Kansas upholds Abortion Rights even though the ballot question was designed to be confusing

Matthew 18:14 “So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”

Important Takeaways:

  • Kansans vote to uphold abortion rights in their state
  • The proposed amendment was the first time anywhere in the U.S. that voters cast ballots on abortion since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.
  • A ballot question, known as the “Value Them Both Amendment,” asked voters to decide whether the state’s constitution should continue to protect abortion rights. The proposed amendment would have removed language that guarantees reproductive rights and asked voters if they would prefer to put the issue of abortion in the hands of the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature
  • Roger Marshall, R-Kan., called Tuesday’s results “an enormous blow to efforts to protect the sanctity of life in Kansas.”
  • Abortion in Kansas is legal up until about the 22nd week of pregnancy,
  • Expressed concern that the ballot measure featured language they argued was intentionally designed to confuse voters. For example, the language used on the ballot said that a “yes” vote on the question would affirm that “the constitution of the state of Kansas does not require government funding of abortion” — even though no such requirement exists — “and does not create or secure a right to abortion.” A “yes” vote would have affirmed that “the people, through their elected state representatives and state senators, may pass laws regarding abortion,” something lawmakers are limited in doing now based on a 2019 court ruling.

Read the original article by clicking here.

Soldiers, prisoners, displaced people vote early ahead of Iraq election

By John Davison and Ahmed Rasheed

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Soldiers, prisoners and displaced people voted in special early polls in Iraq on Friday as the country prepared for a Sunday general election where turnout will show how much faith voters have left in a still young democratic system.

Many Iraqis say they will not vote, having watched established parties they do not trust sweep successive elections and bring little improvement to their lives.

Groups drawn from the Shi’ite Muslim majority are expected to remain in the driving seat, as has been the case since Saddam Hussein’s Sunni-led government was ousted in 2003.

Iraq is safer than it has been for years and violent sectarianism is less of a feature than ever since Iraq vanquished Islamic State in 2017 with the help of an international military coalition and Iran.

But endemic corruption and mismanagement has meant many people in the country of about 40 million are without work, and lack healthcare, education and electricity.

Friday’s early ballot included voting among the population of more than one million people who are still displaced from the battle against Islamic State.

Some said they were either unable or unwilling to vote.

“I got married in the displacement camp where I live, and neither I nor my husband will vote,” said a 45-year-old woman who gave her name as Umm Amir. She spoke by phone and did not want to disclose her exact location.

“Politicians visited us before the last election (in 2018) and promised to help us return to our towns. That never materialized. We’ve been forgotten.”

Most of Iraq’s displaced live in the majority Sunni north of the country.

The south, the heartlands of the Shi’ite parties, was spared the destruction wrought by Islamic State but infrastructure and services are in a poor state.

2019 PROTESTS

In 2019, mass anti-government protests swept across Baghdad and the south, toppled a government and forced the current government of Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi to hold this election six months early.

The government also introduced a new voting law that it says will bring more independent voices into parliament and can help reform. It has been trying to encourage a greater turnout.

The reality, according to many Iraqis, Western diplomats and analysts, is that the bigger, more established parties will sweep the vote once again.

Dozens of activists who oppose those parties have been threatened and killed since the 2019 protests, scaring many reformists into not participating in the vote. Iraqi officials blame armed groups with links to Iran for the killings, a charge those groups deny.

(Reporting by John Davison, Ahmed Rasheed, Baghdad newsroom; Editing by Frances Kerry)

A Most Critical Election and Decision – An Urgent Message from Jonathan Cahn

America hangs at the precipice.  2020 has been a most pivotal year and now we stand at the precipice, approaching the most pivotal election of our lifetime – the moment of decision.  It will determine the future of this nation and even of the world.

It will either extend the window of grace America has to return to the Lord – or it will shut that window and seal its departure from God and its progression to judgment.  For those who know the biblical template of national judgment as I have written of in The Harbinger, the danger of judgment coming to America is very real.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8f1jz55tZo

We have never been divided as we are now – so much so that our very national fabric is now in danger of unraveling.  The issues before us in this election have never been as stark.  One agenda seeks to uphold biblical morality – the other will oppose it.  One agenda seeks to uphold the life of the unborn – the other seeks to expand their murder.  One agenda seek to protect religious freedom and the preaching of the Gospel – the other will ultimately seek to bring it to an end.   We have never been at such a dangerous and critical moment.

