Evangelical Leaders Are Frustrated at G.O.P. Caution on Kavanaugh Allegation

Worried their chance to cement a conservative majority on the Supreme Court could slip away, a growing number of evangelical and anti-abortion leaders are expressing frustration that Senate Republicans and the White House are not protecting Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh more forcefully from a sexual assault allegation and warning that conservative voters may stay home in November if his nomination falls apart.

Several of these leaders, including ones with close ties to the White House and Senate Republicans, are urging Republicans to move forward with a confirmation vote imminently unless the woman who accused Judge Kavanaugh of sexual assault, Christine Blasey Ford, agrees to share her story with the Senate Judiciary Committee within the next few days.

The evangelical leaders’ pleas are, in part, an attempt to apply political pressure: Some of them are warning that religious conservatives may feel little motivation to vote in the midterm elections unless Senate Republicans move the nomination out of committee soon and do more to defend Judge Kavanaugh from what they say is a desperate Democratic ploy to prevent President Trump from filling future court vacancies.

One of the political costs of failing to confirm Brett Kavanaugh is likely the loss of the United States Senate,” said Ralph Reed, the founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition who is in frequent contact with the White House.

“If Republicans were to fail to defend and confirm such an obviously and eminently qualified and decent nominee,” Mr. Reed added, “then it will be very difficult to motivate and energize faith-based and conservative voters in November.”

The evangelist Franklin Graham, one of Mr. Trump’s most unwavering defenders, told the Christian Broadcasting Network this week, “I hope the Senate is smarter than this, and they’re not going to let this stop the process from moving forward and confirming this man.”

Social conservatives are already envisioning a worst-case scenario related to Judge Kavanaugh, and they say it is not a remote one. Republican promises to shift the Supreme Court further to the right — which just a few days ago seemed like a fait accompli — have been one of the major reasons conservatives say they are willing to tolerate an otherwise dysfunctional Republican-controlled government. If Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination fails, and recent political history is any guide, voters will most likely point the finger not at Mr. Trump but at Republican lawmakers.

.. The reason the prospect of Judge Kavanaugh’s defeat is so alarming to conservatives is that they fear he could be the last shot at reshaping the nation’s highest court for years. If Republicans were to lose control of the Senate, where they hold a 51-to-49 majority, in November, Mr. Trump would find it difficult to get anyone confirmed before the end of the year. Even if Senate leaders were able to schedule hearings and hold a vote, there could be defections from Republican senators uneasy about using a lame duck session to ram through a lifetime appointment that would tip the court’s ideological balance.

.. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Dallas and one of Mr. Trump’s most vocal evangelical supporters, said he did not know who was telling the truth, Judge Kavanaugh or Dr. Blasey. “But I can say with absolute certainty,” he added, “that the Democrats don’t care who is telling the truth. Their only interest is in delaying and derailing this confirmation.”

.. The importance of the Supreme Court to the Trump White House and the Republican Party is difficult to overstate. Mr. Trump has heralded Justice Neil M. Gorsuch and Judge Kavanaugh, his two Supreme Court nominees, as crowning achievements in an otherwise uneven presidency.

.. Conservative groups have spent tens of millions of dollars building the men up as legal luminaries, gentleman scholars and the fulfillment of Mr. Trump’s campaign promise to nominate judges who have “a record of applying the Constitution just as it was written,”

.. A relatively smooth, predictable confirmation fight has also been a key part of Republicans’ strategy to keep the Senate. In the 10 states that Mr. Trump won where Democratic senators are up for re-election, Republicans have attacked Democrats for either opposing the judge or remaining noncommittal.

.. some are also arguing that they cannot be indifferent and insensitive to a victim.

.. But many conservatives see little use in being deferential when, they argue, the Democrats play by no such rules. They look back at the failed confirmation of the Republican nominee Robert Bork in 1987, whose writings on civil rights were picked over by Democrats, and the 1991 hearings for Clarence Thomas, who faced testimony from Anita Hill that he had sexually harassed her, and they see a sophisticated and ruthless Democratic machine bent on discrediting their nominees.

.. “Republicans are right, as a moral matter as well as a political matter, to take allegations of misbehavior like this seriously,” said Frank Cannon, president of the American Principles Project and a veteran social conservative strategist. “At the same time, we’ve seen anything and everything thrown at Republican Supreme Court nominees for decades,” he added, noting that Republicans have been slow to understand that Democrats are “playing by different rules.”

.. Privately, some conservatives were thrilled that Dr. Blasey and her lawyer have resisted the opportunity to testify in the Senate on Monday and demanded instead that the F.B.I. first investigate her claims. That would be just enough, they said, to give Republicans the justification for moving forward without her. The Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, made clear on Wednesday that he would not postpone a hearing past Monday.

.. sets up a fight that Republicans could win in the Senate but might ultimately lose at the ballot box in November. The level of outrage could run so hot among Democrats, who would likely use every procedural and political tool at their disposal to delay confirmation, that it could provide even more fuel to an already energized liberal base.

.. “Given the confirmation theatrics, followed by this allegation that was held until the last moment, this could be seen as another partisan attack and could actually fuel conservative turnout,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.

