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."

  • The Problematic Spin

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 12:15 pm, January 28th 2015     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Yesterday, I tweeted out a WaPo piece that rang very much like the NYT piece we dealt with Monday.  That’s why I tweeted it with a snide comment rather than take the effort to dig through its inanity.   But today Chris Cillizza, in an obvious bit of intra-brand cross promotion, uses it as a springboard to make some points that I think need analysis:

    Mitt Romney still has a Mormon problem

    Cillizza digs up the usually cited stats and figures from ’08 and ’12 to make his case.  And it is a fine case indeed.  I would tend to agree that the issue this blog has focused on since ’06 will be as real in the cycle, if Romney gets in, as it has been since Robert Novak publicly acknowledged in back in ’06.  But there are two important things to note from the Cillizza piece.

    Start with this paragraph:

    Four years later, even as Romney was on his way to becoming the nominee, that skepticism among evangelicals was readily apparent. Romney lost every primary in 2012 in which exit polls found evangelical Christians comprised a majority of voters. In South Carolina, evangelicals were the decisive vote; they went for former House speaker Newt Gingrich by 22 points over Romney.  Across all primary contests in 2012, Romney did 13 percentage points worse among evangelical Christians than non-evangelicals. (Is it possible that evangelicals were reacting to something other than Romney’s Mormon faith when they voted for other candidates? Sure. But, it seems very unlikely.)

    What does that say about Evangelicals?  Looks to me like it says they are pretty close-minded.  We are currently in the midst of a cultural war over marriage in which the accusation of bigotry is being thrown at us with a particular vigor.  These kinds of statistics do not help us counter that accusation.  Sometimes we truly are our own worst enemy.

    And speaking of “own worst enemy” let’s turn to the second point, which comes from this paragraph in the Cillizza piece:

    I get Romney’s decision.  I was one of the people who thought he should talk more about his faith in the 2012 general election campaign as a way to counter the perception being pushed by the Obama campaign that he was a flip-flopping plutocrat with no core beliefs. His Mormon faith has always been central to Romney’s private persona so if the goal is to run the “real Romney” this time, then it’s the right move.

    Does “real Romney” trouble you as much as it troubles me?  The underlying WaPo piece contained this similar gem:

    “He feels very at home here,” said John Miller, a close friend in Utah who has been talking with Romney throughout his recent deliberations. “This is a very prayerful thing. . . . In the end, it’s really a decision between he and Ann and their belief system, their God. That’s the authentic Mitt.”

    “Authentic Mitt” sounds a lot like “real Romney.”  Lying at the bottom of most Evangelical objections to Mormons is a distrust.  They feel like the fact that Mormons redefine a lot of commonly used theological terms is somehow disingenuous.  (it’s a thing that goes on in theology discussion all the time, but when it involves Mormons….)  Remember the heinous “Mormons lie” meme from 2008?  Terms like “real Romney” and “authentic Mitt” do nothing but feed that suspicion.  They imply that in the last two cycles Romney was being disingenuous about himself, his policies, his inspirations and his intentions – just like the Evangelicals that created the statistics Cillizza cites suspect Mormons do.

    Two election cycles now have shown that these Evangelicals may not be able to win elections, but they sure can make sure those they distrust do not win either.

    It is smart for Romney to be more upfront about his faith this cycle if he indeed runs.  But he has got to find a better way to do it.  If he does not this “authentic” and “real” stuff is going to make “47%” look like a walk in the park.  Romney’s political strategy vis-a-vis his faith has to change this time, but Romney himself cannot.

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    Posted in Candidate Qualifications, Identity Politics, News Media Bias, Political Strategy, Religious Bigotry, Understanding Religion | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Mitt’s Mormonism Front and Center?!

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 10:22 pm, January 17th 2015     &mdash      2 Comments »

    This might have just gotten really fun.

    I was unable to listen to Romney’s RNC address Friday night, but found this ABC story the most interesting of all the post-speech analysis:

    In a speech here Friday night, Mitt Romney reminded the world that he’s a Mormon – and made clear that it would be a key part of his presidential campaign if he does decide to run for a third time.

    Romney put his faith, something he rarely spoke about or demonstrated on the 2012 or 2008 campaign trail, front and center while addressing Republican National Committee members aboard the USS Midway in San Diego, saying that those closest to him, including his wife Ann, know him not only as a businessman and politician but as a devoted leader in the Mormon church.

