Article VI Blog

"Religion, Politics, the Presidency: Commentary by a Mormon, an Evangelical, and an Orthodox Christian"

United States Constitution — Article VI:

"No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

  • Romney, the veepstakes, Evangelicals and Mormons: The salvation of McCain’s campaign or the death of it?

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 05:46 am, July 31st 2008     &mdash      2 Comments »

    Give me that old-time religion . . .

    Depending on which pundit’s views you accept, choosing Romney as a running mate will either save McCain’s candidacy or sink it. Here, of course, we focus on The Question and how that plays into the veepstakes. Does it matter that Romney’s a Mormon? Should McCain care? Do Evangelical voters really care? What’s the reality out there?

    Charles Lewis, writing in the National Post’s blog, doesn’t take a position on those questions and doesn’t add anything new; but he frames a now very old issue well:

    Mitt Romney’s failure to capture the Republican nomination for president was blamed partly on concerns about his Mormon faith. Now that John McCain is reportedly considering the former Massachusetts governor as his running mate there are renewed warnings that American evangelicals will never support a Mormon.

    Lewis notes what we (along with Hugh Hewitt) have been saying for months now:

    Mormons and evangelicals should make natural allies: they tend to be anti-abortion, pro-family, anti same-sex marriage and generally conservative on a raft of issues. Mormons are generally credited with being industrious and patriotic, and they literally built a shining city on the hill in Utah, in what had been barren desert.

    So what’s the problem? Lewis thinks it’s Mormonism’s fundamental newness:

    Religions that are new make people nervous. A lot of people felt the same way about Christianity 1,900 years ago and even today there are debates about some of the fundamental elements of the faith.

    A thousand years from now, if it survives, Mormonism may be seen like any other religion. In the meantime, it will be subject to the same suspicions that older religions suffered when they were young.

    Do we really have to wait a thousand years? After all, Luther founded his church just under 500 years ago. Then again, we’ve never had a Lutheran president, as far as I know. Nixon was a Quaker, and that faith is only 100 years older than Mormonism.

    Just kidding. Inexplicably, after all that Lewis decries the situation he seemingly tried to justify:

    As for Mitt Romney’s chances of becoming Mr. McCain’s running mate, the Arizona senator may have a better candidate in mind. But it should not be because he is pandering to irrational religious fears.

    Come again?

    John comments: The “newness” argument pushes my buttons a little because we first heard it from Jacob Weisberg in his now-infamous “founding whoppers of Mormonism” piece. Its invocation strikes me as code. There is no rationalization for the kind of religious exclusion that we have witnessed from some.

    Time and again we have seen people who have gut-level distaste for Romney twist themselves into rhetorical circles trying to say “it’s not his faith.” Yet the very protest belies the reality.

    As to veep choices, Romney is the only one that would bring the necessary energy among the party’s conservative base to the table to enable McCain to win in November. Any other choice will leave the base at home. Yes, he will cost a few votes from the hardcore religious types, but not nearly so many as he will bring.

    Or maybe religion is only an issue for the head of the ticket . . .

    Unlike Lewis, Mark Joseph doesn’t see a religion problem when the candidate in question is only the vice presidential selection:

    Mitt might be a pain to have to deal with, but he does bring Michigan and maybe Massachusetts, as well as a boatload of Mormon money, and though Evangelicals don’t want him for president, they might be OK with Veep, figuring they can refuse to let him pass Go in eight years.

    What is striking about both Lewis’ and Joseph’s analysis is their simple acceptance of religious bigotry as a fact of life. I cannot deny the realism of that approach, but it grates just the same.

    What is missing from both the Joseph and Lewis analyses is any new information. Lewis refers only to very old polling data, and Joseph simply speculates. I don’t know how Evangelical voters will respond to McCain choosing Romney, but if people actually stay home in large numbers on election day simply because of the veep candidate’s Mormon religion, then I will weep for my country.

