Trump’s Constradictions

  • The “billionaire” who hides his tax returns.
  • The “genius” who hides his college grads.
  • The “business man” who bankrupted a casino
  • The “playboy” who pays for sex.
  • The “Christian” who doesn’t go to church.
  • The “philanthropist” who defrauds charity
  • The “patriot” who dodged the draft
  • The “innocent man” who refuses to testify

Did Trump Make Everything Progressive?

The latest transfixing document for our time is a public-relations video for the Central Intelligence Agency. It features an unidentified 36-year-old Latina officer who speaks of her ascent through the ranks of the Company in a hybrid language, partly the traditional American narrative of immigrant success, partly something more contemporary and ideological: “I’m a woman of color. … I’m a cisgender millennial who’s been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. I am intersectional, but my existence is not a box-checking exercise. … I refuse to internalize misguided patriarchal ideas of what a woman can or should be.”

Thus is a career in service to the American imperium, at an institution dedicated to spycraft, drone strikes and the occasional coup d’état, now packaged as the fulfillment of a certain kind of cultural leftism and sold with buzzwords that almost nobody outside the academy would have recognized in the first term of Barack Obama. Whatever this change ultimately means for left-wing politics — the death of the antiwar left? the completion of progressivism’s march through the institutions? just the usual C.I.A. tricks? — it’s pretty remarkable to watch.

In my weekend column I wrote about the political challenges that the rise of so-called wokeness poses for the Democratic Party: the surmountable challenge created by its academic style of rhetoric, and the more substantial challenge should the new progressivism preside over policy disasters in the cities where it rules.

But it would take more than just an electoral setback to reverse the ideological shifts that have given us the intersectional, anti-patriarchal, cisgender-and-all-genders Central Intelligence Agency video. Indeed, the striking thing about the new progressivism’s advance is that it was seemingly accelerated by electoral defeat — the shocking defeat of 2016, specifically, which by making Donald Trump president made a progressive revolution possible.

Or at least that’s the implication of an analysis that made the rounds a little while after the “woke C.I.A.” ad first appeared, in which Richard Hanania, who runs the Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology, tried to explain why “everything” — meaning institutions that used to be seen as neutral or conservative, from corporate America to the intelligence bureaucracy — has recently become so much more progressive in positioning and rhetoric.

Hanania argues that it’s not simply that the millennials and Gen Z are more liberal, or that the Democrats are the professional-class party and so liberalism dominates the professional spheres. These tilts are real, but there are still enough conservative-leaning consumers, enough young and wealthy and well-educated Republicans, to create incentives for institutions to be apolitical or politically neutral.

The key difference, he argues, isn’t sheer numbers but engagement, intensity and zeal. Liberals lately seem to just care a lot more about politics: They donate more, they protest more, they agitate more, in ways that change the incentives for public-facing institutions. Some of these gaps are longstanding, but others have opened only recently, with 2016 as the crucial turning point. That was the year when “the mobilization gap exploded,” creating irresistible pressure “from both within and outside corporations for them to take a stand on almost all hot button issues.”

Why 2016? Well, probably because of Donald Trump: In Hanania’s data, his nomination and election looks like the great accelerant, with anti-Trump backlash driving liberal hyper-investment in politics to new heights, enabling progressives to achieve “true mass mobilization in a way conservatives never have in the modern era.” That mobilization has consolidated progressive norms in almost every institution susceptible to pressure from activists (or activist-employees), and it’s pulled the entire American establishment leftward, so that conservatives are suddenly at war with Major League Baseball and Coca-Cola instead of just Harvard and the Ford Foundation, and the custodians of the national security state are eager to prove their enlightenment by speaking in the argot of the academic left.

To some extent this is an obvious point to anyone who watched the Trump era unfold, but, as a Trump-skeptical conservative, I like the sharpened emphasis in Hanania’s analysis because it seems to vindicate a point I made myself: that the many conservatives who hoped to find in Trump a bulwark against progressivism were fundamentally deceived.

Instead, his administration’s mix of haplessness and menace was a great gift to progressivism, inspiring an anti-conservative reaction that extended through every walk of elite life, turning centrists into liberals and remaking liberalism into exactly the kind of progressive orthodoxy that conservatives most fear. Republicans got control of the Supreme Court out of the bargain, but in almost every other institution that matters, from Langley to the corporate boardroom, their position got much worse.

And yet I also wonder if this narrative is a little bit too pat in its anti-Trumpism, and if it gives too little credit to the specific ideas currently showing up in C.I.A. public-relations videos. That the rise of wokeness was accelerated by Trump I have no doubt. But if you look at public opinion data, the liberal shift leftward, on social issues and especially race, begins midway through Obama’s second term, meaning that when Trump kicked off his campaign the Great Awokening was already taking shape.

So if the consolidation of the new progressivism was Trump-driven, its original appeal was not. Instead, you need to analyze that appeal on its own terms. Just as the reactionary turn among conservatives is understandable given the loss of things that the right was supposed to be conserving, the new progressivism is understandable as a response to previous trends in elite liberalism, to failures and successes both.

Thus the zeal of the new antiracism is a response to the longstanding failure of liberal policymaking to actually close racial gaps. The moralism of #MeToo feminism, the desire to rethink or redefine the contours of consent, reflects a sense that in championing sexual individualism liberalism had ended up enabling predation. The spiritualizing side of wokeness, from the martyrology of police-shooting victims to the confessions of privilege and the zealous witch hunts, seems like an attempt to restore a sense of the sacred that a secularized liberalism sorely lacks. And the progressive skepticism of old-fashioned liberal appeals to free speech and free debate, the sense that certain arguments (whether on immigration, race or gender identity) should be simply ended once an activist consensus is established, seems to treat the swift and sweeping success of the movement for same-sex marriage as a model for how to win on more controverted issues.

In many of these impulses, but especially the last one, there’s an embedded promise that progressive change can happen as a kind of moral awakening within elite institutions rather than through any kind of dramatic revolt against them. (Neither Harvard nor Coca-Cola nor the C.I.A. had to give up anything when Obergefell v. Hodges was handed down.) Which explains, in turn, why this cluster of ideas has advanced so fast within the key precincts of American power. Even though the new progressivism takes a dire view of our great institutions’ history, it also seems to promise that those same institutions can endure unchallenged in their power, if only they confess, repent and convert — and recruit their new members more intersectionally than before.

