PAUL BUTLER: From WORLD Opinions: exploring the key takeaways from election 2022. Moderating is WORLD Opinions editor and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler:
ALBERT MOHLER: We have an earthly responsibility. But our trust is in Christ.
PB: He's joined by a four member panel, including managing editor Andrew Walker.
ANDREW WALKER: While politics isn't everything, politics does matter.
PB: And WORLD Opinions columnist Hunter Baker:
HUNTER BAKER: We're seeing improvements with regard to the voting patterns of people in demographics that usually just don't vote.
PB: Allie Beth Stuckey...
ALLIE BETH STUCKEY: As Elisabeth Elliot always said, "The only thing that you have to do today is the will of God."
PB: And Erick Erikson.
ERICK ERICKSON: We believe in a worldview that suggests we should vote in a certain way, but that we also suggest [that] we have to be committed to the truth.
PB: This is a rebroadcast from a WORLD Opinions video panel discussion held Thursday night after the election. As we begin, a little bit more about each of our panelists.
Allie Beth Stuckey is a wife, mom, host of the BlazeTV podcast, Relatable, and author of You’re Not Enough (& That’s Okay): Escaping the Toxic Culture of Self-Love.
Erick Erickson is a lawyer by training, has been a political campaign manager and consultant, helped start one of the world's premiere grassroots conservative websites, and hosts a national radio program.
Andrew T. Walker is the managing editor of WORLD Opinions. He serves as a professor of Christian ethics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and as a fellow with The Ethics and Public Policy Center.
And Hunter Baker serves as dean of arts and sciences and professor of political science at Union University. He is a research fellow of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and the author of three books.
And now here's your moderator, Albert Mohler.
MOHLER: Welcome to this first WORLD Opinions conversation, we are thrilled you've joined us and I'm very glad to be joined by the panelists today. We are coming together for this conversation because of the 2022 midterm elections in the United States. And as a matter of Christian interest and of Christian thinking, we really want to put our heads together to try to figure this out. Our job at WORLD Opinions is to bring to our readers, and the WORLD family, first rate commentary, thinking, and analysis from a Christian perspective. And to bring Christian voices to so many of these issues.
There has been plenty of conversation about the 2022 election, no doubt about that. The big issue is what should we be thinking about? How should we be framing our thinking about the election? And how do we rightly talk about this with others, from members of our own family, to members of our own churches and neighbors, and then the larger community? And so I simply want to turn to each of our panelists. And I want to ask you, straightforwardly, what is the meaning of the election thus far? What do we know thus far? And Allie Beth, I'll ask you to go first, what do the 2022 elections mean?
STUCKEY: Oh, there are so many lessons I think that we can learn from it. I think there are reasons to be sad and reasons to be happy. As Christian conservatives, obviously the pro-life measures—both for and against abortion—in six states in the United States they did not go the way that pro-lifers want them to go. Of course, we are against a machine that is funded by millions and millions of dollars. So there's some difficulty there. But of course, there's reason to be disappointed and discouraged. But I also think there's a reason to be happy.
Specifically, if you look at a lot of local races. Yes, there are national races that we won. But local races, many Conservatives won their school board races. And I think that seems to be a little bit of a change. Something that has mobilized over the past couple of years. And I'm really optimistic about what that can do for our school system, and what that can do for our local communities.
MOHLER: Allie Beth, I really appreciate you thinking about that. And sharing that from your perspective. What did you say about the election before the election that really frames this for you?
STUCKEY: So I wasn't someone who predicted that it was going to be a red wave or a red tsunami. I was hoping that we would have some more surprises from the Conservative side than we did. But I also didn't share the deep depression that a lot of people did the day after. Number one, of course, because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). And so that is where my hope and joy rests. But also, there are a lot of things, a lot of wins to be happy about, of course the transformation of the state of Florida by Ron DeSantis. By leading on what is often called the "culture war" issues. I think that shows where a lot of Americans are in their priorities. I knew that was going to be the case, and that shaped up to be the case. And so I can't say that I was too surprised by anything that happened on Tuesday.
MOHLER: Eric, what about you? You talk politics all the time, and lots of folks listen to what you have to say. What about the election? What does it mean?
ERICKSON: I say it's like Schrödinger's cat, only Schrödinger's wave election. If you look at it, there was not one. If you don't look at it, there was. Republicans actually picked up seats in deep blue, New York. Along Long Island. They wiped out the Democrats. They got Florida, of course. They had a blowout in Iowa: they got the Iowa Attorney General's race for the first time in 40 years. They've got a super majority now in the North Carolina State Senate. And one vote shy in the State House. Picked up their Supreme Court in North Carolina and Nevada. They did quite well locally around Nevada. If you look at it, though, it looks like it was a very indecisive, muddied election. Candidate quality certainly mattered. And also, if you look at the exit polling, which is fairly precise, these days independent voters said they'd rather go through these uncharted times with the Democrats who they know, than the Republicans they're concerned about. That is an easy fix for the GOP, more than it is culturally for the Democrats who are very much locked in now to a progressive ideology. The voters said last night that 70% they do not like.
MOHLER: So what's your biggest surprise?
