from the world's big
The proposal calls for the American public to draft two candidates to lead the executive branch: one from the center-left, the other from the center-right.
- The #Unity2020 plan was recently outlined by Bret Weinstein, a former biology professor, on the Joe Rogan Experience.
- Weinstein suggested an independent ticket for the 2020 presidential election: Andrew Yang and former U.S. Navy Admiral William McRaven.
- Although details of the proposal are sparse, surveys suggest that many Americans are cynical and frustrated with the two-party system.
A recent survey also found that political messaging from the pulpit increased the likelihood of believing presidents to be ordained by God.
- Evangelical support of President Trump has baffled many who find his conduct at odds with core Christian values.
- A recent survey found that 49 percent of white evangelical Protestants believe Trump was chosen by God.
- Additional data found evangelicals are mixed on his moral character but view him as critical to political victories.
For non-Trumpists, one of the most baffling qualities of his presidency is the overwhelming support received from evangelical Christians. A record 81 percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump, more than George W. Bush, and that support has grown into a fervor over the years.
As Reza Aslan, author of "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth," told Big Think in an interview: "This makes no sense to people, especially when you consider that Trump is not just the most irreligious president in modern history. His entire worldview makes a mockery of core Christian values like humility and empathy and care for the poor."
While Jesus taught humility (Philippians 2:7), Trump is braggadocios. While Jesus taught us not to covet earthly possessions (Matthew 6:19), Trump built his reputation on worldly riches. While Jesus taught his followers to love your enemies (Matthew 5:44), Trump tweets vitriol at his opposition.
So how can so many Christians support two men with diametrically opposed worldviews? The answer is multifaceted, but a recent survey may have found a crucial element in understanding this ostensible discrepancy. According to the results, a healthy number of evangelicals believe Trump to be anointed by God.
A divine mandate
Two graphs showing how church attendance increases the likelihood that someone will believe all presidents (blue) or Trump (orange) were anointed by God. The graph on the left shows the survey's 2019 results, the right its 2020 results.
Paul Djupe and Ryan Burge, associate professors of political science at Denison University and Eastern Illinois University, respectively, noticed a spate of pastors, pundits, and politicians exclaiming Trump to be God's chosen one. To pick one example, televangelist Pat Robertson has claimed that Trump received a mandate from God.
"I think, somehow, the Lord's plan is being put in place for America and these people are not only revolting against Trump, they're revolting against what God's plan is for America," Robertson said during a February 2017 broadcast of "The 700 Club."
The two sociologists wanted to see if such beliefs were widespread among America's Christians or just the hyperbolic musings of ratings-hungry talking heads. In May 2019, they surveyed just over 1,000 church-attending Protestants and asked them two questions: First, did they believe all presidents were anointed by God; Second, did they believe President Donald Trump was specifically anointed by God?
In their sample, about a third of white evangelicals agreed that Trump was ordained by God to win the 2016 election. Djupe and Burge also found that as church attendance increased, so did the percentage of those who agreed with both questions.
For example, among white Protestants who attended church less than once a month, only 9.4 percent agreed that Trump was anointed by God. But among white Protestants who attended church more than once a week, that number leaped to 29.6 percent. When Djupe and Burge looked specifically at Pentecostals, they found 53 percent connected Trump's presidency with divine design.
Djupe and Burge ran their survey again in March 2020, asking the same questions to a quota-sampled cohort that matched the previous study in gender, region, and age. As with the previous study, they released their research as a teaching resource on their blog, Religion in Public.
They found belief in Trump's anointment had risen across their sample, again increasing in proportion with church attendance. Among white Protestants who attend church once or more a week, belief in Trump's anointment rose to 49.5 percent. Their sample also showed a rising belief that all presidents were anointed.
Other surveys have shown similar results. A 2020 Pew Research Center survey asked Americans, not just church-attenders, about God's role in recent presidential elections. They found that 32 percent of the more than 6,000 respondents, a sizable minority, believed Trump's election must be part of God's overall plan—though only 5 percent of those respondents believed God chose Trump because of his policies.
