The Real Reason Biden Is Ahead of Trump? He’s a Man

It’s a lot easier to run a cautious, inoffensive campaign when you’re not up against a culture of misogyny.

A narrative has formed around the presidential race: Donald Trump is losing because he’s botched the current crisis. Americans are desperate for competence and compassion. He’s offered narcissism and division — and he’s paying the political price.

For progressives, it’s a satisfying story line, in which Americans finally see Mr. Trump for the inept charlatan he truly is. But it’s at best half-true. The administration’s mismanagement of the coronavirus and the Black Lives Matter protests only partially explain why the president is trailing badly in the polls. There’s another, more disquieting, explanation: He is running against a man.

The evidence that Mr. Trump’s electoral woes stem as much from the gender of his opponent as from his own failures begins with his net approval rating: the percent of Americans who view him favorably minus the percent who view him unfavorably. Right now, that figure stands at -15 points. That makes Mr. Trump less popular than he was this spring. But he’s still more popular than he was throughout the 2016 campaign. Yet he won.

What has changed radically over the past four years isn’t Americans’ perception of Mr. Trump. It’s their perception of his opponent. According to Real Clear Politics’s polling average, Joe Biden’s net approval rating is about -1 point. At this point in the 2016 campaign, Hillary Clinton’s net approval rating was -17 points. For much of the 2016 general election, Mr. Trump faced a Democratic nominee who was also deeply unpopular. Today, he enjoys no such luck.

Why was Mrs. Clinton so much more unpopular than Mr. Biden is now? There’s good reason to believe that gender plays a key role. For starters, Mrs. Clinton wasn’t just far less popular than Mr. Biden. She was far less popular than every male Democratic nominee since at least 1992. Neither Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry nor Barack Obama faced overwhelming public disapproval throughout their general election campaigns. Hillary Clinton did.

A major driver of the public’s extreme dislike of Mrs. Clinton was its perception of her as duplicitous. In a poll taken just days before the 2016 election, Americans deemed her even less truthful than Mr. Trump. By contrast, in a Pew Research Center poll late last month, Americans rated Mr. Biden as more honest than Mr. Trump by 12 points.

According to fact checkers, these public perceptions are wildly incorrect. PolitiFact, a project of the nonprofit Poynter Institute, rates the veracity of politicians’ assertions. According to its calculations, which are based on hundreds of individual statementsMrs. Clinton isn’t only far more honest than Mr. Trump. She’s also more honest than Mr. Biden.

Why don’t voters see it that way? Research on how gender shapes political perception suggests an answer. For a 2010 study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, two Yale researchers, Tyler Okimoto and Victoria Brescoll, asked participants their opinions of two fictional candidates, one male and one female, who were described as possessing “a strong will to power.” Attributing ambition to the male candidate didn’t hurt his appeal. But upon learning that the female candidate was ambitious, many participants responded with “feelings of moral outrage.” This “moral outrage” helps explain why Americans believed Mrs. Clinton was so much more dishonest than she actually was.

Critics might counter that Politifact’s data notwithstanding, what provoked the public’s opprobrium was not Mrs. Clinton’s gender but the scandals that surrounded her long political career. As a former first lady, she was asked to answer for her husband’s indiscretions in a way other female candidates might not have been. She also spent the 2016 campaign on the defensive for having used a private email server for her official business as secretary of state — a controversy that James Comey reignited by revealing new evidence in the F.B.I.’s investigation just days before the election. For all these reasons, observers might claim that Mrs. Clinton is a special case.

But the same “moral outrage” that plagued her four years ago also plagued this year’s most prominent female presidential contender: Elizabeth Warren. If Mrs. Clinton is far less popular than Mr. Biden, her fellow centrist insider, Ms. Warren has proved far less popular than Bernie Sanders, her fellow progressive insurgent. The data is striking. Most polls show that a majority of Americans disapprove of the gentlewoman from Massachusetts. By contrast, most Americanapprove of the gentleman from Vermont, usually by double digits.

