Tag Archives: Trump

Why is the Electoral College a Concern for Earth-Keepers?

What we Americans think about the Electoral College is – now as always – almost certainly driven by what it does to our party’s electoral prospects. This year, Trump won the Electoral College, but millions more people voted for Clinton. So it’s almost certainly predictable: If we went for Trump, then we’re for the Electoral College; if we preferred Clinton, we hate it.

But for earth keepers, the arguments for and against Electoral College are pretty serious concerns. That’s because a strong majority of Americans are concerned about God’s creation and threats to its health and survival. About two-thirds of us now say we’re worried about climate change. Lopsided majorities of Democrats feel strongly about climate action. About half of Republicans agree. And yet, our electoral system has given us a president elect who calls climate change a hoax and “bullsh**.” He’s sworn to reverse his predecessor’s environmental policies, and to disrupt the global climate agreement sealed in Paris last year among 195 nations. He’s stacked his cabinet with fossil-fuel advocates, even picking the chairman of the world’s biggest oil company for its most powerful position – Secretary of State.

So no matter which party we might like best – or dislike least – it’s worth asking honestly if this is really what democracy looks like. Does the Electoral College really make sense? Much has been written about the Electoral College’s roots in slave-holding states, and these accounts can be useful for historians. But let’s not even go there. Today, does a system like the Electoral College make sense for any of the world’s democracies? Here are some factors to consider.

The Electoral College makes Presidential voting almost meaningless for most Americans

“Sure I’d vote, but I’m from California.”

You’ve heard something like this from your friends in solid-Red or solid-Blue states before, haven’t you? What difference did it make if I pulled the lever for Hillary or Trump in New York, Texas, Indiana or Illinois? Let alone California? All those states are going solidly one way or the other. In fact, 30 states representing 320 Electoral College votes are all considered solid for one party or the other (see complete list below). Presidential candidates don’t campaign in those states; they don’t listen to voters there; they don’t bother getting out the vote there. And once elected, they don’t lose much sleep over the interests of those citizens either.

Real Clear Politics highlights president-deciding states in gray.

If you’re among the huge majority of Americans living in one of these non-swing states, presidential democracy is a spectator event for you. You’re not part of the conversation. Instead, you’re just watching voters in 14 “swing states” to see what they’ll do to choose the next president. Thanks for your interest, but voters in Florida will handle this one for you. And in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia (plus seven other small states).

So we lament low voter turnout in our country, but ignore the obvious: Our system removes most of the incentives for going to the polls. It’s the Electoral College, folks.

The Electoral College makes my vote count more than your vote

In the U.S. we have about one elector for every 600,000 people. Californians have a somewhat worse deal. Their 38 million people have only one elector for every 692,000 people. Those extra 92,000 Californians for each elector simply don’t count. With 55 electoral votes, that’s about five million Californians who really don’t matter. Too bad for California.

But North Dakota has a much sweeter deal. Of course, their tiny population – smaller than the cities of Charlotte or Columbus – gets to send two Senators to Washington. Good for them. But their presidential votes also have an outsized impact. They get one elector for every 250,000 people. That’s huge. One vote in North Dakota is worth about three votes in California. (Actually, about 2.7 votes.) But would anyone ever design a system like that in a modern democracy?

The Electoral College hands unelected officials the keys to the presidency

On Monday, the Electoral College convened to cast their votes, sealing the win for Donald Trump, as expected. But Trump and Clinton weren’t the only ones who tallied votes. John Kasich got a vote. So did the aging libertarian, Ron Paul. Retired Secretary of State Colin Powell got three votes, even though he was never a candidate. Finally, Bernie Sanders and tribal leader Faith Spotted Eagle each notched a vote.

The electors who cast votes like these have traditionally been called “faithless electors.” They may be faithless, but there’s nothing illegal or even reprehensible about what they’ve done. In fact, many Americans were hoping for a revolt this year, banking upon the Electoral College to nullify the election results. It didn’t happen, of course, nor has it overturned an election during our country’s history. But this year’s election warns us that precedent means very little in our day. We could easily see the day when large numbers of electors decide to thwart the will of voters. This would be perfectly legal.

