briefing, Albert Mohler

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

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

It’s Tuesday, March 10, 2020. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

Voters in Six More States Casts Their Ballots Today, But Has One Candidate Already Won the Primary of Ideas in the Democratic Party?

Today is often referred to as “the second Super Tuesday” in the primary season. Six states, most importantly, perhaps, the state of Michigan will be voting today and the outcome of the voting today is likely to be indicative of exactly how the Democratic race is going to shape up and shape up quickly. We are talking about, for all practical purposes, two and only two major candidates, Bernie Sanders, the Independent senator from Vermont and former Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden. Suddenly, over the course of the last couple of weeks, Joe Biden has come out atop the race and he now leads in the delegates. It’s likely that that lead in delegates will be extended over the course of the voting today.

The state of Michigan turns out to be absolutely crucial for Bernie Sanders. Back in 2016, he won a surprise victory over Hillary Clinton, but that is not likely to be repeated today. There are some huge lessons there and worldview implications as well. For one thing, what exactly has happened to the Bernie Sanders campaign? Just two weeks ago, almost all of the pundit class was declaring that Bernie Sanders was becoming unbeatable, at least for winning a plurality of the delegates in the Democratic contest, but Super Tuesday changed all of that and just days before Super Tuesday, the South Carolina primary changed all of that, and now there can be no doubt that Bernie Sanders is fighting basically a defensive battle. It’s also clear that he intends to take this battle all the way to the Democratic National Convention this summer in Milwaukee.

What is also interesting is that Bernie Sanders has not turned out the voters that he had been promising. If you look at the logic of the Bernie Sanders campaign from the beginning, it has been this: That he represents a great group of people in the United States, potential voters and voters who may not have voted often who will turn out to vote for his cause, for his call, not only for reformation, so to speak, but for revolution, his cause for a populist uprising that would lead America in a democratic-socialist direction.

As we can now look at the data from the votes that have been taken thus far, caucuses and primaries, a couple of patterns have become clear. Not only has Bernie Sanders failed to turn out all of those new voters, but the actual voter participation for Bernie Sanders is now running behind where it was in 2016.

What does that tell us? Well, it doesn’t tell us that the Democratic party has not lurched leftward. It tells us, in one sense, that it has. It tells us in this sense that the Democratic party doesn’t have to have Bernie Sanders in order to prove its leftward trajectory, its political bonafides to the left.

That point was made graphically by Frank Bruni in his column in The New York Times on Sunday, his headline, “Sanders Has Already Won the Primary.” Now, what could he mean by that? In delegates, he’s behind. He is likely to grow further behind. What Frank Bruni means is that Bernie Sanders has effectively won the argument.

That raises a huge question: When did Bernie Sanders win the argument? It is arguable that he won the argument back in 2016, that Democrats in the aftermath of the failure of Hillary Clinton to win the presidency in 2016 believed that the energy they had been missing was the energy that had been demonstrated in the unexpectedly strong 2016 campaign of Bernie Sanders.

It is also clear that from that moment onward, explainable not only by Bernie Sanders, but as we shall see by Donald Trump, the Democratic party has defined itself in increasingly liberal categories according to increasingly liberal positions. This was made very clear by the fact that if you look at the major candidates as they stood together on a debate platform, every single one of them was running to the left of Barack Obama, the last Democratic president elected in 2008 and reelected in 2012. Even those who were described as the more moderate candidates, and that now includes President Obama’s Vice President, Joe Biden, are running considerably to his left.

Frank Bruni is right in this sense. Bernie Sanders has won the argument, even if he turns out not to be the nominee. It’s actually very unlikely that he would be the nominee, but nonetheless, his ideas are going to be the ideas in the main that the Democratic party is going to run on, and at one point, we will see they’re going to try to run from those ideas, but that’s another story.