Voters also consider Mr. Sanders more honest than Ms. Warren, even though, according to PolitiFact, he’s not. Mr. Trump’s decision to assign both Mrs. Clinton (“crooked”) and Ms. Warren (“Pocahontas”) nicknames that connote deceit reflects his own misogyny. But it also reflects his instinctive understanding that when you call female candidates unscrupulous, the slur is more likely to stick. (In recent days, Trump has begun referring to Biden as “corrupt Joe.” For bulk of the campaign, however, he merely dubbed him “sleepy,” while labelling Sanders “crazy.”)

It’s worth remembering that the next time you hear Mr. Biden praised for running a cautious, inoffensive and largely mistake-free campaign. Given Mr. Trump’s epic blunders, inoffensiveness may be enough to propel the former vice president to the White House. But it’s a lot easier to be inoffensive when you’re a man.

A.O.C. and the Jurassic Jerks

For the Cave Man President and his party, clubbing women is not a path to victory.

President Trump is oh so proud of having mastered the ability to intone, “Person. Woman. Man. Camera. TV.”

But the more pressing issue is whether he is a person who can master talking to women through a TV camera without sounding like a cave man.

We continually debate whether Trump is a madman, but there’s no doubt he’s a Mad Man. He’s a ring-a-ding-ding guy, stuck in a time warp redolent of Vegas with the Rat Pack in 1959, talking about how “broads” and “skirts” rate. He was in his element bro-ing out with Dave Portnoy in an interview for “Barstool Sports” that aired Friday.

Trump’s idea of wooing the women’s vote, which is decisive in this election, was to tweet out a New York Post story headlined “Joe Biden’s disastrous plans for America’s suburbs” with the directive: “The Suburban Housewives of America must read this article.”

Clearly, the 74-year-old president thinks that American women are in the kitchen, clutching their pearls à la June Cleaver, sheltered in the ’burbs in their gingham aprons, waiting for their big, brave breadwinners to come home after a hard day’s work manhandling their secretaries.

Trump believes that the coveted electoral cohort that used to be known as soccer moms are actually sucker moms, naïve enough to fall for his schtick that the unleashed forces of urban America are marching toward their manicured lawns.

How perfect that the pussy-grabbing president — whose personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, got in trouble over his boss’s porn-star payout — wants to protect the desperate housewives of America.

In a speech on drug prices on Friday, Trump took his strange brand of feminism for a spin, pausing while he talked about middlemen profiting in the Big Pharma arena, to say “and women, I guess.”

On the Bulwark, a conservative website, Sarah Longwell wrote about her three-years-worth of focus groups with women who voted for Trump in 2016.

She found that they chose Trump over Hillary Clinton because they did not like Clinton and because they felt that Bill Clinton’s bad behavior with women canceled out Trump’s bad behavior with women.

But the relationship with women voters has soured, not only because of his pugnacity and bullying, but because of his lack of compassion and competence dealing with the coronavirus and painful issues about race.

“They don’t see Trump as someone who can protect them from the chaos,’’ Longwell wrote. “They think he’s the source of it.”

And his party is on board with the antediluvian vibe. R-Misogyny. Even on the 100th anniversary of women getting the vote, Republicans can’t help themselves.

It feels strange to be typing something positive in a sentence with the word Cheney in it, but it was disturbing to see a bunch of MAGA bros in Congress beat up on Liz Cheney because, among other offenses to the cult of Trump, she defended Dr. Anthony Fauci and shaded Trump on his denial on the virus by tweeting a picture of her father in a mask with the hashtag, “realmenwearmasks.”

One Trump disciple in the House, Rep. Matt Gaetztweeted that “Liz Cheney has worked behind the scenes (and now in public) against @realDonald Trump and his agenda.” He added, “Liz Cheney should step down or be removed.”

Donald Jr. chimed in on Twitter, “We already have one Mitt Romney, we don’t need another.”

(Of course, while it feels strange to be typing something positive in a sentence with the word Trump in it, Don Jr. was right in his second point, “We also don’t need the endless wars she advocates for.” That point was echoed by the president on Twitter. I would never agree with a Cheney’s mindless hawkishness.)

As Republicans sniped, one Democrat soared.

Ted Yoho, a Florida Republican, tried to slap down Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. A reporter overheard him muttering that the congresswoman was “a fucking bitch” as Yoho walked away after having an argument with her about crime and policing on the steps of the Capitol. (Yoho denies he said it.)