It will take a transformation of heart among Americans for us to take our place among the nations in caring for God’s creation. But for starters, why don’t we take another look at how we choose our most important officials? Maybe we should consider something a little more like, well, democracy?

Solid Blue:

  • California (55)
  • New York (29)
  • Illinois (20)
  • New Jersey (14)
  • Washington (12)
  • Massachusetts (11)
  • Maryland (10)
  • Hawaii (4)
  • Rhode Island (4)
  • Vermont (3)
  • District Of Columbia (3)
  • Delaware (3)

Solid Red:

  • Texas (38)
  • Indiana (11)
  • Tennessee (11)
  • Missouri (10)
  • Alabama (9)
  • Louisiana (8)
  • Kentucky (8)
  • Oklahoma (7)
  • Mississippi (6)
  • Arkansas (6)
  • Utah (6)
  • Kansas (6)
  • West Virginia (5)
  • Nebraska (4)
  • Idaho (4)
  • North Dakota (3)
  • Montana (3)
  • South Dakota (3)
  • Alaska (3)
  • Nebraska CD2 (1)

Day One: What Happens to White Evangelicals and the Gospel Now?

I wake at three. After several hours of darkness, the dawn ushers in a gray drizzle. I struggle to breathe.

The pale blue light in my palm chimes and vibrates, bringing me the laments of many friends in short bursts of text. The morning after the polls closed, how could we have done this? Is this who we really are?

Who are we now? Who are we now?                  Source: Business Insider

Who are we now? Who am I now? Do I even belong here? Belong in this national story? In this political affiliation? In this religious tribe?

Friends and children all ask me the same questions: What does this mean for Muslims? For immigrants? For refugees? For the poor? For the disabled? For the uninsured? For political opponents?

But some ask more ominous questions: What does this mean for the survival of our species, for billions of our fellow humans? And what does it mean for countless other species and ecosystems? Could America have just voted humankind onto an irreversible course of decline, dragging an ark-full of other creatures down with us?

And could its white evangelicals have simultaneously sealed the fate of their religious movement?

Surely, no one has ever reacted to an election with such dire warnings. Perhaps I have gone totally overboard? I don’t think so. But you decide.

There is one planetary peril so dire that all 195 nations of the world have decided they must act now. In Paris last year, they came together to finalize an agreement by which we would all take specific steps to prevent the world from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. Every nation signed, and enough have now ratified it to become binding. The measures included so far aren’t nearly enough to keep warming at 2 degrees. But everyone is expecting future sessions to increase world-wide ambition in reaching this goal.

And why is it so important to avoid 3-4 degrees of warming? For starters, heat waves would be simply unbearable for much of humanity – 100-year heat waves would occur during almost all summer months every year in many regions. Sea levels would rise more than 1 meter by the end of the century, and would accelerate further after that. Food production would decline as hot regions become dryer, and as intense storms destroy farmlands. The collapse of the marine food chain is also likely, as reefs die in warmer, more acidic oceans. And humanity – armed to the teeth with weapons of mass destruction – would have to decide who starves, and who lives.

The story is no fantasy. But it is a nightmare. 3-4 degrees of warming must be avoided at all costs. And the world agreed in Paris to do so.

But now, we have now elected Donald Trump, who has specifically promised to kill the Paris Agreement and the US initiatives that constitute our share of the climate-saving work. Here are a few of the steps he has promised to take:

  • Abolish the EPA as we know it.
  • Forbid any surviving portion of the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide.
  • Halt funding for the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change.
  • Cancel the Clean Power Plan.
  • Build the Keystone XL pipeline and more like it.
  • Stop any carbon tax or pricing mechanism.

So rather than strengthening the Paris Agreement as will be needed, our country has chosen a leader who has sworn to kill the global effort entirely. With the world’s greatest superpower thumbing its nose at its poorer neighbors, coal and oil pollution will continue to rise, as will heat, hunger and sea levels.

