I think analysis this early in an election this dramatic is barely worth the electrons used to distribute it. Too much data, way too many emotions running rampant, and amazing shifts in voter behavior require thought and deep reflection, which take time. But like everyone else, I have some initial thoughts and they centered on an amazing thing – Same-sex marriage prevailed as a ballot measure in four states, all the places it was being considered. That is an incredibly dramatic shift in public opinion on something very deeply fundamental in a very short time. It was just 4-6 years ago that it had NEVER prevailed when put to the electorate. So, what are we make of that?
One – sociologists, political scientists and others need to get busy studying this one.
Two – clearly this is not considered “deep” by most people – it is just another issue. That represents something very scary. It would seem to indicate that everything is a matter of taste and fashion. A frightening and probably premature conclusion, but it is evidence.
Three – it’s generational. Tuesday night both I in my post, and Gov. Romney in his concession speech touched on the need f or teachers and parents and others that form young people to inculcate those young people with our values. It seems clear that most young people have been inculcated with very different values. As they then come of age to vote, we see those different values spring from their generation. We have GOT to get busy.
Which brings me to the Mormon issue and the presidential election. Clearly for the electorate to change this dramatically, this rapidly, on an issue like same sex marriage, there is enormous energy behind it – ENORMOUS. We spent a lot of time during the campaign looking at how 1) The same sex marriage movement reviles Mormons because of Prop 8 and 2) that the Mormon issue was alive and well and discussed ad infinitum in the hard left places like Kos and Democratic Underground. We assumed these were isolated corners of the far left universe and therefore not very significant. However, given that to almost everyone’s amazement the high D turnout models proved to be correct, one must wonder if the energy radiated out from these far left corners more than we thought. While Mormonism was not a campaign issue, was it an energizer for the left/Democrat constituency?
Of course it was for some, and the radiative effects of that some are almost impossible to measure, but it seems reasonable to conclude that the Mormon issue played in this game though not as we might have expected.
Frankly, this scares me more than simple anti-Mormon bigotry would have. It means that religion, with the Mormons currently on point, has moved in the minds of the left from being a sort of quaint notion held by social neanderthals to being the evil enemy. We know that was true of the LGBT crowd, but if the radiative effects we propose here are in play then that view will also radiate. The so-called “War on Religion” threatens to expand beyond the border skirmishes we have seen to date. In this light the HHS mandate moves from another skirmish to a reconnaissance in force.
The closeness of the election and the divided Congress would mitigate against such things, at least on an legislative level. But this president has a penchant for regulatory overstep and the potential judicial appointments are terrifying to contemplate.
I think we still need a few days the nurse the wound, but we cannot take too long. There is a lot at stake.
Posted by: John Schroeder at 10:31 pm, November 6th 2012 &mdash 2 Comments »
As I start to write it is a little after 11PM Eastern, 8PM Pacific. The votes are still being counted, but we have not gained the Senate, and as of about 30 seconds ago (as I write), they just called Ohio for Obama (though the numbers do not appear to justify the call to my untrained eye) and it appears to be over.
There is a lot of analysis to be carried on here and now is not the time for most of it. But the fact that the nation has reelected this man under these circumstances indicates that something has changed radically in the hearts and minds of the American people. We have voted for appeasement and economic sluggishness. The marriage propositions are not fairing well at the moment, and that is a giant exclamation point on the idea that something very fundamental has changed in this nation.
I truly believe we are at a point in the nation’s history where we need to get back to basics. At this point it is not about the vote – it is about the other institutions that help form the nation. Somehow we have not inculcated in the nation’s voters the ability to soberly look at the situation and assess what is the best path for the nation – not just necessarily for themselves, or their emotional state. No longer, it seems, do Americans wish to improve themselves, instead they seem simply satisfied with just getting by. We seem to care less about morality than about feeling good.
