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Stormy Daniels, an adult star, at a local restaurant in downtown New Orleans. AP Photo/Bill Haber

Kelsy Burke, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Many commentators have pointed out the hypocrisy of Christian leaders who claim a moral high ground while supporting President Donald Trump. The latest scandal involving an alleged extramarital affair with pornographic film star Stormy Daniels proves no exception.

The Christian right that supports Trump has found ways to justify their support of the president, for example, with analogies of how God used King David, a man with personal flaws, for the greater good of the country.

All the while, however, evangelical leaders remain definitively opposed to pornography. In the words of an evangelical celebrity and outspoken opponent of pornography, Josh McDowell, it is “probably the greatest problem or threat to the Christian faith in the history of the world.”

As a sociologist who studies how evangelicals talk about sex,
I see evangelical Trump supporters’ reaction to the latest Stormy Daniels scandal as fitting right into how evangelical Christians have responded to pornography in recent history.

The Christian anti-pornography movement

Christian opposition to pornography has long been connected to larger efforts to impose Protestant morality onto American politics and culture. Sociologist Joseph Gusfield would call it a “symbolic crusade” – which is less about porn per se and more about broader social concerns over changing gender roles, sexual norms and family life.

in the 1980s, evangelical Protestants mobilized against the sexual revolution of the 1970s. One of their targets was the pornography industry that had grown with the invention of the VCR and led to pornographic videos entering American homes.

Along with other anti-pornography organizations, the fundamentalist Protestant political organization, the Moral Majority, supported efforts to enforce and increase obscenity laws to regulate and reduce pornography.

The Moral Majority’s platform linked pornography with their other concerns, suggesting that pornography, just like homosexuality or abortion, contributed to the moral decline of America.

More recently, evangelical and Latter-day Saints or Mormon politicians have been urging states across the country to pass resolutions declaring pornography to be “a public health crisis.”

All these political efforts sent a straightforward message: Porn is bad.

Evangelical self-help and sex advice

But the story is not so simple. In the 1970s, an evangelical self-help and sex-advice industry emerged that put a religious twist on a cultural obsession with personal and relationship satisfaction and happiness.

At the time, authors like conservative political activists Tim and Beverly LaHaye and Focus on the Family founder James Dobson acknowledged that porn was a problem that Christians (almost always men but on occasion women) faced. Their writing focused on how pornography harmed marital relationships and personal well-being. At the same time, however, it described how devout Christians may be pornography consumers.

While clearly opposing the consumption of porn, self-help and sex advice book authors also normalized it. In their book, “Pure Eyes: A Man’s Guide to Sexual Integrity,” evangelical writers Craig Gross (also founder of the anti-porn website XXX Church) and Steven Luff asked their readers directly,

“Are you ready to admit … that you struggle with something that almost any man could be tempted by?”

How evangelicals relate to porn

Today, there are evangelical books, websites, conferences and small groups to support evangelicals who are troubled by their own pornography use.

Such resources describe pornography as potentially “addictive” and a ubiquitous temptation in our technology-driven world. Indeed, as sociologist Samuel Perry finds, even conservative Protestants who believe pornography is “always morally wrong” are only “somewhat less likely” to consume pornography compared to other Americans. He calls this “moral incongruence” and explains how conservative Protestants’ “avoidance of pornography does not (and perhaps cannot) keep pace with their professed opposition to it.”

This moral incongruence has changed how evangelicals relate to pornography. The moral conviction against porn remains strong, but there is also sympathy for its consumers.

Evangelical logic supposes that giving into sexual temptations is part of the human condition. ruperto miller

Whereas non-evangelicals may observe a contradiction when it comes to supporting both Christian values and President Trump, I have found in my research that conservative evangelicals don’t have to see it that way. Their logic supposes that giving into sexual temptations is part of the human condition: People are prone to sin and must seek forgiveness and support.

The ConversationA man like Donald Trump, in other words, could benefit from the pages of evangelical self-help books. But his sexual failings needn’t get in the way of conservative politics.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.


