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."

  • Palin and the Bushes – I Do So Dislike This Stuff

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 11:16 am, November 30th 2010     &mdash      2 Comments »

    Well, at least it happened on a week when no one was paying attention.  I initially encountered it in the Dallas Morning News, but then it absolutely went viral and I quit saving the links.  It was interesting to watch the story evolve.  Initial reports were simply that George H.W. Bush (41) had essentially endorsed Romney in a Larry King Interview.   But then…

    More than the “endorsement,” it was noted that The Bushes had something to say about Sarah Palin:

    KING: What’s your read about Sarah Palin?

    BARBARA BUSH: Well, I sat next to her once, thought she was beautiful, and I think she’s very happy in Alaska. And I hope she’ll stay there.

    At which point it all hit the fan.  Palin shot back on the Laura Ingraham show.

    Appearing on Laura Ingraham’s radio show today, Sarah Palin said that while she “love[s] the Bushes,” she sees George H.W. and Barbara Bush as “blue bloods” who are trying to “pick and chose” the 2012 Republican presidential nominee for president.

    And all this showed up while people with nothing better to do were trying to read the Palin tea leaves, that are not even really tea leaves.  So the net result was a flurry of analysis.  Palin supporters accused “Republican elites” of not “getting it.”   There was even some extraordinarily silly analysis.  And again the pile of stuff got so big and repetitive that it was not worth saving or linking.  The best analysis was Allahpundit:

    Too bad it wasn’t Huckabee who tossed this rhetorical grenade, as we could have spent a fun afternoon ripping on him in the comments for such a heavy-handed populist pander. (Huck would have thrown in a reference to Beltway cocktail parties too for good measure, but then he’s a longstanding master of class resentment politics on the right.) Since it’s Sarah, though, it’ll be lauded as a case of grassroots truth being spoken to RINO establishment power.

    I found that a fascinating and important insight.  More in a minute.  WaPo’s “The Fix” blog noted the natural Huckabee/Palin connection and therefore political battle – which also incited a bunch of commentary.  And Palin just kept being Palin.

    Allahpundit’s point that were this the Huckster nobody would have taken the comments seriously is very worthy of note.  The “silly” analysis I linked to early is all about how Palin is “sexy.”  That is to say, an amazing media presence.  If you really pay attention to what she is saying – she sounds like a talk show host – not a candidate – she, not unlike Mike Huckabee, sounds like she is competing for Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh’s space, not Mitt Romney’s or Tim Pawlenty’s.

    What concerns me deeply is that the American people increasingly cannot tell the difference.  That inability to tell the difference between sexy and serious is, in large part, what brought us Barack Obama.  That said, Sarah Palin, or even Mike Huckabee, could do the job better than Obama, a whole lot better – but that is not the point – the point is they are more flash than substance, even though there is reasonable substance there.

    There are a lot of distinctions between the political right and left.  One of the biggest is that the right understands the presidency is a job – not a ministry – not a pulpit – just a job.  Some people do that job well and some do not.  People who do the job well will be people who stay firmly grounded in reality, responding to circumstances as they find them, not what they wish they were.  If there is a single largest failing in the Obama administration, it is a failure to see reality around them – from the limitations of power in the constitution to the reality of the terrorist threats to our nation, they live in the bubble of their perceptions.

    Even the most ideological of reasonable Republican candidates, and Palin and Huckabee are both in that category, would upon achieving the presidency find that the realities of the job and circumstances would force them to behave very differently than their ideological rhetoric.  The president cannot change Roe v Wade, for example.  If we were to bring someone forward that lived in a conservative bubble as much as Obama lives in a liberal one, that candidate would be as unpopular and ineffective as this one.

    Which brings me back to the “rebranding” of the Religious Right that we have be discussing is a large part of the Tea Party.  This populous petulance is a large part of what has brought the Religious Right to the point of disfavor it now finds itself in and much of the reason it needs to rebrand itself to begin with.  The Gerson/Wehner book is excellent at pointing out this problem.  The Tea Party will not be long lived as a political force if it continues to be this petulant – not because they are wrong, but because people find the attitude unpleasant and do not want to work with it.

    Then there is another problem.  This petulance creates a crevice in the coalition that the left can drive a wedge into and, as they did with the Huckabee campaign in ’08, deliver us a weaker candidate and save the White House for the Democrats.  Palin may make them nuts, but they are not above using her to achieve their greater goals.

    What is most fascinating about this incident is that Palin has been making nice with Romney and in some of her better moments has been saying that comments like those of the elder Bushes would be useful in discouraging her from running.  Regarding Palin personally I think she shot back at what was a bit of a snotty comment, understandably – especially from a media figure.  But on a political level I think better heads will prevail when it comes to serious decision making.

    This incident is far more instructive about the larger political landscape.  It is time for the Religious Right-come-Tea Party to figure out that opposition does not carry the day.  The American people want a government that is committed to building something good, not just opposing whatever.  It is time for them to become a constructive not a destructive force  for political action. It is time for them to stop being petulant and start being helpful.  The nation will be better for it.

