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The Briefing

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

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

It's Wednesday, August 12, 2020. I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part

Joe Biden Chooses Kamala Harris as Running Mate on 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate

Joe Biden, the former vice president of the United States and the 2020 democratic presidential candidate, announced yesterday that California United States Senator Kamala Harris would be his running mate, would be in the vice-presidential slot in the 2020 presidential race.

The announcement came yesterday in a somewhat unorthodox manner, and with timing not exactly expected. Everyone had expected that the vice president would make an announcement this week, most likely today, Wednesday, in the middle of the week, but instead likely because the news was about to be broken by external sources, the former vice president decided to text the news to his followers and then to issue a statement at Joebiden.com.

The text message read, quote, "Joe Biden here. Big news. I've chosen Kamala Harris as my running mate. Together with you, we're going to beat Trump." Later, the statement came, but it's basically just a page and a half, if that. The former vice president announced that he had chosen Kamala Harris, United States Senator, in order to fill out the ticket. And he spoke of her as becoming the first black woman to have been elected California attorney general. And about that role, he said that she had overseen the country's second largest justice department behind only the United States department of justice. Now, in that statement, by the way, is embedded a massive controversy, which is certain to explode in the 2020 election.

And interestingly enough, not so much from the right as from the left, but that's a big story. And to that story, we need to turn. The personal story of Kamala Harris is very interesting. She is the daughter of a Jamaican father and an Indian mother who met when both of them were students at the University of California at Berkeley, and they met in a social protest. So that's to say that Kamala Harris was born to a union of the political left. She was raised in the political left by very intelligent parents. Her mother is a research scientist. Her father was a professor of economics at Stanford. She grew up in a privileged background. She ended up attending Howard University in Washington, D.C. for her undergraduate degree, and then the University of California at Hastings College of Law.

She came to national attention in about 2004 as the 27th district attorney of San Francisco in an unusually visible prosecutorial post, and she held that between 2004 and 2011. But that is just one indication of the likely kind of controversy that this announcement is going to get from the political left. Because right now, from the left, we're getting the energy of de-fund police. And we're having all the demands for a comprehensive renovation of the entire criminal justice system with all kinds of claims of prosecutorial misconduct. Well, Kamala Harris was a prosecutor in one of the hottest prosecutorial seats in the United States for many years. And then she served two terms as attorney general of California, which made her the chief law enforcement officer of the nation's most populous state.

Those on the political left, who were opposed to Kamala Harris, tended to center on this issue. In the course of the 2020 presidential nomination race among the Democrats, and remember Kamala Harris was at one point said to be the front runner in that race early on. She was rather caught by surprise, or at least appeared to be, in one of the debates when she was asked about her own record in prosecuting drug crimes. In that sense, the choice of Senator Kamala Harris was a big risk for Joe Biden, but looked at it in a different light, he probably didn't have much choice, and that was a situation of his own making.

But then again, it's a situation that explains the cauldron of the political left in the United States right now. The issue fundamentally is the fact that the Democratic party in particular, and the political left in general, is sold out to the ideology of identity politics. Identity politics comes down to the modern conception of personal identity as all about a situation of power. It's basically derivative of Marxist analysis. Identity politics comes down to identifying every single human being by certain identity markers. When it comes to Kamala Harris, that's complicated in the first place. A South Asian father, a Jamaican mother, she identifies--that's a very crucial verb here--she identifies as African American, but she's identified on some biographical lists as a South Asian. But the biggest issue here is "identifies as," that's the whole point of identity politics.

Joe Biden put himself in a certain trap of identity politics when, in the midst of the primary campaign, he said that he would most assuredly choose a woman as his running mate. Now, why did he say that? Well, it is because there was so much disappointment, pent-up frustration, in the Democratic Party, where many of the allies of the feminist cause, and in particular, the failed 2016 race of former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, blamed others in the party for inadequately supporting a woman.

