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Joe Biden and the battle over what America’s ‘values’ are – Washington Post

Perhaps since the birth of the Religious Right in the 1970s, the term “values voters” has been associated with the socially conservative politics of Republicans — usually evangelicals and Catholics.

Such issues as abortion, traditional marriage and, more recently, religious liberty, have been hot-button issues for many of these values voters. But over the past several years, and particularly during the 2016 presidential election and its aftermath, there’s been a battle within some circles of the electorate about which “values” Americans hold most closely.

For decades, abortion has been the mother of all deciding issues for evangelicals, with some publicly and unapologetically professing to be “one-issue voters.” But while campaigning, President Trump’s comments — and policies — about race, immigration and related issues, made some people of faith — and Americans as a whole — proclaim that there’s a need for a broader definition of values.

The latest voice to weigh in on what American voters should value most is Joe Biden, the former vice president, a practicing Catholic and possible 2020 candidate.

In a New York Times op-ed, Biden calls on Americans to remember some of the country’s core democratic values while arguing that the current president is one of the biggest threats to America’s values.

Mr. Trump’s shameful defense of the white nationalists and neo-Nazis who unleashed hatred and violence in Charlottesville, Va., further abnegated America’s moral leadership. Not since the Jim Crow era has an American president so misunderstood and misrepresented our values.

Most recently, the Trump administration’s order to rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — punishing young people brought to this country by their parents, many of whom know no home but the United States — betrays an unnecessary cruelty that further undermines America’s standing in the world.

Biden’s words on DACA come days after Pope Francis suggested that Trump needs to expand his definition of “pro-life” to protecting young “dreamers” from deportation.

“If he is a good pro-life believer, he must understand that family is the cradle of life and one must defend its unity,” Francis said Monday.

Some might argue that challenging Trump and more socially conservative Americans to reevaluate their definition of antiabortion is pointless.

But given that support for Trump remains above the national average among some groups — including white evangelicals and Republicans — it appears that Biden may be seeking to remind those groups,  and all Americans, about what this country’s citizens should value most.

Another group of Americans Biden may have in mind is the largest voting bloc in America — independents. According to Gallup, 41 percent of Americans identify as independent. But when you break down those numbers, most independents consistently lean toward one party or the other.

That’s not yet the case for groups Democratic Party leaders say they are not taking for granted after the results of the 2016 election: first-time voters or the largest demographic in America — millennials — who are just now engaging politics.

It’s a stretch to imagine Biden’s words will influence those on the ends of the political poles. We saw earlier this year how unlikely it is for the left to embrace the values of more traditional Americans, when Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) backed an antiabortion candidate in Nebraska, drawing the ire of abortion rights groups.

But what is clear is that Biden thinks that one of the United States’ most prized values is democracy, a system that brings together a country’s entire and diverse population. And he believes that that worldview is under threat.

“You cannot define Americans by what they look like, where they come from, whom they love or how they worship,” he wrote. “Only our democratic values define us. And if we lose sight of this in our conduct at home or abroad, we jeopardize the respect that has made the United States the greatest nation on earth.”

Joe Biden and the battle over what America’s ‘values’ are – Washington Post

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