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."

Illinois Thoughts

Posted by: Lowell Brown at 10:39 pm, March 20th 2012     —    2 Comments »

Doubtless John will have something to add in a few hours, and I know I have more to say. For now I’ll just note this, from McKay Coppins of Buzzfeed, who points out that although Romney beat Santorum in Illinois by double digits (47% to 35%), among Evangelical Christians the story was quite different:

According to CNN’s exit polls, Santorum beat Romney handily in that group, 46 percent to 39 percent. And the bad news didn’t stop there: Among the quarter of the Republican electorate who said a candidate’s religious beliefs matter “a great deal,” Santorum crushed Romney by 20 points — 51 percent to 31.

This race is about to pivot away from the GOP primaries to the general election, and we won’t be talking about Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich much longer. I wonder: will we be talking about Evangelicals much longer?

Some Evangelical thinkers, like Regent University president Carlos Campo, have suggested that Romney needs to explain his religious views to their group in order to win their support. But why? Romney seems to have adopted the attitude that there’s nothing he can say to change the minds of those hard-core Evangelicals who oppose or distrust him because of his faith. (He tried that in 2008; remember?) So it seems Romney has decided to win the nomination in spite of that demographic, rather than with its support; and he’s well on his way to doing just that.

If Romney succeeds as a candidate, how much influence can Evangelicals who were cool to him expect to have in a Romney campaign, or even a Romney presidency? Probably more than they deserve, if the Governor’s past behavior is any guide, and if his Evangelical supporters like Mark Demoss want to be involved. Still, John has been warning for years now that by playing identity politics his fellow Evangelicals will eventually marginalize themselves politically. They may well be in the final stages of doing just that.

John Joins (the next morning)

Lowell has put his finger on the single biggest takeaway from yesterday’s huge Romney winAaron Blake tweeted:

Romney has won all 10 primaries where evangelicals make up less than half vote. And he’s lost all 7 where they have been >50%

Romney appears in Illinois to have overcome all his other demographic issues. And while some will say that it’s not over, realism has to enter the picture some where.  Team Obama knows who they will be facing and the press is all too willing to help them.  Yesterday, a video from sources unknown as launched that was artful if inherently dishonest in its construction.  Taking single words from presentations and piecing together sentences is cute, but talk about putting words into someone’s mouth.  Something like that requires enormous time – which means enormous resources.  The rest of the Republican field does not have those kinds of resources.  Once again, Team Obama knows who they will be facing.

It is most unbecoming for the other Republican candidates to whine and threaten.  Gingrich has declared his intention to “stop Romney.“  It is even worse when Santorum borrows his meme.  And now the Evangelical press is “threatening?!”  David Brody:

As for Romney, the guy and his campaign are a machine. But let me remind everyone about something very important. Romney has NOT courted evangelicals and the Tea Party yet he’s winning the Primary battle. It hasn’t hurt him because both groups are split among different candidates but in the General Election the Romney campaign should NOT take evangelicals for granted. Sure many of those evangelical supporters of Santorum and Gingrich will hold their nose and vote for Romney but they probably won’t bring an evangelical friend and won’t organize for him either. Romney will need evangelical and Tea Party fervor in the fall campaign if he makes it there but there’s NO guarantee that they will be there for him in droves. That’s what happens when you virtually ignore them. He’s not paying attention to them now and in the fall they may return the favor. The General Election will probably be a close one and won at the margins. A standard evangelical turnout won’t do the trick for Romney. He needs them to turn out in spades.

Precisely where is the Christian charity in those threats?  But more importantly, where is the political wisdom?  When the train is leaving the station and you stand there and yell, “Wait for me,” you’re going to be left behind.  If you run to catch the train, you have a chance.  Romney tried last time to meet Evangelicals and we all know how that came out.

Santorum has been his own worst enemy.  But worse, his lack of advance work has gotten him in places he really should not go.  Last Sunday night he appeared at a church in Louisiana:

Rick Santorum attended a revival-type church service on Sunday night in Louisiana, where the Rev. Dennis Terry, pastor of the Greenwell Springs Baptist Church, offered some fire and brimstone in a videotaped sermon that on Monday was going viral because of his fiery comments.

“I don’t care what the liberals say, I don’t care what the naysayers say, this nation was founded as a Christian nation,” Mr. Terry said.

“There’s only one God, and his name is Jesus,” he continued. “I’m tired of people telling me that I can’t say those words. I’m tired of people telling us as Christians that we can’t voice our beliefs or we can no longer pray in public. Listen to me. If you don’t love America, if you don’t like the way we do things I have one thing to say — get out!”

Thunderous applause interrupted him before he went on.

Santorum has tired to dig himself out of this mess, but too little too late – if the Brody File is all he has to rebut an assertion that people of differing belief need to leave the country, then he has officially entered the echo chamber.  Santorum is tagged with this sentiment, even if he does not share it.

It is time for the party to start putting itself back together, not continue with threats and divisiveness.  First Things carried a piece last month that points out that despite theological differences, Mormonism is a Christ based religion.  If people would only take the time to understand.  But the most important words I have read in the last week came from Elizabeth Scalia:

The advent of Sarah Palin, however, seemed to usher in a genuine madness that affected every inch of the political spectrum, and it brought about the blog’s second “crisis of civility.” If I found something praiseworthy in Palin, my “liberal” readers sneered and called me names. If I mildly critiqued the woman, her defensive fans became stunningly abusive. Ironically, as I tried to be both honest and fair-minded about Palin, I discovered neither left nor right could allow an assumption of good faith on my part. Perhaps projecting their passions on to me, both sides assumed that whatever I was writing about Palin was meant as a political manipulation against them. If I tried to offer balanced criticism, Palin fans accused me of “hating her from the first.” When I—because I detest bullies—defended her from an unconscionable assault by supposedly “liberal” people and the press after the Gabrielle Giffords shooting, I was derided, even by progressives whom I considered real friends, as being a “secret Palin lover.”

A good-faith assumption that I simply meant the exact words I wrote, in either case, and nothing more, was not permitted. It was deemed not possible.

Ms. Noonan’s dictum that people could disagree and still be “decent people” began to take a real beating, and things have only gotten worse, since then. Lately, I admit, my willingness to assume good-faith of others, particularly of the administration, has collapsed, mostly thanks to the HHS mandate and the shameful willingness of some to mischaracterize the church’s opposition as being about something other than a genuine concern for first-amendment freedoms, and to play along with the utterly false, media-contrived, so-called “war on women” narrative.

I don’t like feeling like this; I don’t like surrendering that “good faith” instinct—and I most certainly do not like being in discord with fellow Catholics, many of whom I have long liked and respected, over a matter of policy.

[...]

If good-faith assumptions cannot be well-founded, what does “civility” serve beyond the preservation of polite fiction?

From Evangelicals, Mitt Romney has never received the “good faith assumption.”  It is time for that to end.  One of the most important things that separates Christians is that we are civil.  As Scalia makes clear, the forthcoming opponent has taken grave steps to rob us of that civility, if we join him in that lack, he wins.

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