The argument was made that it was time in identity politics for a woman to be president of the United States. A similar argument was made back in 2008. As a matter of fact, in 2008, the argument was that the time had come--and again, the issue here is identity politics--for an African American president of the United States, even before and in preference to a female president of the United States. Barack Obama eventually defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primaries. Hillary Clinton won in 2016, but she didn't win the election itself. There's a lot to consider at that point.

Most importantly, the fact that Hillary Clinton ran on positions that would now be well to the right of the Democratic Party in the main. Hillary Clinton ran a campaign in 2016 considerably to the left of, say, her husband in 1992, or even the Democratic Party at any point in between. But the Democratic Party is now running far to the left of Hillary Clinton, just in 2016. That's how fast the political change is taking place. And this is how consequential identity politics now is in the Democratic Party, and on the political left. By the time Joe Biden made the announcement that he would commit to naming a woman as his vice president, very quickly, the demand came, then you must name an African American woman as your vice presidential choice.

The argument won't stop there. Of course, it can't because identity politics, when it is wedded with the modern ideology of intersectionality that says that the more intersections one has in terms of oppressed identities, then the more preference needs to be given. This is going to have no end on the political left. And if we're not careful, it'll have no end throughout the entire society. But when it comes to the announcement made yesterday, it now appears almost to have been inevitable because by the time in the Democratic Party, the former vice president looked at the potential running mates that he could name, and many of them were immediately imaginable. Most importantly, someone like Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, with whom the former vice president has been very close, at least in friendship, Kamala Harris, not so much at all, but by the time the identity politics argument reached fever pitch in the last few weeks, there was really no way that Joe Biden could choose anyone other than an African American woman.

But there were probably at least three on his final list among African American women he could have named. One of them, Representative Karen Bass of California, but she has made statements, including statements supportive of the Castro regime in Cuba, that wouldn't work. Susan Rice was the former National Security Advisor and United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Unquestionably intelligent. The point is that Susan Rice also came with political baggage. One word would probably do, Benghazi. But she also came with the liability that she had never once run as an electoral candidate.

Even by say two weeks ago, it was pretty clear the one name that was unavoidable was Senator Kamala Harris. But there was a personal problem here. Back in the first of the democratic debates amongst the candidates for the democratic nomination, Kamala Harris set a trap, she ambushed the former vice president in an effort to advance her candidacy and in all likelihood, end his.

And honestly, if you go back to that debate, she came pretty close. Inside reports made clear that the former vice president was incredibly offended. That's understandable. Even more so, those who were close to him, including Jill Biden, the former vice president's wife. The reality is that by the time the announcement was made yesterday, and again, we assume it had to be made in that way because otherwise the story would have broken, it was not so much a surprise as it was a conclusion.

Part

Does the Choice of a Vice Presidential Running Mate Really Matter in the Election?

There is a constellation of worldview issues here at stake, but at the center of it is the identity of the 2020 presidential ticket on the Democratic side. It is now unquestionably of the left. If anything, Joe Biden, who has been running to the left of every record he has ever had as a vice president and a Senator, has now chosen as his vice president, someone who has been considerably to his left. Even so we have to know there are people still to their left in the Democratic Party, including someone like the, again, former front runner for the 2020 democratic nomination, Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders. But here's the point. Both Biden and Harris are going to have to move progressively, continually to the left, to keep control of their own party.

What about moral issues? Kamala Harris is a staunch defender of abortion rights, and she has given abortion her support at every conceivable turn. Period. She is completely committed to the pro-abortion worldview. And you can count on the fact that she would continue that in any influence you would have not only in the Senate, but as vice president of the United States.

When it comes to the sexuality matters. Again, in this so-called equality summit held back in October of 2019 amongst the democratic candidates, it was Kamala Harris who pointed out that it was she who as California attorney general had refused to defend California's Proposition 8 before the courts, including the Supreme Court of the United States. And that is because she is a staunch, and has been for years, a staunch defender of the entire LGBTQ movement, including the legalization of same-sex marriage. After the Supreme Court decision, she bragged to that equality summit that CNN held that she had presided over the very first same-sex marriage subsequent to the supreme court's decision.

