The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Monday, October 25, 2021

It’s Monday, October 25, 2021.

I’m Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

Issues to Watch this Week: Democrats Say They Are Nearing Agreement on Massive Federal Spending Bill—But What Will it Be?

As Monday begins, it’s a very big week and we’re going to be looking at several big issues that are going to be barreling at us in the course of this week. We’ll look at each of them in greater consideration in days ahead, but just as an indication of where we’re headed this week, consider the fact that the Democrats actually appear to be close to an agreement of some sort on a massive spending plan.

They’ve been working at this agreement for a long time. They’ve been promising that they’ve achieved some kind of compromise to put the package together.

At this point, it’s not clear that any of the Democrats know what will and will not be in this package, but the point is they have now achieved something, at least we are told, of an agreement that they intend to spend something near $2 trillion in this massive spending, on top of the almost $2 trillion in the so-called bipartisan infrastructure bill. We’re talking about something near $4 trillion of massive federal spending.

Now, just about anyone, Republican or Democrat, would agree on at least some of the spending and at least some of these priorities, especially in the first bill, known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill.

Most of us would agree that there is a basic government responsibility when it comes to something like the, say, interstate highway system in the United States, to make certain that the roads are safe, that the bridges hold, and we have not been spending enough on that infrastructure.

And there has been a basic left-right agreement in the United States, a true bipartisan agreement, that our economy, our national security, our social cohesiveness depend upon having bridges, roads, airports, infrastructure, as it has been traditionally known, that is safe and dependable, and furthermore, ready to help the country move into the future.

But what we have noted is that the Democrats have been loading the bill, the first bill and the second bill, but it’s almost entirely the case in the second bill, with massive social spending that actually is a very intentional expansion of the government. It is a massive experiment in redefining our society. It moves the United States far closer to the model of a European welfare state and it puts at risk the fiscal integrity of our country going further.

Because regardless of what President Joe Biden or the democratic leaders are telling us, this will be an extremely expensive bill. And the bills will eventually be paid by Americans, not so much in the present, but in the future. But we’re going to have to take this apart and look at the pieces of this package once it’s together. And it’s not together, so we’re just going to wait for it. But it’s really significant to know that it appears to be coming.

If it doesn’t come, that’s going to be a big story in itself. But it’s really interesting to note that on the eve, you might say, of the unveiling of this kind of package, which again, it appears no one, even in the Democratic leadership, knows what’s in and what’s out at this point… It’s a very fluid situation. It’s all about spending. It’s about who gets to spend what. What’s included. What’s cut.

Well, you’re looking at two big things we know right now. For one thing, you have the Biden administration and the democratic leadership in Congress, absolutely determined that they must have a bill. And this is a very interesting political context because the expectation of the bill was almost entirely created by the same people. The same people who say we now have to do it because the expectations are so high, they’re the very people who created the expectation.

And furthermore, as just about everyone in the mainstream media or in political observation understands, President Biden and the Democratic leaders are going to be in a very interesting pinch, because they have promised too much to too many people. And when it comes to what’s going to be cut and what’s going to be left in, or how the bill is going to be defined, well, some members of his own base are going to be quite dissatisfied.

Nonetheless, going into the weekend, the Wall Street Journal ran a front page article with this headline, “Democratic voters back Biden’s big spending proposal.” Eliza Collins, Tarini Parti are the reporters in this article. “Democrats in Washington remain divided over the scope of president Biden’s expansive domestic policy agenda, but their voters, both moderate and progressive, have largely rallied around the push to increase government spending and say they worry lawmakers won’t reach an agreement.”

Well, I just want us to look, say, at that one paragraph and understand that there’s a bipartisan reality at work here. And that is that when Americans are asked what they support, whether they like a proposal, they generally answer in a way that is disconnected from what might actually be the essential cost of legislation, or even how it legislation might be framed. And so you continually hear that Americans believe in free community college education for all citizens. Well, that sounds like an idea that many Americans might think is good. College education for free. But how exactly do you do that, and how do you do it without upsetting the entire educational system?