While the politicians need to retool and retrench, there is much more needed. We have got to work to take back the hearts and minds of the nation. A conservative law professor friend of mine said to me a while back that he had watched the faculty of his law school turn slowly liberal because the conservatives did not ask about ideology when hiring, just credentials. We have to change that.
In the world of Godblogs there has been a lot of talk that churches have become more political than religious. I am not sure that is true, but they have been told people how to vote without telling them why – that has to change.
Clearly, new media has impacted, but not enough. The MSM narrative has carried the day which means that not enough people have heard the narrative established on talk radio, Twitter and the blogs.
Like the Wolfman, we have clearly changed, but also like him we can change back, and we can take steps to defeat the curse permanently. Right now we need to lick our wounds, but before the next full moon we need to take some steps to control the change before it wrecks too much damage. Those steps need to be more than just in the political arena – schools, churches, civic organizations and new media all need to be a part of defeating the curse. This election is a clear challenge to pastors and priests, teachers and administrators, citizens and bloggers. – in other words pretty much all of us.
So here is the question I would have us ask tonight. What are you going to do to help us lose the curse?
Posted by: John Schroeder at 03:00 am, November 6th 2012 &mdash 1 Comment »
Election Day 2008 is a day that we made history, but I do not think we made as much history as people would like us to believe. Yes, we elected the first African-American president, but did it mark an end to discrimination? I don’t think so. Had Election Day 2008 marked an end to discrimination, I don’t think we’d have noticed so much that we elected an African-American. If you notice things like that, you’re still discriminating.
We have a chance to make history today, election day 2012, too. But will it be big history or little history? The second time we elect an African-American president – little history. The first time we elect a Mormon president – little history. If nobody notices race or religion much – big history. And we will not know the answer to the big or little history question tonight either. The answer will come in the retrospective and summary pieces published over the next few weeks.
But today is also a day to reclaim history. Bigger than questions of race and religious identity are questions about just what kind of nation we want from this point forward. I don’t need to lay out for you at this juncture the deep differences between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. For some months now the differences between the European-style social democratic state that seems to be the vision of Barack Obama and the traditional American vision of small government and self-reliance that Mitt Romney represents have been spelled out for us in excruciating detail. In the last days, since September, we have seen a stark contrast between the indecision and appeasement reflexes of Obama and the assurances of American strength and resolve routinely offered by Romney. Unfortunately, we have seen this last contrast spelled out for us in the painful and regrettable deaths of four great Americans serving their nation.
For those of us of faith, the biggest difference of all is the free practice of our religions represented by Mitt Romney against the use of government coercion to make us act against our most deeply held moral convictions.
I think today we are going to see Americans make history by reclaiming history – by turning the nation back to the things that have made it great – self-reliance, economic prosperity and our fundamental freedoms. Be sure and do your part to reclaim history – VOTE!
Lowell adds . . .
It’s been six and one-half years since John and I started this blog. What an interesting journey it has been. Now is the day we decide whether Mitt Romney will be president of the United States. Amazing.
I find myself agreeing with Peggy Noonan. (I don’t always do that.)
We begin with the three words everyone writing about the election must say: Nobody knows anything. Everyone’s guessing. I spent Sunday morning in Washington with journalists and political hands, one of whom said she feels it’s Obama, the rest of whom said they don’t know. I think it’s Romney. I think he’s stealing in “like a thief with good tools,” in Walker Percy’s old words. While everyone is looking at the polls and the storm, Romney’s slipping into the presidency. He’s quietly rising, and he’s been rising for a while.
I hope she is right. What I am certain of is this: Mitt Romney is an excellent man, one of the finest of men. I think the American people have gotten a whiff of this fact, and that has something to do with why many voters have turned to him in the last four weeks.
But being a fine man is not enough. Jimmy Carter was a fine man, but an ineffective president. Romney is a fine man who is also supremely competent, a man who does not fail a trust given to him. I thought of the Governor when I read these lines by Raymond Chandler, sent to me by a friend:
…down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. He is the hero; he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor—by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world.