    So, About The Race In General…

    The media continues to jockey for position.  The BBC has their list of names to watch – interestingly it does not include Palin?!  The sports books are making odds.  “The Fix” looks at the possibles’ potential weaknesses.  Chris Cilizza wonders who the “dark horse” will be?  And CNN reports what everybody already knows – there is no rush.  So what are the possibles up to?

    Well, Tim Pawlenty has not made up his mind and no one knows who he isMike Pence is positioningMike Huckabee is “wooing Iowa Evangelicals – gee, there’s a surprise.  He also thinks Obama is going to be hard to beat – which sounds amazingly like making excuses before he has to.

    Finally, Mitt Romney is polling well and has an interesting strategy.  Not to mention some people have yet to figure out the difference between 2008 and 2012:

    Shields, a syndicated columnist, says Romney will need to explain his Mormon faith because so much Republican strength is in the South. There is strong resistance toward Mormonism by some evangelical Christians in the South, he said.

    You have to wonder if he looked at where Republicans won in the election just concluded.  You have to wonder if he looked at the 2008 returns at all.  What we have here is a case of wishful thinking on the part of a left-leaning pundit – someone trying to make a narrative stick when it is not really there.

    So, what’s missing? All that talk about Romney’s religion from anyone that matters, that’s what.  You know, it was the hope of many that all the early discussion of Romney’s faith in ’08 would inoculate him – something that obviously did not materialize.  Is it possible; however that ’08 will inoculate the issue for ’12.  It looks that way at the moment, but only time will tell.

    But that does not mean there is nothing to talk about in the world of…

    Religion and Politics

    Things I am wondering about

    If the FRC is a “hate group,” – how come religious hate crime statistics are only reported for Jews and Muslims – what about Christians in general and especially Mormons ho have experienced numerous minor crimes against them since Prop 8?

    How come non-religious people ask the dumbest questions about religion?  Religion defines our categories – it does not fit into them.  But then you would have to believe in something beyond yourself to get that wouldn’t you.

    OK, we have been talking about the Tea Party being a rebranding of the religious right, but when I see things like this - I wonder if the Religious Right generally in all its many expressions is just trying to hop on a moving train?

    Elsewhere…

    They are setting up straw men to smack us with.

    You know this is going to come up soon here.  In a related question, there are numerous practicing Islamic polygamists in the Canada as well – why are they not on trial?

    Interesting Reading…Here and here.

    Lowell adds . . .

    Once again I find myself trying to say more than “me too” to John’s fine analysis.  I think the Tea Party is a historic force and that the good it has done outweighs the missteps it has forced (the Delaware and Nevada U.S. Senate seats, for example).  Somehow that very motivated group of voters has to move from anger and petulance to helping conservative public servants actually govern.

    About class warfare:  It is not conservative.  Period.  It is unfortunate that Barbara Bush chose to say what she did.  It is more unfortunate that the Palinites turned that statement into a class issue.  How much more classy – and Reaganesque – it would have been for Palin and her people had refused to respond and simply cited the 11th Commandment and moved on?  Mrs. Bush’s statement would have faded from view, and Palin would have looked like a leader.

    I thought this Chris Cillizza analysis was most interesting:

    …if [Huckabee] doesn’t take the plunge, where is his 26 percent share of evangelicals going to go? Where is his 18 percent share of women going? Who gets his 17 percent share of those without college degrees?

    The obvious answer to all three of those questions is Palin. Gingrich has been married three times and has some baggage to show for it. Romney’s ability to connect with rural, Christian voters, meanwhile, remains suspect because of his Mormonism.

    Fair enough, but is it really Mormonism that accounts for any inability by Romney to “connect” with rural Christian voters?  Romney’s from Massachusetts, is a wealthy member of the corporate class, and is not a hard-core conservative.  I wonder if those factors don’t have something to do with voter appeal among rural Christians.  And isn’t there some voter stereotyping going on here?

    It’s going to get more interesting with each passing week.  Soon it will be so with each passing day. Buckle up!

    John responds . . .

    There is little doubt in my mind that the hard core rural Christian vote behind Huckabee carries an anti-Mormon bias, though I doubt seriously they would cop to it at this stage of the game.  There are two reasons.  One they know it is a political loser.  Two, they have rationalized it to the point it is balled up with other things like “RINO,” or “flip-flop” – The Vanderbilt study from last cycle must be kept in mind.

    They also are not Tea Party types.  Huckabee is very left of Romney on fiscal matters (or at least he was last cycle) and there is no love for such amongst the Tea Party.  Which is why if Huckabee does not elect to run, I think a good bit of his constituency stays home.

    But the basic point that both Lowell and I are making is it is unlikely we will hear much “Mormon talk” from Republicans in the primary – it will play differently.  I do; however, think it will remain in play in voter psychology and Romney will have to message with that in mind.  I KNOW the left will saw that string precisely to keep it front and center in voter psychology.

    I agree with Lowell – Buckle Up!