She is a staunch defender of the so-called Equality Act, and she's basically very much one of the engines, legislatively and intellectually in the Democratic Party for the moral and sexual revolution. When it comes to the collision between religious liberty and the sexual revolution, there's no doubt Kamala Harris isn't hypothetical on this. Again, I go back to Proposition 8 in 2013. She has put her career on the line to choose the sexual revolution over religious liberty. So in Kamala Harris, we have someone who by the Democratic calculus is supremely qualified. But a part of that qualification is not just her career, impressive as that is in political terms, but her identity politics, even how she identifies.

And then we have someone who has solidly identified with the progressivist impulse in the United States, and particularly on social issues, and issues of very direct and urgent concern for Christians operating by a biblical worldview. And yet there's more to it than that as you consider the political calculus.

One of the traditional questions that has been asked in the choice of a vice president is what constituency the candidate would bring. For example, if you go back to the 1960 presidential election, you had a Roman Catholic candidate from the American Northeast, John F. Kennedy than a United States Senator. And you had the reality that he couldn't win without carrying a state such as Texas. But in order to carry Texas, the conventional wisdom was he would need to add Lyndon Johnson, United States Senator, and Majority Leader of the United States Senate to his ticket as vice president.

And most historians would say that without Johnson on the ticket, Kennedy would have lost. With Johnson on the ticket, he won. Since then, the issue has never been so clear cut, but the question has still been in the background, what constituency is brought? Now here's something else to note, just to remember the reality of the electoral college. Kamala Harris was district attorney, attorney general, and is now United States Senator in the state of California. Yes, the nation's most populous state, but you know what? Its electoral vote is going to go for the Democrat, no matter what.

Even if she were to bring an additional 20 million votes for the Democratic ticket--that's hyperbole, it won't happen--it wouldn't change the equation in the Electoral College. That's one of the reasons why Democrats increasingly express their frustration with the electoral college, if not demands to get rid of it. It's another reminder to us as we will see in greater depth over the course of the next several months, why the Electoral College is constitutionally necessary. Otherwise, you would have populous cities and populous states electing a president without many of the states mattering at all in terms of consequence. Exactly the situation the framers of the constitution sought to avoid. And also in California, Kamala Harris is not the most popular politician.

Yes. She was elected attorney general twice. Yes. She won a hotly contested primary, and was elected to the United States Senate in 2016. By the way, she ended up filling the seat that was held by the retiring United Senator Barbara Boxer, but even the Sacramento Bee, the most influential newspaper in California's capital, ran more than one editorial advising Biden not to choose her, but he did.

What will be the impact nationwide? Well, it's going to solidify the Democratic base, especially the part of that base that is committed to identity politics and to the party moving left. The question is, what does it say about the rest of the party? It's going to be very, very interesting. In anticipation of the announcement and the blow back to that announcement, that comes every time you have a vice presidential announcement made for a ticket, you had democratic authorities making the claim that any criticism, substantial criticism, of a candidate like Kamala Harris would reflect either racism or sexism as motivation. Now, no doubt racism and sexism are real sins, but the reality is that if you were to take the record and the experience of Kamala Harris and translate that into any other conceivable identity, including white Anglo-Saxon Protestant male, the reality is conservatives would be still equally horrified.

Two final thoughts on the issue of the vice-presidential selection. One has to do with this choice in particular, given the age of Joe Biden and the fact that he would be the oldest individual ever to be inaugurated as President of the United States for his first term, the reality is that just about everyone in the Democratic Party and beyond knows that the choice of the vice presidential candidate for 2020 was at least, in large part, indicating someone who might well be anointed as the party's leader going forward.

So that's to say Joe Biden wasn't just choosing a running mate. In many ways, he was choosing at least at this point in his life, a successor if he is elected in November. That's why this particular choice in this particular race was so very, very closely watched and anticipated.