The tension between this institutionalism and the promised radical change may eventually be the new progressivism’s undoing. (Can Ibram X. Kendi permanently sustain his radical chic while being an academic recipient of Silicon Valley largess?) Or alternatively, as I suggested in my last column, the actual application of radical ideas outside the protected spaces of the elite, to issues of crime and policing especially, may lead to breakdowns that cost progressives not just an election but their commanding position within the establishment as well.

But for now, the story Hanania tells shouldn’t be seen as just a story of Trumpism radicalizing liberalism, as important as that story is. When an ideology carries all before it so successfully that the C.I.A. decides it’s time to start cribbing from its script, even its enemies should acknowledge that it’s winning, in some sense, on the merits: not just from good fortune or from backlash, but because its gospel persuades people to convert.

Rick Wilson, “Everything Trump Touches Dies”

37:45
for you’ve said you’ve said often that
37:48
it is you’ve said often that you do not
37:51
see the Republican the Republican House
37:54
in particular ever turning on Trump is
37:56
there any hypothesis where you can
37:59
imagine them hitting rock bottom
38:01
I know let me let me let me describe one
for you Donald Trump performs an
abortion as in culture went set on the
White House lawn while taking a sack of
money from Vladimir Putin then eating a
been eating a dog and then declaring
he’s a Sharia Muslim and and and
advocating for gay marriage to Stephen
Miller in that case there might be a
moment of pause what could happen by
Tuesday at this rate well both the
amplitude and the frequency of the crazy
is getting larger at all at all points
38:32

Phil Vischer: Does Trump Show Us What We Really Love?

