The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Monday, August 22, 2022

It’s Monday, August 22nd, 2022.

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

Part I

Elections are a Barometer of National Moral Change — So What Does It Mean that Democrats are Platforming on Abortion for Upcoming Midterm Elections?

The midterm elections, like all major election in a country like the United States where elections are so prominent, those elections are barometers of major moral change. Political change, to be sure, but moral change. The cultural landscape is changing before us.

You can think of elections like this, particularly presidential elections, but also the midterm elections, as very clear indicators of future moral direction. Now, that can be corrected at some point with a future election, but one of the things we need to note is that when moral progressivism moves the meter to the left, even when it’s moved back to the right, it’s not moved back to where it was before the progressive action or the progressive trajectory took place.

Now, as we’re thinking about the current midterm elections, here’s what’s really, really interesting. If you were to go back just a matter of a few months, given President Joe Biden’s incredibly low popularity ratings, given the economic indicators, particularly high consumer prices and inflation, the indications would be that the Democrats are in for a shellacking in the midterm elections. In general, midterm elections tend to go against the party of the incumbent president. That’s just the way it works.

If you have a Democratic president, traditionally Democrats lose at least some seats, if not losing a significant number of seats. If a Republican is the incumbent president during the midterm election, the same thing is likely to be true. The exceptions have been rare. Furthermore, if the economic indicators are poor, as the voters go to the midterm election, the incumbent and his party, they’re punished even further. If the incumbent is unpopular, and those popularity ratings are now pretty well-documented, the fact is the party’s in even greater trouble.

Now, given all those indicators, the Democrats should be in for a disaster. If you go back just a matter of months, not only Republicans in leadership and grassroots voters, but furthermore, even those who were anticipating the election from the democratic side expected that it would be a very bad election for Democrats, but now they’re not so sure. On both sides, Republicans are not so optimistic and Democrats are now not so fearful.

What’s changed? What’s changed is that as people look at the polling and they look at the candidates and they look state by state at the electoral picture, and in Congress district by district, well the Democrats still think they’re going to lose the House, and Republicans still think they will pick up the House, that is House leadership, a House majority. But when it comes to the Senate, the Republicans are not quite so optimistic, and that’s just a very clear reality.

The Democrats are not so fearful. It’s going to be very interesting. Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, pointed out the Senate elections are statewide and thus they’re much less likely to swing back and forth on an ideological scale as is the case that is more likely in congressional districts with smaller populations, a smaller electoral base. Nonetheless, we really are looking at the fact that the fall elections are being reshaped, but there’s another big issue, and this is the one I want to talk about. This is where we’re headed.

The Democrats have changed their messaging. They have changed their advertising strategy. They have changed their campaign spending in a very big way and in a way that no one actually expected until the Dobbs decision when the entire political landscape changed. The reversal of Roe v. Wade, well, it turns out that that is an issue that in electoral terms is likely to motivate more Democrats than Republicans, more supporters of abortion rights than those who are holding to a very clear anti-abortion pro-life position.

Why? Well, that’s just the way logic works. When the pro-life movement has a really big win, well, the protest movement coming from the pro-abortion side, it is just all the louder. The aggrieved party in the reversal of Roe v. Wade is the abortion rights party, and politically that means the Democratic Party. The Democrats see a huge opportunity here. Here’s what’s new. This is something that is so new that Democrats hardly spent any money or time on the abortion issue in the last midterm elections, but now they are spending tens of millions of dollars.

They see an opportunity, particularly in the Senate, particularly in those statewide elections. The documentation on this is really, really clear. A front-page article recently in the New York Times ran the headline, “Sensing opportunity, Democrats spotlight abortion in their ads.” The first paragraph is this, “Democrats all across America are using abortion as a powerful cudgel in their 2022 television campaigns paying for an onslaught of ads in key House Senate and governor’s races that show how swiftly abortion politics have shifted since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in late June.”

The article cites a Democratic pollster, Anna Greenberg, as saying, “Rarely has an issue been handed on a silver platter to Democrats that is so clear-cut.” She went on to say, “It took an election that was going to be mostly about inflation and immigration and made it also about abortion.” It’s mostly about abortion on the Democratic side, on the pro-abortion side, because they are the aggrieved party. They’re the ones who are responding to the reversal of Roe v. Wade.

Now, we could hope that pro-lifers would have at least equal intensity in this election and they might in some districts or in some states, but no doubt the Democrats see a political opportunity here. Not only that, Democrats we are told are also trying to rally around a word that had primarily been used by Republicans in recent decades in political context, and that is the word freedom. The headline is this, “Democrats try to rally around freedom, too.”

