic. If she is married, she’s much more likely to vote Republican. If you add children to the mix, this becomes even more exaggerated. Single women with children tend to vote Democratic in even greater numbers than single women without children and married women with children tend overwhelmingly to vote Republican. So often the mainstream media refers to issues as ‘women’s issues’ especially when dealing with the targeted strategies of the Democratic Party. But that party is not actually trying to get the votes of all women, but is targeting in particular those minority women and single women who are their most loyal voters. Now does marital status influence the vote or does the vote just indicate the likelihood of voting pattern from someone that is married or unmarried? That’s an interesting question. But what Christians do understand is that marriage fundamentally matters; it changes the entire equation and that equation is not only personal, it’s also deeply political – as political scientist now well recognize.

The mirror image of that story appeared in last Friday’s edition of the Wall Street Journal in a front-page article by Kristina Peterson and Dante Chinni entitled “GOP Tightens Grip on White Working Class.” As the reporters indicate, there has been an almost turning upside down of the tables, politically speaking, in terms of the white working class. If you go back about 30 years, they are overwhelmingly likely to vote Democratic but now they are almost by the same terms voting in a Republican pattern. And as this report makes very clear, it’s expected that this midterm election will simply drive that process even further. This explains why a state like West Virginia that had been overwhelmingly Democratic for most of the period since the end of World War II is now going to be almost entirely Republican. But in other states the reverse is actually the case; Republican states have turned Democratic, Democratic states have turned Republican. But there’s something else to watch here and that has to do with the fact that even as there are states making these kinds of partisan switches, the partisan divide in America is actually growing wider – it’s not just switching, it is a further exaggeration of the partisan distance between Americans. Studies again and again in recent years have indicated that the Republican Party has grown more conservative over the last 30 years and in a very market way, the Democratic Party is taking a significant turn to the left just in the last 5 to 10 years. So the distance between Republicans and Democrats is actually greater than it has been at any recent point in American history; certainly at any point in which this generation of Americans would remember.

Finally as we think about the election we need to remember that not only are there candidates on the ballot, there are huge questions as well. Voters in two states and the District of Columbia will face voting questions related to the legalization of marijuana. And as we’re looking at the issue of abortion, at least two states face very big questions. Perhaps most importantly the voters of Tennessee will face the question known as ‘Amendment One,’ voters in that state have the opportunity to amend their state constitution so that its current status, as offering more liberal protections for abortion than even the United States Constitution, can be amended to allow for commonsense restrictions on abortion. And in the state of Colorado, that state for the third time, now faces a so-called ‘personhood amendment,’ an amendment that would declare it a crime to commit any act of violence against the fetus. This has brought a lot of attention to the state of Colorado but it has also brought a lot of money. As Katie Zezima of the Washington Post reported yesterday, Planned Parenthood is very active in Colorado opposing the personhood amendment and investing between $15 and $20 million nationwide seeking to protect abortion rights in virtually any conceivable context. To all these must be added the fact that in at least 36 states there are gubernatorial elections also at stake underlining a new the importance of this Election Day. Elections have consequences and in an election of this importance will have massive consequences. So on this consequential day, we will all be watching to see just what Americans are saying with their vote. What will you be saying with yours?

3) Obama comments about stay-at-home moms reveals priority of professional over family life

Next there’s been an enormous amount of conversation about a statement made on the campaign trail by someone who isn’t on the ballot, not exactly. And that someone is President Barack Obama. Campaigning for Democratic candidates in Rhode Island in a speech given there, President Obama sought to address his party’s contention about the issues of importance to women. And then he said this,

“Sometimes, someone, usually Mom, leaves the workplace to stay home with the kids, which then leaves her earning a lower wage for the rest of her life as a result. That’s not a choice we want Americans to make.”

That’s what the President said. At least to this point, the White House has offered no clarification of the President’s comments. Writing at The Federalist, Mollie Hemingway is almost certainly right to say that the President probably did not mean exactly what he said. But given the context of his remarks, what he almost surely didn’t mean is quite troubling enough. In the larger context of the President’s statement, he was actually first discussing the issue of day care. The President has been calling for an additional 6 million children in what the President defines as high-quality day care and preschool programs. So let’s look at the President’s larger quote. The President said,

“In many states, sending your child to daycare costs more than sending them to a public university.”