And as it turns out, the speculation is that the free community college education is now out of president Biden’s proposal. He basically acknowledged that in a CNN town hall, just again, as we were going into the weekend. But nonetheless, you have the fact that here we are told that Democratic voters are expecting this big bill. And we are told that they want this big bill on the heels of another very, very big bill, to be an even bigger bill.

But we’re also told in so much of the mainstream media that whatever they do is going to be tempered by the obstruction and the opposition of Republicans. But here’s the reality. Republicans aren’t a part of the picture, because the Democrats said right up front, even in the first two days of the Biden administration, that they were going to seek to push through this massive spending without a single Republican vote.

The big question thus is whether they can get a sufficient number of democratic votes, even in the Senate. If every single Democratic senator, that’s 50, or at least those who caucus with the Democrats, if every single senator counted as a Democrat votes yes, they will still need the vice president of the United States, Kamala Harris, to break a tie, even under the process known as reconciliation.

Yesterday’s edition of The New York Times featured a front page article with this headline, “Biden finds even victory has its costs.” The subhead of the article by Michael D. Shear, “The consequences of political compromise.”

Well, there are of course consequences to every political decision, but one of the things this article makes clear is that president Biden, both running for office and in office, has made so many assurances of what he demands must be in this bill, and he made assurances to so many different groups that their program, their issue, their budget inclusion was in the package. He’s going to face an awful lot of backlash, not from Republicans, but from his own party, or at least many in his party, when their favorite programs aren’t in the proposal.

But when the proposal’s together, we’ll be taking a closer look. There will be huge worldview issues implicated in that package, regardless of how it is put together. We know that it is big government, big spending, big changes in expanding government’s reach, government control, government social programs. But until the final structure or framework of that bill is announced we’re just going to have to wait like everybody else.

That’s connected to a second big story that’s barreling at us this week. On Sunday, the climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland begins, and that’s going to be another huge news story. It’s going to be a news story before it happens, when it happens and after it happens.

But the issue of climate change is one that brings with it so many different worldview dimensions, as well as economics, science, politics, geopolitics. It’s all together. And even as we are looking at that climate summit coming, you can see how the political game is played.

Expectations are raised and then expectations are lowered so that the disappointment might be minimized. But you also are looking at the fact that there are different worldviews colliding over the issue of climate science, climate change climate policy, and yes, the climate summit. We’ll be looking at those worldview clashes in days ahead. There will also be huge implications for the federal spending program that President Biden and the Democrats are trying to put together. You can see how those issues come together. We’ll try to take them apart in the days ahead.

Part II

Issues to Watch: Paramount Case In Abortion As Supreme Court Fast Tracks Hearing on Constitutionality Of Texas Abortion Law

But there’s another big story, coming back to the United States. And that has to do with the fact that on Friday, the Supreme Court of the United States announced that it is going to take and fast-track the question as to the constitutionality of the Texas abortion law.

That law basically outlaws abortion in the state after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, at about six weeks. Now, we’re looking at one of the most controversial laws in abortion history in the United States. It is one of the most consequential laws. And what’s really interesting is that the Supreme Court did not stay the law, did not put a pause on the enforcement of the law, even as it announced it is going to address the issue of the law’s basic constitutionality.

And when I say fast track, we’re talking fast. The Supreme court announced on Friday that it will hear and receive arguments and documents on the case by November the 1st, with the oral arguments being held on November the 1st. Now just do the math. That’s a week from today. That’s how fast this case is being tracked. Just consider the fact that the greatest opportunity, the most opportune moment to confront Roe v. Wade, and to hope for a reversal, is coming in the Dobbs case, which the Supreme Court will hear, in terms of oral arguments, on December the 1st.

We knew that big date was coming, December the 1st, but now a month earlier, out of the blue, the Supreme Court is going to hear arguments concerning the constitutionality of the Texas abortion law, a unique law in terms of how it is constructed, a law that was constructed by the Texas legislature in such a way as to make it harder to challenge in court. And just as was predicted, it went almost immediately to the federal district court there in Texas. The city was Austin. It went from there to the fifth circuit in New Orleans, and fast to the Supreme Court. That tells us something of the urgency with which the Supreme Court is going to take the question.

