Once again, Republicans have betrayed our country. Only seven Republicans voted guilty in the impeachment trial of the former president. The other 43 Republican Senators betrayed their oath of office to “defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Forty-nine abdicated their sworn oath a year ago when the former president tried to bribe a foreign president to interfere in the elections of the United States. They supported a president who for four years acted as if there was no limit on his authority. Then, they supported him when he tried to overturn an election by inciting a violent insurrection against the United States Congress.
Worst of all, the defense for the former president put up no defense. The defense presented red herrings, slurs, and outright lies in their lack of understanding of the procedures of a Senate impeachment trial. They did not care to ask their client simple questions that could have provided evidence, which they did not because there was no evidence that the former president was not guilty. It should have been apparent to all Senators that the former president was so indefensible that all he could get to defend him were a group of ambulance-chasing personal injury lawyers who did not have the slightest understanding of impeachment proceedings or the U.S. Constitution. Their malpractice should be a disgrace to any lawyer in America.
Once again, we have been betrayed by the majority of Republicans in our federal government. How long will they be allowed to continue to betray us?
Republicans have a chance to take back their Party, but I doubt they will do that. The Republican Party leaders could take back the Party and get back to the traditional values of the Republican Party (even though I see much of their beliefs about social welfare and the economy as misguided). Republicans have been mostly reprehensible to me in the last 20 years, but at one time, they did believe in a platform and a set of standards. The fringe elements of the GOP date back much farther. In the 1950s, Republicans led by Senator Joseph McCarthy incited the Red Scare claiming there were communists everywhere and going on a witch hunt throughout the United States. We know now that Sen. McCarthy’s infamous “list,” which supposedly named communists who had infiltrated the heart of the United States government, was completely fabricated. On February 9, 1950, McCarthy told a crowd of 275 at the Ohio County Republican Women’s Club that the U.S. State Department was “thoroughly infested with communists” and brandished papers he claimed were a list of 57 such subversives. No such list ever existed. The Red Scare eventually ended when Republican Senators stood up to McCarthy. The Senate censured him but not before he had ruined thousands of lives with his accusations of communism.
McCarthy is just the most famous of the examples of Republican extremism gone too far. Another example happened on July 14, 1964, supporters of Barry Goldwater, who was about to accept the Republican nomination for president, unleashed a torrent of boos against New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller as he spoke at the Party’s national convention in San Francisco. Some might remember this event, but what is usually forgotten is why Rockefeller, who had lost the nomination to Goldwater, was standing behind the lectern in the first place. He was there to speak in support of an amendment to the party platform that would condemn political extremism. The resolution repudiated “the efforts of irresponsible extremist organizations,” including the Communist Party, the Ku Klux Klan, and the John Birch Society (JBS), a rapidly growing far-right grassroots group obsessed with the alleged communist infiltration of America.
The resolution failed, which testifies to the GOP’s long-standing reluctance to separate themselves from the extremists who congregate at its fringes. But the fact that such a resolution was debated at all—in such a visible venue, with such high-profile advocates—also says something about Republicans today. In the past, the GOP had a stronger core of resistance to extremism than it’s had in the era of the former president, QAnon, the Proud Boys, and the likes of Marjorie Taylor Greene. The history of JBS shows us that this radical element has been a part of the Republican Party since the middle of the last century. In case you aren’t familiar with the John Birch Society, it is a radical right and far-right American political advocacy group supporting anti-communism and limited government. Canadian author Jeet Heer argued in The New Republic that while its influence peaked in the 1970s, “Bircherism” and its legacy of conspiracy theories have become the dominant strain in the conservative movement. Politico has asserted that the JBS began making a resurgence in the mid-2010s, and JBS itself has argued that it shaped the modern conservative movement, especially the former president’s administration.
The question of how Republicans deal with the extremists in their ranks is now more urgent than perhaps at any other point since the Birch Society’s heyday in the 1960s. So far, little has been done to uproot these fringe elements. Representative Kevin McCarthy and other GOP leaders have shown no interest in acting against House members who promoted or spoke at the rally ahead of the January 6 attack on the Capitol. And while GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell and other Senate Republicans have criticized Greene—a relatively easy target—almost all have signaled that they will not vote in the impeachment trial to impose any consequences on the former president for his role in inciting the attack. McConnell sees himself in a desperate position to preserve the Republican Party and has warned Republican colleagues in private conference meetings the GOP faces a new “John Birch Society” problem that the Party must aggressively purge.
Those who care about the traditional values of the Republican Party could jointly stand together and denounce the previous president, his supporters in the Senate and the House, and the fringe extremists who have devoted themselves to perpetuating the previous president’s lies at any cost. If they voted to convict in the impeachment, denounce extremism, then they could have a chance to take back the Party. If they do not stand up for what is the right thing to do and convict the previous president, the fringe extremists that have plagued the Party since the middle of the last century will overtake the Party and drive it further to the right. The problem I see is that McConnell and others in the Republican Party have allowed the extremists to grow like a cancerous tumor. McConnell said himself that the “Loony lies and conspiracy theories are cancer for the Republican Party and our country.” The problem is that his analogy is too apt, and I think the cancerous tumor has been left untreated for so long until it is terminal. That was evident in Greene’s response. On Twitter, Greene wrote, “The real cancer for the Republican Party is weak Republicans who only know how to lose gracefully. This is why we are losing our country.”
The Republicans could take a stand during this impeachment trial. They could turn against the extremists in their Party. I realize that they will not eject any Congress members for their extremism, but they could ostracize the extremists for their actions. They could censure them, though I think that too is unlikely. What they can do is to give them so little influence in Congress that opponents can use it against them in their next election. Maybe once they do this and take back the Republican Party along more traditional lines without the extremism, they can finally come into the twenty-first century and possibly become decent human beings. Either way, I’d rather have the traditional business Republicans than the fringe elements who seem to control the Party today.
Are Republicans stupid, or have they used deception and lies for so long, they can no longer see reality? Senator Kevin Cramer was on MSNBC yesterday morning discussing the impeachment trial. He made numerous blatantly false claims, and when the anchors tried to correct him, he stuck to his guns, claiming they were incorrect. One of his lies (or just stupidity) was that Nancy Pelosi withheld the articles of impeachment until after the former president left office. As Stephanie Ruel pointed out, Pelosi was ready to send over the articles of impeachment on January 14 but was told by the Senate Parliamentarian that since the Senate had been dismissed, she could not send over the articles until the Senate reconvened. McConnell purposely delayed the trial of the former president so that he could make the argument that a former president cannot be tried after he left office. Cramer claimed that it would have taken unanimous consent to reconvene the Senate when anyone who was paying attention knows that the Senate could have bypassed this with the consent of the Senate Majority Leader (McConnell, at the time) and Senate Minority Leader (Schumer, at the time). Though Schumer agreed to reconvene the Senate, McConnell refused. Contrary to Cramer’s claim and that of the former president’s defense team, Pelosi was not responsible for the trial taking place after the former president left office. McConnell is entirely and wholly responsible for this and purposely held up the impeachment trial.