19:34
Robert Cunningham pastor Tates Creek
19:36
Presbyterian Church when we began to see
19:39
the surprising rise of Donald Trump
19:40
leading evangelical voice Russell Moore
19:42
wrote an op-ed in the New York Times
19:44
challenging evangelical Volkers voters
19:46
to rethink their support of a man so
19:48
antithetical to the Christian faith that
19:50
to vote for him would be to quote
19:52
repudiate everything they believed well
19:55
six months later it appears evangelical
19:57
voters have repudiated everything they
19:59
believe but what if and he has an
20:02
interesting angle on this what if
20:03
evangelicals or any tribe for that
20:05
matter aren’t primarily compelled by
20:08
what they believe but instead by what
20:11
they love
20:12
in fact what if every one of us will
20:14
gladly repudiate what we believe before
20:17
we would ever repudiate what we love and
20:20
when can you unpack them what if Donald
20:22
Trump though contradictory to
20:24
evangelical beliefs is the embodiment of
20:26
current evangelical loves Wow so are you
20:31
with me yeah I’m with you now there’s a
20:34
book about this James ka Smith’s book
20:36
there it is
20:37
desiring the kingdom he actually has a
20:40
newer one out called you are what is I
20:43
think the kingdom part – no it’s new
20:45
everyone is I think it may be it’s not
20:46
released yet called you are what you
20:47
love okay well not all of us have access
20:49
to unreleased books Kai not all of it
20:51
but you all have access to Amazon oh
20:53
it’s it’s on Amazon you can read the
20:56
book no but you can see the book why do
20:57
you know what it says because I know his
20:59
message oh okay that’s fine so James ka
21:02
Smith says uses love to describe those
21:06
deeper longings and desires of the human
21:08
heart contrary to Western enlightenment
21:10
that views us as Minds compelled by our
21:13
thoughts the Bible views us as lovers
21:15
compelled by our love sighs mm-hmm I
21:20
just read that actually yes you did my
21:23
quiet time today Smith argues that loves
21:26
are formed by our habits of course we
21:29
know this is true with our personal
21:30
habits but what we often don’t see is
21:32
the formative power of corporate habits
21:35
what Smith refers to as cultural
21:37
liturgies
21:39
you know that term yeah cultural
21:41
liturgies you look confused I don’t
21:43
think just pond I’m pondering what that
21:45
actually means liturgy what’s that I
21:48
know it of liturgy liturgy is literally
21:50
the work of the people Oh a literal
21:53
liturgy literal liturgy so the work of
21:56
the people so what we do together the
21:57
practices the customs the the rituals
22:00
that we engage in together actually form
22:02
our desires right so you take this out
22:06
of a religious context entirely when
22:08
when the entire culture practices
22:10
Christmas and the shopping and all that
22:13
it trains children to be consumeristic
22:16
right just because the whole culture
22:18
does it and they get caught up in it and
22:19
they don’t even think to question it or
22:21
the whole culture takes a pause to do
22:24
brackets in March for March Madness and
22:27
it trains you to love college basketball
22:30
right but only one month a year right
22:32
when things turn green it’s time to love
22:35
college basketball right yeah so for
22:38
example is it a coincidence the vast
22:40
majority of Americans are bent toward
22:42
greed and overconsumption of course not
22:44
our culture has trained us to be
22:46
ravenous consumers now considered so
22:49
says sky over and over again now
22:55
consider Donald Trump in one sense he
22:57
makes no sense from a care policy
23:00
standpoint evangelical support for
23:02
Donald Trump is utterly mystifying but I
23:05
think we aren’t giving the convictions
23:07
of evangelicals enough credit they know
23:10
enough to know what Trump is saying and
23:12
doing is wrong and yet they’re still
23:13
supporting him why because we are never
23:16
compelled by our ideals like we are by
23:19
our loves and when you look at Donald
23:21
Trump through the shared the shared
23:23
loves of the evangelical culture he
23:25
starts to make perfect sense what are
23:28
the shared loves of the evangelical the
23:31
best part of this what happens when the
23:35
liturgies of our greedy culture train
23:37
evangelicals to love money and power
23:39
what happens when the liturgies of talk
23:42
radio train evangelicals to love anger
23:45
and paranoia what happens when the
23:47
liturgies of social media train
23:49
evangelicals to love sensational sound
23:51
bites more
23:52
thoughtful discourse what happens when
23:55
the liturgies of modern worship modern
23:58
worship services train evangelicals to
24:01
love novel flashy and glib emotional
24:03
experiences that feel more like a rally
24:06
than corporate worship what happens when
24:09
the conference culture of the church
24:10
trains evangelicals to love the big
24:12
celebrity leader what happens when
24:15
preaching that prioritizes relevant
24:17
shocking and brash sermons trains
24:19
evangelicals to love tell it like it is
24:22
ranting I know what happens what happens
24:25
when the liturgies from the days of the
24:27
moral majority train evangelicals to
24:29
love America as much as Jesus I like
24:33
Robert Cunningham I know what happens I
24:35
know where this is going then leads to
24:37
an incessant longing within churches to
24:40
quote make America great again what
24:43
happens we get Donald Tran Jellicle
24:45
‘he’s in love with Donald Trump happens
24:48
Russell Moore closes his op-ed piece
24:50
with the plea to evangelicals we ought
24:52
to listen to get past the boisterous
24:54
confidence in the television lights in
24:56
the waving arms and hear just whose
24:57
speech were applauding but what if the
25:00
boisterous confidence and the television
25:02
lights and the waving arms are precisely
25:04
what evangelicals have been trained to
25:06
love what if they can’t listen because
25:09
they are enraptured what if they
25:12
applauded not because Trump has given
25:14
them a speech but because Trump has
25:16
given them what they love well that
25:19
absolutely correlates with a study that
25:22
just came out huh
25:24
because they took a bunch of people that
25:27
were watching the last Republican
25:28
debates and they hooked them up with EKG
25:32
monitors brain monitors and whenever he
25:35
came on the screen whether they liked
25:37
him or didn’t like he’s elevated like
25:39
crazy their brains went nuts
25:42
even though even the ones that said they
25:45
just hated him or they weren’t
25:47
interested in him at all so he’s a
25:49
stimulating he’s controversial figure
25:51
yes he’s Katniss well I mean yeah even a
25:55
four-year-old just looking at a picture
25:57
of Donald Trump is going to have their
25:58
brain stimulated because they’re gonna
25:59
ask what animal is on his head
26:03
mother mother
26:05
and then when he starts talking and the
26:07
way he does his hand I hate them oh it
26:11
just makes me how did he do that with
26:12
his finger no I was trying to his hand
26:15
it’s like this he’s always he’s like
26:17
Spider Man about to throw a web but like
26:19
we’re getting off and he’s like this
26:21
like and he keeps saying the same things
26:23
over and over again that has no
26:25
substance because it makes people
26:27
applaud he is so right on I’m with him
26:32
that I thought that his his paragraph
26:34
about the liturgy so well senator mm-hmm
26:37
was can you send me that link profound
26:39
it will put it on Sky’s email list yeah
26:43
yeah if you sign up for my free email
26:44
newsletter you you the day after the
26:47
podcast or the day of the puck that’s
26:48
the new thing yeah you get all the links
26:50
for all the articles so now everybody’s
26:51
gonna sign it back it’s free it’s free
26:54
sky Chaitanya calm and I can use that
26:57
email this too right yes bill can okay
27:00
I’ll let you use my email list yeah you
27:02
don’t have one i have a twitter twitter
27:05
you I’ll tweet you something if you sign
27:07
up for my Twitter I don’t tweet very
27:09
often because I’m not a bird what okay
27:15
so we’re thoughtful Christians we’re
27:17
thought I would just like to think we
27:18
are how do you go against our our own
27:22
cultural liturgies I’d say we all make a
27:25
podcast and everybody goes out there
27:30
well he references James ka Smith also
27:33
known as Jamie Smith in his book
27:35
desiring the kingdom and all I said and
27:37
and really people should read his stuff
27:39
because it we have had this assumption
27:42
in the church that if you teach people
27:44
to think the right thoughts that they
27:46
will act the right way and not only
27:49
Smith but Dallas Willard and numerous
27:51
other people in the spiritual formation
27:53
kind of realm of of writing have
27:56
debunked that over and over and over
27:58
again and just having the right Lee I’m
27:59
sure if you give a bunch of Christians a
28:01
little exam on basic theology they
28:03
probably be able to answer the correct
28:04
way but that doesn’t impact the way they
28:07
actually live this is what I was trying
28:08
to get at in the divine commodity my
28:09
first book about consumerism I didn’t
28:11
use the language of heart or desire
28:13
things like I did
28:14
but I used the language of imagination
28:17
what is it that shapes the way you think
28:19
and your desires that happens on a far
28:23
deeper level and most of our churches
28:25
have completely abandoned yeah
28:27
that level of engagement right so not
28:31
until everybody gets disenchanted with
28:34
their faith about you know it’s not
28:36
really making a difference in their life
28:38
that they stop and examine okay wait a
28:41
second
28:42
this this thing that I’ve bought into
28:44
intellectually or any other way is not
28:47
satisfying my soul and so then they
28:49
start looking for something to satisfy
28:51
their soul well the easiest way to look
28:53