The survey found similar opinions regarding Obama's election, suggesting a not insubstantial belief that God involves himself with American elections but remains fiercely nonpartisan.
The political pulpit
A graph showing how political speech from clergy correlates with increased belief that Trump was anointed by God. The correlation proved strongest among Republicans.
Evangelicals believing God chose Trump may go some way in explaining their support of him, but it doesn't relieve the perceived cognitive dissonance between Trump's values and those of core Christianity.
In his interview, Reza Aslan argued Trumpism had become a cult for fundamentalists. For these fundamentalists, Trump became a warrior under the auspice of God to fight on behalf of evangelical beliefs. A "salvific character" to worship, as Aslan put it.
Bruge and Djupe don't go so far as to call Trumpism a cult; However, their data back the idea that Trump's rise can be linked to defensive circling against perceived threats and repeated messaging.
"We were quite surprised by the result that 49 percent of those frequently attending worship services believed that Trump was anointed by God to be president," Bruge and Djupe told Fox News in an interview. "At least until we examined the evidence that suggested religious and secular elites continue to claim that Trump has a religiously significant role to play."
The sociologists also asked their 2020 respondents whether they heard clergy mention political topics at the pulpit. They found a strong correlation between church attendance with political messaging and a belief in Trump's anointment among Republicans (see the above graph). That correlation was not as strong among Democrats or Independents.
Belief in Trump's anointment similarly climbed if respondents heard messaging that Democrats threatened rights and liberties. When hearing such arguments, even Democrat Christians were more likely to agree in Trump's anointment.
"We are not the first to note that right-wing media are having a profound effect on public opinion, serving to insulate Trump supporters," Burge and Djupe write. "We are some of the first to document how this is built and sustained from the bottom up. That is, political churches, among Republicans especially, reinforce the argumentation that is also coming from above."
They conclude, "But it is important to see that this is not just an evangelical Republican problem. The religious significance of the presidency is swelling across the board for the religious, indicating further polarization along religious and partisan lines is continuing."
The King David defense
As for Trump's moral conduct, evangelicals don't maintain the cognitive dissonance that Reza Aslan and other non-Trumpists perceive would be necessary. The same 2020 Pew Research Center survey found that white evangelicals were mixed on Trump's personal conduct and moral qualities—with only 15 percent agreeing that the phrase "morally upstanding" described Trump well.
Where there is more agreement, however, is the belief that Trump's administration is on the evangelical side of the culture war. Fifty-nine percent of white evangelical Christians believe that the Trump administration has helped their interests, and 63 percent say their side has been winning politically, which according to Pew is "triple the share who said this in May 2016, six months before Trump's election."
Rick Perry summed up this worldview last year when he told Fox News: "Barack Obama didn't get to be the president of the United States without being ordained by God. Neither did Donald Trump." He added that God has used "individuals who aren't perfect all through history" such as King David and King Solomon.
In the evangelical mindset, support for Trump isn't a moral inconsistency. They perceive the President's moral character to be lacking in fiber, but still believe he was chosen to fight the good fight with the blessing of God's will.
Whether that fight matches the will of the people, we'll have to wait until November to find out.
How religion changed the presidency—and vice versa
Why the effects of aging are detrimental to being the U.S. president.
- As there's a minimum age, there should be a maximum one.
- Aging causes decline in numerous cognitive skills as shown in numerous studies.
- Older candidates are less likely to support new ideas, technologies and societal changes.