There is no doubt that the former president’s defense lawyers presented an unorganized and deceptive argument filled with lies, subterfuge, and fringe legal theories. Just about the only thing that they said truthfully was that Joe Biden won the election, fair and square and that the House Managers presented an excellent case for the constitutionality of an impeachment trial of a former president. The former president’s defense started on a strange note, with one of his lawyers, Bruce Castor, giving a meandering defense of the former president. He rarely referenced the former president or his behavior on January 6. At times, he appeared to be arguing for the former president’s free speech rights and against a partisan cycle of impeachments. The other defense lawyer, David Schoen, delivered a more forceful speech, accusing Democrats of trying to “disenfranchise” the former president’s supporters. It was a strange defense because the former president had spent the previous 77 days trying to disenfranchise millions of voters in states like Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Georgia. Schoen also described the trial as an unconstitutional infringement on the rights of a “private citizen.” Schoen argued that the House had violated the former president’s due process rights by pursuing impeachment so quickly and that if the Senate went ahead with the trial, it would set a precedent under which the House could impeach any public official at any time after leaving office if control of Congress changed hands. In his argument, he suggested lawmakers had impeached the former president too soon and too late. The defense team’s arguments were often contradictory of one another, and even of their own arguments at times. Castor even argued for the criminal prosecution of the former president by the Justice Department, and Cramer repeated this argument on MSNBC. Of course, if the Justice Department did file charges against the former president for inciting an insurrection, the Republicans would go crazy calling it a Democratic witch hunt, even after they had argued for that exact thing to happen.
Numerous Republican Senators derided the defense presented by the former president’s lawyers. Ted Cruz said, “I don’t think the lawyers did the most effective job.” Cruz added that the lead House impeachment manager, Rep. Jamie B. Raskin, was “impressive.” Sen. John Cornyn, who is among Trump’s defenders on Capitol Hill, said that he has seen “a lot of lawyers and a lot of arguments” and that Castor’s “was not one of the finest I’ve seen.” Sen. Lindsay Graham said, “Well, I think I — I thought I — I really didn’t know — I thought I knew where he was going. And I really didn’t know where he was going.” Graham added that “nobody’s mind was changed one way or the other.” However, the House Managers changed one Republican Senator’s mind. Sen. Bill Cassidy was the only Republican Senator to switch his vote to support moving forward with the impeachment trial. Cassidy said after the first day of arguments, “The issue at hand, is it constitutional to impeach a president who’s left office? And the House managers made a compelling, cogent case, and the president’s team did not.” He said that the former president’s defense lawyers gave meandering opening statements that were incoherent and ineffective.
In yesterday’s presentation by the House Managers, a case was methodically made using the former president’s own words and tweets. I had several things I had to do yesterday afternoon, so I did not get to watch the House Managers’ complete presentation, but what I saw was so overwhelmingly convincing that I cannot understand how anyone can vote for acquittal. However, the sad thing is that most of the Republican Senators, if not all, recognize that what happened on January 6 was horrible, indefensible, and the fault of months of rhetoric by the former president culminating in his call for his supporters to march to the Capitol and present a show of strength. Yet, I do not expect the former president to be convicted. On Twitter, Senator Lindsey Graham called the yesterday’s presentation “offensive and absurd.” The only thing offensive about the presentation was the former president’s actions. There was nothing absurd about the evidence presented. It was terrifying. As Dave R commented yesterday, “They won’t convict because that makes them complicit. They would rather let the American voters fire their asses than grow a spine.” Just like the first impeachment trial, the vast majority of Republicans are not only making a mockery of the judicial/legislative process of impeachment, but they are making a mockery of the United States. Their inaction makes them just as culpable as the former president.
Yesterday was an emotional day for me. I woke up once again with more head and neck pain. My neurologist sent me a message asking, “How are you doing? Has the pain improved?” I messaged her back to tell her that I had seen improvement through much of Saturday, but the pain began to return by Saturday evening and has continued to worsen since then. She ordered an MRI, which I will have done next week. I pray that if they find something, it won’t be anything terrible. Honestly, it scares me that they are having such a difficult time controlling this headache. The pain of the last week and a half has caused me to be depressed. I have had headaches worse than this years ago, but I have never had one that was this intense for this long. I went years with a constant headache, but it came in waves. While I was never without pain during those years, I had days when the pain was not all encompassing, followed by periods of debilitating pain. This current headache has been close to being debilitating all the time. It has hindered my ability to concentrate. So, the pain is making me very emotional.
Also, I watched the impeachment trial. The video that the House managers played was very disturbing and upsetting. I cannot see how anyone could not be moved by it. I believe that the video’s editing could have been better because I think it would have been more effective with time stamps throughout, as much as possible, to show a better timeline of events. That aside, I think it was very effective. On MSNBC, Claire McCaskill reported that friends of hers in the Senate chamber saw some of the Republican Senators (Rubio, Cruz, Cotton, and others) refusing to watch the video and busied themselves with papers on their desks. She also said that some Democratic Senators turned away because they could not watch the videos and relive that day all over again. It was a brutal video to watch, but I think that no matter what political party you belong to, you should be paying close attention during the trial. Seeing Rep. Jamie Raskin choke up talking about his family being in the Capitol that day was also difficult to watch. It’s upsetting that it is unlikely that enough Republicans will vote to convict the former president of inciting an insurrection, but I know that most Republicans want to put their heads in the sand and ignore what happened. The former president’s lawyers made rambling and ridiculous arguments that contradicted each other. Nothing they said was convincing or based on reality. Castor did admit that the former president lost the election, but that’s been clear to most of us for months. Schoen just looked like a raging nutcase, but considering his client list, I expected no less.
Hopefully, today will be a more mentally stable day for me today, and there will be less pain physically.
Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) has been in the news a lot this last week as more and more evidence of her support for terror and extremism mounts. CNN reported that Greene “liked” a social media post that suggested “a bullet to the head” for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and seemed to approve of a suggestion that other prominent Democrats should be hanged, not to mention similar calls for the death of President Obama and Hillary Clinton. Greene has supported QAnon conspiracy theories about a global pedophilia cabal, approved of suggestions that mass shootings were staged, and made various racist comments. Furthermore, a video emerged of Greene harassing David Hogg, who survived the mass shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Valentine’s Day 2018. The video shows Greene following Hogg down the street in Washington, D.C., in March 2019, and badgering him, calling him a crisis actor paid by George Soros, telling him she was armed, demanding he talk to her, and calling him a coward. Hogg walked on without engaging her.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said yesterday in a press conference that, “Assigning her to the Education Committee when she has mocked the killing of little children at Sandy Hook Elementary School when she has mocked the killing of teenagers in high school at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school — what could they be thinking? Or is thinking too generous a word for what they might be doing? It’s absolutely appalling, and I think the focus has to be on the Republican leadership of this House of Representatives for the disregard they have for the death of those children.” Pelosi knows that Republicans have known for a while that they had trouble brewing with Marjorie Taylor Greene back in the summer of 2020 when she was running for Congress. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) called the QAnon supporter’s comments about Black people and Muslims “disgusting,” while a spokesman for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called them “appalling.” Scalise backed her primary opponent.
So, I am sure a lot of people have questions about how this woman could be elected. I have some thoughts on that because I have always lived in rural congressional districts. In most congressional races in rural districts, especially in the South, candidates often don’t get many campaign contributions. Many don’t even have websites, and if they do, they are sparse with their information. If multiple people are in a primary, I believe most people just pick the name they like best. Voters don’t really care who they are voting for in these primaries. When the general election comes around, they either vote for the one with the R after their name or the D after their name. As a general rule, I do vote for Democrats almost exclusively. Still, I’ve known a few Democrats I won’t vote for, and on rare occasions, I find someone in the Republican Party or a third party that I want to vote for, but I do my research on candidates. Most voters don’t research candidates. Ignorance by the voting public is especially problematic in rural areas where school systems are often the poorest. People are often uneducated or undereducated. Internet access is difficult to come by without paying exorbitant prices, making it difficult to research candidates. If they have a smartphone, they probably get most of their information from Facebook, which is misleading at best but is most often completely inaccurate.
