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."

  • Thank you, Mr. Romney

    Posted by: JMReynolds at 10:48 am, August 28th 2012     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Mr. Romney will soon be the nominee of my party, an honor that eluded him four years ago and that his father never achieved.

    Outsiders think of running for President of the United States as a glamorous job, but Mr. Romney surely has given up more so far than he has gotten from the Grand Old Party.

    First, Mr. Romney did not need to run for office to have a good life. He is at the age when men in his position think of retiring. He is a wealthy, healthy man that turned his attention to public service following the example of his father and the Father of our Country: George Washington. This is surely a commendable thing.

    Second, Mr. Romney’s immediate award for service was abuse. President Obama and former President George W. Bush were examples of the kind of abuse he could expect. Mr. Obama has been denied his birthplace, been the subject of racist attacks, and called “antichrist.” Mr. Bush was compared to Hitler, had his faith questioned, and was compared to a chimp. Mr. Romney knew that he would go from collecting philanthropic awards at adoring “roasts” to this sort of attack.

    In a Republic, this is not altogether unhealthy, we put no trust in princes, but a successful man cannot enjoy it.

    Third, Romney picked Mr. Ryan as his force presidential level appointment. He picked a man to help him govern and not just to win an election. Mr. Romney is a leader unafraid of strong people who might overshadow him. Like William McKinley with Theodore Roosevelt, Mr. Romney was aware of the fact that many delegates and voters will prefer Mr. Ryan to him, but Romney has the self-confidence to know if he wins, then he will be President.

    By picking Ryan, Mr. Romney presents Americans with a real choice in this election.

    Fourth, I am thankful that as we have learned about Mr. Romney’s finances, we have been set an example of generosity. From classical times, a good leader was expected to be magnanimous. Romney is. He reminds me to do better.

    Finally, Mr. Romney has forced me to learn more about his church. He knew the hostility and bigotry that Mormons have historically faced. Americans murdered the founder of his faith, after all. And yet, he has been a nearly-perfect representative of how a good American negotiates the tension between faith and patriotism. He has spoken eloquently and well on faith and government in a way far superior to President Kennedy.

    He hasn’t left his Mormon values at the voting booth door. He is forcing American bigots to stop standing in front of the door of the White House.

    Whatever the outcome, Mr. Romney is running a race that should Americans proud that he will be honored with the same nomination as Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Reagan.

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    Romney-Ryan: The Mormon-Catholic ticket

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 06:46 am, August 11th 2012     &mdash      2 Comments »

    Jeff Greenfield appears to be the first to note this factoid:

    Ryan only 2nd Catholic ever on GOP national ticket (Wm. Miller, ’64, only other one).

    That Ryan’s faith came up pretty much as an afterthought is significant in itself.

    BONUS: Romneys’s “Be Not Afraid” ad.

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    Posted in Electability, Political Strategy, Prejudice, Religious Bigotry, Uncategorized | 2 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Romney Triumphant

    Posted by: JMReynolds at 12:01 am, May 14th 2012     &mdash      1 Comment »

    This weekend Mitt Romney won the presidency, because he won the hearts and minds of  a majority of Americans. If you are in the sizable minority immune to his message, you will not understand this, but in the hills of West Virginia, in upstate Michigan, and in rural Nevada they will get it.

    They may not know it yet, but the man who spoke at Liberty University is the man Evangelicals have awaited. He was honest, he was plain, he was a gentleman. He did not pretend to agree with the theology of the Liberty University audience, but the crowd there knows their Bible and they know that a God who can anoint the Persian Cyrus can find his man any place.

    And Romney, or at least his speech writer, was on point. He did not fall for the latest shiny distraction of the Obama campaign, but laid out the essential differences. Romney stands with Liberty for the future. There is no future in adopting ancient decadence sped up with technology. There is no victory in growing angry and merely reacting with the slogans of past campaigns.