Frank Bruni argues that in his mind, Bernie Sanders won the primary back in a debate between the candidates last month. He says, “At debates before then, some candidates went out of their way to describe what they’d accomplished or were proposing as progressive, especially if they were being maligned as moderates. ‘Look,’ Biden said, ‘We all have big progressive plans.’ Michael Bennett touted bi-partisan immigration legislation that he helped to write as the most progressive dream act ever put together. That’s when,” Frank Bruni says, “Sanders won the Democratic primary. He won it when his rivals talked more about whether Medicaid for all could ever get through Congress than about whether such a huge expansion of the federal government was a good idea in the first place. He won it,” says Bruni, “when they competed to throw many more trillions than the next candidate at climate change. He won it when the disagreement became not about free tuition at public colleges, but about the eligibility of students from families above a certain income level.”

Summarizing it all, Frank Bruni writes from the left, “He and his supporters shouldn’t feel defeated after Super Tuesday. They should take a bow.” He goes on to acknowledge that Sanders had a disappointing electoral result from Super Tuesday and this article can be seen as a setup for softening the blow of what will likely be other losses in the little Super Tuesday to be held today. The bottom line is that Frank Bruni, though he writes from the left, is really on to something. Bernie Sanders has won the most important primary, which is the primary of ideas in the Democratic party. This article by Frank Bruni is going to be quite helpful during the general election when many Democrats, most importantly the eventual nominee, they’re likely to try to create distance between themselves and Bernie Sanders and his open acknowledgement of being a democratic socialist.

As Bruni points out, they are basically articulating many of the same themes. They are arguing only over timing and specifics when it comes to his major proposals and by the time the nominee gains the nomination, assuming that’s Joe Biden, he will have had to have advocated positions so far to the left of Barack Obama that when he does give his acceptance speech for the nomination, he will be the most liberal character nominated by a major American political party in the modern age, hands down.

All of this points to the inevitable cultural conflict that is happening within the Democratic party and it is, as just about every Democratic observer acknowledges, a struggle for the party’s soul, but the struggle over that soul, that is the political soul of the party, the struggle over its political character and positions is being thought out over a very narrow terrain.

For example, Joe Biden, like Bernie Sanders, wants a nationally socialized health system, but he wants to offer at least the opportunity for private medical insurance for some time, but it’s basically only for some time until eventually the entire country would be under a single-payer healthcare system and notice, that will be without the option of choice for the American people.

Now, as he runs in the general election, if he is indeed the eventual nominee, you will have Vice President Biden speaking openly of the fact, especially as he speaks to labor unions who have won generous medical insurance packages, he’s going to be speaking as if he isn’t going to be joining Bernie Sanders in the Medicare for All, but if you look at what he’s actually saying, it just means not joining Bernie Sanders and Medicare for All yet, now. Even if Biden does not acknowledge this verbally or officially, the reality is that the entire structure of his political proposals come down to the fact that such is inevitable.

Phillip Bailey, political writer for The Courier-Journal in Louisville, wrote an article with the headline: “Democrats Tugged in Two Directions.” The subhead: “They want a revolution, but they’ll settle for a win over Trump.” That’s a very interesting language: They want a revolution, but they will settle for Joe Biden.

It’s also interesting to note that there have been other editorials and opinion pieces with titles such as “Democrats are Done with Speed-Dating, Now They Will Settle for the Safe Date, Biden.” That tells us a lot about actually how the primaries work, especially in the Democratic party, but as you look at articles like this, it also points to the fact that there is a major struggle ongoing for exactly how the Democratic party is going to show itself to the American people, which face it will put forward as the symbolic, and in this case, actual political leader of the party. Who’s going to be at the head of the ticket?

A part of the reason why the Democratic establishment has responded with such horror at the potential of Bernie Sanders being at the top of the ticket is because he is abrasive and divisive and he is simply straightforward in declaring himself to be a democratic socialist. Any candidate who will embrace any form of a term that includes socialism is going to find himself or herself facing huge problems.

