Monday, April 5, 2021
It's Monday, April 5, 2021.
I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Why Is Society Changing So Quickly? The Domination of Progressive Politics and Morality in American Public Life
As we observe cultures change, one of the things we note are the engines of that change. And today on The Briefing, we're going to look closely at two of those engines and both of them are quite powerful, but arguably right now it is the engine of popular culture, especially when it comes to the intersection of political controversies and the new socially activated capitalism. And for that matter, sports at just about every level.
We're looking at one major engine for cultural change, and it is pressing for that change very, very quickly and in a very clear direction, to the left and fast. Now, just consider the fact that in the last several days, The Wall Street Journal has published a full editorial entitled, "The Biden Baseball League," but it's the first sentence that is the most important section of this editorial.
I quote, "If you still doubt that progressive politics dominates nearly every institution of American public life and culture, look no further than Friday's decision by Major League Baseball to move its summer All-Star Game from Atlanta. President Biden said Wednesday he'd strongly support this idea and the league dutifully obliged two days later."
Now I want to go back to the editorial's opening words, because just in a few words, the editors of The Wall Street Journal rightly distill what's taking place in our society, explaining why this society is changing, why it's changing as it is changing, and why it is changing as fast as it is changing. Those opening words, again, remind us that progressive politics dominates nearly every institution of American public life and culture. Now, if you are operating from one perspective, you might say, "Well, has it ever been different?"
And the answer would be yes, it has been different. There once was a day when higher education in the United States was a stabilizing force, not a destabilizing force. There once to an even greater extent was a day when American capitalism, American corporations, American businesses were another even more powerful stabilizing force in society. But now you see that just about every dimension of American popular culture is under the control of those who are doing their best to change American society as fast as they can.
And the engines for this are not only popular culture and as we shall see public policy, they're the engines of Hollywood, the engines of cultural production, the engines of the media, social media, high technology. But of course, we also recognize that many of these dimensions overlap. Many of these engine sometimes work together.
Sometimes that overlap is very clear as in so many of the biggest businesses in the United States right who represent high technology, social media, and, of course, all the different dimensions of the high-tech culture, and they are pushing as far left as fast as they can and as forcefully as they can. But let's look at the incident that brought those words from The Wall Street Journal.
It has to do with the fact that on Friday, the commissioner of Major League Baseball announced that due to the voting bill that was adopted by the Georgia legislature and last week signed into law by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, Major League Baseball in moral outrage had decided to move this summer's All-Star Game from Atlanta to some undisclosed city. The point is moving it out of Atlanta, Atlanta being a part of Georgia, and Georgia now being identified as on the wrong side of history.
But that didn't come out of the blue, because as soon as the governor had signed that law into effect, you had pressure brought on major American corporations. Two of them in particular, as we shall see, that very quickly began to get with the political progressive tide and began to call for economic action and other leverage against the State of Georgia. We're talking about the Coca-Cola company. We're talking about Delta Airlines.
By last Wednesday, The New York Times was running headline stories like this: "Delta and Coca-Cola Reverse Course on Georgia Voting Law, Stating 'Crystal Clear' Opposition." That crystal clear opposition, by the way, came only after the bill had been adopted by the Georgia legislature and signed into law by Georgia's governor. By Saturday of last week, The New York Times would run on the front page an article with the headline: "M.L.B.," Major League Baseball, "Moves All-Star Game from Georgia," the subhead, "Part of Growing Protest Against Voting Curbs."
The article by a team of reporters began, "Major League Baseball sent a warning shot on Friday to Republicans considering new laws to restrict voting, pulling its summer All-Star game out of suburban Atlanta in a rebuke to Georgia's new election restrictions that will make it harder to vote in the state's urban areas. The announcement by the baseball commissioner, Rob Manfred, came after days of lobbying from civil rights groups and discussions with stakeholders, like the Major League Baseball Players Association."
The article continues, "The action is likely to put additional pressure on other organizations and corporations to consider pulling business out of Georgia, a move that both Republicans and Democrats in the state oppose despite fiercely disagreeing about the new voting law." Now, in the very next paragraph, the news story says, "The League's decision comes as other States are moving closer to passing new laws that would further restrict voting." As we saw in the opening words to this front page story, the law was described as a law that will restrict voting.
But as we are also seeing, even the president of the United States has been speaking wrongly about this bill. Now, let's be clear as we shall see, looking a little more closely at the legislation in Georgia, there are debatable parts of the legislation. Anytime you talk about defining the process of electoral politics in the United States, you're talking about politics, you're also talking about politicians setting the table for the political game.