    Some media did not understand his message. They wanted the Governor to fixate on one issue, but Romney is not a hater. He is an American,  so he is happy to see people left alone, but unwilling to change the Constitution and our heritage lightly or because of one generation’s claims. Romney likes Christian morality.

    Many Americans have seen the future President Obama has painted and have decided: “No thank you.” Governor Romney suggested an alternate view at Liberty and the forty-six percent that voted for John McCain will be behind him with a large chunk of the middle that gave the President a chance.

    Decent men will not lightly abandon a good man like President Obama, but a majority will vote him out of office if he fails. Romney is pressing the case that he is failing. Americans develop dispositions based on the economy, but they vote their consciences.

    The economy has made them surly, but Romney refused to play to their fears. At Liberty, he appealed to the better angels within us.

    Mitt Romney only needs Evangelicals to come home, moderates to trust him, and the base to give him a chance. Mitt Romney in Lynchburg showed the capacity to do all three. He  did not ignore difference, but stressed common ground with the vast Evangelical plurality. He is a moderate man by nature and expressed his views without rancor and he appealed to the grandness of the Grand Old Party.

    He tied economic progress to moral decency. A rich, but wicked Babylon is no fit place for republicans. A poor, but virtuous nation cannot defend herself in a dangerous world.

    This man will win. Count on it. This weekend made Mitt Romney the next President of the United States . . . if he can repeat the Lynchburg mantra: a decent America works.

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    The Forming Of A Narrative – From “Weird” to MEAN!

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 03:16 pm, May 10th 2012     &mdash      5 Comments »

    It started late last week when a homosexual adviser to Romney resigned – perhaps in a set-up.  Obama turned up the volume on the gay agenda when he endorsed same sex marriage yesterday.  The narrative came to fruition this morning with the “in-depth expose’” concerning Romney’s high school years in the Washington Post.  The WaPo story tell a couple of interesting tales.  The lede:

    Mitt Romney returned from a three-week spring break in 1965 to resume his studies as a high school senior at the prestigious Cranbrook School. Back on the handsome campus, studded with Tudor brick buildings and manicured fields, he spotted something he thought did not belong at a school where the boys wore ties and carried briefcases. John Lauber, a soft-spoken new student one year behind Romney, was perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality. Now he was walking around the all-boys school with bleached-blond hair that draped over one eye, and Romney wasn’t having it.

    “He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!” an incensed Romney told Matthew Friedemann, his close friend in the Stevens Hall dorm, according to Friedemann’s recollection. Mitt, the teenaged son of Michigan Gov. George Romney, kept complaining about Lauber’s look, Friedemann recalled.

    A few days later, Friedemann entered Stevens Hall off the school’s collegiate quad to find Romney marching out of his own room ahead of a prep school posse shouting about their plan to cut Lauber’s hair. Friedemann followed them to a nearby room where they came upon Lauber, tackled him and pinned him to the ground. As Lauber, his eyes filling with tears, screamed for help, Romney repeatedly clipped his hair with a pair of scissors.

    and a few pages later:

    But Friedemann and several people closest to Romney in those formative years say there was a sharp edge to him. In an English class, Gary Hummel, who was a closeted gay student at the time, recalled that his efforts to speak out in class were punctuated with Romney shouting, “Atta girl!” In the culture of that time and place, that was not entirely out of the norm. Hummel recalled some teachers using similar language.

    And there you have it – Romney painted as bully, and specifically a bully that aims himself at homosexuals.

    “Anti-bullying” campaigns have been springing up all over the nation in the last few years, and I have wondered if they weren’t just a new cover for the homosexual agenda.  This seems to make it transparently so.  Make no mistake, behind the development of this “Romney as bully” narrative is anti-Mormon fervor – a grudge that has been nursed and coddled and matured to incredibly vile levels within the LGBT community since the passage, with significant help from the Mormon community, of Prop 8 in California.

