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Ask Jon 18 – The Times They Are a-Changin’


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Canadian Atheist

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2020/10/02

Jonathan Engel, J.D. is the President of the Secular Humanist Society of New YorkHere we talk about the demographic projections influencing current political reactionary moves.

*Interview conducted on September 21, 2020.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: So, you’ve been reading your hometown newspaper, which is regular for those who have been reading this series on the regular. Let’s talk about the political divides happening now, at a particularly acute clip, what comes to mind? What articles are standing out from the New York Times as of our last discussion?

Jonathan Engel: The issue of the day, these things go with such speed in the modern culture. The biggest item of the today is the United States Supreme Court. Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away this week. There are four conservatives, four liberals. It may be five because Chief Justice Roberts is conservative by nature, but has shown some liberal ideas in recent decisions.

So, this all goes back to 2016 when Antonin Scalia, a conservative justice, died in February of 2016. Many liberals like me thought, “Oh boy, we can get somebody picked by Obama.” Obama being Obama picked someone acceptable to Republican senators who were a majority. He wanted to get this picked through. So, he picked Merrick Garland. He is not liberal, but more center left and is an older person because these are lifetime appointments. All appointments to the federal Supreme Court are lifetime appointments.

So, someone not that young and not that liberal. As we all know, as what happens, Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Republicans in the Senate, said, ‘We don’t even find him acceptable. We are not going to give him a hearing. It is only 9 months to the election. Let Americans decide in the election, who the next president will be, then we will let that person pick the next justice.” Now, we are only 6 weeks from the election.

What do you know? What a shocker, McConnell has changed his tune and said, ‘No, no, no, we will have somebody elected by Trump before the election and too bad. Are we hypocrites? I don’t know. And who cares?” What can Democrats do anything about it? One of the big political issues ongoing here right now. Probably the single biggest now, Democrats have certain things that they can do. Will they or won’t they? It is an interesting question. Again, they could impeach Trump again because impeachment hearings take precedence over everything else, including Supreme Court justice selection.

Charles Blow in the New York Times wrote about this, in an article called “Conservatives Try To Lock in Power.” He talks largely about the things that are obvious and a lot of people are talking about; you have demographic shifts in the country that make it unlikely Republicans will win in terms of actual number of votes. Young people tend to be more liberal, especially about social issues like homosexuality and abortion.

Also, you have the country becoming less homogeneous. There is a rising Latinx population in this country. There is a rising Asian-American population in this country. So, it looks like demographically Republicans are in trouble. Therefore, they are trying to lock in power in the courts in order to preserve their power in a non-democratic way because they are not going to be able to win elections.

Here’s what is interesting to me, that is pretty standard stuff. Blow also talks about, not just that the country is becoming less white and younger people are somewhat more liberal with the primary concern being climate change, how the country is becoming less religious and, specifically, less Christian.

I thought that was worth noting because that is something many liberals and democrats are very hesitant to talk about. They are, at times, very defensive about religion, ‘No, no, no, we’re religious too. We’re religious too!’ They are very defensive about religion and fail to acknowledge the country is becoming more secular. Charles Blow, in his column, talks about this. A little quote from it, “As America becomes less religious and less white, more galvanized to find climate change, more open to legalizing marijuana, and more aware of systemic racism, the religious conservative spine of the Republican Party is desperate for a way to save a way of life that may soon be rendered a relic.” Then he goes on to talk about how the country is becoming less Christian according to surveys, less religious in general.

Just that fact that he points that out in terms of the demographic change in the country, it was a tremendous breath of fresh air. So many liberals are afraid of even just pointing out that we are becoming a less religious country, somehow, scares them. Somehow, it makes them feel like it is something that we just can’t say.

I was happy to see Charles Blow talking about the demographic changes in the country. That’s one of those changes.

Jacobsen: Jon! Thank you so much for your time and the commentary today.

Engel: It’s my pleasure as always. Take care of yourself.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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