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Senators meet with President Donald Trump to discuss immigration on Jan. 9, 2018. AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Matthew Wright,
American University

For a moment, it looked as though 2018 might be the year that ended a three-decade streak of failure to pass so-called “comprehensive immigration reform.”

On Jan. 11, a bipartisan group of six senators brought forth a plan for comprehensive reform that would include US$2.7 billion for border security, a pathway to citizenship for “Dreamers” brought to the country without authorization as children, a limit on those Dreamers sponsoring their parents for citizenship and a reallocation of “diversity visas” to immigrants with recently terminated Temporary Protected Status visas.

Prospects for the deal have dimmed since President Donald Trump, who had previously expressed sympathy for Dreamers, abruptly torpedoed it. But the rudiments of a workable deal are still in place. If it ends up succeeding, it will be in no small part because it sidesteps the one issue that has deadlocked comprehensive reform since the 1990s: undocumented immigrants.

The only remotely viable path to a “comprehensive” deal, it seems, is to leave millions of undocumented immigrants who are not Dreamers out in the cold.

The ‘amnesty’ stumbling block

Americans of all political stripes, and their elected officials, have long agreed that the U.S. immigration system is “broken.” Yet since the last major round of reforms in the 1980s and 1990s, efforts at “comprehensive immigration reform” spearheaded by presidents of both parties and enjoying bipartisan congressional support have gone nowhere. America’s foundational laws regarding immigrants have remained largely intact since Lyndon Johnson occupied the White House. They are the Hart-Celler Act of 1965, later amended by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, and the Immigration Act of 1990.

The main stumbling block has been hostility, mainly on the Republican side, to normalizing the status of millions of immigrants living in the country without permission. This hostility developed fairly recently, driven almost entirely by pressure to please a small but rabidly anti-immigrant base. George W. Bush largely escaped pressure to harden his relatively moderate positions prior to his election in 2000, and actively pursued comprehensive immigration reform as president.

But since then, serious GOP presidential candidates have increasingly had to toughen up on immigration policy in order to make it through to the general election.

The 2008 election witnessed the rebirth of Rudy Giuliani – formerly a relatively tolerant mayor of a “sanctuary city” – as a border security hawk and illegal immigration hard-liner. More notable still that year was Sen. John McCain, who was forced to back off his longtime support for comprehensive immigration.

Donald Trump, of course, launched his 2016 bid for the GOP presidential nomination by railing against drug smugglers, criminals and rapists he falsely alleged are streaming into the U.S. illegally from Mexico.

Observers understand this hostility to “amnesty” in different ways. Some see it as racially motivated, and tied to hostility against Latinos and other ethnic minorities. However, my colleague Morris Levy and I have shown in our research that much of it is tied to deep conceptions about the rule of law. By this logic, roughly one-third of Americans, according to our study, reject undocumented immigrants categorically. That is, they reject them solely on the basis of breaking the law, without regard to ethnicity or other characteristics.

We have argued that this is why there is still no path to citizenship for the 11 million or so undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S.

Narrowing what ‘comprehensive’ means

It’s no surprise then that, of late, the debate has devolved exclusively to address the fate of Dreamers. As some of our work indicates, Dreamers do not provoke the intransigent hostility that other undocumented immigrants do. They are less likely to be viewed as “law-breakers,” and more likely to win support on humanitarian grounds.

In effect, the vast majority of undocumented immigrants have been written out of immigration reform altogether. The more limited deal in circulation would give Democrats a “win” with respect to illegal immigration, even if it is less than the total victory they have long sought. The concessions they offer in return – limited funding for border security, some effort to limit so-called “chain migration,” and the redirecting of “diversity lottery” visas to some immigrants previously on temporary status – are not uncontroversial. However, none is likely to generate anything like the reaction “amnesty” produces among categorical opponents of illegal immigration.

Can those undocumented immigrants hope for reprieve down the line?

