Election Day 2016 Live Blogging and Open Forum

Fellow Grove City College professor Michael Coulter (Political Science) and I will be blogging through the day and evening regarding the election. Feel free to comment via the Live Blog feature and/or here on this post. In the comments section, please include links, news, etc, which interest you about the most bizarre election season in my lifetime.
Live Blog
 

Live Blogging Election 2016

Bookmark this page and come back for election night when we’ll be live!
Join Grove City College professors Warren Throckmorton and Michael Coulter for observations and discussion of election night 2016.
As of Monday morning (11/7/16), Nate Silver’s group has Clinton with a strong probability to win.

Eric Metaxas Illustrates What Evangelicals Need to Correct

As the Donald Trump saga nears the end, it will be good to reflect on what can be learned. One thing I hope for is a backlash against false or misleading information being used by evangelicals to make their political points.
Case in point:


Of course, this kind of thing has been going on for years. However, after so many people have been repeatedly misled by so called thought leaders, I hope more evangelicals wake up to the need for simple fact checking.
On this story, Michelle Goldberg contacted the source.

So I called him. Masada told me that on Nov. 11, he got a call from a man named John—he doesn’t remember the last name—who sounded “distinguished, like an attorney.” John said he represented the Clinton campaign. He asked Masada “who had put him up” to posting the video. In a menacing voice, he told Masada, “This is not good for your business.” John then asked for the email or phone numbers of the five comedians who were featured in the video. “I told him, ‘Eff you,’ and I hung up,” says Masada.

That’s it. That’s all I could find to support the story. Even if this “John” had some connection to the Clinton campaign, it doesn’t mean Mrs. Clinton put him up to it. In any case, this hearsay is not sufficient evidence to go with a news report or even an advocacy piece (as Judicial Watch did).
Metaxas should be ashamed to spread around unsubstantiated reports in this manner and then indict the media over it. We do have a free press and Michelle Goldberg did her job. Apparently, Metaxas didn’t check it out or only believes those who report what he already believes.
To be taken seriously, evangelical leaders must become more skeptical and better fact checkers.
Update: Let’s not forget that Donald Trump doesn’t appear to have a sense of humor.

Open Forum: Eric Metaxas Sticks with Trump

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed out today, Eric Metaxas continues to confuse his audience by his support for Donald Trump.
His op-ed reminded me of this observation by Mark Noll:

The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.

As a serious defense of a vote for Trump, Metaxas fails on nearly every front. He isn’t entirely factual, he inflates the flaws of Clinton and minimizes and avoids the flaws of Trump, his reasoning is flawed, and he continues to paraphrase a quote he incorrectly attributes to Bonhoeffer as his final justification.
While I don’t know all of the facts surrounding Metaxas’ claims about Clinton, I don’t think he does either. Do we know that Hillary Clinton “actively enabled sexual predation in her husband before—and while—he was president?” My impression is that there are two sides to this claim and my informal investigations into this lead me to think the situation is more complex. In any case, is Metaxas unaware that Trump has been accused of the same thing and will have to participate in a status conference hearing on the matter in December? To my knowledge, outside of the Lewinsky case, Bill Clinton has not been convicted of anything else.
My point is not to defend Clinton on her relationship with her husband or her foreign policy mistakes. I do have problems with her actions on several fronts and her extreme positions on abortion. My point is that Metaxas asserts that his accusations are true but it is not at all clear that all of them are accurate or fair. Without evidence, this is not a Christian way to argue.
(UPDATE: Metaxas appears to be following an internet meme and not the facts on the story that Hillary Clinton laughed about getting a rapist set free. The facts contradict Metaxas’ accusations.)
Metaxas then writes:

Children in the Middle East are forced to watch their fathers drowned in cages by ISIS. Kids in inner-city America are condemned to lives of poverty, hopelessness and increasing violence. Shall we sit on our hands and simply trust “the least of these” to God, as though that were our only option? Don’t we have an obligation to them?