The subhead’s very interesting, “A push from the left to reclaim messaging the GOP, that is the Republican Party, has owned.” Maurice Mitchell, the regional director of the Working Families Party involved in a project known as Protect our Freedom said, “For too long, we’ve witnessed how the right wing has masterfully sort of owned and captured the language of freedom.” This person went on to say, “We have to recapture that language. The issue of abortion is central to that effort.”

The article concludes by pointing to the fact that reclaiming freedom language is being translated into telling voters that abortion means freedom, that the reversal of Roe v. Wade was an assault upon freedom, that pro-life protections are an undermining of women’s freedom and thus the freedom of all when it comes to constitutional rights. All that’s just a perfect mass of confusion, but nonetheless, in a political electoral context, it might be very effective.

Quite honestly, just a matter of a few weeks ago, the proposed constitutional amendment there in Kansas, the way that vote went rather overwhelmingly against an effort to try to amend the constitution in a pro-life direction, it did come as something of a wake-up call. Like every situation, it’s somewhat complicated and that effort was undertaken before anyone knew Roe v. Wade would be reversed in June of this year.

But nonetheless, it was a wake-up call, and among Democrats, it is seen as a sign that they can co-opt freedom language. Here from a Christian worldview perspective is what’s so important. This is where we have to understand as Christians that there are limitations to the way freedom language can be situated within a Christian worldview. If we hold to a biblical or Christian worldview, certainly we prize freedom.

We prize all kinds of freedom, freedom from and freedom to, as Isaiah Berlin, the political philosopher said, “Positive liberty and negative liberty, but not unrestrained unbounded, undefined limitless liberty.” Which is to say, the liberty to do things that are absolutely contrary to nature, or the liberty to do things that actually should not be defined as rightful freedoms at all. Just about any sane person recognizes that there is a limitation to positive liberty.

That is to say, there is no justification for just using the word freedom or liberty to mean I can do anything I want under any circumstance. But the fact is, we are in a situation where the world around us increasingly has lost any Christian or biblical foundation in order to talk meaningfully responsibly about a category like freedom or liberty.

One indication of how this is going politically becomes clear in Pennsylvania, where the Democratic candidate for governor is Josh Shapiro, currently the state’s attorney general, he said about the abortion issue, right now among Democrats, “There is an intensity around this. They know the next governor of Pennsylvania is going to decide this.” He went on to say, “It has brought people into our campaign and brought people on the sidelines to get engaged, unlike any other issue.”

Speaking of the Supreme Court Dobbs decision back in June, he said, “We just saw an explosion.” Well, we actually are seeing an explosion right now, a major moral explosion, and more than one of them, the transgender issue, you could just go down so many of the issues in the LGBTQ spectrum and beyond, but you’re also looking at abortion being one of those unavoidable explosions we are seeing right now.

It has always been the case since Roe v. Wade in 1973, that Roe v. Wade was a politically salient, that’s a very interesting point, and contentious issue in America. It’s also true, and this is what’s really interesting, that the fervor of the pro-life movement has been significantly more effective over the course of the last several years in moving the needle than the pro-abortion position, but they now think they see their opportunity, politically speaking.

Here’s what is frankly alarming if you think about it from a Christian worldview perspective. If you go back to 1972, now, that was a fairly volatile time in the United States. That’s when Roe v. Wade was argued the second time. Then 1973, when the Roe v. Wade decision was handed down, it is true that America was in a very tumultuous period, but at least in terms of many cultural issues, America was a good deal more conservative in 1973 than it is in the year 2022.

Now, we can hope that on the issue of life, more Christians, more citizens understand what’s at stake in terms of the sanctity of life of unborn human beings. But when it comes to so many issues, particularly tied to lifestyle, quite frankly the word freedom now often is co-opted not just politically, but culturally and morally by those who really want to undo the biblical worldview and the legacy of Christianity in the entirety of Western culture.

Part II

A Parable Our Political Moment: Abrams “Evolves” on Issue and Makes Abortion Support Central to Campaign

The next thing I want to talk about, and I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s front and center in terms of the context right now, is how this works at the individual level, and sometimes we have an individual who just represents this change. In the case that’s most interesting right now about an individual who’s changed on this issue in the major electoral context of today, it’s probably Stacey Abrams who is running for governor of Georgia as the Democratic candidate.

Now, she was the Democratic nominee four years ago. She lost to Brian Kemp, the Republican candidate. She has come back with even greater public visibility and she is now the Democratic nominee running once again against the Republican nominee, the incumbent governor, Brian Kemp. The issue of abortion is now front and center because she has decided to make it front and center. She really didn’t four years ago, but she really is now.