    I personally think it is a huge mistake for Obama to dance this dance with this constituency - the man has plenty of skeletons in his youthful closet; one’s that involve actually illegalities and self-admission.  Reports of the Romney events are however, hearsay at best.  (“While the Post reports White as having “long been bothered” by the haircutting incident,” he told ABC News he was not present for the prank,….)  Daniel Foster said at the Corner:

    It reminded me that I spent my youth first getting incessantly picked on — mostly fatso stuff, but also some nerd stuff and poor kid stuff — and then, as soon as I got physically strong and clever enough, returning the favor with gusto. (I recall middle school in rural Florida mostly as a series of fistfights of mixed result.) It wasn’t until sometime later in high school that the question of how to be a Man, much less a Good Man, even occurred to me, and I’m still trying to sort out the answer.

    The point is that kids — especially teenage boys — are %#&!s. If we’re to be judged by the people we were at 14, then I’m doomed. I don’t suspect I’m alone, either.

    My point would be that is Obama is to be forgiven his rather extensive drug use, then what is the big deal here.

    But let’s examine this for what it really is.  For Team Obama this is a much needed distraction.  For the LGBT community this is an opportunity to paint religion, and especially the Mormon faith, not just as wrong, but evil.

    As I said this morning:

    Obama cannot talk about the economy, national security or foreign policy.  In those places he is a known loser – there is his entire administration to date to prove it.  Social issues are all he has, and he knows they are Romney’s weak point.

    Obama welcomes any opportunity to talk about anything other than his record.  The more he can make this election about anything besides those big three, the economy, national security, and foreign policy, the better off he will be.  That’s just politics, but what is truly said is that he is willing to sacrifice religion to that effect.  Such reminds me the the separation of church and state was devised more to save religion from the state than vice versa.  Obama seems more than willing to throw church under the bus; not for his agenda (given how fast and complete his turn has been on this issue how can he be represented as having an agenda at all?) but for his mere reelection.

    Because I do not tread such places readily, I do not know what the left-wing blogosphere is saying, but I am fairly certain that they are saying Romney was prone to such things because  of the teachings of his faith, and if they are not, they will soon enough.  It has long been a meme of the left that religion, being so “intractable” inevitably leads to conflict.  And yet, in the wake of the passage of Prop 8, it was the LGBT incarnation of the left that took to violence in the form of vandalism committed on Mormon houses of worship, the ruination of businesses via boycott, and threats upon the life and safety of leaders of the pro-Prop 8 forces.

    It appears these stories concerning Romney’s youth are true, if suspiciously and conveniently timed, but they are due to the misjudgement of youth, not the workings of his faith.  We all made mistakes in our youth, some worse than others, but we share this in common.  Religion does not cause such mistakes, but rather helps us overcome them.  Hence the pro-Prop 8 forces used civil argument and the ballot box to win the day and those in opposition took to the streets.

    Religion is a force for good in our society.

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    Posted in Candidate Qualifications, Electability, News Media Bias, Political Strategy, Proposition 8, Religious Bigotry | 5 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    In Which I Discuss an Open Convention

    Posted by: JMReynolds at 02:24 pm, March 28th 2012     &mdash      1 Comment »

    My family follows politics for two reason: we care about our nation and we enjoy the game.

    The second motive is not a noble one, but politics is entertaining.

    Nothing would be more thrilling to the political fan than an open convention where anyone could become president. A boy-orator like William Jennings Bryan could electrify the convention with a speech .  . . if he came with support already. A Dick Cheney-type, too grumpy to run in the primaries, could be the nominee as a senior statesman. Delegates can vote the man or woman they wish to be President of the United States and nobody can be sure what would happen.

    Just as a Constitutional Convention, once called, could do almost anything so could an open GOP convention.

    That’s why most sane Americans oppose calling a Con-Con and all good Republicans dread an open convention.

    Why?

    For the very reason it is appealing: anything could happen and when anything can happen the result is generally worse not better.

