Last week I wondered if the Family Leader marriage pledge was a trap. Well, Michele Bachmann signed it, Mitt Romney did not nor did Tim Pawlenty and that has resulted in a lot of press. The thing was not just about marriage, it was about African-Americans, women in combat and a whole host of social issues. The pledge should bother any reasonable candidate. Even the marginal candidates are dissing it. The guy behind the pledge is Bob Vander Plaats. Devout readers of this blog will remember good ‘ol Bob – he teamed up with Mike Huckabee to play the Mormon card in Iowa last cycle. What’s amazing is that it took hyper-left Salon to point this out. Sure Vander Plaats makes the usual denials, but come on, we watched it. History is history. Quote BVP:
In 2008, I was Huckabee’s state chair in the state of Iowa. And I remind people, it wasn’t the Mormonism that I think turned the people of Iowa off on Mitt Romney and why Huckabee won. Because Mitt Romney led the polls in Iowa for a long time, and he was a Mormon then as well. He leads the polls today in Iowa, and he’s still a Mormon. I think what it was is that Iowans just had kind of a disconnect with Romney. They probably couldn’t relate to him real well, but they could relate to Huckabee extremely well.
And what lead to the disconnect precisely? Maybe Mormon whispers capped off with a NYTimes interview? Could be – don’t ya think?
This all leads me to an interesting piece by Jonathon Tobin at Contentions entitle “Purity Makes Good Politics”:
Politics may be the art of the possible, but while demonstrating flexibility is important for a legislator it can be a drawback to winning elections.
Agreed, hence the Family Leader pledge’s ability to act as a trap – not unlike the plausibly deniable Mormon attacks of Huckabee and Vander Plaats in 2008. This causes Tobin to look at Bachmann’s recent Iowa ad in which she “pledges” fiscal acts and write:
The political value of Bachmann’s purity shouldn’t be underestimated. As Chris Cillizza wrote in today’s Washington Post, unlike most members of Congress, Bachmann’s legislative record is no burden to her candidacy. During her five years in Congress, Bachmann has not devoted any effort to “going along to get along” as most members must do in order to pass legislation. She has not brought home any “bacon” to her district because she viewed her purpose very differently than her colleagues. Instead of log rolling with other members to gain passage of pet legislation, she has spent all of her time “tilting at windmills” and generally running afoul of her party’s leadership.
In fact, if her congressional record resembles anyone’s, it’s that of Barack Obama, who coasted through his three-plus years in the Senate with no object in mind but the presidency. That ought to scare the dickens out of the rest of the GOP presidential field.
That does raise an interesting question about what the electorate has learned from the Obama administration. Have they learned that it is governing capability we need most in a candidate or do we just need the opposite pole of purity? I still believe the electorate is smart enough that they will not fall for right wing “purity” to counterbalance Obama, but rather competence. But it does make for an interesting way to analyze…
The Bachmann “Surge” and Purity
Recent polling shows Bachmann barely leading in Iowa. This has caused some to declare her “surge,” even though Romney still leads nationally, significantly – and head-to-head. As we have stated here for quite a while, Iowa is a bit of an odd duck when it comes to the purity and religion stuff. In some ways it is sad as it gives the willing Democrat allies in the MSM plenty of opportunity to paint the entire Republican party as if it was Iowa. It does not help when she does things like be the first out of the box to sign that pledge, even if some thing she is not as polarizing as she might appear at first glance.
My friend David French penned a wonderful piece at the Corner about the savaging Bachmann is taking:
One of the most disgusting political spectacles of my lifetime has been the single-minded effort of the Left to destroy Sarah Palin. Without burdening the readers with a litany of links, we all remember the “not a real woman” comments, the stalking author/neighbor, the hacking scandal, the recent (enthusiastic) fishing expedition through thousands of e-mails, and the vile insults from academics, politicians, and celebrities alike. The goal: to banish her to the fringe of American life, to turn her into a figure of mockery and contempt.
Now, apparently, the Left has decided it’s Michele Bachmann’s turn.
David is right. It’s ugly and its mean and its hateful. It is designed to push those of us of faith, and reason out of societal discourse. And while we conservatives are still way too numerous to be fringy, it is time we also faced some hard facts – we are no longer in such a majority that our viewpoint can be automatically assumed to be the social and cultural norm, especially on social issues.