And that means that you should expect that whichever party has a majority in whatever political arena it will seek to do what it at least does not believe it's in its worst interest. It may do even more than that. But even as that is true, undoubtedly, about some dimensions of the law passed in Georgia, it is at least equally true and far more widespread in effect when you look at what is called House Resolution 1. That's the national bill brought by the Democrats for a nationwide reformulation of electoral laws in the United States.
And that, by the way, would represent a nationalization of these issues on a scale that has never happened in the constitutional experiment of the United States of America. It would amount to a federal takeover of much, if not most of the electoral process in the United States. It would also change the terms of the voting debate in ways that would clearly advantage the Democratic Party. Do the laws in Georgia clearly benefit the Republican Party?
Well, by the way, one of the things we need to see is that sometimes cause and effect doesn't work out exactly as any party or, for that matter, any legislature or governor or president may intend, but the intention is very clear in some cases. But when it comes to the situation in Georgia, you had the Georgia legislature in the aftermath of no little amount of controversy in the 2020 election look to reform, that would be the words used by the political leaders in Georgia, the electoral laws of that state. Those who opposed it have referred to it as restriction.
Restriction or reform? Well, in one sense, it depends on which paragraph of the law you're talking about. A report from Georgia Public Broadcasting analyzing the bill points out that for most of the counties in the state, the bill as recently adopted would actually expand access to early voting. It would also add mandatory Saturday voting, and it also mentions that Sunday voting hours are at least optional. The bill does restrict the number of absentee ballot drop boxes, as they are known, but those didn't even exist in the state of Georgia just two years ago.
We're talking about a very recent development. We're talking about a recent development largely in the context of COVID-19 and a pandemic. We're talking about the state legislature exercising its authority to decide how many of those drop boxes should exist. Now, the argument for having more means that people will be able to at least live closer to one of those drop boxes.
The argument for fewer is that if you look at George's trouble even trying to figure out who had won the election, you look at so many of the authorities in Georgia taking so long to tabulate the votes, the argument is made that fewer of those ballot boxes will actually build confidence in the electoral process, which is right. Well, you also have the argument that an increased number of those drop boxes means that there is a decreasing security for the process. Can an argument be made either way? The answer to that is assuredly yes.
But that's not what you see, even in the mainstream coverage, where the first word that seems to be used by the mainstream media about the Georgia legislation is the word restrict. That's a very interesting thing we're going to be looking at in some detail. One of the most controversial sections of the Georgia bill is a requirement for a photo ID for absentee voting, at least at some point in the process.
Prior to this new legislation, the system for absentee voting in Georgia required some kind of comparison by verification of signatures, the signature which was on the voting record and the signature that was on the ballot. Needless to say, that is not only time-consuming, it's inherently subjective. Just consider the controversy that went not only for hours, but for days in Georgia.
And frankly, you don't have to come to the conclusion that there was any widespread voter fraud to at least understand that Georgia did not show itself very able quickly to count votes in a way that gave just about everyone confidence.
Furthermore, when you consider the use of photo ID throughout our society in so many different ways, if indeed there would be a disproportionate effect on minority voters who might be more likely not to have a photo ID, it would appear that the rational responsible reaction to that would be a plan to make certain that all Americans who are qualified for a photo ID receive one and have one. The state's responsibility should be to make that widespread so that there is no racial or ethnic disparity.
But deciding that a photo ID is too much to ask for a vote is setting up a situation which, again, reduces confidence in the entire voting system.
President Biden Brings His Moral Judgment Down on Georgia — Major League Baseball, Delta, and Coca-Cola Follow Suit
But that editorial in The Wall Street Journal was entitled, "The Biden Baseball League." How did President Biden get in the midst of this? Well, the answer to that is he put himself right in the middle of this.
An article in Friday's edition of The Washington Post by Cleve R. Wootson Jr. began this way: "President Biden has called Georgia's new slate of voting rules a blatant attack on the right to vote, the constitution, and good conscience and un-American. Later he declared it Jim Crow on steroids." Now, wait just a moment, I simply want to register here that the President of the United States, who is, of course, a Democrat who has been extremely friendly to the left wing of his party is here calling the legislation in Georgia the new Jim Crow or Jim Crow on steroids.
