Ohh, That's scary…
(Hey, give me a break – it's Halloween.)
As Mitt Romney scours the South for endorsements from evangelical leaders, he is getting some unusual advice on how to explain his Mormon faith: Don't try to be one of us.
"I told him, you cannot equate Mormonism with Christianity; you cannot say, `I am a Christian just like you,''' said Representative Bob Inglis of South Carolina, which is scheduled to hold the first primary among the Southern states. "If he does that, every Baptist preacher in the South is going to have to go to the pulpit on Sunday and explain the differences.''
Uh, Congressman Inglis, that's just tacky. No Mormon I have ever met wants to be anything "just like us." They are quite proud of their distinctives. I wonder if it has ever dawned on the Congressman that if they were "just like us" they probably would not have needed to start a different religion to begin with?
What Governor Romney has and should continue to emphasize is that Mormons and creedal Christians do have much in common, including reverence of Jesus Christ Himself.
Lowell thinks this is an opportune moment for these observations:
This NRO post by Ramesh Ponnuru may be the most disturbing I have read in months. Ponnuru's thesis is that Romney's Mormonism is a liability and therefore disqualifies him as the GOP nominee:
. . . I would like to be wrong. It may be that Romney's social conservatism would win him evangelical votes against Clinton, and that the anti-Mormon Democrats aren't people whom any Republican could reach. But let's say I'm right: that Mormonism is a general-election liability in a year Republicans can't afford unnecessary liabilities. I would agree with this reader in considering this situation unfair—and I think his suggestion that NR run an editorial on this point is an excellent one.
But I can't sign on to the proposition that we should never take account of popular attitudes we find irrational or even hateful. Fighting anti-black bigotry was more important for the country in 1960 than fighting anti-Mormon bigotry (and fighting misunderstandings of Mormons) today. It does not follow that the Democrats should have nominated a black candidate for president in 1960. Getting a presidential nomination isn't all about fairness.
Why is this so disturbing? There are many reasons, but here's the big one, in my mind: A serious, respected conservative thinker, in perhaps the leading conservative journal, is making an argument for the GOP's taking religious bigotry into account in deciding whom to nominate. Many will find his argument persuasive; after all, it is logical, or at least pragmatic.
And yet . . . and yet . . . Ponnuru is arguing for pragmatism over principle: "The country's not ready for a Mormon president; it shouldn't be that way, but it is, so let's just acquiesce to that prejudice."
Since when is that conservative thinking? I remember during the early days of the Reagan Revolution, when Republicans who wanted to compromise on principle were labeled "prags" (short for "pragmatist"). As John has argued for months now on this blog, once conservatives — especially religious conservative like Ponnuru– start to accept such morally lame reasoning, we open the door to the same reasoning being used against other religious candidates.
Let's play my favorite religious-bias game with the Ponnuru pull-quote above: Imagine we are in a time when anti-Catholic or even anti-Evangelical bias is running high. Then replace the word "Mormon" in the quote with "Catholic" or "Evangelical." How does that feel?
Jim Geraghty, responding to Ponnuru, seems to agree:
I realize Mike Huckabee has only been in the top tier for a short time, but I wonder if we soon hear questions about "the Baptist preacher factor" in his bid.
Once we start accepting this kind of thinking, fellow conservatives, we cannot know where it will end.
Back to John: Doesn't Huckabee need a whole lot bigger war chest to be in the actual
Sarcasm aside, is not the whole Huckabee boomlet about principle over pragmatism anyway? Simply put, Huckabee, regardless of how great a guy he is and how qualified he may be, does not have the horsepower to win. He has only a slightly better chance of being president than I do.
Seems voters have some genuine dilemmas here. Pragmatism over principle as represented by McCain, or Guiliani. Principle over pragmatism as represented by Huckabee. Or, pragmatism AND principle as represented by Romney. Does not seem like a hard choice to me.
Sometimes The Question cuts the other way…
Things really are getting silly, I am growing increasingly astonished at things like this from the Arizona State U school paper:
Mitt Romney is Mormon, but don't assume the more than 2,000 Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints students at ASU will automatically vote for the presidential candidate.
Wait!? You mean Mormons are not all brainwashed (with apologies to the current Romney candidate's father) robotic sycophants doing the bidding of their fearless leader?
And sometimes, people try to make it look like it doesn't cut at all…
The faith of the Mr. Romney, therefore, does not appear to be an insurmountable obstacle, but his track record on the issues could become a mountain he cannot climb.
In other words, it is not religion, it is flip-flop. I am getting pretty tired of this. One must ask why the flip-flop charge has traction. Candidates positions evolve, they always have, they always will. With the exception of John Kerry, who managed to flip-flop in the course of a single sentence, therefore revealing himself as a bulb short of a four-pack, changing one's mind is not a problem. Except, of course, if people are looking for an excuse not to vote for someone when their real reason for not doing so would appear illegitimate.
This effect is particularly powerful when you think that person's religion is somehow deceptive. Note to my evangelical brethren: "Wrong" is not "deceptive."
They are still talking about Huckabee…
But I think William Murchison probably has it most correct:
You have to hand it to the evangelicals: They got the country's attention. At the same time, they created for themselves expectations too high to meet — namely, that the elevation to office of people who seemed to believe all the right things would cleanse America of pornography, false understandings of marriage, etc. Any Bible-reading evangelical ought to know something about a human encumbrance called sin, which chains human nature to modes of performance redeemable only by — surprise! — religion.
The evangelical miscalculation, in my judgment, wasn't getting into politics. It was expecting that the practitioners of politics — yea, from George W. Bush on down — had the power to scourge the devil from his fortification in the human heart. For the harder task of cultural transformation and the spreading of Truth many evangelicals have shown scant appetite. They'd rather sign petitions and pass out campaign literature.
Sorry. The Good Book contradicts that notion. Hearken, brethren, to Psalm 146: "O put not your trust in princes, nor in any child of man; for there is no help in them. Blessed is the God of Jacob for his help; and whose hope is in the Lord his God."
The appeal of a Huckabee is understandable, but unrealistic both politically and in terms of the social agenda. Politically, the first job of an candidate is to organize a campaign and raise money. That is, in fact, a test of the organizational skill necessary for the job being sought – it is not merely "a game." Huckabee is not passing that test. Oh, he is getting maximal bang for his buck, that is for sure, but that is a test of personal magnetism, not organizational savvy. The latter is the foremost skill needed in a president.
As to the social agenda, Murchison's point is we need a president that makes sure we have the room to operate, the president himself cannot carry the ball, nor score the touchdown. That is our job. Being president is a different skill set – one that Mitt Romney has in spades.