The youngest woman to ever serve in Congress is so full of natural political talent, burning so bright, that the 2020 field seems dull next to her luster. It was a remarkable moment on Capitol Hill, where for years super-achieving women have let such sexist remarks slide.

She went to the House floor Thursday and schooled Yoho the Yahoo and the retrograde crowd.

“Mr. Yoho mentioned that he has a wife and two daughters,” she said. “I am two years younger than Mr. Yoho’s youngest daughter. I am someone’s daughter, too.” She added, “I am here because I have to show my parents that I am their daughter, and that they did not raise me to accept abuse from men.”

Showing her skill in a generational dimension foreign to Congress until now, A.O.C. posted a video of herself on Instagram Stories strutting to the rap tune “Boss Bitch” by Doja Cat, her long hair whipping to the music, with the Capitol in the background. “I’m a bitch and a boss, Im’a shine like gloss.” She captioned it: “Shine on, fight for others, and let the haters stay mad.”

And that’s the way you make Paleolithic men understand that they are history.

A.O.C. and the Daughter Defense

Sorry, Ted Yoho. Having daughters doesn’t get you a sexism free pass.

Brett Kavanaugh invoked it. Mitch McConnell used it too. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck have each talked about it, and this week, Representative Ted Yoho joined their ranks: he, too, is now a member of the having-a-daughter-makes-me-an-ally-to-women — or at the very least, should-excuse-my-bad-behavior — club.

“Having been married for 45 years with two daughters, I’m very cognizant of language,” Representative Yoho said in a speech on the House floor this week, denying that he called Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the freshman Congresswoman from New York, a “fucking bitch” after a confrontation on the steps of the Capitol.

Mr. Yoho later expressed regret for the “abrupt manner of the conversation,” in which he told Ms. Ocasio-Cortez that her statements about poverty and crime in New York City were “disgusting.” But, he noted, “I cannot apologize for my passion or for loving my God, my family and my country.”

On Thursday, in a speech on the House floor that has since gone viral — in which she read the vulgarity into the Congressional record — Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said, “I am someone’s daughter too.” She said she’d planned to ignore the insults — it’s “just another day” as a woman, she said — but changed her mind after Mr. Yoho decided to bring his wife and daughters into the fray.

Our culture is full of platitudes about fathers and daughters: the Hallmark card, the weeping dad at the wedding. But invoking daughters and wives to deflect criticism is a particular kind of political trope — and one that’s been used throughout history to “excuse a host of bad behavior,” said the historian Barbara Berg.

The love a man has for the female members of his family, particularly his offspring, is presumed to have special power — to humanize the other half of the population, to allow him to imagine the world his daughter will inhabit. Sometimes, in fact, this happens. Other times, the Daughter Excuse comes across mostly as cynical ploy.

“As if familial affiliation alone equals enlightened attitudes towards women,” said Susan Douglas, a professor of communication and media at the University of Michigan. “It’s like claiming ‘I have a Black friend‚’ as if that makes you anti-racist.”

There is social science that’s shown there is something to being the father of a daughter.

In a study called “The First-Daughter Effect,” Elizabeth Sharrow, an associate professor of public policy and history at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and her colleagues, determined that fathering daughters — and firstborn daughters, in particular — indeed played a role in making men’s attitudes toward gender equality more progressive, particularly when it came to policies like equal pay or sexual harassment protocols. The researchers also determined that those dads of firstborn daughters were, in 2016, more likely to support Hillary Clinton or a fictional female congressional candidate delivering a similar pitch.

“Our argument is not that it is genetics or biology, but that it is proximity,” said Dr. Sharrow. In other words: The daughters help the fathers see the problems they may have previously dismissed.

Witness basketball star Stephen Curry, who has written about how “the idea of women’s equality has become a little more personal for me, lately, and a little more real,” since having a daughter.

Or Dick Cheney, whose views on same-sex marriage shifted earlier than many might have expected because of his daughter, who is gay.

And yet.

Daughters influencing fathers’ views for the better is far different from fathers using their daughters as “shields and excuses for poor behavior,” as Ms. Ocasio-Cortez described Mr. Yoho in her speech.