There are a couple of things we can learn from this fact.
For one thing, purity simply cannot prevail politically without such a substantial majority. Therefore, if we want to win and incrementally move the nation back towards our direction we have to be more inclusive. The age of purity pledges has got to come to a halt. We need confidence in our candidates that they will do what they politically can to moves things back towards us, but it is many steps and many years back to anything resembling “purity.”
Secondly, we cannot take this stuff personally. Last weekend I encountered two women in separate settings that were attempting to “pass” as male. I don’t know if the were “transgendered” or just weird. Yes, I found it off-putting, even a bit repugnant. But in the end they were not aiming to offend me. They were acting in offense of my personal social standards, but they were not looking to offend me – just express whatever brokenness they were experiencing. That is true for most people with whom we disagree. If we take such actions as offensive we are back at purity, which is a formula for political loss.
So who does Bachmann really imperil? – Tim Pawlenty. As Aaron Blake points out, they are pretty different people, but both need Iowa. Even if Pawlenty is working to look more evangelical. (In the end will it come down to who Huckster endorses?) I am not sure a loss at the Ames Straw Poll dooms Pawlenty, but he is certainly at this point fighting an uphill battle – much more uphill than he probably anticipated. Bachmann is serving as a lightening rod, much as Huckabee did last time, for all the purists on the Republican side. Romney is so commanding of the other parts of the party that for any other candidate to succeed they have to marshal those troops. Bachmann is simply pushing Pawlenty off that pedestal. I find that disheartening because I think with Bachmann signing pledges and such she threatens to further radicalize that branch of the party whereas Pawlenty would have helped move them back into the mainstream. But also disheartening are the claims of…
The whole world, left and right, want to make it look like war between Romney and Huntsman. Huntsman seems to be shooting more than Romney even if it’s indirect shots. But then that seems reasonable if, as the left would say, Huntsman’s campaign is over before it starts. The fact of the matter is that politics is battle – candidates are competing to win, so in a sense there is a “war” between each candidate and each other candidate. The only reason they are making more of this than any other candidate competition is because of the Mormon connection between the two. Any excuse to bring up the religion of the candidates.
On Faith is asking The Question again because they can’t think of anything else. There are two movies coming out taking pot shots at Mormonism. One on the presidency and one on Prop 8. The American Conservative is talking and talking. That asinine Memphis TV spot from last week continues to draw comment. And in Scotland we read what may be the funniest formulation of The Question we have ever encountered:
We already know that a moron can be elected president of the United States, but can a Mormon?
Go ahead, I dare you not to laugh at that. Now that the laugh is over, make no mistake about what is really going on here. The war against RELIGION is moving from the sidelines to the front line, and Mormonism is being used to move it there. Sadly, many among us are taking the bait. When we have pledges and stupid TV spots designed to marginalize Mormons from the “real Christians” all we really accomplish is giving the true opposition something to aim at. They succeed in making us look small minded.
No place is this more evident than in a HuffPo analysis of the recent Pawlenty religion video. In this video Pawlenty is offereing heis reasns for not signing the pledge discussed above. IN it he examines the usefulness of pledges as tools to know where a candidate stands. He says, “When somebody is running for or holds high office, whether it’s mayor, governor, or president of the United States, voters want to know, and deserve to know, ‘Who is this person?’ You know, ‘What shaped their values? What are their values? Is this a person that’s good to their word? Can we count on them?’” The HuffPo author tries to spin that comment as a “flip-flop” (Mormon code) shot at Romney and Huntsman. See what I mean? It is going to be very interesting how all this plays out.
Other Romney News…
Jim DeMint said nice things about Romney this week, including that his faith is not an issue, that caused all sorts of reverberations since he had been pretty ugly just a few weeks ago. Some are now wondering if he will endorse Romney as he did last time.
Some tired to make his fundraising coup look less impressive than it really was. This was utterly predictable, and therefore meaningless. Romney polls well in Florida, and is putting together a ground game in Iowa. (Still look for him to finish two or three there, but at least he’ll compete, unlike some.) He is also picking up endorsements and enemies – both a sign of success. The enemies are just the latest of the purity crowd.
Sarah Palin tries to keep hope alive.
Rick Santorum got an impressive endorsement, but he also signed that pledge. I thought he was a lot smarter than the latter.