Thursday, November 7, 2019
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It's Thursday, November 7, 2019. I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Elections in Kentucky, Virginia, and Mississippi: What Do These Votes Say about the Future Shape of America?
Election results from Tuesday's elections, especially in three states, do or do not offer a foretaste of the 2020 presidential election. But in any event, they do point to big political realities behind them, worldview realities, and beyond them, the future shape of the United States of America, and, yes, it will impact politics.
First, we go to the state of Kentucky where a hotly contested gubernatorial election went all the way down to the wire and is still contested. By the time all 100% of the precincts in Kentucky were reporting, Andy Beshear, the Attorney General and the Democratic candidate for governor, had received 709,846 votes and Matt Bevin, the incumbent Republican governor had received 704,760 votes. That's 49.2% versus 48.8%, but the margin is actually 5,000 votes, which in the totality is a margin of only 0.4%.
Thus, even as the Attorney General and his team claimed a Democratic victory in the race for the governor's mansion in Kentucky, the incumbent Republican governor refused to concede the race. Matt Bevin instead telling an assembled crowd in Louisville on Tuesday night that he would demand a closer look at the race. It was announced on Wednesday that this would mean an official recanvassing of the state vote. This is not a recount. A recount would come only later and at considerable expense. Instead of recanvass is a recounting of the vote totals as reported precinct by precinct, including absentee ballots and that recanvassing will now be held on November the 14th at 9:00 AM. That, according to the outgoing Democratic Secretary of State, Alison Lundergan Grimes.
As I made clear on The Briefing, this particular race was uniquely nationalized as so many races are and will be in the future. That's because when you look at Republican incumbent governor Matt Bevin and the Attorney General, the Democrat running as his challenger, you really were looking at two individuals whose views and policies, especially on an issue like abortion, really do mirror the national picture of the division between the Democratic and the Republican parties. The race in Kentucky was nationalized in a different sense by the fact that Donald Trump, the President of the United States, took a very personal interest in this race. He appeared at a Monday night rally in Lexington for the governor. The president also sent Vice President Mike Pence to accompany the governor and his campaign on a bus trip.
But all of that intensity seemed not to deliver the hoped for votes, but a lot of this has to do with political strife in the state of Kentucky, particularly in the years that Matt Bevin been governor. The governor was bold to take on, most importantly, the issue of pension reform, an issue that has been particularly difficult to deal with in the state of Kentucky and one that has vexed in many previous administrations. What we see in the pension crisis in Kentucky as in so many other states is that promises have been made that the state will not be able to keep, but you have a legislature, state by state in general terms that is politically unable to deal with the crisis precisely because the people who've been promised those pensions demand that they be paid in full and they have massive political clout. The taxpayers of the future, including mostly young adults, children, and even those not yet born, they are not present to bring that political pressure on the other side.
Most crucially, the governor found himself in a continuing conflict with the teacher's unions in the state and this became a powerfully symbolic issue and a very emotionally charged issue as the election approached. But the picture in Kentucky becomes even more interesting when you consider that other than the top of the ticket with the governor and the lieutenant governor in other statewide races, it was nearly a clean Republican sweep. Republicans elected most of the big statewide offices, including the secretary of state, the state auditor, and most importantly, the attorney general.
Daniel Cameron, age 33, will take office not only as one of the first Republicans in recent memory to serve as attorney general, but furthermore, the first African American attorney general ever to serve the Commonwealth of Kentucky. A former top aide to Kentucky Senator and Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, Cameron is likely to be a major force in state politics in years to come.
Kentucky is a state that Donald Trump won by virtually 30 points in the 2016 presidential election and even as the picture was somewhat mixed on Tuesday night, it is clear that the state is still trending red. It is still trending Republican. You're looking at pretty massive vote margins for the Attorney General and other constitutional officers down the ballot.
From Red to Purple to Blue: How Changing Demographics and Urbanization in Virginia Explain the State’s Political Transformation
But with the resolution of the Kentucky governor's race now at least a few days away, we turn to the state of Virginia. That's the other bellwether state as we look to the politics of the United States, in Virginia, the big news is that Republicans lost control of both houses of the Virginia legislature. Even though Democrats will now have a majority, it's not a massive majority, but it's having the majority that matters and behind this is a huge story.
Going back just a few years, Virginians voted for George W. Bush, the Republican as President of the United States. But fast forward a few decades and Virginia that had been a predictably, even reliably red state, a Republican state, was trending towards what has been described as purple. That is a swing state. But the indications of the vote that came in on Tuesday in Virginia is that that state is really longer either a red state or a purple state, it is increasingly becoming a blue state. Here's what's important from a worldview analysis: The indications are that Virginia will move even deeper into blue territory. Thus, we have to ask the question, why? What is changing in Virginia? And the answer is migration.