    “For over ten years, as you know I served as a pastor for a congregation and for groups of congregations. And so she’s seen me work with people who are very poor, to get them help and subsistence. She’s seen me work with folks that are looking for better work and jobs and providing care for the sick and the elderly. She knows where my heart is,” Romney said.

    I think ABC might be overstating things a bit, but I do think that if Romney is to run again it would be wise for him to embrace his faith more actively than he has in the past.  But I think he has to be careful how he does it.  It things are allowed to devolve into discussions of theology, it will get weird fast.  As everyone knows by now (especially Mike Huckabee), the Mormon faith is quite heterodox in the world of Christian theology.  But religion is more than theology.

    There is a term that has descended in faith discussion from sometime in the 19th century – orthopraxy - “correctness or orthodoxy of action or practice.”  In the world of the daily practice of faith, Mormons are little different than Christians of most other stripes.  That is to say, Mormon are quite orthoprax.  (There are, of course, significant liturgical differences, but outside of the confines of the church, temple, etc., we have so much in common.)  It is here in orthopraxy that Mitt should dwell if he does indeed run again.  Here bridges can and should be built.

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    The Long Knives Are Out – And Some Of Them Say “Mormon”

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:05 am, January 16th 2015     &mdash      2 Comments »

    They seem to be lining up in opposition to Romney running again.

    Check out this MSM story or Allahpundit’s round-up of negative comments from Wednesday night for a taste.  Peggy Noonan, who was not exactly supportive of Romney in 2012, at least has a couple of reasonably novel arguments.

    And then there are those arguments based on faith.  Some of them are indirect.  It is hardly coincidence that this story on John Dehlin makes the NYTimes right now.  Our Mormon readers will know Dehlin.  For the benefit of our non-Mormon readers he is a very liberal individual that has been working very hard for many years to change the Mormon view on a variety of subjects.  He has come close to ex-communication several times in the past, the fact that he is there again is hardly newsy.  It has never made as prodigious an outlet as the NYTimes before.  One has to ask, “Why now?”  The story, of course, tries to paint the CJCLDS as “intolerant,” yada, yada, yada.  Smart people know what is up with this one.

    Then check out these political blogs – Bloomberg and Nate Cohn at the NYTimes:

    But a successful challenge to Mr. Bush from the right would have to involve winning a lot of these voters, even though they have been Mr. Romney’s biggest weakness. There is no viable anti-establishment coalition that does not include large percentages of evangelical Christians. Mr. Romney — a Northern Mormon with a history of moderate politics — has not been very effective at winning them over.

    We are not going to spend any time this morning analyzing this stuff.  Our rumor mill is percolating with babble of bigger Mormon arguments brewing on the very immediate horizon, but it certainly seems like “game on.”

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    If We Are Going To Talk About It – Let’s Talk About ALL Of It

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:24 am, January 14th 2015     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Mitt Romney’s near announcement last weekend has brought out piece after piece about his “weaknesses” as a candidate.  The Wall Street Journal and Howard Kurtz trot out some pretty tired lists of failings.  With a tweet Jim Geraghty makes his first thoughts painfully and sarcastically clear.  This is all reasonable criticism, but then every single candidate ever has weaknesses and can be so criticized.  The point of politics is not to be the perfect candidate, but to be the best possible candidate working with the hand you have been dealt.  These much delineated weaknesses do not have to be viewed as disqualifiers so much as guideposts in designing a new campaign.  But these analyses also all miss a vitally important element, one that is almost completely out of Romney’s control – identity politics.

    Mitt Romney was a very religious man running for president in a nation where the opposing party is, to a great extent, opposed to religion generally and a significant portion of his own party finds his particular religion off-putting to say the least.  In the last election, the one that really matters to evaluating him as a candidate,  he ran against the first president of color in our nation’s history – an incumbent.  These things were not, and are not being, discussed amongst the punditry, it feels like bad form to do so.  But I can promise you they were discussed at the kitchen tables and in the coffee shops around the nation, and they most certainly were present in the minds of millions of voters.

    For these latter and undiscussed reasons, this writer has had his reservations about another Romney run.  I wonder if Romney’s religious identity would ever allow him to, post the primaries, unite and rally the party behind him.  Not due to a lack of capability on Romney’s part, but because a significant branch of the party would just flat out refuse.  There is strong indications that such happened in 2012.   I wonder if the efforts necessary to try and unite the party under these circumstances would leave the party severely weakened?

