Sexuality Politics No Trump Card for Younger Evangelicals

Anna Clark

If Rick Warren were able to convey the diversity among evangelicals at the upcoming Saddleback Civil Forum, maybe we'll actually get some honest conversation.

Tomorrow will be the first–and last–time that presidential
candidates BarackObama and John McCain will appear together before they’re nominated
by their parties for top executive office.

The draw? It’s the Saddleback Civil Forum on Leadership and
Compassion. Rick Warren, founding pastor of Orange
County’s 22,000-member Saddleback Church, and author of the bestseller The
Purpose-Driven Life
, will moderate back-to-back conversations with Obama and
McCain, focusing on "faith and the common good."

Warren
pitches the Saddleback forum in press materials as an opportunity to transcend
"partisan ‘gotcha’ questions" in
conversations that will focus on poverty, HIV/AIDS, climate change and human
rights. Obama and McCain will each spend an hour with the pastor. All questions
will be Warren’s
own.

But the Saddleback Forum isn’t significant merely for its
high-profile participants. It’s also a manifestation of how the traditional
evangelical platform–so conflated with Republicanism that the term "religious
right" was coined–is broadening beyond opposition to legal abortion and
same-sex marriage.

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It’s been four years since gay marriage bans were put on the
November ballots of eleven states, and four years since President Bush won 78%
of the white evangelical vote–a larger percentage of that electorate than any
candidate had ever received. Many
evangelical voters have long considered abortion and same-sex marriage to be
deal-breaker issues for any candidate running for office-even offices that
couldn’t possibly make any influential policies on them, such as mayors and
school boards.

"Local politicians are still in their positions to represent
their constituents, so I still find it important that their decisions stem from
similar core values as those I hold," says Kari Gates, a 30-year-old
evangelical voter from Fort Worth, TX, explaining why she has prioritized,
without exception, any political candidates’ position on abortion and same-sex
marriage.

Gates follows the traditional pattern of an evangelical who
identifies as a Republican (she offers the caveat: "if a candidate were running
who met my criteria and was of another party, I would vote in their favor").

But
the broad picture is getting complicated these days, as evangelicals expand their
political platform beyond the issues that have thus far defined them. The
Saddleback Civil Forum’s emphasis on poverty, HIV/AIDS, climate change and
human rights is indicative of this. In the promotional materials of one of the
evangelical movement’s most prominent public spaces, facilitated by one of its
most popular pastors, there’s not even a mention of the sexuality politics.

To be sure, Warren and other evangelical leaders maintain
staunch and public opposition to legal abortion and gay marriage, even as
traditionally progressive concerns become part of their advocacy, including
anti-war activism and the Evangelical Call to Action on Climate Change, signed
by more than 130 influential evangelicals. In the lead-up to the 2004 election,
Warren issued a
letter to 136,000 pastors and laity that said "pro-life and pro-family issues"
should determine their vote.

While some leaders of the older generation, such as Jim
Wallis of Sojourners, have spent decades calling for a broadened evangelicism,
its young evangelicals who fuel it today.

In an election season that recognizes young voters to be as
powerful a force as they ever have been, white evangelical voters aged 18-29 are
significantly less likely to identify as Republicans, according to a Pew
Research Center study from last fall.

Since 2005, there has been a 15% drop in GOP affiliation
among these young voters, bringing the total down to 40%. Meanwhile, there was
only a 5% drop in the older evangelical generation’s Republican Party
connection.

The Pew study directly ties the falling numbers to
dissatisfaction with President Bush’s administration, despite the strong
evangelical support Bush received in his 2004 re-election campaign.

But this political shift among young evangelical voters
doesn’t necessarily translate into support for Democrats or progressive
politics. The Pew study contends that while this group has grown less
Republican, it’s still conservative. On some matters, its actually grown more conservative, as measured by, among
other things, the 70% that support "making it more difficult for a woman to get
an abortion," compared to the 55% of older evangelicals.