ERICKSON: My big surprise, actually, is that this wave crested in ways we didn't expect. I knew candidates mattered greatly, but to see Michigan, for example, flipped so far to the left after what it went through under Gretchen Whitmer's policies last year, kind of disappointing for the GOP. At the same time, the Republicans who were elected are the most diverse crop of Republicans ever. Asian, Hispanic, and African American voters have started making decisive shifts towards the GOP as well.
MOHLER: Yeah, I will simply say my biggest surprise, as a native Floridian, is Palm Beach County in the gubernatorial race there in Florida. If you'd told me just a few years ago that Palm Beach County would go decisively—in this case very clearly—for a Republican, and a conservative Republican like Ron DeSantis, that would have been almost unimaginable.
ERICKSON: 56% of the Hispanic vote in Florida went for Ron Desantis. Only a third last time.
MOHLER: All right, Hunter. What about it?
BAKER: Well, you know, I'm gonna say something a little bit different. First of all, I want to say that we are on day two. We are finishing the second day after the election, and we're still counting votes. And actually, I'm involved with an organization that works on political depolarization. And we brought voters together to talk about confidence in the system, which is a really big issue right now. And unanimously, the people who participated—we call them Reds and Blues—unanimously, they all said, "We want all the votes counted on election day." The fact that we're sitting here, you know, 48 hours after everything is shut down. And we still don't know, really in a decisive way at all, I mean, we're still waiting on significant matters, undermines people's confidence. Regardless of whether the whole election denial sort of narrative is true or not, it doesn't help Americans feel good about the process that basically decides how things are going to go in this country to be waiting like this.
MOHLER: Yeah Hunter I appreciate that. If we just stipulate for a moment, let's just for the sake of argument, let's say, we don't have any doubts about the integrity electoral system, let's just stipulate that for a moment for argument. You know, it certainly doesn't help when we're reminded of 52,000 votes, or there are more votes coming in from here and there in terms of remote voting. And these are political choices. And I try to remind people that we should be thankful we don't have a national electoral system. I'm a Federalist. I believe in the authority of the states to conduct these elections. And so you talk about the opportunity for mischief…you centralize it all in a federal authority, it just makes it all the more dangerous. But you know, these states have made decisions. And the decisions made by states like Pennsylvania, that they're not even going to work on these ballots until the polls open on election day, and then they're gonna go through a process—and look, much of that process makes sense—but it sews seeds of suspicion that after the votes are cast, folks are going to manipulate it. It reminds me of the fact that Robert Caro and his magisterial biography of Lyndon Johnson reminds us that in one of his Senate races, they did keep the phones open until they had as many votes as they needed. And that's not something that's contestable now in terms of American history. Nor do I mean to sow seeds of doubt, it's just that the fact that Election Day is a very important thing. If the state of Florida can have [all its] votes, it's just a reminder with all its population that it is not impossible to have votes on election day.
BAKER: Yeah. And you know, the thing is that as polarized as our society is right now, we need everything working in our favor that we can have that will give people confidence. Right? So that means that the most fundamental blocking and tackling in the system have to do that well, right? People have to feel confident, kind of like flying a plane, right? You want to know that the plane is being flown properly. How much more something that really is going to affect our lives like a national election.
MOHLER: Dr. Andrew Walker. So you have been up later than usual at night, trying to figure out the meaning of these things. So take a stab at it. You're up to bat?
WALKER: I think obviously, there was a media expectations game, that perhaps I'll own…that I might have gotten duped a little bit thinking that this was going to be a little bit bigger of a wave than what really actually transpired. But what I'm kind of thinking about right now, in the aftermath of this is when you consider the state of the economy, when you look at things like gas prices, when you look at the explosive division that's happening in public schools…those realities didn't really move the needle, that drastically. It sends the signal to me that Americans are pretty entrenched in their viewpoints. And I think that kind of picks up on some themes that we've writing about it at WORLD Opinions. We're living increasingly in a polarized America. In two Americas.
And I think the fact that in typical election years these dinner table type topics—like the economy—didn't really flip the election in one way. Which means that there are pre-commitments that individuals have to their parties ideologically, that is not going to drive them out of that party. It raises the question for me of whether there really is that persuadable middle left in America at this point?
MOHLER: Yeah, that's a very good point. But there has to be a middle to some degree, because if you start with something like forty to forty four percent for both parties. That obviously turnout is one factor. But, you do have some really interesting data coming in about the suburbs. And the fact that you really are looking at Suburban precincts where you have two phenomena: one of them is election by election—on a two year pattern—they do swing back and forth somewhat. Now, there aren't that many, but they tend to have a lot of people and be very strategically located in states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania. The other interesting thing is that as you look at this, people really did split tickets this time. And, for instance, the under vote for Herschel Walker in the Senate race in Georgia compared to the vote for Brian Kemp for governor…that's a pretty significant undercount at this point. So that tells us something right?
