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."

A “Stop Romney” Effort After Iowa?

Posted by: Lowell Brown at 08:52 am, January 5th 2012     —    16 Comments »

Dear readers:

This will be a fast-moving, often-changing story over the next five days (five days!) between now and the New Hampshire primary election.  We’ll try to follow the important developments, and so should you.

Reports are that a group of “conservative elites” is meeting in Texas “to huddle to stop Mitt Romney.”

A group of movement conservatives has called an emergency meeting in Texas next weekend to find a “consensus” Republican presidential hopeful, POLITICO has learned.

“You and your spouse are cordially invited to a private meeting with national conservative leaders of faith at the ranch of Paul and Nancy Pressler near Brenham, Texas, with the purpose of attempting to unite and to come to a consensus on which Republican presidential candidate or candidates to support, or which not to support,” read an invitation that is making its way into in-boxes Wednesday morning.

The meeting is being hosted by such prominent conservative figures as James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family; Don Wildmon, onetime chairman of the American Family Association; and Gary Bauer, himself a former presidential candidate….

Movement conservatives are concerned that a vote split between Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum among base voters could enable Mitt Romney to grab the GOP nomination. A source who shared the invitation said the meeting was about how to avoid such a possibility….

If Republicans are going to put up a “pro-family conservative against Mitt Romney, some decisions need to be made,” [former gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaatts],told reporters at a Santorum rally.

This has a certain odor to it, especially in light of the key players identified.  James Dobson, Don Wildmon, Gary Bauer — Evangelicals all.  Wildmon has been strident in his opposition to Romney.  Dobson has been famously wishy-washy and in thrall to his base– but that may have changed  now that he has retired and  no longer needs their financial support.  (Or does he?)

For his part, Gary Bauer says the Texas meeting “was not intended to be a strategy session for how to take down Romney,” and that he will drop out of the event if he turned out to be wrong about its purpose.

Not all invitees agree with Bauer, however:

One conservative who was invited, though, said [stopping Romney] was exactly what the group ought to be doing.

“It’s what they should have done in 2008 with McCain, but they were too weak,” complained this conservative.

This meeting requires very close scrutiny. If this group is out to “stop the Mormon,” that purpose ought to be out in the open for all to see.

John Joins…

It will be very interesting to see if this veers off after Perry has announced he is still in.  Vander Plaats is also an anti-Mormon type of those cited.

The biggest problem we have right now is telling the difference between anti-Mormon sentiment and simple anti-Romney sentiment and how they relate.  The left, which wants to delegitimize religion generally, thinks it’s all about religion – examples here and here.  Conservatives, not wanting to appear religiously bigoted, say it is about “genuine conservatism” – example here.  Really smart lefties are playing into the later because they want Obama re-elected more than anything else.

But there are some things that are increasingly hard to understand.  The professionals, Karl Rove chief among them, now think Romney is going to be very hard to beat in the primary.  If that is indeed the case, and they are the best there are at this kind of stuff, why does there even need to be a question asked about whom to support?  When a winner becomes apparent, you back the winner because that is how you can be most effective at making gains with your particular agenda.  And that is true even if you do not agree entirely with the apparent winner, if your agenda matters most to you – then you go where you can make your agenda matter.  So, at this point, if they want to stop Romney, then that must be their most pressing agenda item – why?

Some argue that in Iowa “Family values” is code for “Christian values.“  And it would appear that such code excludes individuals with the same values, but different theology.  Santorum won the rural areas and Romney the cities; the data are now in.  Santorum, as I predicted, took the vast majority of the Evangelical vote.  Position by position, there is little difference between Santorum and Romney – save two.  Romney is so much better organized and so much better funded that there is no comparison.  That translates into electability.  And then there is the matter of ecclesiastical affiliation.  Even if no one will say it out loud, the statistics speak volumes.  And draw ridicule:

Has there ever been a clearer gap between a candidate’s claim of a divine call toward politics and Michele Bachmann’s speech on Wednesday ending her race for the GOP presidential nomination?

She started with a long list of arguments against the healthcare reform law (several of which had long ago failed muster against actual facts.) She added a smidge of humility of the sort not generally found among active candidates. (“And so last night, the people of Iowa spoke with a very clear voice, and so I have decided to stand aside.”)

And then there was this clear nod to her faith: “I look forward to the next chapter in God’s plan. He has one for each of us, you know. If we will only cooperate with him, he always had something greater around the corner — far beyond what any of us have ever thought or imagined.”

But she seemed far less uncertain about God’s plan for her when she entered the race. Ditto for her fellow failed (or nearly failed) candidates Herman Cain and Rick Perry. And for the latest non-Romney favorite, Rick Santorum.

Cast your eyes back to 2006 when Bachmann said: “God then called me to run for the United States Congress.” And then last year, just before starting her presidential campaign: “It means I have a sense of assurance about the direction I think that God is speaking into my heart that I should go.”

