The Briefing

Documentation and Additional Reading

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New York Times

Charges of Vote Stealing in Florida Portend More Distrust in System for 2020

by Glenn Thrush and Jeremy W. Peters

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Part

The Briefing

Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018

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Transcript

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

It's Tuesday, November 20, 2018. I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part

Why democracy requires electoral integrity and a basic level of trust between the voters and the government

Well, as of yesterday there was a lot still to be clarified. As of today, it's all clarified. As we enter the Tuesday morning of this second week after the 2018 midterm elections, now and only now, do we have a complete electoral map, knowing where virtually every race, at least at the state or the national level, has turned out. And the picture is very interesting. Most importantly, there were three big races as the nation went into the last weekend that were still undecided: The governorships of Georgia and Florida, and the United States Senate seat in Florida. As of this morning, indeed as of the end of the weekend, it became clear that Republicans had triumphed in every single one of those races. For Republicans, that was very good news. For Democrats, there was no good news in it, or at least in the result.

But on the other hand, long-term the Democrats are claiming that in those very elections, there was actually embedded good news, and for the Republicans, bad news. In order to understand this, we're going to need to step back and do a bit of worldview analysis about what we learned, as we now know and can only now know, about the 2018 US midterm elections. The worldview implications are absolutely huge. For one thing, think about those last three races, those last three crucial races. By the end of the weekend, it was clear the Republicans had picked up a net of two seats in the United States Senate. At the same time, it was also clear that a Democratic avalanche in the House of Representatives, a wave that was thought first to be a small wave, turned out to be a far bigger blue wave.

The headline, for example, in the New York Times about Orange County, California tells the story. By the end of the weekend, the entire Congressional Delegation from Orange County, California is in Democratic hands. What's so important about that? Well as we shall see, Orange County, California is really the birthplace of modern American political conservatism. The turning of Orange County from solid red to solid blue is just one part of the big picture to which we need to pay attention. Of those three last races, it was that Florida count between the incumbent governor, Rick Scott, and the incumbent senator, Bill Nelson that came down to a rather narrow but now very clear victory for the governor over the senator. This brings to an end the over three decades of political service by the Democratic Senator, Bill Nelson, who otherwise would've been remembered not so much as a senator or as a politician, but as an astronaut.

But then you look at Rick Scott who prevailed in this very close election, and you're looking at a man who moved to Florida just a few years before he ran for that states governorship. But he did so backed up by his own enormous personal wealth. His win of the governorship was extremely close. His win in re-election was extremely close. And now his win in the United States Senate race is extremely close, but it wasn't as close as the Democrats had predicted just hours before the race effectively came to an end. The shift of those two seats in the United States Senate gives the Republicans a far more comfortable majority. That majority had previously been a bit more fragile because two members of the Republican Conference in the United States Senate, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Senator Susan Collins of Maine are far more moderate than the other senators who make up the Republican majority in the Senate. Adding two seats to that Republican majority, and two very clearly conservative seats means that the Republicans will have an easier time getting legislation through the Senate.

But of course, that's now most important with confirmations on nominations that come from the president of the United States. That's a responsibility assigned to the Senate alone, and that makes the Republican majority in the Senate a conservative majority in the Senate, effectively a dynamic duo with the president when it comes to nominations. Most importantly, nominations to the Federal Judiciary, including the United States Supreme Court. But when it comes to any other matter of legislation, the picture just gets more complicated. The new democratic majority in the House is so large that it is not likely to be reversed in the 2020 presidential election. That's a very important thing to recognize. What you need to watch there is what political analysts have long understood. When you have a presidential election, people actually tend to vote along even more partisan lines. Their vote tends to follow their presidential vote. And thus, when you're looking at the specific seats that were flipped in the 2018 midterm election, it's only likely the 2020 election would reverse the 2018 election if those districts were expected to go for the re-election of President Trump. If those districts are unlikely to go for Trump, they are certainly unlikely to go for a Republican candidate at the congressional level.

So as you're thinking about the future of American politics, a few issues need to settle in. We are likely looking at an ongoing Republican majority in the United States Senate. In the 2020 election, there will be more Republican incumbent senators up for re-election as compared to Democratic senators. That's a reversal of what happened in 2018. But also in contrast to 2018, most of the Republicans running for re-election are in safe Republican states. So that means that as you're looking at the political landscape, it is likely that the Senate will continue in Republican hands for some time. But that means on the other hand, it's also likely that the Democrats will retain a majority in the United States House of Representatives for some time. Now, you're not going to hear that from the talking points of the Republican Party, but Republican Party insiders will concede that this is the likely outcome of the American political project for the next several years.