Humanity can adapt to changes, you are thinking? Well, for a while, especially the rich and mobile. And the world has seen a temperature change of 4 degrees before, about 100,000 years ago during the last ice age. But back then, the change occurred over thousands of years –not one single century. And time is everything when it comes to climate adaptation. Most species and people cannot adapt, much less evolve to thrive in the breakneck pace of change we’re causing.

Perhaps you aren’t concerned by this last item, but if you’re a Christian and think you have good news to offer the world, maybe you should be. Because white evangelicals were by far the strongest backers of Trump. They backed him by a higher margin than any other candidate in a generation – more than 80 percent.

So as the impacts of runaway climate change wreak havoc on the people of the world, let’s not even dream of the world’s people darkening the doors of our churches. Good news? Really? First you kill my source of survival, and then you offer me good news? If you’ve got a god, he’s the last thing I want to hear about.

For American White Evangelicalism, this looks like it could be the beginning of a very sorry end.

The Debate: Breaking the Silence on Climate Change

When Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump squared off Monday night before 100 million viewers, they covered a lot of important ground – including their visions of prosperity, security, and the direction of our country.

Outside the debate venue, a group of students and young people from Young Evangelicals for Climate Action joined hands to pray and demand that the moderator and candidates address the threat of  manmade climate change to humans and God’s creation. Observing the debate from home, I’d have to say that their prayers were answered, if only just as a start.

Young Evangelicals for Climate Action praying outside the debate venue

Young Evangelicals for Climate Action demand that candidates present climate change plans at Hofstra Univ.

Yes, Clinton did stake her flag on making the U.S. “the clean energy superpower of the 21st century.” She even got specific: “We can deploy a half a billion more solar panels. We can have enough clean energy to power every home. We can build a new modern electric grid. That’s a lot of jobs. That’s a lot of new economic activity.”

And she challenged Trump on his longstanding climate denialism: “Donald thinks that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. I think it’s real.”

Of course, Trump denied the charge: “I did not — I do not say that. I do not say that.” The mid-sentence change in verb tenses (“do” not “did”) provided a bit of a fig leaf for the billionaire. As almost everyone knows, Trump tweeted the “Chinese climate hoax” idea in 2012. In fact, he has been recorded on video or in his tweets eleven times calling global warming a hoax, as recently as July 26, 2016.

So, “I did not” clearly doesn’t fly. But “I do not” is one of those imponderables: As-I-stand-on-this-stage, I do not? Well, okay then. We’ll wait for tomorrow.

Well, in fact, tomorrow arrived. The morning after the debate, Trump’s campaign manager said that the candidate has traded the “climate hoax” narrative for new story: “He believes that global warming is naturally occurring,” said Kellyanne Conway.

Naturally occurring. Well that’s something. In the last month, Mr. Trump has learned a lot of new things. He’s discovered that there is no hoax going on, despite four years of being certain that the opposite was true. But even more remarkable, he’s learned that global warming is happening due to natural causes, not manmade carbon emissions.

Natural causes? So, where he did he do his research on this? We decided to look:

  • Maybe the U.S. National Academy of Science? We checked, but no luck there: “Scientists know that recent climate change is largely caused by human activities,” they write in a landmark study, “from an understanding of basic physics, comparing observations with models, and fingerprinting the detailed patterns of climate change caused by different human and natural influences.”
  • Okay, how about the world’s largest scientific society – the American Association for the Advancement of Science? Hmm, strike two. Their website banner trumpets the conclusion before you even get to the details: “Based on the evidence, about 97% of climate scientists agree that human-caused climate change is happening.” We kept looking.
  • How about the peer-reviewed science journals, like Science or Nature? More bad news. They virtually all agree that “climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.”
  • Well, there must be someone. How about any American or international association of sciences from any discipline whatsoever? We checked. Again, no dice. Just this summer, 31 scientific societies representing millions of geologists, chemists, biologists, agronomists, mathematicians and researchers from many other specialties wrote to Congress to inform our leaders that “greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver” behind climate change, and warned of “broad negative impacts on society, including the global economy, natural resources, and human health.”