I have no idea what this has to do with his case. He seems to assume that helping children in the Middle East and inner city will be accomplished by a vote for Trump. I think a pretty good case can be made that Clinton is also opposed to drowning fathers and inner city poverty, hopelessness and violence.
Metaxas infuriatingly brings up Wilberforce and Bonhoeffer as if invoking them somehow strengthens his case. He seems oblivious to the fact that both men could be invoked to oppose his position. Furthermore, he seems to assume Christians opposed to Trump take their position because they are concerned with their own moral purity. Although his 2005 tape has deepened the divisions among Christians, for me, Trump’s personal morality is just one problem.
Metaxas closes with this mind bending paragraph:

A vote for Donald Trump is not necessarily a vote for Donald Trump himself. It is a vote for those who will be affected by the results of this election. Not to vote is to vote. God will not hold us guiltless.

I can’t get my head around this. A vote for Trump isn’t a vote for Trump but not to vote is to vote. And if I don’t vote for Trump then God will hold me accountable? Maybe if I don’t vote for Hillary, it will be like a vote for Trump but not really since I can vote for Trump without voting for him. Somehow I think in Metaxas’ world, I am still going to get zapped from above.
Faced with unacceptable options, not voting is a reasonable choice. Voting third party is a serious option. No evangelical Trump supporter has yet to produce a biblical mandate that I must vote for one of the two representatives in a two party system. Voting is a precious right in this republic but there is no religious mandate to vote for an unacceptable candidate.
Metaxas pretends to have omniscience to know that a vote for Trump will benefit all the right people. This is presumptuous and insults the intelligence of those who have analyzed Trump’s positions and statements and legitimately fear that his character and policies will negatively affect the greater good. Instead of actually making a case that Trump is better, he simply name drops historical heroes. Metaxas hints that he knows what Bonhoeffer would do. Since Hillary is evil incarnate, Bonhoeffer, as in like manner as he planned to kill Hitler, would vote against Hillary and for Trump. Want to be like Wilberforce and his opposition to slavery? Vote Trump!
Social media reactions to Metaxas’ op-ed:

Eric Metaxas: Donald Trump Speaks Hyperbolically and Shouldn't Be Taken Literally

According to Eric Metaxas, people who oppose Trump have taken him at his word and that is a mistake.
Really.
Read what he told Justin Brierley with Premier Christianity (UK).

Brierley: I think they would also point to some of his polices, like banning Muslims from entering the US
Metaxas: What fascinates me is how everyone takes him literally, and they don’t seem to understand that he has always spoken hyperbolically and impressionistically. That’s what he does. The idea that he is a racist or a xenophobe, I think that’s simply not true, but if you say something enough people believe it.
What about Trump’s rhetoric on Muslims and Mexicans?
If people think that he could bring xenophobic legislation into the United States of America, I just don’t believe that we would stand for it. I think what he is really talking about, which ought to be common sense, is that we’ve got to protect our borders.

The contortions of Trump’s Christian supporters are painful to watch. How else are we supposed to take the policy pronouncements of the GOP candidate for president? If we can’t take him literally, then how can anyone take him at all? Once upon a time words mattered, but in the post-modern evangelical space, a leading evangelical figure is fascinated that his fellows take the words of a presidential candidate seriously.
We are to assume Trump speaks nonsense impressionistically, but we are cautioned with the straightest of faces to take each word from Hillary as a dark prescription for the end of everything good. Furthermore, Metaxas is convinced that the American people will reject Trump’s impressions should they turn out to be literal but will be powerless to withstand Hillary’s evil mind tricks.
Every time I read Mr. Metaxas, I think of the warnings from William Buckley about hyperbolic demagoguery. Buckley knew Trump and warned about him. He also had something more general to say about how America should respond to a demagogue:

In other ages, one paid court to the king. Now we pay court to the people. In the final analysis, just as the king might look down with terminal disdain upon a courtier whose hypocrisy repelled him, so we have no substitute for relying on the voter to exercise a quiet veto when it becomes more necessary to discourage cynical demagogy, than to advance free health for the kids. That can come later, in another venue; the resistance to a corrupting demagogy should take first priority.

