Biden, Pence and the Left's 'Decency' Standard

David Closson is a research fellow for religious freedom and biblical worldview at Family Research Council. This article appeared on RealClearPolitics on March 13, 2019.

A controversy surrounding the surreal question of whether Vice President Mike Pence is “a decent guy” signals the next round of liberal culture shaming that has the potential to galvanize those who make up President Trump’s often castigated supporters. Consider that if the “deplorables” from 2016 become the “indecents” in 2020, not only will Democratic political ambitions suffer, the nation’s decorum and ability to have rational debate will devolve to a new low.

A microcosm of this issue began, not surprisingly, with an off-the-cuff remark from presumed presidential hopeful Joe Biden. While in Omaha, Neb., the former vice president referred to Pence as a “decent guy.” Within hours Biden’s innocuous comment had received heavy criticism from LGBT activists and members of his own party, including actress and unsuccessful New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon.

Later in the day Biden apologized, tweeting: “You’re right Cynthia… there is nothing decent about being anti-LGBTQ rights, and that includes the Vice President.”

This exchange and the underlining logic it embodies (that one’s political opponents cannot be “decent” people) is newsworthy. The fact that it is now the norm at the highest levels of the Democratic Party—as that party gears up for its 2020 primary—is particularly troublesome.

Biden’s rapid back-tracking and apology indicates he is likely gearing up for a third run for the White House and doesn’t want to alienate anyone in the Democratic base (which is moving increasingly leftward). Still, the dust-up over Pence underscores a deeper and alarming shift in how policy disagreements related to marriage and human sexuality are now handled in the public square.

For Nixon and those like her, Mike Pence is not “insidious” because he disagrees with her merely on policy. Pence—and presumably anyone who agrees with him—is “dangerous” because he believes Judeo-Christian moral principles are good for society and contribute to human flourishing. We used to be able to debate disagreements on fundamental principles charitably. But now, a rising vindictiveness from those opposed to historic teaching on marriage and sexuality (still shared by millions of Christians, across political and theological lines, and throughout America) threatens to corrode our civil discourse further than it already is.

In fact, Nixon’s desire to stamp out dissent to liberal views on marriage and human sexuality is exactly what Justice Samuel Alito (in a dissenting opinion) claimed would happen when the Supreme Court constitutionalized same-sex marriage by a 5-4 decision in 2015. Alito prophesied that “those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools.”

Unfortunately, this is exactly what is happening. Dissenting voices on issues related to marriage and religious liberty are increasingly being drowned out and labeled as “hateful” and “bigoted.” The view that marriage is the union between one man and one woman—the view that every nation in world history codified into their civil law until just the last decade—is now so pernicious that it must be silenced.

But it is not just traditional views on morality that are problematic. As evidenced by Nixon, LGBT activists, and other high-profile politicians (including 2020 presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren), the actual people who hold them are “insidious” and “dangerous.”

The warp speed at which the sexual revolution is moving is staggering. President Obama himself publicly defined marriage as “the union of a man and a woman” when he ran for election in 2008. It wasn’t until 2012, in the midst of his re-election campaign, that he completed his “evolution” on the issue and fully supported same-sex marriage. Now, as we approach 2020, dissenters from the sexual revolution are being smoked out and disowned, with candidates from one of the two major parties claiming that anyone who holds the very views that progressives themselves held just a few years ago must be driven from the public square.

While this kerfuffle between Biden and Nixon over Mike Pence will soon fade from the news, it reveals the fundamental divide that increasingly separates the Christian worldview—and the principles and ideas that shaped the moral conscience of the nation—from the secular worldview that wants to jettison any absolute standard of morality. Moreover, it shows the stranglehold that LGBT-interest groups have on the modern Democratic Party. Biden’s quick capitulation last week shows how successful these groups have been in conflating legitimate policy disagreements with being an indecent person.

If decency is defined by being in lock step with the social agenda of the sexual revolution, then millions of Americans are not “decent.” In fact, as Democrats begin the process of picking someone in their party to take on President Trump in 2020, they risk repeating a mistake from 2016: tacking hard to the left on social policy and demeaning the character of their opponents.