at that is to just look how you actually
28:56
spend your time yeah you know yeah what
28:58
do what do I try to do when what do I
29:00
try to find time for you know and I have
29:03
to do that myself it’s like wow I’m
29:05
spending a lot of time watching The
29:07
Voice I’ll give you an example though
29:11
for the last two weeks I started this
29:12
new diet right I haven’t had any sugar
29:15
in two weeks no wonder you’re crabby
29:18
under but what’s interesting is like I
29:23
don’t crave like that on my couch
29:28
but you were crashed out I was but
29:31
here’s the thing you know it takes a
29:34
while you essentially have to detox off
29:36
this stuff right and then you don’t have
29:38
those swings of blood sugar anymore and
29:40
you even but in order for me to not just
29:42
lose the weight but get off of the sugar
29:43
I had to just stop eating sugar and
29:46
that’s a sacrifice at first it’s crazy
29:48
and it’s shame that ends up changing
29:50
what you want and desire as you get rid
29:51
of the sugar you desire and want to eat
29:53
other help with alcohol right you know
29:56
liquefied grain sugar anyway the point
29:59
being what we’ve abandoned in the
30:01
American church is this idea that if you
30:02
really want to change what you desire
30:04
you actually have to sacrifice first you
30:06
have to take up your cross and deny
30:08
yourself what our churches have
30:10
generally said in order to appeal to
30:11
more and more consumers the Americans is
30:13
you don’t have to give up anything
30:15
you’re gonna be entertained you’re gonna
30:16
be comfortable I like we’re gonna have
30:18
right that message right but then you
30:21
don’t end up transforming desires all
30:22
you end up doing is reinforcing them I
30:24
will say to in my own experience I
30:27
didn’t say this and
30:27
January when we were talking about new
30:29
things that we were gonna do this year
30:31
because I didn’t want to speak it out
30:33
yet because I didn’t want to fail but I
30:35
started you know to read through the
30:37
Bible at a friend Sarah that challenged
30:39
me to read through and I haven’t missed
30:41
and I’ve read all the way through we’re
30:43
almost at April and it truly has been
30:46
transformational and very much so
30:49
because I’ve start every morning and I
30:52
and two things have happened one it’s
30:54
generally it’s genuinely caused me to
30:57
have an experience with the Lord every
31:00
day so there have been a couple of days
31:02
where I’ve missed and I felt this
31:04
longing for that intimacy number one
31:07
number two is I’ve truly read through
31:10
the Old Testament and and and I’m
31:13
learning things that I didn’t know or
31:14
seeing things that I didn’t understand
31:16
asking questions that I hadn’t asked I’m
31:18
learning to understand and know God more
31:21
deeply no I’m just using the Bible it’s
31:26
just the text Hebrew I wish but but I’m
31:30
saying it does begin to change you from
31:33
that heart level when you have that
31:35
experience any change in what you desire
31:38
absolutely hugely and also in my faith
31:42
to just trust like like I said I I had a
31:45
lot of hard stuff happen over the last
31:47
two weeks and my first reaction has not
31:49
been despair it’s truly been I’ve
31:52
watched how God has aren’t you just an
31:54
optimistic person and you never ever
31:56
despair about anything ever in your
31:57
whole life that is not true okay but I
31:59
am genuinely generally an optimist but I
32:02
didn’t think that no it’s not true but
32:04
but the point is I truly have seen how
32:07
God has carried these Israelites despite
32:09
how they behaved and it’s given me hope
32:12
to know I can chill out he’s got this so
32:16
what have you had to change or give up
32:17
in order to fit reading the Bible into
32:20
your day every morning or well I started
32:22
trying to get up a lot earlier there you
32:24
go there’s a sacrifice there’s a change
32:26
of habit and sometimes I do that and
32:28
that’s what I try to do most of all
32:29
however if it doesn’t happen if I sleep
32:31
in or whatever I sacrifice time at work
32:34
and I say I’m not going to do this thing
32:37
that’s the top of my to-do list until I
32:39
sit down and spend this time because I
32:41
realize I’ll be empty what my soul is
32:43
really longing for is that communion and
32:46
so now it’s happened long enough like
32:49
enough days in a row where I can’t go if
32:53
I just can’t go without it
32:54
it’s really changed what what what I
32:56
think we’re uncovering is what the
32:58
advertising industry is known for a long
33:00
long time
33:00
what’s that which is people do not
33:02
change their behaviors because of an
33:04
argument you change your behaviors
33:06
because they’ve targeted your affections
33:08
they’ve changed your imagination or what
33:10
you think about and you have to be
33:12
asking the question what is shaping my
33:14
affections what is shaping my desires
33:16
what am i watching when am i reading
33:18
what am i consuming Facebook social
33:20
media I would like to think that I am
33:24
smart enough to resist the impact of
33:27
what I am consuming I would like to
33:28
think that – I don’t think that’s true
33:32
over time yeah you can engage things in
33:34
certain doses and go oh I can
33:36
intellectually pick that apart and not
33:37
have it affect me but if you really
33:39
saturate yourself and some things right
33:41
I think the opposite has to be true you
33:44
you have to be engaged in that kind of
33:47
communion with God I think because I
33:50
think having that deep love lets you
33:52
realize that this other stuff isn’t is
33:55
not satisfying at all and so I can get
33:59
caught up from time to time in watching
34:01
CNN or what’s going on but truthfully I
34:04
can turn it off and lead like nothing I
34:06
don’t know when the last time was I was
34:08
really on Facebook
34:09
seriously I hadn’t realized that until
34:11
recently but it’s like I’m not really
34:12
always I think Facebook was doing for
34:15
you before making me feel connected okay
34:18
like I think there was this need of
34:20
talking to others them knowing me me
34:23
knowing them wanting to be involved now
34:25
you know I just don’t seem to have that
34:28
need anymore
34:29
as much no longer need people I don’t I
34:33
don’t know I just I’m telling you what
34:34
I’m the change I’ve noticed and the
34:36
biggest change is that I really am
34:38
desiring that time that intimacy and I
34:40
think throughout my day like do you know
34:41
what I just learned yesterday I learned
34:43
in numbers when they were counting all
34:46
the Israelites you know and Moses said
34:49
here go counter you ready just the men
34:51
from 20 and up there were over two
34:53
million two
34:54
hundred-something if you think about it
34:56
you’ve got you’ve got all the wives they
34:58
had and the children they had and then
35:00
think about all the livestock that’s
35:02
like 4 million or more and that’s got a
35:05
brain
35:06
John Walton into this conversation cuz
35:07
he might burst your bubble a little bit
35:08
ok well just let me have this let me
35:10
have this moment but my point is there
35:14
were a lot of people can you imagine
35:16
getting Chicago together and running
35:18
around in tents and whatever I mean yeah
35:20
have you ever been to Chicago
35:24
you know what one of the worst
35:25
experiences of my life was going down to
35:26
the taste on the 4th of July down there
35:30
well just we hadn’t been married long
35:32
and she was pregnant and that was a
35:34
terrible idea yes it was yeah that’s
35:36
horrible really really terrible idea so
35:38
how what can we do collectively you know
35:42
in there’s individual but then there’s
35:44
like if you come together as your small
35:46
group as a church how do you even begin
35:49
to address what your affections are well
35:52
I mean the first step is what we’ve
35:54
already been talking about is you need
35:55
church leaders who actually recognize
35:57
that their responsibility is not just to
35:59
form people’s intellectual beliefs but
36:01
to form their affection if they’re not
36:02
even aware of that right you’re not
36:04
getting anywhere then secondly you have
36:05
to take a step back a particular from
36:07
your corporate gatherings and ask what
36:09
implicit values are we communicating in
36:12
the way we do things in our large
36:13
gatherings so I do this all time with
36:16
church leaders if if you were to just
36:19
sit in your worship space when it’s
36:20
empty and write down what you observe
36:23
about the space
36:24
what implicit values are you
36:27
communicating just in the physical space
36:29
in which you worship for example if
36:30
every seat is pointed toward the podium
36:32
and the pastor what does that
36:35
communicate if there are symbols absent
36:36
or not present present or not present or
36:39
not present what does that communicate
36:40
what do you do when you gather is it is
36:43
it all a happy slappy Christian
36:47
feel-good worship or do you actually
36:49
have times where you gather together for
36:50
lament do you gather together for
36:52
confession do you gather together for
36:54
other things other than just Rara right
36:56
not that that’s always bad but if every
36:59
time you gather it’s all the focus just
37:00
on the pastor and the only thing you do
37:02
is celebrate how great life is all the
37:04
time you are not forming people’s
37:06
affection remember when
37:07
had it wasn’t Michael Ganga the other
37:09
Ganga on the statement David go David
37:11
Geiger yeah we had David conquer the
37:13
younger Ganga I like the other younger
37:16
governor to show and he was talking
37:17
about worship music and just analyzing
37:19
it and and how the modern worship song
37:22
and the way it’s played is designed to
37:25
evoke a transcendent emotional
37:27
experience not necessarily for the right
37:30
reasons right and that he was trying to
37:32
write music that intentionally didn’t do
37:34
