The Boston Globe has an almost pathological distaste for Mitt Romney. So when I ran across this piece, headlined:
Faith still sticky issue as Romney mulls run
I expected the worst. While there is little doubt in my mind that the Globe intended to stir up trouble on an issue that has been largely laying dormant of late, the piece itself is not pure hit piece, which is surprising. There are a couple of good take-aways from it:
“There are some people for whom it will not be settled,’’ Romney said in a recent interview. “That’s just the nature of who we are as a people: A lot of people have differing views.’’
“You’re not really going to alter your main message to accommodate this tiny group,’’ said Carl Forti, who served as the campaign’s national political director. “You’re going to acknowledge that there’s this small group of people and move on.’’
That acknowledgment is just one part of a growing consensus within Romney’s circle that his 2008 campaign’s almost obsessive focus on winning over social conservatives was not only unsuited to his strengths as a candidate, but strategically misguided.
When I started with this blog, one of my motivations was that I knew if Evangelicals insisted on voting against Romney for reasons of faith that the net result would be the marginalization of those Evangelicals. And that is what is implied by those paragraphs. Should Romney run (very likely) and should he prevail (increasingly likely) this group of people will have punted any opportunity they have to have a voice in a Romney administration. That’s a crying shame.
The other interesting point is here:
“The issue of religion was dealt with extensively in the last campaign, and there is nothing I or anyone else could add to the subject that would represent something new,’’ spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said.
“I found that finally addressing it in a speech and drawing people’s attention to the fact that the nature of our country is one of religious pluralism was in my view a very effective way of bringing attention to this issue and settling it for the great majority of Americans,’’ said Romney.
Now that is just American, and smart. Romney, nor any candidate should embrace a religion on the political level. Once that is done one has indeed stepped on the road to a government endorsed religion. Rather, a candidate should have faith, or only with faith in a higher power can one be of sufficient character to handle the job, but it is a personal thing – not a political one.
I think the team interviewed by the Globe is hinting at what I have thought ought to be the Romney religion strategy all along. First, admit openly the differences between Mormonism and creedal Christianity. When people pronounce Mormonism “unChristian” simply acknowledge that they are entitled to that opinion, and respectfully disagree. Then embrace the diversity of religious practice in the nation, and acknowledge it as a strength both for the nation and for religion for both have flourished under the American system., unlike any other time in history.
UPI picked up the Globe story and brought out one more quote that is worthy of discussion:
“People’s prejudices change depending on the climate that the voting takes place in,” said Ron Kaufman, one of his advisers. “People clearly have a different set of important issues on the table.”
Amen to that. Romney can, and should, after the quick and courteous religion response we just discussed, change the subject. Our nation stands on the brink of fiscal ruin and he is uniquely qualified to solve that particular issue. Not to mention he is quite rightly making bold foreign policy statements as well.
The resident Romneyphile at RightOSphere responded to the globe piece by quoting EFM. That piece is great boosterism, but I think a little deeper analysis is needed. The issue is real, and if this blog post from the NYTimes is any indication, it is not going to get easier:
Just before the Memorial Day recess, an unlikely pair — Mark DeMoss, a publicist who was an adviser to Mitt Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign, and Lanny J. Davis, who served as an aide in the Clinton White House — wrote letters asking the 585 elected officials to sign a civility pledge.
The letters, personalized and sent directly to each of the offices, asked officials to commit to this pledge: “I will be civil in my public discourse and behavior. I will be respectful of others whether or not I agree with them. I will stand against incivility when I see it.”
More than a month later, only one lawmaker — Representative Frank R. Wolf, Republican of Virginia — has signed.
Civility is, apparently a lot to ask for. I am not surprised at this. Politics is a bare-knuckle game, those that play at the highest levels play hard, and often play ugly. What we really need to remember is how they play ugly. Rarely does the candidate get uncivil – they have consultants and cut-outs and volunteers for that sort of thing. From South Carolina whisper campaigns to “innocent” questions in interviews, the point is to appear civil while competing most uncivilly.
If we had a press corps worth the name, then we might have civility. Then we would have someone rooting out the connections and stripping away the veneer of civility – then it would no longer be a matter of mere appearance. If you want to create civility in our system, that is the place to start. .
Who Has Party Power?
Chris Cillizza Says Romney #1 and Palin #2. Not unreasonable, and Cillizza’s dropping of Mitch Daniels from his list of influentials is right on, but bringing the Huckster back – from one promotional appearance!? Come on Chris! – you’re smarter than that. Or did you miss the NYTimes piece that confirmed our analysis? But what is really interesting is contrasting this with an AP piece on Palin:
But Sid Dinerstein, GOP chairman in Florida’s Palm Beach County, is among those who love Palin.
He has a signed picture of himself with her and argues that she was the only one of the four candidates in the 2008 election qualified to be president. Still, he doesn’t want her to run in two years.
“She is currently the single most powerful political person in the country,” he said. “The day she announces for president, she gives that up.”
That is pretty smart. Office and power are not always, in fact often are not, the same thing. Office, by its very nature and the construction of our constitution is about compromise and what can be done. Power, on the other hand is about “rallying the troops.” Power in office often comes from being the arbiter of those with real power, but it is indeed a derived power.
Which reveals the flaws in this piece which also makes some wonderful points. Our nation does not cope will with radical change – in any direction. We have had some fairly radical lurches to the left, but never a lurch to the right, and with the exception of FDR, our radical lurches to the left have generally resulted in the bums getting thrown out – we just don’t like radicalism. And our nation is designed to produce moderation and compromise.
It must be remembered that we did not arrive in this state in large radical steps – but through decades of small increments, or in some cases of large steps from which we have incrementally withdrawn for an extended period. So when it comes to undoing the worst of the current administrations programs, it just is not going to happen radically, but incrementally – nearly invisibly.
So when it comes to picking candidates for 2012 the question is not who will undo, in one fell swoop, the policies of the Obama administration, but rather who can lessen their harmful impact and move us in a direction away from them. If we move radically, our fate will be the same as his, and Carter before him. If we move radically, we doom the nation to a series of violent swings between poles that would lead only to instability and a loss of prosperity.
We need smart, not radical.