    Call me a cynic, but if so the Founders were cynical. They knew that when called to revise the Articles of Confederation, they had gone a bit mad and written an entirely new document. With men like Washington around, they did not go aground, but they might have. Counting on James Madison or George Washington getting the ear of a Convention is like counting on politicians to do the right thing: it happens, but should always make us grateful when it does.

    Mitt Romney will have the most delegates and have received the most primary votes at the start of an Open Convention. If he is denied the nomination, what happens to those votes? Would we really nominate someone who received fewer votes than Romney or someone who received none at all? What would happen to the fourth of the Party that really likes Romney?

    Secondly, primary vetting exposes candidates strengths and weaknesses in ways that a convention would not. Rick Perry was the kind of guy, with his big block of Texas delegates, who might have come out of the Convention. Imagine that first debate with Obama.

    Third, open conventions would be nasty. Romney has built his campaign for years. He would not go down without a fight. That fight would in HD in living rooms all over America.

    Fourth, we are less likely to get a unifying figure than a bland character acceptable to everyone. For every cool (though untested) General Petraeus, there is a Tim Pawlenty waiting to happen. If you think the Romney campaign is dull, imagine being The Guy Nobody Hated running against Obama.

    Finally, an open convention would end up being a brokered convention. Most delegates would find their natural leaders and those natural leaders would meet in caffeine driven rooms (where Mormons would have a disadvantage!) late at night to pick someone. This unseemly method of picking the GOP nominee would be fatal. Picking under pressure usually produces Scott Campbell not Aaron Rodgers.

    For any candidate to run hoping to produce an open convention is to pander to the political junkies watching Cable News while ignoring the regular voters would hate the ugliness on display.

    Santorum should run no further than Pennsylvania. If he doesn’t do as well there as Romney did in Massachusetts (or at least Michigan) . . . then he cannot win. Gingrich has no pathway. Ron Paul has no pathway. Ideally, all three would bow out now so Team Romney can switch to positive ads building up his favorables and negative ads focussed on the President.

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    The Clinton Effect

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:58 pm, March 7th 2012     &mdash      12 Comments »

    By any reasonable measure, Romney had a great Super Tuesday – He won the critical Ohio, he won 6 of 10 and he got an enormous delegate lead.  And yet, to survey the press, he barely survived.  David Brody says he is the Roger Maris of modern politics – that is to say he has an asterik.  Some, if not much, of this is, of course, attributable to a left-leaning press wanted to make the winner look weak becasue it makes their guy look strong.  But there as more at play.

    Lowell gave you the Evangelical numbers much earlier today.  Rachel Maddow and Reuters are wondering about The Question.  I do think The Question is at play here,but I have a slightly different analysis of it than the typical theological bigotry.  I want to call it “The Clinton Effect.”

    Optically, when I think of the Clinton years I think of three things:

    1. “I feel your pain.”  This was a very effective campaign statement, even if it has drawn much in the way of humor over the years.  It expresses sympathy and makes the president seems just a bit more human – more like one of the guys.
    2. “Boxers or briefs?”  By answering this question during his first campaign, Clinton forever lowered the office.   Heck, forget the presidency, it is unbecoming for a leader of any sort to answer such questions.
    3. The Monica Lewinsky affair.  Sure lots of presidents have had dalliances before, but few have done so so publicly and fewer still have lied so blatantly about it.

    These things changed radically how people view the presidency.  Now, to be fair, it’s not all Clinton’s fault, much of it is a general societal shift that Clinton reflected more than caused, but he represents the change nonetheless.  With the optics, the presidency became less about leadership and more about relationship.  What these optics represent is that people do not want a president that leads them somewhere, but a president that validates them – makes them “feel good about themselves.”

    I think we can understand how “I feel your pain” does that.  The B or B question makes him seem like just one of the guys.  People can feel good about themselves becasue one of the guys does not challenge you, he just “hangs out” as it were.  The Lewinsky affair demonstrates that the president is flawed, just like the rest of us – again, it’s validating, not leading.