But what is transforming Virginia is not migration from out of the country, it is migration from other states. Analysts looking to Virginia have long made a distinction between the part of Virginia that is nestled up against the nation's capital, Washington D.C., then the rest of Virginia more rural and in Western Virginia, more agrarian. You had seen voting patterns that were similar to those you see in other states where even as the urban and metropolitan areas may trend more liberal, the population in the more rural areas voting more conservative it was able to bring balance if not correction.
But that's where Virginia is changing right before our eyes. Virginia is becoming an economic magnet, at least in part because of Washington D.C. Given the economic realities of an ever expanding government and federal budget, the reality is that not only federal employees, but an increasing percentage of those who are in businesses doing business with the federal government, are relocating to areas of coastal Virginia and areas near the District of Columbia. All of this is adding up to a political transformation of the state. An increasing area of the state is becoming metropolitan and suburban. In those areas, especially in Virginia, filled with relatively affluent, highly educated citizens, many of them from other states and some of those states, far more liberal states, Virginia is being transformed right before our eyes.
Analysts in both parties saw the result of Tuesday's election coming. It has been clear in midterm elections, it is clear just when you look at the demographics of the state. As we look to the political and cultural future of the United States, we have to recognize that even as it is true that the closer you get to a coast, the closer you get to a city, the closer you get to a campus, the more socially liberal and the more secular the worldview becomes, that is also true increasingly, when you look at a map and recognize what is closest to government and especially massive seats of government. It doesn't take much political insight to recognize the areas with that kind of population are absolutely predicated on an economy that needs more government spending, not less government spending.
But then when you look at the situation in Virginia, you have to add to the picture the announcement made not long ago that Amazon would be establishing at least a great deal of what's been called its HQ2, its second headquarters, there in suburban Washington D.C. in Virginia, and that is going to bring tens of thousands of jobs — at least it is promised — and hundreds of millions of dollars, eventually billions of dollars of investment. You also have to recognize that this is going to bring even more people from other states into Virginia and many of them will be coming from the states that are already far more politically liberal.
You're seeing this happen also in Texas, where in cities such as Houston and Dallas, but particularly in Austin, a state that is in general, deep red is being politically transformed largely by people who are moving into the state from other states. At least a part of the political reality we see coming in the state of Texas is the fact that so many people with a good deal of education and a good deal of wealth are fleeing high taxation in places such as California and moving to Texas. But as one Texas politician has noted, they are moving to Texas with their wealth, but they are also bringing to Texas their voting patterns.
So as you look at Tuesday's election in Virginia, it is a very clear sign of a fundamental change happening in the United States. The bigger picture here is really not about Virginia, it is about metropolitan areas and very affluent and highly educated suburbs. They are trending on social issues and now increasingly on many economic issues, they're trending increasingly liberal. They've gone from red to purple to blue.
But the other big part of the picture on Tuesday night was the governor's election in Mississippi and there the headline is that Republicans have held on to the state's highest office. There, the governor's race was won by the current Republican Lieutenant Governor, Tate Reeves, who defeated Democratic Attorney General, Jim Hood. Even though many expected the election to be close, the final result was not really close. Reeves won 53% of the vote to 46% for Jim Hood, but it is a sign to the fact that we are now having to watch every single major election, statewide or congressional, not to mention presidential elections. We're having to look at every election asking fundamental questions, not only anticipating and then reflecting upon the vote, but asking ourselves, what does this say about the future shape of America?
As was evident in the 2016 presidential election, when you are looking at Republican candidates for president versus Democratic candidates for president, a part of the leveling of the playing field has been the electoral college. Which means that the candidates have to win 270 electoral votes. They have to win state by state. The Democrats are pretty good at rolling up massive margins, especially in big states with massive populations. Just think of states like New York or California. Republicans have had a pretty secure advantage by having a very secure set of states and their electoral votes that were counted on to be very red.
But even as you have some on the left complaining that the electoral college is unrepresentative, they're basically calling for a different constitutional order than the one that has shaped the United States from its very beginning, the reality is that Republicans can't be complacent if more and more of those predictably red states turned purple, much less blue, then the advantage that Republicans have had in the Electoral College will disappear and effectively the popular vote and the electoral vote will become more and more the same vote.
Furthermore, it's very important to recognize that when a party gains control of the state government, especially both branches, the governorship and the legislative branch, the important thing to recognize is that by population reapportionment, by redistricting and by other political mechanisms, the party in control can extend and expand its control. Even as you think you're dealing with a statewide election for the state legislature or the governor's race, the reality is that together they are largely able to determine the shape of congressional districts and that means to shake those districts in such a way that it offers an advantage to that party.