If we do nothing to oppose the darkness, to shine the light, then we will be accountable before God, for the fate of the lost, for the next generation, and for the blood of millions.   If you are able to vote – Vote!

But beyond voting at the ballot box, the most powerful thing we can do is to vote in the presence of God with your prayers and intercession.

Therefore, I am compelled to call for a Day of Prayer and Fasting on the exact day of decision – November 3, 2020.  Let us make this election day, the day of God’s election – the Day of Prayer and Fasting.

One month ago millions of believers came before the Lord in prayer according to 2 Chronicles 7:14.   It has been a season of prayer, a call from the Lord.  Let us now seal it all on the day of this most critical election.   Spread the word, spread this article, tell your friends, your pastors, your loved ones, commit that day in your homes, on your jobs, in your churches, your fellowships, to humble ourselves, to pray, to seek His face, and to turn from our evil ways, that He will hear from heaven and answer us.

Let us pray that in all these things, the will of God will be done, and that He will elect to government those of His choosing, and that no matter what it takes, revival will come to this land.

Jonathan Cahn

Tempers rise in U.S. Senate as vote nears on $2 trillion coronavirus bill

By David Morgan and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. senators were set to vote on Wednesday on a $2 trillion bipartisan package of legislation to alleviate the devastating economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, although critics from the right and left threatened to hold up the bill.

Top aides to Republican President Donald Trump and senior Senate Republicans and Democrats said they agreed on the unprecedented stimulus bill in the early hours of Wednesday after five days of talks.

The massive bill includes a $500 billion fund to help hard-hit industries and a comparable amount for direct payments of up to $3,000 apiece to millions of U.S. families.

Several Republican senators said the bill needed to be changed to ensure that laid-off workers would not be paid more than they earned on the job.

“This bill pays you more not to work than if you were working,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally, told a news conference.

In response, Senator Bernie Sanders, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, said he was prepared to block the bill if Republicans do not drop their objections.

That came after leaders of both parties predicted a Wednesday vote.

“Today the Senate will act to help the people of this country weather this storm,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said after the chamber convened at noon (1600 GMT).

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said his party was willing to pass the bill as quickly as possible.

“Help is on the way. Big help. Quick help,” he said on the Senate floor.

Trump is ready to sign the measure into law, the White House said, but it was unclear how quickly Congress could get the package to his desk. McConnell did not say what time the Senate would hold its vote, and the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives is not expected to act before Thursday.

The package will also include $350 billion for small-business loans, $250 billion for expanded unemployment aid and at least $100 billion for hospitals and related health systems.

It would be the largest rescue package ever approved by Congress and the third such effort to be passed this month. The money at stake amounts to nearly half of the $4.7 trillion the U.S. government spends annually.

‘DROP IN THE BUCKET’

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the $3.8 billion allocated to his state would not cover the tax revenue it stands to lose from reduced economic activity. His state accounts for roughly half of all U.S. coronavirus cases.

“That is a drop in the bucket,” he said at a news conference.

The package aims to flood the U.S. economy with cash in a bid to stem the impact of a pandemic that has killed 812 people in the United States and infected more than 59,200.

The governors of at least 18 states, including New York, have issued stay-at-home directives affecting about half the U.S. population. The sweeping orders are aimed at slowing the pathogen’s spread, but have upended daily life as schools and businesses shutter indefinitely.

On Wall Street, the benchmark S&P 500 <.SPX> rallied for a second straight day, closing up 1.15%. [nL1N2BI1YH]

Republican Senator Rand Paul, the only senator to vote against an earlier round of emergency virus funding, may be unable to vote after testing positive for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.

It also must pass the House. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who proposed a more far-reaching rescue package, did not say whether she would support the Senate version.

“We’ll see the bill and see how the Senate votes. So there’s no decision about timing until we see the bill,” she told reporters.

Any changes made by the House would also require Senate approval, which could lead to further delays.

The No. 2 House Democrat, Steny Hoyer, told lawmakers that they would be notified 24 hours before any action.

House members left Washington 10 days ago, but the lower chamber could quickly pass the bill without requiring their return, through a “voice vote” that would require only a few lawmakers to be present.