1. Mental sharpness<p>As a society, we value age. Older people are supposed to have the knowledge and the experience. But is that enough in a position that requires one to react to thousands of variables in an increasingly-complex world where missteps can lead to global catastrophe?</p><p><a href="https://bigthink.com/paul-ratner/at-what-age-are-you-the-smartest" target="_self">A 2015 study</a> carried out by MIT's Joshua Hartshorne and Laura Germine from Harvard found the different ages when our brains are their utmost. The majority of mental processing skills like memory, pattern recognition, and reacting quickly peaked from around the late teens into t<strong>he 20s. </strong>Other components of such 'fluid intelligence" peaked as late <strong>as 40</strong>. Certain life skills like the ability to recall people's emotional states were at their strongest in the<strong> 40s and 50s</strong>. General knowledge and comprehension <strong>peaked by 50.</strong> Vocabulary, which is a measure of accumulated intelligence, actually peaked into the <strong>late 60s and early 70s.</strong> </p><p>When does the brain's power start to decline? After reaching their full potential in the 20s, the processing functions like strategic memory that helps recalling names and numbers start to decline during that same decade. Tasks <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4389903/" target="_blank">found</a> to be sensitive to aging, getting worse over time, include simple and choice reaction times (RTs), tasks involving working memory, tests of episodic memory as well as spatial and reasoning abilities, mental rotation, and visual-search performance. Some <a href="https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319185.php" target="_blank">studies</a> show that a <strong>third</strong> of older people struggle with declarative memory (retrieving facts or events) while about a <strong>fifth</strong> do as well on cognitive tests as 20-year-olds.</p><p>One big cognitive ability that has been proven in various studies to decline with aging is the ability to pay attention to more than one task at once. <em>"</em>Although <strong>dual-tasking </strong>is already difficult enough for younger adults, it apparently is even more difficult for older adults," states the <a href="https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/328a/46aa9ec373dec281ea9a01134efa17269051.pdf" target="_blank">2017 paper</a> by psychologists Eric Ruthruff and Mei-Ching Lien. How much more difficult? A <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4389903/" target="_blank">2015 review</a> by psychologist Paul Verhaeghen found an average dual-task "cost" of<strong> 215 ms</strong> for older adults while just<strong> "106 ms"</strong> for younger adults (2015). That's more than<strong> twice as slow.</strong></p><p>It goes without saying (but let's say it anyway) that being a president is perhaps the epitome of a task-heavy job in a very multi-faceted country.</p><p>Besides, the various age-related effects on the brain, there are always a plethora of age-specific illnesses. Aging is a key risk factor for most common neurodegenerative diseases, specifically dementias like <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alzheimer%27s_disease" target="_blank">Alzheimer's disease</a>, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cerebrovascular_disease" target="_blank">cerebrovascular disease</a>, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parkinson%27s_disease" target="_blank">Parkinson's disease</a> and <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lou_Gehrig%27s_disease" target="_blank">Lou Gehrig's disease</a>.</p>
2. Baggage<p>Older people have a lot of personal and historical baggage to contend with. Donald Trump (73) certainly lived his lifetime's worth, with a portfolio of scandals involving <a href="https://www.thoughtco.com/donald-trump-business-bankruptcies-4152019" target="_blank">bankruptcies</a>, <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/07/18/trumps-denial-knowing-about-stormy-daniels-payment-suffers-fatal-blow/" target="_blank">porn stars</a>, <a href="https://theweek.com/articles/655770/61-things-donald-trump-said-about-women" target="_blank">sexism</a>, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/video/2019/aug/04/beto-orourke-links-el-paso-shooting-donald-trump-racist-rhetoric-video" target="_blank">violence-inciting racism,</a> not to mention with what was it - oh, yes, <a href="https://thinkprogress.org/after-claiming-no-collusion-trump-wants-to-collude-in-2020-b26229d37354/" target="_blank">collusion with a foreign power.