But next, as we continue to think in worldview analysis, we need to understand that democracy, a representative form of government, requires the credibility of a vote. And Christians understand that behind that has to be a matter of trust, a reality of trust between the voters, and the government, and the people who are actually orchestrating the elections. That points to the crisis of 2018, which of course hauntingly points back to the presidential election crisis of the year 2000. And it turns out, by no irony and probably by no accident, ground zero for the credibility crisis was the state of Florida, and specifically the counties of Broward and Palm Beach within the state of Florida. Once again, those counties became the epicenter of an American political crisis, a crisis in electoral credibility. But here's where we need to turn to yesterday's front page of the New York Times. The headline at the bottom of the page was this: Vitreal Over Vote Stealing Charges Sets a Troubling Tone for 2020. The reporters are Glenn Thrush, and Jeremy W. Peters.

The reporters first point the finger at the president of the United States and other Republicans for charging that the delay and the complexities in the vote counting from Florida were an effort effectively to steal votes. The newspaper makes very clear its point, that those charges were ungrounded and furthermore, as you follow the logic of the New York Times, there would have to be the proof of those charges before the charges could publicly be made. But by the time the reporters end the story, it is clear that the accusations of wrongdoing both in Florida and in Georgia were bipartisan. For example, they point to the fact that United States Senator Cory Booker, "Said last week that the governor's race in Georgia was being stolen from Stacy Abrams, an African-American, by Brian Kemp, who is Secretary of State." Says the New York Times, "Push for the kind of strict proof of identity voting requirements that Democrats say are intended to disproportionally impact poor and minority voters."

Notice the fact that the very same Democratic senator who declared his own Spartacus moment during the Kavanaugh hearings has now declared that if Stacy Abrams were to lose the election, which she did, it could only be because the election was stolen. Similarly, the reporters tell us, "Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio made the same claim, albeit more bluntly, if Stacy Abrams doesn't win in Georgia, they stole it. It's clear. It's clear." He accused Republicans of rigging elections because, "There's way more of us than there are of them," suggesting that if Mr. Kemp won, it was because he had purged the voter rolls, intended to enhance his chances of winning. So here you have two Democratic members of the United States Senate who claim that in Georgia, if the Republican won, it's because Republicans stole the election. But then the New York Times also tells us that Republicans looking to Florida said that if their candidates there lost, it would similarly be because the election was stolen.

Now, here's where you need to understand a basic divide between the two parties. This needs to be watched very carefully. In both cases, there's the accusation of stealing an election. The New York Times headline article is intended to tell us that this is bad for democracy, that it undermines Democratic credibility. The answer to that is, of course it does. But this is where we also have to recognize that the newspaper documents this as a bipartisan problem, and doing worldview analysis, we have to look beyond the charges and understand the two different worries of the two respective parties. Now, what are their worries? Well, the Democrats say that their worry is that not all votes will be counted. You heard that language over and over again. Every single vote should be counted. Well, that sounds right, but what do they actually mean? They mean the vote should be counted when, in many cases, the voter's intention is unclear, or in some cases, the voting status of the voter is unclear, or in some cases, you're looking at provisional ballots in which a judgment has to be made.

Now, you have a Republican worry on the other hand. What's the Republican worry? The Republican worry is that one way or another, the Democratic Party will, by use of this kind of provisional balloting project, come up with whatever votes are necessary in order to win the election. So as you look at the fracas that followed the election in both Georgia and Florida, in Georgia the Democrats rushed to say, "If all the votes were counted, Stacy Abrams would be the winner." They said the same thing in Florida. But as the Florida recount unfolded, it became very clear that even with the provisional ballots and even with all of the different challenges, there was no way that either Andrew Gillum, the Democratic candidate for governor, or Bill Nelson, the Democratic candidate for the Senate, could make up for the gap, and thus the Republicans won. In Georgia, the same charges were made, the same pattern of argument prevailed. But in Georgia, the situation was complicated by the fact that the person who would head the electoral process, the Secretary of State, was at the same time the Republican candidate for the governorship. And thus came the accusation that he had, and even then, was using his office for the benefit of his own candidacy.