The
research study doesn’t speculate about why there’s such a gap among
evangelicals on abortion in particular, but it does suggest that "strong
allegiance to conservatism and conservative positions (of young white
evangelicals) … may be the product of dissatisfaction with this particular
administration rather than the result of an underlying shift in this group’s
political values and policy views."

At the same time, the study reveals that young evangelicals
are less bothered by gay marriage and are more concerned about health care and
the environment.

"Republicans now have only a two-to-one advantage over
Democrats among younger white evangelicals, compared with a nearly four-to-one
edge in 2005," the study declares. As a recent New Yorker article points out,
43% of white evangelicals in Ohio voted in the
Democratic primary, along with one-third of Missouri
and Tennessee
evangelicals.

It’s too simplistic to say that young evangelical voters are
growing more progressive or more conservative, but it is fair to say that they are generally more contextual: sexuality
politics don’t carry trump-card weight all the time when it comes alongside
concerns about the environment, poverty, and war.

Trish Stack, a 28-year-old evangelical from Boise, says that she seems conservative
compared with the wider world, but among many evangelicals, she’s considered
liberal. She takes that as her cue to
call herself a moderate.

"I do not agree with drilling for oil in an arctic reserve
and I do believe that we should be less dependent on oil. These are issues that
are not traditionally Republican," Stack says.
"On the other hand, I have tended to lean pro-life and pro-traditional
marriage, as well as free-trade."

Mark Longhurst is a 28-year-old graduate of Harvard Divinity School
who grew up in an evangelical family. He ceased to identify with the movement
because he differs with its stance on gender and sexuality.

"It became clear to me that I couldn’t be pro-gay and a male
feminist, and be taken seriously as an evangelical," Longhurst says. "And vice
versa."

At the same time, Longhurst says that he "loves
evangelicals." He remains a Christian, working with the Boston Faith and
Justice Network, which is an ecumenical community working to, as Longhurst put
it, "bring evangelicals and mainliners together." This fall, the BFJN is launching a fair-trade campaign,
which Longhurst said is something that "brings people together, people who
wouldn’t be in the same room together."

Longhurst says he is excited to see the changes in
evangelical political patterns. "It’s tapped into the younger generation more,
but not exclusively," he says.

Jessica Davis is a 24-year-old evangelical from Pigeon
Forge, TN. While she is a conservative, she saw the broad political differences
among her evangelical peers while she was a student at Duke University.

"Most of my evangelical Christian friends at Duke were
liberals," Davis
says. "This astounded me."

Davis adds, "I think some Christians tend to focus on personal
integrity and morality, and end up on the right, while some focus on the
societal justice and equality side (of Christianity), and end up on the left."

No longer representing the single-issue voting bloc that
Republicans have been able to consider as their base for years, the Saddleback
Civil Forum is doing well to focus today’s questioning on several issues that
are of the utmost importance for the next presidential administration. Poverty,
in particular, has been a buried conversation for too long in this campaign.

But as both Obama and McCain reach out to evangelical voters
at Saddleback, Rick Warren has an opportunity to make plain the tectonic shifts
in their movement and, for a change, without the triggers of sexuality politics.

It
would be all too easy for Warren
to use his questions to imply a stock list of priorities among all evangelical
voters, and let the candidates pander. But if Warren were able to
convey the differences among evangelicals–even those who differ with the
prominent pastor on his own anti-gay rights agenda, for example, as part of the
forum’s emphasis on "human rights"–maybe we’ll actually get some honest conversation
(dare I say, "straight talk?").

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Campaign Week in Review: Trump Selects Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to Join His Ticket

Ally Boguhn

And in other news, Donald Trump suggested that he can relate to Black people who are discriminated against because the system has been rigged against him, too. But he stopped short of saying he understood the experiences of Black Americans.

Donald Trump announced this week that he had selected Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) to join him as his vice presidential candidate on the Republican ticket, and earlier in the week, the presumptive presidential nominee suggested to Fox News that he could relate to Black Americans because the “system is rigged” against him too.