The top House Republican, Kevin McCarthy, said he would prefer that approach and called for its passage on Friday.

 

(Reporting by David Morgan and Richard Cowan; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu, Lisa Lambert, Susan Cornwell and Andy Sullivan in Washington and Maria Caspani in New York; Writing by Patricia Zengerle and Andy Sullivann; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney)

Explainer: Why will Republicans vote to acquit Trump in his impeachment trial?

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Republican-led U.S. Senate is expected to acquit President Donald Trump on Wednesday at the end of his impeachment trial on charges that he abused his power in dealings with Ukraine and obstructed efforts to uncover the alleged misconduct.

Here is a summary of the reasons that Trump’s Republicans, who control 53 seats in the 100-seat chamber, say he should not be removed from office:

– Trump did nothing wrong

The impeachment charges against Trump contend that he sought to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading 2020 Democratic presidential contender, to benefit his own re-election campaign.

They say Trump withheld nearly $400 million in U.S. security aid and a coveted White House meeting with the newly elected Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Some Republicans say he did nothing wrong. They say Trump was simply trying to crack down on corruption in a country where that has long been a problem and wanted U.S. allies to share the burden of supporting Ukraine.

“Both of those objectives are consistent with law, are permissible and legal,” Republican Senator Ted Cruz said on the Senate floor.

Senators making this argument tend to represent reliably conservative states or, like Cruz, do not face re-election this year.

– Trump’s actions were wrong, but not impeachable

Nearly half-a-dozen Senate Republicans, including some from electoral swing states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio, say Trump’s actions were wrong but do not qualify as “high crimes and misdemeanors,” which the U.S. Constitution specifies as grounds for impeachment.

“The president did it, shouldn’t have done it. But it’s a far cry from what the Constitution sets out as the standard for removing a president from office,” said Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.

Others making that argument include Susan Collins, a moderate Republican facing a tough re-election campaign in Maine. She told the Senate that Trump’s request for an investigation of Biden was “improper and demonstrated very poor judgment.”

– Removal of Trump would upset voters

Regardless of the merits of the impeachment case, a large number of Republicans say ousting the president from office could worsen partisan divisions.

“Can anyone doubt that at least half of the country would view his removal as illegitimate — as nothing short of a coup d’etat?” Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida said in statement.

No Republicans voted for Trump’s impeachment in the Democratic-led House of Representatives in December. During the Senate impeachment trial, Trump’s lawyers accused Democrats of seeking to remove Trump from office even before he became president in January 2017.

Trump’s approval rating has shown little change since news broke of his efforts to pressure Zelenskiy in September, and he remains popular among Republican voters. Reuters/Ipsos polling shows that Trump’s approval rating stood at 39 percent at the end of last week, down from 43 percent in late September, which is not a statistically significant change.

Trump’s popularity among Republican voters is surely a factor for the 21 Republican senators seeking re-election this year, as they could face a backlash if they were to vote to convict.

– Not enough evidence

Republicans accuse House Democrats of bringing a “half-baked” impeachment case to the Senate, saying they failed to fight in federal court for vital witnesses and documents that Trump has withheld.

They say House investigators have since inappropriately tried to persuade the Senate to complete the task for them by subpoenaing additional witnesses and documents. All but two Republicans voted last week against a Democratic motion to call more witnesses and present more evidence that could help make the case.

“They claimed dozens of times, that their existing case was, quote, ‘overwhelming and incontrovertible,'” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. “At the same time, they were arguing for more witnesses.”

Other Republicans say the impeachment case relies too heavily on unprovable assertions that Trump’s motives were corrupt. They say it could set a precedent that would allow a future Congress to punish a president for pursuing genuine anti-corruption policies.

“The House of Representatives’ abuse-of-power theory rests entirely on the president’s subjective motive. This very vague standard cannot be sustained,” said Republican Senator Chuck Grassley.

– Let the voters decide

Republicans frequently said impeachment would subvert the will of voters who elected Trump in 2016. They say the Senate should not interfere with the Nov. 3 presidential election, in which Trump will seek another four years in office.