Someone from the audience cried out, “True!” The President responded,

“True. And too often, parents have no choice but to put their kids in cheaper daycare that maybe doesn’t have the kinds of programming that makes a big difference in a child’s development.  And sometimes there may just not be any slots, or the best programs may be too far away.  And sometimes, someone, usually mom, leaves the workplace to stay home with the kids, which then leaves her earning a lower wage for the rest of her life as a result.  And that’s not a choice we want Americans to make.”

Taken just at face value it appears that the President said that we don’t, as Americans, want American women to make the choice to stay home with their children. But even if that’s not exactly what the President meant to say, his comments in terms of the larger context are if anything equally distressing because the President here seems to hold out a norm for American women that involves them giving their primary attention at every point of their adult lives to their professional life. And furthermore to have the backdrop of a government support for preschool and day care programs so that they would not have to face any pressure to go home and stay with the children; thus exiting the workforce only later to reenter it with a harm to the wage curve. As Mollie Hemingway writes,

“Putting the absolute best construction on this statement, we might say President Obama misspoke. Perhaps he meant to say he doesn’t want mothers to have to choose between staying home and lower future wages. I mean, [she writes] he didn’t say ‘I don’t want mothers forced to make this decision,’ but we could imagine he might have wished he’d said it.”

But then she writes,

“When I had my first child, I traded the money of my newspaper job for the far-greater value (for me) of time spent with my totally awesome daughter. It would not make sense for me to be paid for newspaper work I didn’t produce. And had I wanted the income more than the time with my child, I could have made that decision as well. People are free, you see, to make the decision that works best.”

Mollie Hemingway went on to say that she traded income for time with her children and even as she has reentered the workforce, she still continues in one sense to pay for that decision. But she says it was the right decision and she should have been free to make that decision. But as she says, in the real economic world there’s no way to make that decision and still have no economic impact of leaving the workforce for those years.

Furthermore as Charles Murray of the American Enterprise Institute also makes very clear, the contributions of stay-at-home moms not only to their own children and to their own families but to the larger society, these contributions are actually incalculable. In the President’s worldview the norm should be that a woman would give her attention to her profession and in so far she has the kind of governmental support the President anticipates, she would never have to leave the workforce for any appreciable amount of time; thus she would never be in the position of leaving the workforce for a number of years only to reenter it at a significant income disadvantage to those who stayed on the job during those very same years. In the President’s understanding what we face is a problem of inequality and the only way to solve that problem of inequality is to create a government program of expanded preschool and day care so that women would choose that option and not have to leave the workforce – thus eliminating the inequality. But as Mollie Hemingway and many other writers have pointed out, this is an inequality that is actually factored in by these women in terms of their own calculation of what they want, of what they desire, of what they believe is their calling in life. And thus when these women leave their professions, at least for some time, in order to give primary attention to their children and families as stay-at-home moms and wives, they are making a decision that ought to be just as honored as any other. But that won’t play well in terms of today’s rather secular Democratic Party. It won’t play well in a party that is tilted its message decidedly toward gaining the votes of unmarried women.

Furthermore as both Charles Murray and Mollie Hemingway point out, the economic presuppositions are themselves very suspect. As Hemingway writes,

“I don’t want to give the impression that staying home with children is always a bad economic decision. Studies show that intact families end up having what some call marriage premiums — resulting in more money brought home. What this basically means, among other things, is that men with children in their home make more money — whether this is because they’re working and striving harder, taking on more responsibilities, signaling stability, or some other combination — that offsets losses women face because of labor and workforce disruptions affiliated with having children.”

Not every mother can stay at home with her children but as study after study has indicated there are enormous benefits from mothers who can; especially for the children raised in those homes. Furthermore, there are economic issues that simply do not pan out in terms of the moral analysis. There is no simple trade-off of the experience of a mom staying at home with their children by choice and the economic issues that are tied to the professional cycle. From a worldview perspective one of the things of greatest interest to note here is the fact that the elites in this country are increasingly confused and frustrated by women who don’t want what the elites want them to want. President Obama’s comments, even if we try to clean them up a bit, turn out to be very hostile to the idea that a woman would want to stay at home with her children and would willingly decide to leave the workforce for some time in order to make those children and that home her priority.

