Kurt Mahlburg, Features Editor for the Canberra Declaration, is at large and on the loose in the USA.
If you find our six-week election campaigns tiresome in Australia, consider what’s happening here in the USA. It’s still a year out from the 2020 vote but electioneering is already in overdrive.
In just the last week, a field of Democrats have gone head-to-head in two televised debates in their bid to knock Trump out of the White House.
The mood of the debaters has been buoyant. But their optimism could be misplaced, given the political upheavals seen around the world in recent years.
A so-called “sleeping conservative base” has famously delivered Brexit and Boris in the UK, Bolsonaro in Brazil, and voter uprisings against the status quo in France, the Philippines and beyond. Of course Trump 2016 was the biggest shock of all.
But as an Aussie and a Christian, I think the Democrat candidates have the most to learn from our surprise election Down Under in May this year.
Australia’s pundits, papers and pollsters had convinced themselves of a left-wing Labor victory. Despite it all, Scott Morrison, a charismatic Christian, won the ‘unwinnable election’. Capturing the moment well, ScoMo’s memorable victory speech began with those beaming words, “I’ve always believed in miracles.”
In the post-election wash-up, many blamed Labor’s loss at least in part on their abandonment of religious voters. Lamenting his party’s defeat, Labor frontbencher Chris Bowen reflected that “people of faith no longer feel that progressive politics cares about them.”
If this was true in secular Australia, it has to be even more relevant in America—where the nation’s founding documents, its political leaders, its sports stars, and even its currency still has lots to say about God. Indeed in America, the evangelical base is known as force strong enough to swing elections.
This is why, the way I read it, the recent Democratic debates have missed the mark by a very wide margin. They’re alienating Christians like no time in history.
Last Thursday, CNN hosted a town hall focussed solely on ‘LGBT’ issues. There was little that set the candidates apart, each of them eager—awkwardly so at times—to pass the most recent progressive purity tests.
Walking on stage, Kamala Harris wasted no time. Before a question was asked she announced to the audience, “My pronouns are she, her and hers.” Hoping for a laugh, her male host then quipped, “So are mine.” Later he had to apologise to offended viewers on Twitter.
Joe Biden, keen to prove how comfortable he feels around gay people, uncomfortably flirted with gay host Anderson Cooper multiple times, even pretending to give him a kiss.
Later, poll favourite Elizabeth Warren was asked how she’d respond if a religious person voiced their opposition to same-sex marriage. “Well, I’m going to assume it’s a guy who said that,” she snapped—as though no woman could possibly believe in traditional marriage.
She went on to formulate her answer: “Just marry one woman. I’m cool with that.” But then, unable to help herself, she went for the jugular: “Assuming you can find one.” The audience roared with laughter.
In Warren’s world, bullying minorities is okay, so long as they’re religious.
In the most sobering moment of the night, Beta O’Rourke was asked whether he believed churches and other religious groups should lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage. The host had hardly finished the question before O’Rourke gave his terse reply: “Yes.”
“There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for anyone or any institution, any organisation in America that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us. And so as president, [I’m] going to… stop those who are infringing upon the human rights of our fellow Americans.”
Somehow, all these woker-than-thou efforts by Democrats still weren’t enough for certain audience members. Twice protesters interrupted the night, first unfurling a banner and later snatching a mic to declare that “Black trans lives matter,” and, “You have erased trans women for the last time”.
Australian columnist Miranda Devine summarised the whole sordid affair with a column as accurate and blunt as its title: “Democrats slap the faithful during LGBTQ town hall.”
This Tuesday, CNN also hosted round four of the presidential primary debates. Focussing more on the economy than the culture wars, this debate was less colourful, but still troublesome for those wary of the party’s radically leftward lurch.
Under misleading euphemisms like “reproductive justice,” abortion-on-demand was almost uniformly endorsed. Tulsi Gabbard was a lone voice of restraint, acknowledging that abortion is “one of the most difficult decisions that a woman will ever have to make” and reviving the once-mainstream Democrat doctrine that abortion should be “safe, legal and rare”.
One news outlet drew attention to how few mentions God rated during the debate—an unusual but telling circumstance in American political discourse. Just three candidates invoked his name.
Tulsi Gabbard articulated her Hawaiian-Hindu beliefs with the phrase, “We’re all God’s children.” To voice disapproval on two separate issues, Joe Biden used the expressions, “Why in God’s name?” and “God forbid.” And praising a fellow candidate for her open-slather stance on abortion, Cory Booker said, “God bless Kamala.”
One of the most talked-about events of the night was a commercial that CNN featured during the program’s midway break.
As if to confirm religious voters’ worst fears, the confronting ad was produced by atheist group Freedom From Religion Foundation. It warned of “the intrusion of religion into our secular government,” mocked the idea of hell, and suggested that America’s founding fathers wanted government free from the influence of religion.
Speaking of CNN, in something of a coincidence, the cable news behemoth has itself been in the spotlight this week in the US.
Watchdog group Project Veritas has published a series of damning undercover videos in which CNN staffers expose their network president’s personal vendetta against Trump; muse that the impeachment proceedings against him are a show trial; admit to concealing their left-wing bias from the public; and wish that Donald Trump was dead.
Calling a spade a spade, I’d say that both the Democratic party and their water-carriers in the media have become a very loud and lonely echo-chamber. They’ve abandoned not only Christian, but even mainstream America, to pander to a minority that grows more audacious and demanding by the day.
From an Australian perspective, the situation brewing in the US has all the same ingredients that went into ScoMo’s re-election, but with a delicious dose of “only-in-America” intrigue.
Satirical site The Babylon Bee put it well when they joked that the Republican National Committee has now adopted a new tactic: simply raising money for the Democrats so they can televise five live embarrassing debates a week.
Seriously though, unless the Dems can learn from Labor’s loss in Australia, Trump will have his second term before he even puts up a fight.