“Under the Constitution, impeachment wasn’t designed to be a litmus test on every action of the president. Elections were designed to be that check,” Republican Senator Joni Ernst said.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Andy Sullivan and Peter Cooney)

Trump impeachment trial end gets closer; witness bid likely to fail

By James Oliphant and David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial faces a climactic vote on Friday, when senators are due to decide whether to call witnesses and prolong the historic proceedings or instead bring them to the swift conclusion and acquittal that Trump wants.

Democrats need to persuade four Republicans to vote with them in the Senate in order to call witnesses such as John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser. Senator Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee and sometime critic of Trump, on Friday became the second Republican senator to state support for voting for witnesses, joining fellow moderate Susan Collins.

Barring an unforeseen change of heart by another Republican senator, that would leave Democrats short of the 51 votes they need and allow Trump’s allies to defeat the request for additional evidence and move toward a final vote that is all but certain to acquit the president and leave him in office.

That final vote could take place late on Friday or on Saturday, congressional sources said.

GRAPHIC: Impeachment of U.S. President Donald Trump – https://graphics.reuters.com/USA-TRUMP-WHISTLEBLOWER/0100B2EZ1MK/index.html

Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, who had been undecided, said late on Thursday that Democrats had proven the case against Trump but that the president’s actions did “not meet the United States Constitution’s high bar for an impeachable offense.”

Senate Democrats have been arguing throughout the two-week proceedings that lawmakers need to hear from witnesses in order for it to be a fair trial. This would be the first Senate impeachment trial in U.S. history with no witnesses, including trials of two prior presidents and a number of other federal officials.

Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley said a trial barring witnesses and new evidence would be a “kangaroo court” and a “tragedy in every possible way.”

“Lamar’s decision – it’s an offense against the Senate, it’s an offense against the rule of law, and it’s an offense against the American people,” Merkley told CNN.

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives impeached Trump in December, formally charging him with abuse of power for asking Ukraine to investigate a political rival, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. The House also charged Trump with obstruction of Congress for blocking current and former officials from providing testimony or documents.

“The truth is staring us in the eyes,” Democratic Representative Adam Schiff, the lead House prosecutor, said on the Senate floor.

“We know why they don’t want John Bolton to testify. It’s not that we don’t really know what’s happened here. They just don’t want the American people to hear it in all of its ugly, graphic detail.”

Trump is only the third president in U.S. history to be impeached. A vote of two-thirds of the Senate is required to remove him from office and no Republicans have yet indicated they will vote to convict.

Trump’s Republican allies have tried to keep the trial on a fast track and minimize any damage to the president, who is seeking re-election on Nov. 3. Trump’s acquittal would allow him to claim vindication just as Democrats hold the first of the state-by-state nominating contests on Monday in Iowa to choose the party’s nominee to challenge Trump in the election.

The president held a rally in Des Moines, Iowa, on Thursday night and denounced the impeachment trial, calling it an effort by Democrats to overturn his 2016 election victory.

“They want to nullify your ballots, poison our democracy and overthrow the entire system of government,” Trump told his supporters.

SHOWDOWN

On Friday, the Democrats prosecuting Trump and the president’s lawyers are expected to present closing arguments before the Senate votes on whether to call witnesses.

Contradicting Trump’s version of events, Bolton wrote in an unpublished book manuscript that the president told him he wanted to freeze $391 million in security aid to Ukraine until Kiev pursued investigations of Democrats, including Biden and the former vice president’s son, Hunter Biden, the New York Times reported.

Bolton’s allegations go to the heart of impeachment charges against Trump. Democrats have said Trump abused his power by using the security aid – passed by Congress to help Ukraine battle Russia-backed separatists – as leverage to get a foreign power to smear a political rival.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on a visit to Kiev, emphasized U.S. support for Ukraine.

Pompeo, the highest-ranking U.S. official to travel to Ukraine since the impeachment began, also denied that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy would be granted a visit to the White House to meet Trump only if Ukraine agreed to announce an investigation of Hunter Biden.

If further witnesses and documents are permitted, Republicans have threatened to call either Joe or Hunter Biden and perhaps the whistleblower within the intelligence community whose complaint about Ukraine led the House to begin its investigation.

If the vote on whether to allow witnesses is 50-50, Chief Justice John Roberts could step in to break the tie. But there is so little precedent for impeachment trials that Senate aides said there was no way to know exactly what would occur.