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    Running Down The List

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:17 am, November 23rd 2010     &mdash      5 Comments »

    The media is indeed all a quiver with thought of another Republican primary.  All the possibles, both serious and unserious, are getting all sorts of political press – even though, as we pointed out last Friday, most of them are sending out “slow down” signals.  But there are airwaves to fill and web sites to fill with content, and sometimes even ink to be consumed.  So the beat goes on.

    The good news in all this coverage to date is that The Question is not being featured as it was last time around.  Oh, there is discussion of Romney’s faith to be sure, but it is of a very different sort.  Last time it was as if the punditry, especially the left leaning punditry, just did not believe he could get the nomination becasue of his faith.  That belief was a slam at both Romney and at the Religious Right whom the left view as close-minded bigots to begin with.  As the political ground has shifted in these last couple of years, they seem to have a sense that this time Romney is “for real.”  Therefore, mentions of his religion have a very different tone.

    That tone seems to have a couple of different aspects.  The first aspect is what I will call “experimental.”  That is to say they are experimenting with discussion to see if they get some traction.  The second aspect is what I will call “oddity.”   That is to say they view his faith as odd, even more odd than the average “religious silly person,” so they have to mention it.  But it is way early, battle lines are not really drawn – this can all change.  It is; however, pleasant to note that by this time last cycle Romney’s faith had established itself as a major part of the narrative on his campaign, yes even before his formal announcement – not so this cycle.

    So how will 2012 play out?  Well K-Lo quoted Karl Rove:

    Finally, the candidate who ultimately wins the nomination is likely to be the one who shows the greatest ability to unite the party and draw others into the GOP fold.

    OK, forgive me, Karl Rove is a political genius and I am but a humble barely known blogger, but that is a bit like saying “The team that scores the most points is going to win the game.”  But that statement is far smarter than the left on analyzing the field of play.

    So, let’s run down the coverage of the possibles.

    Romney

    Phillip Klein argued last week that Romney is an “unorthodox frontrunner.“  Taegan Goddard, quoting Klein, described the race as “Romney’s to lose.“  It is also being pointed out that he is “next in line.“  (Sometimes I wonder if that just means “less prone to mistakes than the less experienced?”)  Not to mention he polls well against Obama.  Now judging from the reaction  to those assertions, I would have to conclude its true.  Most people would not spend so much time and energy arguing against a proposition unless they had to.  We’ll start by examining the reaction from the right.

    Scott over at Powerline took great exception.  I gonna be honest here – the Powerline guys, while really smart and some of the best bloggers out there, are in the bag for Pawlenty.  They are friends – it’s as simple as that – home court advantage.  That said, take their arguments as you will.  FoxNEWS said Meg Whitman’s loss in the California gubernatorial race cost Romney big.  (Frankly, as citizens of California in the upper income brackets, I think Lowell and I are pretty huge losers here, but we are not running for office.)  This comes on the heals of Fox’s not entirely flattering 12 for 2012 portrait of Romney.  Said Matt Lewis:

    Conspiracy-minded skeptics might speculate that Romney’s comparatively less-than-flattering portrayal is because he is one of the only top-tier candidates not on the Fox payroll (Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, and former Sen. Rick Santorum are all paid Fox News contributors).
    A more likely reason is that Romney was the only candidate (at least, so far) not willing to be interviewed. Fox News, of course, would hardly be the first news entity accused of favoring subjects who cooperate at the expense of those who don’t — this is a perennial charge leveled at Bob Woodward — but it seems to have been on the producers’ minds. “Romney refused to sit down with me,” Baier said during the segment, the operative word perhaps being “refused.” (Although Romney was not interviewed, the profile did include past clips of him with other Fox hosts, such as Sean Hannity).

    There is some truth there.  Fox is the best TV news organization out there, but they are prone to the same temptations of the TV business as the other networks.  I think they will settle down when things get more serious, but for now, look for them to continue to play these games.

    Then, of course, the left was typically the left.  They keep trying to be funny, and failing.  They are willing to play the race card – even this early. (Shame on Carville!)  They accuse him of being wrong – even if he is not breaking the rules.  And they will even try desperate arguments.

    All I can say is that is a lot of opposition for someone that is not the frontrunner.

    Palin

    Europeans don’t “get” her, and at least some Fox people think she is a jokeHer aides say they relish the skepticism.  There are also signs she is increasingly serious.  I think she is far more formidable than the skeptics and cynics believe – but I also think in the end it would be a huge mistake for her to run because of things like the attitude of her aides.  They are looking for a fight when we need to build a consensus.

    When her daughter is drawing death threats and suspicious mail over a dance/reality show – you are talking one uber-divisive family here.  That is the last thing we can afford.

    But just to lighten the mood a little, this headline made me laugh – “Sarah Palin’s Iowa trip stokes 2012 talk” – actually, I think that Politico “stokes talk”, not Palin.

    Huckabee

    The Huckster is keeping his options open:

    “I’m not ruling it out. And that’s not a yes, but it’s definitely not a no,” Huckabee told WHO’s Steve Deace.

    “The honest answer is: I’m keeping it open as an option; I’m looking at whether or not there’s a pathway to victory,” he added. “As I’ve told several people, I’m not jumping into a pool when there’s no water in it.”