But what we need to note is that underlying all of these charges related to the specific counting of votes in Florida or the specific election there in Georgia, what they reveal are two very different, highly politicized, longstanding disagreements between the two parties about how a decent and fair election with integrity should be conducted. It's not all that easy when you think about the complexity and the challenges of allowing millions of persons to vote, and making certain that all of those votes are counted and are rightly counted, especially when you add in the new complexities of so many people moving to a state like Florida, and so many people now voting by means of early voting and other non traditional voting patterns. That simply makes the challenge all that more difficult. But now as Christians, we understand it also makes the challenge all that more urgent and necessary. If the citizens do not have confidence in the electoral process, than that does undermine Democracy itself. It undermines a Democratic experiment in self government by our Constitutional Republic.

When the New York Times says, "The legitimacy of the electoral process is called in to question," well, it's because the legitimacy of the process has been called into question. That's not just a matter of editorial analysis, it is a matter of fact. But also thinking of worldview analysis, looking at the two governorships of Florida and Georgia, you look at a very interesting pattern. The question is, how exactly do we read that pattern? Well, let's just rehearse a couple of fundamentals. In both Georgia and Florida, there was an extremely clear choice in the gubernatorial election. It's not just a choice between a Republican and a Democrat. It was a choice between a very conservative Republican and a very liberal Democrat. Also in both cases, this simply has to be stated, it was a white conservative Republican versus an African-American liberal Democrat. How much race factored into the equation is difficult to tell.

But the most interesting part of the electoral analysis comes down to this. Was the defeat of Stacy Abrams in Georgia and the defeat of Andrew Gillum in Florida a sign of Republican victory over liberal candidates, or was it a sign of a growing liberal momentum in the Democrat Party? That's what, especially on the Democrat side of the equation, is the most fundamental question party leaders are asking. Sunday's edition of the New York Times included an article with the headline, Following Path to 2020, Big Democratic Donors May Take a Sharp Left. The article is by Kenneth P. Vogel. It's really interesting because according to this analysis in the New York Times, the leaders of the Democratic Party are increasingly thinking not so much that the elections in Georgia and Florida were lost, but that they were lost by such a close margin. Looking to the future of the party and especially the 2020 presidential election year, what many of the Democrats are now thinking is that what they saw in Georgia and Florida was the unexpected strength of two candidates who ran unabashedly, unashamedly to the left.

One of the most interesting statements as we're thinking about worldview analysis in the aftermath in the election was made by Tory Gavito, identified as president and co-founder of a new coalition of mostly female Democratic donors called Way to Win. She said, speaking especially of the approach of Andrew Gillum in Florida and Stacy Abrams in Georgia, "Once we expand the electorate in those places, there will be no turning back." Now, what she means is that the Democrats are going to pin their hopes on increased voter turnout, especially from those who have not traditionally voted in order to push the party, and by the party's victory, the nation, in an unstoppable liberal direction. That is exactly what is being plotted here in this article. And furthermore, the article also tells us that some of the funding and think tank groups among Democrats that had been most crucial to Democratic presidential success in the past have been largely marginalized. "But at the recent donor conferences, centrist groups and think tanks affiliated with the moderate wing of the Democratic Party mostly took a backseat to organizations promoting more liberal ground organizing efforts focused on expanding the electoral map."

So politically the big question for the Democrats looking to the future is this, do they play to the center and try to win over some who had voted for Donald Trump in 2016, but might be won over by the Democratic Party? Or do they go for broke, give up on the hope of any swing voters by moving to the middle, and instead move to the left, and thus activate and perhaps incentivize those who had not voted before to vote Democratic, or to turn out the base with greater intensity? Arguably, that is also the tact that is now taken by President Trump in the 2020 Republican campaign. All the signals sent are that the Republican campaign under President Trump is also going to be a massive intensity effort intended to bring out the Republican vote, more than to win over any straggling Democrats or any in the center. So if that's true, then in 2020 as predicted, we are looking at one of the most polarizing events in modern American politics.