It’s also different from fathers using them as “props,” as Dr. Berg puts it, to emphasize their alignment with women’s causes — or, by contrast, their disgust over behaviors perceived to be in opposition to them.

Consider Justice Kavanaugh, who — during his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee about allegations of sexual assault by Christine Blasey Ford — spoke repeatedly of his daughters (as well as his wife and mother) and noted that coaching his daughter’s basketball team was what he loved “more than anything I’ve ever done in my whole life” — as if loving coaching and allegedly treating women badly as a teenager are mutually exclusive.

“Men have often pointed to their relationships with and love for some women — especially wives and daughters — to combat claims that they have mistreated other women,” said Kelly Dittmar, a scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. “We have seen this both inside and outside of politics, especially when men are subject to accusations of sexual harassment and assault.”

In the wake of the 2016 reports on comments made by Donald Trump on the now-infamous “Access Hollywood” tape, a host of fathers-of-daughters came out to condemn the behavior. Mr. McConnell noted that “as the father of three daughters” he believed that Mr. Trump “needs to apologize directly to women and girls everywhere,” while Mitt Romney said that the comments “demean our wives and daughters.” (It is perhaps worth noting that Mr. Trump, too, has daughters.)

Similarly, in response to revelations of sexual misconduct by Harvey Weinstein, both Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, who had worked with the disgraced Hollywood producer, expressed their disgust on behalf of their female offspring. We “need to do better at protecting our friends, sisters, co-workers and daughters,” Mr. Affleck said on Twitter, while Mr. Damon explained that “as the father of four daughters, this is the kind of sexual predation that keeps me up at night.”

Women, too, have at times invoked men’s daughters — and other female relatives — in trying to appeal to some men. When asked about Mr. Yoho’s behavior, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said: “What’s so funny is, you’d say to them, ‘Do you not have a daughter? Do you not have a mother? Do you not have a sister? Do you not have a wife? What makes you think that you can be so’ — and this is the word I use for them — ‘condescending, in addition to being disrespectful?’”

The caveat, of course, is the qualification. “Qualifying your outrage against misogyny as due to your role as a father or husband implies that, absent those roles, you would be either unaware of or unconcerned,” said Dr. Dittmar.

Or as Ms. Ocasio-Cortez put it: “Having a daughter does not make a man decent. Having a wife does not make a decent man. Treating people with dignity and respect makes a decent man.” Why should daughters still have to be a prerequisite to respect?

‘I’d Do Her’: Mike Bloomberg and the Underbelly of #MeToo

Disparaging comments. Demeaning jokes. As the mogul reportedly considers a 2020 presidential run, it remains an open question whether his long-alleged history of undermining women will affect his chances.

If you find yourself seeking, in these turbulent times, evidence of steadiness among the chaos—proof that even as the seas rise and the winds whip and the world that was gives way to the world that will be, some things will remain the same—here is a fact that seems always to be true: Mike Bloomberg is considering a run for president.

The newest version of the old truth comes from an article published this week in The New York Times: The billionaire former mayor, the paper announces, validating the rumors, is again considering a presidential run—this time, however, as a Democrat. It would not be an easy candidacy. “Mr. Bloomberg,” the Times points out, “is plainly an uncomfortable match for a progressive coalition passionately animated by concern for economic inequality and the civil rights of women and minorities.” Indeed: In an interview with the paper, Bloomberg defends stop-and-frisk. And, voicing “doubt” about some of the revelations that have been made in the course of #MeToo, Bloomberg mentions as an example Charlie Rose, who had broadcast his show from a space in Bloomberg’s corporate offices. He declined to say, specifically, whether he believed the many allegations against Rose. “Let the court system decide,” the former mayor said.