    Uh, Mike – pool’s empty, sorry dude.  But the press is gonna keep after him because for one thing he does not get the state of the nation right now, which makes him a great whipping boy.   Not to mention he is “building a media empire”?! and since media begats media begats media…well, you get the picture.  Which also explains why FOXNews would describe a poorly rated weekend show a “media empire.”

    Although, despite the fact he is usually making mischief these days, I think David Frum is on to something regards the Huckster.  Huckabee knows he cannot win so he is trying to position himself to be “the deciding votes.”  Frum overreaches here – Romney was the second leading delegate getter in ’08 – but that Huckabee was is a common misconception among those that dislike Romney and like Huckabee.  Huckabee’s appeal is also narrowly along social conservative lines.  That said, Frum’s analysis is reasonable, just not as strong as he would like.

    That said, I do not think Huckbee can pull it off.  His devotees will not follow his endorsements as slavishly as he thinks – that’s not their nature – they want “purity” much like Palin’s people.  He endorses someone they view as less than acceptable, they are likely to run to Palin.

    Others

    Newt Gingrich. Searching for traction.  If he runs it will be so people will continue to take him seriously.  One of the best idea guys out there, but candidate – nah.

    John Thune is being sized up.

    Bobby Jindal is out.  However, I heard him repeatedly this last week as he did the book tour thing.  His recounting of his conversations with Obama during the oil spill should defeat Obama next cycle in and of themselves.  To think that an unemployment check is as good as a job….

    Rick Santorum is still thinking about doubling down.  You know, he lost his last election and it was not for president.  Think about it.

    Mitch Danielsgood man, bad candidate?  You know, there is no shame in being the policy power behind the throne.

    News

    Much was made of the Mormon move towards the typical protestant denominational stand on homosexuality last week.  It’s a sensical move.  The point is, people can identify themselves as they see fit, but the church deals with behavior.  But I don’ think that’s the big news – I think this is:

    Before last week, in a whole lifetime of Mormonism, I can only remember seeing the CHI once, when I was a teenager, in the home where I grew up. Because my dad had served a few terms as a bishop–a lay minister in charge of a Mormon congregation–we had a copy in the house. The memory is fuzzy, but I believe it was my mom who brought it out so we could check out the juicy parts: church policy on birth control. Not that my mom needed a refresher course in Church policy. My mom knows these things by heart; she’s a professional Mormon.

    The inaccessibility of the CHI to regular members only heightened its power and significance, so much so that  anyone who could quote authoritatively from the CHI during a Sunday School lesson, for example, held a special sort of status in the community. (In Mormonism, the demands of lay ministerial service do convey certain privileges as well.)

    So imagine how LDS web crawlers felt last week when we found ourselves staring at a blog published by a self-described Mormon “Martin Luther” who had scanned the entire CHI into two giant PDF files and put them on the internet. For just anyone. For free. A few hours later, a fully-searchable edition of the CHI started to make the digital rounds. And by Friday, much to our astonishment, the LDS Church published the entire second volume on its own website. (The first volume remains officially restricted to lay clerical leaders.)

    The “secrecy” of the CJCLDS bothers a lot of people.  It never bothered me much, I always figured Mormon were good people, if they wanted to keep books secret – it was their business.  But this is a bold move that will help things.  Simply appearing to be less secretive helps a lot.

    And while we are onthe opic of homosexuality – there is another call for “tolerance.“  It should be remembered, tolerance is not definitionally a virtue.

    This is unbecoming.  Bottom line is this – the left wants nothing more than to stir up a political struggle between Catholics and protestants.  We have got to be smarter than that.  Now my guess is this is a small group of people trying to get a lot of attention – we have got to learn to shut such people up.

    And finally, the tea party rebranding continues.  But it increasingly appears that social conservatives, even those that identified it as “rebranding,” don’t entirely get it.  The rebranding means in part that we hold our conservative social stances dear, but we deal with them quietly.

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    Polls and Debates, Comics Books and Wisecracks…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:23 am, November 19th 2010     &mdash      3 Comments »

    PPP announced some more state-by-state polling and Romney is polling strong.  That is unsurprising given the name recognition issue.  Patrick Caldwell thinks the most revealing data from the polls is that Romney and Pawlenty are competing for the “same votes.“  But that, like all other conclusions at this point is a bit specious.  Neither is even running yet or taking stances that would define the blocs they are pursuing.  At this point, polling is about name recognition – period end of statement.  At least polling tha we mere mortals can access.

    Dan Balz continues to beat the drum that the Republican field is indistinct and late out of the gate:

    In contrast to all that, the Republicans’ 2012 campaign is off to a less-hurried start.

    That’s a good thing.  Said Bill Kristol on the Hugh Hewitt show Tuesday just past:

    One of the things we learned in this past year, can you imagine if we had to nominate all the Republican candidates a year and a half ahead of time for 2010?

    [...]