Ironically, Buckley’s reference to “free health for the kids” is something Mrs. Clinton championed. In so many words, Metaxas admits that Trump is spoofing us, just talking smack with the details to be named later. What should we do with such a pretender to the throne? According to Buckley, the voter’s first priority should be to reject such “cynical demagogy.” I concur.
For those who believe both Trump and Clinton are corrupted demagogues, there is potential to move the election into the House if only a certain voting bloc would follow Mr. Buckley’s advice.

What's Wrong with a Protest Vote?

James Dobson, who is this year supporting Donald Trump, voted for Howard Phillips instead of the GOP nominee Bob Dole in 1996. This year various Christian leaders want all Christians to fall in line behind Donald Trump. Janet Porter is the latest far right crusader who exhorts Christians to vote for Trump.
Theology professor Wayne Grudem told us voting for Trump is a moral choice. In 1998, Grudem raised a standard for elective office that he has now repudiated. This year Dobson isn’t protesting but it was okay in 1996.
Why isn’t it an acceptable choice for evangelicals to protest vote in 2016?
Of course, it is acceptable, even honorable to vote one’s conscience. Between now and election day, Christians will be pressured to fall in line with the GOP. We should vote our convictions. My conviction is not to vote for someone who is unfit. In my mind, that conviction eliminates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Oddly enough, I am on the same team as Glenn Beck in this matter. I wonder if he minds having a “liberal bastard” on his team.
I am still exploring options but have no plans to vote for either of two majors.
In my mind, the two party system hasn’t served the people well. I think it is time to invest in alternative parties and even if I vote GOP in the future, I will not discourage anyone from expressing their freedom of conscience in a third party way.
 

An Answer to Wayne Grudem about Donald Trump and What is Best for the Nation

Last week, theology professor Wayne Grudem created quite a stir with an essay declaring his belief that “voting for Trump is a morally good choice.” In this rebuttal, I argue in opposition to his position.
It is important to note at the beginning that Grudem has opined on moral issues surrounding presidential behavior in the past. In 1998 along with over 150 Christian scholars, Grudem signed the “Declaration concerning religion, ethics, and the crisis in the Clinton presidency.” In that document, the signers stopped short of support for impeachment but expressed doubt about Clinton’s expressions of remorse. As a rebuke to Clinton, the signers took a strong position in favor of moral behavior on the part of elected officials. In 1998, Grudem agreed with the following statement:

We are aware that certain moral qualities are central to the survival of our political system, among which are truthfulness, integrity, respect for the law, respect for the dignity of others, adherence to the constitutional process, and a willingness to avoid the abuse of power. We reject the premise that violations of these ethical standards should be excused so long as a leader remains loyal to a particular political agenda and the nation is blessed by a strong economy. (emphasis mine)

Acknowledging that Trump is flawed, Grudem has now carved out a more pragmatic ethic to justify his endorsement:

I do not think that voting for Donald Trump is a morally evil choice because there is nothing morally wrong with voting for a flawed candidate if you think he will do more good for the nation than his opponent. In fact, it is the morally right thing to do.

In 1998, Grudem was not as pragmatic with Bill Clinton. Now he says about Trump:

But the main reason I call him “a good candidate with flaws” is that I think most of the policies he supports are those that will do the most good for the nation.

So now according to Grudem, Christians should vote in a way that seeks the welfare of the nation concluding:

Therefore the one overriding question to ask is this: Which vote is most likely to bring the best results for the nation?

In my view, Grudem was closer to correct in 1998. The moral qualities of “truthfulness, integrity, respect for the law, respect for the dignity of others, adherence to constitutional process, and a willingness to avoid the abuse of power” are critical to the survival of our system of government. It is not hard to make a case that Donald Trump has disqualified himself on each one of those principles.  In fact, Grudem seems to agree when he writes:

He is egotistical, bombastic, and brash. He often lacks nuance in his statements. Sometimes he blurts out mistaken ideas (such as bombing the families of terrorists) that he later must abandon. He insults people. He can be vindictive when people attack him. He has been slow to disown and rebuke the wrongful words and actions of some angry fringe supporters. He has been married three times and claims to have been unfaithful in his marriages. These are certainly flaws, but I don’t think they are disqualifying flaws in this election.