The Democratic establishment was not just concerned and is not just concerned about losing the presidency, but about down-ballot candidates, as they are known, because in some states there’s actually a mechanism for straight-party balloting and in other states, all the down-ballot candidates are going to have to face the fact that they are going to either have to run for or against their own party standard-bearer. Either way, they lose if that standard-bearer is Bernie Sanders.

Part II

Bernie Sanders Releases Revolutionary Reproductive Health Care Plan, a Deadly and Irresponsible Plan in the Name of Justice

Next, there’s something else we also need to note and that is that Bernie Sanders continues to define himself and his campaign, especially going into the balloting that will be held today, but furthermore, with the open intention of influencing the future direction of the Democratic party, moving it even further left on some issues.

By Christian concern, there is no issue more important than the question of abortion. Just in the last several days, Bernie Sanders at his campaign website has released his platform proposal entitled “Reproductive Healthcare and Justice for All.” Now, before we even look at what he details here, let’s just look at the opening nomenclature. “Reproductive healthcare” as we discussed yesterday on The Briefing, that’s the attempted neologism, that is the euphemism or reframing of the issue of abortion so that you don’t use the word “abortion” and you recategorize it as “a woman’s reproductive healthcare.” Then he uses the term “justice.” Now, of course, we believe in justice, but this means that we believe in justice for the unborn as well.

Looking at the actual text of his proposal, he says, “Under Medicare for All, the Hyde Amendment will be repealed and all reproductive health services will be provided free at the point of service. Contraception will also be covered and free. In order to ensure everyone can receive the reproductive healthcare they need, under Medicare for All, Bernie will significantly expand funding for Planned Parenthood, Title X, and other initiatives that protect women’s health, access to contraception, and the availability of a safe and legal abortion.”

Now, looking at that single paragraph, what you have is an absolute mash of fiscal irresponsibility, intellectual dishonesty, and downright evil that subverts human dignity and the sanctity of human life. Now, when we’re talking about the fiscal irresponsibility, just note that Bernie Sanders’s favorite word is “free,” but we also need to know that one of the central conservative affirmations about government is that nothing turns out to be more expensive than what the government declares to be free.

Bernie Sanders here is offering everything to everyone at the “point of service,” as he defines it here, absolutely paid for by the American taxpayer. You’ll notice that one of the first things he said is that “the Hyde Amendment will be repealed.” Actually, later in his proposal, he calls for the abolishment of both the Hyde and the Helms Amendments.

The Hyde Amendment is the provision that prevents American taxpayers from being coerced by their tax money to pay directly for abortion. The Helms Amendment restricts federal aid preventing us taxpayer money from going to pay for abortions outside the United States. Bernie Sanders says right up front, he will abolish both.

Now, let’s just stop for a moment and recognize that even as Frank Bruni had made that argument that we cited earlier that Bernie Sanders has already won the primaries, the reality is that Joe Biden now holds to the very same position, even though throughout his long Senate career, he had supported the Hyde Amendment. As the cost of remaining a candidate in the race for the 2020 Democratic nomination, he had to repent in sackcloth and ashes and say that his position was now changed, that he would push for the abolishing or the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, the same by extension for the Helms amendment.

There’s something else very interesting here. Even though in the end, Biden and Sanders are going to have very similar proposals about the present, almost identical—the Bernie Sanders’s position is almost assuredly going to turn out in the Democratic national platform—the reality is that they do have slightly different paths. Joe Biden, in his long legislative history as a United States Senator, was solidly pro-choice and by that, I mean pro-abortion in reality, but he did vote to support the Hyde Amendment.

But Bernie Sanders, as he says in this statement, is proud of his “100% pro-choice voting record from NARAL, Pro-Choice America, and Planned Parenthood.” He goes on to say, “Against Biden,” that Sanders, “has consistently voted against the Hyde Amendment, which restricts the use of federal funds for abortion access.”