WALKER: Yeah, I think it does. I will fully own the fact that I'm not a statistician, or know the demographics super well, but it seems to me that even if we account for an undertone election, I would still argue that the share of that middle block is arguably shortening in America. Because you talk about this all the time: the party's platforms from 1960 to today are on completely different planets and in different moral universes. And so I think what we're seeing right now, is we're living in an America where if even if you're moderately paying attention to the party's platform, they're so stark—and often irreconcilable—that you're going to have to choose which party you're going to be with, and you're not probably going to be there by accident.
MOHLER: You know, Andrew, to make your point, one of the things we notice is that there is a shrinking middle. No doubt about it—has been for a long time—because the polarization in this country means that if you're a serious voter, you pretty well know what kind of serious voter you are. But what's really interesting is that in that swing, whatever it is, let's just say for sake of conversation, it's between five and 8%, there seem to be two things that drive a lot of the attention. One of them is, “Do I like the way things are going?” And then the second thing is, “Do I like this person, man or woman?” And I'll just say that that's not a particularly informed vote either way?
WALKER: No, I think that's completely correct. And I think that we're also seeing the fact that the rise of some of these kind of personality candidates is drawing people, not so much into issues of substance that we would hope it would be, but it's more kind of tribal shibboleths and tribal identification. Who represents you and your party that you think is most representing you? And, they're there for your behalf.
MOHLER: Allie Beth, the election on Tuesday was for me, devastating. Because the unmitigated disaster it represented for the cause of the sanctity of human life. We had three states, Michigan, California and Vermont, pass constitutional amendments that are so radical, it is not fair to suggest that they just codified Roe v. Wade—especially in the state of Vermont. You're talking about a right of so-called reproductive freedom that apparently has no boundary whatsoever. And in Michigan and California, close to being the same. And here in Kentucky, and then also in Montana, but I'll stay very close to home here in Kentucky, we devastatingly lost a simple constitutional amendment that simply would have stated that there is no right to abortion in the Kentucky constitution. You care so deeply about these issues, what does Tuesday mean?
STUCKEY: Yes. You talked about the Kentucky amendment being clear, the Montana measure was not as clear but still extremely disturbing. This was a measure that simply would have guaranteed caring for children who survived abortions. So we don't even have the euphemism of bodily autonomy or “my body, my choice” anymore. They literally voted for taking away medical care from children outside of the womb.
But like you said, in Kentucky, it was very simple. And it could have passed. I don't like to simply blame it on the abortion lobby, the fact is, there are hundreds of millions of dollars, and the behemoth that is the abortion activist lobby that works against these kinds of measures spreading all kinds of misinformation. And what I found among Christian women, even those who would identify as pro-life, or this term that we've heard increasingly over the past couple of years, holistically pro-life, they were really taken in by a lot of the narratives that said any restriction on abortion will restrict a woman from receiving care for miscarriages or receiving care for ectopic pregnancies.
I and many other people tried so hard to show them the legislation—to show them that's simply not the case when it comes to the laws that are on the books. And yet a lot of people in the name of empathy, and the name of what I would think is misplaced or misunderstood compassion, have believed this. That it's actually not compassionate to be for these pro-life measures. I don't know if that was the decisive factor when it comes to Kentucky. But that is what I am seeing, even among Christian women who call themselves pro life. And it's really a shame. I'm not sure what else we can do besides just tell them the truth.
MOHLER: You know, that’s certainly a place to start. And I think some confrontation is going to be called for in terms of especially those who identify as evangelical Christians, and yet have so utterly failed in translating the sanctity of human life into electoral choices. You know, years ago—but not that long ago—in the state of Mississippi, arguably the most pro-life state in the union, they turned down a personhood amendment. And just because they get scared of it. The other side scared voters away from the personhood amendment by saying this will happen, and that will happen. In Kentucky, the very same thing. And we're talking about almost $10 million dollars of outside money. I agree with you. You cannot blame the pro-abortion movement for being pro-abortion. That's who they are. I blame the voters of Kentucky who have indicated by other means—and by the way, they gave percentages of about 80% in both houses of the Kentucky General Assembly, and that's a pro life vote—but they didn't translate it in that amendment where it matters. Allie Beth, I think a part of it is that evangelicals are scared by arguments that this policy will lead to hard cases. What do we do with that?
STUCKEY: Anything that has to do with morality, any law that represents righteousness, is going to present difficulty. I mean, that's one of the reasons why we have judges. They are supposed to judge these difficult cases. It's almost as if—and we kind of saw this same thing over the past couple of years with a lot of the restrictions that were put in place—people looking for something that has no debate or no discussion or no difficulty or no nuance whatsoever. And that's just not what happens.
But of course as pro-lifers we care about the sanctity of the mother's life and the child's life. But what we're looking at here is the physical life of the child versus the choice—or maybe the well-being (in tangible or not) of the mother—and when you pit those two things against each other, of course the right to life should win out every time. For some reason, I do think that that is really difficult for a lot of Christians with good compassionate intentions to remember, because the personhood of the child is so often in every conversation just completely ignored. I even find a lot of people who identify, you know, in the realm of pro-life just forgetting what abortion is what the procedure actually looks like.
MOHLER: Allie Beth thank you. I want to turn to Eric, let me ask you a political question. How in the world can we translate pro-life votes when it comes to candidates into pro-life votes when it comes to policy?
