Franklin Graham quits the GOP over Planned Parenthood funding in the new omnibus bill

Is my headline accurate? The idea of him quitting over the widely loathed omnibus is irresistible given the apocalyptic mood on the right about an impending GOP crack-up, and that’s certainly how the wider media is treating this. But Graham’s been slamming the party for months now. Note his choice of words below. Funding PP is an example of why he quit the party, not the final straw. Which makes sense: Republicans have been voting for bills that contain money for Planned Parenthood for ages. As repulsive as the baby-parts sting videos this past year were, pro-lifers were under no illusions before that about PP being a death factory for children in the womb. Graham’s reaction makes more sense as a “case in point” than as the GOP having at long last crossed a taboo line.

But that’s a nitpick. If you’re looking for showy evidence that populist disgust at the party leadership is driving supporters away and building a base for previously unimaginable insurgencies like Trump’s, you’ve found it.

Shame on the Republicans and the Democrats for passing such a wasteful spending bill last week. And to top it off, funding Planned Parenthood! A Huffington Post article called it “a big win for Planned Parenthood.” I call it a big loss for America. After all of the appalling facts revealed this year about Planned Parenthood, our representatives in Washington had a chance to put a stop to this, but they didn’t. There’s no question—taxpayers should not be paying for abortions! Abortion is murder in God’s eyes. Seeing and hearing Planned Parenthood talk nonchalantly about selling baby parts from aborted fetuses with utter disregard for human life is reminiscent of Joseph Mengele and the Nazi concentration camps! That should’ve been all that was needed to turn off the faucet for their funding. Nothing was done to trim this 2,000 page, $1.1 trillion budget. This is an example of why I have resigned from the Republican Party and declared myself Independent. I have no hope in the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, or Tea Party to do what is best for America. Unless more godly men and women get in this process and change this wicked system, our country is in for trouble. I want to challenge Christians, even pastors, across the country to pray about running for office where they can have an impact. We need mayors, country commissioners, city council members, school board members who will uphold biblical values.

Via Betsy Woodruff, compare that to what Graham told a local news outfit in North Carolina seven months ago:

“I have no faith in the Democratic Party, I have no faith in the Republican Party, I have no faith in the Tea Party, whoever they are,” Graham told WIAT 42 News in an interview posted on Thurday.

He added that he’s not endorsing anyone in the 2016 elections, but urges Christians to run for office.

His remarks echo an earlier statement he made in April, when he said he doesn’t believe either Democrats or Republicans will be able to fix America’s problems.

“At 62 years of age, I’ve lived long enough to learn that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans can turn this country around; no political party or politician is the answer. The only hope for this country is Almighty God and His Son Jesus Christ,” Graham said in a Facebook post.

He’s given up on both parties, he won’t endorse, and Christian candidates are our only hope: That’s been his message since spring, one he’s reiterated intermittently. Which, however, is really just another way of saying he was ahead of the curve in this year’s ferocious backlash against the Republican establishment. (Trump didn’t declare his candidacy until a month after Graham made the comments quoted above.) If, as Woodruff imagines, this triggers some wider exodus by evangelicals from the GOP then it’s a two-front catastrophe for Republicans, losing “moderate” nationalist Republicans to Trump on the one hand and devoted social conservatives to the sort of disaffection Graham describes on the other. My question to you is, how likely is that really? Especially with Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio as serious contenders for the nomination, why wouldn’t evangelicals hang around at least through November and try to get a social con elected president? I find it hard to believe, if America’s staring at a choice next fall between Cruz and abortion fanatic Hillary Clinton, that Graham will be scrupulously silent as to his preferences.

If there was a mass movement of evangelicals away from the GOP in the works, I’m guessing we’d have heard noises of disgruntlement before Tony Perkins, Bob Vander Plaats, and various other Christian conservatives decided to unify behind Cruz earlier this month. In fact, although I take Graham at his word that he’s done with the party, it’s hard not to notice how his statement redounds to Cruz’s benefit. Party leaders are leery of Cruz as nominee but they’ll be less leery if they think that nominating someone else might alienate influential social conservatives from the party irretrievably. Graham’s statement increases the right’s leverage in getting their man, whatever his intentions. Rubio’s a social con in good standing too, of course, but he doesn’t have quite the same record of endorsements that Cruz does and his response to some of the gay-rights cultural flashpoints this year has been more tepid than Cruz’s has. The X factor, though, as always, is Trump. How would evangelicals react to him as nominee? He’s the living embodiment of the “smash the GOP” vibe Graham’s tapping into here, but he’s coming at that as a New Yorker who’s been known to say that he’s not sure if he’s ever sought God’s forgiveness and that he’s happy to accept the “little cracker” in church. He’s on the right side of defunding Planned Parenthood (for now) but he’s not even pretending to be the sort of devout Christian that Cruz and Rubio are. Is that a dealbreaker for social conservatives? Franklin Graham seems to like him okay, especially his proposed travel ban on Muslims.

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