</a> </p><p>Joe Biden (76), of course, comes with a history of<a href="https://www.newsweek.com/joe-biden-gaffes-quotes-2020-election-1323905" target="_blank"> gaffes and blunders</a> and his own <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/joe-biden-jokes-about-touching-women-new-hampshire-2019-6" target="_blank">questionable behavior</a> around women. </p><p>Most candidates with a long life story come with both the good and bad experiences that have shaped them. Some would see in that an accumulation of wisdom. Others – defining characteristics that shape the character and worldview and the relationships that the person has to respond to. Experience is best when it allows you to create something new or easily respond to situations using your gathered knowledge. It's worst when it is a force that makes you beholden to fringe special interests, <a href="https://www.thedailybeast.com/mueller-tells-congress-fbi-currently-looking-into-issues-of-trump-blackmail" target="_blank">blackmail</a>, business needs and scandals. In other words - the swamp.</p>
3. Obsolete ideas<p>Older people make decisions that benefit other older people. They also tend to be <a href="http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2018/05/poor-people-often-dont-survive-to-become-seniors-who-vote.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">more conservative</a> by default and reflect worldviews that may have been prevalent at some point of their lives but often are no longer so.</p><p>Case in the point, the recent revelation of a racist exchange between Presidents Reagan and Nixon recorded on tape. In the phone call, the then-California Governor Ronald Reagan dials up President Richard Nixon at the White House to joke about African delegates to the United Nations, who did not vote the way the U.S. wanted. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"> "Last night, I tell you, to watch that thing on television as I did," <a href="https://www.nixonlibrary.gov/white-house-tapes/013" target="_blank">Reagan said</a>. "To see those, those monkeys from those African countries—damn them, they're still uncomfortable wearing shoes!" </p><p>Hearing this, Nixon laughs raucously. </p><p>You can listen to the<a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/07/ronald-reagans-racist-conversation-richard-nixon/595102/" target="_blank"> conversation yourself here.</a></p><p>At some point in history, that kind of talk would not have offended many, while now it's certainly viewed as completely unacceptable. At least publicly. An older candidate is more likely to represent attitudes or ideas that are no longer in step with the majority of the country. </p><p>Add to this the <a href="http://alzheimers.emory.edu/healthy_aging/cognitive-skills-normal-aging.html" target="_blank">researched fact</a> that while <em>remote memory </em>remains relatively stable in older people, formation of recent memories declines as a faculty. That means it's easier to recall how it was in the "good old days" versus being able to incorporate contemporary information and experiences. </p><p>But what about Bernie Sanders (77)? Certainly, one can't accuse the Senator from Vermont for going the easy and expected route as he advocates for new programs that have never been instituted in America, like Medicare for All. </p><p>On the flip side, it's hard not to see championing of socialism, a societal approach that most people associate with failed 20th century policies as a somewhat quixotic throwback – even if Sanders always tries to <a href="https://bigthink.com/paul-ratner/why-socialism-is-back-as-a-political-force-that-will-only-grow" target="_self">differentiate his socialism</a> as something more modern (or Scandinavian).</p>
4. Inability to accept change<p>Much of Trump's presidency seems like a throwback to ideas that were socially relevant at least six or seven decades ago if not all the way back to 1800s. Change, especially change in society, is not the domain you want to explore more with age. But change is also paramount for the health of a democracy.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the arc of the covenant, too sacred to be touched," <a href="https://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/letter-to-samuel-kercheval/" target="_blank">wrote Thomas Jefferson. </a>"But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind.</p>
5. Being out of step with technology<p>Technology changes happen too quickly nowadays for older people to keep up. Yet tech is a defining feature of our life, influencing all aspects. How can a grandfather president who doesn't know and understand new technologies have anything meaningful to say about them?</p><p>This is not just about the latest smartphones. What about our country's security? As the current president showed, who was elected in part courtesy of Internet-related fraud, an older leader may not understand <a href="https://www.wired.com/story/under-trump-the-fight-against-cybercrime-has-waned/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">or even care to understand</a> how to keep our country safe in the cyber world. </p><p>A great illustration of the tech knowledge gap exhibited by the political leaders came during the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/oct/06/congress-senate-house-age-problem" target="_blank">infamous exchange</a> between Senator Orrin Hatch and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg. Hatch seemed to have little idea how Facebook worked.</p>