BAKER: The carrot and the stick approach is one way to do it. You also have to give a little room for compromise. So for example, in Georgia, they passed the six week fetal heart ban before the 2020 election. And the most contested state legislative race in the entire country was Ed Setzler in Cobb County, Georgia, part of the state that had shifted dramatically to the Democrats. His district had been won by Stacey Abrams and won by Hillary Clinton. He was a Republican, knocked door to door, did grassroots talks to the black voters who were becoming a majority of his district. And he won, despite more money spent against him than any other state legislator in the entire nation. He got reelected after passing that (e.d. the six week fetal heart beat ban). That sort of sent a big signal at the same time. There were members of the pro-life community in Georgia, attacking the fetal heartbeat legislation and any Republican who dared to support it, because they didn't think it went far enough. The Republicans were able to push it through though and suffered no penalty.
In fact, I was looking at the exit poll in Georgia, Brian Kemp, one overwhelmingly the voters who decided they either wanted limits on abortion or absolute prohibitions, he got 40% of those who wanted restrictions. But interestingly enough, how did the voters of Georgia view the Dobbs decision? 75% supported the Dobbs decision. The pro-life community I think so long focused on just let us have the conversation by getting Roe v. Wade, we never spent time on how to have the conversation once Roe v. Wade was gone. I think we have to try to figure that out. And it's going to be regionally different.
One interesting side point on this New York State, which has very aggressive pro-abortion legislation, saw Republicans picking up deep blue centers of New York because women voters didn't feel threatened that their abortion rights would go away. We the pro-life community need to make sure Republicans don't look at that and become tempted to enshrine further abortion legislation nationally in order to pick up seats and legislatures.
MOHLER: Yeah, Andrew Walker, you have worked on this issue for so long and so passionately. So Eric says we have got to make the case and make it legislatively. So make it. Just make the case for us? How do we make the case in a way that will catch the conscience and translate it into votes among evangelical Christians?
WALKER: Sure. One of the ways I frame this up whenever I'm teaching on this, or giving a speech on this is to remember that Christians in this discussion are the ones that are seeking to expand the canopy of human dignity. And it's pro-choice individuals who are seeking to restrict the canopy of human dignity. And in the full sweep of human history, I think history judges those well who are defending the rights of those who are marginalized, oppressed, and are voiceless. And so I think this actually gives us a powerful rhetorical tool for us to understand that this is Christian—in the sense that we believe that every human being is made in God's image, and therefore has profound inherent worth and dignity. But this is also a profoundly American way to argue as well.
The fact that when we think about the Declaration of Independence—that we're endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights—to distinguish why those rights apply to outside the womb, but not inside the womb, requires some logical steps that I think we need to be willing to call individuals to account for. To do it in a loving, passionate, and sympathetic way. But to understand that the whole project of the American experiment, I think, is one where we're able to continually self-perfect and self-reform our nation.
I feel like this issue in particular is one where we are on that long march, to really be consistent with our creed: the Declaration of Independence. And so I think this is why we should be encouraged and heartened. It means we have to keep making the arguments. I echo what Eric said, my fear is right now that because of the setbacks that happened on Tuesday, that this is going to lead a lot of individuals to want to kind of just run in the opposite direction. And my plea to those types of individuals would be to understand that this is never less than a Christian issue. So go to Psalm 139. Absolutely. But to understand that this is fundamentally an American issue, and we should see ourselves carrying the mantle and carrying the tradition of what it has meant to be America at its best.
MOHLER: And this is a fixable issue, Andrew, in other words, this issue is not beyond political correction. I think it's a very important point. This is a moral battle. But there's a political responsibility, and there still is a political opportunity.
WALKER: Right now we can look at what happened on Tuesday and put ourselves back in January, 1973. It seems dispiriting. It seems like we're at a low point again. And in terms of American conversation around this, okay, well, things were bad in 1973. Things aren't great right now, based on what happened on Tuesday. But it means that from Tuesday's results, it simply means more work. And so the work that began in 1973, in terms of coalition's policy work, academics, activists, those doing the hard work of grassroots mobilization, it means we have to do more of that right now. I think if anything, what's encouraging, we actually have an infrastructure right now in place across 50 states for this conversation to continue. We just can't turn backwards to this conversation, because we had we suffered a defeat on Tuesday.
MOHLER: Hunter Baker, you teach political science and your students flock to your classes because they want to hear what you have to say about—not only the theory of state—but our understanding of what's going on right now. So let me ask you a right-now question as a political scientist. WORLD Magazine back in October reported that former President Trump's coattails politically, were not as long as they appeared to be. And so as you're looking at this, you recognize that politics is a matter of policy and of person. So as a political scientist, let me ask you, how does that factor in here? The person and the policy, because it appeared that you had voters in places like Georgia, or Pennsylvania, and I'll center on Pennsylvania, who said, these are the policies we want, but we don't want this person. Help us with that.
