When it comes to religion and politics Huckabee seems to get all the play these days. That shows, first of all, the political wisdom of the inoculation effect that Romney has enjoyed by having The Question be in the air for so long now. Secondly, it demonstrates something we have contended here for a long time – everybody has been waiting to use this as a club against Evangelicals. Now that one has stuck his head up, they are coming after him hammer and tong, and at least in the case of his attacks on Romney’s faith, deservedly so.
Now, on the one hand, you have to admire [Huckabee's] deft use of non-traditional means.
How’s He Doing It?
The Dallas Morning News looks at the network Huckabee as assembled. Now, on the one hand, you have to admire his deft use of non-traditional means. But then everybody said that about Howard Dean a few years ago, and then . . . .
And, unlike Dean, some of the means Huckabee is using are certainly outside the bounds of political traditional civility and according to USAToday perhaps even legality. From the DMN piece:
In Texas, he has the support of Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, and James Draper of Colleyville, former president of Lifeway Christian Resources. Both are former presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Of course, pastors supporting candidates is nothing new, but one must tread lightly. From the USAToday piece
In order to retain their tax-exempt status, religious groups are bound by Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code to tread a very definite, if fine, line: They can support or oppose political positions, but not in any explicit terms the candidates who hold them.
But it is a two-edged sword in more ways than simply the IRS. Says Thomas Sowell in a piece on the “lackluster” Republican field:
The only candidate of either party who truly looks presidential is Mitt Romney. It was unfortunate that Mike Huckabee and others have tried to make his religion an issue.
At least if you are Sowell, playing the religion card is a political loser too.
Lowell: I found the lead to the Dallas Morning News article intriguing:
Mike Huckabee’s political rise has been fueled by a vast network of local Christian leaders largely unknown to the general public but powerfully influential in evangelical circles.
That strategy – methodically rolling up the support of these grass-roots networks – has paid big dividends, helping catapult Mr. Huckabee ahead in Iowa and boosting his prospects in the Republican field.
It is interesting that no hue and cry have arisen about Huck’s unabashed use of Evangelical church channels to organize and deliver support, while the Boston Globe and many other MSM outlets seemed very exercised about even the appearance of plans by Romney’s team to do the same thing with official Mormon channels. Mind you, there was no use of such channels to help Romney, only some meetings that raised the suspicions of Boston Globe reporters, and a few ham-handed or improper e-mails that were quickly corrected. The headline to the Globe story screamed, “Romney camp consulted with Mormon leaders; Eyes nationwide network to aid White House bid.” The story’s reported facts resulted from Globe reporters actually staking out the LDS Church office building to see who entered and left. We got deeply into that story here, with related analysis here. Why was that non-story such a big deal, while what Huckabee is doing is drawing nothing but yawns from the MSM? No, I am not saying Mormons are being picked on. I’m just wondering.
Agenda Grafting . . .
One of the more interesting aspects of this whole thing has been to watch people use the fact that somebody is running for president as an excuse to bring forward their favorite thing. There were two interesting examples yesterday.
James Pinkerton is using the Huckabee campaign to argue for some pretty liberal-looking conservatism. Lowell interjecting: I love how pundits like Pinkerton, a liberal Republican from the Bush I era, describe as “centrist” Huckabee’s “willingness to spend money for better education, better health care and better roads.” Yes, that’s what the great center of the American electorate wants — more government spending!
And there appears to be theo/history-nerds on both the creedal Christian and Mormon side. This guy just can’t resist. What is amazing to me is this information has been out there, and readily accessible for a long time. Lowell again: Yes, but sadly no one’s been reading it. We seem to be doomed to a never-ending cycle of seeing the same old attacks and the same old defenses, over and over and over and . . . .
Added thoughts from Lowell: Yesterday I wrote about Ken Jennings’ wish that Romney’s campaign would end, in order “to get Mormonism out of the arena” and to stop the slander of Jennings’ faith. I posted a little more about that on The Hedgehog Blog (my other, much-neglected blog), asking, “Is Jennings saying that it’s better for people of faith to keep out of national politics if their candidacy brings out religious bigotry against their faith?”