So the bottom line in this is that the change that has come in Virginia with Democrats now controlling virtually all of the state government, means not only that it has happened for the first time since 1993, but that now that it has happened, it is likely to be extended relatively far into the future. Just think about that when you wonder if every vote really matters.
Saving Humanity by Reducing Humanity? 11,000 Scientists Call for Reduction of Human Population Because of “Climate Emergency”
But next, we shift to what might be considered a far more global issue and that is a report that came with the headline in The Washington Post, “More Than 11,000 Scientists from Around the World Declare a Climate Emergency.” The subhead: “Study outlined six major steps that must be taken to address the situation.” Andrew Freedman is the reporter.
Now let's just pause for a moment and look at that headline. “More Than 11,000 scientists” — Wow, that's a lot of scientists — “from Around the World Declare a Climate Emergency.” Well, wait just a minute. How is that headline news? Haven't they done that again and again and again? Well, yes, and that turns out to be part of the story. Part of the story is, this is really not much of a story, but it is however a warning and it's the warning to which we need to pay attention.
Freedman writes, “A new report by 11,258 scientists in 153 countries from a broad range of disciplines warns that the planet clearly and unequivocally faces a climate emergency and provides six broad policy goals that must be met to address it.”
The next paragraph: “The analysis is a stark departure from recent scientific assessments of global warming such as those of the UN intergovernmental panel on climate change in that it does not couch its conclusions and the language of uncertainties and it does prescribe policies.”
Now that's a signal coming to us from a fairly liberal, if not very liberal newspaper, The Washington Post, that there's something about this story that seems to be a bit more than what is claimed as scientific. There's something bigger that is revealed here. Of course, looking at a story like this in Christian worldview analysis, you can count on the fact that there's something bigger here. But The Washington Post has recognized that this report that has made their headline news is actually speaking in definitive terms about policy proposals that go far beyond what even the United Nations intergovernmental panel on climate change has been willing to say. Again, that's a signal from The Washington Post as they offer coverage of this report that The Washington Post is not exactly standing by the report.
The warnings offered by the 11,000 plus scientists are pretty routine, but The Washington Post gets to the most controversial area of the report when it states, “The study also departs from other major climate assessments in that it directly addresses the politically sensitive subject of population growth. The study notes that the global decline in fertility rates has substantially slowed during the past 20 years and calls for bold and drastic changes in economic growth and population policies to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Such measures would include policies,” says The Washington Post, “that strengthen human rights, especially for women and girls, and make family planning services available to all people.”
So that turns out to be the big story, the one to which Christians need to pay attention. The big story here is that this group of over 11,000 scientists that humbly calls itself the Alliance of World Scientists, is actually calling for a rather drastic reduction in the human population on planet Earth and for the policies that will bring that about. That means we need to look at the report itself and understand what in the world is going on here. Again, the signal was sent, there's more here than the United Nations is willing to say. The scientists are willing to say, “We need this drastic cut in the number of human beings who are on the planet.”
So we turn to the actual report published in the academic journal BioScience with the headline, “World Scientists Warning of a Climate Emergency.” The scientists begin their report with moral, not scientific language, “Scientists have a moral obligation to clearly warn humanity of any catastrophic threat and tell it like it is. On the basis of this obligation and the graphical indicators presented below, we declare with more than 11,000 scientist signatories from around the world, clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency.” Now, this is an academic journal, a scientific journal, but again, you'll notice that it doesn't begin with science, it begins with morality.
It also demonstrates a split infinitive. The scientist saying that their mission is to clearly warn humanity, but then the scientists go on also to say that their obligation is to, “Tell it like it is,” using effectively street language in order to make their political point. But the report does turn to scientific language when we read, “Profoundly troubling signs from human activities include sustained increases in both human and ruminant livestock populations, per capita meat production, world gross domestic product, global tree cover loss, fossil fuel consumption, the number of air passengers carried carbon dioxide emissions and per capita carbon dioxide emissions since 2000. Encouraging signs,” they said, “include decreases in global fertility or birth rates, decelerated forest loss in the Brazilian Amazon, increases in the consumption of solar and wind power.” The report goes on.
But again, the big issue is when it gets to proposed cuts in the human population. Here's what they say, “Still increasing by roughly 80 million people per year or more than 200,000 people per day, the world population must be stabilized and ideally gradually reduced within a framework that ensures social integrity.” Well, that's quite a statement. We need to unpack it. Here you have scientists daring to call for a stabilization and then a net reduction in the number of human beings on the planet. How in the world can that happen?
Well it can't happen except by the most draconian means, it can't happen without accepting a basic anti-humanism at the very center of our worldview and it cannot happen without massive social coercion. That makes it very strange that the report calls for a reduction of human population “within a framework that ensures social integrity.” We simply have to ask the question, what in the world would that even mean?