    John comments further: As I began to develop above, some will stay home because of Romney’s faith, but not nearly so many as will stay home if McCain chooses some candidate of lesser conservative credentials

    As to now new information – PLEASE – we haven’t seen any of that since October or November of last year. We must always remember: reporters are lazy by nature. Why find a controversy when they can try to gin one up? It would be very interesting when this is all over and said and done to do the polling and see how many people cared about Romney’s religion in the primary because they were force fed it on an almost daily basis.

    Share

    Posted in Political Strategy, Religious Bigotry | 2 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    About That Story from Yesterday – That and Obama and “Religion”

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:31 am, July 30th 2008     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    About That Washington Times Piece . . .

    . . . It is drawing almost universal condemnation, or at least denial on the Mormon angle. Although NewsMax retells it, Huck’s Army is talking about it, saying:

    I never opposed Romney because of his religion. I think that’s a really bad reason to be against somebody. If Romney had been the person who agreed with me on the issues and campaigned honestly and Mike had been the guy who didn’t have convictions and was willing to be whatever the polls told him to be, I would have been a Romney supporter. I care about the candidate’s character much more than their professed faith.

    Meanwhile, the staff at the Real Clear Politics VP Watch blog said this:

    So the Hucka-fans are willing to trash Romney to get their guy on the ticket because, among other inanities, he’s a Mormon? Romney might have appeared to conservatives to be too accommodating by half when he ran in the primaries, but the idea that he’s a closet pro-choicer, gay-marriage enabler is laughable.

    Which sounds far more like reality to me. The fact that “Huck’s Army” is running away from this story so fast and so hard is evidence that they know it is political poison. Matt Lewis at Townhall calls the story “recycled” and says:

    Sure, there might be some anti-Mormon votes out there — but the threat that he would cost McCain 5-7 percent of the vote seems purely hysterical to me.

    Hot Air cites the factual problems in the story. But my favorite response comes from The Carpetbagger Report:

    For the first open cycle in a long while, the religious right has had no discernible impact on the presidential race. And yet, the movement continues to believe that it’s powerful enough to start calling the shots when it comes to the Republican ticket, or at a minimum, that the religious right can veto those who fall short of its standards.

    [...]

    This is all terribly foolish.

    First, when a guy like Tim LaHaye says, “We aren’t against Mormonism,” it’s not exactly a stretch to think they’re against Mormonism. For many evangelicals, this was a problem during the Republican primaries, and religious right activists haven’t exactly grown more tolerant over the last few months.

    Yep. That just about puts it in a nutshell. From my angle this blog has been dedicated to the proposition that Evangelical opposition to Romney based on his faith would spell the end to Evangelical political clout, and we are watching that clout slip away before our very eyes. And yet, not satisfied with the damage done to date, this bunch is pushing this story which can only increase the damage past the point of repair. It is truly, truly sad.

    In a slight aside, why no mention of Romney in this analysis? This Colson staff blog has been known to make negative Mormon comments before.

    Meanwhile, In Obama Land…

    Prayer and a big OOPS:

    However, it now appears that Maariv had collaborated with the Obama campaign in getting the “private” prayer, with its “modest” supplication to the Lord, out to the public, buffing his Christian credentials and showing his “humility.”

    That’s gonna leave a mark.

    For those who missed it, here’s Gerard Baker again, stretching the “Obamessiah” thing to a very funny limit. Good enough to link to a second time.

    Finally…

    Food for thought.

    Share

    Posted in Reading List | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    The Fringe Speaks…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:46 am, July 29th 2008     &mdash      2 Comments »

    This will be short and sweet as we continue to come back from vacation mode, but a commenter sent along this story from the Washington Times.

    Prominent evangelical leaders are warning Sen. John McCain against picking former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as his running mate, saying their troops will abandon the Republican ticket on Election Day if that happens.

    They say Mr. Romney lacks trust on issues such as outlawing abortion and opposing same-sex marriage and because he is a Mormon. (Emphasis added.)

    That said there are a couple of key things to note. The first is the very next sentence in the piece:

    Opposition is particularly powerful among those who supported former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in the Republican presidential primaries earlier this year.