6. Being out of step with culture<p> While a rapping grandma makes for funny scenes in Adam Sandler movies, you don't look to senior citizens for what's hot on the street. It would be hard to to top the cultural connection President Obama, elected when he was 47, had with the nation. You may think it's unnecessary to know how and why the country expresses itself through its arts and culture. That's how we get documents like the 2019 Trump budget, which <a href="https://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/ct-ent-trump-budget-arts-effect-20190319-story.html" target="_blank">seeks to eliminate</a> funding for the arts, public television and libraries.</p>
7. Reverse age discrimination<p> Older people tend to stick with other older people and look down upon those who are younger as lacking experience or (their) common sense. Case in point, Trump's attacks on AOC and other members of the "Squad". He not only doesn't like their ideas and uses their likes to excite his conflict-hungry base, Trump<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/how-the-squad-learned-to-handle-trumps-attacks/2019/08/03/d382983e-b0ff-11e9-bc5c-e73b603e7f38_story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> represents the "Squad"</a> as being silly and impractical and not knowing how the world works. </p>
8. The president won’t survive the term<p> In a country where the average life expectancy is stuck at 78 <a href="https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/us-life-expectancy-drops-third-year-row-reflecting-rising-drug-overdose-suicide-rates-180970942/" target="_blank">(dropping for the third year in a row)</a>, the chances are high enough that a president who is elected while already being 70 is not going to survive the term. Why knowingly put the country through such drama?</p>
9. Nostalgia results in stagnation<p>Older candidates tend to invoke nostalgia, an emotion we enjoy but also should be wary of.</p><p>"Make America great again," proclaimed Trump's main slogan, harkening back to some mythical time when America was supposedly "great". It's again as much as saying "I remember, back in my day" while wagging your finger at the whippersnappers on the lawn.</p><p>Of course, no such time really existed. And if your standard of progress is some fictional time in the past, it's likely you'll end up with a country tearing itself apart at the seems. It naturally lurches forward, moved by its youth, resourcefulness and the indomitable American spirit. And it shakes and rattles back, like a wounded Godzilla, restrained by the champions of yesteryear.</p>
10. It’s unfair<p>Older people tend to have an unfair societal advantage. We generally respect the elders. We want to hear their stories, to learn from them. We just don't have to be ruled by them.</p><p>While representing <a href="https://www.census.gov/newsroom/facts-for-features/2017/cb17-ff08.html" target="_blank">just 14.9%</a> of the general population, presidents who are seniors cannot possibly be responsive to everyone's interests. In fact, chances are they care more about the interests of their own segment of the country. It's not rocket science to understand why a person of retirement age would support policies that are aimed at maintaining the status quo and against people and ideas they don't feel comfortable with.</p><p>And if you're still afraid that any kind of limit is making ageist assumptions, do away with one altogether. Of course, none of these points matter at the moment, as the Congress full of much older people isn't going to change its laws to allow younger ones more influence. It's notable that the current Congress is one of the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/oct/06/congress-senate-house-age-problem" target="_blank">oldest Congresses ever,</a> with an average age of <strong>59</strong> (and most leaders in the <strong>70s and 80s).</strong> </p><p>You might debate whether the U.S., is a true democracy, ruled by elites or secret interests, but it's certainly a <strong>gerontocracy</strong>. You can ask a person over 60 what that means.</p>
Peaceful protest in the face of Putin.
- Russians protesting for a free election process now have a new image to rally behind.
- 17 year old Olga Misik sat in front of riot police reading the Russian constitution.
- She read aloud the passage, which affirms the right to peaceful gatherings.