What is not fully addressed in the Times article, however—and what is not fully explored in the many similar pieces that consider the current iteration of Mike Bloomberg’s presidential ambitions—is a series of stories about him, accumulated over decades, that suggests in the aggregate a distinct pattern when it comes to his treatment of women:

  • reports of disparaging comments made about women’s bodies and appearances.
  • Allegations of a deeply sexist work environment at the company that Bloomberg founded and, for many years, ran. Stories that linger like exhaust in the air every time Mike Bloomberg is mentioned as, potentially, the next president of the United States.
This is a time in America of accountabilities that are—this is the most generous way to put it—unevenly distributed. Some people bear the heaviest and cruelest of burdens; others move through the world with easy indemnity. Christine Blasey Ford makes an allegation of sexual violence against the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh; she is attacked as a victimizer. The man who last sought the presidency of the United States admitted to—bragged about—his own history of assaulting women; he won the office nonetheless. Exhaust, exhausting: The impunities form their own kind of fog.

The stories about Mike Bloomberg, though—stories, told through lawsuits and journalistic accounts, that involve allegations not of physical abuse but of more insidious manifestations of misogyny—ask broader questions about the ways electoral politics and basic morality will continue to tangle with each other as #MeToo marches onward. Will the stories (many of which Bloomberg has publicly denied as the inventions of money-hungry opportunists) have any bearing on his potential presidential candidacy? Will the Americans (and specifically now, apparently, the Democrats) of the current moment consider allegations involving casual misogyny, on the personal level and at the institutional, to be politically disqualifying? Will they consider those claims, indeed, to be worth discussing at all? Or will they dismiss them as the predicable collateral of the thing Americans are conditioned, still, to value above all: the successful accumulation of power and wealth?

From 1996 to 1997, four women filed sexual-harassment or discrimination suits against Bloomberg the company. One of the suits included the following allegation: When Sekiko Sakai Garrison, a sales representative at the company, told Mike Bloomberg she was pregnant, he replied, “Kill it!” (Bloomberg went on, she alleged, to mutter, “Great, No. 16”—a reference, her complaint said, to the 16 women at the company who were then pregnant.) To these allegations, Garrison added another one: Even prior to her pregnancy, she claimed, Bloomberg had antagonized her by making disparaging comments about her appearance and sexual desirability. “What, is the guy dumb and blind?” he is alleged to have said upon seeing her wearing an engagement ring. “What the hell is he marrying you for?”

Bloomberg denied having made those comments, claiming that he passed a lie-detector test validating the denial but declining to release the results. (He also reportedly left Garrison a voicemail upon hearing that she’d been upset by the comments about her pregnancy: “I didn’t say it, but if I said it, I didn’t mean it.”) What Bloomberg reportedly did concede is that he had said of Garrison and other women,I’d do her.” In making the concession, however, he insisted that he had believed that to “do” someone meant merely “to have a personal relationship” with them.

That suit was settled in 2000; its terms were not disclosed. Other suits made similar claims. In a 1998 filing, Mary Ann Olszewski reported that “male employees from Mr. Bloomberg on down” routinely belittled women at the company—a pattern of harassment, she said, that culminated in her being raped in a Chicago hotel room by a Bloomberg executive who was also her direct superior. The case was dismissed (not, apparently, on its merits, but rather because Olszewski’s attorney had missed the deadlines to respond to a motion to end the case). Before it was, though, in a deposition relating to the suit, Bloomberg testified that he wouldn’t consider Olszewski’s rape allegation to be genuine unless there were “an unimpeachable third-party witness” to corroborate her claims. (Asked by a lawyer how such a person might happen to witness a rape, Bloomberg replied, “There are times when three people are together.”)

“Bloomberg’s Sexual Blind Spot” is how The Village Voice summed it up in 2001. “Anti-woman obnoxiousness,” Cord Jefferson, then at Gawkercalled it in 2013. Part of that obnoxiousness involves the many reports related to what Bloomberg once told a reporter: “I like theater, dining, and chasing women.” (He elaborated: “Let me put it this way: I am a single, straight billionaire in Manhattan. What do you think? It’s a wet dream.”) In his 1997 autobiography, Bloomberg by Bloomberg, the mogul bragged about keeping “a girlfriend in every city” during his years working as a Wall Street stock trader in the 1960s and ’70s. He is reported to have said, of the computer terminal that made his fortune, “It will do everything, including give you [oral sex]. I guess that puts a lot of you girls out of business.”