    Well, what does that tell you? The other is, of course, the names of the “prominent evangelical leaders” involved. They include:

    • Tim LaHaye
    • Rob McCoy

    Who? These are names you would know only if you are deep into Evangelicalism. They are names that are religious leaders, but not political ones. The piece then goes on to look at comments, out of context, by people like Phyllis Schafly and David Barton. It weaves their public comments with those of others to paint a picture of opposition where only inquiry and concern exists. This latter group wants assurances on specific issues, but it is other people that have a problem with Romney specifically on those issues.

    Clearly this is a piece designed to revive The Question as opposed to report on it. You are not seeing this story in major outlets, which should be a clue. Yesterday, I said briefly:

    What a Romney Veep nod would do is marginalize the radically conservative and bigoted Evangelical minority permanently.

    Say hello to those to whom I was referring. I am wondering if the Washington Times is not amongst that crowd.

    Late addition: The reliably Romney-hating Boston Globe is more than willing to pass on this little bit of bashing, marking the story making the “big time.” (Well, if you can consider a NYTimes-owned newspaper as “big time.”) Please note they pass this on with attribution of the source, and without adding anything new. Tells me they are more interested in bashing Romney and Evangelicals than in actual reporting.

    Share

    Posted in Religious Bigotry | 2 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Does The Question mean it would be a mistake for McCain to pick Romney?

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 07:14 am, July 28th 2008     &mdash      6 Comments »

    Now here’s something: Orson Scott Card asks McCain not to name Romney his running mate. Why? southern_states-new1.gifHere are the crucial ‘graphs from OSC’s open letter to Senator McCain:

    What Mitt Romney would do, as your vice presidential candidate, is weaken you in areas that you absolutely must carry: The South and the Bible Belt.

    You cannot afford to underestimate the number of people who will never vote for a ticket that includes a Mormon.

    Even if the number is as low as ten percent of the Evangelical Christian voting base — an optimistic estimate — that saps your strength where you need to rack up large majorities.

    When you consider that in the South, the black vote will — understandably! — be energized and turn out in record numbers, the last thing you need is for the Evangelical Christian vote to be unenthusiastic, with large numbers of them sitting it out.

    Can you afford to run the risk of losing a single southern state? Because that is the risk that Romney as your Vice President would expose you to.

    It’s going to take time — years! — for Romney, through his own efforts, to overcome the unjustified but genuine bias against Mormons. In four years or eight years he might be perfectly viable in these regions.

    But right now, at this precise moment, he is not. No Mormon would be. . . .

    [E]ven though I am every bit as much a Mormon as Mitt Romney, and I resent the slanders that have led Evangelical Christians to hate us, I must beg you not to make the mistake of appointing him as your running mate.

    (Emphasis added.) OSC is a keen observer of national politics and has lived in North Carolina for many years, so his views deserve respect and attention. Our regular reader and commenter coltakashi, who pointed us to OSC’s post, observes:

    If [Card] is correct, I am amazed that a lot of people in the South would think that a Mormon who is a father of 5 sons and many grandchildren, and married to the same woman for over 35 years, is a greater danger to Evangelical Christians than a man whose “Christianity” has no problem with gay marriage and abortion and whose pastor for 20 years has . . . said “God d–n America.”

    Well, Coltakashi, you read this blog and so you know we agree with you. Truthfully, however, I just don’t know if Orson Scott Card is right or not. I hope he is wrong; I fear he is right.

    You cannot afford to underestimate the number of people who will never vote for a ticket that includes a Mormon.

    There was a time when I was very skeptical of such claims. I remain skeptical, but less so.

    For example, there really are no hard polling data supporting OSC’s assertion, but . . . but . . . are polls worth anything in this context? Do people answer questions about The Question honestly? Outside the sanctity of the voting booth, will likely voters really admit, unashamedly, that they would never vote for a Mormon?