Pence Selected to Join the GOP Ticket 

After weeks of speculation over who the presumptive nominee would chose as his vice presidential candidate, Trump announced Friday that he had chosen Pence.

“I am pleased to announce that I have chosen Governor Mike Pence as my Vice Presidential running mate,” Trump tweeted Friday morning, adding that he will make the official announcement on Saturday during a news conference.

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The presumptive Republican nominee was originally slated to host the news conference Friday, but postponed in response to Thursday’s terrorist attack in Nice, France. As late as Thursday evening, Trump told Fox News that he had not made a final decision on who would join his ticket—even as news reports came in that he had already selected Pence for the position.

As Rewire Editor in Chief Jodi Jacobson explained in a Thursday commentary, Pence “has problems with the truth, isn’t inclined to rely on facts, has little to no concern for the health and welfare of the poorest, doesn’t understand health care, and bases his decisions on discriminatory beliefs.” Jacobson further explained: 

He has, for example, eagerly signed laws aimed at criminalizing abortion, forcing women to undergo unnecessary ultrasounds, banning coverage for abortion care in private insurance plans, and forcing doctors performing abortions to seek admitting privileges at hospitals (a requirement the Supreme Court recently struck down as medically unnecessary in the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case). He signed a ‘religious freedom’ law that would have legalized discrimination against LGBTQ persons and only ‘amended’ it after a national outcry. Because Pence has guided public health policy based on his ‘conservative values,’ rather than on evidence and best practices in public health, he presided over one of the fastest growing outbreaks of HIV infection in rural areas in the United States.

Trump Suggests He Can Relate to Black Americans Because “Even Against Me the System Is Rigged”

Trump suggested to Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly that he could relate to the discrimination Black Americans face since “the system [was] rigged” against him when he began his run for president.

When asked during a Tuesday appearance on The O’Reilly Factor what he would say to those “who believe that the system is biased against them” because they are Black, Trump leaped to highlight what he deemed to be discrimination he had faced. “I have been saying even against me the system is rigged. When I ran … for president, I mean, I could see what was going on with the system, and the system is rigged,” Trump responded.

“What I’m saying [is] they are not necessarily wrong,” Trump went on. “I mean, there are certain people where unfortunately that comes into play,” he said, concluding that he could “relate it, really, very much to myself.”

When O’Reilly asked Trump to specify whether he truly understood the “experience” of Black Americans, Trump said that he couldn’t, necessarily. 

“I would like to say yes, but you really can’t unless you are African American,” said Trump. “I would like to say yes, however.”

Trump has consistently struggled to connect with Black voters during his 2016 presidential run. Despite claiming to have “a great relationship with the blacks,” the presumptive Republican nominee has come under intense scrutiny for using inflammatory rhetoric and initially failing to condemn white supremacists who offered him their support.

According to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll released Tuesday, Trump is polling at 0 percent among Black voters in the key swing states of Ohio and Pennsylvania.

What Else We’re Reading

Newt Gingrich, who was one of Trump’s finalists for the vice presidential spot, reacted to the terrorist attack in Nice, France, by calling for all those in the United States with a “Muslim background” to face a test to determine if they “believe in sharia” and should be deported.

Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton threw her support behind a public option for health insurance.

Bloomberg Politics’ Greg Stohr reports that election-related cases—including those involving voter-identification requirements and Ohio’s early-voting period—are moving toward the Supreme Court, where they are “risking deadlocks.”

According to a Reuters review of GOP-backed changes to North Carolina’s voting rules, “as many as 29,000 votes might not be counted in this year’s Nov. 8 presidential election if a federal appeals court upholds” a 2013 law that bans voters from casting ballots outside of their assigned precincts.

The Wall Street Journal reported on the election goals and strategies of anti-choice organization Susan B. Anthony List, explaining that the organization plans to work to ensure that policy goals such as a 20-week abortion ban and defunding Planned Parenthood “are the key issues that it will use to rally support for its congressional and White House candidates this fall, following recent setbacks in the courts.”

