The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

It’s Wednesday, November 3rd, 2021.

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

Part I

Huge Political and Cultural Shockwaves From Virginia: Republican Glenn Youngkin Defeats Democrat Terry McAuliffe In Gubernatorial Election In Virginia

Elections are like a medical exam, they offer objective and verifiable evidence of what’s actually going on. When you’re looking at a CAT scan, it tells you what’s going on inside the body. When you look at an election, it tells you what’s really going on inside the body politic. We knew that yesterday was going to be a big election day in the United States. That’s a bit unusual since it’s an off year election, but two crucial governor’s races in Virginia and New Jersey and crucial questions such as abolishing the police in Minneapolis, they pointed to the fact that this was going to be a big year in electoral consequence telling us about our culture, not only looking at the present, but looking at the future. This gives us a very clear, at least early indication of the shape of electoral politics going into the midterm elections. And what we saw happen yesterday, especially last night as the results came in, can only be described as a great shock to the political system.

A great threat to the political establishment that had declared itself, moving in a more progressive, more liberal direction, simply by the election of Joe Biden as president of the United States and a very thin though statistically real majority in the House and the Senate for Democrats, and the ascendant left wing was clearly in power. But right now it is the moderate Democrats, as they style themselves, who are very much in danger. We’re going to be looking at those labels in days to come, but here’s the bottom line, the victory of Glenn Youngkin and the governor’s race in Virginia is massive. The governor’s race in New Jersey is, as of Wednesday morning, still a little bit too close to call, but what is really clear is that shocks are being sent through the system.

Let’s just consider going back say a year ago, a year ago, Terry McAuliffe looked to be the leading candidate to win the democratic nomination in Virginia, and then probably to coast to election to another term as Virginia’s governor. Now, one of the interesting things about that is that Terry McAuliffe was considered the insider candidate, the candidate who represented continuity with Joe Biden, the newly elected president of the United States. But by the time you fast forward to Terry McAuliffe getting the nomination and actually being in the general election, even Terry McAuliffe himself said by the last months of the campaign that Joe Biden, President Joe Biden, was a pull, a tug, a negative force when it came to his campaign. And that has a lot to do with President Biden’s plummeting poll numbers, it has a lot to do with big questions about whether Biden and the Democrats can govern it all, it has huge questions about cultural issues that turn out, and we should be encouraged about, this turn out to be of eager and undeniable interest when it comes to American voters.

In the state of Virginia, as we shall see, education turned out to be the big surprise issue. In the state of New Jersey if you were to go back a year ago, you would’ve expected that Phil Murphy, often as the most liberal governor in America, would’ve coasted to reelection and to win a second term. And at that point we didn’t even know who his opponent would be. That opponent turned out to be Republican Jack Ciattarelli, a businessman who had been a part of the New Jersey legislature. But the fact is no one really expected any Republican to win, no one expected Jack Ciattarelli to win, but as of last night, Ciattarelli was running ahead of Phil Murphy. That’s a shockwave, big shockwave.

Phil Murphy, as governor, upheld and even increased or proposed increases to New Jersey’s already sky high taxes, taxes so high that you have some people in the state moving to states such as Texas and Florida just to avoid the incredible levels of taxation. Phil Murphy actually doubled down indicating that he wanted to increase taxes still further, but at the end of the day, even as Phil Murphy had been patting himself on the back and reflecting the goals and aims of New Jersey voters, it turns out that New Jersey’s voters sent a very different signal on Tuesday. By the way, early results in voting point to the fact that blue collar voters in the state of New Jersey went overwhelmingly for Jack Ciattarelli rather than Phil Murphy.

Now, once again, the big issue there is that the election of Joe Biden gave the Democrats claim that they had won back those voters, but it turns out not so fast, certainly not for very long. Once again, culture trumps politics.

The vote that took place in Virginia so critically was really a vote about culture, so also was the vote about police in Minneapolis. It has to do with security in the culture, our understanding of whether the culture is moving in a positive or negative direction, whether or not there is security and confidence in government and in the larger society, all these are major factors. In the state of Virginia it is simply undeniable that cultural and moral issues propelled the Republican candidate to what now appears to be a very clear victory over against expectations. Again, a year ago, no one knew who the Republican nominee would be, as in New Jersey no one expected that nominee to have much of a chance in the general election, but the story on election night is quite different.

In the state of Virginia the big cultural issue was education and parental rights in education. That was an issue that wasn’t expected to be uniquely Virginian in this off year election, but it turned out to be. It turned out to be because issues of critical race theory and intersectionality, and especially LGBTQ issues, even down to transgender students and bathrooms, it turned out that parents really care about those issues. It turns out that parents really care about what is being taught to their children, and parents, even in a state like Virginia, which has declared itself red, then purple now, blue, it turns out that even those parents are offended when the former governor running to be governor again says that parents basically should have no influence in the public schools, no influence in the curriculum, no influence in the rules, no influence in the policies.

