Religious Bigotry, Cont'd
ROMNEY'S NEW HAMPSHIRE ENCOUNTER YESTERDAY continued to reverberate.
LATE UPDATE: Here is the actual video of the "event." On watching this, my response was, "Now, wait a minute! This is just a crotchety old fellow who says, "I'm one person who won't vote for a Mormon." Then Romney smiles, offers to shake his hand, and moves on. It was a veritable blip on the screen of an otherwise full day. And yet we get the headline, “Romney Criticized for Mormon Faith in N.H.” Seems to me the event was blown 'way out of proportion. An interesting insight into how much the MSM looooves stories that touch on The Question.
Tom Bevan in Real Clear Politics describes the event as "religious bigotry in New Hampshire . . . from a self-described liberal."
Bevan then moves from the left-wing use of bigotry to some suspicions about bigotry from the conservative end of the political spectrum:
The issue of Romney's faith hasn't prevented him from rising to the top of the field in Iowa and New Hampshire, though it does appear to be holding him down in South Carolina. . . .
Lee Bandy of The State looked at why, "for some strange reason, Romney has fallen short in his struggle to rise above single digits in South Carolina." [snip]
Romney's camp insists their candidate's poor showing in South Carolina is due to the fact that people don't know him yet, which may be true to a certain degree but doesn't explain away the disparity with his rise in the other early primary states.
Remember, no Republican has ever won the nomination without carrying the Palmetto State. Maybe that streak will be broken this year, but to the extent there is some trepidation among South Carolina primary voters over Romney's Mormonism, you can expect it will become an issue. Especially if Romney wins Iowa and/or New Hampshire, the whispering campaigns against McCain in 2000 may look like child's play compared to next January. [Emphasis added.]
I think Bandy and Bevan are on to something, because it seems so plausible that religion is a factor in South Carolina. With Romney's rise in the polls, the other Republicans will be placing the target on his back. If this Real Clear Politics average is correct, that impulse will only grow.
Still, I hope Bevan is wrong about the primary. If, as Hugh Hewitt predicts, McCain is gone by then, perhaps the whispering campaign won't be as severe. Also, as Mark DeMoss told us when we interviewed him, Romney does have some time to ease the fears of some evangelicals. I continue to think they will close ranks behind Romney as the ferocity of the left's attacks increases.
MEANWHILE, Herbert Klein, the Nixon White House Director of Communications, reminisces about the 1968 run of Mitt Romney's father George and concludes:
Although I personally remain neutral on candidate endorsement at this time, in my view, anyone who criticizes a presidential candidate for his personal religion is likely to be a bigot or someone playing politics.
John interjects: My father remains in quite critical condition, but my mother will be out of the hospital tomorrow, which is good news, and I need a break. Please forgive me if these comments are less coherent than normal.
I personally think the media is preserving a story line here. There are always jerks that think it is "cool" somehow to tell a candidate they would not vote for him under any circumstances. In this case, the constant media attention to The Question makes that a convenient place to hang such a hat. Also, while big media polling shows Romney stalled in SC, straw polls and the like show him strong.
Evangelicals are also people of conscience. There is a known and strong air of illegitimacy to withholding a vote for Romney based on his faith. Much as we have seen some radio pundits (McCullough – Pastore) go to great lengths to decry Mormonism while still saying it was "OK" to vote for Romney, the whispering campaigns will happen, they will be vehement, passionate, and ultimately ineffective. In the end I think they will serve the useful purpose of giving Evangelicals a place to spend their emotion-based concerns about Mormonism, leaving them with their conscience and reason in the voting booth.
It should be remembered that the press, including many conservatives, WANT Romney to lose so they can blame it on his faith, regardless of the realities of the situation - they have been saying all along he will; they do not want to be wrong. It is interesting that as Romney moves towards presumptiveness in Iowa and NH, everybody is talking about SC – because that is where their presumed storyline lies.
There is no question of the big three states, Romney is weakest in SC, but the realignment of primaries changes the pivotal nature of that primary considerably. It is now pretty easy strategically to imagine someone winning the nomination without it. But even that does not mean I am willing to concede the state - I have great faith in the passionate pronouncements and the cold conscience and reason of my southern Evangelical brethren.
"The Greatest of These Is Charity"
ROMNEY SAID YESTERDAY that if elected, he'd donate the equivalent of his presidential salary to charity. The article is a good window into what seems to be Romney's way of thinking about his financial success, which, incidentally, is a way of thinking typical among Mormons.
Can anyone say, "shared values?"
How to Address The Question
MEANWHILE, Michael Medved tries this morning to give some structure to our thinking about when and whether a candidate's religion is relevant to voting decisions. Excerpts:
1-Forget about theology – to outsiders, all religious beliefs look weird and irrational. . . .
2-Don’t judge a religion’s present impact and influence based upon the excesses or abominations of its past. Whenever some sane observer notes the murderous cruelty of today’s Islamo-Nazi terrorists, Muslim apologists and various moral relativists love to bring up Christian misdeeds during the period of the Crusades and the Inquisition. This pathetic rhetorical trick (or tic, actually) represents an inane attempt to equate the homicide bombings of 2007 with the dreadful persecutions of a thousand years ago. . . .
3-The only basis for evaluating a religion is the constructive or destructive behavior of its adherents: do their attempts to live their faith make the world around them better or worse? A quick trip to Utah (with its 70% LDS population) should disabuse even the most embittered anti-Mormon fanatic of the notion that this faith amounts to a malevolent cult.
Note: Medved does not believe religion is never relevant. Read the whole thing.
John adds a quick thought: To my mind, religion is relevant only if the candidate makes it so. That is to say, if an Islamic individual ran for office on a platform of imposing sharia, then yes, religion is relevant. But any religion has so many adherents that practice that faith in such a variety of ways that only the individual office seeker can reasonably be considered.
Just as an example, when Mormons did practice polygamy, more than 100 years ago, less than 50% of the church actually engaged in it. Reed Smoot, the first Mormon Senator, was married well before The Manifesto, though obviously elected afterward since Utah had to be a state for him to be elected, and yet he never engaged in polygamy, much to the chagrin of those that tried to prevent him from taking his seat.
Lowell interjects: We may never know for sure, but "studies suggest a maximum of from 20 to 25 percent of LDS adults were members of polygamous households."
And a final comment from John: Some of my Mississippi relatives are highly placed Democrats in that state. Needless to say most conversation has centered on caring for my parents, but we have looked for a break now and then. All I can say is they sure do love to talk about Romney's faith a lot. A lot more than any Republican I have encountered.
Funny thing – a lot like my liberal Democrat friends who love to talk about how Rudy Giuliani dressed in drag. You'd think they were scandalized by it or something. Actually, I think they are scandalized that a popular Republican did such a thing.