We’re not giving up, and will let you know when we find where Trump got his new scientific information, or whatever else he may have found instead.

In our view, this debate was not wasted. People are now talking. Twitter is abuzz with references to climate denial. Perhaps voters may see their choice this year as a choice for the future of the world’s ecosystems. That would be redemptive, we think.

Young Evangelicals, thank you for your prayers and your demand for open discourse. Whatever our political leanings might be, we now have a fuller idea of where our country – and our world – might go regarding the climate crisis in the next four years. Clinton promises to lead a transition to a clean power economy. Trump promises to stop the transition – stop the Clean Power Plan, the global Climate Accord struck in Paris, and to turn back the clock on the burning of coal to where it was when our grandparents were young.

We have a choice. And the faithful witness of Young Evangelicals has helped us to see it more clearly.

An Appeal for Climate Realism to Candidate Trump

Sir, this will not end well for you. Or us, I’m afraid.

You may not even realize what you’re saying, but when the public figures it out – and many surely will – you will have lost all but the small fraction who still deny the most obvious facts — facts acknowledged by every country in the world.

Calling climate change “a hoax” in an even minimally-educated country is no way to become president.

We remember that last year you said that climate change was invented by the Chinese to make us non-competitive. It was silly, of course. But during the primary, who could keep track of all the silliness? We assumed you’d tack to something more credible if you ever became the actual nominee. But then last week you reiterated your view of climate science on Fox News. Sure, it was a little murky, but we got the gist. Here’s the transcript:

  • BILL O’REILLY: Did you ever call climate change a hoax?
  • DONALD TRUMP: Well, I might have because when I look at some of the things that are going on, in fact if you look at Europe where they had their big summit a couple of years ago, where people were sending out emails, scientists practically calling it a hoax and they were laughing at it. So, yeah, I probably did. I see what’s going on and you see what’s going on.

Bill O’Reilly, Donald Trump and the climate “hoax”

Hmm. Let me see: You say it’s a hoax, because of, um, a summit, Europe, emails, scientists, and laughing. That can only refer to the “ClimateGate” conspiracy theory, right? It wasn’t a summit, and it wasn’t a couple of years ago (seven years, actually). But nothing else remotely captures the litany of other references. It’s not China anymore, but the lying scientists of “ClimateGate.”

Of course, the ClimateGate conspiracy theory has been thoroughly debunked (see FactCheck.org , Union of Concerned Scientists, and Politifact). Every investigation — from the National Science Foundation Inspector General, NOAA’s Inspector General, Penn State University, and the UK Parliament — reached the same conclusion: the hacked emails revealed nothing to compromise the overwhelming consensus of climate science.

But whatever you were referring to, one thing is clear: You have doubled down on accusing researchers of defrauding the whole world. Yes – you have confirmed – climate change IS a hoax. It means nothing that tens of thousands of scientists conduct peer-reviewed research — normally worthy of our trust. The planet is NOT warming; oceans are NOT acidifying; sea levels are NOT rising; and the rise in greenhouse gases is NOT coming from fossil fuel emissions. All a hoax.

This is no longer “I am not a scientist.” And it’s not “I’m still not convinced as to the causes.” It’s a full-throated charge: “They are all lying to us!” Like you said: “Scientists practically calling it a hoax” and “laughing at it.” It’s a massive fraud on the whole world.