I don’t think Grudem goes far enough. Trump has not been truthful (e.g., he said he knew Putin, then he said he didn’t), there is evidence he has not treated his subcontractors with integrity, he surely has not treated others with dignity (e.g., constant name-calling and ridicule of people’s flaws) and he has shown a willingness to overreach his power (e.g., suppressing the press, saying he would order the military to commit war crimes). We haven’t even scratched the surface of his nod to white supremacists (e.g., granting press credentials to white supremacists). However, in my response here, I won’t fully chronicle the ways Trump has disqualified himself according to the moral qualities which Grudem affirmed in 1998. I think when confronted with the overwhelming evidence, he would stipulate that.
Grudem in 2016 is using a different standard to come to an ethical decision. Thus, I want to address what Grudem says is his overriding question: “Which vote is most likely to bring the best results for the nation?”
On that question, I can see no justification for a vote for Trump given what Trump has said he wants to do as president.
Grudem’s essay purports to provide specifics about Trump’s positions on various topics. In general, I think he has presented the most optimistic slant on those policy statements. He also provides no citations or evidence. While I haven’t provided an exhaustive analysis either, my purpose is to demonstrate that credible evidence exists that Trump is not the best choice for the nation and that compromising moral qualities is not required given the risk involved in a Trump administration.
Costs of Immigration Promises
In his essay, Grudem talks about the tax and economic policies of Trump and Clinton. However, it appears he has not studied them or consulted with experts about the effects of those policies. Let’s start with Trump’s promise to deport over 11 million undocumented immigrants. In addition to the human rights catastrophes (raids, family separation and instability, etc.) which would occur, the economic impact would be a disaster.
According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, that promise would hit the economy hard, costing at least $400 billion. In addition, the loss of workers would cause a $1 trillion drain on the gross domestic product. This does not include the cost of building a wall along the Mexican border which has been estimated at another $25 billion. Not surprisingly, Trump disagrees with these estimates, but has provided no numbers of his own.
Can we afford this? Is this best for the nation?
Taxes
As with other policy matters, Grudem’s discussion of Trump’s tax plan seems to be little more than his opinion. Trump has promised a tax cut but he has also promised to leave social security alone. In general, he promises to cut taxes while increasing government services (e.g., veteran’s benefits).  His method of paying for his increases in government spending (e.g., increases services, deportation force, building a wall, etc.) is to cut waste, fraud and abuse. Certainly, Grudem knows that every presidential candidate promises to do that. Furthermore, there isn’t enough waste to cut to get the budget balanced with Trump’s tax cuts while increasing government spending. According to the Tax Policy Center, Trump’s tax plan will reduce federal revenues by $9.5 trillion over a decade and increase the national debt by 80% of the gross domestic product.
Is this best for the nation?
Trade, Jobs and the Poor 
Grudem believes in a straight line between lower taxes and more jobs. However, one must also consider the impact of Trump’s threatened trade wars. According to a National Foundation for American Policy study of Trump’s proposed tariffs, American families would have to pay between $11,000 and $30,000 more for imported goods over five years depending on how widely the tariffs would be applied.
Higher costs hurt the poor. Of course, since he’s rich, Trump doesn’t care about costs. According to Market Watch, Trump brushed off concerns about higher costs:

“Who the hell cares if there’s a trade war?” Trump scoffed at a New Jersey event this month. I suppose when you’re super wealthy like he is, it doesn’t matter if the price of a TV or pair of sneakers or even a car goes up 35% to 45%. But when you’re just about anyone else, it matters. A lot.