Just remember that under Jim Crow, the states' put up active opposition, active obstacles to minority voters. There were such things as poll exams. There were such things as ridiculous exams in which people were asked not only to prove some form of literacy or some kind of civic information, but they're actually forced to take a guess as to how many jelly beans or some other object might be in a jar. Clearly it was an abject effort to try to deny Americans the vote and in so many cases clearly on the basis of race and ethnicity.
To refer to that which was classic Jim Crow segregation in all of its horror as what's now applicable in Georgia is just not morally responsible. But the president's moral irresponsibility in this light went far further than just describing it in misleading terms. He actually spoke in ways that were factually inaccurate about key parts of the legislation as adopted in Georgia. Now, one of the responsibilities of a President of the United States is at least to speak accurately about that which he condemns.
But the article in The Washington Post about the president had to do with the fact that on Wednesday night of last week, the president weighed in, that's the summary of the reporters here, about what Major League Baseball should do about the All-Star Game, and he basically said that he supported some players who believe that Major League Baseball should move the All-Star Game from Truist Stadium, hat's the home of the Atlanta Braves, to another site outside of Georgia, a very clear punishment to the state for adopting this legislation.
And the point made by The Wall Street Journal editorial board is that almost as if Major League Baseball now works for President Biden. Just a matter of a very short amount of time after the president made that public statement, the Commissioner of Major League Baseball indeed announced that he was moving the All-Star Game in a rebuke to and a punishment of Georgia.
But Glenn Kessler, who is the fact checker for The Washington Post.... And just remind yourself, The Washington Post is not a conservative newspaper. It's a newspaper that thoroughly supports a more progressive vision by its own definition of the United States. It is a paper that clearly supports the president. It, nonetheless, in this column ran a full half page in Sunday's print edition with the headline "Biden falsely claims the new Georgia election law ends voting hours early." Now, amongst other claims the president made is that the bill would restrict voting hours and working people would have a harder time voting.
The actual text of the bill and the actual effect of the bill would be the opposite. The fact check article cites University of Georgia, political scientist Charles S. Bullock III as saying, "You can criticize the bill for many things, but I don't think you can criticize it for reducing the hours you can vote." He speculated that the president may have been "briefed" on an early version of the bill, there were 25 versions floating around, and didn't get an update on the final version. In any event, the president spoke and he injected himself into this.
And remember, this is the president who said he was going to unify the country, and this is the president who is repeatedly patted on the back as avoiding America's culture war issues. As we have seen, he has done anything but from the first moment he entered into office. Speaking of the president's misrepresentation, The Washington Post concluded with these words, "One could understand a flub in a news conference, but then this same claim popped up in an official presidential statement."
The paper went on, "Not a single expert we consulted who has studied the law understood why Biden made this claim, as this was the section of the law that expanded early voting for many Georgians. Somehow," said The Washington Post, "Biden 'managed to turn that expansion into a restriction aimed at working people' calling it 'among the most outrageous parts of the law.'" The paper concluded, "There's no evidence that this is the case. The president earns four Pinocchios."
But you'll notice that all of that is simply basically just documented here because the president has already said what he said. He has already brought his moral judgment upon Georgia. Woke capitalism is responding in just the same way. Delta Airlines and Coca-Cola have since announced that they offer crystal clear opposition to the bill, that they didn't have the courage to speak too clearly as it was being debated.
In his column at The Washington Post, Hugh Hewitt very rightly said that when you're looking at these companies, you're now looking at Coca-Cola as "the non-official but very real drink of the Democratic Party." He applied the same to Delta as the "non-official but very real airline to the Democratic Party." And then The Wall Street Journal just came back and said, "Evidently now Major League Baseball also belongs not only to the Democratic Party, but to whatever political judgment the current President of the United States may make."
That's why The Wall Street Journal editors declared the Baseball League now the Biden Baseball League. But again, go back to those opening words. If you still doubt that progressive politics dominates nearly every institution of American public life and culture, look no further than the Major League Baseball decision announced last Friday. My main concern in this case is not primarily about the voting law issue in Georgia. It's not primarily about the Major League Baseball All-Star Game this summer. It's not primarily about President Biden and the League Baseball.
It's about the fact that what we are seeing is the fact that virtually every single dimension of our culture is now indeed taken over by those who have a very clear moral agenda, and the overlapping forms of social coercion bring together the government and big tech and big capitalism and just about everything else, big academia, big media, big Hollywood, big entertainment.