It's going to be a Republican candidate moving decidedly even more so to the right, and a Democratic candidate moving even in unprecedented levels to the left, and the American people are not really going to be so much convinced as the effort of these campaigns, but simply activated in order that they will vote. Incentivized, aggravated, polarized. Now, if you go back to that front page article in the New York Times about the charges of vote stealing, embedded in this article was an indication of why the stakes are so high in the state of Florida. For example, a consultant who had been behind the DeSantis campaign said this, "In a lot of other states, including Texas, you see a big crossover vote. But in Florida, it's all about intensity, so it's basically all combat, all the time." He went on to say, "Everybody just straps on their jerseys, tightens their chinstraps, and they just run over each other."

Now, I found that statement very interesting because now you have both Republican and Democratic strategists saying 2020 is going to be all about intensity. It's not going to be about either party moving to the middle, it's going to be about both parties moving in polarized directions. And that means just as you saw in this statement from Florida, what we're looking at is sustained, ongoing, intense, unending political combat. All combat, all the time. The metaphor is extremely clear and needs no explanation when we are told that, "Everybody is just going to strap on their jerseys, and tighten their chinstraps, and run over each other."

But next at the same time, you also have at least some amongst Republicans asking if there might be a different way. Now in one sense, this is an almost theoretical question since all the signaling is going to come inevitably from the Republican presidential candidate. It's all going to be up to President Trump as to how he intends to run, and there's every evidence that he's going to run exactly as he did in 2016, only perhaps more so.

Elizabeth Diaz reporting on this story, "Social Conservatives Mull a Softer Strategy For 2020," begins this way, "After Democrats delivered a resounding counter punch to President Trump at the polls, one of his most reliable voting blocks, social conservatives, now faces the repercussions of the uncompromising support for Mr. Trump's agenda. The result," says Elizabeth Diaz, "Is mixed. Social conservatives are celebrating a slightly expanded Republican majority in the Senate, which advances their top priority, confirming conservative judges, as well as their anti abortion rights agenda." That's the language ... I simply need to interject here ... of the New York Times. "But," she says, "Steep Republican losses in the House, particularly in suburban areas, have some strategists reflecting on how to proceed as they pivot their efforts to re-electing Mr. Trump in 2020." And of course, that pivot is not only about re-electing the president, but also electing other Republicans, especially as we are looking at the Congress.

The point raised in this article is undeniable when it comes down to the electoral map. If Republicans have any hope of re-winning a majority in the United States House, then Republican candidates are going to have to win in those crucial metropolitan and suburban districts. That's what is now very much in question.

Part

Looking to the future, Democrats face big question: Play to the center or go for broke and move to the left?

But next at the same time, you also have at least some amongst Republicans asking if there might be a different way. Now in one sense, this is an almost theoretical question since all the signaling is going to come inevitably from the Republican presidential candidate. It's all going to be up to President Trump as to how he intends to run, and there's every evidence that he's going to run exactly as he did in 2016, only perhaps more so.

Elizabeth Diaz reporting on this story, "Social Conservatives Mull a Softer Strategy For 2020," begins this way, "After Democrats delivered a resounding counter punch to President Trump at the polls, one of his most reliable voting blocks, social conservatives, now faces the repercussions of the uncompromising support for Mr. Trump's agenda. The result," says Elizabeth Diaz, "Is mixed. Social conservatives are celebrating a slightly expanded Republican majority in the Senate, which advances their top priority, confirming conservative judges, as well as their anti abortion rights agenda." That's the language ... I simply need to interject here ... of the New York Times. "But," she says, "Steep Republican losses in the House, particularly in suburban areas, have some strategists reflecting on how to proceed as they pivot their efforts to re-electing Mr. Trump in 2020." And of course, that pivot is not only about re-electing the president, but also electing other Republicans, especially as we are looking at the Congress.

The point raised in this article is undeniable when it comes down to the electoral map. If Republicans have any hope of re-winning a majority in the United States House, then Republican candidates are going to have to win in those crucial metropolitan and suburban districts. That's what is now very much in question.

Part

Orange County, California: Heart of modern conservative movement turns blue. What does this mean for the American future?