    Bush ran on “compassionate conservatism” and reluctantly as a reformed drinker.  These are also validating, not leading.  The circumstances of 9-11 forced Bush to move from this amiable stance to serious leadership.  And when he did so he became one of the most reviled presidents of recent times.

    Obama has actually advanced this to some extent.  He implicitly tells us it is not our fault we are having a hard time making ends meet and that he will take care of us.  We are not only validated, we are cared for.

    This message is very much an evangelical message.  The salvation message of Evangelicalism is one of “come as you are” and let Jesus make it all better.  The gospel of Evangelicalism is largely the gospel of “God loves you just as you are and will take care of you.”

    Mitt Romney by both who he is and his faith sends a very different message.  Mitt Romney by the nature of his personal achievements challenges us not to be content with who we are, but to do much better.  The Mormon faith is a “high demand” faith.  Any Evangelical looking at the time and personal commitments that Romney has made in church service over the years is flabbergasted.  My church is very low demand by comparison yet we have a constant problem getting volunteers.  Romney’s commitment to his church would be intimidating to the average Evangelical.  Some years ago I was actually chastised for asking too much of volunteers in my church when I was tasked with recruiting them.

    I am beginning to think that this is Romney’s real Mormon problem.  It’s not that his religion is so different, it is that the nature of his religion and how he has practiced it demands that Evangelicals take their faith and their committment to their religion far more seriously than they actually do.

    Early today Jim Geraghty quoted Patrick Ruffini:

    We have created this thing where there is money in speaking to the conservative subculture that conservatives can’t speak to the country. When you can make a decent living off Fox appearances and book contracts, you aren’t going to change when you run for President. There is strikingly little thought given to applying conservative principles to the median voter. That doesn’t mean compromise. Compromise is unnecessary because voters don’t care about ideology. Rather its selling yourself as one of them. Success lies in selling whatever ideology you have as moderate, sensible and normal. That is the essence of politics. Reagan was a conservative. You know what he also was? A salesman. [emphasis added]

    Clinton was not bad doing the job as Democrat presidents go – not great, but not bad.  But it is not his function in office that we have walked away with – it’s the things I looked at earlier.

    Much has been said about Mitt Romney “running on biography.”  It is great and inspiring biography, but there are not many of us left that want to be inspired anymore – most of us want to be validated.  Evangelicalism is the most populous form of Christianity in the nation today because it is less inspiring and more validating.

    This I think is the source of much of the resistance that we see to Romney, particularly amongst Evangelicals.  Frankly, I think such reflects poorly on Evangelicals.  If this nation is going to return to the kind of economic engine it should be, it’s not going to be because the president makes it alright – it is going to be because we – all of us- get busy making it so.  It is going to be because we work hard and stretch and challenge ourselves.  We will have to take risks and not simply be validated.  We will have to once again be willing to fail in order to learn how to succeed.

    Romney does not need to change who he is, but he does need to learn to inspire us to be more like him, in matters both of character and of hard work.  We don’t have to believe like him, we just have to e committed as he was, to our work and to our faith.

    Addendum the next morning: A couple of interesting sources are beginning to acknowledge that Mormonism may be the resistance issues for Romney – the New Yorker and Salon.

    Something to consider – briefly.  If Mormonism is the issue, either as I describe it here or in as a more straightforward bias, what does that say about the general?  Religious motivations being what they are, I think that if it is the problem those that have it will be more likely to stay home in the general than those that simply have the standard sort of political issue with Romney.  But as Salon analyzes most of those are in the south where there are other issues with Obama, equally distasteful.  Is it a wash?  Can these issues be decisive?

    One thing seems certain to me – as Romney continues to solidify his lead he will have to make some efforts specifically to smooth over this particular rough patch.

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    Posted in Candidate Qualifications, Electability, Political Strategy, Understanding Religion | 12 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

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