The second and final issue is this. Every time there is an announcement like this, well, you have a pattern in the media and in the political class. Immediately, there is the announcement, yes, we know who Kamala Harris is. We know what she represents. We know what this means for the ticket. We're going to talk about it, we're going to analyze it, but then comes the other issue. There is always at least one second big wave of coverage. And that comes down to the fact that people will say now that she is the vice presidential candidate, "Oh, we didn't know this before. Here is an aspect that had not arisen before." In the white hot heat of a presidential candidacy, you can count on the fact that anything that can be found will be found.

But at least at this point in August of the year, 2020, with the Democratic National Convention happening virtually next week, we now know the full ticket layout for the two major parties is going to be President Donald Trump with Vice President Michael Pence facing off against former vice president, Joe Biden and the United States Senator Kamala Harris.

Part

The Blue Migration: How Big Demographic Changes Impact the Electoral Map . . . And the Mission Field

But next with the 2020 presidential election before us, but with a far broader perspective on the future of America, politically, culturally, morally, I need to turn to a major report that emerged from Newsweek magazine, the author, Sam Hill, and Hank Gilman, the title, "Why Red States Have the Blues."

We've talked about this previously on The Briefing, migration from more liberal states to more conservative states, changing the culture of those recipient states and turning many red states purple and potentially even blue, in some cases blue already. The prime example being the state of Virginia.

If you look at the last several decades, Virginia had been very red, predictably Republican. But all that began to change, and it really didn't even spend much time as a purple state--that is going one way or the other. It is now a predictably Democratic state, and it has everything to do with demography. It's not that people in Virginia who lived there decades ago and live there now changed their minds. No, it's the fact that you have two massive demographic trends. And when it comes to a state like Virginia, it's not evenly distributed across the state. The state has become predictably Democratic, and now liberal, largely because of the massive growth of population in the parts of Virginia, along the coast, and most importantly, close to Washington, D.C. Wherever you find a lot of people dependent upon federal funding or government funding for their jobs, you find very liberal voting patterns. Wherever you find the knowledge class, that is, knowledge workers who were drawn to places like Silicon Valley and yes, to places like suburban Washington, D.C. in both Maryland and Virginia, you find people who are very much predictably on the left, and that means morally culturally and politically.

And the second big demographic change by the way, is the growth in the number of young people. Younger voters tend to be more liberal than older voters. And not in the old way where people tended sometimes to be younger voters until they grew older when they became more conservative voters. The fact is the younger voters you're looking now at the millennials growing into, well, at least getting close to middle age, there's no evidence that they are changing their voting patterns into a more conservative direction.

Hill and Gilman point in their article that states such as California and Virginia, both of them have been generally Republican in presidential elections for much of the second half of the 20th century. Just think of the names, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. But by the time you get to the present, it's inconceivable that California would be anything other than blue. There isn't a major statewide office holder who's a Republican, much less a conservative in Washington or Oregon or California. That's the entire American West coast.

The authors then predict this, "Within two presidential election cycles, much of the south will be blue. As former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams told the New York Times: 'The Sun Belt expansion (by Democrats) is what will drive the next thirty years of elections.'" They then summarize quote, "Demographers and political pros have been watching and discussing these trends for a decade. Now the data may finally be about to deliver results, starting in the fall." In other words, the Democrats' long nightmare in the Sun Belt may be at last coming to an end. But then they get to this very important point. And in this, I think they're exactly right. Quote: "These states aren't turning blue because conservatives are suddenly discovering their inner AOC. The shift is driven by demographics—what demographers call "generational replacement," urbanization, and increasingly, the migration of blue state residents to red states."