Okay. We’ve heard enough to expect some pretty outlandish charges from you by now. But have you considered the electoral implications of this line of attack? Let me cite a few that might concern you:

  • Some of your supporters may doubt the truthfulness of climate scientists in particular. But none of them think ALL scientists are liars. Did you know that 31 scientific societies got together last month to write a letter to every U.S. legislator, telling them that “climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research concludes that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver…”? They spoke on behalf of every discipline, from geophysics and chemistry to geology and meteorology. Taken together, they represent essentially all of science, and we Americans are pretty proud of our sciences.
  • Gallup now tells us that 64% of Americans are worried about climate change. 59% believe its impacts are already visible. 65% percent of us agree that its causes are mainly pollution from human activities. Only one in ten of us thinks that it’s not real, and that its effects will never hit us.
  • And Yale University reports that 67% of Americans think global warming is happening, while only 16% think it’s not.

So, sir, you want to become our president, right? You want to make American great again? Well, how are you going to do that while vilifying the smartest American researchers from every field of science? By dismissing as a hoax what two-thirds of us are already worried about? And by standing with a tiny minority of Americans who dismiss this global threat?

Source: The Gallup Organization

Source: Gallup: US Concern About Global Warming at Eight-Year High

And how do you propose to be a world leader, when you have promised to kill the global climate agreement endorsed in Paris last year by virtually every country in the world?

Mr. Trump, there must be a smarter way to land American votes. Here’s an idea: You’ve bucked party orthodoxy in the past. Why not do it again regarding climate action? The days when anti-science front groups managed to paralyze us with doubt have come and gone. You’ve got the nomination. Party leaders are afraid to touch you no matter what you say. Why not use your power to improve your odds of winning with all of us climate realists?

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Source: Gallup: US Concern About Global Warming at Eight-Year High

Like every potential occupant of the Oval Office, you are faced with choices for great good or great evil. If you would just drop this hoax thing, and listen to the huge majority of your countrymen (and the scientists who inform us) you might have the chance to do something really good.

Think about it, sir. You could do something good.

The Third Door: Donald Trump As God’s Servant

In 2012, a respected friend in my church asked me, in passing, who I was supporting in that year’s presidential elections. “Do you like Romney?” he asked. “Or maybe Gingrich or Santorum?”

For a moment, I was at a loss for words. It wasn’t that political conversation was off limits in our church, which is evangelical and Reformed, but not openly partisan. It was the unexamined assumption that my support would go to one of those three, or perhaps Bachman, Cain or Perry –all vying for the GOP nomination.

In fact, I wasn’t crazy about any of those candidates. I was one of the millions of Christians who, four years earlier, had suspended past party allegiances in the wreckage of the banking disaster, the Great Recession, climate denial and reckless unfunded wars – to vote instead for “hope and change.” The awkward fact was, four years later, I wasn’t ready to go back just yet.

Evangelical Christianity among white Americans in recent years has seemingly become almost synonymous with allegiance to the Republican Party. The Pew Center tells us that 56% of evangelicals identify as Republicans, a gaping 28-point spread over the 28% who identify as Democrats.

Evangelicals are presented with two "batch ideologies" today

Evangelicals are presented with two “batch ideologies”

But it’s not necessarily intuitive, is it? For argument’s sake, some might imagine that Christians would gravitate toward political platforms focused on “good news to the poor,” maybe? For better healthcare for those who can’t afford it, and for livable wages for the disadvantaged? For medical assistance to the poorest, such as Medicaid? Or for wider voting rights assuring a voice to every person?

We might suppose that those who affirm that “the earth is the Lord’s” would be among the first to support efforts to clean up toxins in the air, soil and water. As followers of the Prince of Peace, they might be among the most cautious regarding runaway military spending and the use of deadly force abroad. At home, they might entertain serious doubts about the proliferation of weapons that can snuff out sacred human lives in an instant. They might prioritize biblical welcome for “sojourners,” immigrants fleeing hunger or violence in their homelands.

But curiously, few of these moral issues seem to have mattered enough yet to shake evangelical allegiances to the GOP. One issue would seem to silence all others: If you’re a “pro-life” politician regarding abortion, evangelicals would seem to be willing to overlook all manner of life-threatening postures that would seem strange to many readers of the biblical Gospels.

It’s not that it’s so strange that evangelicals haven’t become Democrats. What’s strange is that so many are so unquestioningly aligned with the Republicans, libertarians, or free-market conservatives.