    Well, Charlie Crist would be running for Senate in Florida, and Marco Rubio never would have been able to get off the ground. And this is true in many, many other states. And it’s especially true for the Congressional candidates. One of the great things about this next two years, next year and a half at least, if we have a wide open Republican field. And these candidates can get out there and make their case.

    Hewitt is on a campaign to stop the early spring debate next year.  We are with him on that.  The debate as proposed firstly allows the left-leaning MSM to frame the Republican field and its issues.  Secondly, it allows that same left-leaning MSM to set our candidates at each others throats – weakening all of them.

    Mike Huckabee’s “innocent question” to the NYTimes reporter in 2007 was a spark – it took the MSM to fan that spark into a conflagration.  Huckbee was a jerk to do what he did, and despite his protestations to the contrary, he knew good-and-darn-well the MSM would pounce as they did.  But that said, he was correct in his assertion that it was a few sentences in a very lengthy interview, yet it seemed to become the entire focus of the article.

    That anecdote is precisely why Hewitt’s suggestion of a forum, not a debate, and a forum managed by the right-leaning commentariat, is the way to go.  It allows us on the right to control our own narrative.  This suggestion is new media at its best.  And it looks like at least some of the candidate agree.

    Most notably Romney, but also Mitch Daniels and Haley Barbour – not to mention Donald Trump (OK - this is funny [HT: EFM]) are announcing they will make their decisions in spring.  Allahpundit is wondering why Romney is doing this since he has not promised his decision will be later than the proposed debate.  (Daniels and Barbour have commitments to their current jobs.)  The answer is straightforward – he is trying to send a signal to the debate calling crew that they are not necessarily going to get what they want.  Here is hoping they pick up those signals.

    Comic Books?

    Oh yeah! – regular readers know I love ‘em, so I have to link to the fact that the second Sarah Palin comic is being released.  A fact that gives her one more than Barack Obama.  But even that is not the first time presidents have been in the comics.   In fact. the tradition dates back to the invention of the superhero comic where the heroes helped FDR battle first the depression and then Hitler and Tojo.   But I must stop – I could go on for hours.

    What is amazing here is that Palin is NOT president.  Few political figures reach the pop cultural level to make comics without holding that very high office.  But then, there is a new trend in comics.  I think this is an extension of the new media phenomena – comics have always been a marginal media, but as the internet makes inroads, so too other “less acceptable” media.

    Wisecracks…

    While we are discussing Palin and pop culture, this article comes to mind.  It’s somebody’s idea of a funny take on the Palin TLC show.  They suggest other “political reality” shows:

    Legends of the Hidden Mitt Romney Temple
    Since Mitt Romney, in cahoots with Glenn Beck and Orrin Hatch, has a secret Mormon plot to take over the government. Maybe he could tell us a bit about what happens inside those temples for once?

    What, precisely, is funny about that?  The answer, of course, is nothing – it’s a religion shot in weak disguise.

    Not to mention this post.  The guy is entitled to vote as he likes and his reasoning is based on Massachusetts healthcare – something that will be an issue for many – so why the “Mormon crack” in the post heading?

    It’s going to be a long cycle.

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    Mormonism, Romney, and wanting it both ways: A few thoughts about being in the world but not of the world

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 06:53 am, November 18th 2010     &mdash      9 Comments »

    This is not an easy post to write, because it is going to seem critical of my fellow Mormons (and myself).  Nothing could be further from my intent.  Instead, writing as a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I want to describe a conflict with which most of us struggle, whether we realize it or not.  Simply stated, it is that on the one hand, we proclaim our difference from “the world,” while at the same time hoping for the world’s acceptance.  I think this is an entirely understandable problem, not one for which we should apologize at all. I do think we need to recognize and come to terms with it.

    That conflict comes into stark relief in this Salt Lake Tribune story, just recently picked up by Real Clear Religion.  Excerpt:

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is respected for its Mormon Tabernacle Choir and pop singing groups, dancers, pro football players and competence in times of disaster.

    And, yet, said Terryl Givens, professor of literature and religion at the University of Richmond in Virginia, “in return for qualified esteem, the public reserves the right not to take [it] seriously as a belief system.”

    Terryl Givens is a serious Mormon thinker and writer. (I highly recommend his “By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture that Launched a New World Religion.“)  In the BYU symposium referred to in the article, he calls this Mormon conflict “schizophrenia.”

    Givens has a point.  We Mormons tend to be very proud and happy, for example, when one of our own achieves great success:  Steve Young in professional football, David Archuleta on American Idol, and yes, Mitt Romney in public service and government.  At the same time, we celebrate our distinctiveness — both doctrinally and culturally.  We believe our faith is restored Christianity and that all other faiths, while containing much truth and goodness, are fundamentally wrong and cannot fully save their adherents.  We also adhere to personal standards of behavior (e.g., drinking, smoking, sexual relations only within marriage) that are quite different from what most “others” believe to be acceptable.

