Before we get into the serious stuff for this post, be notified, Pawlenty will make it “official” Monday. It is amazing to me that something so obvious gets so much coverage.
And now down to business. I had thought we would make it through the primaries without the blatant examination of Evangelical “problems” voting for a Mormon that we saw last time, but alas. I think because The Question has been so quiet, the left – in this case represented by Ronald Browstein at The Atlantic – has given us the piece, “Will Evangelicals Sink Romney?“ There are a lot of problems with the piece, not the least of which is it does not account for what I would like to call “the Obama Effect.” What I mean by that is that the directions this administration has taken the nation are, in the view of many on the right, so dire that we will set aside much that may have bothered us in the past simply to set things back in the generally proper direction. Yesterday’s speech by
His Majesty, uh, er, the President, will go a long way towards making that effect most pronounce in Evangelicals. Israel is very important to Evangelicals and Romney got it absolutely right when he commented on Obama’s speech by saying he “threw Israel under the bus.”
Brownstein’s piece also suffers from assuming that Evangelicals learned nothing from what happened last time. We simply are not that stupid. Even absent the atrocious policies of the current administration, Evangelicals got nothing they wanted out of the last election cycle – in the primary or the general. They know that they have to do something different to advance their agenda. Whether that is Romney or not, only this cycle will tell, but they certainly know they have to look at things a bit differently than they did last time to get to where they want to go.
On Wednesday we linked to a marvelous piece by Jeremy Lott, “In Defense of Mormons.” It came from a symposium hosted by Patheos’ Catholic Portal and Evangelical Portal, entitled, “For Life and Family: Faith and the Future of Social Conservatism.“ Another marvelous piece has appeared form that symposium since Wednesday by J.E. Dyer, “Yes, Christians Can Vote for Mormons“:
I have my doubts about Mitt Romney and his political aspirations, but not because he is a Mormon (or Latter-day Saint). Nor does Jon Huntsman’s LDS affiliation affect my opinion of him as a potential presidential candidate. I’ve never really “gotten” the antipathy of some evangelical conservatives to Mormon politicians.
Clearly, Evangelicals and creedal Christians generally are learning about this stuff and growing wiser. Past data and voting patterns cannot be expected to be indicative of what will happen this time.
But the real tell in Brownstein’s piece lies in a paragraph almost 2/3 of the way through:
Almost all GOP analysts agree that Huckabee’s departure increases the odds that evangelical voters will fragment early on, especially in Iowa, whose caucuses will kick off the Republican race. But if the contest eventually reduces to Romney and one rival — either in the South Carolina primary or immediately after it — Huckabee’s exit increases the possibility that evangelicals will unify against Romney, unless he can expand his appeal with them.
In other words, “This isn’t really a problem (‘Almost all GOP analysts agree…’) but I am going to write at length about a highly unlikely hypothetical scenario because doing so will create a problem for most likely opposition candidate.” The piece is precisely what I did expect from the left this cycle – efforts to break us up – attempts to use religion as a wedge inside the Republican coalition. But I really did expect them to be less blatant and smarter about it than this rather crude and blunt instrument, but there it is.
Fortunately, we do not need to buy it, and we shouldn’t.