.. Conservatives are likely to use protests and other forms of resistance to Judge Kavanaugh as a way to clarify for unmotivated Republican voters what Democratic control of the Senate means: a Trump-nominated Supreme Court justice would never be confirmed again.

“If Chuck Schumer is majority leader and Dianne Feinstein is chairman of the Judiciary Committee,” said Mr. Reed of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, “it will be open season on any Trump nominee to the federal bench at any level of the judiciary.”

A Defense of Evangelicals Who Support Trump 

Ross Douthat, a New York Times columnist, wrote: “Whether the subject is the debauched pagan in the White House, the mall-haunted candidacy of Roy Moore or the larger question of how to engage with secular culture, there is talk of an intergenerational crisis within evangelical churches, a widening disillusionment with a Trump-endorsing old guard, a feeling that a crackup must loom ahead.”

Jared Wilson wrote on the Gospel Coalition’s website: “From the same believers who raised us to believe that standing for the truth was more important than anything, that being persecuted for your integrity was better than compromise, that morality was not relative, that ethics are not situational. And now these same teachers are wanting us to believe that a little ‘R’ by a man’s name covers a multitude of sins.”

.. Robert P. Jones wrote in USA Today: “White Evangelicals . . . are, in many ways, a community grieving its losses. . . . Thinking about the white evangelical/Trump alliance as an end-of-life bargain is illuminating. It helps explain, for example, how white evangelical leaders could ignore so many problematic aspects of Trump’s character.”

.. I believe these attacks are not biblical, moral, or wise. Religious Christians and Jews who support Trump understand that the character of a public leader is quite often less important than his policies. This is so obvious that only the naïve think otherwise. Character is no predictor of political leadership on behalf of moral causes. I wish it were. Then, in any political contest, we would simply have to determine who the better person is and vote accordingly.

.. If you are conservative, religious or secular, would you vote for Jimmy Carter over Donald Trump?

.. Do you believe that Hillary Clinton has a finer character than Donald Trump? For the record, I believe his character is superior to hers.

.. Whom should pro-Israel voters support: an anti-Israel activist of fine character or a pro-Israel activist of dubious character?

.. If they were to have cancer, would any of the Evangelicals’ critics choose an oncologist based on character? If not, why not?

.. One of the few moral heroes of the Holocaust was the German industrialist and member of the Nazi party Oskar Schindler. He personally saved more than a thousand Jews’ lives. He was also a serial philanderer. I suspect many leading Nazis never cheated on their wives. Character is a complex issue.

.. Evangelicals realize that the moral good of defeating the Left is of surpassing importance. It can feel good to oppose the president, but religious supporters of the president are more interested in doing good than feeling good. On issue after issue —

  • religious liberty,
  • the unborn,
  • Israel,
  • he American flag, and
  • free speech,

to cite just a few — the president and religious Americans have made common cause.

.. Like Evangelicals, I look to the Bible for moral instruction. I also look for wisdom. And in that book, God chooses, of all people, a prostitute (Rahab) to enable the Israelites to enter the Promised Land. There’s a lesson there.

Bury The Word “Evangelical”

The issue is politics; the presenting painful reality is Trump. The reality is 81% of evangelicals voted for Trump. The word “evangelical” now means Trump-voter. The word “evangelical” is spoiled.

.. Most don’t even know what Conservative means — economically or governmentally especially — while some think Republican means anti-abortion, pro-war, pro-NRA, pro-big business, anti-immigration, anti-Obamacare, anti-same-sex marriage, anti-taxes. Pro Fox News, Anti-CNN.

.. Populism runs rampant among the Republican voters, not least among evangelicals, and part of this is that evangelicalism is itself populist.

.. Eventually “Evangelical” will dwindle in numbers down to Republican.

.. When that happens no one will be one bit surprised Evangelical=Republican=Conservative=populist=[Candidate’s name]. That’s what the term will mean because only they will claim the term.

.. At one time we got to define this term by theology as a coalition of post Great Awakening orthodox Christians who affirmed the Bible, personal conversion, the centrality of the cross as God’s saving event, and activism when it comes to evangelism and social goods.

.. The Reformed side of evangelicalism didn’t want the Holiness and Anabaptist and Restorationist crowds as equals and those last three have basically avoided the term for themselves.

.. Then came Reagan and Jerry Falwell, James Dobson and James Kennedy and theology and sociology were usurped by politics.

.. Evangelical meant Republican. What they didn’t recognize is that “evangelical” became “whiteness” and many Latin Americans and African Americans and Asian Americans were excluded.

.. Folks, very few English and Irish and Scottish evangelicals, not to ignore the others just mentioned, are politicals like our Republicans; many of them are more like our Democrats and many are more like Bernie Sanders than ordinary Democrats. What do you think they hear or think when they see evangelical=Republican=Conservative=populist=Trump?

They often say to me, “Don’t call me ‘evangelical’ if you mean Republican!”

.. Today the term evangelical in the USA means (supposedly) conservative in politics, and hence “Votes Republican.” This definition is not going away. The political folks have won.

Let the political evangelicals have the term.

.. The one thing I despise about Christianity in the USA is its aligning with a political party. Mainliners have done it; they’re Democrats. Evangelicals have followed suit; they’re Republicans.