As they make clear, those people who are moving from blue states to red states are bringing their blue-state voting patterns with them. And this includes states not only like Virginia, but also increasingly like North Carolina and even in Georgia on the Eastern coast of the United States. And when you're talking about Georgia, you're talking about a state that is unquestionably, not just in the Sun Belt, but in the deep south. But you're talking about a state that is increasingly turning purple. And that may point to the fact that it's going to turn blue. And that has a great deal to do with the change in age, by demography, with rising levels of education, the educational process tends to turn people more liberal. That's just a political fact.

By the urbanization of the state in a metropolitan area such as Atlanta, and in the fact that you've got so many people from very heavy-tax, very liberal, very blue states like New York, New Jersey, and you could talk about the rest of the northern-tier states moving to Georgia. And there's another pattern that is filled with irony, and it's not even really addressed in this article. And it's the fact that you've got a lot of people moving from California to Idaho, for example, or from California to Texas. One of the reasons they're moving is because those redder states have far lower state taxes in the main, so you can have a much higher standard of living in Texas if you move there from California. But the problem is if you continue to vote like a Californian, then you're going to turn Texas into California.

The fact is that one of the ironies here is that you have these people leaving liberal blue states, partly because of the economic deadening effect of high taxation, but they're moving to redder states with lower taxes, but they're demanding the same programs and social positions that produce the high taxation in the first place. Hill and Gilman referred to the current pattern as the "Great Migration 2.0."

There's another interesting pattern as you think of the electoral map here, the fact that so many people let's just say more blueishly inclined, have been moving to places that have been previously red that has also opened the opportunity for Republicans unexpectedly to win electoral college victories with votes from places like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. But as Hill and Gilman point out in the math, it's not an even swap. Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan amount to 46 Electoral College votes while Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Texas, they include 109. That's not even close. It's two-to-one.

That math explains in large part why Republicans have had, historically over the last several decades, something of an Electoral College advantage. But the point in this is that the Republican Party can no longer count on that advantage.

From a Christian worldview perspective, there are several very, very interesting, indeed fascinating, if troubling, aspects of this research and the fundamental reality behind it. For one thing we're looking at fast-changing America, we're looking at a United States, and in moral terms, just think of the issue of the legalization of same-sex marriage, or just take the whole LGBTQ array. How did moral change happen so fast in this country? Well, demography has a great deal to do with it. You are looking at a lopsided situation when you compare older Americans on these issues with younger Americans. But, by definition, younger Americans end up winning the game. They end up not only displacing older Americans, but eventually becoming older themselves. And the point is, there is no reason at this point to predict that they're going to change their political voting patterns and furthermore produced by the postmodern culture of the last several decades. They have been raised in the oxygen, in the air, of everything from identity politics and the sexual revolution, to just about every other progressivist cause.

So this means that American Christians trying to understand what's going on in our country. Yes, a lot of it has to do with the secularization of the culture, but that has to do not only with changing minds of living people, that actually doesn't happen all that often. But with one group of people replacing another group of people, not only in the decision-making that takes place in Washington, but in higher education. Fundamentally that's taken place, explaining the vast swing to the left in higher education. It also explains to the people who are producing the cultural goods, such as Hollywood, the news media and all the rest. And yes, it explains the coming political wave.

But the article in Newsweek and the conversation thus far is basically about political change. I've been pointing to the fundamental worldview and moral change behind it and moral change that will result because of it. But speaking theologically and evangelistically, we've got to take this into concern in a wholly different way. We're talking about a lot of people moving to the very heartland of evangelical Christianity, not only the Sun Belt, as it's called in this article, but the Bible belt as it has proverbially been known, and the demography is changing radically.

And you can see this not only state by state, not only election by election, not only region by region. You can see this congregation by congregation. What this tells us is that conservatives in the United States have a whole new challenge trying to confront this massive liberal wave that is coming and threatening to change the entire electoral map in terms of color. The moral changes are far more fundamental. But the second issue is that Christians in the United States have to recognize that these big changes point to issues of tremendous spiritual and gospel or evangelistic concern as well. What we're looking at is not only the indication of vast changes coming in the political map, but on the mission field as well. The mission field right here.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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