BAKER: I think that Donald Trump has had effects in different directions, right? On the one hand, we're seeing improvements with regard to the voting patterns of people in demographics that usually just don't vote Republican—or vote Republican less often, right? So for example, the numbers of Hispanics seems to be up. I was reading a column from Ruy Teixeira, who used to say that the non white voters would swamp the white voters, and there would be a permanent Democratic majority because of that. And he's repudiated that now. Because of the different direction that we've seen some of these voters go. So Donald Trump has clearly made a difference there somewhere—through maybe his own celebrity, through the mix of policies that he has put forward.
But the other thing is that he also seems to repel. So for example, one group—and this relates to the previous question—one group that the Democrats have been really trying to activate, especially since about 2012, is the unmarried female voter. In fact, a lot of people felt that the Health and Human Services mandate, you know, the famous Hobby Lobby case, and many of our institutions dealt with this challenge of being forced to purchase contraceptive and abortifacient products…a lot of people thought that policy was explicitly designed to get single female voters to the polls. They're sympathetic to the Democratic Party, but they were not great about getting out to the polls.
I think that a combination of Dobbs, and the person of Donald Trump motivated unmarried female voters to come to the polls, and probably in large numbers we talked about. Why didn't we get a wave? Well, part of the reason you don't get a wave is that the wave is blunted by unmarried female voters.
MOHLER: Yeah. So let me ask you a question straightforwardly. So using the categories of “over-voting” and “under vote,” where an over-vote means that a candidate gets votes he or she doesn't really deserve—carried by someone else. And under-vote is where people don't get votes they should have deserved because of their policy. So for instance, you look at the Senate race in Pennsylvania, a lot closer than the governor's race. And so you look at that and let me ask you: what are the lessons about that under-vote? In other words, it really was a repudiation of certain kinds of candidates. Not uniform, but nonetheless, there's a pretty good pattern of a certain kind of candidate that voters didn't want.
BAKER: We've seen a lot about the Democrats…[they] had a strategy of funding some of these candidates who were, maybe we identify them as the MAGA. The MAGA candidate over against maybe the more typical Republican candidate. And Democrats made a bet that those would be better to face in the election than the typical person with an “R” on their jersey. And it looks like that may have been a pretty good strategy, that a lot of these candidates were not candidates of quality, and that hurt the Republicans in the midterms.
MOHLER: Allie Beth, a few years ago in the gubernatorial election in Virginia, it turns out that the most crucial distinction in voting—the most crucial contrast—was between women who voted without children in the home, and women who voted with children in the home. The latter went overwhelmingly conservative and Republican. But on the other side, those without children in the home were overwhelmingly liberal and Democrat. Have you got an answer for why that's true?
STUCKEY: Yeah, so I was thinking about this today—about why sixty three percent of unmarried women, as we just heard, are voting Democrat versus a much lower percentage of married women. I think that there are a few reasons that you're probably more likely to be Christian or religious, or have some kind of traditional worldview, if you are getting married, and not just going around to multiple partners, or whatever it is.
And then you're also more likely to have kids probably than unmarried women. And having kids—the nature of marriage, and the nature of motherhood—changes your perspective on the world. You are no longer just thinking about yourself and your job. And that's not to say that unmarried women can also be very selfless. But it forces you into a perspective of thinking, not just how this policy affects me and my pocketbook, but how does it affect my children, their safety, their well being, their education, and also their children?
I mean, your world, your perspective, your concerns, your hopes, your fears, widen, expand so much when you get married, and then also when you become a mother. And I also think a lot of people don't want to say this, but look, a lot of women—married women—one of the reasons why they vote Republican in alignment and closer alignment with men (unmarried and married) is because they are influenced, and I think, rightly and healthily so by their husbands. Their husbands are talking to them about politics. And so they are probably getting their understanding of the world in politics more from conversations with their husband, whereas unmarried women are very often getting it from social media, only getting it from their friends. They're getting it from different sources. So there are many reasons—I think many good reasons—why a married woman tends to vote conservative versus an unmarried woman.
MOHLER: Now, I'll be honest, I've not heard that last argument before. I think it's phenomenally insightful. I really appreciate that. Eric, I want to ask you a blunt question. The media is saying that the big winner of the 2022 midterm elections is Joe Biden, the President of the United States. He wasn't on the ballot. But maybe he was. Was he?
ERICKSON: Oh, absolutely. If you look at the voters, according to the exit polling, having adjusted now to the turnout, Americans do not like Joe Biden. Do not want Joe Biden to run again. Do not like the way he's handled the economy. Do not like the way he's handled education policy in the country. Do not like the way he's handled inflation. Do not like anything he's done. And yet they preferred him and his party to the Republican’s best midterm showing of any president in his first term outside of George W. Bush in 2002. Because they were able to make this about “go with the people you know that you don't like than with the people who seem crazy on the other side.”
It was a strategy, very effectively pulled off by the Democrats with aid from a lot of Republicans they helped get the Republican nomination. So I would say yes, it was a very good night for the President. And in fact, he's gone from being someone that the media was already starting to do reports suggesting he was getting too old to be the leader of the Democratic Party, to now the guy who's the front runner for the Democratic nomination in 2024 if he wants it.
MOHLER: But did you hear his speech to the staff of the Democratic National Committee? I mean, what do we do with that? Who is that?