Multiple “dark money” nonprofits once connected to the Koch brothers’ network were fined by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) this week after hiding funding sources for 2010 political ads. They will now be required to “amend past FEC filings to disclose who provided their funding,” according to the Center for Responsive Politics. 

Politico’s Matthew Nussbaum and Ben Weyl explain how Trump’s budget would end up “making the deficit great again.”

“The 2016 Democratic platform has the strongest language on voting rights in the party’s history,” according to the Nation’s Ari Berman.

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Campaign Week in Review: Trump Weighs in on Supreme Court Decision, After Pressure From Anti-Choice Leaders

Ally Boguhn

The presumptive Republican nominee’s confirmation that he opposed the decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt came after several days of silence from Trump on the matter—much to the lamentation of anti-choice advocates.

Donald Trump commented on the U.S. Supreme Court’s abortion decision this week—but only after days of pressure from anti-choice advocates—and Hillary Clinton wrote an op-ed explaining how one state’s then-pending decision on whether to fund Planned Parenthood illustrates the high stakes of the election for reproductive rights and health.

Following Anti-Choice Pressure, Trump Weighs in on Supreme Court’s Abortion Decision

Trump finally broke his silence Thursday about the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this week, which struck down two provisions of Texas’ HB 2 in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.

“Now if we had Scalia was living, or if Scalia was replaced by me, you wouldn’t have had that,” Trump claimed of the Court’s decision, evidently not realizing that the Monday ruling was 5 to 3 and one vote would not have made a numerical difference, during an appearance on conservative radio program The Mike Gallagher Show. “It would have been the opposite.” 

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“So just to confirm, under a President Donald Trump-appointed Supreme Court, you wouldn’t see a majority ruling like the one we had with the Texas abortion law this week?” asked host Mike Gallagher.

“No…you wouldn’t see that,” replied Trump, who also noted that the case demonstrated the important role the next president will play in steering the direction of the Court through judicial nominations.

The presumptive Republican nominee’s confirmation that he opposed the decision in Whole Woman’s Health came after several days of silence from Trump on the matter—prompting much lamentation from anti-choice advocates. Despite having promised to nominate anti-choice Supreme Court justices and pass anti-abortion restrictions if elected during a meeting with more than 1,000 faith and anti-choice leaders in New York City last week, Trump made waves among those who oppose abortion when he did not immediately comment on the Court’s Monday decision.

“I think [Trump’s silence] gives all pro-life leaders pause,” said the president of the anti-choice conservative organization The Family Leader, Bob Vander Plaats, prior to Trump’s comments Thursday, according to the Daily Beast. Vander Plaats, who attended last week’s meeting with Trump, went on suggest that Trump’s hesitation to weigh in on the matter “gives all people that are looking for life as their issue, who are looking to support a presidential candidate—it gives them an unnecessary pause. There shouldn’t have to be a pause here.”

“This is the biggest abortion decision that has come down in years and Hillary Clinton was quick to comment—was all over Twitter—and yet we heard crickets from Donald Trump,” Penny Young Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, said in a Tuesday statement to the Daily Beast.

Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, expressed similar dismay on Wednesday that Trump hadn’t addressed the Court’s ruling. “So where was Mr. Trump, the candidate the pro-life movement is depending upon, when this blow hit?” wrote Hawkins, in an opinion piece for the Washington Post. “He was on Twitter, making fun of Elizabeth Warren and lamenting how CNN has gone negative on him. That’s it. Nothing else.”

“Right now in the pro-life movement people are wondering if Mr. Trump’s staff is uninformed or frankly, if he just doesn’t care about the topic of life,” added Hawkins. “Was that meeting last week just a farce, just another one of his shows?”

Anti-choice leaders, however, were not the only ones to criticize Trump’s response to the ruling. After Trump broke his silence, reproductive rights leaders were quick to condemn the Republican’s comments.

“Donald Trump has been clear from the beginning—he wants to overturn Roe v. Wade, and said he believes a woman should be ‘punished’ if she has an abortion,” said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, which has already endorsed Clinton for the presidency, in a statement on Trump’s comments. 