There’s more: Bloomberg reportedly saying to a journalist and the journalist’s friend, as he gazed at a woman at a holiday party, Look at the ass on her.” (He denied having made that comment.) Bloomberg, according to a top aide, seeing attractive women and reflexively remarking, “Nice tits.” Bloomberg, mocking Christine Quinn, the then-speaker of New York’s City Council, for going too long between hair colorings. (“The couple of days a week before I need to get my hair colored,” Quinn once said, “he’ll say, ‘Do you pay a lot to make your hair be two colors? Because now it’s three with the gray.’”) Bloomberg mocking Quinn again, she said, for failing to wear heels at public events. (“I was at a parade with him once and he said, ‘What are those?’ and I said, ‘They’re comfortable,’ and he said, ‘I never want to hear those words out of your mouth again.’”) Bloomberg, quoted by colleagues as saying, “If women wanted to be appreciated for their brains, they’d go to the library instead of to Bloomingdale’s.” Bloomberg being asked in a deposition, “Have you ever made a comment to the effect that you would like to ‘do that piece of meat,’ or I’d ‘do her in a second’?” Bloomberg replying, “I don’t recall ever using the term meat at all.”

These reports suggest the extent of the blind spot. They also suggest, however, the expansive underbelly of #MeToo: the easy entitlements by which men come to see women as existing in part for their pleasure. The stories told of Bloomberg paint a picture of self-centric power, of moral tautologies, of limited empathies. (Joyce Purnick, in her 2009 biography, Mike BloombergMoney, Power, Politics, describes a man who is “curt, profane, cranky, and willful,” and, relatedly, “allergic to introspection.”) And, set as they are in the towers of the American corporation, places where power is assumed to justify itself, they suggest precisely the kind of trickle-down inequalities that politicians in particular might be in a position to combat. Sexism, for one, converted into a system: There is so much that is summoned—of hateful history, of the way that the past insinuates itself on the present—when a powerful man sizes up a less powerful woman in his employ and says, “I’d do her.”

Earlier this month, another suit involving Mike Bloomberg was (very briefly) in the news. The mogul was reinstated as a defendant in a 2016 civil suit brought against Bloomberg the company by a former employee: She claims that in addition to the hostile work environment and sexual discrimination she experienced at the company, she was raped by a manager at Bloomberg when she was 22. (Lawyers for Bloomberg and the now-terminated manager deny her allegations.) The suit also holds the majority owner of Bloomberg liable for the woman’s claims. The judge in the case, who had previously ruled that Mike Bloomberg had no immediate connection to the woman’s claims, reconsidered his ruling; the case will move forward with Bloomberg listed as a defendant.

Bloomberg has traditionally dismissed the lawsuits filed against him and his company as publicity stunts and money grabs and, in the fullest sense, nuisances. (“What’s happening,” he explained of one such case, “is that because I’m so visible, that obviously I’m a target.”) To run for office, however, is to make oneself a different kind of target; that is the exchange that is made when a person seeks such direct power over other people’s lives. The story published in the Times this week is a trial balloon for a potential presidential candidacy; it is also testing, however, another thing. What are voters willing to tolerate, at this point, in those who propose to lead them? What are they willing to ignore? What has changed since the last time Mike Bloomberg ran for public office? And what—the world being, in the end, full of truths that remain so stubbornly true—hasn’t changed at all?

What We Don’t Know About Europe’s Muslim Kids and Why We Should Care | Deeyah Khan | TEDxExeter

Aged 17, Deeyah fled from Norway confused, lost and torn between cultures. Unlike some young Muslims she picked up a camera instead of a gun. She now uses her camera (and her superpower) to shed light on the clash of cultures between Muslim parents who prioritise honour and their children’s desire for freedom. She argues that we need to understand what is happening to fight the pull to extremism.

Video Production Chromatrope (http://chromatrope.co.uk/)
Production Manager Andy Robertson (http://www.youtube.com/familygamertv)

Deeyah Khan is a critically acclaimed music producer and Emmy and Peabody award-winning documentary film director. Her work highlights human rights, women’s voices and freedom of expression. Her skill as a multidisciplinary artist led her to film and music as the language for her social activism. Born in Norway to immigrant parents of Pashtun and Punjabi ancestry, the experience of living between different cultures, both the challenges and the beauty, dominates her artistic vision.