The ConversationThere is precedent for large-scale amnesty: The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 legalized nearly 3 million undocumented immigrants in exchange for relatively weak enforcement provisions. But given the uniquely intransigent positions taken on both sides of the issue, it is hard to imagine another such bill in the offing any time soon.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

South Dakota Democratic Party Calls on State Republican Leaders to Put Country Before Party

March 2, 2017

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – The South Dakota Democratic Party released the following statement in response to reports that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions lied under oath about meeting with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign and that Trump associates and Putin associates had multiple in-person meetings in Europe during the campaign, according to European intelligence services:

“New and troubling revelations about connections between the Trump campaign or Trump associates and Russia seem to come to light almost every day. Almost as troubling as these ongoing revelations is the continuing lack of leadership shown by Republican leaders in South Dakota in responding to these continuing revelations. Republican elected officials and candidates, such as Representative Noem, Senators Rounds and Thune, Attorney General Jackley, and congressional candidate Dusty Johnson need to finally put their country above their party and call for the resignation of Jeff Sessions, the appointment of a special prosecutor, and the formation of an independent, 9/11-style commission to investigate the connections between Donald Trump, his campaign, and the Russian government. If they do not do so today, they need to be asked what other shocking and incriminating revelations it will take for them to do so.”

Does Nonpartisan Journalism Have A Future

Justin Buchler, Case Western Reserve University

The nonpartisan model of journalism is built around the norm of covering politics as though both parties are equally guilty of all offenses. The 2016 campaign stressed that model to the breaking point with one candidate – Donald Trump – who lied at an astonishing level. PolitiFact rates 51 percent of his statements as “false” or “pants on fire,” with another 18 percent rated as “mostly false.” His presidency will continue to make nonpartisan journalistic norms difficult to follow.

As a political scientist focused on game theory, I approach the media from the perspective of strategic choice. Media outlets make decisions about how to position themselves within a market and how to signal to news consumers what kinds outlets they are in ideological terms. But they also interact strategically with politicians, who use journalists’ ideological leanings and accusations of leanings to undermine the credibility of even the most valid criticisms.

While Republican politicians have decried liberal media bias for decades, none has done so as vehemently as Trump, who polarizes the media in a way that may not leave an escape.

The development of a nonpartisan press

In the 20th and 21st centuries, news outlets have made their money through subscriptions, sales and advertisements. However, before these economic models developed, newspapers had a tough time turning a profit.

In the 19th century, many newspapers were produced and distributed by institutions that weren’t in it for the money. Political parties, therefore, were a primary source of news. Horace Greeley’s Jeffersonian – an outlet for the Whig Party – had a decidedly partisan point of view. Others, like The Bay State Democrat, had names that told you exactly what they were doing. When Henry Raymond founded The New York Times in 1851 as a somewhat more independent outlet despite his Whig and Republican affiliations, it was an anomaly. Nonetheless, partisan newspapers, for economic and political reasons, were common throughout the 19th century, particularly during the early 19th century.

The information in partisan newspapers was hardly unbiased. But nobody expected anything else because the concept of a neutral press didn’t really exist. The development of a neutral press on a large scale required both a different economic production and distribution model and the recognition that there was a market for it.

The muckraking era that began in the early 20th century brought such journalism into the forefront. Muckraking, the forebear of investigative journalism, traces back to Upton Sinclair and fellow writers who uncovered corruption and scandal. Its success demonstrated demand for papers that weren’t partisan, and production and distribution models developed that allowed more nonpartisan papers to turn a profit by filling a gap within the market.

The economic principles at work are always the same. There is a balancing act between the costs of entry and the size of the audience that can be reached which determines when new media outlets can form, just as in any other market. The trick is that costs and benefits change over time.

Neutrality norms in a complex media environment

Just as market incentives supported the development of a neutral press, market incentives, combined with technology, have allowed institutions like Fox News and MSNBC to provide news coverage from decidedly conservative and liberal perspectives, with internet sources further fragmenting the media environment into narrow ideological niches.

These media outlets, though, muddy the signals: A nonpartisan journalist strives to levy valid criticism, but a partisan journalist will always criticize the opposing party. Thus a weakly informed voter will have a difficult time distinguishing between, say, a valid accusation from a nonpartisan journalist that a Republican is lying and partisan bias from a left-wing journalist who fails to acknowledge that bias.