Now, that’s interesting in and of itself because we are told that Stacey Abrams is now putting the issue of abortion right at the forefront of her campaign. In other words, she’s leading with it. Now, there are a couple of fascinating worldview dimensions about this particular development, and it has to do, first of all with the fact that Stacey Abrams began her adult life in a basically pro-life position. Very clearly she did not support abortion on demand. She didn’t support Roe v. Wade. She didn’t support abortion as a moral option.

Williams explains that Stacey Abrams “was still firmly against abortion in the early 1990s when she attended Spelman College, the historically Black women’s school in Atlanta.” We are told that she had a very interesting conversation with a close friend who worked for Planned Parenthood. Recent media developments, by the way, have identified who that friend is who’s now speaking about the issue in public, but even that friend was unable to convince Stacey Abrams to support abortion or abortion rights or the morality of abortion back during the 1990s.

Now it’s really clear that Stacey Abrams is running on abortion as a lead issue, as Vanessa Williams, for the Post explained, she is now, “Unequivocal in her support for abortion rights.” In her own words, “For me, the conversation was slow, but it was true and it remained because fundamentally the answer is that this is a medical decision and it is a personal decision and in neither of those two instances, should there be any intervention by a politician.”

Now, presumably she also means by the state or by the law because she is now avidly pro-abortion, rather unrestrained in her pro-abortion position and in her argument. Now, the New York Times over the weekend ran a fascinating article headlined, “Abrams puts evolution on abortion rights at center of campaign.” But one of the fascinating dimensions of this New York Times article is how it reveals that Stacey Abrams really made the transition from basically pro-life to pro-abortion as she was first running for office, and that was not a coincidence.

Speaking of just a few years ago, the reporter Maya King for the New York Times tells us, “Still, Ms. Abrams considered herself opposed to abortion rights after college, and as she went through law school. She only shifted her views,” she said, “when she began to think about running for office.” Again, this is not a coincidence and it is not the opponents of Stacey Abrams who are pointing that out. It’s not the pro-life movement alone that’s pointing that out. Even the reporter for the New York Times points it out.

Even the political motivation is mentioned in this article, we are told, “At 30, as a deputy city attorney, she interviewed for a position on the board of directors for the Georgia WIN List, a political action committee that backs women candidates who support abortion access. When she applied Ms. Abrams disclosed that she was unsure of what her views on abortion were,” she said, “she had reservations about calling herself pro-choice,” she said, “but she got over it and by the time she ran for electoral office, she was by her own words, ‘No longer in the anti-abortion camp.'”

She won a seat to the Georgia House in 2006, and she won it as an abortion rights supporter. But even then she was more quiet about the issue, perhaps partly because she had held the position contrary to the orthodoxy of the Democratic Party. Now she holds to the orthodoxy. As a matter of fact, she has now made the pro-abortion orthodoxy, the Democratic Party, the front line in her current campaign.

As I said, there’s another interesting issue, and this one perplexes me, I’m still trying to figure this one out. We are told that the recent emphasis on abortion rights and her recent lament about the reversal of Roe v. Wade on the campaign trail has been motivated at least in part by the fact that she was falling behind with Black voters in Georgia, with African American voters. She sees pushing abortion rights as a way of regaining some traction with African American voters, especially democratically-inclined African American voters there in the state of Georgia.

How do we add that up? The New York Times explains it simply as a way of trying to attract attention and support from Black voters by saying that the reversal of Roe v. Wade and any advance by the pro-life movement is an attempt to control bodies, the bodies of women, the bodies of Black women. She makes the argument that abortion restrictions, as the New York Times says, “have a disproportionate impact on Black women.”

Then the next line, “In Georgia, Black women make up 65% of people who get abortions despite being one-third of the population.” Now, if this is a winning strategy, it is an absolutely tragic winning strategy. I have to hope it’s not a winning strategy, obviously, not just when it comes to the election itself and the issue of abortion, but what this says about voters, all voters within the state of Georgia.

In an even more troubling portion of this article, Stacey Abram says that she is more or less customizing her pro-abortion message in this case in order to especially reach Black women and their votes. She says, “I get very little pushback. I think part of it is contextualizing it for the community.” Now I’m just going to say that that’s a very, very sad comment. It’s a tragic comment.

By the way, it’s one that can be addressed to any cohort in the electorate, because the fact is that any candidate can address himself or herself to every single cohort of the electorate and say, “I’m contextualizing this message for you.” That’s the danger for all of us. We had better be careful when we understand a candidate, whoever that candidate might be, is contextualizing the argument just for us.