While Greene was covered in the news as a QAnon candidate, Green and other Republicans tried to distance her from her QAnon conspiracy theories during the general election. Now the crazy is coming out in full force. She should have never been elected, but our previous president and his followers pushed for her election. To top that off, northwest Georgia, which Greene represents, is extremely conservative and backwoods and is over 84 percent white and nearly 57 percent blue-collar. The district leans heavily Republican. Donald Trump carried the district with over 75 percent of the vote in 2016, his eighth-best showing in the nation. Among Georgia’s congressional districts, only the neighboring 9th district is more Republican. Since its creation, no Democrat has managed as much as 30 percent of the vote.
When I lived in Alabama, I lived at times in the 2nd Congressional and the 7th Congressional districts. The 7th Congressional district is the “Black Belt” district. The shape of the current district was largely established in 1992 when it was reconstituted as a majority-minority district under provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended in 1982 to encourage greater representation for minorities in Congress. Since its creation in 1843, a Republican has only represented the district once and for just one term from 1965-1967. In contrast, Alabama’s 2nd congressional district is majority white, and only one Democrat has represented the district since 1965. That one Democrat, former Montgomery mayor Bobby Bright, only served one term, and most recently switched parties and ran again and lost as a Republican candidate. The current representative from the 2nd congressional district is Barry Moore, who was elected for the first time in 2020. Moore is crooked to the core and has been under near-constant investigation for using his office as a legislator to get preferential contracts and for committing perjury in another corruption case. Moore’s opponent, a black woman named Phyllis Harvey-Hall, worked as an elementary school teacher for 25 years before her retirement. Her credentials and clean history of no criminal charges made no difference. She only received 34.7 percent of the vote (the minority population of the district is just 37 percent).
The House of Representatives tends to be more radical than the Senate because of the smaller and more localized districts. While there are moderates in the House, there are more members who are at opposite ends of the political spectrum. There are also more members who are highly unqualified to be in Congress. The Senate has its bad eggs too. Alabama’s new Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville could very well make history as the most unqualified and incompetent, at least in recent memory. There are some awful people in the Senate, such as McConnell, Graham, Hawley, Cruz, etc., but they at least have some brains, even if they continuously make stupid, hateful, and often contradictory statements. Tuberville, however, takes the cake. He was a football coach known for being extremely lazy. Every time it appeared that his job would become challenging, he left the coaching position.
Furthermore, he’s a crook who defrauded investors of millions during his ownership of an investment company. His partner in the venture was convicted of fraud and was sentenced to ten years in prison. Tuberville turned on him during the trial and escaped being indicted. The Tommy Tuberville Foundation has also been found to mismanage the funds and lining the pockets of Tuberville. He was only elected because he somehow gained our previous president’s support, probably because he sucked up to the former president the most. Voters did not care that he had zero experience that showed he would make a good politician. They cared nothing about his inability to understand the most basic of civic lessons. They cared that he ran as a Republican, was hateful, and had the support of a Republican president. One of his first acts as a Senator was to cast a treasonous vote to overturn a legitimate election.
The point I want to make is that the American electorate is composed of millions of uneducated individuals who are easily swayed by propaganda and hate. Politicians feed on their fears when they actually do tell constituents what their policies are. When NBC News asked Greene’s constituents about the awful things she has said and supported, they simply did not care. One woman talked about how Greene was bold and spoke her mind; we heard Trump supporters say the same thing. Another woman said she didn’t care what Greene had said or done; she still supported the congresswoman. These attitudes and the radicalization and encouragement of extremists led to the January 6 attack on the Capitol. A lack of education is a dangerous thing because it makes people too impressionable and gullible.
One of the most misunderstood aspects of the federal government is the arcane Senate rule known as the filibuster. Both Democrats and Republicans have argued against the filibuster, according to whether it is useful to them or not. Considering how little the contemporary version of the U.S. Senate accomplishes, that may be reason enough to kill the filibuster — a tool used by the minority party to keep the Senate in a state of near-perpetual obstruction. There’s another reason. Despite an enormous amount of work to be done now at the start of a new Congress, the Senate can’t accomplish tasks as basic as picking committee chairs because Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is using the threat of a filibuster to hold up the rules organizing the new Senate, which is split 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris’ tiebreaking vote giving Democrats a razor-thin majority. Why? Because McConnell wants a guarantee that Democrats won’t bend the rules to eliminate the filibuster.
At this point in this post, I am going to give all of you a choice. You can watch a 20-minute video of John Oliver explaining in an irreverent but often humorous way the history and structure of the filibuster, or you can read my more detailed and analysis of the filibuster. If you choose the video, then you can skip to the section below the dividing line.
For a little history, the filibuster, contrary to popular belief, is not in the Constitution and the founding fathers never even mentioned it at the Constitutional Convention or in The Federalist Papers, which argued against supermajority required votes in Federalist No. 58 written by James Madison and Federalist No. 22 by Alexander Hamilton. While the Constitution does not mandate it, the framers clearly envisioned that simple majority voting would be used to conduct business. It took seventeen years for the simple majority rule to be changed. In 1789, the first U.S. Senate adopted rules allowing senators to move forward to vote on a bill by a simple majority vote. However, Vice President Aaron Burr argued that voting on whether or not to vote on a bill was redundant, and the Senate had only exercised the procedure once in the preceding four years. He believed the rule should be eliminated, which was done in 1806 after he left office. The Senate agreed and modified its rules; however, filibusters became theoretically possible because it created no means for ending debate. Just an aside, Burr, who accidentally created the filibuster, was later tried multiple times for treason for attempting to establish an independent country in the Southwestern United States and parts of Mexico. This was after he killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel, and Burr ended up fleeing to Europe to get away from the charges of treason. Treason, by the way, is very difficult to prove by the standards set by the Constitution.
Though the option of the filibuster had been created, it remained only theoretical until the 1830s. The first Senate filibuster occurred in 1837. In 1841, a defining moment came at the hands of Alabama senator and future vice president William Rufus King (who I wrote about several weeks ago as being the possible lover of James Buchanan). During debate on a bill to charter a new national bank, Senator Henry Clay tried to end the debate through a majority vote. King threatened a filibuster, saying that Clay “may make his arrangements at his boarding house for the winter.” Other senators sided with King, and Clay backed down. At the time, both the Senate and the House of Representatives allowed filibusters as a way to prevent a vote from taking place. Subsequent revisions to House rules limited filibuster privileges in that chamber, but the Senate continued to allow the tactic.
Eight decades passed before a rule was created to end a filibuster. In 1917, during World War I, a rule allowing cloture (a motion to end debate through a vote) was adopted by the Senate on a 76–3 roll call vote at the urging of President Woodrow Wilson, after a group of 12 anti-war senators managed to kill a bill that would have allowed Wilson to arm merchant vessels in the face of unrestricted German submarine warfare. From 1917 to 1949, the requirement for cloture was two-thirds of senators voting. During the 1930s, Senator Huey Long of Louisiana used the filibuster to promote his populist policies and ushered in the politics of strange speeches that mocked the dignity of the Senate. Long recited Shakespeare and read out recipes for “pot-likkers” during his filibusters, which occupied 15 hours of debate. Senator Ted Cruz more recently read Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Suess, even though the need to continually speak is no longer necessary. The threat of filibuster suffices these days. In 1949, the Senate made invoking cloture more difficult by requiring two-thirds of the entire Senate membership had to vote in favor of a cloture motion. However, that lasted a mere ten years. In 1959, then-Majority Leader and future president Lyndon Johnson anticipated a flurry of civil rights legislation and restored the cloture threshold to two-thirds of those voting to keep Southern Democrats from hijacking the Senate. As presiding officer, Vice President Richard Nixon supported the move and stated his opinion that the Senate “has a constitutional right at the beginning of each new Congress to determine rules it desires to follow,” which is the reason the Senate is currently debating the rules governing the Democratic majority in the Senate.
