Election 2020

Franklin Graham Wants to Turn California Red (or at Least Purple)

Most conservatives have written off California as a lost cause. It’s easy to see why: between Hollywood, academia, and the far-left bent of so many California politicians, moving the state to the right looks increasingly like a pipe dream.

But there are pockets of conservatives throughout the state, and one notable evangelical leader is looking to unite them to push California in a new direction. Franklin Graham, son of the legendary evangelist Billy Graham and founder of Samaritan’s Purse, wants to get more conservatives — especially Christians — more involved in politics.

Graham spoke to a gathering of believers at the Rose Bowl last week ahead of the California primary, and he emphasized the need to take a stand against the left. As the New York Times reported:

The blue wall of California, Mr. Graham told the gathering, represents secular values that have taken root on the country’s west coast.

“Progressive?” he went on, “That’s just another word for godless.” Now is the time for churches to “suck it up” and vote.

“We’re tired of being stepped on,” Felix Martin del Campo, a board member of Samaritan’s Purse, Mr. Graham’s international humanitarian organization, said in an interview as the meeting ended and worship music played. “Only as we change the heart of the people of California can California go red again.”

Graham has planned a bus tour that will make stops throughout the state until the day of the June 5 primary. The caravan includes speeches and worship events designed to unite Christians in stopping the Golden State’s blue tint.

That’s an uphill battle in any year on the West Coast, not to mention a year in the middle of a presidential term when the party out of power tends to gain traction. And of all years, this year the president himself isn’t exactly helping the chances of GOP candidates. The Times quoted Dan Schnur, a former Republican strategist about vulnerable congressional seats in 2018: “It is going to be impossible for them to save those House seats without significant religious conservative turnout,” he said. “Along with his other goals, Graham is smart enough to understand that turning out his strongest supporters on election day could be the difference between Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Speaker Nancy Pelosi.”

Graham is also encouraging Christians in California to run at every level: from school boards to city councils and on up the ballot. Even if 2018 isn’t the year to stave off the state’s further leftward drift, starting small may create a groundswell that brings better news for conservatives in the future.

Interestingly enough, Graham has a checkered past with the GOP. In late 2015, he announced that he was leaving the Republican party and becoming an independent after Congress passed a budget that left funding for Planned Parenthood intact.

“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,” Graham said in a Facebook post.

Fast-forward to the 2016 election, and witness how Graham joined that circle of evangelical Trump apologists — a circle that includes such egregious members as Robert Jeffress and Jerry Falwell, Jr. He even went so far earlier this month as to say that the president’s affair with Stormy Daniels was “nobody’s business.”

Many people expressed discomfort at the political tone of Graham’s rally in Escondido. Multiple pastors in the suburb of San Diego — including registered Republicans and self-described conservatives — declined to help promote the rally when they learned of the political bent. One pastor even described Graham as “too politically toxic.”

Is it too late for California’s conservatives to enact change in the state? Not at all. Is there a chance that California could turn red in the future? Maybe. Would such a feat be worth celebrating? Absolutely.

But more exciting and worthy of applause were the 25 folks who came to faith in Jesus Christ for the first time at the rally at the State Beach Park in Oxnard. That’s what the Graham family is best known for, and it’s the kind of change we can all be excited about, regardless of who the president is.