The current media landscape is a hybrid, combining opinion-based outlets that resemble the party-affiliated newspapers of the 19th century and journalistic outlets that attempt to follow the muckraking model that developed in the 20th century. The way the latter attempt to distinguish themselves from the former is by following norms of neutrality and asserting that both parties are equally guilty of all political sins. This model breaks down when the parties are no longer equally guilty.

Consider the first presidential debate of 2016. Hillary Clinton mentioned Trump’s 2012 claim that global warming was a Chinese hoax. Trump interrupted to deny having made the claim. Not only had Trump engaged in an outlandish conspiracy theory, but he also lied during a debate about having done so.

“Both sides do it” is not a valid response to this level of dishonesty because both sides do not always engage in this level of dishonesty. Yet it was relatively normal behavior for Trump, who rose to the top of the Republican Party by gradually taking leadership of the “birther” movement and eventually even tried to switch the blame for that to Clinton.

The strategic problem in this type of situation is more complex than it appears, and it is what I call “the journalist’s dilemma.” The nonpartisan press can let the lie go unremarked. But to do so is to enable Trump’s lies. On the other hand, if they point out how much he lies, Trump can respond with accusations of liberal media bias. Trump, in fact, goes further than past Republicans, even directing crowd hostility toward specific journalists at rallies.

The media landscape, though, is populated by outlets with liberal leanings, like MSNBC, so uninformed news consumers who lack the time to do thorough investigations of every Trump and Clinton claim must decide: If a media outlet says that Trump lies more than Clinton, does that mean he is more dishonest or that the media outlet is a liberal one? The rational inference, given the media landscape, is actually the latter, making it self-defeating for the nonpartisan press to attempt to call out Trump’s lies. This might explain why a plurality of voters thought that Trump was more honest than Clinton, despite a record of more dishonesty from Trump at fact-checking sites like PolitiFact.

Nonpartisan journalism in a Trump presidency?

Is there a way for the neutral press to point out when Trump lies and not have that information get discounted as partisan bias?

The basic problem is that the norms that have guided the nonpartisan press are built around the assumption that the parties are mirror images of each other. They may disagree on policy, but they abide by the same rules. The nonpartisan press as we know it, then, cannot function when one party systematically stops abiding those norms.

The 2016 campaign was an example of what happens when the parties are out of balance. Trump simply lied far more than Clinton, but the nonpartisan press was unable to convey that information to the public because even trying to point that out violates the “both sides do it” journalistic norm, thereby signaling bias to a weakly informed but rational audience, which invalidates the criticism.

Unfortunately, then, the nonpartisan press is essentially stuck, at least until Donald Trump is out of office. While there is no longer a “he said, she said” campaign, the fact that Trump is not only the president but the head of the Republican Party makes his statements informal positions of the Republican Party. For the press to attack those statements as lies is to place themselves in opposition to the Republican Party, making them de facto Democratic partisans.

Because Trump is an entertainer rather than a policymaker, it is difficult for the press to even interview him as a normal political figure since he does not respond to facts in conventional ways. Each time he lies, any media outlet that aspires to objectivity must decide whether to point it out – which would make it indistinguishable from the Democratic-aligned press – or to allow the lie to go unremarked, thereby remaining complicit in the lie, tacitly aiding the Republican Party. Neither is likely to inform anyone in any meaningful way, which renders the model of the neutral press nearly inoperable.

The Conversation

Justin Buchler, Associate Professor of Political Science, Case Western Reserve University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

SDDP’s Statement on Noem’s Support of Trump in Today’s Debate 

October 10, 2016

Sioux Falls, SD – The South Dakota Democratic Party Executive Director Suzanne Jones Pranger released the following statement in response to State Rep. Paula Hawks’s debate with Rep. Kristi Noem today at the Sioux Falls Downtown Rotary meeting.   

“The State Party congratulates Representative Paula Hawks on a great debate, focused on the issues important to South Dakotans. From agricultural and economic issues to foreign policy, it was clear Paula Hawks is the best choice to represent South Dakota families in Congress.

