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

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Shift, Revival, Civil War? – Tea Parties, Value Voters Summits – All That and more

Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:47 am, September 20th 2010     —    4 Comments »

Last week was one of those weeks that we should have been posting nearly daily, but both of us suffer from having “real” jobs and sometimes we do have to pay the bills.  But that said, let’s dive in, and all pray that as the 2010 election season comes to a head, Lowell and I can make adjustments to go back into POTUS election season mode.

Judging The Game From Batting Practice

The meme of the week was that the GOP is in full Civil War, and some were trying to figure out how it will play in 2012.  But mostly they are on the left and trying to make as much trouble as they can.  Some are looking through the very skewed lens that is Iowa.  There is one bit of wisdom from this later link though:

…Republicans are heavily focused on maximizing their possible gains in the November midterm elections.

Yeah, I think that explains it.  2012 talk is a bit early don’t ya know.  Yes we are keeping an eye on the possibles, but it is way too early to determine trends or actions.  For one thing saying there are a lot of GOP contenders is silly.  Thinking and talking about running are very different than actually running.  Obama’s utter failure in office is chum in the water – it’s drawing everybody out of the woodwork because they see an opportunity.  But at this point in the game the precise opportunity has yet to be determined – for some of the names in consideration, even many, “power broker” and “media presence” is what they are looking for.

And speaking of batting practice…

…the Values Voters Summit, 2010 edition…

…was this past weekend – and there was little news.  That did not keep the left from trying to make trouble out of it however.  Some tried to stir it up beforehandsome got toughsome got ugly – and some got downright mean.

Mike Pence!? won the straw poll, which for some created another opportunity for mischief.

But the real issue, from my perspective seems to be that the whole thing was just petulant.

In the midst of an election year dominated by fiscal issues, a group of social conservative activists and politicians gathered in Washington to send an unmistakable message to both the media and their own party: we won’t take a back seat.

Politco does not make the case quite as convincingly as they claim in their lede, but they do capture a mood that seems present among many in the social conservative movement.  I have come to think that Evangelicals have really missed the boat when it comes to political activity – particularly in a time like we are in now.  First of all single issue or small sub-set of issues is no path to genuine influence in Republican circles.  The Democrat party is essentially a coalition of special interests, but the GOP tends to be the responsible adults that look at the bigger picture.

So how do we bring our faith to that bigger picture?  The issues we are active on do not reflect either the big picture of governance or the big picture of our faith.

If one could put their finger on the single biggest difference between those of faith in politics and those without it, it would be the difference between public service and levering the public to serve themselves.  Those with a higher power (to borrow a phrase from Bill W) come to politics and governance to serve the greater good.  Those without one come to the same to serve themselves or their cause.

It seems to me that when we define our political action solely by issues we fall in this later camp instead of the former where we belong.  Food for thought and perhaps an essay unto itself at another time.

That same Politico piece ends with a most interesting quote:

Perkins, in a bit of candor that some conservative leaders don’t always voice, called Palin “a great spokesman” and added that “she says what a lot of people think.”

“But you know a lot of people sometimes realize we shouldn’t say everything we think,” he continued. “Maybe it is that she is more of a cheerleader and one who rallies conservatives together as opposed maybe to being their top choice for president.”

Which brings us to our discussion of…

…The Field

Sarah Palin -Between last week’s “Tea Party” wins and her trip to Iowa, some are proclaiming Palin the new GOP frontrunner.  The most interesting interchange on the subject was a back-and-forth between Paul Mirengoff and Ramesh Ponnuru and back to Mirengoff with a side comment by Ross Douthat.

I am changing my mind on this – at this point, I do think she is going to run.  I also think she will be quite formidable, but I think the Perkins quote above says volumes.  That said, what I most expect is for her to have more class, far more, than her Evangelical doppleganger Huckabee.  When her energy is spent, I expect her to serve the party, not herself.

Mitt Romneyone analyst thought he “won” in last Tuesday’s Primaries.  He did appear at the VVS but spent most of his time on the big picture.  Insiders know he is the real frontrunner so leftie commentators used this as yet another opportunity to criticize.   (The first of those links is heavy on the Mormon stuff, but it has the feel of a dead horse being beaten.  Hmmm….)

There is something quite interesting in the fact that virtually all of the VVS coverage is from the left and using it as fodder for nasty commentary.

Mike Huckabee – If take my comments above on the VVS and Palin and then look at Mike Huckabee he pretty much embodies everything that is currently misguided with how Evangelicals have been approaching politics.   But that does not keep some people from thinking he has a real shot at the nomination.

Mitch Daniels – I guess he really is in this thing – both  Taegan Goddard and Politico are reporting that he is making serious moves instead of just spreading rumors.  This is going to get interesting.  As we pointed out last week, he seems to be going out of his way to make comments designed to alienate the entire Republican base, but given the timing that could be a move designed to test the strength of his core support.  What’s most interesting is that most (but not all) of the Daniels buzz I am hearing comes from the more thoughtful side of the Evangelical spectrum.  (Well, and a number of my Hoosier friends.)  Note to Huckabee, Palin, Daniels – the Evangelical pie really cannot be sliced up much and help anybody – including themselves.

Tim PawlentyNow this is interesting.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty has been removed from the list of Republicans included in this weekend’s Values Voter Summit 2012 presidential straw poll.

Pawlenty denies that such signals he is giving up on the idea of a run, blaming instead a trip to China that he will be on.  Which leads me to…

Slow POTUS Start?


For decades, it has been a truism that presidential campaigns keep starting earlier and earlier. The 2012 Republican contest is hitting the brakes on that historic trend.
I don’t think so!  Dig deeper in the same piece:
…as the 2010 election enters the homestretch, top-tier Republican presidential contenders are hesitant to set foot in the states that kick off the presidential campaign process, let alone issue press releases touting their latest gets there.
Let’s see, a major contender punting the VVS – most of the players staying out of Iowa and New Hampshire at this stage – sounds more like shifting political ground to me than a late start.  Last cycle Iowa turned from game setter to spoiler and Evangelicals bickered themselves into ineffectiveness.  In other words the traditional path did not work.  Therefore it seems only natural that the players would forge a new course.
The problem is, I think, the political reporters don’t know what the path will end up being and will therefore have to work for a living this cycle instead of just sit in a coffee shop in Des Moines and watch the fireworks.  I think it is going to be interesting!

Background Reading

There was a lot of interesting stuff on religion in the public realm to read this week past and we simply do not have time to comment on it, so here it is in bullet form:

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