But the moral dimension of this report and the agenda behind it becomes clear when the scientists continue, “There are proven and effective policies that strengthen human rights while lowering fertility rates and lessening the impacts of population growth on emissions and biodiversity loss. These policies make family planning services available to all people, remove barriers to their access, and achieve full gender equity, including primary and secondary education as a global norm for all, especially girls and young women.”
The big thing we have to note here is that we have to look at how this proposal actually works backward. It works backwards from an assumption that the world needs fewer human beings and that the way to get there is by not only contraception, but what's identified here as human reproductive health, which of course includes abortion. Just remember the fact that as we look to these kinds of calls to limit or reduce the human population, we are looking at some of the greatest moral atrocities of recent ages.
But before even turning to that, I decided that it would be worth a look to find out if this organization had made statements before. Helpfully, the Washington Post actually did point to the fact that there have been other statements coming from the same group. Quickly looking at the same journal, I was able to find an article published in November 2017, which oddly enough says just about the same thing as the report that gained the headlines in 2019. In 2017, the scientists led by the person whose name appears first in both reports, William J. Ripple, called for, “Reducing fertility rates by ensuring that women and men have access to education and voluntary family planning services, especially where such resources are still lacking."
Now notice the word “voluntary” there. Just keep in mind that there is no way to reduce or even to limit human population growth in a way that is genuinely voluntary. Consider the horrifying reality of China's long-term one child only policy that led to forced sterilization, limited parents to only one child. It also led to other perhaps unintended consequences such as the missing hundreds of millions of girls because of girls that were aborted with preference for boys. It led, as I said, not only to forced sterilization, but in many cases to forced abortion. But that's just going back from 2019 to 2017. The 2017 report also cited a 1992 report from the Union of Concerned Scientists entitled, “World Scientists Warning to Humanity.”
Now just keep this in mind, that document in 1992 was signed by 1,575 scientists who described themselves as “of the world's most prominent scientists.” Back in 1992 population was already isolated out with the statement from that year, “The Earth is finite. It's ability to absorb waste and destructive fluid is finite. It's ability to provide food and energy is finite. It's ability to provide for growing numbers of people is finite, and we are fast approaching many of the Earth's limits.”
But here's where Christians need to step back a minute and say, this doesn't go back just to 2017, this doesn't go back just in 1992, it goes back a lot further. Indeed, it goes back at least to 1968 and the publication of a book that came out then and became a bestseller. It was entitled The Population Bomb. It was by a Stanford University biologist named Paul Ehrlich. His ideas were popularized not only in the mainstream media, but even in entertainment. He became a guest on programs such as the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.
He offered a dramatic warning about what would happen, and he said was already unavoidable in the 1970s. In 1968, he said on the record in that book, The Population Bomb that was accepted by so many liberal politicians and is still cited, he said in 1968 that the 1970s would see hundreds of millions of people starve to death because of excess human population. That didn't happen. Instead, during that same decade, there was a vast agricultural explosion that led to the feeding of people in unprecedented levels and the fact that in most places around the world, there is a net food surplus, an agricultural revolution that is still one of the wonders of the modern world. It was feeding people primarily that happened in the 1970s, not hundreds of millions of people starving to death. To put the matter bluntly, that didn't happen.
But the fact that it didn't happen has not stopped to these same people from arguing that population growth is the biggest problem that humanity and the planet now face, when in reality it is a net reduction of population, especially in many advanced countries, that is going to lead to a true crisis.
It's very important to look at the coverage of this new report that was published in MIT's Technology Review just this week. The article is by James Temple, and he points to the huge moral issues that are apparent in this new report. He cites, Arvind Ravikumar, Assistant Professor of Energy Engineering at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, who said on Twitter, “A bunch of white people in the developed world saying population should be reduced is the definition of an imperialist framing.” That has been one of the most important and accurate accusations against the population control movement. It often takes on the shape of eugenics. We want less of those people, not less of our people.
But the MIT Technology Review article also cites Joseph Majkut a climate scientist and Director of Climate Policy at the Niskanen Center, identified as a think tank based in Washington D.C. He said that the suggestion that we should reduce the population “is highly problematic from a political standpoint. It feeds directly into the perception among conservatives that climate science and its conclusions are the product of an ideological movement.” Well, of course, it does that because what it demonstrates is that the conservative concerned about the movement was valid from the very beginning. Of course, it feeds directly into that perception because it reveals that very truth.
Other headlines will bring other dimensions of these issues in coming weeks, but in the meantime, just consider this, consider the horrifying irony of those who in the name of humanity call for a reduction of humanity. Sadly, there is a very deadly vision of humanity at the very heart of modern secular humanism.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
For more information go to my website at AlbertMohler.com. You can find 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.