Merkley said he did not expect Roberts to break a tie. “He’s not taking a stand for the institutions of the United States,” Merkley said.

If Roberts declines to break a tie, the deadlock would mean a defeat for Democrats.

(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan in Washington and Jeff Mason in Des Moines, Iowa; Writing by James Oliphant; Editing by Andy Sullivan, Robert Birsel, Chizu Nomiyama and Dan Grebler)

Don’t read too much into election results, Taiwan tells China before vote

By Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Beijing should not see Taiwan’s elections as representing a win or loss for China, Taiwan’s foreign minister said on Thursday, days ahead of a vote overshadowed by Chinese efforts to get the island to accept its rule.

Taiwan holds presidential and parliamentary elections on Saturday. Its elections are always closely watched by China, which claims the island as its territory.

Taiwan says it is an independent country called the Republic of China, its formal name, and the government has warned of Beijing’s efforts to sway the vote in favor of the opposition.

“I just don’t think China should read Taiwan’s election as its own victory or defeat,” Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told reporters in Taipei.

“If China reads too much into our election … there might be a likely scenario that China will engage in military intimidation or diplomatic isolation or using economic measures as punishment against Taiwan.”

President Tsai Ing-wen, who is seeking re-election, has repeatedly warned Taiwan’s people to be wary of Chinese attempts to sway the election through disinformation or military intimidation, an accusation China denies.

Wu drew attention to China’s sailing of its new aircraft carrier into the sensitive Taiwan Strait late last year, calling the voyage “clear” evidence of Beijing’s attempts to intimidate voters.

“This is our own election. This is not China’s election. It is Taiwanese people who go to the voting booth to make a judgment on which candidate or political party is better for them,” Wu said.

“If China wants to play with democracies in other countries so much, maybe they can try with their own elections at some point.”

The issue of China has taken center stage in the campaign, especially after its president, Xi Jinping, warned last year it could attack Taiwan, though said he’d prefer a peaceful “one country, two systems” formula to rule the island.

Taiwan-China ties have soured since Tsai took office in 2016, with China cutting off formal dialogue, flying bomber patrols around Taiwan, and whittling away at its diplomatic allies.

China suspects Tsai of pushing for the island’s formal independence, a red line for Beijing. Tsai says she will maintain the status quo but will defend Taiwan’s democracy and way of life.

‘EVERY BALLOT HAS POWER’

In a front-page election advertisement in the mass circulation Liberty Times on Thursday, Tsai appealed directly for people to cast their vote against China.

“In the face of China, every ballot has power,” the advertisement read, next to a picture of Tsai wearing a camouflaged military helmet and flak jacket.

Tsai’s main opponent is Han Kuo-yu of the Kuomintang party, which ruled China until 1949, when it was forced to flee to Taiwan after loosing a civil war with the Communists.

Han says he would reset ties with Beijing to boost Taiwan’s economy, but not compromise on the island’s security or democratic way of life.

In a Facebook post later on Thursday, Tsai wrote that China would be happiest if the Kuomintang got back into power.

“The elections should make Taiwan’s people happy, not the Chinese government,” she added.

But Kuomintang Chairman Wu Den-yih said Tsai was the real threat, pointing to an anti-infiltration law she championed and passed late last year to tackle Chinese influence. The Kuomintang says the law seeks to effectively outlaw all contacts with China.

“Don’t let Tsai Ing-wen destroy the Republic of China’s democracy, liberty and rule of law; just take down Tsai Ing-wen,” the party cited Wu Den-yih as saying, referring to Taiwan by its official name.

Overshadowing the elections have been allegations in Australian media from a self-professed Chinese spy about China’s efforts to influence Taiwan’s politics and support Han, who, along with Beijing, has denounced the accusations as lies.

(Reporting By Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Gerry Doyle)

YOUR VOTE MATTERS! Don’t forget Election Night Coverage on The Jim Bakker Show! LIVE Tuesday night at 7 PM!

By Kami Klein

Two years ago, Christians came en masse to vote for the future of this country.  Conservative values were being ridiculed. Our Constitution was being put to the test and our belief that God was the foundation of this country was ignored.  In a stunning turn-around, the Church made their voices known. NOW is the time to show we mean it. Tomorrow, Tuesday, November 6th, America once again goes to the polls to vote.  It is vital that you make your voice heard!

