Source: The New York Times
WASHINGTON — The descent of the 2016 presidential campaign last week into the realm of sex tapes and marital infidelity was remarkable enough in its own right, but it also offered a reminder of what has been largely absent from the race: a debate about issues of public morality that for decades have been at the heart of the country’s political divide.
In a striking departure from the recent history of White House campaigns, there has been almost no discussion of abortion or gay rights, two of the most animating issues for millions of American voters.
“This is more about this year’s candidates than it is about the country,” said Russell Moore, the public face of the Southern Baptist Convention. “I don’t think America is as secular as this campaign would have you think.”
The country may get a reminder of that on Tuesday evening during the vice-presidential debate.
The two men who will face off, Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia and Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, share a deep religious faith that is central to their politics, but has been obscured by a more profane than holy race on top of the ticket.
While both men are devout, they represent different strands of Christianity in American life, a contrast that is likely to be on display as they discuss their positions on social issues and how religious beliefs would guide their approach to governing.
Mr. Pence, who was raised Catholic, turned toward evangelical Christianity when he was in college and has made no secret of how cultural issues have shaped his politics. He was one of the most outspoken foes of abortion rights and same-sex marriage when he was in Congress. And as Indiana’s governor, he became engulfed in controversy after he signed legislation allowing the state’s business owners to deny services to gay, lesbian and transgender people for religious reasons.
But Mr. Pence, whose signature line is that he is “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican — in that order,” finds himself in a campaign devoid of any debate about the moral questions that have for decades been central to the country’s right-left political divide.
Mr. Kaine, who like Mr. Pence has Irish roots and was raised Catholic, had his faith forged when, during law school, he went to Honduras and served as a missionary for the Jesuits. It was there that he embraced a brand of liberation theology centered on social justice that would eventually be one of the forces propelling him into government.