When the court announces that it’s going to take a case like this, all that’s required is four justices to decide. And there was a five-four vote against a stay on the law just a few weeks ago. So it’s easy to understand where the four votes likely came from. If it’s the same four votes as before, it would be the three liberal justices appointed by Democrats and the chief justice of the United States, John G. Roberts Jr, appointed by President George W. Bush. That’s likely, but we don’t actually know.

The one thing we do know is that justice Sonia Sotomayor was very opposed to not putting a stay on the Texas law in a rather stinging dissent. She wrote, “For the second time, the court is presented with an application to enjoin a statute enacted in open disregard of the constitutional rights of women seeking abortion care in Texas.” “For the second time,” she said, ‘The court declines to act immediately to protect those women from grave and irreparable harm.” Well, another way to put it is that that was a minority position on the court. Otherwise the law would have been stayed. That at least as an encouraging sign to those who are the defenders of unborn life in the United States.

The court has decided to expedite this case so quickly. Adam Liptak of the New York times is right when he reports, “The court rarely acts that quickly, and the exceptions tend to come in significant cases like Bush v. Gore, the 2000 case that handed the presidency to George W. Bush, and the Pentagon Papers case in 1971, which rejected the Nixon administration’s efforts to block publication of a secret history of the Vietnam War.”

That’s just a huge issue. Here we are being told that the Supreme Court considers the urgency of this case to be so paramount that it is putting other cases on hold in order to hear the arguments about this case and receive the filings that will come. It’s also important to recognize that the Court explicitly stated the question it will consider about the Texas law. And this was also released in the Court statement on Friday.

The question, says the Court, is this, “May the United States bring suit in federal court and obtain injunctive or declaratory relief against the state, state court judges, state court clerks, and other state officials or all private parties to prohibit SB8”–that’s Texas Senate Bill 8–“from being enforced.”

All that to say that we know now what we didn’t know even early last Friday, and that is that in just one week, the Supreme Court is going to hear a case with vast constitutional implications, and with moral urgency, concerning the unborn and the sanctity of unborn life by this legislation. It’s going to be coming just next week. We did not know that last Friday morning, but we know it now and we’re going to watch very closely.

Part III

Issues to Watch: Major Issues Leading Up The Gubernatorial Vote In Virginia Next Tuesday — Including Who Decides Education Of Children

But as on this Monday, we’re thinking about the big issues we’re going to need to think about this week, we’re also going to need to understand that next Tuesday is a day of huge consequence, not only in the state of Virginia, but for the entire country. And the entire country is watching.

On next Tuesday, Virginia voters will elect its next governor. The new governor is either going to be the Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin, or it’s going to be the former Virginia governor, Terry McAuliffe, who is running now to regain the office he left just four years ago.

It is a titanic political battle in one of the most important states, when it comes to being a bellwether for politics beyond itself. You’re going to be looking at the huge issues that are already involved, including the fact that this particular election has made parental rights in public education paramount.

And that’s going to have consequences, not only for this election, as we will discuss, but for other states, and the entire union as well. The outcome of that election will be huge. And there will be developments this week in that race that will bear our watching. There are going to be arguments offered in the final week of campaigning that are going to be very important for us to trace, and we’ll be doing that together in coming days this week.

Part IV

Worldview Consequences of Geography: Rural Counties In Maryland Argue for Joining West Virginia. Why? Worldview Matters

But next on today’s edition of The Briefing, I want to look at a very interesting story. It turns out that three counties in Maryland are proposing to secede from the state of Maryland and join the state of West Virginia. Why? Well, it has to do with a great worldview clash between those rural counties in Western Maryland and the very cosmopolitan, more liberal culture, the wealthier culture, of Maryland’s Eastern counties.

The east-west divide in Maryland isn’t new. It goes back to the 19th century. It probably indeed goes back to the colonial era. But now you’re looking at the fact that Michael Levenson of the New York Times reported yesterday, “More than 150 years after Maryland stuck with the Union, the state is facing a peculiar request by its three westernmost counties to secede.”