that that didn’t push the buttons that
37:37
were used to having pushed by a well
37:40
produced worship performance but then
37:43
you listen to that and you experience
37:44
that it’s like wow I didn’t feel I
37:46
didn’t it didn’t quite have the same
37:48
feeling but what he’s trying to do is we
37:50
knew aught of fishel response just based
37:53
on you know well this is the point where
37:55
the drums kick in extra loud and the
37:58
bass you know doubles and now you feel
38:00
Jesus you know he’s saying no let’s just
38:02
you know if you ever been to a taizé
38:04
service just you know just quite to sing
38:06
quietly with no crescendos in the
38:09
singing you know for a half an hour
38:11
straight can be deeply moving but it’s
38:13
so foreign you know to the way most of
38:16
us are brought up or experienced church
38:18
okay so senior pastors need to be more I
38:23
think we need to reckon it first of all
38:26
usually you should really read James
38:27
Smith’s book okay Jamie Smith’s book and
38:29
understand these ideas more and how
38:31
we’re actually created to be shaped by
38:34
our affections rather than just our
38:35
intellect and then secondly you need to
38:38
do the work with other leaders in the
38:40
church of thinking through what
38:41
affections are we targeting and shaping
38:43
in the way we do our gatherings and
38:45
perhaps unintentionally reinforcing the
38:48
wrong things here’s an example back when
38:49
years and years probably 10 years ago
38:52
we were launching a congregation out in
38:54
Warrenville that I was more or less in
38:56
charge of really more or less and and we
38:59
we had a young we had a kid in the
39:01
congregation who had pretty significant
39:04
mental disabilities and severe
39:06
disabilities and and he would at times
39:08
burst out in the service with noises or
39:12
he just he couldn’t control himself and
39:14
it was not a big congregation and you
39:17
know when those things happen I realize
39:18
I have a
39:19
I have an opportunity here and how I’m
39:21
gonna respond especially if it’s in the
39:23
middle of my sermon or other people in
39:24
the congregation and there have been
39:26
stories of large churches where this has
39:27
happened with other handicapped people
39:30
and they assure them out because it’s
39:32
you’re disturbing people from focusing
39:34
on the pastor from focusing on the music
39:36
or whatever and we decided the way we’re
39:39
gonna respond is to acknowledge it and
39:40
recognize that this young man is as much
39:43
a part of the body of Christ as the rest
39:44
of us and this is a place in a community
39:46
in which everyone is welcome and we want
39:48
to actually utilize this as a formative
39:51
moment where we can put our personal
39:52
desires aside for maybe a really quiet
39:55
space and awakening us a desire for
39:59
inclusivity that we want everybody to be
40:01
welcomed into this space even those who
40:03
aren’t able to sit quietly the way right
40:06
we may prefer so it also speak to babies
40:09
right and quiet rooms and mega churches
40:11
to put the moms with noisy kids in yeah
40:14
and it isn’t that one there’s just two
40:16
different values competing there one
40:18
isn’t the value of my comfort and the
40:20
others of value of community inclusive
40:22
‘ti and a lot of churches in America
40:26
tend to take the dominant American
40:27
cultural values and give those the trump
40:30
card for lack of a better word right and
40:31
anything that’s going to push people
40:33
outside of that comfort zone well that
40:36
must be bad mm-hmm and that’s that’s how
40:39
you attract a lot of people that’s part
40:40
of the turn in the culture you know that
40:43
Willow Creek and the mega church
40:44
movement represented of okay people have
40:47
changed they don’t like the way we used
40:50
to do Church let’s pull them and see
40:53
what they would be comfortable with you
40:56
know let’s meet in the middle and what
40:57
there’s got to be a part of that that’s
40:59
a good thing right meeting yeah I mean
41:02
well I mean I think the value that would
41:03
probably be expressed by those folks as
41:06
that of hospitality we want to create a
41:08
husband and that’s a good value a safe
41:09
place for a dangerous message right
41:11
that’s what I heard over and over again
41:12
with the seeker sensitive moment going
41:13
to create a safe place for a dangerous
41:15
message although it’s tempting to never
41:17
quite get to the dangerous mess that’s
41:18
the temptation has they stopped coming
41:21
mm-hmm yeah all right and the thing is
41:25
if it’s only a dangerous message yet
41:27
engages our minds it’s not really the
41:29
gospel right it has to be a dangerous
41:31
community it has to be a community
41:32
that is gonna force us to come to terms
41:35
with our desires that may or may not
41:36
conform to Christ’s safe place for a
41:38
dangerous let bikers know but it’s the
41:42
sense that is this community really
41:44
gonna call me to take up my cross and
41:45
sacrifice myself or is it a place where
41:47
I can be as narcissistic and
41:48
self-centered as everyone else in
41:50
America but just have a sense of fire
41:51
insurance that I’m not gonna go to hell
41:53
for it right but I think you know
41:55
ultimately what it comes down to is that
41:57
we have to take individual
41:59
responsibility to to be changed people
42:03
to be the change we want to see in the
42:06
world
42:12
change does begin with us I’ve got a
42:15
good wrap-up song well I do think though
42:17
if you are a church leader you have the
42:19
added responsibility of shepherding
42:21
people and creating a community where
42:25
values are cultivated that train people
42:28
to love the things of God can you think
42:30
of a message you preached that was
42:32
intentionally designed to change or
42:37
raise this issue address affections yeah
42:40
but I don’t think it primarily happens
42:41
well through preaching oh great that’s
42:43
and that’s another problem is we have
42:45
this bias that the thirty minutes that
42:47
the pastor speaking is the formative
42:48
moment right it’s getting to the head it
42:51
is and there’s a place for that I’m not
42:53
saying it’s all bad but here’s the
42:54
problem you’ve all been sitting in
42:56
church for decades and I’m guessing and
42:58
look at us right you’re a mess no but
43:01
you I you could probably count three or
43:03
four sermons in your life that have
43:05
probably been deeply impactful yeah
43:07
right yeah and you probably can’t even
43:09
recall ninety-eight percent of it right
43:11
right you can probably if you get if you
43:14
say if you start humming the bars to
43:16
some songs popular that you could PI
43:17
start singing them right away yeah and
43:19
those songs are probably more formative
43:21
in your understanding of your faith and
43:22
diamonds should be sung is that what
43:24
you’re saying I’m saying sermons need to
43:25
be seen as one facet of a multi-faceted
43:28
gathering that trains one’s affections
43:30
and this is where I think more symbolic
43:32
and liturgical traditions have a better
43:35
understanding of human nature than those
43:37
that only emphasize the spoken word
43:39
because spoken word is one element but
43:41
we have visual components to us we have
43:44
bodily components movement
43:46
we have symbols we have practices that
43:49
the church calendar and other traditions
43:51
were engaging in a meaningful way in a
43:53
repetitious way that shapes what we want
43:55
and desire much more than just the
43:57
spoken word does in fact when you get
43:59
too attached to spoken words you end up
44:00
developing an affection for the person
44:02
speaking it more than the word itself
44:04
and that’s where you get the cult of
44:06
personality that he’s talking about in
44:07
our celebrity have angelical will so
44:10
which denomination gets it right
44:12
mine the Church of sky right no no they
44:17
all have their shortsightedness and
44:19
their problems but we I think in general
44:21
American culture has latched on to a
44:24
verbal celebrity-driven personality and
44:28
baudet form of Christianity that seems
44:30
to dominate right how can you be okay
44:32
with not doing the things that appear to
44:36
be creating success for the churches
44:38
well you got to read to find success
44:39
because that definition of success is
44:41
probably based on desires which you
44:42
inherited from the culture well then
44:43
that goes back to your point of if
44:45
pastors really start changing things up
44:47
like like you’re talking about all just
44:50
get smaller all of a sudden you know a
44:53
pastors may not have a job and be you
44:56
know churches are gonna start
44:57
disintegrating I mean you know there
44:59
could be some radical changes if that
45:01
really started happening or we changed
45:03
nothing and we get Donald Trump or we
45:05
change nothing and we get Donald Trump
45:07
but he’s popular and I’m sure after he
45:09
leaves the White House he’ll probably
45:10
have a mega ministry so your tongue is
45:13
not going to the White House how much
45:16
could he get for a speech after the
45:18
White House oh my word can we just not
45:20
talk about this anymore
45:22
just think about no mine okay well I
45:29
don’t mean to kick it in the rope but
45:32
there are some things we can learn from
45:34
Trump like taking a little bit of a
45:39
deflection to rethink what we’ve made
45:41
our
45:42
factions in the church and in our homes
45:45
I don’t mean to make you moan but we
45:49
might need to sacrifice more spend a
45:53
little less time watching TV on the
45:55
floor and look to Jesus as our affection
46:00
because that’s the one and true and holy
46:03
direction we should go you could play
46:09
that as a worship song on Sunday morning
46:11
and then I’ll get a nickel through CC Li
46:14
and happy Easter happy Easter everybody
46:16
let’s do an Easter special oh it’s too
46:19
late too late now next year mr. special
46:21
next year hi everybody
46:31
you