    Yes, in the primaries Romney actually did well among Evangelical voters. But what about that chunk of Evangelicals in places like South Carolina who went overwhelmingly for Huckabee? We suggested here that the pro-Huck Evangelical vote was based on identity — the “he’s one of us” phenomenon.

    But did all those pro-Huck voters make their choice on that basis? Lurking among that slice of the Evangelical vote, is there a sizable group who will be “unenthusiastic, with large numbers of them sitting it out,” as OSC claims?

    I hope not. But who can really know? I would feel more comfortable if I felt assured that the James Dobsons and Al Mohlers of the world would exercise some leadership, like making a passionate case for Evangelicals voting for Romney the Mormon.

    So far that has not happened. Dobson seemed very favorably disposed to Romney, but afraid of his constituency’s reaction to any endorsement or even any encouragement to vote for a Mormon. Mohler seemed to have a genuine conscience-based reluctance to vote for a Mormon, for fear of “mainstreaming” a religion he feels is false. Result: Mike Huckabee’s remarkable success as “the Evangelical candidate,” in splitting the social conservative vote, and eventually in assuring John McCain’s nomination.

    It’s going to take time — years! — for Romney, through his own efforts, to overcome the unjustified but genuine bias against Mormons.

    I disagree with OSC here, at least in part. It is not any candidate’s job to overcome religious bias. Card’s point that it will take time to overcome anti-Mormon electoral bias is spot-on, however. I suppose having a Mormon veep candidate would help.

    I end with another question: How will anti-Mormon voters really vote in a race involving a Mormon vice presidential nominee? Will they vote at all? And is the group of voters who actually care about a candidate’s religion big enough to make a difference? The fact is, no one really knows.

    John (back but grossly jet-lagged) comments: Absent Huckabee, The Question is a problem only for a minority of Evangelicals. Most Evangelicals did not side with Huck because of the Question, just because he was “one of them.” No such forces at play in the general. What a Romney Veep nod would do is marginalize the radically conservative and bigoted Evangelical minority permanently. Not such a bad thing in my book.

    News Media Consistency Watch

    The Pew Forum excerpts this Wall Street Journal piece (Journal link may require subscription), which examines in depth Bobby Jindal’s conversion from Hinduism to Catholicism. The conclusion:

    “I’ve always thought that each of us as an individual should make our own decisions,” said Mr. Jindal. “I think it is unfortunate that so often in modern society we tend to try to group people by stereotypes and hyphenated identifications.” That’s a lesson he may soon be taking to a wider audience.

    Well. That seems reasonable to me, but I do wonder:

    • What will the more extreme elements of creedal christianity — the ones who find Romney insufficiently Christian — think of Jindal’s Hindu upbringing and conversion to Catholicism, rather than an Evangelical faith? In Louisiana it’s very safe for a politician to be a Catholic convert. What about Iowa and South Carolina?
    • Will opponents use Jindal’s religious background against him, as in photos of Jindal as a boy in Hindu traditional dress? Will someone like Mike Huckabee innocently ask a New York Times reporter, “But isn’t Bobby’s real name Piyush?”
    • Should Jindal need to discuss his religious conversion and current beliefs at all? (I vote no.)

    It has been a strange year for religion and presidential politics.

    Share

    Posted in Religious Bigotry | 6 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    The Anti-Romney Knives Come Out; Is Obamamania Quasi-Religious?

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 08:46 am, July 25th 2008     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    dog_days.jpg

    The dog days of summer are here in full measure, and there is not much out there related to The Question.  As we head into the weekend, a couple of notes:

    Blake Dvorak assembles some of the usual suspects (Philip Klein and Dick Morris) who have always been anti-Romney, who — surprise!– remain anti-Romney and continue to grind the same old axes:  That Romney is not a real conservative (Klein), that he used mean and nasty tactics against the other candidates (Morris).  Klein’s argument is the real laugher:  “it was only because of Romney’s weakness among conservatives that [Mike Huckabee and Fred Thompson] had an opening.”  Only someone with a visceral dislike of Romney could think so, and Klein certainly seems to qualify; he has had ideological issues with the Governor from day 1.  Of course, nowhere do we find polling data supporting Klein’s argument.  As for Morris, he’s never had a good word to say about Romney.  I’m not sure why Dvorak find either of them worth quoting.

