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This Week in God, 7.30.16

07/30/16 08:01AM

First up from the God Machine this week is a look at the importance of one of the more inspirational messages delivered during the Democratic National Convention this week. NBC News reported:
In a speech that shook the walls of the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Rev. Dr. William Barber II, the President of the North Carolina NAACP, delivered one of the most riveting addresses of the Democratic National Convention.
The 52-year-old pastor delivered a sermon to 20,000 seated and standing in an arena filled to the upper levels as well as in the exclusive suites.
Barber's speech was one of the strongest of either the Republican or Democratic convention as it covered a wide path of moral territory in a nation with changing demographics that will soon permanently alter the future face of U.S. politics.
I've posted a video excerpt, but if you missed it, you owe it to yourself to watch the whole, 10-minute address. Note the way in which Barber weaves together progressive values on so many issues -- economic justice, immigration, civil rights, criminal justice, et al -- in order to position the left as champions of morality and family values.
To be sure, the North Carolina preacher, perhaps best known for his Moral Mondays vigils, was one of many speakers emphasizing those same themes. But as the Washington Post's Janell Ross explained, what Barber delivered "was evidence of a long tradition of liberal, religious patriotism. It was a call to action that, in Barber's view, serves this cause -- an articulation of a liberal and patriotic philosophy with what Barber said was the moral force to shock and resuscitate the heart of the nation."
Talk of the nation's "religious left," long seen as a possible rival to the influential religious right movement, tends to come in fits and starts. When it seems as if the progressive, faith-based community is poised to breakthrough and have a larger cultural footprint, too often its moment passes.
But Vox noted yesterday that at the Democratic gathering in Philadelphia this week, the religious left appeared to be "waking up." The piece added, "Religion was everywhere at the DNC, but it rarely felt overpowering, or even explicitly Christian."
It's a key detail: the religious left is diverse in ways the religious right is not, a characteristic that brings with it benefits and challenges. Nevertheless, if this week's Democratic convention is any indication, this remains a burgeoning movement in its own right, and with faith leaders like Barber helping lead the way, the religious left's capacity to make a difference is enormous.
Also from the God Machine this week:
Can Clinton manage bipartisan appeal?

Can Clinton manage bipartisan appeal?

07/29/16 09:52PM

Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist, talks with Rachel Maddow about whether the Hillary Clinton campaign can reach out to disaffected Republicans and Independents while keeping Democrats, and how Americans' fear of Donald Trump on foreign policy plays into that outreach. watch

Trump pushes favor for Russia in GOP platform

Trump pushes favor for Russia in GOP platform

07/29/16 09:46PM

Rachel Maddow reports on how the Donald Trump campaign, despite expressing little interest in the Republican Party platform during the GOP convention, did insist on one significant concession to Russia with regard to Ukraine. watch

Is this Tim Kaine?

Is this Tim Kaine?

07/29/16 09:38PM

Rachel Maddow notes that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump appears to be confused about who he running against after criticizing former Governor Tom Kean about his governing of New Jersey. watch

Trump, Jr. makes curious campaign detour

Donald Trump, Jr. makes curious campaign detour

07/29/16 09:00PM

Rachel Maddow describes the tragic racial history of Philadelphia, Mississippi, the creepily calculated Ronald Reagan campaign stop there in 1980, and the curious visit by Donald Trump, Jr. even though Mississippi is not a risk for Republicans this year. watch

Friday's Mini-Report, 7.29.16

07/29/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* A pattern seems to be emerging: "The computer network used by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's campaign was hacked as part of a broad cyber attack on Democratic political organizations, people familiar with the matter told Reuters."
* This follows the DCCC news: "Another Democratic Party group confirmed Friday it has been hacked and said the breach was 'similar' to a cyber strike on the Democratic National Committee, which has been blamed on the Russians."
* Maybe congressional Republicans should've taken more of an interest: "Florida's governor says the state has concluded that four mysterious Zika infections likely came from mosquitoes in the Miami area. Gov. Rick Scott said Friday that no mosquitoes in the state have tested positive for Zika. But he says one woman and three men in Miami-Dade and Broward counties likely contracted the virus through mosquito bites."
* Flint, Michigan: "Arrogance and viewing people in Flint as expendable were the motives of six state employees criminally charged Friday over the city's water crisis, Attorney General Bill Schuette said."
* Convention ratings: "With nearly all ratings in across networks, the DNC finale comes in short of the RNC [on the fourth night] -- though averages a much stronger showing over four days."
* A recent Supreme Court ruling seems relevant: "A federal appeals court on Friday refused to drop corruption charges against Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), according to The Associated Press. Menendez's attorneys had argued that his actions on behalf of a campaign donor were protected because he's a sitting senator, but the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed."
Early Voting Begins In North Carolina (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty).