This does nothing but discredit the voice of faith in the public square – it portrays a God of steadfastness and reason as one of capricious whim.  If we are to prevail in the real battles ahead, we can ill afford such portrayals.  I find it fascinating that the follower of the faith MOST steeped in direct deistic revelation is making no claims to such when so many of his opponents are.

Same-sex marriage, the current most active battlefront, looks to get much more active.  We are doing stupid things on that battlefront and sometimes we get what we deserve, but forget how high the stakes really are – From Robert George:

One of my superstar former students, writing about his experience at one of our nation’s premier law schools, sent me a note after reading my MOJ post on marriage, religious liberty, and the “grand bargain.”  Here is the text, with names removed to protect the innocent:

I had a first-hand experience with this reality in law school. One of my constitutional law professors taught the section of our course relating to same-sex marriage under the “inevitability” banner. I met with him in office hours later to talk to him about something else, but I brought up a question that I have been wrestling with: if the SSM advocates are right and opposition to SSM becomes analogous to racism in our society, what will happen to Catholics and others whose views on SSM cannot and will not change? Are they to be excluded from public office, political and judicial appointments, or places of trust and responsibility within private institutions (e.g., law firm partnerships)? I posed the question to him because I was curious to hear his response, since he is generally a kind and reasonable person who seemed open to other viewpoints.

His response was very disappointing, and it shook my confidence in him. He responded to me by saying something along the lines of: “Well, they [Catholics and others] will either have to change their views or be treated in the same way that white supremacists and the segregationist Senators were treated. They were excluded from the judiciary entirely for decades because of the South’s views on race.”

The stakes are as high as they come.  The agitation for precisely those stakes is upon us.  The Republican nominee now appears very likely, very likely indeed, to be Mitt Romney.  He won the most religiously tinged, save perhaps South Carolina, primary in the nation.  The voters get it. We cannot let our theological differences keep us from winning the big fight.  That means we have to concentrate on electability and not theology.  A theology fight weakens our nominee, regardless of who that might be.  If the smart people think that nominee is Romney, the choice is most apparent.  Anything else and we, as they say, “Cut off our nose to spite our face.”

John Mark here:

For those wondering how traditional Christians will be treated in the future, I urge you to Google Santorum’s name. Santorum doesn’t deserve to be President for the hate he has received, but he deserves our thanks for putting up with it.

Meanwhile, he has too little money, too much baggage (those Senate votes! that election loss!), and a generally prickly personality.

Why not support Romney? There are good reasons not to do so, I suppose, but bad ones too. When a thoughtful blogger like Andrew Sullivan calls a man “weird,” then he is giving a dog whistle to hate. Don’t believe me? Read the comment sections on blogs that quote Sullivan. Mormon doctrine as “weird” will come up quickly. Reading Sullivan himself daily is a good corrective to the notion that Romney is a “liberal” or a RINO. (Sullivan is a man of the right in some ways with a rootless morality, but he is always interesting.)

A few conservatives that voted for Obama retain an interest in being vindicated. They thought the GOP was going into the wilderness and they are in denial that the party is about to (again) nominate an acceptable center-right candidate and has a better than even chance of winning with Romney this fall.

If Romney picks a “Rubio-type,” then he can bet conservatives will come home.

It is false that seventy-five percent of the party has rejected Romney. He is perfectly acceptable to the vast majority of the party, but in a multiple candidate field they have rightly looked around. Why settle quickly when Romney is always there? Maybe somebody better is out there . . . but polls show they are going to vote for Romney if he is the nominee.

Here is a wild prediction: well over 1/4 of New Hampshire will vote for Romney, but it will be dismissed as his “nearly home state.” Sure. That is why McCain won there in 2008.

Romney will be the nominee. The “leaders” meeting to stop him are unknown (or nearly so) to my Evangelical students. They would have to engage in political necromancy to bring back long departed voters that would hear their own dog whistles. Just as zombie-Reagan is not going to run, so the zombie-Religious Right cannot be invoked.

Evangelicals under fifty are conservative . . . they are pro-life and pro-marriage, but they are not “led” by the men meeting in Texas. Romney gained almost a fifth of Iowa Evangelicals, after all in a split field. Real Evangelicals will rally around Romney as the field settles.

UPDATE BY JOHN 5 HOURS AFTER INITIAL PUBLICATION: Looks like this thing is not pulling the kind of energy hoped for:

Two prominent leaders of conservative organizations have confirmed they are not attending and several others are expressing concern that nothing substantial or productive will come from the gathering.

“I understand the importance of discussing how we must energize and mobilize our base, but I believe the process of getting behind a consensus candidate will take care of itself. That’s what elections are for,” noted one invitee who asked not to be identified. “I just don’t think we’ll be able to agree on any one candidate at this time.”

Maybe someone read my comments above?


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