    Perhaps the clearest example is the athletic programs at Brigham Young University:  BYU fans and Church members are justifiably proud of the high personal standards maintained on that campus, and flatly reject the world’s criticism of those standards.  And yet at the same time, most BYU sports fans seem to crave recognition and acclaim in that same world’s ranking and championship systems.  Some become resentful when the Cougars don’t seem to get the respect they deserve, and especially when observers seem to hold BYU students to a higher standard of behavior than they expect of students at secular universities – even as Mormons justifiably express great pride in BYU’s own higher standards of behavior!

    This tendency does have an impact on Mitt Romney’s presidential candidacy.  Gov. Romney and pretty much all of his supporters  want recognition for his beautiful family, long marriage to Ann, and his long upright life of success and service — all of which we attribute to his Mormon beliefs and background.  He’s different, by golly!  At the same time, we don’t want Romney to be treated as different.

    This is not realistic, and we need to get better at being comfortable in our own skin.  We want to be different.  We are different.  Our beliefs are unquestionably different – and they make us who we are. In this regard I don’t think Mormons and Evangelicals are all that different.

    We Mormons need to get used to the idea that we will never have theological “respect” from most other faiths – and we shouldn’t expect it.  After all, we reject their beliefs, don’t we?

    Both Mormons and our theological and doctrinal competitors need to figure this out in the political arena.  The schizophrenia is unhealthy.  We need to celebrate the similar ideals and common ground — clean living, marital fidelity, strong families, service to mankind.  But as we are doing that we also have to accept the existence of our theological distinctives as realities that will not — and should not — go away.  After all, that’s what makes us who we are, whether Evangelical, Mormon, Catholic, or Jewish.

    John Adds…

    The new Gerson/Wehner book, “The City of Man” which I have just begun. begins itself by pointing out exactly this tension for Evangelicals – in fact Christians of all stripes.  I have not gotten far enough to tell you their solution to the tension, but it is obvious that the tension is, as Lowell notes, shared by Evangelicals and Mormons – not to mention Catholics and mainlines.

    There are two problems here really.  Most creedal Christians do respect the character of Mormons – they just believe that character to be based on false premises.  Some creedal Christians therefore think that character unreliable.  That, frankly, is a problem inside Evangelicalism, and this post is not the place to unwind it, let alone propose solutions for it.

    What is amazing is that most Evangelicals are under attack from the secular left for essentially the same thing, save that the secular left often just does not believe good character to be worth pursuing.  The secular left looks at the great scandals of Evangelicalism, or even the lesser ones, and cries that religion is a “lie.”

    And all of this misses the essential point – good character is difficult to come by – it is hard work to obtain, whether by the path of a Mormon or a creedal Christian or a secularist.  What is under assault is not really what we believe, but the character that it produces.  By assailing good character we coarsen public discourse and we loose sight of what really matters in governance.  Thus we cannot convict terrorists in our public courts and we “feel-up” little old ladies in airports for fear of offending someone that might hurt us.

    What we need to learn to stand for is character – we should be proud of our efforts to develop it.  Our education system should work to develop it, for by achieving it do we “feel good about ourselves.”  And that, in the end is the point.

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    The Story Lines Are Beginning to Emerge…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:43 am, November 16th 2010     &mdash      3 Comments »

    …At Least For Now

    It is so early, but that does not stop a non-stop press from wanting to write about the POTUS ’12 race.

    It started Tuesday when PPP released some polling results and National Journal their “power rankings.“  Allahpundit was the first tongue to wag in the wake of the releases.  Ross Douthat was not far behind.  Here’s a shocker – Romney is the presumptive frontrunner.  That’s good news,  but as Douthat points out he is “vulnerable.”  Well gee Ross, everybody is this early – tell me something I don’t know. But that, of course, was a set-up for the left to try and divide and conquer.  It really is too early to get a clear picture, but it is never too early to weaken your opponents.  Problem is, we are typically suckers for this stuff.  It is also worthy of note that National Journal’s rankings are organized similar to our categorizations from last week.  I promise you we were there first, even if we published a day later – we got held up several days due to editorial and technical concerns.

    Then on Friday, Chris Cillizza released his “line.“  Same day Politico announced the first debate.  That debate is set for spring of next year – Lord save us from that!  I doubt all the possibles will have made their decisions by then.   Even some on the left thinks its silly.  The Washington Post hos chosen to side with Politico/MSNBC by writing a story saying this primary campaign is slower out of the gate than last cycle – this debate alone makes that a ludicrous claim.   The line between campaign and reality show is growing thinner and thinner.  Were Nancy Reagan not involved, it would be a no-brainer for the serious possibles to not show, make it a spectacle of the also-rans – but it’s hard to say “No” to Mrs. Reagan – though Hugh Hewitt certainly thinks they should.

    And of course the NYTimes is trying to figure Republicans out – too late and from a perspective so biased as to not make sense.

    So with Romney “in the lead,” even if there is not a race yet, and Palin polarizing – what are the story lines that are emerging?

    With Regards Romney…

    Three basic story lines right now.  First, he’s diligent.  Some say that makes him “plastic.“  I think it makes him exactly what the nation needs right now – someone who will do a good job, not just try to look good not doing the job.  But watch this space – I will never forget the same remarks with regards the Osmond’s when I was a kid, particularly when compared to the “cool” Jackson 5 – even though the Jackson’s were as packaged, shaped, and contorted as any musical group in history.  When I think “plastic” I think of Michael Jackson’s face, not Donny Osmond’s.