Posted by: John Schroeder at 04:00 am, November 5th 2012 &mdash 1 Comment »
Forgive me an extended metaphor that indulges my personal enthusiasms.
As a near lifelong fan of the superhero comic, one of the more amazing aspects of comicdom has been the military’s continued efforts to try and beat the Hulk. They, in the form of “Hulkbuster” General Ross, never quite get the message. Particularly in the early days. When I was a kid, month-after-month, Ross would send tanks (the mightiest weapons in the Army’s cache, save nukes and well nukes made the Hulk to begin with, so bad idea.) out to try and get a handle on the nation’s “Hulk problem.” Month-after-month, the Hulk would tear through the tanks like a hot knife through butter. All the tanks would ever end up doing is that their fight would serve to distract the Hulk, momentarily, from the really ginormous super-baddie he was fighting, unbeknownst to the myopic Ross, and thus give that ginormous super-baddie enough of an edge that it would look like he had a shot at beating the unbeatable Hulk.
Not to mention the fact that watching the Hulk tear through a squad of tanks like they were children’s playthings was just flat out entertaining. That is the biggest of the reasons why writers and artists put such scenes in the comics month-after-month-after-month. Despite the fact he was a dullard by even dullard standards, the sub-lingual green-and-purple monster would find the most creative ways to “smash” the tanks. The Hulk raised tank wreckage to an art form.
The first modern-era Hulk movie, directed by Ang Lee, was quite a disappointment. For most it was because it had few echoes of the Bill Bixby starring TV show of the ’70′s, which was how most people knew the character. I did not think it was a great, even good really, superhero movie, but I was not nearly so disappointed as the average movie goer, That film contained homage to the old, old comics that fanboys like me just loved – It had a scene where the Hulk did his tank thing. It was a truly lovely thing to behold – and the lack of such a scene was the biggest weakness in the otherwise much improved Ed Norton-led reboot. Having gone on for three paragraphs now, I find I must relive that tank smashing scene – it is just too much fun.
Why, Oh Why Am I Carrying On So About The Hulk?
Well, I could not help but think about it as I read through things over the weekend. As it is becoming increasingly apparent that Mitt Romney will be elected president on Tuesday, his opponents are coming at him with the same weapons that have failed repeatedly throughout the campaign. While a Romney victory is nowhere near as sure as the Hulk against tanks, tank busting images filled my mind as we saw the Mormon issue roll out one more time. The Mormon “attacks” came in all sorts of forms.
Should Mitt Romney win the presidency next Tuesday, it will mark an historic first: a Mormon couple moving into the White House.
What would this mean and look like?
Would there be “dry” state dinners, since faithful Mormons don’t do alcohol? Would Secret Service tag along to sacred ceremonies only open to worthy church members? What book would a President Mitt Romney use to take his oath of office?
We can’t be absolutely sure about all the answers. But if the practices and homes of devout Mormons like the Romneys – not to mention his history as governor of Massachusetts – are any indication, we can begin to paint a picture of what a Romney-inhabited White House might look like.
This piece is simply inane. It asks questions about whether the Romney’s will put pictures of Jesus on the walls in the White House, and whether coffee will be served. That’s just childish – and at this point in the campaign irritating – like such questions have not be asked and answered about a billion and one times. And the mention of alcohol at state dinners – let me make this very clear. I have been to Romney events where I have personally handed my scotch to a guy while I went up and had my picture taken with the Governor. It’s not an issue.
On radio and on his Internet network, the influential conservative pundit Glenn Beck frequently invokes God, religious freedom and the founding fathers, but he does not regularly discuss his own Mormon faith.
But as perhaps the best-known Mormon after the Republican presidential candidate and a major influence on evangelical Christians, Mr. Beck has emerged as an unlikely theological bridge between the first Mormon presidential nominee and a critical electorate.