Symbol of Russian resistance<p>Olga Misik, joined thousands of people in Moscow to protest the Russian government's illegal prohibition of opposition candidates. Many candidates have been barred from running in local elections. </p><p>Misik arrived with friends early in the afternoon to protest. After being separated from one another she eventually came close to the front row of riot police. She decided to start reading a section of the Russian Constitution, which states that all Russian citizens "shall have the right to assemble peacefully, without weapons, hold rallies, meetings and demonstrations, marches and pickets."</p><p>Reading and waving the constitution around is a common form of protest in Russia, as it's meant to highlight Vladimir Putin's alleged dismissal of Article 31 — the right to free assembly. </p><p>While speaking with a Russian language independent news site, <a href="https://meduza.io/feature/2019/07/29/druzhelyubnaya-devushka-chitayuschaya-konstitutsiyu-omonu" target="_blank"><em>Meduza</em>,</a> Misik said:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"I did not expect any feedback from anyone. I just wanted to remind them that we are here with peaceful purposes and without weapons, but they are not. It never even occurred to me that someone other than them would hear it." </p><p>Soon after, protesters noticed what she was doing and journalists and photographers flocked over to Misik. The crowd grew silent and the now viral photo was snapped. Misik further recounted: </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Then, after the riot police pushed aside all the protesters, I sat on the ground and again began to read our constitutional rights, specifying that what was happening here was illegal."</p><p>While speaking with Meduza, Misik also mentioned that her parents aren't very fond of her activism.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"My mother is very opposed to me going to rallies because she is afraid of the consequences, and my father just loves Putin and Stalin and considers them the best rulers and hates the protesters."</p><p>Misik was allowed to leave following the reading. Later at a subway station she was approached by unidentified officers who detained and arrested her. </p><p>"They did not introduce themselves," she said. "[They] did not explain the reason and grounds for detention. There was not a rally or a crowd of people in this place. They grabbed my arms and legs and dragged me down the street and through the underpass. . . I screamed that they were hurting me, but they told me that they knew better."</p><p>She was held for a day and now must appear in court to contest the charge of "attending a public event which was held without filing a notice."</p>
Less local newspapers are making the populace more uninformed.
- As of 2016 there are roughly 1,300 daily newspapers in the United States.
- Only 45 percent of counties in the United States contain a daily newspaper headquarters.
- National news is influencing local politics and make citizens vote blindly along party lines.
Uninformed national politics influencing local representation<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTIwMjQ2My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NzI5MjY3NX0.wmNnJgbNQ6guZ3p746CKlHTmjb-nwJcX34tFAGo7qIk/img.jpg?width=980" id="bc06d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4c917024c63ab8017a2fab0d218a6ec5" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo credit: SIA KAMBOU / AFP / Getty Images<p>The researchers found that party affiliation is a "cheap source of information available to voters." When these cues are seen during low-information down-ballot races, voters are more likely just to vote for the party affiliation rather than on the merits of the candidate. It's been found that adding party labels to the ballot has made down-ballot local outcomes align with national contests. </p><p>The problem here is simple. There is no feasible way for a national news channel or internet publication to keep up with what's going on in your local jurisdiction. Between chasing lowbrow celebrity tweets and showcasing the latest scandal circus, they barely have enough time for any real issues as it is. To this point the authors state: </p><blockquote><em>National outlets do not have the space, time, nor interest to cover 535 legislative offices, much less 50 state governments and thousands of municipal governments… </em></blockquote><p>Now add in the fact that local newspapers are decreasing and the root of the problem becomes evident. Local news tends to focus on actual tangible facts of reality. Like when is the street you live on going to be torn up or what does the new tax proposal entail for a rehab of the public library. Additionally, the representatives who are going to work on getting this done are pitching their ideals and practical solutions. </p><p>For the most part, this system is far divorced from the farce circus show most channels peddle as news. </p><blockquote><em>Local news provides subnational officeholders a venue to cultivate their "personal vote," touting service and accomplishments to the local constituency and serving as a bulwark against a rising national tide of mass partisanship.</em></blockquote><p>The researchers found that in local newspapers, the coverage of members of Congress was considerably more positive when compared to national coverage. The majority of stories were neutral, while 25 percent were positive and only 5 percent negative.</p>