And it turns out that the voters of Virginia said no second term, no additional term for Terry McAuliffe. But Terry McAuliffe was a liberal, a progressive on so many other issue. He’s often described as a moderate in the Democratic Party, so let’s pause a moment to ask what that means. Well, in the sense of Terry McAuliffe, it isn’t really about moral and cultural issues, he’s a moderate at least by his own designation when it comes to the fact that he has been in business and he has presented his role in Virginia as being a pro-business governor. And when you’re looking at a party, by the way, that includes democratic socialists and those who are clearly calling for a radical change in the free market and our economic system, well, the reality is that Terry McAuliffe might be a moderate in that sense in his party.

But when it comes to moral and cultural issues, Terry McAuliffe was never a moderate. He was closely associated with the Clinton’s, a major fundraiser by the way, back in the 1990s for Bill Clinton, he was later chairman of the Democratic National Committee, he had a major role in the 2000 Democratic National Convention, he was co-chair of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign, remember she lost that nomination race to be Barack Obama who went on to be elected president, he was one of five directors or members of the board of the Clinton Foundation, he was a political operative and he was a businessman, and even skirting scandal repeatedly, he seemed to mix those two things up, offering very little apology.

He said that he met people in politics that turned into business, he met people in business that turned into politics, he was such a political operator or is such a political operator that years ago he told the New York Times that he had a Rolodex, if you’re too young to know what that is, that’s a system of name cards. And Terry McAuliffe claimed that his Rolodex was the power Rolodex in the Democratic Party, having no less than 18,362 names along with other information. Well, he could have used an additional 18,362 votes in Virginia, but the point is the kind of person who was a political operator back in the Clinton era, back in the Democratic Party in the 1990s and into the first decade of this century, isn’t seen as the shape of the future for the Democratic Party.

Bill Clinton is himself now an embarrassment for the Democratic Party, and not just because of his sex scandals, not just because of his political smarminess, but because of the fact that he held positions that the left wing of his party now finds absolutely reprehensible. And so, you have major Democratic candidates now running as a repudiation of Bill Clinton. Well, you say that’s different with Hillary. Not so, the Democratic Party has grown very tired of Hillary Clinton as well, it wants to move beyond the Clintons and people associated with the Clintons in order to forge a new identity. That may be one reason that many of the people who would’ve turned out for Terry McAuliffe in 2013, who would’ve turned out for just about any Democrat in any previous gubernatorial election in Virginia, didn’t turn out for Terry McAuliffe. At the end of the day, there will be no question that it was the education, the parental role in education issue that was definitive.

Glenn Youngkin took the side of parents, he was critical of what’s gone on in so many school systems, what is being taught in curriculum, he gave an ear to the political moment, whether or not he intended for education or parental rights in education to be big issues when he entered the race, the point is he learned to listen to the electorate and the electorate was very clear. He noted, he learned that the electorate saw this as a major issue that would define the race. He defined himself, but so did Terry McAuliffe, but Terry McAuliffe defined himself over and over again, doubling down on the fact that he saw no role for parents, “Leave education to the school boards, leave education to the professionals, leave education to the ideologues of the progressive left in the United States.” At least a sufficient number of parents in Virginia said, “Hang on a minute, we’re not going with that plan.”

Part II

Cultural and Moral Issues Dominate Over Political Issues: What Were The Big Issues For Virginians That Led McAuliffe Out Of Office?

But Christians also need to note that the issue of abortion really was a big issue in this campaign in Virginia, and Terry McAuliffe made it a big issue himself because he declared himself, as governor, and as the would be governor again, to be a brick wall for abortion rights for what he called, reproductive health, reproductive rights in the state of Virginia. He made very clear his unconditional support for abortion rights. And of course, this is in the background of the fact that the current governor, Ralph Northam, who is himself a doctor, found himself, no, he took himself into the horrifying position of having advocated what can only be described as infanticide in supporting a radical new abortion law in the state of Virginia.

The voters in Virginia didn’t misunderstand the governor, they understood him, and the voters in Virginia didn’t misunderstand Terry McAuliffe, they understood him. He was trying to make very clear, even as the Democratic Party’s increasingly captive of the ideology of the pro-abortion movement and planned parenthood, remember that it was Terry McAuliffe who declared himself to be a brick wall, but it turns out to be a brick wall that wasn’t put back in place.

Now, as of late last night, early on Wednesday morning, Terry McAuliffe had not conceded the race, he made a statement to his followers, but that turned out not to be a concession speech, but nonetheless major media were calling the election, in all practical terms, for Glenn Youngkin last night, because it was just about impossible that Terry McAuliffe could make up the gap in the votes.