Then he says, “In 1972, before the Roe v. Wade ruling, Bernie criticized male politicians who ‘think that they think that they have the right to tell a woman what she can or cannot do with her body.” Unlike others unnamed in this statement, but he means others named Joe Biden, specifically, we are told, “Bernie has never wavered on the issue of reproductive freedom and as president, he will protect and expand reproductive rights.”

Now, let’s look at this. What would it mean if Bernie Sanders would “expand reproductive rights,” as he styles it? Well, we’re told this, and this turns out to be one of the most important paragraphs in recent American political history. Bernie Sanders’s position is this:

“If abortion is legal, but your state has no or too few reproductive health clinics, then you do not have reproductive justice or freedom. If there are reproductive health clinics but there are financial barriers to utilizing those clinics, then you do not have reproductive justice or freedom. If you have healthcare that is affordable but work long hours at minimum wages and cannot afford to take time off to get to your doctors appointments, then you do not have reproductive justice or freedom. If you must travel long distances to reach an abortion provider but are unable to afford transportation, lodging or childcare, you do not have reproductive freedom. If you have health insurance provided by your employer but your employer excludes reproductive healthcare from the insurance plan, then you do not have reproductive justice or freedom.”

Believe it or not, the paragraph actually goes on. Now, here’s the big worldview insight as we see this: We are actually looking at the fact that Bernie Sanders here recognizes something profoundly important with which thinking Christians are in agreement. All issues all ultimately blend in together in a comprehensive understanding. There’s a worldview that is being advocated here. We absolutely agree on that.

Bernie Sanders, however, is holding to the worldview of the culture of death and what he’s calling for is a total comprehensive revolution in American society such that as you see, even in a document in which he is supposedly defending abortion, he actually makes demands for a socialist takeover of the entire economic and social system. He deals with minimum wage. He deals with economic inequality in a statement about abortion. He deals with access to abortion in such a way that he insinuates that if you do not have an abortion clinic handy, then “the woman’s right to choose,” as he would style it means nothing at all.

In the name of justice, this is profoundly important. In the name of justice, he would expand what he defines as reproductive rights so that there are even more, many more unborn babies who will be destroyed, their lives ended in the womb.

Now, it is at this point that Christians thinking according to a biblical worldview have to understand that in a fallen world, even the best, most essential words found in Scripture can be completely corrupted and taken out of their context to mean the opposite of what they actually should mean. The word “justice” is functioning in just this way in Bernie Sanders’s worldview and in this new position paper that is supposed to be on “reproductive health and justice for all,” he says but is actually about everything.

Here’s where Christians thinking carefully also have to pause and understand something else. How exactly does “everything” end up in a position paper about what is essentially abortion? The answer is this: If you can convince America that abortion stands at the very center of our civilization, that what’s called here “a woman’s right to abortion” turns out to be the central right that is the key to understanding and unlocking all other rights, then you will understand why this worldview operates as it does. Not only has abortion become the central sacrament religiously of the left, it is also, by their own claim, the linchpin right that is the key to every other right.

But here’s where Christians also have to understand that if you can morally transform a society such that it comes to the position on the destruction of the unborn, the murder of the unborn, tantamount to what Bernie Sanders is proposing here, then you are ready to accept anything, any proposal, no matter how revolutionary, any political change, no matter how unexpected or even unimaginable just a decade ago. You can and will find yourself unhinged from and unattached to every political commitment that has been made in this country over the course of previous decades and centuries.

This is where Christians must also understand this the centrality of abortion as an issue in the United States. Our understanding, however, of its centrality is exactly the opposite of that held by, advocated by Bernie Sanders and others. Our understanding of the centrality of abortion is this: You can’t explain the other moral transformations that have happened in the United States, even those that go by the letters LGBTQ without understanding what came prior to that revolution, and it was the unleashing of the culture of death within America’s wombs in the name of the sexual revolution during the 1960s and especially during the 1970s. If you can reach the point that you can argue that the sexual revolution is a basic right that can only be ensured by a woman’s right to access an abortion, then everything else will eventually follow.