Her 2012 multi-award winning documentary Banaz: A Love Story chronicles the life and death of Banaz Mahmod. Her second film the Bafta-nominated Jihad involved two years of interviews and filming with Islamic extremists, convicted terrorists and former jihadis.

Deeyah is the founder of social purpose arts and media production company, Fuuse which works to create intercultural dialogue and understanding by confronting the most complex and controversial topics, and sharing alternative views and excluded voices.

Generational Divide Among Evangelicals Shakes Prominent Seminary

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary tries to heal rifts after scandal and to unite students and donors with widely divergent views

FORT WORTH, Texas—After the Rev. Adam W. Greenway stepped to the podium during his inauguration as the ninth president of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, he acknowledged the tumult that had engulfed the school in recent years.

The previous president was fired. Enrollment plummeted, and the training ground for many of the nation’s most famous pastors found itself at the center of a debate over the treatment of women in the church.

“I cannot change the past,” he said. “For any way in which we have fallen short, I am sorry.”

A generational gulf is threatening to split evangelical Christianity.

While older evangelicals have become a political force preaching traditional values, younger ones are deviating from their parents on issues like same-sex marriage, Israel, the role of women, and support for President Trump.

Dr. Adam W. Greenway, the ninth president of Southwest Seminary. PHOTO: LOUIS DELUCA FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

For Southwestern to thrive again, Dr. Greenway must attract more young people without alienating their parents. At stake: not only the health of the 111-year-old school but also of the Southern Baptist Convention, the country’s largest, most powerful Protestant denomination, whose membership has been falling for more than a decade.

The shift under way at the school is dramatic. Dr. Greenway’s predecessor, Rev. Paige Patterson, was a hero of the conservative resurgence, which swung the Southern Baptist Convention to the theological and political right. During 15 years as president of Southwestern, Dr. Patterson turned the campus into a reflection of his brand of evangelicalism.

He preached that scripture is inerrant and that women should submit themselves to the leadership of men, both at home and in church. He required members of his administration to carry firearms, for security reasons, he said. His office was filled with taxidermy. Stained glass windows depicting “heroes of the conservative resurgence,” including Dr. Patterson and his wife, were installed in the chapel.

Last year, Dr. Patterson was fired following allegations that he mishandled accusations of sexual assault by former students.

Dr. Patterson, in an email, said he handled the alleged assaults appropriately. “Candidly, I have no idea why I was released,” he said.

As religious affiliation has fallen among young people, evangelicals have debated how they should frame their message.

Religious affiliation of U.S. adults by birth year

Christian

Non-Christian

Unaffiliated

0%

25

50

75

100

1928-45

1946-64

1965-80

1981-96

Denominations of U.S. Protestants

2009

2018-19

Born again or evangelical

59

56%

44

41

Not born again

or evangelical

Source: Pew Research Center surveys conducted in 2009 and January 2018-July 2019

When Dr. Greenway, 41 years old, arrived in February, veteran professors were replaced, and the stained glass windows were removed.

Dr. Greenway said he is committed to all of the Southern Baptist Convention’s conservative principles but argued that a change in tone from the past administration was necessary.

“My immediate predecessor envisioned this being more like Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show,” he said in an interview. “I want people to think more like Southwest Airlines. A happy place. A national brand.”

When asked to respond, Dr. Patterson said, “Every man is entitled to his own view of my work, and I wish Dr. Greenway only God’s best.”

Enrollment has jumped. But fundraising has taken a hit, leaving a $3 million hole in the budget when Dr. Greenway arrived.

A portrait of Dr. Greenway’s predecessor, the Rev. Paige Patterson, hangs in the school rotunda. PHOTO: LOUIS DELUCA FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

A group of more than two dozen donors, who say they have collectively given at least $50 million to the school, sent a letter to the trustees, saying they would withhold further giving until they got answers about Dr. Patterson’s ouster. Gary Loveless, a former trustee who helped author the letter, said he never received a reply.

We don’t treat our prophets that way,” Mr. Loveless said of Dr. Patterson’s removal. “I think there was a bigger agenda.”

Few played a greater role in making modern evangelicalism what it is today than Dr. Patterson.