After a series of filibusters in the 1960s over civil rights legislation, the Senate put a “two-track system” into place in 1970. Before this system was introduced, a filibuster would stop the Senate from moving on to any other legislative activity. Tracking allows the majority leader—with unanimous consent or the agreement of the minority leader—to have more than one main motion pending on the floor as unfinished business. Under the two-track system, the Senate can have two or more pieces of legislation or nominations pending on the floor simultaneously by designating specific periods during the day when each one will be considered. (This might be a possible way for the Senate to move ahead with the current impeachment trial that is expected to come forward sometime today.) This change’s side effect was that by no longer bringing Senate business to a complete halt, filibusters on particular motions became politically easier for the minority to sustain, leading to the number of filibusters increasing rapidly. In 1975, the Senate revised its cloture rule so that three-fifths of sworn senators (60 votes out of 100) could limit debate, with only a few exceptions to the rule.
Whoever was the minority party at the time began to use the filibuster as a way to hold up judicial appointments. In 2005, a group of Republican senators proposed having the presiding officer, Vice President Dick Cheney, rule that a filibuster on judicial nominees was unconstitutional, as it was inconsistent with the President’s power to name judges with the advice and consent of a simple majority of senators. On November 21, 2013, Senate Democrats used the so-called “nuclear option,” voting 52–48 — with all Republicans and three Democrats opposed — to eliminate the filibuster’s use on executive branch nominees and judicial nominees, except to the Supreme Court. In 2015, Republicans took control of the Senate and kept the 2013 rules in place. On April 6, 2017, Senate Republicans eliminated the sole remaining exception to the 2013 change by invoking the “nuclear option” for Supreme Court nominees. This was done to allow a simple majority to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. The vote to change the rules was 52 to 48 along party lines.
The supermajority rule has made it very difficult, often impossible, for Congress to pass any but the most non-controversial legislation in recent decades. During times of unified party control, majorities have attempted (with varying levels of success) to enact their major policy priorities through the budget reconciliation process, resulting in legislation constrained by budget rules. Meanwhile, public approval for Congress as an institution has fallen to its lowest levels ever, with large segments of the public seeing the institution as ineffective, which brings us to the current situation. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer cannot organize the Senate under his majority rule because Minority Leader Mitch McConnell insists that the Democrats commit to leaving the filibuster intact. The Democrats have no plans at this time to kill the filibuster altogether. Quite frankly, they do not have the votes, since Democratic Senator Joe Manchin openly opposes the idea and others are cautious; however, they want to keep the threat of killing the filibuster to prevent McConnell and the Republicans from abusing it and stopping all Democratic legislation.
The stakes here are interesting because the issues are deeper than just the filibuster. While the new Senate is split evenly, the 50 Democrats in the Senate represent over 41.5 million more people than the 50 Republicans represent. The filibuster means that no legislation can pass Congress without the support of 10 Republicans. What that means is that the fight over the filibuster is a fight not just about the ability of the Democrats to get laws passed, but about whether McConnell and the Republicans, who represent a minority of the American people, can kill legislation endorsed by lawmakers who represent quite a large majority. We are in an uncomfortable period in our history in which the mechanics of our democracy are functionally anti-democratic. The fight over the filibuster might seem dull, but it’s a pretty significant struggle as our lawmakers try to make the rules of our system fit our changing nation.
One of the biggest problems with the filibuster is that it’s held as a hallowed tradition of the Senate, when it was not originally part of the rules of the Senate. Furthermore, it allows for just forty-one people out of the 328.2 million Americans to stop legislation from even being considered. The other major problem is that the Senate, contrary to popular belief, is filled with racists, homophobes, misogynists, and/or stupid people. The stupidity may be the worst of them all because they cause the other three. I will not give the obvious example of the election of a football coach who doesn’t even know the three branches of the government or who the Allies fought in World War II because no one is claiming Tommy Tuberville is a genius. Instead, I want to bring to your attention the stupidity of a man many in the Senate often claim to be a genius, Ted Cruz. The Senator tweeted the following statement on Tuesday:
Many senators, including Democrats and Republicans, have stated that Cruz is a very intelligent man. Yet, he is too stupid to understand that the Paris Climate Accord is named as such because it was signed in Paris, not because it represents the views of Parisians. While he probably does realize this, he is more likely playing to his constituents’ stupidity and the supporters of the previous administration. This kind of stupidity is the reason Chuck Schumer and the Democrats must end the filibuster. If they don’t, they might as well just go back to letting Mitch McConnell be Majority Leader and allow the Senate to continue to prevent any legislation from moving on through the Senate.
In other news: President Biden is expected to sign an executive order today that will lift the Pentagon’s ban on transgender people serving in the military. The controversial ban was announced by the previous president in 2017 and reversed the Obama administration’s policy to allow open service by transgender people.
In June 2020, the United States Supreme Court in Bostock v. Clayton County held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees against discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The previous administration refused to enforce the ruling. Whether the last president was smart enough to know this little fact, he emulated his “hero,” Andrew Jackson. In 1832, the Supreme Court issued a decision on Worcester v. Georgia in which Chief Justice John Marshall laid out in the opinion that the relationship between the Indian Nations and the United States is that of nations and built the foundations of the doctrine of tribal sovereignty in the United States. Jackson disagreed with the decision and backed Georgia’s attempts to discriminate against and encroach on the Cherokee Nation’s lands. In what was probably a bit of apocryphal history, Jackson reportedly responded: “John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!” While our 45thpresident neither praised nor criticized the ruling, he stated in response to the decision that “some people were surprised” and said that the court had “ruled and we live with their decision.” Yet, he did nothing to enforce it. In fact, his administration actively interpreted the decision very narrowly to decrease its effectiveness.
The inaction of the previous administration changed on Wednesday. On his first day, newly inaugurated President Joe Biden issued an executive order implementing the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County and repealing guidance from the previous administration related to nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people. The Human Rights Campaign issued the following statement emphasizing the importance of Biden’s Executive Order:
Biden’s Executive Order is the most substantive, wide-ranging executive order concerning sexual orientation and gender identity ever issued by a United States president. Today, millions of Americans can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that their President and their government believe discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is not only intolerable but illegal.
By fully implementing the Supreme Court’s historic ruling in Bostock, the federal government will enforce federal law to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in employment, health care, housing, and education, and other key areas of life. While detailed implementation across the federal government will take time, this Executive Order will begin to immediately change the lives of the millions of LGBTQ people seeking to be treated equally under the law.