My co-blogger there, Ralph Kostant, is an Orthodox Jew. He offered these provocative comments:
Lowell: You would be surprised at the number of Jews, Orthodox and otherwise, who were “uncomfortable” with the Vice Presidential candidacy of Joe Lieberman in 2000, not because of any political differences, but because of concern that the mass media would focus on and ridicule his Orthodox Jewish practices and beliefs. After all, he prays in a synagogue where men and women sit separately, divided by a barrier, and women cannot become Orthodox Jewish rabbis. As it turned out, he more or less got a pass on religious practices and beliefs, but to this day is harshly criticized by the media elites for his attacks on the social depravity depicted in movies, on television and in popular music. Just this past week I heard a prominent Jewish Democratic Party centrist activist and long-time U.S. Senate staffer respond to a question about whether Joe Lieberman might be a fit Vice Presidential nominee in the unlikely event that John McCain receives the GOP nomination for President. He said that the higher a monkey climbs up a tree, the more its rear end is exposed. That’s poor biology, but it certainly reflects the “Ken Jennings” outlook.
One part of the political “gospel” we preach here is that it’s important that America does not allow religious people to be driven from the public square for fear that their religious beliefs (which are a matter of conscience, after all) will be lampooned, distorted, or simply misrepresented. If we allow that to be done to the Jews or the Mormons, it will be done to everyone. That’s not the American way.
One part of the political “gospel” we preach here is that it’s important that America does not allow religious people to be driven from the public square for fear that their religious beliefs . . . will be lampooned, distorted, or simply misrepresented.
John Responds: Frankly, it is precisely Jennings thought patterns that drove much of what are considered the older “mainline” creedal Christian denominations (Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopalian…) into hiding and eventually liberalization. This paved the way for the rise of the often less thoughtful and certainly more militant brands of creedal Christianity that are Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism to rise to the fore politically, and particularly on the conservative side of the equation.
There are a couple of important lessons in this for Mormons. The first is that this kind of political hiding seems inevitably to lead to liberalization and secondly that leads to a declining church, for all those denominations, mine foremost among them, are dying a slow, painful death.
A Final Thoughtful Link…
David Ignatius invokes the Jefferson/Adams letters to take Romney to task over his denunciation of “Secularists” in The Speech. Indeed, many of the founders were rationalists and other forms of non-believer, but unlike today’s secularist, they welcomed the religious voice into the public square. Thomas Jefferson may not have believed in miracles, but he would not have driven mention of the Ten Commandments from the courtroom. Ignatius is setting up straw men here.
A Final Bigotry-On-Parade Link...
It has been a while since we have had reason to mention what has to date been the most anti-Mormon bigoted piece written – Jacob Weisberg and his now infamous “Founding whoppers of Mormonism.” The most notable aspect of Weisberg’s inane ramblings was that it was from the left and revealed what people on the left think about people that believe in miracles of any sort. Mormonism just gave him some sort of perceived cover to say what common courtesy would prevent him from saying about people of other faiths.
In this season of goodwill, I have been trying to think of a kinder adjective to describe “of or pertaining to the revelation of the angel Moroni”. Moronish? Moronical?
Oh, there’s a nice bridge-building start. But soon he reveals his true target:
So it really doesn’t matter what irrational belief you have as long as you have some irrational belief.
See, they are after religion in general, Mormonism if cover. He concludes with more insults:
My residual problem with Romney being a Mormon is not that Mormonism is a faith (the atheist’s problem), or that Mormonism is not unambiguously Christian (the Christian’s problem), but that it seems such a wacky collection of man-made Moronical codswallop.
Yeah, well, at least creedal Christians and Mormons know how to have a civil conversation without resorting to calling our debate opposition silly names – just things we can objectively prove, like BIGOT.