Democratic ad makers think they’ve discovered Trump’s soft spot

After more than a year of polling, focus groups and message testing against the president, there’s a growing consensus about what damages Trump — and what doesn’t.

Donald Trump wasn’t halfway through his speech in Tulsa, Okla., and Democratic ad makers in Washington and New York were already cutting footage for an air raid on the slumping president.

They didn’t focus on the president’s curious monologue about his difficulties descending a ramp or drinking water at West Point, the small crowd size of the Tulsa event or even his use of the racist term “kung flu.” Instead, the ads zeroed in on Trump’s admission that he urged officials to “slow the [coronavirus] testing down.”

It’s a reflection of a growing consensus among Democrats about what kind of hits on Trump are most likely to persuade swing votersand which ones won’t. As in 2016, ad makers are focusing on Trump’s character. But unlike four years ago, they are no longer focusing on his character in isolation — rather they are pouring tens of millions of dollars into ads yoking his behavior to substantive policy issues surrounding the coronavirus, the economy and the civil unrest since the death of George Floyd.

You can’t chase the Trump clown car,” said Bradley Beychok, president of the progressive group American Bridge. “Him drinking water and throwing a glass is goofy and may make for a good meme, but it doesn’t matter in the scheme of things … What people care about is this outbreak.”

Until recently, it wasn’t entirely clear what, if anything, worked against Trump. From the moment he announced his presidential campaign five years ago, not even the most incendiary material seemed to cause significant damage. Not

  • calling Mexican immigrants “rapists,” not
  • “blood coming out of her wherever,” not “
  • grab them by the p—y” — all of which were featured by Democrats in character-based ads attacking Trump.

By Election Day, most voters didn’t find Trump honest or trustworthy, according to exit polls. But they voted for him anyway. And throughout much of his first term, including his impeachment, Democrats struggled to find an anti-Trump message that gained traction.

In their preparations for 2020, outside Democratic groups spent more than a year surveying voters in swing states by phone and online. They convened in-person focus groups and enlisted voters in swing states to keep diaries of their media consumption.