When I was a teacher at a private school in Alabama, I feared for my job every day of those five years. If my sexuality had become public while I was teaching there, I would have lost my job on the spot. I will always believe that suspicion about my sexuality was why after five years, my contract was suddenly not renewed. At the time, the headmaster was trying to decide between not renewing my contract or another teacher’s contract. (The other teacher was a married heterosexual woman.) The school had hired a new coach, and he needed to be assigned classes to teach. While I had overt problems with the headmaster, it became more and more apparent to me that he did not like me for some reason. He refused to support our drama club, which I served as advisor and was generating money for the school. He refused to attend any of the productions, though he was at every sporting event. I can only assume that he had a problem with my closeted sexuality though he could not prove it. I know it wasn’t my teaching that he had a problem with. Parents (and most of my students) praised my teaching and constantly remarked on how much their children learned in my class. I was told numerous times when I was teaching that students were often excited to come to my class. Many parents contacted me after discovering that I would no longer be teaching there that I would be greatly missed. In the years since, I have heard many lament that the coach they replaced me with never taught anything and only gave worksheets. He also never won a football game. He last only a year or so. With that being said, I know that some students and parents, and apparently the headmaster, were not comfortable with my unspoken sexuality.
Had Bostock been decided while I was there, they may have thought more about the repercussions of not renewing my contract. Luckily, I found my current job in a state whose political climate could not be more different from that of Alabama. The university I work for has a stringent nondiscrimination policy that includes sexual and gender identity. We even had a major donor and transgender woman on the Board of Trustees. However, before Bostock, this could have easily changed as a new college administration took over and new board members took their seats. It was unlikely, but without Bostock, I had no clear protections. The millions of other LGBQ+ Americans also had the same fear of losing their job because of their sexuality, especially teachers in more conservative areas of the country. Yes, some organizations and businesses had protections for LGBTQ+ individuals written in their nondiscrimination policy, but as I said, that could have easily been changed. Now, we have the Supreme Court’s protections and the full protection of the federal government to enforce nondiscrimination for LGBTQ+ individuals in the workplace.
Biden’s executive order is significant as it extends nondiscrimination protections to millions of LGBTQ+ people concerning housing, education, immigration, credit, health care, military service, Peace Corps service, family and medical leave, welfare, criminal justice, law enforcement, transportation, federal grants, and so much more. While a president’s executive orders are always vulnerable to court challenges, this one is essentially bulletproof. It merely implements the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock, something the previous administration refused to do. Technically, Bostock involved only one statute, Title VII, but, as Justice Samuel Alito pointed out in his dissent, more than 100 other federal statutes also forbid “sex discrimination” in language nearly identical to Title VII. He was attempting to point out that those were not included in Bostock. However, under the court’s reasoning in Bostock, each of these statutes should now be read to protect LGBTQ+ people.
I don’t think I can stress enough how important and groundbreaking this executive order is. Biden’s order directs agencies across the federal government to bring their rules and regulations in line with Bostock. It instructs agency heads to “review all existing orders, regulations, guidance documents, policies, programs, or other agency actions” that involve statutes prohibiting sex discrimination. And it compels these officials to revise each rule and regulation in light of Bostockby extending existing protections to LGBTQ+ individuals. In some instances, this process will simply entail updating language to note that anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination is unlawful. In others, it will require the agency to write a new rule expressly disallowing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. One landmark law does not forbid sex discrimination: Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlaws discrimination in public accommodations—but only on the basis of “race, color, religion, or national origin.” So businesses will not be compelled to serve LGBTQ+ people. However, states and municipalities retain the authority to fill in this gap. Furthermore, Democrats are expected to pass the Equality Act, which would not only preserve Bostock in federal statute but amend Title II to bar anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination in public accommodations.
Biden showed us on day one of his administration that he will fight for LGBTQ+ individuals. It is a vital step in the right direction.
We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts, if we show a little tolerance and humility, and if we’re willing to stand in the other person’s shoes — as my mom would say, ‘Just for a moment, stand in their shoes.’
—Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
Full of emotion and with tears of joy in my eyes, I watched the inauguration of the 46thpresident of the United States, Joseph R. Biden, Jr., and Vice President Kamala Harris. I was emotional because of the social distancing necessary because of the previous administration’s inaction. Even more so, I was emotional because of the massive number of troops needed to keep our government safe from domestic terrorists because the former president gave them sanctuary and support. The last four years have been long and horrifying as an aspiring dictator tried to destroy American democracy. That horror ended at noon yesterday, and a new era of hope began. I have never been so proud of a person being inaugurated as President of the United States. He is a truly deserving person who overcame so much to get to this point in history. It took Biden 50 years of public service (he took office as a member of the New Castle County Council on January 5, 1971) to reach the pinnacle of his career, President of the United States, and we will be better for it.
More than just believing in the potential of Biden’s presidency, I think we’re entering a period of the most LGBTQ+ friendly administration in the history of the United States. Biden and Harris have been supporters of LGBTQ+ rights for many years. They did not support our rights because poll numbers told them it was okay to do so. They did it because it was and is the right thing to do. Biden has promised to pass the Equality Act within his first 100 days as president, launching landmark legislation that will prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, education, federal funding, credit, and the jury system. Describing his support for equality, Biden harks back to a story from his youth when as a teen, he saw two men kissing. “Joey, it’s simple. They love each other,” he says his father told him.
For LGBTQ+ people, visibility has always been the cornerstone of our fight for equality and acceptance, and it was growing by leaps and bounds before the 2016 election. President Obama famously lit the White House in rainbow colors after the historic passage of marriage equality in 2015. LGBTQ+ advocates were invited to White House policy roundtables. Obama regularly congratulated LGBTQ+ notables when they came out and included LGBTQ+ Americans in Pride month and World AIDS Day proclamations. Those leaps forward began being eroded before the last president’s inauguration ceremony ended. From day one, the highest office in our country began a rollback of LGBTQ+ visibility that would soon be paired with rollbacks of LGBTQ+ policies and an increase in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric. During that weird inauguration four years ago, the LGBTQ+ page on the official White House website was removed. The previous administration proceeded to ban transgender military service and appointed many anti-LGBTQ+ judges at every level of the judicial system. While some of the previous administration’s attacks were front and center, many of the attacks on the LGBTQ+ community were silent and sinister. The new administration has a lot of work to do to correct the wrongs committed over the past four years and put LGBTQ+ rights back on track for the future. As the Biden administration begins, we must start our healing and vigilance for equality both as a nation and the LGBTQ+ community itself. Yesterday, we inaugurated the most LGBTQ-inclusive administration in American history; we must clean up the mess left behind by the previous administration.
Biden has led the way for national politicians to support LGBTQ+ equality. In 2012, during Obama’s reelection campaign, Biden surprised the political world during an appearance on Meet the Press by becoming the first national leader to support same-sex marriage publicly. At the time, the country was split on whether it should be legalized, and many privately supportive politicians were publicly avoiding the issue. Back then, Biden’s strong statement was seen as another of his political gaffes, primarily because of President Barack Obama’s reluctance to tackle the issue. Biden made history at that moment but faced criticism in some quarters for supposedly putting other Democrats in a tough position. Instead, his remark — that he was “absolutely comfortable” with same-sex marriage — seemed to galvanize progressives and made a case for marriage equality an accessible one for many skeptical moderates. And now, nearly 70 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage, including half of Republicans. Yet, far more telling is Joe Biden’s history of support for transgender and non-binary people. A week before the election in 2012, Biden told the mother of a transgender child that discrimination against trans people is “the civil rights issue of our time,” at that moment the most assertive public statement of support by any national leader specifically addressing trans rights. Biden is not a politician who publicly supports LGBTQ+ people then betray us in private. His commitment to equality runs deep. For Biden, what matters is that all people can live and work in their full authenticity and provide for their families without threat to their safety and dignity. To him, we are not LGBTQ+ people in need of enhanced cultural framing but people who happen to be LGBTQ+ and deserve to have an equal stake in society just like everyone else, no better or worse.