This piece is actually nothing short of an effort to undo what Romney has worked so hard to accomplish – to define himself fully – not simply as “a Mormon.” It is not the kind of sophomoric garbage that CNN engaged in, but it really is too little too late. The genie is out of the bottle, and they are not going to get to stuff him back in it. In the end the piece is an attempt to explain the enormous support Romney is getting from the Evangelical community which is something we will return to in a minute.
Even some religious conservative leaders came to Romney’s defense, pointing to the stark contrast between him and a Democratic president who champions abortion rights, wants health insurance plans to cover birth control, and backs same-sex marriage. Still, among rank-and-file Christian voters, the default level of enthusiasm and grassroots activity may not be enough to tip the Nov. 6 election. “Social conservatives will vote for him, but I don’t think the passion is there for Mitt Romney,” says Republican strategist Patrick Davis, who lives here. “I’m not seeing as much fervor to make phone calls and knock on doors. He wasn’t their first choice.” The Romney campaign’s challenge is to boost excitement on the Christian Right as much as possible without alienating undecided, more-moderate voters.
Last Thursday we looked at the differences between who the press likes to call “Evangelicals” in the primary and who are “Evangelicals” in the general. It seems to me that this piece is written with the primary definition in mind, not the general. Of course there are Evangelicals that are tepid on Romney, but are they the majority? – Not even close, even if feared whisper campaigns take off.
One of the things we mentioned briefly last week was the Evangelicalism is a movement inside Christianity, it is not a religion or even a denomination unto itself. That movement is alive and well inside Catholicism, and as we have said several time, the Catholics have taken the lead in this election cycle over the Focus on the Families of the world. We see this in little ways like the Conference of Bishops launching a religious freedom website and in bigger ways as Andrew Malcolm documents:
As a result of what Catholic church leaders regard as some blatant double-dealing by the Democrat president on his ObamaCare regulations, the church has quietly launched a massive national information campaign among millions of church faithful.
Catholics are famously independent when it comes to their votes. Even if they were voting simply by religion, both vice presidential nominees are Roman Catholics, the first such time in U.S. history.
However, in such an apparently close contest, the switch of even a few hundred thousand votes in the right states could well suck sufficient ballots away from Obama to swing next Tuesday’s election toward the Republican ticket.
One of the nice things about having a cross-denominational movement is that such things radiate through the movement and not through more traditional labels the press would have us think about. The very minority “tepid” Evangelicals have a hard time sharing their movement with Catholics, just like they do with Mormons. But the vast majority of Evangelicals share a bond with the Catholics through the movement and that is a potent and mighty force indeed. But Obama, his supporters and his willing allies in the press just do not get this.
And so, like General Ross, they roll out the tanks one more time and expect them to work because they just do not understand what they are up against. The Mormon weapon lost its potency once the primaries were over – that is a simple numerical and demographic reality. Once the primaries were over the vast majority of Evangelicals who are center-right and not the fire-breathing, hell-and-damnation spouting radicals of the imaginations of the fevered left, came into play. Evangelical energy from this moderate majority, Catholic, Protestant and independent coalesced in light of two enormous strategic mistakes by the Obama administration – the HHS ruling and support of same-sex marriage.
But to change tactics and try new and different weapons would mean they would have to admit they were wrong to begin with. What is Proverbs 16:18 again? Oh yeah:
Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
Perhaps Mr. Obama concluded that the evangelical vote was his 47%. It’s generally thought that the president burned any remaining bridge to them with the gay-marriage decision that Joe Biden made for him.
The president of Ohio Christian University, Mark A. Smith, says, “The intensity of voters in the faith community is as high as I’ve seen it in the last 12 years.” The driver of that intensity is religious liberty. “We took a direct hit with the Affordable Care Act,” he says. Evangelicals watched the Obama administration’s big public fight with Catholic hospitals and charities. What they concluded is that the health-care law was a direct threat to their own private outreach programs.