Voting is our power and it is the responsibility of all Americans to remember the importance of “We The People”.  You do not have to hold a sign or shout; you do not have to fight! In America, there is a way to let your feelings and beliefs be heard. This is your chance to speak!  Speak with YOUR vote!

For the last few months, our guests on The Jim Bakker Show have strongly encouraged us to not sit idly by but to get out and Vote.  The importance of mid-term elections has never been more paramount. The Church must be heard in this election. You must not throw your vote away!  

On election night we invite you to join The Jim Bakker Show LIVE at 7 pm CT as we watch the results come in on this extremely important time in America!  This exciting Live broadcast can be found on PTL Television Network on your Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV or by going to jimbakkershow.com or the PTL Television Network at Ptlnetwork.com.    

We would love for you to join us as we speak via Skype with some of our most influential prophetic guests such as Rick Joyner, General Boykin, Lance Wallnau, David Horowitz, Jim Garlow, Carl Gallups and more.

Speak this Tuesday on your voting ballot as we exercise our freedom to vote and send a message to the world that God is in control and we believe in His plans for us.  

Please, go vote and continue praying for our President, for our leaders, and for our nation!  The Church is the key to our future!

 

For Trump supporters, elections a battle for his vision of America

Supporters applaud U.S. President Donald Trump as he arrives to attend a campaign rally at Middle Georgia Regional Airport in Macon, Georgia, U.S., November 4, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

By Maria Caspani, Julia Harte and Ned Parker

MACON, Ga. (Reuters) – For many Americans, Tuesday’s congressional midterm elections are a referendum on President Donald Trump’s divisive persona, hardline policies and pugnacious politics.

But at a Trump rally on Sunday in a crowded airport hangar in Macon, Georgia, and at other such events, the elections are a far different proposition: a vote to protect a leader supporters see as under siege, whose inflammatory rhetoric is a necessary price for a norm-shattering era of change.

“He is putting people back to work,” said Barbara Peacock, 58, a retired postal worker from Macon, Georgia, as she perused Trump 2020 merchandise. “He is telling it like it is.”

At rallies overflowing with red-hatted, mostly white supporters in conservative pockets of the country, she and many other Trump supporters credit the president with making the country – and their lives – better.

Rallying together, bedecked in Trump shirts and waving “Make America Great Again” and “Finish the Wall” signs, they hope to make Trump’s ideas the dominant force in American political life for decades to come.

They face strong headwinds. Nationally, about 52 percent of Americans disapprove of Trump’s performance. More people say they would vote for a Democratic candidate than a Republican in Tuesday’s congressional elections, Reuters/Ipsos polling shows.

But pro-Trump Republicans are eager to defy expectations, just as the president did with his 2016 victory.

In Grand Rapids, Michigan, pro-Trump activist Ben Hirschmann, 23, sees Tuesday’s elections as decisive for Trump’s vision of America.

“Trump’s not on the ballot, but he is on the ballot,” he said at a phone-bank event at the local Republican headquarters. “Everything we voted for in 2016 is on the line in 2018.”

Hirschmann is part of a group that organizes flash mobs at busy intersections in the Grand Rapids area, drawing 30 to 40 people about twice a week to hold campaign signs for Republican U.S. Senate candidate John James.

‘NOW WE’RE LIVING GOOD’

Trump has a clear strategy: drive Republican turnout by focusing on illegal immigration, as a caravan of migrants moves through Mexico toward the U.S. border, while playing up gains in the economy and casting his Democratic opponents as an angry, liberal and dangerous “mob.”

“The choice could not be more clear,” he told supporters at a rally in Missoula, Montana. “Democrats produce mobs, Republicans produce jobs.”

It is unclear if the strategy will work. Republicans are expected to keep control of the Senate. But Democrats are widely favored to win the 23 seats they need to assume control of the House of Representatives, where Republicans are defending dozens of seats in largely suburban districts where Trump’s popularity has languished and Democrats have performed well in presidential races.

Trump’s rallies have focused mostly on Senate and gubernatorial battles in states he won in the 2016 presidential race – from Florida and Missouri to West Virginia and Ohio. A Trump adviser, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters: “These are places where data and polling information tells us that the president is of best use.”