Multiple outside groups said they began to test their ads more rigorously than in 2016, using online panels to determine how likely an ad was to either change a viewer’s impression of Trump or to change how he or she planned to vote. Priorities USA, a major Democratic super PAC, alone expects to test more than 500 ads this cycle. Priorities, American Bridge and other outside groups, including organized labor, have been meeting regularly to share internal research and media plans.

“One thing we saw in polling a lot before the coronavirus outbreak is that people didn’t think he was a strong leader or a good leader, they complained about his Twitter,” said Nick Ahamed, analytics director at Priorities USA. “But they had a hard time connecting those character flaws they saw in him with their day-to-day experience.”

Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and recent protests, he said, “really made concrete for people the ways in which his leadership has direct consequences on them and their loved ones … It’s easier to make ads that talk about his leadership than before the outbreak.”

The advertising elements that appear to work, according to interviews with more than a dozen Democrats involved in message research, vary from ad to ad. Using Trump’s own words against him often tests well, as do charts and other graphics, which serve to highlight Trump’s distaste for science. Voters who swung from President Barack Obama to Trump in 2016 — and who regret it — are good messengers. And so is Joe Biden, whose voice is widely considered preferable to that of a professional narrator. Not only does he convey empathy, according to Democrats inside and outside Biden’s campaign, but using Biden’s voice “helps people think about him as president,” said Patrick Bonsignore, Biden’s director of paid media.

But the ad makers’ overarching takeaway from their research was this: While Trump may not be vulnerable on issues of character alone, as he demonstrated in 2016, he is vulnerable when character is tied to his policy record on the economy and health care.

“What we’ve learned form a lot of previous experience … is that quite honestly, people who work in politics can be bad prognosticators in terms of which ad will work,” said Patrick McHugh, Priorities’ executive director. “You see a lot of times the videos that go viral on Twitter … you test those ads, and more often than not they backlash … they can move voters toward Trump.”

For the negative ad industry, the coronavirus has been a bonanza because it inextricably linked both the economy and health care. On the evening of his Tulsa rally, American Bridge, which had already been working on an ad pummeling Trump for his response to the coronavirus, bookended its material with Trump’s acknowledgment that he urged officials to “slow the testing down.”

Biden’s campaign rushed a video onto social media skewering Trump for the admission. And Priorities USA, the Biden campaign’s preferred big-money vehicle, was on TV within days with Trump’s testing remarks in the swing states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Michigan.

Trump complained on Twitter that “the Democrats are doing totally false advertising.” But after the Democratic National Committee posted its first TV ads since 2016 — one asserting that Trump had “brought America down with him” and the other a more focused critique of his handling of China and trade — even the president acknowledged the effectiveness of the assault.

“On the campaign they’ll say such horrible things about me. It’s a very unfair business,” he said on Fox News. “But the ad [Democrats] did this morning, it’s a great ad for them.”

In one obvious way, assailing Trump is less complicated for Democrats than it was four years ago. Trump is the incumbent now, and for the first time he has a record of governance. Pointing out historic economic and public health crises in ads is not rocket science.

Trump’s approval ratings, both overall and on his handling of the coronavirus, have tracked downward since March, when outside Democratic groups began running advertisements against him on the issue. A Reuters/Ipsos poll last week put public approval for his response to the coronavirus pandemic at 37 percent, the lowest mark on record.

“There are more voters on the table now than there have been in a long time,” Becca Siegel, Biden’s chief analytics officer, told POLITICO. “Many, many voters who are persuadable and open to hearing these messages.”

And Trump keeps providing fodder. As outside groups began running ads featuring Trump’s “slow the testing down” remark last week, one Democratic strategist said, “Everybody is going to put this into their ads. This is something people are going to see on their TVs … for the rest of the cycle.”

For Biden, it is difficult to argue anything isn’t working at the moment. He is flattening Trump in national polls and running ahead of him in most swing states.

Yet voters still know less about Biden than Trump, according to internal polling from both parties, and there is an undercurrent of tension within the Democratic Party about how much effort to spend attacking Trump versus building Biden up.

In a study based on data from tens thousands of survey participants — and cited frequently by Democrats — researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and Yale University found earlier this month that messages about the lesser-known candidate, Biden, were more effective at persuading voters than messages about Trump.

Echoing the study’s findings, David Doak, a retired longtime Democratic strategist and ad maker, said that while “the race is being decided right now by the negativity towards Trump … what I would do if I were the Biden [campaign] is to try and fill in that favorability, to strengthen what he’s getting there and move his favorability rating up.”

Jimmy Siegel, an ad maker who worked on Clinton’s 2008 campaign and for Michael Bloomberg this cycle, said, “You need more positive Biden stuff” — what another strategist called “more Biden cowbell.”

“I think Democrats have had a theory of the case against President Trump for a while, but it really hasn’t been until the last few months when it started finally getting traction,” said Mark Putnam, the famed Democratic ad maker who worked for Obama and also for Biden before parting ways with the campaign last year. “He almost seemed to have some kind of anti-gravity secret that allowed him to consistently screw things up and yet never pay a political price for it. And with just the way he’s handled one crisis after another in really the worst possible way, it’s finally sinking in.”

However, Putnam said, “That’s only half the battle … We also have to offer an alternative.”

Unite the Country, the super PAC that Putnam is working with, has released several TV and digital ads highlighting Biden’s biography and record on the economy, including a spot featuring Biden’s childhood home in in Scranton, Pa. — complete with the bed Biden slept in as a child that Putnam’s team found stored in the attic when they arrived.

And Biden’s campaign itself began working this month to define the former vice president — and Trump — for a general election audience, releasing two ads as part of a $15 million buy, his first major advertising offensive of the general election campaign.

Just as the outside Democratic groups did, Biden’s campaign tested those ads with online panels, finding versions that used Biden’s own voice performed “dramatically stronger” than those using a professional narrator, the Biden campaign’s Bonsignore said.

In one ad, Biden talks about the economy, offering only an implicit contrast with Trump.

But Biden’s other ad cuts a much sharper contrast — staying with Democrats’ relentless criticism of the incumbent. It includes footage of Trump posing with a Bible outside St. John’s Episcopal Church near the White House after officials forced protesters from the area, as well as an image of Trump’s “both sides” reaction to the deadly violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. — an episode that has gained new resonance amid the racial unrest surrounding Floyd’s killing.