Mr. Smith and others I spoke to this week cited one more reason for their enthusiasm: Paul Ryan. Steve Scheffler, a longtime GOP activist in Iowa, says it was “the best possible choice” Mr. Romney could make for the ticket. “It galvanized evangelicals.”
OK, the first reason makes some sense to me, but the last two are about Catholicism?! We remarked back in August that the Ryan pick marked a change in the “balance of power” amongst various religiously motivated voting groups, that Catholics really had taken the lead. But I do not think that explains the apparent inconsistency between behavior in the primaries and now. How can a group that worked very hard to prevent Romney from getting the nomination be ready to support him in record numbers now? After the nomination my worry was that Evangelicals were going to sit this one out, and that they were spent as a political force.
Conservative group American Majority Action trains volunteers such as Lewis and Becker to target “low-propensity” voters, or people who are not very interested in politics. They use Gravity, a mobile get-out-the-vote app that aims to filter out regular Republican voters and those who have already voted.
“I’m not doing this for Romney or the Republicans,” said Chris Littleton, who is training some 50 volunteers to use the app. “I’m doing this because I’m against Obama.”
When I read that I think the real reason for Romney’s “surge” amongst Evangelicals came into focus. As you read the Reuters piece, this is a pretty limited group of people, and it is those limits that define the difference.
Much of the problem revolves around how ill-defined the term “Evangelical” is, and the rest of it revolves around the old standby, news media bias. In one sense, “Evangelical” is about the broadest brush you can use to describe Christians. It is a movement inside denominations (including Catholicism) and it is a label used to describe most congregations that operate independently This very breadth makes it a label that can pretty easily be applied to almost any Christian that does not stand up and say “I am not an Evangelical.”
And so, the press uses the term quite loosely. It must be remembered that primaries are small affairs – only the very politically active pay attention, and even only a subset of they actually vote in the primaries. Therefore, in the context of the primary, “Evangelicals” are generally religious people that are deeply committed politically and religiously. That deep commitment produces, to some extent, the internecine bickering that the press has come to exploit.
But in the general election, the definition broadens dramatically. It now includes just about any Christian voting – most of whom lack the sort of deep convictions that mark the primary. These are the people that are as Henninger notes, “one major voting group that’s fallen off the map since the primaries.” You see the press wants to talk about “Evangelicals” when they are the deeply committed, bickering, on-the-edge-of-a-little-looney, hardcore types. But when the pool expands, and “Evangelicals” are what they really are, reasonable, mainstream, heart-of-America types, they do not want to talk about it so much.
This effect is particularly pronounce in this election because these more broadly defined Evangelicals voted for Obama in large numbers last cycle, but are leaving him as far behind as possible in this one. It is their very reasonableness that has made that true. As the truth of Obama’s governance has vastly contrasted with the now apparent misrepresentations of his campaign rhetoric, reasonable people must turn in a new direction.
As Romney sewed up the primaries, we declared Evangelicalism spent as a political force. That was and is true for the bickering types of the primaries. But the general restored the more broadly defined and reasonable Evangelicals of the American mainstream. Mike Huckabee may represent the pinnacle of a long-term cycle where average Evangelicals, just wanting to live their lives, have allowed the fringes to speak for them. Such extremes will continue to operate around the edges and the press will continue to hold them up, but smart Americans now realize that we need to be a bit more judicious about who we let speak for us. New media will prevail – again.
Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:28 am, October 31st 2012 &mdash 4 Comments »
As Frankenstorm and its aftermath dominate the news, even one week before a presidential election, there has been a Mormon related story brewing. We’ve ignored it for a couple of days because it seemed only to be amongst the fringe, but as of this morning it has been so oft repeated – even if still in the lesser followed zone, that it bears some analysis. The basic theme is that Romney is using his faith to dodge taxes. I have seen the story at least a dozen times, and I link here to a version on a website dedicated to charitable causes becasue of the extraordinary irony.