Like our new president, Vice President Kamala Harris, a devoted LGBTQ+ rights advocate, fought for same-sex marriage and has promised to end the epidemic of violence against trans people. As California’s Attorney General, Harris led the opposition to California’s gay marriage ban in 2008. The Human Rights Campaign has given Harris a perfect lifetime rating. She has turned words into actions and will hopefully continue doing so. Harris publicly backed several decisive moments that benefited the LGBTQ+ community. After marriage equality was restored to California in 2013, Harris officiated the first marriage as a bold statement. As a senator, Harris introduced legislation to protect LGBTQ+ Americans from discrimination. In 2018, she introduced the Do No Harm Act to prevent the use of religious beliefs to be used to discriminate against the community. Harris has often been vocal against the former administration, condemning the president’s removal of LGBTQ+ health-related information across federal websites. Harris also vocalized her support for allowing transgender people to have equal access to public restrooms.
Biden and Harris have been clear about their goals for LGBTQ+ equality. On his first day as president, Biden issued an executive order reinforcing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids the federal government from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity, a policy that reverses action by the previous administration. The new White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Wednesday that Biden will soon reverse the ban on transgender people serving openly in the military. Biden and Harris support ensuring the Equality Act is passed and signed into law, making the act a priority of their administration. Despite marriage equality and employment protections being affirmed by the Supreme Court, LGBTQ+ people still face outright discrimination in housing, credit, education, public accommodations, federally-funded programs, and jury service in most of the United States. Trans and non-binary people — particularly Black women — are experiencing an ongoing epidemic of fatal violence, with 2020 being the deadliest year on record. There is much work to be done.
Biden and Harris have not been perfect on LGBTQ+ rights throughout their political careers, but they have evolved on the issue, and they have evolved much quicker than many of their counterparts. There are many issues that the previous administration and many Republicans have used to fuel what Biden referred to in his inaugural address as an “uncivil war.” LGBTQ+ rights are often at the top of conservatives lists, along with abortion rights, to incite their hate-filled audiences. Conservatives, especially the religious right, see us as undeserving of equality because they see us as sinners while ignoring their own sins. They oppose equality for all those who don’t look like them. Biden will be a leader for all Americans, and he is off to a good start in restoring the setbacks of the previous administration. I believe he will expand those rights in his time in office. There is a lot of hope for the future of LGBTQ+ rights.
“So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodnight” or better yet…just get the fuck out. Donald Trump will be leaving the White House for hopefully the last time this morning, and his reign of terror will be over. He has done everything he could to destroy this country, to take away hard-fought civil rights and civil liberties from American minorities. He has destroyed our relationships with our allies and made the United States the laughingstock of the world. He ignored the pandemic, which has led to the death of 400,000 Americans, more than anywhere else in the world, with his ineptitude and inaction. Now, the disastrous and deadly four years of his presidency are over. For the most part, Donald Trump quit being president after the election. He focused not on the final days of his presidency but conspiracy theories about a stolen election, inciting the destruction of democracy, and probably most important for him, playing golf.
On November 3, 2020, the election of Joe Biden with more votes than any other president in history was a victory for “We the People.” Biden pledges to be a President who seeks not to divide but to unify. The restoration of the soul of the United States begins today at noon. Democrats have won the presidency, they have retained control of the House of Representatives, and they have taken control of the Senate, even if it’s by the slimmest of margins.
Biden brought together the broadest and most diverse coalition in history. He was elected with the support of Democrats, Republicans, Independents, progressives, moderates, conservatives, people young and old, urban, suburban, and rural Americans, gay, straight, transgender individuals, and people of all races: white, black, Latino, Asian, and Native American. Biden will be a president for all Americans, not just those who supported him. He has pledged to be blind to red and blue partisanship. Biden will work to make the promise of the country real for everybody — no matter their race, their ethnicity, their faith, their identity, or their disability.
Biden is unlike any politician I have ever studied. Many politicians are very self-centered and ambitious. Too many are like Trump and have an emotional void that needs to be filled with the praise and the devotion of others. With Biden, his drive and ambition come from his empathy. Americans often choose the opposite of the previous leader, and no one could be more of the opposite of Donald Trump than Joe Biden. I am not claiming that Biden has been unambitious in his career; he has wanted to be president since he was a kid. However, Biden is a man known for his humility and realism that resulted from his upbringing and the lessons learned from a series of devastating personal tragedies. I firmly believe that Biden is right for this moment in our history. He is a politician driven not by a cause but by his desire to ensure a fair shot, stability, and the two most intimate of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms: freedom from want and from fear.
With Biden comes some extraordinary people. Kamala Harris will make history today as the first woman, first Black woman, first woman of South Asian descent, and first daughter of immigrants ever elected as Vice President. As Biden’s website says, “It’s long overdue, and we’re reminded [today] of all those who fought so hard for so many years to make this happen. But once again, America has bent the arc of the moral universe towards justice.”
Though we do not elect the First Lady and Second Gentleman, we are getting the service of two people who could not be more opposite of the counterparts they are replacing. As an educator myself, today is a great day for America’s educators. We will have one of our own in the White House, and Jill will make a great First Lady. Articulate and elegant, Jill Biden replaces a nude fashion model who could barely speak English. Melania Trump hated and made a mockery of the role of the First Lady. Jill Biden will restore respectability to the role of First Lady. Doug Emhoff will become the first Second Gentleman and the first Jewish spouse of a U.S. Vice President. He is a distinguished visiting professor at Georgetown University Law Center, meaning our First Lady and Second Gentleman will both be educators. In his role as Second Gentleman, Emhoff plans to focus on equal access to justice and legal representation.
Furthermore, for the first time, a president’s administration will be the most diverse in history. Biden pledged to create a Cabinet that looked like America. He stated, “I’m going to keep my commitment that the administration, both in the White House and outside in the Cabinet, is going to look like the country.” Biden’s nominations are historic will set records in diversity. If confirmed, his nominees will make history as the most diverse group ever to lead America’s federal agencies. The twenty-four-person Cabinet includes thirteen men and eleven women, and, according to Biden, “more than a dozen history-making appointments, including the first woman secretary of treasury, the first African American defense secretary, the first openly gay Cabinet member, and the first Native American Cabinet secretary.”
The United States is at one of its most critical moments in history. As Biden said in his victory speech on November 7, 2020:
America has always been shaped by inflection points — by moments in time where we’ve made hard decisions about who we are and what we want to be.
Lincoln in 1860 — coming to save the Union.
FDR in 1932 — promising a beleaguered country a New Deal.
JFK in 1960 — pledging a New Frontier.
And twelve years ago — when Barack Obama made history — and told us, “Yes, we can.”
We stand again at an inflection point.
We have the opportunity to defeat despair and to build a nation of prosperity and purpose.
We can do it. I know we can.
I’ve long talked about the battle for the soul of America.
We must restore the soul of America.
Our nation is shaped by the constant battle between our better angels and our darkest impulses.
It is time for our better angels to prevail.
With four years of disaster and deteriorating diplomatic relations, the whole world will be watching what Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and the United States do in this moment. They will watch to see if we will get past this “inflection point.” They will watch to see whether Biden will be able to heal the “soul of the nation” and deal with a bitterly divided country. The world will also be watching to see if Trump will continue to be a thorn in the side of American democracy or if he will receive the punishment he deserves for his crimes. Time will tell, but I believe that we are at a point “Of History and Hope.”