“Trump’s remarks today should send a shiver down the spine of anyone who believes women should have access to safe, legal abortion. Electing Trump means he will fight to take away the very rights the Supreme Court just ruled this week are constitutional and necessary health care,” continued Laguens.

In contrast to Trump’s delayed reaction, presumptive Democratic nominee Clinton tweeted within minutes of the landmark abortion rights decision, “This fight isn’t over: The next president has to protect women’s health. Women won’t be ‘punished’ for exercising their basic rights.”

Clinton Pens Op-Ed Defending Planned Parenthood in New Hampshire

Clinton penned an op-ed for the Concord Monitor Wednesday explaining that New Hampshire’s pending vote on Planned Parenthood funding highlighted “what’s at stake this election.”

“For half a century, Planned Parenthood has been there for people in New Hampshire, no matter what. Every year, it provides care to almost 13,000 people who need access to services like counseling, contraception, and family planning,” wrote Clinton. “Many of these patients cannot afford to go anywhere else. Others choose the organization because it’s the provider they know and trust.”

The former secretary of state went on to contend that New Hampshire’s Executive Council’s discussion of denying funds to the organization was more than “just playing politics—they’re playing with their constituents’ health and well-being.” The council voted later that day to restore Planned Parenthood’s contract.

Praising the Supreme Court’s Monday decision in Whole Woman’s Health, Clinton cautioned in the piece that although it was a “critical victory,” there is still “work to do as long as obstacles” remained to reproductive health-care access.

Vowing to “make sure that a woman’s right to make her own health decisions remains as permanent as all of the other values we hold dear” if elected, Clinton promised to work to protect Planned Parenthood, safeguard legal abortion, and support comprehensive and inclusive sexual education programs.

Reiterating her opposition to the Hyde Amendment, which bans most federal funding for abortion care, Clinton wrote that she would “fight laws on the books” like it that “make it harder for low-income women to get the care they deserve.”

Clinton’s campaign noted the candidate’s support for repealing Hyde while answering a 2008 questionnaire provided by Rewire. During the 2016 election season, the federal ban on abortion funding became a more visible issue, and Clinton noted in a January forum that the ban “is just hard to justify” given that restrictions such as Hyde inhibit many low-income and rural women from accessing care.

What Else We’re Reading

Politico Magazine’s Bill Scher highlighted some of the potential problems Clinton could face should she choose former Virginia governor Tim Kaine as her vice presidential pickincluding his beliefs about abortion.

Foster Friess, a GOP mega-donor who once notoriously said that contraception is “inexpensive … you know, back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly,” is throwing his support behind Trump, comparing the presumptive Republican nominee to biblical figures.

Clinton dropped by the Toast on the publication’s last day, urging readers to follow the site’s example and “look forward and consider how you might make your voice heard in whatever arenas matter most to you.”

Irin Carmon joined the New Republic’s “Primary Concerns” podcast this week to discuss the implications of the Supreme Court’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt on the election.

According to analysis from the Wall Street Journal, the popularity of the Libertarian Party in this year’s election could affect the presidential race, and the most likely outcome is “upsetting a close race—most likely Florida, where the margin of victory is traditionally narrow.”

The Center for Responsive Politics’ Alec Goodwin gave an autopsy of Jeb Bush’s massive Right to Rise super PAC.

Katie McGinty (D), who is running against incumbent Sen. Pat Toomey (R) in Pennsylvania, wrote an op-ed this week for the Philly Voice calling to “fight efforts in Pa. to restrict women’s access to health care.”

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled against an attempt to restore voting rights to more than 20,000 residents affected by the state’s law disenfranchising those who previously served time for felonies, ThinkProgress reports.

An organization in Louisiana filed a lawsuit against the state on behalf of the almost 70,000 people there who have previously served time for felonies and are now on probation or parole, alleging that they are being “wrongfully excluded from registering to vote and voting.”