One final note of interesting analysis on this story, it turns out when you look at the media and the blogosphere that the people who seem to be most angry at President Obama for these comments are not men who are saying ‘we want our wives to stay at home,’ but rather women who say ‘the President has trampled on our own free moral choice, our own sense of calling.’ Speaking in Rhode Island, President Obama meant to rally the votes of women, he wanted to get the attention of America’s women with these comments, and it turns out that perhaps in a way he surely did not intend, he was wildly successful beyond anything he could’ve imagined. Beginning with my own dear wife, any numbers of women hearing the President’s comments were not encouraged to go out and vote for the candidate he was endorsing but rather to stand back in horror at what the President actually said. We all know that elections have consequences but so, as the President surely found out, do speeches; this speech in particular. Whether the President recognizes it or not, millions of American women believe that the decision to stay home with their children is a positive and in no way a negative choice.

4) Population control solution to climate change horrifying example of anti-natalism

Finally, we surely should’ve seen this one coming. Fast on the heels of that United Nations climate change report comes an article by Jason Plautz in The Atlantic arguing that one thing that needs to be taken into consideration as we seek to address the challenge of climate change is lowering the birth rate. As he writes,

“The equation seems fairly simple: The more the world’s population rises, the greater the strain on dwindling resources and the greater the impact on the environment. The solution? Well, [he writes] that’s a little trickier to talk about.”

At least Mr. Plautz recognizes something of what he’s up against. Later in the article he writes,

“Talking about population control requires walking a tightrope: There’s nuance between encouraging access to birth control and a China-style one-child policy, but that doesn’t always translate in the retelling, and it can all too easily sound like a developed world leader telling people in the developing world that they should stop having children—especially because much of the population boom is coming from regions like sub-Saharan Africa.”


Well Mr. Plautz is exactly right; this is the challenge he faces. Because inevitably, given the fact that in the developed world birthrates have been plummeting in recent decades, the only way this become the relevant issue is if people in the developed world tell people in the developing world they should stop having children. Now keep in mind the fact that most demographers point to the reality that a looming birth dearth – that is an absence of births – may well be the larger problem in terms of human flourishing in coming generations. It is expected that the human population on earth will continue to grow for some time, only to begin to decline at the midpoint of the second half of the 21st century. For the last 50 years or so there’s been a significant anti-natalist tendency among the intellectual elites. Anti-natalist simply means against births; which means in essence, against babies. Babies are seen as the problem, population is seen as the great blight on civilization, and there’s nothing like a climate change report such as that released on Sunday by the United Nations to fuel many people in the population control movement – which of course is often very closely allied with the abortion-rights movement – to say, ‘we offer the answer to your problem.’ No matter how the intellectual elites may try, they can’t remove the stain of racism from the population control movement. And there’s something deeply tragic and sad about a movement that says the way to address the problem of the environment is to reduce the number of babies born into it. For far too many millions of people on the secular left, they still believe salvation is found in a pill – most particularly in a birth control pill.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information go to my website at You can follow me on Twitter by going to For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary go to For information on Boyce College just go to I’m speaking to you from Kansas City, Missouri and I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.



Podcast Transcript

1) Election Day looms large on America’s political, cultural and moral horizons 

Land of the Fearful: A Nervous America Prepares to Vote, USA Today (Susan Page)

2) Partisan divide in America points to a demographic divide

Democrats Count on Edge With Women to Limit Election Losses, New York Times (Jackie Calmes)

Democrats Lose Their Grip on Voters With Keys to the House, Wall Street Journal (Kristina Peterson and Dante Chinni)

Planned Parenthood vs. personhood in Colorado, Washington Post (Katie Zezima)

3) Obama comments about stay-at-home moms reveals priority of professional over family life

3 Reasons President Obama Is Wrong About Stay-At-Home Mothers, The Federalist (Mollie Hemingway)

Remarks by the President on Women and the Economy — Providence, RI, White House (President Barack Obama)

The crucial importance of stay-at-home wives, American Enterprise Institute (Charles Murray)

4) Population control solution to climate change horrifying example of anti-natalism

The Climate-Change Solution No One Will Talk About, The Atlantic (Jason Plautz)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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