According to Market Watch, the jobs of one in six people are connected to trade and other jobs, particularly those on the lower end of the spectrum would be at risk since everybody’s costs would go up.
The conservative National Chamber of Commerce agrees that Trump’s policies would lead to recession. They cite a non-partisan Moody’s analysis which shows Trump’s proposals leading to dire economic consequences. According to Moody’s analysis, unemployment would rise to 7 percent with 3.5 million jobs lost. They predict a lengthy recession.
Is this best for the nation?
Health Care
Trump promises to replace Obamacare with something else. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget projects that Trump’s healthcare proposals would cost between $330-500 billion, and lead to 21 million more uninsured. These estimates are based on his current proposals which contradict other promises and preferences he has expressed about healthcare. Trump has expressed support for a single payer plan where the government control Grudem fears would be front and center.
Is this best for the nation?
National Debt
According to the CRFB, Trump’s campaign proposals in total are much more costly that Clinton’s. Over a decade, Trump’s plans would add $11.5 trillion to the national debt, whereas Clinton’s would add only $250 billion.
Is adding $11.5 trillion to the national debt best for the nation?
Foreign policy
Grudem seems to like Trump’s tough talk. He writes:

Trump will not let China and Russia and Iran push us around anymore, as Obama has done, with Hillary Clinton’s support when she was secretary of state. If Trump is anything, he is tough as nails, and he won’t be bullied.

Does Grudem not read the news? Trump melts when Vladimir Putin expresses the faintest positive sentiment. Trump said Putin called him a “genius,” however that’s not true. He said on at least two occasions that he had a good relationship with Putin only to say later that he didn’t know Putin and had never met him.
Worse is Trump’s vacillation on NATO and what he would do if Russia invaded a NATO ally. He said we might not intervene. Trump said he would look at recognizing Russia’s occupation of Crimea. There are possible conflicts of interest when it comes to Russia which have not been fully explored by the press.
For these and numerous other reasons, over 120 Republican foreign policy experts and advisors signed a letter opposing Trump’s candidacy. Former national security adviser to Presidents Ford and Bush Brent Scowcroft and former George W. Bush deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage have come out in favor of Clinton. For me on foreign policy, these experts carry more influence than theology professor Grudem.
I don’t believe Trump is best for the nation when it comes our relations with other nations.
Supreme Court Justices and Religious Liberty
Grudem paints the worst imaginable scenario in his discussion of Supreme Court justices and uses some less than honest rhetoric to do it. He says under Clinton “the nation would no longer be ruled by the people and their elected representatives, but by unelected, unaccountable, activist judges who would dictate from the bench about whatever they were pleased to decree. And there would be nothing in our system of government that anyone could do to stop them.”
There is a lot wrong with these statements. Currently, federal judges are unelected. Nothing would change there. That is our constitutional system. If judicial power is abused, there are checks and balances which are available. That would be true under Trump or Clinton.
If Clinton’s judicial appointments are viewed as too liberal, the Senate can stall the process, as they are doing now. The current situation with Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland demonstrates how Congress can exert influence. Surely, Grudem recalls the negative vote on Reagan appointee Robert Bork. Congress has held up numerous federal appointments over the years and they will not lose any abilities under Clinton.
Although Supreme Court appointments is a popular fall back position for evangelical Trump supporters, not all conservative legal scholars agree. For instance, the libertarian publication Reason polled 10 conservative scholars and found very little support for Trump. Readers should consider what all of them said but here is a modest sample:

Roger Pilon
Director of Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute
Assuming Trump were to follow through on his list of possible Supreme Court nominees, that would be a reason to support him, but there are countervailing reasons to oppose him that are, I believe, far more important. The Court will correct itself in time, I hope, but it is the character of the Republican Party and, more broadly and crucially, of our very nation that is at stake in this election. Hillary Clinton is a deeply flawed candidate, to be sure, but the election of Donald Trump would so defile the party of Lincoln and America itself that it must be resisted. He is an aberration that we must get past, and quickly.

The other conservative legal scholars took similar positions, some more vehemently, some more timidly. However, a clear consensus was that the clear potential for damage to the Republican party and the nation outweighs the potential benefit of Supreme Court appointments.
On religious liberty, not all of Grudem’s scenarios are accurate and so it is difficult to respond to this concern. For instance, Grudem claims

some churches in Iowa have now been told that they have to make their bathrooms open to people on the basis of their “gender identity” if the churches are going to be open to the public at all.