But the point is this, there’s going to be a lot of consideration in coming days and weeks to the meaning of the elections both in Virginia and New Jersey. We’re going to hold on New Jersey right now, but the fact is regardless of how the final vote in New Jersey is called, the Democratic candidate has either been repudiated or humiliated, it’s just a question of which one. Now remember, this is the party that declared itself the absolute future and saw itself as absolutely in control with politics and the culture just a matter of months ago. But since then, the party has been unable to get through President Biden’s big initiatives, including a bipartisan, as its phrased, infrastructure bill. It was liberals in the house who basically have killed it thus far, or his massive spending bill, which right now is still stalled along with his initiatives having to do with climate change and all the rest. It turns out that at this point, President Biden has been unable to win the support, the unified support, the sufficient support of his own party.

But I want to go back to Virginia for a moment, I want to go back to a conversation that we had on The Briefing say a matter of eight years ago, let’s go back to when Terry McAuliffe was elected governor of Virginia. That was in the 2013 race, and he ran against Ken Cuccinelli. Ken Cuccinelli was the Republican candidate, he was expected to be a very strong and candidate. Terry McAuliffe came in and beat him. But as we took a closer look back in 2013, so that’s now eight years ago, so we took a closer look at those electoral results, marriage turned out to be the big issue, children turned out to be the big issue, that was eight years ago.

And let me just remind you of the pattern that was evident eight years ago in Virginia. The big issue was women voters. That’s probably still the case as you look at the 2021 election this time, it turns out that women, especially women in the suburban counties of Virginia, they may well have been the deciding factor here. So, let’s just consider that for a moment. If you go back to 2013, here’s what became evident and just consider how big an insight this is, we need to hold on to this. Going back to 2013, if women who had children and were married had been the only votes counted, Ken Cuccinelli would’ve won the election in a landslide. He would’ve clearly won the election, but on the other hand, there was a very clear, you could say almost landslide vote in the opposite direction if a woman voter was single and did not have children.

Now, operating thinking by a biblical worldview that shouldn’t really surprise us. It shouldn’t surprise us that being married changes one’s outlook fundamentally, it should not surprise us as Christians that having a child, having children, becoming a parent changes one’s outlook significantly. It makes one more conservative in considering the culture. If you’re going to be married, you’re worried about a culture that supports marriage. And if you have children, you are very concerned about a society as that society makes way for children. That means you’re very concerned about other things, as the electoral result in 2021 made clear. It turns out that if you have children and if they are in public school you are not going to accept a candidate who tells you, “You have no influence on what is to be taught to them, what policies are to be put in place for them in the public schools.”

In other words, if the Democrats actually read the electoral results from way back in 2013, they may have picked up on a big lesson. But let’s face it, we’re now looking at the great partisan divide in this country, the great worldview divide being such that the left just keeps marching left. We’ll be looking to see what happens in the future of the Democratic Party there in Virginia, but right now it’s going to fall upon Glenn Youngkin to be the governor of Virginia and to forge the future, not only for Virginia, but in some sense for the future of the Republican Party not only in Virginia, but with influence, you can be assured now, far beyond.

Part III

Minneapolis Votes Against Defunding the Police — But What Was Behind The Measure, And How Did It Intersect With The Biblical Worldview?

Next, we need to shift to the state of Minnesota, the city of Minneapolis, where voters there turned down what had been considered a quite popular, even populous demand to defund the police, even to abolish the police department there in Minneapolis, putting in place a Department of Public Safety that would include some who would be considered police officers but would basically reassign and rethink the entire department away from the predominant idea of a police force.

As Stephen Maturin of The Hill had reported, “The new entity would have employed a comprehensive public health approach to safety replacing the city police chief with a commissioner nominated by the mayor and appointed by the Minneapolis City Council. Police officers themselves would not be completely done away with, but non-police first responders, social workers, therapists, other trained professionals would be introduced to deal with substance abuse emergencies, mental health crises, and other non-violent situations.”

Now, just something we need to keep in mind is that America right now, and especially many of America’s big cities, are experiencing a surge, a spike in violent crime. Something else to consider is this, no doubt the police are now called upon to do many things that we don’t think of in traditional policing. As the police are often first responders, they are often responding to a situation that includes a mental health crisis or drug use or any number of other complicating factors, but nonetheless, the reality is that the proposal for this Department of Public Safety assume that social workers, therapists and “other trained professionals” would be able to deal with emergencies that were declared to be nonviolent, but the reality is any experience indicates that those situations are very hard to predict in terms of whether they’re violent or nonviolent or the potential for violence, which is extremely difficult to calculate.

Many of those situations are not considered violent until they turn violent, but it is an undeniable increase in violent crime that led to a majority, a very clear majority of voters in Minneapolis saying, “We are not ready to abolish or to get rid of the police. We’re not ready to redefine the police force in terms of a Department of Public Safety that the majority of voters clearly did not trust would keep them or make them safe.