North Carolina voting restrictions rejected by appeals court

07/29/16 04:52PM

Voting-rights advocates have had a pretty encouraging month. As discussed the other day, last Tuesday, a federal court issued a ruling mitigating some of the voter-ID restrictions imposed by Wisconsin Republicans. A day later, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals shot down part of Texas’ voter-suppression campaign. By Friday, a federal court issued an injunction blocking a Michigan GOP measure banning straight-ticket voting in the state.
But perhaps no recent ruling is as important as the one handed down this afternoon. MSNBC's Zach Roth, who has a new book out on voting rights, published this report:
A federal appeals court on Friday struck down the heart of a North Carolina voting law seen as the strictest in the nation, finding that Republican lawmakers intentionally discriminated against African-Americans when they passed it.
A divided 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the measure's provisions "target African-Americans with almost surgical precision."
Keep in mind, few states were as brutal in imposing new voting restrictions as North Carolina. Not long after taking office, Gov. Pat McCrory (R) partnered with the state's Republican-run legislature to put all kinds of new hurdles between North Carolinians and the ballot box: Roth's report noted that GOP officials "imposed a voter ID requirement, cut early voting opportunities, eliminated same-day voter registration and banned out-of-precinct voting, among other provisions."
By the state's own admission, these voting restrictions disproportionately affected the state's African-American population.
The 4th Circuit wasn't impressed with North Carolina's brazenness. "The only clear factor linking these various 'reforms' is their impact on African American voters," the appeals court ruling said, adding, "[W]e can only conclude that the North Carolina General Assembly enacted the challenged provisions of the law with discriminatory intent."
The decision went on to say, "We recognize that elections have consequences, but winning an election does not empower anyone in any party to engage in purposeful racial discrimination."
Pat Smith, mother of Benghazi victim Sean Smith, speaks during the opening day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, July 18, 2016.

A tale of two grieving parents

07/29/16 02:24PM

Both major-party conventions featured grieving family members at various points over the last couple of weeks. The parties saw an opportunity to honor individuals and policy priorities with Americans who've suffered horrible losses, and in general, these appearances carried great emotional weight.
In fact, two of the most memorable speeches of both party gatherings came from parents who lost loved ones abroad.
But that doesn't mean their appearances were the same.
Last week, for example, on the opening night of the Republican National Convention, organizers gave a prominent role to Pat Smith, Benghazi victim Sean Smith's mother. It was a deeply unfortunate display: Smith, still struggling with the kind of pain few of us can imagine, used her time on the stage to repeat discredited conspiracy theories.
"She deserves to be in stripes," Smith said of Clinton, adding, "I personally blame Hillary Clinton for the death of my son." Given the facts, even those presented by congressional Republicans themselves, Smith's remarks were ugly and wrong, and it almost certainly wasn't appropriate for Republican organizers to exploit her grief to peddle conspiratorial nonsense.
A week later in Philadelphia, Khizr Khan, whose son, U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan, died in Iraq at the hands of a terrorist, addressed the Democratic convention. In the process, he delivered one of the most powerful moments of either party gathering.
But wait, conservatives will ask. Why was Smith's appearance worthy of criticism, while Khan's appearance is celebrated? Isn't that hypocritical?
The answer is no. The differences should be obvious.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Democratic vice presidential candidate, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., right, stand on stage on the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pa., July 28, 2016. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

Flipping the script without changing the platform

07/29/16 12:53PM

Nothing has been normal about the 2016 presidential election, so perhaps we shouldn't be surprised by the major-party conventions, but few political observers seemed fully prepared for bookend gatherings in which the parties' messages defied all expectations.
The Washington Post had a good piece on this overnight.
The country's two major political parties, emerging from their conventions to square off in the general election, are speaking to Americas unrecognizable to each other in voices that sound like a political and ideological role reversal.
For Republicans, the country is a place of near-apocalyptic gloom whose best days are fast receding.
The GOP's America is a depressing and divided place, facing existential threats around every corner, gripped by "chaos" and a sense of hopelessness. The Democratic America "is a vibrant and diverse place," with a bright future the country can move towards with great confidence.
The gap between the two perceptions is stunning, but so too are the parties' willingness to play against type. Even if you didn't see all of the Democratic convention, you probably picked up on some of the key themes -- patriotism, optimism, family, future, unity -- built around the Clinton campaign's "Stronger Together" slogan.
Vox noted yesterday that Democrats "have stolen the GOP's best rhetoric -- and Republicans have noticed."
I've seen more than a few observers note that, at times, the Democratic convention resembled a Republican convention from years past. Multiple speakers, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, made Reagan references. A retired admiral, noting the Republican nominee's denigration of POWs, said from the stage, "I served in the same Navy as John McCain. I used to vote in the same party as John McCain. Donald, you are not fit to polish John McCain's boots."
In response, Democrats roared with approval -- just as they did when Doug Elmets told attendees last night, "It's an honor to be here. Candidly, it's also a shock -- because, unlike many of you, I'm a Republican. I'm here tonight to say, I knew Ronald Reagan. I worked for Ronald Reagan. Donald Trump, you are no Ronald Reagan."
National Review's Rich Lowry said this week, "American exceptionalism and greatness, shining city on hill, founding documents, etc -- they're trying to take all our stuff."