You have Hollywood celebrities indicating that they're not going to be making films and they're not going to be performing in films in Georgia, just like they brought action against Georgia when the state government passed a law restricting abortion. You see how the culture war issues are now everywhere. And one of the most interesting things here is that conservatives are often blamed by the left for bringing these issues into American politics.
Now, the overwhelming number of these battlefront and the overwhelming surge in the society is not coming from the right. It is very clearly coming from the left. The left has been an increasing control of the engines of cultural production for decades now. And what we are seeing is that the process of this kind of social change is now becoming more comprehensive and it's coming at us even faster.
What Does the Controversy about M.L.B.’s All-Star Game Tell Us About Who Is Driving Change in Society and Where the Society Is Headed?
James Wagner, writing for The New York Times, offers a headline story in yesterday's edition, "Tide of Social Activism Rises in Sports Leagues."
Wagner begins, "For major American sports leagues that have long taken pains to say out of divisive issues around race and social activism, the past few years have been a remarkable awakening." The next sentence says, "Top leagues and their multimillionaire stars have come out forcefully and publicly against police brutality and gun violence, and just as strongly in support of LGBTQ causes and the right of their players to kneel during the National Anthem. Players has spoken at protest marches and leagues have bankrolled new social justice efforts."
"Still," and this is the point of the front page article in yesterday's edition of The New York Times, "Still, the paper notes, "it was striking when after days of mounting pressure, the Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred announced on Friday that the league would pull the 2021 All-Star Game out of suburban Atlanta and a rebuke of the new Georgia voting law that critics have predicted would disenfranchise black voters." The big thing to notice there is that The New York Times is telling us this is a departure.
This is something new. This is a major new development. But there's another very interesting aspect to the story that's included in The Times coverage, and that is the fact that even many of baseball's most prominent players did not universally support the call to move the game. Now, just in recent weeks, even in recent days on The Briefing, we've looked at controversy about the NCAA bringing pressure against a state like South Dakota that was bringing legislation that would have restricted girls' sports to girls, women's sports to women, not to those who are biologically male.
You see the NCAA bringing that kind of pressure. You saw as we talked about in the story concerning Oral Roberts University, we saw that its basketball team was targeted precisely because ORU, identifying as a Christian university, makes very clear that it holds to a biblical understanding concerning sex and gender and sexuality.
That became cause for a column published at a site by USA Today calling for the NCAA to take action to eliminate ORU and similar schools, effectively all Christian colleges and universities that would dare to operate by Christian conviction, and to make certain at the very least that something like this could never happen again. We've seen institution after institution. Remember, we have seen in recent years organizations as previously stalwart as the Boy Scouts of America caved first on the entire LGB set of issues, but then on T.
And now it's not even the Boy Scouts of America. It's just something like Scouting USA. But my point on The Briefing Today is to point to the fact that looking at two dimensions of America's popular culture, and in particular looking at the influence of business, especially the now so-called rightly identified woke capitalism, and then sports. With sports, if anything, being even more powerful than America's biggest corporations when it comes to bringing about this kind of moral change.
You see the fact that it takes place not only at the national level, these are headline news stories in the nation's most prominent newspapers. You're talking about the President of the United States. It's not just even statewide, thinking of a state like Georgia or a state like Texas. And by the way, one of the things you need to note is that many of the provisions of this new bill in Georgia are actually provisions already in place in historic blue states, for instance, in the American Northeast.
But the point is that when you're looking at sports, you're not just looking at pressure being brought by major American corporations, you're looking at the pressure that comes from voluntary associations. The question is, how long will it be until the issue isn't the All-Star Game of Major League Baseball, but to say the Little League Team right down the street? I began today by looking at that statement from the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal.
Let me just point out that when you're talking about big American business, big American economics, it doesn't get any bigger than the coverage in The Wall Street Journal. But when the editors of The Wall Street Journal mentioned that there can now be no doubt "that progressive politics dominates nearly every institution of American public life and culture," we need to pay attention. We all need to pay attention. We need to pay even more close attention to what is going on in our society and who's driving the change. And make no mistake.
If the President of the United States can now bring this kind of moral pressure from the left on something like Major League Baseball based upon his response to legislation in Georgia that he got factually wrong, then he can bring that same kind of pressure on just about any pressure point in our culture. You can count on the fact he expects to win. The editors of The Wall Street Journal talk about this situation as the Biden Baseball League, but we all really understand this isn't about baseball.
It's just about what this particular controversy in baseball reveals about the entire society and its future.
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.