The article goes on, “Lawmakers from the counties, Garrett, Allegheny and Washington say their rural conservative constituents have long been fed up with their overwhelmingly liberal and Democratic fellow Marylanders. They say they have more in common with the folks on the other side of the country road in neighboring West Virginia.”

Very, very interesting. Now you have three counties in Maryland “floating a proposal to secede from Maryland and join West Virginia.” Let’s just state the obvious. It isn’t likely. It’s actually no more politically likely than what we discussed earlier this year in a story that was released May the 21st, when we discovered that five counties in Eastern Oregon wanted to secede and join the state of Idaho. Again, the same thing, except in reverse. In Oregon, the more liberal counties are in the highly populous west, on the Pacific coast. There are the big cities. There’s the big money. There’s the big liberalism.

On the other hand, in Maryland, you’re looking at the opposite. It is the liberal east, the more conservative west. In Oregon, you have five counties that actually voted by at least an indicating vote that the citizens wanted to leave the state of Oregon, where they’re outnumbered by the cosmopolitans on the Pacific coast, and join the state of Idaho, which is more conservative.

Of course, Oregon right now is absolutely blue in statewide politics, and on the national political map, Idaho’s very red. So now you have those red counties in Eastern Oregon wanting to join Idaho in those red counties, more conservative counties in Western, Maryland wanting to join West Virginia.

Now, if nothing else, this shows us a couple of things we really need to know. And we talk about them fairly often on The Briefing, but here they are in unmistakable forum. I often say that the closer you get to a coast, the closer you get to a city, and the closer you get to a campus, well, the more liberal the culture becomes and the more secular the culture becomes.

And you see that in this situation. These are rural counties in Eastern Oregon, rural counties in Western Maryland. They now believe that they share more in common with rural counties in another state than with the non-rural, very urban metropolitan, cosmopolitan counties in their own state.

Now we see that worldview cleavage in the United States. It’s not just the issue of abortion. It’s not just LGBTQ issues. It’s not just gun rights. It’s virtually everything that is now pitting counties in the east of Oregon against counties in the west. But the counties in the west have the voters.

And now you have the counties in Western Maryland over against the east, but the east has the voters and the east has the money, and the political clout.

Levenson’s report in The Times yesterday tells us, “The secession plan was floated by six Republican lawmakers from the counties, who wrote a letter to Republican legislative leaders in West Virginia this month, asking whether their counties could join that state. The letter stated, “We believe this arrangement might be mutually beneficial for both states and for our local constituencies. Please advise on next steps.”

As you might expect, by the way, political authorities in Maryland didn’t like the idea, but the governor of West Virginia did. Eric G. Leudke, the majority leader of the Maryland house, called the proposal, says The Times, “an unnecessarily divisive political stunt.”

Meanwhile, the governor of West Virginia invited the counties to move ahead with the idea of joining West Virginia, stating, “We’re absolutely standing here with open arms. We’d welcome, absolutely, these counties and be tickled to death to have them.” But as we’re thinking about this issue, it’s not just counties in Oregon and counties in Maryland who want to jump from their state to a neighboring state that’s friendlier, as they see it. It’s also what’s happening in the state of Montana.

Iris Samuels, reporting for The Associated Press, tells us that a commission in Montana is trying to figure out how to draw new congressional districts, that would be two, now that Montana has been awarded, thanks to the census, a second seat in Congress. Here’s the huge question. How do you draw that map? And here’s the issue. Both of the very liberal cities in the very conservative state of Montana are close to each other, but that means that those two cities would basically own that new seat in Congress.

As Samuels reports, “In Montana, Republicans are pushing to separate the two booming college towns of Bozeman and Missoula in the Western half of the state. Putting the two Democratic-leaning communities in different districts would make it hard for Democrats to win either seat.”

But here’s the point. You’re really looking at that city and rural divide. You’re really looking at the fact that the closer you get to a campus, the more liberal and secular the society is. Because even The Associated Press reports the culture of those two towns, Missoula and Bozeman, as now being marked by “craft brew drinkers, liberal academics, remote workers and California transplants.”

