The Stew Reporting on government and politics

The ‘God factor’

Politics | 2020 Democratic hopefuls are talking about religion
by Harvest Prude
Posted 4/18/19, 04:48 pm

WASHINGTON—Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg is openly courting religious voters on the left and encouraging his opponents to do the same.

The Democratic Party has had a tenuous relationship with religion in recent years, but Buttigieg, an openly gay Episcopalian, said Democrats ought to woo the “religious left” to counter the voting power of conservative Christians. The mayor of South Bend, Ind., told USA Today that Democrats should not be afraid to argue that the “Christian faith is going to point you in a progressive direction.” In a Washington Post interview, Buttigieg lamented that Democrats have “lost touch with a religious tradition that I think can help explain and relate our values … when it comes to protecting the sick and the stranger and the poor, as well as a skepticism of the wealthy and the powerful and the established.”

In 2012, Democrats snubbed religious voters by removing language about God from their party’s platform. They later put it back, but vocal protests from the convention floor led to black-eye headlines like “Democrats boo God.” Religious voters’ support for President Donald Trump may have jolted awake some Democrats—around 81 percent of white evangelicals voted for him in 2016.

Other 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls have talked about faith, though most of them have kept religion at arm’s length and only mentioned it in response to questions from interviewers or potential voters.

In a CNN town hall meeting, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said Jesus’ statement in Matthew 25 that “as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” informed her faith. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said she attends two Bible studies weekly and that her faith “centers” her, while Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said her beliefs had helped her cope with her father’s alcoholism. While announcing her bid for president, Sen. Kamala Harris of California talked about the faith that motivated abolitionists and civil rights leaders like Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and Martin Luther King Jr., noting that “to love the religion of Jesus is to hate the religion of the slave master.” And Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey said at a CNN town hall meeting that “Christ is the center of my life.” He later elaborated in an interview that the Bible’s message of “dealing with poverty … welcoming the stranger … compassion toward the imprisoned” motivated his aspiration to have “radical love of people.”

Neither Buttigieg’s faith appeal nor those of the other 2020 candidates is likely to win over religious conservatives who fundamentally disagree with Democratic positions on moral issues involving life and sexuality. Buttigieg alienated pro-lifers by voicing his support for late-term abortion bills in New York and Virginia. “When a woman is in that situation … the involvement of a male government official like me is not helpful,” he said.

“[Buttigieg] has zero appeal to religious conservatives so long as he holds to the Democratic Party line on the right of a woman to hire a doctor to kill a viable, living unborn baby,” wrote David French for National Review.

Buttigieg has also sparred with Christians who believe in the Biblical definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. “I can tell you, that if me being gay was a choice, it was a choice that was made far, far above my pay grade,” he said at a LGBTQ Victory Fund brunch on April 7. “And that’s the thing I wish the Mike Pences of the world could understand, that if you have a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.”

Buttigieg came out as gay during his reelection campaign for mayor of South Bend while Pence served as Indiana’s governor.

Pence responded in a CNBC News interview: “He knows better. He knows me. … I have my Christian values. My family and I have a view of marriage that’s informed by our faith. And we stand by that. But that doesn’t mean that we’re critical of anyone else who has a different point of view.”

Because of Buttigieg’s stance on marriage and abortion, University of Notre Dame historian Darren Dochuk told The Washington Post he doubts that the mayor’s “talk about God and social Christianity and his desire to shift the religious politics of our day to the left will gain much traction among a majority of white evangelicals and conservative Catholics. Whatever the case, I think he rightly senses the need for Democrats to quit avoiding or dodging or minimizing the God factor in American politics.”

Associated Press/Photo by Robert F. Bukaty (file) Associated Press/Photo by Robert F. Bukaty (file) Angel Rodriguez, a seasonal worker at Sebasco Harbor Resort in Phippsburg, Maine, last year

Immigration invitation

The federal government is increasing the number of visas for unskilled temporary workers by 30,000 through the end of the fiscal year, even as President Donald Trump has continued to push more broadly to limit immigration.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen approved the move last month after consulting with Labor Secretary Alex Acosta to determine that U.S. businesses could not meet their needs to fill temporary positions in tourism, hospitality, landscaping, and other nonfarm industries.

Congress has set a cap of 66,000 guest workers under the H-2B visa program but allows the administration to approve additional workers beyond the ceiling. Last year, the United States issued 83,744 H-2B visas, State Department data shows.

This year’s increase falls short of the figure requested by members of Congress and businesses who say they are unable to find workers. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has sought the maximum increase of nearly 65,000 additional visas, noting that seasonal employers need 95,000 H-2B workers from April 1 to Sept. 30 of this year.

Bipartisan members of Congress in January wrote a plea for permanent increases in the program, calling the decades-old cap “wholly inadequate” and warning of severe consequences for seasonal industries and the broader economy. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., has introduced legislation that would allow additional workers beyond the cap in states with low unemployment.

The Center for Immigration Studies has denounced an increase in the H-2B program, saying it would break pledges by Trump to help low-skilled U.S. workers and decrease overall immigration. The president has faced criticism for his own company’s use of H-2B workers at its resorts and golf courses.