This is simply not true. No church in Iowa has been told this as a condition of being “open to the public.” It is true that the Iowa Commission on Civil Rights issued poorly worded guidance eight years ago which caused confusion but no church has ever been forced to comply with Iowa non-discrimination law in ministry activities.
There is always a need to be vigilant when it comes to constitutional rights. Whether Trump or Clinton is elected, there will be places in the country where religious and other rights conflict. These issues must be handled on a case by case basis in light of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. However, concern about religious liberty is not the only issue of importance. Consequently, it doesn’t seem best for the nation to focus exclusively on getting more originalists on the Supreme Court.
Who is Best for the Nation?
For some Christian voters, deciding who gets their vote might come down to a decision that the potential for higher national debt, job killing trade wars, a chaotic and potentially dangerous foreign policy, draconian deportation practices, more racial division, and more people without health insurance are worth the possibility of additional conservative appointments to the Supreme Court. However, others will not. If we are selecting a candidate based on what is best for the nation, Trump is not as clear cut a choice as Grudem makes it seem. In fact, his essay is an insult to the intelligence of those who believe both candidates have disqualified themselves.
If a vote for Trump is a moral choice, then I can’t see how a vote for Clinton is not one also. It probably comes down to which vision of the future each individual believes to be accurate. As I look at the evidence, I think Grudem sugar coated Trump and cast Clinton in the worst possible light. In any case, given how inadequate his analysis of Trump’s positions and character is, I think it is an abuse of his position as an evangelical leader to imply that there is a choice that good Christians should choose. If his standard no longer elevates moral qualities, then he needs to do a better job researching Trump’s proposals and what they portend.
For me, I will either vote for a person to be named later (e.g., betterforamerica.com), write someone in, or not vote for president. For me, this is the moral choice.

Actor James Woods Gets In On The Fake Quote Fun With A Fake Hillary Quote

So James Woods appears to be a none of the above type. Anyway, he posted this on Twitter.


A quick search of the book reveals no such quote. Snopes has already been there.


Crazy season is just getting started.

Did Hillary Clinton Plagiarize Alexis de Tocqueville?

Tonight in her speech, Hillary Clinton said:

But here’s the sad truth: There is no other Donald Trump…This is it. And in the end, it comes down to what Donald Trump doesn’t get: that America is great – because America is good.

Did she plagiarize de Tocqueville? No, because de Tocqueville didn’t say that. According John Pitney in the Weekly Standard:

These lines are uplifting and poetic. They are also spurious. Nowhere do they appear in Democracy in America, or anywhere else in Tocqueville.

Read Pitney’s explanation at the Weekly Standard. Quick, Twitter’s going crazy over it.
Now having established that, can we talk about Bonhoeffer author Eric Metaxas tweeting a spurious Bonhoeffer quote to promote Christians voting for Donald Trump?

Evangelical Trump Supporters: Why Do You Trust Trump When He Breaks His Promises?

During the primary season, Donald Trump told the press he would release his tax returns when his IRS audit was complete. The IRS then said nothing prevented him from releasing them just as other presidential candidates have done for decades.
Now Trump through his spokesman Paul Manafort has again said he will not release them. This statement comes in light of allegations that Trump has a financial connection to Russian power brokers.
For me, this raises an important question for evangelicals who support Trump because he promised to name conservative Supreme Court justices. Why do you trust him? There is absolutely no basis for trust.
Releasing tax returns is something candidates have done for decades. It is not a novel act of transparency. Not releasing them is a significant red flag. This is especially true because he promised to do it. Now he says he won’t do one of the basic things presidential candidates do.
At some point, I hope evangelical supporters of Trump wake up and recognize that they are being played. The alternative is not to vote for Hillary Clinton. The alternative is to get behind a third party option. According to Better for America, a third party candidate will be announced at the end of July. Evangelicals should at least wait to see who is tapped to lead a third (or fourth or fifth I guess when one considers the Libertarians and Greens) party run.