At a rally in Johnson City, Tennessee, in early October, Jessica Lotz, 33, and her fiance, Chad Lavery, said Trump’s immigration policies resonated with them. During the 2008 economic downturn, Lotz and Lavery said they saw construction, landscaping and house painting jobs go to illegal immigrants while they struggled financially.

As the economy rebounded, so, too, did their fortunes.

“Now we’re living good,” Lavery said, crediting their ability to find work and better wages to Trump, who inherited an economy that was already in one of the longest recoveries and gave it an additional boost with tax cuts.

‘FRUSTRATED’

After a Trump rally in September in Springfield, Missouri, pro-Trump activist Brenda Webb sat for a late dinner at a restaurant with five friends who had driven to the rally from the St. Louis suburbs.

Webb and her friends had joined protests against former President Barack Obama in St. Louis in 2009 that were part of a broader conservative“Tea Party” movement centered on calls for smaller government, lower taxes and fewer regulations.

But the energy fizzled, she said. The group became animated talking about how Trump had given new focus to those early Tea Party goals of reclaiming government for ordinary citizens, not just the “elites” in Washington.

“We feel like he’s working to resolve all the problems that we are so frustrated by,” Webb said.

At the Springfield rally, Brian Whorton, who drove a few hours to see the president, confessed he voted for Obama twice before becoming a Republican. “I was not politically aware and awake. I thought, oh he’s cool and he’s a good speaker and an African-American guy,” Whorton said.

Trump’s policies, he said, were making a difference for him: He said his factory manager had credited Trump tariffs with raising profits at his plant.

In Ohio, Republican National Committee spokeswoman Mandi Merritt referred to pro-Trump enthusiasts as a “grassroots army” that could be harnessed and dispatched to boost Republican voter turnout.

On a sunny day in October, Trump supporter Kimmy Kolkovich joined a friend on the sidewalk at a busy intersection near the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus to urge people to register and vote.

“Even if I’m registering people who are going to vote for the other party, they’re seeing us out here in our hats, and that’s what’s important, all the little interactions and conversations we’re having,” Kolkovich said.

For all Reuters election coverage, click: https://www.reuters.com/politics/election2018

(Reporting by Maria Caspani in Macon, Ga., Julia Harte in Grand Rapids, Mich. and Columbus, Ohio, and Ned Parker in Springfield, Mo., and Johnson City, Tenn.; Additional reporting by Steve Holland in Washington; Editing by Jason Szep, Colleen Jenkins and Peter Cooney)

Vatican ‘suffragettes’ want vote, change, in a man’s Church

FILE PHOTO: A nun enters to take part at the synod afternoon session led by Pope Francis at the Vatican October 16, 2018. Picture taken October 16, 2018. REUTERS/Max Rossi

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Catholic women say there’s a clerical stained glass ceiling in the Vatican, and they want to shatter it.

They want to vote in major policy meetings. They want Pope Francis to deliver on his promise to put more women in senior positions in the Holy See’s administration. And some of them say they want to be priests.

“Knock knock! Who’s there? More than half the Church!” several dozen Catholic women chanted outside the Vatican on Oct. 3, the first day of this year’s synod of bishops from around the world.

The role of women in the Church has been a recurring theme at the month-long meeting, which brings together some 300 bishops, priests, nuns and lay participants. Only about 35 are women.

The subject has come up in speeches on the floor, in small group discussions and at news conferences by participants in the gathering, officially titled “Young People, Faith and Discernment of Vocation”.

Only “synod fathers”, including bishops and specially appointed or elected male representatives, are allowed to vote on the final recommendations to be sent to the pope, who will take them into consideration when he writes his own document. Other participants are non-voting observers, auditors or experts.

Some of the attendees have pointed to what they say is a contradiction in the rules of the synod, which takes place every few years on a different theme.

This year, two “brothers”, lay men who are not ordained, are being allowed to vote in their capacity as superiors general of their religious orders.

But Sister Sally Marie Hodgdon, an American nun who also is not ordained, cannot vote even though she is the superior general of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery.

“I am a superior general. I am a sister. So in theory, logically you would think I would have the right to vote,” Hodgdon, who is also vice president of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG), an umbrella group of Catholic nuns, told reporters.