When individuals fund a charitable remainder unitrust, or “CRUT,” they defer capital gains taxes on any profit from the sale of the assets, and receive a small upfront charitable deduction and a stream of yearly cash payments. Like an individual retirement account, the trust allows money to grow tax deferred, while like an annuity it also pays Romney a steady income. After the funder’s death, the trust’s remaining assets go to a designated charity.
This sounds very reasonable, just another mechanism by which our tax code enables and favors charitable giving. This is something that our tax code has done pretty much since we amended the constitution to allow for income taxes. It is part of keeping government limited. But in the age of big government, or at least what the few remaining Obama supporters think is the age of big government, giving to charity is not a social benefit, it is avoiding taxes that the government could use for perceived social benefit. Goodness gracious, we cannot let people give voluntarily and charitably when we can use coercion to take their money from them.
But, of course, this meme has a much more sinister air than that. Bloomberg interviews “Jonathan Blattmachr, a trusts and estates lawyer who set up hundreds of such vehicles in the 1990s.”:
“The main benefit from a charitable remainder trust is the renting from your favorite charity of its exemption from taxation,” Blattmachr said. Despite the name, giving a gift or getting a charitable deduction “is just a throwaway,” he said. “I used to structure them so the value dedicated to charity was as close to zero as possible without being zero.”
Well, I am sure an uncharitable soul would do that, using the mechanism more as tax dodge than charity, but is that what Mitt Romney is doing? Again from the Bloomberg piece:
At the same time he is benefiting, the trust will probably leave the church with less than what current law requires, according to tax returns obtained by Bloomberg this month through a Freedom of Information Act request.
What they fail to mention is that the CRUT was established before the current limitations were set and was legally conforming when established and is therefore grandfathered.
And, of course, there is the “sinister air” that the beneficiary of the CRUT is the Mormon church. It would be fascinating to see this same thing about a Christian of a different stripe. Most non-religious lefties, which is most lefties these days, do not consider religious giving as real charitable giving. One is forced to wonder if this is really a Mormon shot or a generic religion shot in which Mormonism is simply the target du jour.
Buried very deep in the Bloomberg piece is this goody:
Paul Comstock, a financial adviser to LDS Philanthropies, an arm of the Mormon Church, said that while he wasn’t familiar with the trust, Romney and his trustee might arrange to compensate the church for the dwindling amount with other gifts.
“It may be that they’ve made provisions for the charity someplace else that will make up for what this isn’t going to give them,” Comstock said.
Oh gee, you think? I don’t have the time to do the math, but for starters it is well established that the Romney’s tithe on their income which would include the benefit they receive from the CRUT. I do not have time to do the math, but theoretically and properly managed such a trust with tithing on the pay-outs could result in a far greater contribution to the charity in question than minimizing the pay-outs and leaving a large remainder. What I do know is that regardless of how the money gets to the church, the Romney’s charitable giving is extraordinary and the sums are staggering.
But, of course, most people are not going to get into the long grass like this. Most people are going to see the headlines and the lede and simply assume the Romney’s are “pretending” to give to the church while merely dodging taxes. So if we are going to cut to the chase, let’s cut to the chase. This goes back to the snark I started with.
There is a battle in the early reconnaissance stages, in the guise of how we care for “the least of these,” between the government and charity. As government continues to take more and more, presumably to provide such care, though bureaucracy involved makes government the least efficient form of such redistributive caring imaginable, they are setting their eyes on the money that goes to charities that provide such care far more efficiently. What truly saddens me about such is that it kills the charitable impulse.
You see, charity is not just about the care provided – it is about the willful giving. We are better people when we give willingly. We are turned miserly when our money is taken from us by the force of government, even if it is done so in the name of such care. I am sure we have all experienced the happiness that comes with writing that check to our favorite cause, and the resentment that builds when we write that tax check. (I’m paying my property taxes today – and working very hard to avoid the resentment – it’s a BIG check.) Which would you rather have, a nation of happy cheerful givers or a nation of resentful, miserly taxpayers?