    That said, this blog believes what it has believed for a very long time – Mitt Romney is uniquely and outstandingly qualified to do the job of POTUS, perhaps more so than any other potential currently under discussion.

    And so since it is now clear that Romney is strongly considering a run, the discussion of strengths and weaknesses must happen.  But let’s not ignore the elephant in the room.

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    Posted in Analyzing 2012, Candidate Qualifications, Identity Politics, Political Strategy | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Sometimes The Cure Is Worse Than The Disease, But It Is Better Than Dying

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:44 am, January 9th 2015     &mdash      1 Comment »

    While the details are inappropriate to share in this space, I have spent the last two years of my life learning more about cancer than I ever wanted to.  If I could sum it all up I would have to say that we know a lot about cancer, enough to have an even better handle on what we do not know, none of it is conclusive, we just know we have to kill it before it kills us.  Some cancers, a few, we know more about and the treatment can be targeted.  But for many cancers the treatment is to almost kill the patient in hopes of killing the cancer in the process, and then nurse the patient back to health, hopefully cancer free.  It’s an ugly process, and unless you have sat with someone at the end, dying of cancer, it seems cruel – even inhumane.  It is only with the perspective of the patients actual, and excruciatingly painful, death that the radical therapies for most cancers become remotely tolerable.

    I have thought about this a lot this week as I have watched the media endlessly, almost nauseatingly, debate Islam, connections, and generally how to talk about what happened in Paris earlier this week.  As I write this “event” appears to be at an end game.  Guy Benson last night published a bit of a synopsis, with much of his own opinion sprinkled in, on the entire “discussion.”  All I know is I am very weary of the discussions.  There is much, much we do not know and much we will find out as things progress.  But we can and do know that there are people trying to kill us.

    Like cancer, they come in many forms and varieties.  Some are part of an organization.  Some are highly trained.  Some have almost no training but are highly organized.  Some are just crazy, but inspired in their insanity by a virulent and ugly viewpoint with religious roots.  They all spring from this common root, no matter what the actual connection is.

    I have learned in my sojourn of the last two years that some cancers are now so treatable that one almost hesitates to hang the name “cancer” one them.  The name carries with it a dread, a shadow of death so pronounce, that to hang it on some thing that is rarely fatal seems to abuse the term.  But they are still cancers and left untreated they will be as ugly, painful, and deadly as  the ones that still invoke complete primal fear.   All cancers, treatable or not, spring from the same root and will, left unchecked, kill you.

    So it is with the rash of attacks that have plagued us for several decades now.  Some may be more easily dealt with than others, but they all will kill us if we do not deal with them.  Even George W Bush, who was infinitely more aggressive in his efforts to treat this terrorism cancer than the current administration, seemed hesitant to admit that the cure may be far uglier, and least before the end stage, than the disease.

    Here is what the events of this week in France make quite, quite plain.  Like cancer, they will kill us unless we first kill them.  If we keep trying to fine tune the diagnosis and pinpoint the treatment, the disease will simple progress beyond the point where we can do anything but manage our own death.  There is no more time for debate or discussion.  Yes, the researchers can continue to research and experiment and try to make the treatment less ugly.  But they must do so in parallel with efforts to aggressively kill the disease with the tools we have at hand, blunt instruments though they may be.

    Decades ago, I took a journey with some friends through the leukemia death of their son.  I forget how many rounds of chemo their were, but it was several and each one was uglier than the one that proceeded it.  That boy suffered in ways that were previously unimaginable to me.  And then there came the time when all involved knew the chemo would do no good and there was only making the young man as comfortable as possible until he went to a better place.  The pain and agony of those last weeks made the years of chemo seem like a trip to Disneyland.  Until those last weeks I had wondered if the chemo was really worth it.  Those last weeks blasted all such questions from my mind.  No one should die like that.

    War is ugly.  But war is what we have handed to us.  Deciding it is too ugly to contemplate is simply to invite an even uglier death.  It is time to get very, very serious about prosecuting this war.

    Of course it will not happen on Obama’s watch.  He seems impervious to the pain his policy creates.  But this should deeply affect the campaign that now begins.