The membership of female religious orders is about three times larger than that of male orders.

FILE PHOTO: Sister Sally Hodgdon (2nd L) stands during a synod afternoon session led by Pope Francis at the Vatican October 16, 2018. Picture taken October 16, 2018. REUTERS/Max Rossi

FILE PHOTO: Sister Sally Hodgdon (2nd L) stands during a synod afternoon session led by Pope Francis at the Vatican October 16, 2018. Picture taken October 16, 2018. REUTERS/Max Rossi

GENDER IN THE CHURCH

A petition demanding that women have the right to vote at synods has collected 9,000 signatures since it opened online at the start of this meeting. It is sponsored by 10 Catholic lay groups seeking change in the Church, including greater rights for women and gays and a bigger role for the laity.

“If male religious superiors who are not ordained can vote, then women religious superiors who are also not ordained should vote. With no ontological/doctrinal barrier, the only barrier is the biological sex of the religious superior,” it reads.

The cause has won some influential clerical male backers.

At a news conference on Oct. 15, superiors general of three major male religious orders – the Jesuits, the Dominicans and one branch of the Franciscans – expressed support for changes in synod rules in order to allow women to vote in the future.

Backing also came from Cardinal Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich, president of the German Bishops Conference and one of the most influential Catholic leaders in Europe.

“We must face up to the often uncomfortable and impatient questions of young people about equal rights for women also in the Church,” Marx said in his speech to the synod.

“The impression that the Church, when it comes to power, is ultimately a male Church must be overcome in the universal Church and also here in the Vatican. It is high time.”

The Holy See, as the offices of the central administration of the 1.3 billion-member Church are known, and the State of Vatican City have a combined work force of about 4,100 people. About 700 are women.

Of the approximately 60 departments in the Holy See, about 10 must be headed by priests because they deal with governance and jurisdiction over other ordained ministers or other sensitive doctrinal matters, the Church says.

Francis has promised to put more women in senior roles in those other 50 departments. But more than five years after he was elected, there are only six women in such roles. Five are lay women and one is a nun. None of them heads a department.

Francis told Reuters in June he had to “fight” internal resistance to appoint 42-year-old Spanish journalist Paloma Garcia-Ovejero as deputy head of the Vatican’s press office.

He declined to name those who had resisted, but said he had to use “persuasion,” an apparent reference to the powerful conservative wing of what has been an institution run exclusively by males for 2,000 years.

The Vatican Museums, which are part of the State of Vatican City, are headed by Barbara Jatta, the first woman to hold the high-profile post which oversees nearly 1,000 employees.

The pope’s critics, including former Irish President Mary McAleese, say he is moving too slowly.

“How long can the hierarchy sustain the credibility of a God who wants things this way, who wants a Church where women are invisible and voiceless in Church leadership?” she said at a conference in Rome in March.

TIME FOR CHANGE

Sister Maria Luisa Berzosa Gonzalez, one of the participants at the current synod, thinks it is time for change – in the synod, and in the wider Church.

The Spanish nun, whose energy belies her 75 years, has dedicated her life to educating the poor and underprivileged in Spain, Argentina and Italy and is still going strong.

“With this structure in the synod, with few women, few young people, nothing will change. It should no longer be this way. Its participation should be broadened,” she told Reuters.

Berzosa, who took her vows in 1964, said she supports a female priesthood, a position not very common among nuns her age.

The Church teaches that women cannot become priests because Jesus chose only men as his apostles.

Proponents of a female priesthood, like 32-year-old Kate McElwee, who organised the protest on the synod’s opening day, say Jesus was merely acting according to the norms of his times.

“Some women feel called by God to be priests. They discern a vocation to the priesthood just as men do,” said McElwee, the Rome-based executive director of the Women’s Ordination Conference, a U.S. lobbying group.

McElwee has found kindred spirits in nuns like Berzosa.

The nun said she knows women won’t be priests in her lifetime because change comes slowly and piecemeal in the Church.

Still, between one easy laugh and another, her frustration slipped through.

“I lead spiritual exercises, I develop a deep rapport with people, I teach them how to pray, and then someone else comes along to say the Mass,” Berzosa said. “It’s not fair.”

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)