Before leaving the Bernie Sanders document, we need to also note that he pledges here to ban abstinence-only sex education and, as we said, to make birth control not only available over the counter, but of course, free under Medicare for All. I guess, heartbreakingly enough, if you have to summarize the Bernie Sanders on abortion, it is that “justice,” in his construal of that very important word, justice requires not only that you have the right to kill the baby within you, but you have the right to do so and never even pay for it. Never has the word “free” been more deadly.

Part III

Cultural Insanity in the Toy Aisle: Proposed California Bill Would Require Gender Neutral Retail Departments for Children’s Toys and Clothing

Finally, for today, we need to remind ourselves that major cultural and moral change shows up in a society in sometimes unexpected places that upon reflection maybe weren’t so unexpected at all. One of those places is the toy aisle or the toy department in your local store, either a big box store or a department store. In any event, if it’s big enough, it’s going to be covered by proposed new legislation in California. California, in this sense when it comes to the moral revolution is the gift that just keeps on giving.

In this case, the legislator is Evan Lowe and the title of the bill, “Gender-Neutral Retail Departments.” The bill states, “Unjustified differences and similar products that are traditionally marketed either for girls or for boys can be more easily identified by the consumer if similar items are displayed closer to one another in one undivided area of the retail sales floor.”

Now, if that sounds rather innocuous, just consider what follows: “A retail store shall maintain one undivided area of its sales floor where, if it sells childcare articles, all childcare articles, regardless of whether a particular item has been traditionally marketed for either girls or for boys shall be displayed.”

Next, “A retail department shall maintain one undivided area of its sales floor where if it sells children’s clothing, all clothing for children, regardless of whether a particular item has traditionally been marketed for either girls or boys, shall be displayed.”

Next, “A retail department store shall maintain one undivided area of its sales floor where if it sells toys, all toys, regardless of whether a particular item has been traditionally marketed for either girls or for boys shall be displayed.”

We are then told that this law will apply only to retail department stores with 500 or more employees. Given the way that modern chains are organized, that means that all major stores will be included within the legislation. But this is legislation, after all, and legislation has to be defined. So what exactly what would be covered within clothing or childcare articles or toys? Well, the legislator is keen to give us a definition.

Childcare articles means “any product designed or intended by the manufacturer to facilitate sleep, relaxation, or the feeding of children or to help children with sucking or teething.” You asked, there it is.

Clothing, in case you need a definition for clothing, means “any wearing apparently worn for any purpose, including under and outer garments, shoes, and accessories composed primarily of woven material, natural or synthetic yarn, fiber or leather or similar fabric.” Again, you asked, there’s your answer.

Toys also has a definition: “All products designed or intended by the manufacturer to be used by children when they play.”

Of course, behind all of this is the worldview that gender is itself merely a social construct and that “gender binaries,” as they are called are not only false, but they are oppressive. Behind all of this is a worldview of the total transformation of the human race in a single generation with effectively the words “boys” and “girls” being as out of date as the idea that there is a girls toy department or a girls’ clothing department or a boys department or departments, similarly.

We’re talking here about the kind of cultural inanity and insanity that won’t be limited to a state like California. It’s not at all assured at this point that the bill will pass, at least in this session, but the fact that it has been initiated, it’s signal enough and it’s intended to be a signal right down to the definition of childcare articles.

On the one hand, this is simply profound nonsense, since boys and girls, whether or not the departments are labeled, are going to figure out which are the girls items in which are the boys items and if you think you can put an end to that, well, you’re fooling yourself. That’s simply the creation order showing up once again.

Then second, this is an intentional ideologically-driven effort to completely transform the culture and the toy store, it turns out, is now going to be a prime arena of that kind of ideological conflict. I guess we could consider this just advance notice from the West Coast.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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