    The campaign for the presidency, 2016, should not merely be about candidates positioning themselves to get elected.  It should be a test of leadership.  That leadership will be expressed in the candidate or candidates that can get the nation to understand the terrorism cancer that threatens us and convince us that we have to do what we have to do to survive.  I know, national security elections have seemed a thing of the past.  I am looking for the candidate that can make 2016 a national security election.  Anything less threatens our very existence.

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    The Only Candidate Ever To Overtly Play The Mormon Card

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 09:06 am, January 4th 2015     &mdash      1 Comment »

    So, on his TV show yesterday, Mike Huckabee more or less announces his presidential bid.  As Jeb Bush before him, technically this is an exploratory move not and actual announcement, but seriously?  The guy just gave up his major income source – That’s a commitment.  His announcement made a lot more press than Santorum, but not so much as Jeb Bush.  That’s about right.  Look for Huckabee to make a big splash, but to little effect.

    Huckabee was one of the key elements that cost Romney the nomination in 2008.  He did so by overtly playing the Mormon card in a NYTimes interview in the run up to Iowa; therefore won Iowa, and robbed Romney of momentum he counted on to carry himself through.  When I reviewed our in-the-moment coverage of the interview, I found I had written this little gem about the Huckabee candidacy:

    It’s the non-substantive campaign. Elect a rock star.  I thought the Democrats were the only ones that did this….

    I cannot see anything, eight years later to change my analysis.  I find Huckabee’s timing interesting.  He sat out 2012 (After 2008 I am sure he did not want to compete with Romney again.), and now intends to be the GOP rock star in the tail of the ultimate rock star presidential comet on the Democratic side. He will be a media star.  Why?

    Well, for one he is willing to do things like play the Mormon card.  In other words he’ll give the press what they want.  Heck, he is almost by definition the pastiche of a GOP candidate that the media thinks a GOP candidate actually is – a little nutty religiously, demonstrably somewhat bigoted, Southern, white, and currently overweight. In places like MSNBC land (assuming they hang on through 2016) he will be THE GOP candidate – just not so much with actual GOP primary voters.  He might win a few, but the nomination?  Not likely.

    I believe in sacred callings, I really do, but this is how Huckabee announced he was leaving his show yesterday, “But I also realize that God hasn’t put me on Earth just to have a good time or to make a good living but rather God’s put me on Earth to try to make a good life.”  Invoking the Almighty as a reason to run for president is simply asking to be ridiculed by the left and portrayed as a religious nut bar.  Romney never said anything remotely like that, and he was the one that was, supposedly, from the religion that bred such religious nutcases.  George W. Bush, a man of deep personal religious devotion often discussed his faith but never claimed divine calling to the White House.  Is the presidency even necessary to “make a good life”?

    Make no mistake, Huckabee has considerable political gifts; that is why he will win a few.  But with voters truly fed-up with a president of seemingly enormous political skill and no substance, I find it hard to believe they will bite on this bit of bait.  He should have more resources than he had in 2008.  For one thing he personally has much more personal wealth, TV will do that.  TV should also give him a more deeply committed campaign core of volunteers than he enjoyed in 2008.  I expect him to perform better than he did in 2008, but that is still not winning, despite his much ballyhooed “second place.”

    In the end, this saddens me.  This is part of politics as circus.  Our nation is in deep, deep trouble.  We need serious candidates with serious solutions to serious issues.  We need a candidate that will elevate the voting public, not cater to their bias and thirst for infotainment.  There will be candidates, Santorum for example, that are there to represent a certain point-of-view.  They really are not there to win, but to make sure that a given constituency in the party has a voice.  That’s an act of generosity and sacrifice.  But then there are those that are there to boost their speaking fees, or because they have an over-inflated view of their own importance.  It is plain before our eyes what happens when the public takes seriously such candidates.

    Huckabee will be part of shaping this race. 2008 proved he has that capability.  The question is will he use that capability to the betterment of the nation?  He did not in 2008.  He handed us John McCain – a weak candidate.  Could Romney have beaten Obama in 2008?  Probably not, if he could not beat him in 2012, it is unlikely that he could have beaten in in ’08 when Obama was an entirely unknown quantity.  But I do believe Romney would have left Republicans in a stronger position after the ’08 election than McCain did.

    I will conclude this post by asking a simple question about the Megan Keely clip below.  Faux Pas or Freudian Slip?

     

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