The New York Times report on the election there in Minneapolis with this proposal going down overwhelmingly quoted Brian Herron, identified as the pastor of a church on the north side of Minneapolis and an opponent of the amendment. The pastor said, “We all agree that we can’t sustain as we are now with the way policing has been,” but he went on to say, “We don’t have time to reimagine, we’ve got bodies dropping in the streets, we’ve got innocent folk being killed.” In other words, that spike in violent crime was a wake-up call to the fact that most of the citizens in many of these cities don’t want fewer police officers, they want more police officers. Of course, they want good police officers, professional police officers, they want just and they want fair and professional police officers, but they’re not looking to reduce the numbers of the police, much less to abolish the police.

Now, we need to note that this has been an aim of the left in the United States for a long time, because the left buying into the insights of critical theory, whether it’s acknowledged or not, believe that all the major structures of our justice system are actually forms of oppression. Now, no doubt, many public justice efforts, many public safety efforts can go wrong. There are police who make mistakes, there can be errors at any level of the system, but the fact is in a fallen society you can’t do without this kind of system. And the reality is that the left operates out of an understanding of human nature that sees humanity as simply a part of a failed social system. If the social system is improved, the belief is that humanity will improve. But human nature doesn’t improve, human behavior may improve because there are protections put in place, laws put in place, consequences put in place, but here’s a central biblical insight, human nature doesn’t change.

Part IV

Wrongful Civil Rights Era Convictions Should Be Expunged? But What About The Historical Record?

But as we’re thinking about these issues, we’re thinking about justice, we’re thinking about law, we’re thinking about our culture and the future of our culture, we also have to reckon with the past. In that light, I want to turn to a report by Jay Reeves of the Associated Press. He writes about a bid to erase the criminal convictions of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks, and at least one other from the earliest days of the civil rights movement in the United States. Reeves writes, “The quest by a civil rights pioneer to have her arrest record wiped clean after nearly 70 years after she protested racial segregation has raised the possibility of similar bids to clear the names of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr., Whose convictions remain on the books in Alabama’s capital,” that’s the City of Montgomery. Reeves goes on to explain, “Parks, a black seamstress and activist was convicted of violating racial segregation laws after refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man in 1955. Martin Luther King, Jr., Who helped lead the resulting Montgomery bus boycott paid a $500 fine after being convicted in 1956 of violating a law banning boycotts.”

Now, the living catalyst for all this is Claudette Colvin, she was arrested in the midst of the civil rights movement. She has demanded that officials in Montgomery, courts in Montgomery expunge her criminal record, now again, 70 years after she participated in civil rights movement activities. The lawyer for Claudette Colvin mentioned that the same effort may be extended to Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr., Both of whom of course have died. He said, “We might just decide to file a lawsuit on his behalf,” meaning Martin Luther King, Jr., “to have that record expunged.” The same goes for Parks and others potentially according to the lawyer.

But then the article by the Associated Press tells us, “The chief prosecutor in Alabama’s capital, Montgomery county district attorney Daryl Bailey said he would generally support a move to expunge the arrest records of King and Parks, but he’d need to see details of any such request before responding in court.” Now, an interesting turn in this moral situation has revealed in the Associated Press story when we were told that when the City of Birmingham, Alabama offered mass pardons to people arrested during the civil rights movement protests in 1963, many refused. In other words, they saw those arrests as a badge of honor.

Now, one of the things that becomes very interesting in the story is that even if a record is expunged, that doesn’t mean that the historical record is changed. In other words, even as a conviction is expunged from the record, the historical fact that a conviction happened would still be there. The AP story tells us, “Montgomery county circuit clerk, Gina Ishman, said expunging court documents removes convict from defendant’s record, but generally does not result in the destruction of documents such as the historical police and court records involving people like Colvin, King and Parks.”

This is where the burden of history falls upon Americans in this generation to make wrongs right, insofar as we have that possibility looking at a criminal record and understanding that these civil rights activists were breaking unjust laws. The laws they were breaking were meant either to put in place or to enforce racial segregation, something that is fundamentally incompatible with the word of God. But with that twist about the fact that convictions might be expunged but the historical record would still be there, I think Dr. King and Rosa Parks would both see that as actually the right state of affairs because it did happen, and it’s a part of American history that these arrest and convictions did happen, it’s a part of American history that legal segregation did happen. And when it comes to history, this is where Christians understand history is history, rewriting the history, if it’s rewritten dishonestly doesn’t change the history, it just lies about the history. The criminal convictions should be expunged, but the historical record should remain because that is a part of the American story, less we forget.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I’m speaking to you from Asheville, North Carolina, and I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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