BAKER: Well, the problem here is that the media by and large had started criticizing him thinking this red wave was coming. They will pull that back now. And if you have Donald Trump announcing next week that he wants to be president of the United States, it is very clear this is the first election in the last five, where independent voters broke for the Democratic Party. They have tended to go for the Republicans. It's a very easy get for the Republicans to get them back. But the fact that independent voters hate everything about the economy and the direction of the country, and still wanted to go for Joe Biden really speaks volumes that the Republicans have a problem with candidate quality.
MOHLER: And Andrew Walker, I know you keep up with what the President is saying. And the Joe Biden who showed up to declare victory in Tuesday's elections, made the most pro-abortion statements that I believe have ever been made by an American president. How do you explain this? Because this is the Joe Biden who for decades had supported the Hyde Amendment, who claimed to be—and I say this, in his words—a practicing Catholic. Who at one point said that he was not pro-abortion, but he was making the separation between his personal position and piety, and public policy on the other hand. But you know, today it was just like abortion is the greatest good, and we just saved it for America. And we're not we're not going back. What do you do with that?
WALKER: I think we can understand that both policy is character and character is policy. And you have a president who has for decades of service, basically been on every imaginable plot line you could be on this particular issue. What this indicates is not actual conviction, it indicates political expedience which is basically just politics for politics sake. That's not moral leadership. That's not principled leadership. It's not moral leadership. It also doesn't indicate any type of leadership, I think, coming from a conviction, a coherent, defined worldview, necessarily. But I also think that this just is another one of these moments where we're having the veil pulled back about the different moral universes that Americans occupy.
I use the term moral universes because it kind of signifies that we are kind of in these self-contained chambers that are impenetrable, irreconcilable, and have vastly different interpretations of the world. And I think the Christian worldview here is one of consistency and permanency. And you juxtapose that with the pro-choice worldview, where you know, in the 1990s, it was safe, legal and rare to now in 2022, it's shout your abortion.
The thing I'm concerned about as a Christian, and as an ethics professor, is where do we go from here on this particular issue? Because we're no longer even trying to provide any type of stigma around this issue. This isn't necessarily related to just the American context, but recently in Canada, we had Canadian doctors, before the Canadian Parliament, advocating for euthanasia for children who are born up to one years of age. And so I'm just thinking, okay, so we're a few years always behind, it feels like with Canada, so where do we go now, as far as our issues around human dignity, when we have one platform in the United States, that is not trying to hide a pro-abortion mindset?
MOHLER: The reality is that it's even more than that. It was nothing but cheerleading for abortion. Allie Beth, what do you say to people, and you hear this…it's thrown at you as it's thrown at the rest of us. What do you say to the person who says, “Look, I'm an Evangelical, but I can vote for either party or I can vote on other grounds?” What do you say?
STUCKEY: Yeah, so I hear that argument a lot from people who say I am personally pro-life but I don't think that I can impose my views on someone else. Or I believe these things about marriage, about gender, but at the end of the day, because they have a misunderstanding of separation of church and state, a lot of people say well, I’ll vote Democrat. I don't want to be a single issue voter because these policies that say that they help, what they would call the least of these.We could spend two hours just talking about that line of reasoning. But something that I argue on my podcast very simply, there are plenty of Bible verses that we could cite. But really all we have to do is go back to Genesis 1. We can go to Genesis 1:1—”God created the heavens and the earth…” That tells us who the authority is, who the definer is, who's the arbiter of truth, who has to give it, our giver of value.
And then we can go to Genesis 1:27. It tells us really what Christians need to think, what we should think about abortion. God made us in His image. We're not just clumps of cells. What we should think about gender. God made us male and female in his image. What we should think about marriage, that's the creation of the family right there. And those issues, they may not have been on the ballot 50 years ago, they are on the ballot in one way or another in 2022.
And I have to vote as a Christian in alignment with those values. Because if God created those things, and I believe that He is love, I John 4:8, I believe that His ways are better. That I can not love my neighbor by voting in a way that opposes God's order. That is not the same thing as forcing people to worship Christ. It is not a violation of the separation of church and state or the Establishment Clause or the First Amendment. It is simply doing what secular progressives do by the way, they bring their worldview to the voting booth to shape curriculum, to shape laws, to shape culture. I am saying this is my worldview. I believe that God created the heavens and the earth. That means I cannot separate my politics from that. That determines what I think about policy and what I think about culture. And I have to vote in alignment with God's order if I love him, and also, if I love other people
MOHLER: So well said. And I think it's really important that the reference of the points you made, and particularly when it comes to creation order, when it comes to the sanctity of human life, when it comes to the institution of marriage, you know, right there in Genesis chapter one, and explicit in Genesis chapter two and affirmed by Jesus in Matthew 19. That's pre-political. And again, I think even some conservatives failed to understand that our first responsibility is to maintain what is prior to politics. We can disagree about tax policy, we can disagree about issues of national security, but when it comes to what is pre-political—created by God—we've got nowhere to go.