They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in. Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses.
White evangelicals believe they see truths that you and I cannot. This is one of the most dangerous aspects of evangelicalism. As law enforcement tracks down and identifies the insurrectionist terrorists of January 6, it has become more clear who they are and what they wanted. Amid the QAnon adherents, anti-Semites, neo-Confederates, and revolutionary cosplayers were the evangelical faithful: those who see themselves as the vanguard of God’s end-times army. Their proud participation in the riot represented some of the most extreme political actions that any group of evangelicals has taken in recent history. These evangelical participants in that mob believed they were part of a holy war. Insurgents carried signs that read “Jesus Saves,” “In God We Trust,” “Jesus 2020,” and “Jesus Is My Savior, Trump Is My President.” One man marched through the halls of Congress carrying a Christian flag, another a Bible. They chanted, “The blood of Jesus covering this place.”
These “Christians” apparently believe that they had no choice but to try to overthrow Congress. For months, various evangelicals have claimed in sermons, on social media, and during protests that malicious forces stole the election, conspired to suppress Christian liberties, and aimed to suppress on their freedom to worship and spread the Christian gospel. This message is not something new. It has been a message of the Trump era to the Christian faithful warning them that only Trump could save Christianity. Evangelical leader Franklin Graham threw his support behind Donald Trump throughout his 2016 campaign and continued to do so during Trump’s presidency. Most of the evangelical community followed suit. Now, Graham is still firmly behind Trump, even though the president incited an insurrection and repeated baseless lies that the election was stolen from him. In fact, Graham championed those conspiracy theories, and now, he’s comparing the Republicans who voted in favor of impeachment with the Christian disciple Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus for thrity pieces of silver. Like many in the far-right Christian conservative movement, Graham believes that Donald Trump is Christianity’s new savior.
Liberty University’s think tank, the Falkirk Center for Faith and Liberty, which was launched in 2019 and named after its co-founders: Jerry Falwell Jr., the now disgraced and former Liberty University president and Charlie Kirk, the political activist and founder of Turning Point USA, has gone so far as to try to take Christ out of Christianity because they perceive Him as too weak. The Falkirk website states: “Bemoaning the rise of leftism is no longer enough. Although we do, as Jesus taught, turn the other cheek in our personal relationships, we cannot abdicate our responsibilities on the cultural battlefield. There is too much at stake in the clash for the soul of our nation. Bold, unapologetic engagement and initiative is needed on the part of every conservative American.” Falkirk churns out a steady stream of propaganda to convince Christian conservatives they are oppressed victims in society, church, politics, culture, child-rearing, and every other dimension of life. Commentators at the center do not believe “a real Christian can vote Democratic” because of the “blasphemous accouterments” of the party. People who disagree with Falkirk’s politics are treated as part of the shadowy, undefined cabal of “they” and “them” that persecutes and hates conservative Christians. The Falkirk Center doesn’t like it when other groups—racial minorities, for example—describe reality in terms of oppression and power, because this is a central part of Falkirk’s propaganda. They believe that if Christian patriots have power, they must use it to reshape culture and push out the leftists. If Christians have lost power, they must regain it before they are crushed by the elites. On January 6, the day of the storming of the U.S. Capitol and the certification of Joe Biden’s election, Falkirk perfunctorily denounced the violence at the Capitol. But just one day later, the center was still peddling fears of massive voter fraud, saying that the fraud “debate” will be an open question for years to come. The Falkirk team seems utterly oblivious to the fact that it was precisely their brand of rhetoric—besieged, terrified, Christian nationalist, and masculinity-obsessed—that stirred up the anti-democratic rioters of last week.
The “Christian” insurrectionists believed that the final days of history were at hand and that the Capitol was the site of a battle so important and significant it would have the power to usher in a new era of Christian dominance. As one evangelical from Texas told The New York Times, “We are fighting good versus evil, dark versus light.” This belief comes from a movement in Christianity (and a few other religions) called Millennialism. Christianity and Judaism have both produced messianic movements that featured millennialist teachings—a belief that an earthly kingdom of God is at hand. These millennialist movements often led to considerable social unrest. Many if not most millennialist groups claim that the current society and its rulers are corrupt, unjust, or otherwise wrong and will soon be destroyed by a powerful force. The harmful nature of the status quo is considered intractable without the anticipated dramatic change. The French sociologist and Dominican priest Henri Desroche observed that millennialist movements often envisioned three periods in which change might occur. First, the movement’s elected members will be increasingly oppressed, leading to the second period in which the movement resists the oppression. The third period brings about a new utopian age, liberating the members of the movement. The current millennialist movement believes that Donald Trump is their messiah and will deliver them from the oppressive nature of liberals, i.e., the Democratic Party and especially its progressive wing. Trump and his followers love to invoke the word “socialism” as the greatest evil that exists. I have heard many times, “I don’t want to live in a socialist country.”
Much has been made about the evangelical community’s relationship with Donald Trump. Typically, observers tend to view this alliance as purely transactional, with evangelicals holding their noses and pledging their support to the least Christian of men to get something in return—most notably, a trio of religiously conservative Supreme Court justices. The misguided and short-sighted belief that evangelicals are overlooking the unchristian behavior of Trump is dangerous. I have talked to some of these people, and they honestly believe that Trump is the most Christian president in history, though they can never articulate why they think this other than the misguided belief that he is pro-life. If you think that evangelicals are just overlooking his behavior, they are not. They are blinded to it, and they are so caught up in a religious fervor that they cannot see what is staring them in the face. They have lost their way, and they are not just wandering in the wilderness. They don’t even realize that they are lost or even in the wilderness. The Capitol attack revealed in all its gruesome detail the extent to which Trump channels the apocalyptic fervor that has long animated many white evangelical Christians in this country. They believe the end times are near and their flawed but “King David-like” leader Donald Trump will save them.
From the moment that Christian separatists landed on North America’s shores, they have espoused end-times conspiracies. Their messages have been relatively innocuous most of the time, part of the broader millennialist outlook shared among most major religious traditions. But these conspiracies can have dangerous consequences—and sometimes they lead to violence. Take, for example, the results of Jonestown. On November 18, 1978, 909 individuals died in Jonestown, from apparent cyanide poisoning, in an event termed “revolutionary suicide” by the cult leader Jim Jones. Jones led a left-wing oriented cult, but current evangelical millennialists have taken up the same religious zeal. Throughout American history, every evangelical generation has seen some of its believers driven to extreme conspiracies that blend with other strains of militant political faith. In the Trump era, with the destabilizing impact of a global pandemic and a devastated economy, white evangelical Christianity has become entangled with a broader revolution against the government to keep Donald Trump in office, culminating (so far) in an insurrection in the name of Jesus Christ breaking out in tandem with the Trump voter fraud coup. What might be the most fighting aspect of this is that the violence of January 6 is, in all likelihood, a foretelling of where this group might go once Trump is finally out of office and their desperation reaches a fever pitch.