“President Trump continues to increase the number of H-2B guest workers every time he has the opportunity,” research associate Preston Huennekens wrote on the group’s blog. “This is entirely his own administration's fault. His supporters did not vote for more guest workers—they voted to return Americans to the workforce.” —Anne K. Walters

Associated Press/Photo by Jacquelyn Martin Associated Press/Photo by Jacquelyn Martin The Office of Management and Budget in Washington, D.C.

Trimming the fat

President Donald Trump is considering shuttering the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the first time a president would eliminate a major federal agency since World War II, The Washington Post reported. Administration officials were briefed on the change at a meeting in March, and Trump is expected to issue an executive order on it this summer.

The OPM oversees civilian federal workers by coordinating hiring, recruiting, employee benefits, and other functions. In an interview with the Post, acting OPM Director Margaret Weichert called the plan a “big, exemplary step” to clamp down on a prime example of inefficient government bureaucracy. The functions of the agency would be divvied up between other departments, including the General Services Administration and the Office of Management and Budget, according to the administration’s 2020 budget request.

Congress created the OPM in 1978. It has faced bipartisan criticism since then for its inefficiency and slowness. The Post reported that both President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton—during her presidential campaign—considered breaking up the OPM.

For the past three years, the Trump administration has proposed axing more than 20 smaller departments in its annual budget requests, but the proposals have so far gained no traction in Congress. Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va., who chairs a House subcommittee on government operations, has said the White House must provide more details on the effects of the change before Congress approves funding for it. Critics of the plan also include the American Federation of Government Employees, a federal government employee union. —H.P.

2020 forecast

Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld said Monday that he will challenge President Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination in 2020. His written announcement condemned “great political strife” and called on “patriotic men and women across our great nation to stand and plant a flag.”

Weld’s website criticizes Trump directly, saying that “America deserves better.” The site includes clips of some of Trump’s more controversial remarks, including dismissing the service of the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., seeming to mock a disabled reporter, and boasting about groping women.

Weld, a moderate Republican who supports abortion and same-sex marriage, served two gubernatorial terms in the 1990s. In the 2016 presidential election, he served as running mate to libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. They won about 3.28 percent of the popular vote.

Meanwhile, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg officially entered the 2020 presidential field Sunday. He is the first openly gay presidential candidate in history. In a speech touting South Bend’s revitalization, he said he wanted to see similar revitalization in America and “tell a different story than ‘Make America Great Again.’” Buttigieg announced the formation of an exploratory committee for a presidential run in January. Since then, he has hauled in nearly $7 million in donations. —H.P.

Harvest Prude

Harvest is a reporter for WORLD based in Washington, D.C.

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  • VISTA48
    Posted: Fri, 04/19/2019 06:38 am

    So they've politicized pretty much everything else. Why not religion too?

  • Steve Shive
    Posted: Fri, 04/19/2019 07:42 am

    We might look askance at and be critical of this move to bring religion back into our political discussions. But the reality is that this is nothing new. One fairly recent failed example was the (so called) Moral Majority. They failed, miserably. Surprisingly God is neither Democrat nor Republican nor Libertarian nor Green nor Independent. Cal Thomas who was in the trenches of the Moral Majority movement, battle, also wrote an excellent critique of its failures and what we should learn from them. 

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Sat, 04/20/2019 02:06 am

    The belief that the Democrats are no different than Republicans is what Satan wants you to believe. Do Democrats support abortion or do Republicans? Which party supports homosexuality the most? Which party supports religious liberty? Which party supports Judeo-Christian values? Which party supports transgenderism? Which party supports judges who are conservative, against abortion and for religious liberty?  If you believe there is no difference between the parties, then you are not clearly thinking. 

  •  Xion's picture
    Posted: Fri, 04/19/2019 10:28 am

    It is interesting that bitter rivals in Congress attend a weekly prayer breakfast together organized by Sen Chris Coons (D) Deleware.  In front of the cameras people like Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey visciously savage the other party.  Yet once a week they take an hour to pray and fellowship together.  What would our culture be like if we focused on our unity and didn't fall for the trap laid out by the hysterically divisive media?

  • Joe
    Posted: Sun, 04/21/2019 07:15 am

    What unity?  Sounds like they are as hypocritical as our culture, praying one hour, then voting to not protect aborted babies born alive the next.  Apparently not enough voters actually care to vote them out of office. 

  • GP
    Posted: Sat, 04/20/2019 08:04 pm

    Buttigieg won't go anywhere because no one knows anything about him except his sexuality (his own fault that he used that to vault to national attention). Doesn't have much gravitas, IMO. Kind of looks like a young Dukakis -- don't let him anywhere near a tank.  

  • Midwest preacher
    Posted: Sun, 04/21/2019 09:02 am

    The idea that our behavior is not our fault is certainly not new.  Also the idea that that behavior can come under the Lordship of a Risen Savior is not new.  Jesus taught us to love and telling someone they may safely do what God has said must not be done is not love.  None of us are perfect but we are on dangerous ground when we try to tell God He is wrong about what types of behavior are wrong.  Reading the final verse of the 1st chaper of Romans has helped me in this area.  Yet, everyone must decide to be informed by the Bible or informed by the crowd on social media.