Now, in Montana, at least for much of the state, those are fighting words. The distinction between Bozeman and Missoula on one hand, with two big universities, and the rest of the state on the others, made clear by the fact that the deputy mayor of Bozeman, Terry Cunningham, says that his city, along with Missoula and the state capital of Helena “are the only three in the state that have voted for carbon reduction goals, while much of the rest of the state depends on the fossil fuel industry.'” That was the summary from The Associated Press.

Bozeman, Montana, by the way, has been growing like crazy, in part due to Montana State University. The city has seen a 33% growth just in the last 10 years. As The Associated Press says, “Growth that dwarfs that seen anywhere else in the state.”

Now, here’s how The Associated Press reports the growth in Bozeman, and the cultural contrast with the rest of the state. Speaking of Bozeman, the report tells us, “Its downtown is packed with pedestrians, wearing the latest moisture, repelling microfibers, boutique bakeries and upscale restaurants. Housing prices have skyrocketed, as has homelessness. Missoula, home to the University of Montana, has similar headaches.”

But you’ll notice the microfiber wearing pedestrians, eating in their boutique bakeries and upscale restaurants. To put it another way, the average person living that life votes differently, and for that matter, goes or doesn’t go to church differently than many in the rest of the state. It is a more cosmopolitan, more liberal, more secular environment. And that’s true whether or not you are in Maryland, or Minnesota, or Montana.

Part V

An American Story: Chief Earl Old Person, Blackfeet Nation Chief for 60 Years, Dies at Age 92

But finally today, I note the end of another remarkable life, as I try to do from time to time on The Briefing. In this case, the life was that of Chief Earl Old Person of the Blackfeet Nation in the United States.

Here’s the thing. He had been chief of the Blackfeet Nation for 60 years, for six decades. He met with 12 presidents of the United States. He died at age 92, a much beloved chief, and certainly one of the longest tenures as chief of any of the Native American nations, as they are known in all of history. 60 years as chief. Again, his name was Chief Earl Old Person, and he lived out that name for a very long time. He was known for his love for the Blackfeet Nation. He was born April 13, 1929 to Juniper and Molly, also known as Bear Medicine Old Person, on his family land, known as Grease Wood, we are told, in Starr School, Montana.

We are told that Earl Old Person, who became Chief Earl Old Person 60 years ago, was born into the last Blackfeet generation to speak Pikuni before English: “Growing up, he served as a translator for his elders, learning the traditions and history of the Blackfeet Nation that predated colonization. He shared that history with the generations that followed him, teaching children traditional songs, giving eulogies and performing naming ceremonies.”

The New York Times obituary by Taylor Irving tells us, “His nephew, Harold Dusty Bull, said that even at 92, the chief could recite your family history, your ancestors, their Indian names, what they did, and what societies… That means ceremonial groups within the tribe they belonged to.” Mr Bull said, “He was the last one with that depth of knowledge. Nothing is going to be the same without Earl.”

The article also tells us, “In his final years, Chief Old Person would sit in a log cabin for hours in Browning”–that’s Browning, Montana–“recording as many songs and stories as he could for future generations.”

Again, when you think about his lifetime and his years as chief… He met 12 presidents of the United States. He met with 12. That’s 12 out of 46. That means that in his one lifetime, indeed in his tenure as chief of the Blackfeet Nation, Chief Old Person represented an incredible unprecedented link between past and present and future, as chief for 60 years, dying at age 92.

The article tells us, “The chief who led the tribe for more than 60 years attended nearly every high school athletic event in the town, sometimes driving hundreds of miles to neighboring reservations and cities to support its Native American athletes. In gratitude of that support, Browning High School dedicated the gymnasium to him in 2019. It was in that gymnasium last Friday that his funeral was held, in the school he had attended as a boy, and representing the people he had served as chief for more than 60 years.”

The life of Chief Earl Old Person is a quintessentially American life that we must not miss, part of the tapestry of American history, very much a part of the American story. Our story, all of us together. And as the Scripture reminds us, honor to whom honor is due.

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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