But this year, things might possibly be different. I have the hardest time imagining any of my fellow congregants asking me seriously if I intend to support Donald Trump. No matter how many times Trump waves his confirmation-class Bible and swears that it’s his favorite (or second-favorite) book, Christians understand that he has little clue as to its contents, nor much interest in its directives.

And that’s why I’m wondering – seriously – if Trump doesn’t perhaps have a special place in God’s plans for his church in America. Trump, I believe, just might be God’s anointed servant in 2016.

Trump? God’s servant? I admit, it does sound outlandish. But consider biblical history. The prophet Jeremiah must have sent shock waves throughout Judah when he proclaimed to Jerusalem that King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was God’s servant. The pagan King of Babylon, poised to carry them into exile, was specially chosen by God: “I have given all these lands to … my servant …. All nations shall serve him” (Jeremiah 27:4-8).

The prophet Isaiah bestowed the same honor on Cyrus, the King of Persia, naming him as God’s anointed.  “I will go before you,” Isaiah prophesied regarding the pagan Cyrus. “I call you, I name you, though you do not know me…” (Isaiah 45:1-6).

If God anointed the kings of Babylon and Persia as his servants, why couldn’t he use the Boss of “The Apprentice?” The Master of Trump Tower?

Okay, in theory at least, I might just have a point. But what on earth might God have in mind for the vulgar real estate billionaire? What role could megalomania and narcissism have in God’s plans?

Well, maybe it’s this: What if the greatest obstacle to God’s purposes for America was something other than ISIS, underemployment, or intrusive bureaucracy? What if it had something to do with political idolatry that has crept into the community of faith – merging the Way of Jesus with the way of Ronald Reagan? And what if Trump’s crassness, egotism and petulance should simply prove too much for evangelicals – driving them to critically evaluate those seeking positions of power from either Party?

In our day, religious people are presented with two “batch ideologies” to choose from – two brightly painted doors at the end of the hallway to the voting booth. Behind the Red Door is public declaration of faith in the Christian tradition, individual liberty, gun ownership, opposition to abortion, law and order, military muscle, aggressive foreign policy, American exceptionalism and tax cuts. Behind the Blue Door is secular tolerance, assistance for the poor, legal abortion, multilateral foreign policies, inclusive governance, racial reconciliation, progressive taxation, regulation of commerce and protection of the environment.

In our world, it seems that there are only two doors. We must enter one or the other, and check all the boxes as our own. For the most part, white evangelicals have chosen the Red Door.

But it wasn’t always so. In the 1960’s, American Christians split their votes about evenly between the two Parties. Before Reagan, they supported Carter in droves. Perhaps they somehow recognized that allegiance to Christ superseded any single ideology. Maybe they knew that the call of individual rights found its basis in the Bible, but so did the communitarian vision of “Shabbat shalom.” Maybe the scripture enshrined personal liberty, but also mandated practical equality among all.

Can there be a Third Door for Christians?

Can there be a Third Door for Christians?

Maybe God was neither Republican nor Democrat.

Today, perhaps, maybe there is a Third Door. Maybe that door is neither Blue nor Red, but one that stands apart, supporting and confronting politicians from an ethic rooted in the Prophets, in the Gospels, in the Torah. Maybe “Jesus is Lord” means that Caesar is NOT Lord – nor Kennedy, nor Reagan, nor anyone else.

The Anglican Bishop N.T. Wright sums this up possibly as well as anyone: “The followers of Jesus are to live under the rulers of the world, believing them to be appointed by God but not believing that that makes them perfect or that they do not need to be held accountable. On the contrary. Because they are God’s servants they may well need to be reminded of their duty, however dangerous and uncomfortable a task that may be.”

If so, then surely, Donald Trump could be God’s servant in this age, sent to break the bond that shackles evangelicals to one single incarnation of Caesar in our day. Surely Trump could be the man who can lead us as Christians – unknowingly, perhaps – to the Third Door.