He championed several tenets that Southern Baptists now consider sacrosanct, including “complementarianism,” the belief that men and women have different God-given roles. In 2000, during his tenure as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the denomination banned women from serving as senior pastors.

After being appointed president of Southwestern in 2003, he started a homemaking program for female students.

The iconic dome of Southwest Seminary, where Dr. Greenway arrived in February. PHOTO: LOUIS DELUCA FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Fundraising skyrocketed, as did new construction on campus.

But enrollment dropped from 2,138 full-time equivalent students in 2003-4 to 1,393 in 2017-18. Over the same period, overall membership in the Southern Baptist Convention fell from 16.3 million to 14.8 million.

Dr. Patterson’s dramatic exit convulsed the Southern Baptist Convention, turning the school into a nexus of the continuing debate over women’s role in the church.

Karen Swallow Prior, a Southern Baptist professor at Liberty University, said Dr. Patterson’s ouster was a step toward changing “the misogynistic, sexist culture of the SBC.” She added that there is “a dramatic shift” among younger evangelicals who are more eager “to embrace the idea of women as leaders, both in the church and in the culture.”

Others saw Dr. Patterson’s ouster as an ideologically-motivated takedown.

A statue of Jesus in a garden area on campus. PHOTO: LOUIS DELUCA FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

The previous generation, their priority was missions and evangelism and preaching,” said Rev. Wayne Dickard, a former Southwestern trustee. The new generation, he said, “is far more interested in the social justice movement.”

The theological conflict is playing out in new controversies on campus. Last week Southwestern officials showed trustees a letter from an assistant to Dr. Patterson to a donor advising how to ask the school to return his money, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. The letter criticized female professors as unqualified and not sufficiently committed to complementarianism and bemoaned efforts to erase the Pattersons’ legacy from campus, including removing their dog’s tombstone.

The assistant, Z. Scott Colter, said the Pattersons have encouraged people to keep giving to Southwestern and the donor had asked for help making sure the money was used for its intended purpose. The donor confirmed his account.

Philip Levant, a member of the presidential search committee that hired Dr. Greenway, said trustees were looking for someone who could both sort out the school’s finances and overhaul its public image.

In recent years, “the seminary was known more for what it was against than what it was for,” Mr. Levant said.

Dr. Greenway graduated from Southwestern in 2002, the year before his predecessor’s arrival. PHOTO: LOUIS DELUCA FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Dr. Greenway grew up in a Florida family he describes as not particularly religious. But like millions of others during the 1980s and ’90s, he found his way into a Southern Baptist church and was baptized as a teenager. He graduated from Southwestern in 2002, the year before Dr. Patterson’s arrival.

Though he supports complementarianism, Dr. Greenway said he is trying to create a big tent at Southwestern.

Partly, that means emphasizing what women can do, not what they can’t, including “celebrating women as bible teachers and ministry leaders.”

He has also been pushing for ideological diversity, making sure the school is welcoming to Reformed evangelicals—who believe God elects those who will be saved—as well as those who believe that salvation is available to all.

New enrollment this fall is up 33% over the previous three years.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS

What should evangelical Christians do to manage the generational rift their faith is facing? Join the conversation below.

One of the new students is Jacki King, a minister to women at her Arkansas church who transferred to Southwestern this year. She said the shifting tone on gender is what drew her.

“As a woman who deeply believes in theology and evangelism, I want to be able to be part of that,” she said.

Martha Nussbaum, “The Monarchy of Fear”

Martha Nussbaum discusses her book, “The Monarchy of Fear” at Politics and Prose on 7/9/18.

One of the country’s leading moral philosophers, Nussbaum cuts through the acrimony of today’s political landscape to analyze the Trump era through one simple truth: that the political is always emotional. Starting there, she shows how globalization has produced feelings of powerlessness that have in turn fed resentment and blame. These have erupted into hostility against immigrants, women, Muslims, people of color, and cultural elites. Drawing on examples from ancient Greece to Hamilton, Nussbaum shows how anger and fear inflame people on both the left and right; by illuminating the powerful role these passions play in public life, she points to ways we can avoid getting caught up in the vitriol that sustains and perpetuates divisive politics.