STUCKEY: Yes. And that's why I'm always confused by Christians who say that they don't want to wade into the culture wars, or they don't want to talk about abortion, because it's so divisive. And it's so political, and they just want to love people. And typically, they just kind of mean “be nice to people.” And as you just said, these issues for the Christian: abortion, gender, marriage, the family, while they do have political manifestations and consequences for the Christian, they're pre-political, they're pre civilizational. And so for the Christian, they're not primarily political. They are primarily Biblical. They are primarily Genesis 1 issues. Who do you think created all of this? If that is true, then that changes everything, including your politics.
MOHLER: So well said. Hunter, almost all of the analysis leading up to the election and afterwards suggest that conservatives are absolutely doomed. Because younger Americans are so morally permissive, politically progressive. I mean, you spend your time teaching young people. You're a political scientist. So as both a teacher and a political scientist, jump into this. Are we doomed by demographics?
BAKER: No, I don't think we are. I mean, you can look back, I just, I just referenced Ruy Teixeira with, you know, kind of his conclusion that the non-white vote would always be a Democrat vote. And that would swamp the Republicans and consign them to oblivion. You know, he has revised his own thesis. And I would say the same thing about young people. What we tend to see is that people are often more liberal when they're younger, right? We can all recall the famous Winston Churchill quote about, you know, if you have a heart, you're a socialist when you're 18. And if you have a brain, you're a conservative at 18, or something like that. But I mean, I think that as students grow up, as they have more responsibilities, as they're responsible for themselves, these things will alter their view of the world. I mean, I can remember so clearly—and I know that probably all of us can remember this—how I viewed my parents at 18. And how I viewed them seven years later, when I was 25. Or when I was 30. Or once I started having children. All of these developments in life affect the way you view the world, and that's going to happen to the Millennials. It will happen to Gen Z.
Now, I will tell you this though, I do think that the enduring challenge that we have, is going to be on marriage and sexuality. Because I know that even with my own children, my own children even have their kind of knowing glances at each other when I begin talking about sex and marriage and human sexuality. Oh, you know, Dad's getting all ramped up about that, you know, I think that they think that I am very intense about this. And I'm very excited about this, and why is it such a big deal to me? And that's because this is the first group that literally the shows they've been watching on the Disney Channel, you know, and things like that have pride—a particular view of sexuality.
MOHLER: No, no doubt about that. Let me just tell you some bad news, though, for your theory. And I hope you're right, we're hoping and praying you're right. Let me tell you the counter evidence is this: in previous generations, there has been a rebound in church attendance once people reach the late 20s or early 30s, and once they have children. That is not happening right now. And it hasn't been happening for about 10 to 15 years. That means that something has changed. And I think what I would offer here is that I think in previous generational cycles, people pretty much knew their spiritual home, or identity, and returned to that. I mean, I think there's some evidence now that we have some young people so alienated there's no identity that way for them to return to.
BAKER: Well, there's a lot of costs, okay. So young people right now face tremendous disincentives to be faithful, right? I mean, so I can remember when we gathered to sign the Nashville statement, I didn't feel great. At age, I don't know, 48, or whatever I was at the time, thinking, you know, wow, okay, this is the decisive step from which one cannot walk back, right? So young people all face that, right? They all will be concerned with being marginalized, being hated by the culture at large. And they can see where things are going.
But my rejoinder to kind of the evidence that you're marshaling is that childhood has gotten a lot longer. Growing up is taking a lot longer. The number of kids who are not driving at 16, maybe they're driving at 20, maybe 22. I mean, everything is stretching out. And the other thing is everybody has to ultimately deal with that question of “what becomes of me once I die?” And I think that you start getting around the age of 50, or whatever, that becomes more compelling. And I think that we're going to have another one of these waves. I remember when the baby boomers began to become interested in religion again, in the late 1970s. We go from “God is dead,” to all of a sudden all these religions. I think that may happen again.
MOHLER: In our remaining time I just want to turn to every one of you for a concise argument about where we go from here. I think Christians want to know. You have given us something of the landscape, there's still questions to be answered from this election. But just jumping ahead, imagine we're having this conversation. And let's just say we hope and pray everything's settled by January. But let's just say we're having a conversation in January of 2023. Where do we go from here? I just want to go around. Eric, where do we go from here?
ERICKSON: You know, I think we have to go back to truth. And then this goes to something you and I believe. It’s what we're talking about. We believe in a worldview that suggests we should vote in a certain way. But that way also suggests we have to be committed to the truth. And we've had a lot of candidates on the Republican side, who have been peddling their own mythologies and revisions of history to get around unpleasant truths. We need a recommitment to actual truth so that people can rely on us and relate to us. At the same time. I think as Christians, we need to realize that God tells us to seek the welfare of the city in which we live, which actually means that local geographic region and not be so worked up about Washington DC all the time. Your local county commission, your local school board, is going to affect your life on a daily basis far more than Washington. And that fact that we as Christians are starting to engage at that level of school board races and the like, really does long term change the country.
MOHLER: That's a place to start Andrew Walker.
WALKER: Yeah. So I mean, one of the things I tell my students—and I'm teaching a political theology class right now—is we can have all of the intellectual arguments, we can write the books, we can give the speeches, but when it comes to what politics is, politics is a 50 + 1 game. And so while politics isn't everything in the Christian worldview, and we don't want to collapse all of our hope into politics, certainly politics does matter.