The ad recalled Hillary Clinton’s first ad of the 2016 general election, when Clinton used footage of Trump encouraging violence at a campaign rally and mocking a reporter’s disability to make a call for unity.

But there was one significant difference from the 2016 attack on Trump. Four years ago, said Tad Devine, who was a senior strategist to Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign, issues of character proved irrelevant in general election advertising “because people weren’t voting on it” — there was no connection to draw between Trump’s character and a record of governance that did not yet exist.

This year, he said, “That is absolutely the weakest front for Trump … Things have changed so dramatically, and the connection between the character of the president and that president’s ability to protect people, whether it’s from economic collapse or pandemic, is really important.”

The contrast works, Devine said, because “people are so desperate to turn the page from what’s happening in America today.”

On Some Things, Americans Can Agree

George Floyd’s killing was brutal. Good cops are needed. And Trump hurt himself badly this week.

There’s so much to say but my mind keeps going back to New Year’s Eve, when we watched the ball come down and knew the story of 2020 was the presidential election and whatever stray harassments history throws our way. No one that night guessed—no one could have guessed—that in the next few months we’d have a world-wide pandemic, an economic catastrophe and fighting in the streets. The point is not that life is surprise or history turns on a dime, it’s that we’ve been battered. We’ve been through a lot. And with economic and cultural indexes down, with the world turned darker and more predatory, we will go through more. We thought we’d be telling our grandchildren about the spring of 2020. Actually we’ll be telling them about the coming 10 years, and how we tried to turn everything around.

The painful irony of the protests and riots is that for a few days everyone was in agreement. We all saw the nine-minute tape. We saw the casual brutality as the dying man begged for mercy and the cop didn’t care. In the past there were arguments about similar incidents. Not this time. Most everyone concedes the problem—that black men are profiled and cannot feel safe in their own country. Walking while black, driving while blackTim Scott of South Carolina has been stopped for trying to impersonate a U.S. senator, which is what he is. In an interview a few years ago he told me that seven times in his first six years in Washington he’d been pulled over for “driving a new car in the wrong neighborhood.”

Following the killing of George Floyd, America would totally accept protests and demonstrations, would understand expressions of anger and pain.

What Americans wouldn’t accept was looting, violence, arson. They wouldn’t accept that shopkeepers just out from lockdown were pulled from their stores and beaten. They won’t accept this because they will not accept more battery.

We’re now supposed to hate cops. No. Hate bad cops, help good ones. A great cop does as much to help society as a great doctor or nurse, and is in the line of fire. In New York, one officer was mowed down by a hit-and-run driver; another was stabbed in the neck; two were shot. One cop was shot in Las Vegas and four in St. Louis, where the police chief said someone randomly shot at a police line. Also in St. Louis a 77-year-old retired police captain, David Dorn, black, on the force 38 years, was shot and killed during the looting.

Cops witness the worst things in America. They answer the 911 call at 3:20 a.m. and see things so horrible they can’t tell anyone because if it gets around there will be imitators. They see the violent parents and the kids watching television, checked out at age 8. They see what meth does. They’re often poorly trained and have to get everything right, and they assume between the pols and public opinion no one really has their back except the unions that too often keep cities from weeding out bad cops so that good cops can thrive.

There is a phrase among medical professionals, “moral injury.” Health-care workers who are strung out, stretched to the breaking point, suffer from moral injury.

So do a lot of cops. A lot of black men, too. The thing for all of us now is to keep our moral poise and intellectual balance, try to be fair and make things better. Some cops failed to do that this week—unnecessary roughness, targeting journalists. Some really came through. Among them were the police who were face to face with demonstrators and took a knee. This has been criticized as obsequious, bowing to the mob. No, it is how we are saved, by showing love and sympathy. It happened from New York to Los Angeles. Yahoo News reported on what happened in Flint, Mich., when Sheriff Chris Swanson told protesters, “I took off the helmet and laid the batons down. Where do you want to walk? We’ll walk all night.” Protesters cheered. In Fayetteville, N.C., there was a standoff between demonstrators and the police. The officers, some 60 of them, took a knee before marchers on Murchison Road. The department later said they wanted to show “understanding” for “the pain” many civilians are feeling. Witnesses said some officers and protesters had tears in their eyes.

To the extent things were contained this week, that’s how it happened.

That’s the big story, what happened in America.

As to the president, this week he altered his position in the political landscape. Something broke. He is no longer the force he was and no longer lucky. In some new and indelible way his essential nature was revealed.

It got out that faced with protests around the White House, he hid. Or perhaps let the Secret Service, which might have struggled with realistic threat assessment, talk him into going into the White House bunker. (Mr. Trump later said he was simply “inspecting” it.) He tweeted that he was protected by the “most vicious dogs” and “ominous weapons.”

On Monday, he spoke in the Rose Garden. “I will fight to protect you,” he said. “I am your president of law and order.” This was unsubtle, and seemed more aimed at protecting his political prospects than your safety and property.

Then, upset that people might be getting the impression he was a physical coward, he set out to prove he is brave. Protected by a phalanx of police, Secret Service, sharpshooters and what looked like a Praetorian Guard with shields, he marched to St John’s, the church of the presidents. Aides said it was a Churchill moment. And it was just like Churchill during the blitz, if Churchill secretly loved rubble. Upon arrival with his friends, the people who work for him, he brandished a Bible like—who in history?—the devil?

In all this he gave up the game and explicitly patronized his own followers. It was as if he was saying: I’m going to show you how stupid I know you are. I’ll give you crude and gross imagery and you’ll love it because you’re crude and gross people.

And some would love it. But not all. Not most, I think.

He has maxed out his base. He’s got his 40% and will keep it, but it isn’t growing. His polls are down, he has historically high negatives. As for suburban women, they’d crawl over broken husbands to vote him out.

He is proud of his many billionaire friends and think they love him. They don’t. Their support is utterly transactional. They’re embarrassed by him. When they begin to think he won’t be re-elected they will turn, and it will be bloody and on a dime.

This will not end well. With his timing he’d know it. He should give an Oval Office address announcing he’s leaving: “America, you don’t deserve me.” Truer words have never been spoken in that old place. And he won’t be outshone by his successor. Network producers will listen to Mike Pence once and say, “Let’s do ‘Shark Week.’ ” But you know, America could use a shark week.