Evangelical apocalypticism is grounded in a complicated and convoluted reading of the biblical books of Daniel, Ezekiel, and Revelation, some of the most violent books in the Bible. Because of a confluence of factors such as the death and destruction caused by the Civil War, massive immigration, growing religious diversity in the United States that threatened Protestant power, and new secularizing forces, such as Darwin’s theory of evolution, a small group of evangelical preachers, businessmen, college professors, publishers, and laypeople began reading their Bibles with new eyes. This group became increasingly influential and took hold as a reaction to the Roaring Twenties and later to the spread of communism in the 1950s. Factor in the civil rights movements of minorities and evangelicals are downright apoplectic. Four years ago, this apocalyptic zeal has found a national leader in the most unlikely of men, Donald Trump.
According to evangelicals, the current age will climax with the restoration of Jews to Palestine and the emergence of powerful empires in Rome, Russia, and Asia. Seeking to unite the world’s nations and end chaos and war, a new leader will appear promising peace and security. Unwilling or unable to recognize that he is the prophesied Antichrist, most political and religious leaders worldwide will cede their sovereignty and independence to him through an international agency. Just before the Antichrist is revealed for the threat that he is, all true Christians will vanish from the earth in “the rapture,” joining the resurrected Jesus in heaven. Shortly after that, the imposter will lead the world through seven years of tribulation, at the end of which Jesus and the saints will return to earth and battle the forces of evil at Armageddon (a literal place they believe is in Israel). Christ will defeat the Antichrist and establish a millennial kingdom of peace and prosperity on earth. Such convictions made evangelicals astute students of world events, and it is probably also the reason they are so accepting of Trump’s lies. They are dangerously gullible. They were and are continually lining up global changes with their reading of their apocalyptic prophecy. I remember the syndicated program Jack Van Impe Presentshosted by the late Jack Van Impe and his wife, Rexella. Week after week, Van Impe predicted a date for the end-times becoming more desperate as the day drew near until it eventually passed, after which he chose a new date. His program consisted of a commentary on the news of the week through an interpretation of the Bible. Many evangelicals hung on his and the words of other “prophets.”
Most of these evangelical millennialists do not believe that the U.S. is described in the Bible’s end-times history. They hope through their perseverance that the U.S. might be one of the few faithful nations, an end-times stronghold where true Christianity is practiced, the gospel is preached, and the power of the Antichrist is challenged continuously and subverted until Christ returns to save them. While evangelicals hope for this, they fear that, unless they act decisively, the U.S. might relinquish its independence and align with the Antichrist. They have merged Christian universalism with American nationalism, remaking evangelicalism as a Christian nationalist movement through this belief. This apocalyptic thinking has defined the evangelical movement for the last century and a half. It was central to the ministry of almost every prominent American evangelical megachurch pastor, radio preacher, or television pioneer, from Aimee Semple McPherson to Billy Graham to Jerry Falwell. Evangelist Billy Sunday said, “Christianity and Patriotism are synonymous terms, and hell and traitors are synonymous.”
Evangelicals’ apocalyptic beliefs foster a sense of urgency and certainty and a vision of the world defined in absolute terms. Many evangelicals believe that they are engaged in the ultimate game of good versus evil. They have no time or regard for incremental change or for reasoning with those who disagree with them. They call for drastic and immediate solutions to the problems they see around them. For evangelicals, apocalypticism fills the in blanks, rationalizes their choices, and connects the dots, culminating in their unceasing devotion to Donald Trump, while making their actions more urgent and compromise unlikely.
Evangelicals have eagerly embraced Trump’s conspiratorial lies. They believe that Barack Obama was born in Africa and is a Muslim. They partner with QAnon activists in accusing Democrats and Hollywood stars of secretly committing atrocious immoral acts that include cannibalism and pedophilia. They argue that George Soros is using his vast wealth to build a one-world government. They see lies as truth and truth as lies. In their world, Joe Biden stole the 2020 presidential election from Donald Trump. A fake election pushing Trump out of the way means Satan can bring his plans for globalization and world domination, through the Antichrist, to fruition.
The apocalypse that evangelicals have been predicting for generations seems for some to have finally begun. A Biden administration, they are confident, is not only illegitimate but will also align with the forces of evil, from the U.N. to a cabal of international Jews, to persecute all true Christians. This white evangelical segment sees itself as a besieged minority, surrounded on all sides by the forces of darkness, sin, and secularism. This makes them just as dangerous as a wild animal that is cornered and scared. They believe that, in the last days, governments will turn against them, and their religious liberty will be suppressed. From COVID-19 shutdowns to alleged election fraud, their reading of current events tells them that the end times have begun. They believe that the Bible demands that they go to war against the Antichrist and all of his minions. Suppose Joe Biden and the other leaders of the U.S. government—now including even staunch Christian conservatives like Mike Pence—represent the forces of the Antichrist. In that case, the faithful have no choice but to organize against them. They need to stop the Antichrist by any means necessary. God demands no less than insurrection.
Evangelicals do not understand that they are following evil and excusing it by claiming to follow God. They misinterpret the false prophets and teachers described in 2 Peter to mean that those opposed to their beliefs are these false prophets. Second Peter 2:1-3 says,
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
They continually pervert the Bible to be interpreted to fit their apocalyptic and fanatical beliefs. They use to oppress others and impose their brand of government that would allow no dissent to their beliefs.
Matthew 4:1 says, “Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.” The devil has tempted evangelicals, but instead of resisting temptation, they have allowed Satan to control them. The Devil thrives on lies, sedition, and hubris. I won’t go so far as to say that Donald Trump is doing the Devil’s bidding, but I will say that Donald Trump is not following the will of God. Evangelicals in America have gotten lost because they chose the temptation of power over the command of brotherhood and faith. Paul’s teaching on the Christian’s relationship to civil government is outlined in Romans 13. Romans 13:1-2 says, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”
At the heart of Christianity is selflessness and love. The heart of American conservatism is personal freedom and individualism at the expense of oppressing those who do not fall under their white evangelical personification. Sadly, far-right Christians such as Liberty University have chosen the latter while calling it the former. Brad Littlejohn, a fellow at the conservative think-tank the Edmund Burke Foundation, championed selfishness and wrote in 2019 that in an unselfish world, “parents couldn’t really give each of their children a Christmas gift—something perfectly chosen for that child’s interests and developmental needs. As soon as they gave the gift, the child would look for another sibling to give it to. Pretty soon, the children would be passing all of their gifts around in a confusion of constant sharing, rather than going off to their rooms to practice for an hour on their new ukulele. By the next day, they would probably have given all their gifts away to the neighbor kids. Indeed, in this world, parents wouldn’t have given their kids gifts in the first place—come Christmas, they would’ve scanned the world for the neediest person they could find and given everything they could to that person instead. Or rather, they would have long since given away all their earthly possessions in a frenzy of selflessness (even as other equally selfless people tried to load them with new possessions).” This statement, though hyperbolic, is a clear rejection of the selfless teachings of Christ and one that attempt to portray selfishness and greed as a Christian virtue.
For years we have seen people try to convince themselves that America is a “Christian” nation. But when their ideals of America collide with their ideals of Christianity, such as selflessness and charity, evangelicals believe that we must remake Christianity into their perverted capitalist, white supremacist beliefs. Sadly, evangelical conservatives in the Republican Party have chosen their brand of American patriotism over Jesus. They have lost their way, and we must pray that they can find truth and repentance before they destroy us all by continuing to back power-hungry, egomaniacal politicians like Donald Trump. Politicians of this ilk will continue to use apocalyptic fear to have influence over and support from delusional evangelicals. Trump may be losing his grip as many turn against him after he incited a terrorist attack against Congress, but another will replace him. Already, Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley are jockeying for that position. We have to be diligent and stop their brand of apocalyptic extremism.