As Eric just said, politics is about using and channeling power for the sake of the good, the common good, seeking justice with it. So I think that means when we look at the kind of set backs from Tuesday regarding the life issue, it means every single Christian is going to be having to think about, in two years, if there are ballot initiatives, what do I need to do in 2024 that I didn't do in 2022? I also think it means—and I don't mean to get political or favoring one candidate in this conversation—but I think it means we need to be looking for candidates who are willing to stand on conviction, willing to pay a price for that conviction, willing to do so in a calm, reasoned manner. And I think that courage actually does get rewarded. Yeah, I think that there are models today of candidates who have actually shown themselves to be quite effective at an electoral level, when they are daring to be courageous. And I think that's actually one of the things that we are most in need of in this moment.
MOHLER: Yeah. Allie Beth, again, I want to pose the question to you. What are you saying to your listeners about where we go from here?
STUCKEY: Yes. So just on the political level, I think that if you are a governor, if you're a representative, then you do need to look at the model of Ron DeSantis. He was willing to be the first one to say and do things that other Republicans just weren't willing to do. I mean, his parental rights and education bill that was dubbed the “don't say, gay bill,” he went against the LGBTQ lobby. There are very few Republicans willing to do that, even if it was just legislation that covered kindergarten through third grade. I mean, they blew it up and turned it into something else. He knew that was going to happen. And he pressed for it anyway. And he turned blue districts red by waging the culture war in a way that I think a lot of other Republicans are scared of, without constantly having to make his constituents and supporters apologize for different embarrassing tweets that he tweeted or things that he said that we have had to do with other candidates who have been culture warriors.
And so I think look to the state of Florida. Look to how Ron DeSantis lead. And then I think on the local level, there is so much ground to gain. There are a lot of problems in our education system. I think running for school board, for city council, I think that's a great ground game to play.
And then just really quickly on just the spiritual side of things. I know a lot of people, particularly in Michigan, are really demoralized. A lot of pro-life Christians are just sad—about Whitmer, about the proposal going through. And I would just say, look, as Elizabeth Elliott always said, “The only thing that you have to do today is the will of God.” That's the only thing that you have to do. And if you don't know what that is, do the next right thing in faith, with excellence and for the glory of God. There are political implications to that, there are also personal implications to that, doing your job—whether it's as a mom, or whether it is, career—whatever it is, doing that with joy, and for the glory of God is enough. We saw through 49 years of uncertain, unsung and unseen obedience by Christians, that God can use those small acts of obedience in really big ways, as we saw with the overturning of Roe v. Wade. So there's a lot of hope for a lot of reasons.
MOHLER: That's fantastic. All right, Hunter. Closing word. Where do we go from here?
BAKER: I want to double down on the life issue. You know, you look at Plessy v. Ferguson—separate but equal—and Brown v Board of Education. There's about a half century. You look at Roe v. Wade and you look at Dobbs—there's about a half century. After Brown v Board of Education, about a dozen years later, you get the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It changes everything, you know, and then over time changes more hearts and minds. I think that we absolutely have to have that same kind of determination and drive as the civil rights pioneers did. I think that we have to have that same level of conviction. When somebody says, don't impose your preferences, I say, would you have said that when they were battling against segregation? This issue is every bit as morally and spiritually compelling.
And last thing I want to say is, so I know there's skepticism about other things. I have a lot of confidence in the gospel. I just think about when I went to Florida State University at age 18. I was as lost as a goose, Dr. Mohler. And the gospel and the resurrection of Jesus Christ hit me like a juggernaut. And that can happen to young people today, too.
MOHLER: Well, I had no idea that we reached this point—talking about a lost goose—but nonetheless, what a great testimony of the power of the gospel, and we are Christians, and so we do not end with any earthly confidence. We have an earthly responsibility and stewardship, but our trust is in Christ and that's how I can sleep at night. That's how we can get through the day.
But we want to think as Christians as well. This is a great joy of working with the team at the WORLD Opinions. We get to think about these things and write about these things, and hopefully, to serve the cause of Christ and the WORLD family, with these essays, articles, and opinions. And we pray that they will all be brought captive to the Word of God. And that's our commitment.
We want to thank you for joining with us tonight. What a fantastic opportunity I've had, and for you to be a part of and listening to these contributors all speak from their minds and hearts. This is the great joy again at WORLD Opinions. We we appreciate your interest not only in this conversation, but in the great project to try to help Christians to think as Christians. So what a great conversation tonight.
We've come to the end of our time. And I just want to thank the panelists Andrew Walker, Allie Beth Stuckey, Erick Erickson, and Hunter Baker. We just appreciate everything every one of you brought to this conversation. And I can tell you the only regret I have is that we can't keep doing this all night. But all good things must come to an end. God bless you all, and good night.
PAUL BUTLER: This has been a special presentation of WORLD Opinions and WORLD Radio—made possible by listeners like you and the support of PreBorn ministries, providing ultrasound equipment for pro-life resource centers and evangelism training for those ministering to women facing unplanned pregnancies. To learn more, visit preborn.org.
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