    Finally, Gerard Baker offers a very Biblical-appearing take on the ongoing swoon for Obama.  Read the whole thing, and enjoy your weekend!

    Share

    Posted in Political Strategy | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Polygamy, Mormonism, the news media, and Romney as V.P. Nominee

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 06:56 am, July 24th 2008     &mdash      2 Comments »

    pinocchio.jpgIt’s still vacation time for Article VI Blog, but we will offer a few thoughts about the possibility (which some consider quite likely) that John McCain will select Governor Romney as his running mate.

    If Romney were still in the race as an active presidential candidate, what impact would the Texas controversies over the polygamous FLDS movement had? A poll conducted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the “Church”) revealed some interesting possibilities:

    • More than a third of those surveyed (36 percent) erroneously thought that the Texas compound was part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or “Mormon Church” based in Salt Lake City
    • 6 percent said the two groups were partly related.
    • 29 percent correctly said the two groups were not connected at all
    • 29 percent were not sure.

    In addition, when asked specifically which religious organization members of the polygamous group belonged to:

    • 30 percent said “Mormon,” “LDS” or “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”
    • 14 percent said “FLDS”
    • 6 percent said “Mormon fundamentalists”
    • Nearly half (44 percent) were unsure

    As John might say, had Romney still been in the race, it would have gotten ugly.

    Now ask yourself: In the general election, what would Democrats do with this opportunity to obfuscate and smear? That might be uglier still. Would they do those things even against Romney as a vice presidential nominee?

    On the brighter side, it appears unlikely that the MSM would be willing particiapants in such confusion-mongering. Elder Lance Wickman, one of the Church’s general authorities and an attorney who is the Church’s General Counsel, issued a letter to the news media that included these significant paragraphs:

    1. As reflected in the AP Style Guide, we ask that you and your organization refrain from referring to members of that polygamous sect as “fundamentalist Mormons” or “fundamentalist” members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
    2. We ask that, when reporting about this Texas-based polygamous sect or any other polygamous group, you avoid either explicitly or implicitly any inference that these groups are affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
    3. On those occasions when it may be necessary in your reporting to refer to the historical practice of plural marriage in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that you make very clear that the Church does not condone the practice of polygamy and that it has been forbidden in the Church for over one hundred years. Moreover, we absolutely condemn arranged or forced “marriages” of underage girls to anyone under any circumstances.

    Stated simply, we would like to be known and recognized for who we are and what we believe, and not be inaccurately associated with beliefs and practices that we condemn in the strongest terms. We would be grateful if you could circulate or copy this letter to your editorial staff and to your legal counsel.

    It is significant, I think, that the letter came from legal counsel and not simply from the Church’s Public Affairs department, which has been issuing similar requests for years. Also notable is the request that the letter be distributed not just to the news media’s editorial staff, but also to their corporate legal counsel. The Church does not threaten legal action often, and the tone of Elder Wickman’s letter could not be kinder or more respectful; but the implicit threat of legal action seems quite remarkable to me.

    Sadly, my crystal ball is still not working as well as I would like it to. But I am sure that somewhere within Team McCain, these issues are being discussed. My guess is that in the end, the decision will be made on other grounds, and that if Romney is McCain’s choice, any new media organization that actually uses editors will do its best to avoid smearing Romney by association with the FLDS or any other such organization.

    Time will tell. That’s the great thing about political prognosticating – eventually, we find out who was right and who was wrong.

    Share

    Posted in Electability, News Media Bias, Understanding Religion | 2 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    « Previous« Article VI “Greatest Hits:” A Letter to Some of My Fellow Evangelicals  |  Next Page »The Anti-Romney Knives Come Out; Is Obamamania Quasi-Religious? »