    Secondly, his nomination is not a “shoe-in.“  Agreed.  This primary will be almost as “wide-open” as the last.  Not a good thing – we tend to eat our young when it is that wide open.  If Palin stays out, different story, but that is not looking likely at this stage.

    Finally and most importantly – he is getting banged over and over and over again with regards Massachusetts health care.  It is even how FOXNews chose to frame their “12 in ’12″ profile and story on him.  (No wonder he elected not to be interviewed for the series!)  Frankly, this concerns me deeply.  The normal play here would be to simply run promising to undo as much of Obamacare as possible and ignore the past.  But given the history of “flip-flop” rooted in whole “Mormons lie” thing, I don’t think that’ll work.  Many have called for him to repudiate the Massachusetts plan – a mea culpa of sorts.  As we have said, that breaks the “never apologize it makes you look weak” maxim.  I do think a mea culpa will work with a certain segment, and that segment could be enough to hand him the nomination, but the Dems, and their unwitting allies on our side of the aisle, would have a heyday with it in the general.  Further pondering required – maybe if he did it early enough in the primary cycle?

    With Regards Other Possibles…

    John Thune is the “Establishment Candidate?!“  Not so sure about that Ben.  The “Establishment” backs the guy that’s going to win, and Thune has a way to go to get into that position.  They may like him, but they are not going to expend political capital on him just yet.

    Mitch Daniels is still thinking.

    Mike Huckabee is going to Iowa – for unclear reasons, and stepping on his tongue.

    Sarah Palin is on TV for the next few weeks – look for her to lay low politically.

    Rick Perry is sounding like Mitch Daniels.

    With Regards “The Real 2012 Story”…

    Redistricting is going to matter – a lot, and likely help Republicans.

    With Regards The Tea Party and Religion…

    Some are trying to drive a wedge between Catholics and Protestants within.  (Can’t let that happen.)  Some say the Tea Party has “religious fervor,” but not a specific religion.  Some say religion was the problem for a few of the leading “Tea Party candidates. “  (There is some wisdom buried in the left-leaning rhetoric on this one.)  Some say its about “the bubble.

    No one can quite put their finger on it – which I think is the point – it’s non-sectarian and only vaguely religious – kind of like America that way.  There are some noted voting pattern changes in the South and among younger Evangelicals.

    But some think at root it will be the cause of a “Civil war” in the GOP.  Of course, that is what the Dems want.  I hope we have grown smarter than that.

    All of which leads us to some final links to…

    …Mormon Stories

    …Religious Thought and Action

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    Setting The Stage, Part III: So, Whither The Mormon Question?

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 04:57 pm, November 12th 2010     &mdash      7 Comments »

    In the 2008 election cycle, there were three basic strands to the Mormon Question:

    • Religious opposition – those that were opposed to electing a Mormon because they believed his religion was wrong.  The classic example would be the Belz “Mormons lie” argument.
    • Opposition to religion – those that are opposed to religion in government generally and view Mormons as particularly odious because they are somehow viewed as “uber- religious.”  This is the vast majority of the left and could be best summed up in the discussions of Andrew Sullivan and Jacob Weisberg.
    • Identity Politics – those that are opposed because Mormons are simply different and therefore somehow strange.  This is the vein that Mike Huckabee tapped with his NYTimes interview just before Iowa.

    Before we dive into the changes that have occurred in each of those strands since the last cycle, it must be pointed out that although social issues are not dead, they are not primary concerns this cycle unless things change drastically between now and the campaign season.  None of these strands are going to matter as much as they did in ’08 because people are going to be paying far more attention to economic policy than abortion or same-sex marriage.  The recently discovered Yemeni-originated bomb plots are a sign that foreign policy and national security are likely to step forward before then as well.  High unemployment and terrorist attacks have a tendency to focus people’s attention.

    But that said, attacks along those strands will continue.  In the increasingly niche marketed world of the internet age, broad campaigns like those for POTUS will be conducted in any number of smaller battlefields.  There are certainly people for whom those things will matter and someone will be using the fact that they matter to reach them and convince them.

    That said, let’s now turn our attention to what had happened in those strands between than and now and try and think about how they will play in 2012.

    Of the three strands, the one that affected the most people in ’08 was…

    Identity Politics

    Most people have religious convictions of some sort, but most of them also lack enough definition to those beliefs to object on theological grounds to any religion, and they certainly would not object to religion generally.

    There were attempts to tap into this vein in two races in 2010 - Nevada senate and Idaho governor.  In the end in those races it did not seem to matter.  Reid won in Nevada because of a series of missteps by Angle.  The fact that she got as close as she did is testament to the anti-Democrat mood out there more than anything else we saw in these mid-terms.  Her campaign in the general was a disaster pretty much from beginning to end.  The utterances by her pastor were a fairly minor incident in a campaign full of incidents.