This article also tells us, again, Maya King is the reporter, that Stacey Abrams “is among scores of Democrats pushing their defense of abortion rights to the center of their midterm campaigns, hoping anger over the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade will energize the Democratic base and push fence-sitting moderates into her corner.”

But the very, very important truth we need to recognize is that this midterm election does now loom large, at least in terms of what people will think Americans are thinking about abortion because of the way abortion has now become front and center in so many of these campaigns. This is where Christians need to pray about this election, not only in terms of candidates, but in terms of the issue and our witness to the sanctity and dignity of unborn human life.

Another way of putting it is that in political terms, we will come out of this midterm election with a perception at least, a momentum on one side of the abortion issue or the other. Momentum for the preservation of human life or momentum for the expansion of abortion rights. That certainly underlines the importance of this particular election in the Christian conscience.

Part III

A New Political Issue in 2022: Democrats Give Millions of Dollars to Advance Republican Primary Candidates Who They Think Will Be Easier to Defeat in Elections

Next, and finally for today, as we often point out, politics is never merely political. It is always moral and behind morality is always theology, and there are always interesting issues. Some of the ethical and moral issues attached to politics are perennial. They just come around all the time. Probably could have been traced all the way back to Plato and Aristotle in the Classical Age, but sometimes something new comes into the conversation.

That has happened in the 2022 election cycle, a moral issue that really has never been discussed in this way in any previous cycle, because it really wasn’t observable in order to be talked about, but now it’s being talked about. What am I talking about? I’m talking about something happening on the Democratic side in several states. Most importantly, perhaps the states of Michigan, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.

There are at least some prominent Democrats who believe that what the Democratic Party or at least some in the Democratic Party and some allied with the party are doing is not only dangerous and immoral, but potentially disastrous. What am I talking about? Well, very interestingly in several of these elections, forces allied with the Democrats and some national Democrats themselves have decided to put money behind Republican candidates. They’ve invested millions and millions of dollars in Republican candidates.

They did this in the primary cycle. They did it in the states I’ve already mentioned, and they did it because they wanted to tilt the scales so that the Republican nominee would be weak and more easily defeated in the general election. Now, that’s a very interesting aspect of politics. In a fallen age, all kinds of interesting things happen. In a sinful world, there are inventions of new evil things. Paul even talks about that in Romans chapter one. But this one’s really interesting.

Here you have Democrats and forces allied with the Democrats spending millions and millions of dollars to elect candidates who actually hold to the opposite of their own positions, who are actually the opposite of who they want to see elected, but they want to win the seat and they think they have a better shot at winning the seat if a candidate that they think is the worst candidate possible actually gains the opposing party’s nomination so that they can be in a more likely sense by their own estimation, the victors in the fall.

But that is a high stakes game. Chuck Todd in NBC’s Meet the Press yesterday, hard-pressed some Democratic leaders on that question saying, “Well, then if that Republican is elected, the opposite of what you say you actually believe in, aren’t you actually playing a very dangerous political game?” It is very interesting that leading Democrats, such as former representative Tim Roemer have come out saying that this is playing with fire.

He goes on to say, “The DCCC’s,” that means Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s, “intention in Michigan and elsewhere is as twisted as it is transparent to advance a Republican opponent who will be easier for a Democrat to defeat in the November general election.” Roemer then goes on to say, “This is politics at its most cynical.” He points to the obvious fact that with the direct involvement of the party apparatus in this, the party’s going to be in a very difficult position.

That is, the Democratic Party trying to explain to voters why it is seeking to oppose candidates that in the primary period, they poured millions of dollars into supporting, albeit falsely. Now, let me be really, really clear. This is a major Christian point. Political parties exist to win. They exist to have candidates who will win elections.

They exist only if they win a sufficient number of elections, a significant number of seats over a sufficient matter of time, which is to say that if this is a winning strategy, you can pretty much count on the Republicans adopting it as well. That’s just in a fallen world how things work, but it really is a cynical way of playing politics. It’s hard to take any moral argument with seriousness coming from people who are playing this kind of manipulative dishonest game.

It must be at least awkward, you would think, at some point to have someone ask you the question, “If you oppose this candidate, why just a matter of weeks ago, did you pour millions of dollars into his campaign or at the very least in a campaign to try to achieve his or her election?” This really defines cynical. It reminds me of the statement made by the comedian, Lily Tomlin, back during the 1970s, when she said, “I’m trying to be cynical, but it’s hard to keep up.”

The final word has to be that for Christians, we are not called the cynicism. We can’t afford cynicism. Simply resigning to cynicism is not a Christian option. We are to be thoughtful, we are to be convictional, we are to be faithful, and despite all things, we are to be hopeful. When that hope is focused on Christ, there’s absolutely no opportunity for cynicism.

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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