“In addition, it was extremely troubling to hear Kristi Noem double down on her support of Donald Trump, even after the release of a video last week where Trump brags about actions that amount to sexual assault. Trump’s statements were bad enough for Republicans Senator John Thune and Governor Dennis Daugaard to call for Trump to withdraw from the race, but Noem continues to support Trump despite the racist, misogynistic, and erratic statements he has made during the campaign that show he is unfit to be President.  Given Noem’s history of voting against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in 2013, I suppose it is not surprising, but it is disappointing nonetheless.”

Paid for by the South Dakota Democratic Party. (www.sddp.org) Not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.

An Opinion – Dear Donald Please Leave The Building Now

By Herb Ryan
Custer Free Press
October 9, 2016

Donald Trump, anointed presidential candidate of the Republican Party has finally and irretrievably crossed the wavering line of unacceptable actions. Anyone with an ounce of commonsense can clearly see that this person is not fit to be President of the United States of America.

Trump was the candidate the people wanted, rejected in the campaign process were:
Republicans: Jeb Bush. Ben Carson. Chris Christie. Ted Cruz. Carly Fiorina. Jim Gilmore. Lindsey Graham. Mike Huckabee. Bobby Jindal. John Kasich. George Pataki. Rand Paul. Rick Perry. Marco Rubio. Rick Santorum. Scott Walker.And among this list of republican candidates could Ted Cruz or John Kasich not have been a better choice.

Sadly, the American people went for the lowest common denominator. The math was simple. Trump, in his campaign speeches did the same thing that most egocentric politicians do. He promised to build walls across the Mexican border, order mass deportations against certain ethnic groups, stop all immigration from Islamic countries, further empower and already militaristic repressive police state and continue to subjugate the rights of women and the LGBTI community. Fear mongering, a tactic used by almost every dictator in recorded history is the candy that the people wanted.

If Trump comes back from this latest episode and remains on the ticket, we are surely a country that has lost it’s basic common sense. The decision for Trump to withdraw from the race is our decision, not his. The evangelicals and others who find themselves thoroughly disgusted by the thought of Hillary Clinton as President along with other Christian groups now have a moral decision to make. To follow the tenants of their religion, or to support a man whose morals are so lacking that he mocks the very concept of Christianity.

No one is asking Hillary Clinton to withdraw, even though she carries a lot of baggage that will make her presidency difficult. Without a majority in the house and senate, the bitterness over the election will follow her full term calling into question every decision she makes. The moral standard is based on the person running for president. Bill Clinton has the character and morals of a sewer rat. Hillary Clinton, the actual presidential candidate is in the opinion of the public, a liar and not trustworthy.

Tonight, the two candidates, in front of a world-wide audience will once again embarrass themselves and America in a so-called debate. Please watch this if, Mr. Trump shows up, it will be entertaining, I do not expect anyone to take the high ground and above everything else be afraid, be very afraid. One of these people could be President of The United States of America for the next four years.


South Dakota U.S. Senate Candidate Jay Williams Calls for Senator Thune to Debate

Yankton, SD

Jay Williams, South Dakota’s Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, is calling for Senator John Thune to debate him. In past years, Dakotafest in Mitchell has been the unofficial kickoff to the political debate season. This year, Senator Thune has told Dakotafest sponsor IDEAg Group that he has no plans to debate this year. Mr. Williams is calling for Senator Thune to change his position and agree to a series of debates.

Mr. Williams issued the following statement calling for Senator Thune to debate him:

There are major issues challenging the United States and South Dakota. Senator Thune has a responsibility to debate me and tell the voters of South Dakota his views on these issues. The voters of South Dakota deserve to hear how the incumbent Senator and his challenger stand on the issues. Senator Thune  has voted repeatedly to repeal the Affordable Care Act. This in spite of the fact that the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA), the cornerstone legal authority for the provision of health care to American Indians and Alaska Natives, was made permanent as part of the Affordable Care Act. This is just one of several issues where Senator Thune and I disagree. We differ on how to address the income inequality in our country and on the importance of eliminating fossil fuels as our source of energy. Senator Thune needs to explain why he endorses the racist, self professed greedy real estate mogul, Donald Trump for President. Let’s have a series of debates to discuss these and other issues important to South Dakota voters.