    In Idaho, the non-Mormon won – right in the heart of the Jello Belt.  He had significant LDS backing, but his margin of victory is such that the event he did with Romney did not appear decisive.

    When it comes to POTUS 2012, the last thing people are going to want is identity politics.  That consideration is a large part of how we got to where we are today.  Opposition to the policies of Barack Obama is not always racist but it would be foolish to deny that race was a consideration of many when it came to electing him.  There was a general sense that the nation felt it was somehow “time” to elect an African-American president – not because he was black, but as some sort of national catharsis to make up for the ugliness of first slavery and then segregation.  We forgot that inattention to labels  is the ideal.  Given the policy disasters that we have seen in the last two years, I think it likely that voters will consider policy before label in the next cycle.  Certainly the Idaho race would indicate that.

    Religious Opposition

    This has always been a very vocal but somewhat smallish group of people.  The problem is that the vocal nature of the group has allowed them to play on the identity politics strand of the issue.  That said, Christians through out the nation are reexamining the interplay of faith and politics on philosophical and theological levels.

    They are asking important questions.  As I said last Wednesday:

    I think religious people are learning that in some sense we have been winning battles but losing the war.  Many of the liberal agenda items that upset us so – abortion, same sex marriage – are not the heart of the problem – there is something deeper at play.

    That is certainly what we wrote about in the prior post in this series.

    On a more practical level people are trying to overcome the kinds of religious bias that build up in tight communities.  And most importantly, we are learning the lesson that this blog has pointed out from the very beginning - our attacks on Mormonism will result in similar attacks on us at a later date.

    In fact, governmental attempts to delegitimize a minority or unpopular religion and undermine the rights of its adherents by labeling it a cult, political system, or ideology is a tired ploy that dates back to before the American Founding and colors much of American history.

    Which brings us to the third strain…

    Opposition To Religion

    Nowhere was this seen more blatantly than in the attempts to discredit Rand Paul.  Said Paul after the election:

    “I think that you shouldn’t attack a person’s faith, and I think it did backfire on them,” Paul told the AP on Wednesday. “My hope is that when someone loses and that issue appears to have had an influence that maybe it discourages people from those attacks.”

    Amen to that.  People are learning that this administration’s policies are on some level linked to its lack of overt religiosity.  Obama’s fumbled attempts to effectively alter the Declaration of Independence have accomplished nothing but reinforce that linkage.  Liberal policies are rooted in a lack of understanding that there is a personal supernatural deity, and as such they will remain opposed to religion.  But these attempts are teaching them that overt opposition will backfire on them.  They will have to get clandestine.

    They will do so by trying, very hard, to saw on the other two strands of anti-Mormon sentiment.  They will likely again this cycle find unwitting allies in those opposed to a Mormon president on theological grounds.  However, as we have examined that is a small group of players and because the identity politics strand is at least for the moment reasonably neutralized, it is questionable how effective the tactic will be.

    That said; however, I expect there once again to be a lot of noise about this issue.  The press cannot resist it, so whenever anyone says anything about it, it will get covered over and over again.   They will attempt to bait Romney into another speech – something that would be a huge mistake this time.  That noise will backfire as it has this cycle.

    But there is a way the issue may play out “in disguise.”  Most people, even religious people, like their religion in small controlled doses.  Evangelicals take their religion seriously, but not too seriously. Jeremy Lott has written a review of John McCain’s daughter’s latest tome.  In it, he talks about her view of Romney as a running mate for her dad last cycle:

    Meghan takes pride in taking politics very personally, so we aren’t surprised to learn that she has strong opinions about the person her dad should have picked as his running mate to lose to Barack Obama. She wanted Joe Lieberman and hoped that it wouldn’t be Mike Huckabee (who should go “lead the evangelicals”) or — shudder — Mitt Romney.

    Miss McCain worried about “campaigning across the country with five married Mormon men” — Romney’s five sons — “and all those baby grandchildren…” The Romneys were “all so handsome, in a tooth-whitener commercial kind of way, and so seriously wholesome” that they might object to the “constant drinking and swearing that went on in our campaign…[n]ot to mention all the tawdry stories about crazy-sex…” that she insists, loudly, she didn’t participate in.

    She graciously allows that she could have accepted the Romneys but she worried that “they’d disapprove of me — my bleached hair, my swearing, my ‘edgy’ clothes, not to mention my gay friends. Would they accept me or scorn me as some kind of closet liberal who didn’t fit in?”

    The key this cycle will be for Romney, as the presumptive front-runner, to give people enough to vote for that they will ignore reasons to vote against him.

    I’d call this the “Osmond view” of the Romney’s.  While toned down it really is a swipe at religion generally – note the Huckabee slam as well.  This could be an effective argument aimed at Romney and based in his religion.  This is a space we need to watch.

    And so the stage is set.  In the next few months the candidates will make their decisions, and January is likely to be announcement season.  That will set the field which will determine many of the details of campaign ’12.  Religion will probably be center stage, though I do not think Mormonism will be – save in the fevered mind of the increasingly ignored MSM.

    One thing is for sure – it’ll be interesting.

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