And, that's where the headline story from Orange County, California, becomes incredibly important. The headline in yesterday's edition of the Wall Street Journal was this, "Democrats Complete Orange County Sweep." Here's what's so important. I'm going to cite to you one paragraph from the article by reporter Byron Tau. "Orange County was once the heart of the modern conservative movement. President Nixon was born in Yorba Linda, and represented the region in Congress. President Reagan launched his political career in Orange County, holding a 1965 fundraiser in a home as part of his successful campaign for California governor. Orange County has grown increasingly diverse with an influx of Latino and Asian-American voters, making it a much more competitive territory for Democrats. Hilary Clinton became the first Democrat to carry the county in 80 years, in the 2016 election."

Now, if you're looking at just one county in California, you might say it's just one county in California. But not all counties are equal on an electoral map, and not all counties are equal in American political history. This might be lost on many younger Americans, but in reality, you can't explain a Republican conservative president without going back to Orange County in the 1960s, or for that matter, remember that Hilary Clinton became the first Democratic candidate to win in Orange County in 80 years. You're talking about over a third of American history. You're talking about a political pattern that once reversed is going to be extremely difficult to reverse again.

But next, as we're looking to worldview issues and analysis in the aftermath of the election, what happens next? Well, the answer to that question is abundantly clear. The most interesting political question right now in the United States of America is, who will be the next speaker of the US House of Representatives? And this is where the worldview issues are going to be very intense because the big question is, will Nancy Pelosi once again be Speaker of the House? This is a very complicated question. It's clarified by the math. She's going to need 218 votes. The problem, she doesn't have 218 votes. Now, she has more than 218 Democrats, but they are not all going to vote for her. Indeed, some of the newer Democrats ... here's what's interesting ... on both the moral conservative wing, such as Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania, and in the more liberal wing, especially as you're looking at states like New York, they were elected in 2018 by promising not to support Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House.

The other factor is indeed an age factor. Every single member of the Democratic Congressional leadership in the House is almost 80 years old. You're looking at a very old leadership. By the way, here's the contrast between Republicans and Democrats in the US House of Representatives. Years ago, the Republicans decided to put a premium on raising up new talent, new leadership, and so they term-limited the chairmanship positions. But, the Democrats resisted that, and thus they have a very, very old leadership that's going to be very, very difficult to displace. But there are a significant number of Democrats who've made very clear they don't intend to support Nancy Pelosi. She's charging back that that's a form of sexism because she was indeed the first and only female yet to serve as Speaker of the House. But some are arguing back that she is representing tired, old, established leadership that needs to give way to the future of the Democratic Party.

In worldview analysis, that's the huge question. What is the future direction of one of America's two major political parties? The clearest answer we're going to get to that early is the election of the Speaker of the House. And what's also clear is that the Democrats have three basic alternatives. It's going to be fascinating to see which alternative they take. The alternative at this point isn't a person, it's three different trajectories for the party. Re-electing Nancy Pelosi is going to mean a continuation of old school, traditional American liberalism, the liberalism of the 60s and 70s, still living on in Nancy Pelosi. The other two alternatives go in two different directions, and one is more likely than the other. Less likely is the fact that Democrats say, "What we need is a more moderate image for the United States House and its Democratic leadership." That's actually not likely to happen, but at least it's an alternative. The other alternative is Democrats in the House saying, "We're going to go for broke. We're going to look to Andrew Gillum in Florida, we're going to look to Stacy Abrams in Georgia, we're even going to look at Beto O'Rourke in Texas, and we're going to say we're going to go hard left, new left, young left."

But I'll just go with the fact that the established Democratic leader in the House is likely to be re-elected simply because she is a master politician. That's why she has been the object of so much Democratic faithfulness, and so much Republican opposition. And at least part of that would be due to the fact she's not just Nancy Pelosi, she is Nancy D'Alesandro Pelosi. Her father, the late Thomas J. D'Alesandro Jr. Was mayor and congressman from Baltimore, and was one of the major Democratic pols, as they call them, politic leaders, on the east coast. He was famous for knowing exactly how to count votes before an election. Nancy Pelosi has proved over and over again that she was indeed her father's best student.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

I'm happy to announce that in the Fall of 2019, I'll be leading a teaching tour of the Christian heritage of Great Britain. On this tour, we're going to visit locations such as London, Oxford and Cambridge. We're going to visit historic cathedrals, churches and abbeys. If you're a student of history, particularly church history, I invite you to learn more about this unique opportunity by going to AlbertMohler.com/tour. That's AlbertMohler.com/tour.

For more information, go to my website at AlbertMohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.

I'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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