"No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."
Neil J. Young pens a review of a new book, The Mormon Image in the American Mind: Fifty Years of Public Perception, by J.B. Haws. (HT: Ed Stetzer). I quote from the review with emphasis added:
Growing up in central Florida, I did not go to the beach for spring break. Instead, nearly every March my family would escape the swampy humidity of Orlando for the crisp mountain air of Utah. Skiing throughout the week, we’d often take one day from the slopes to rest our legs and explore Salt Lake City—which usually meant a visit to Temple Square, the institutional and symbolic heart of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There, earnest missionaries would bear their testimonies of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ brought about by the prayerful seeking of a young Joseph Smith. We’d exchange knowing glances at these moments; we were Southern Baptists, and we knew a lot about Mormonism. A good bit of that knowledge, it turned out, was erroneous, but it was the product of a concerted effort begun by the Southern Baptist Convention in the 1980s to make its members more mindful of Mormonism, a “heretical” faith that was gaining sizeable Baptist converts.
The Mormon Image is bookended with the tale of two Romneys: George Romney’s 1968 run for president and his son Mitt’s 2008 and 2012 bids for the White House. In 1968, George Romney faced hardly any questions about his faith, a fortunate inheritance from JFK’s history-making victory eight years prior. If anything, Americans saw Romney’s Mormonism as an asset, proof that he was a trustworthy and upstanding man. A 1967 Gallup poll found 75 percent of voters had no hesitation voting for a Mormon for president. Yet forty years later, Mormonism likely prevented Mitt Romney from capturing his party’s nomination. In 2007, 29 percent of Republicans had indicated they “probably or definitely” would not vote for a Mormon. As Haws writes, “being a Mormon in the public eye meant something different in 2008 than it did in 1968.”
And so, confronted with America at its weakest internationally since before WWII made us a superpower , Obamacare wrecking untold medical and financial havoc at home, a President that thinks he can pick and choose which laws he wants to obey, and an American public demoralized, who has helped and who has hurt the nation?
It is a question worth very serious consideration by very many parties.
Over at Powerline this morning Romney speechwriter, Gabriel Schoenfeld, presents a nutshell statement of the thesis of his new e-book – A Bad Day on the Romney Campaign: An Insider’s Account:
What does Mitt Romney’s defeat last November mean for the future of the Republican party? One’s answer hinges, in large measure, on one’s understanding of what caused Romney to lose to a remarkably vulnerable incumbent….
…I try to account for a long chain of mistakes that led the campaign to misfire in the middle of the national-security crisis that erupted in Cairo and Benghazi on September 11, 2012. As I attempt to show, the errors made in that episode did not happen in a vacuum. Rather, they were one of the consequences of a vision of American politics embraced by Romney and his top strategists. The problem before them in the quest for the presidency was, at its core, conceived of as an advertising and marketing challenge.
That vision of politics failed and the consultants Romney hired—if not political consultants as a class—are now fighting for their livelihoods, if not their lives. “Should We Shoot All the Consultants Now?” was the title of a panel discussion held at a recent conservative conclave. As that blunt question makes plain, at least some Republicans comprehend that turning politics into nothing more than a subsidiary of the advertising and marketing business, as the Romney campaign attempted to do, is the path to repeated failure.
The RNC postmortem does not beat around the bush. Politics, in its vision, is the art of best matching a candidate’s positions to the preferences of voters as those preferences are revealed in polls and focus groups. To this end, great weight is placed in the report on the urgency of gathering ever more information about the electorate. In particular, explains the report, “we need to know what language is most likely to motivate a donor or a voter and convert them into a vote for Republican candidates.” To discover exactly the right collection of words—the magical incantation— for getting votes, the “use of data and measurement is critical.”
The RNC’s quest for better data so that it can have better “messaging” is not a mechanism for leadership. It is a mechanism for following the crowd. There is a notable irony here; the professionals are proposing not only the degradation of deliberative democracy, but also a mechanism for losing race after race. Voters do not need to “run a pretest” to identify and be repelled by a candidate who is painstakingly cleaving to the incantations derived from focus groups and polls.
Both as a candidate and as a president, George W. Bush had his share of defects. But one of the reasons he twice won presidential elections is that he was exactly who he said he was. Voters could tell, and they liked that in a leader. Both as a man and as a governor, Mitt Romney had his share of virtues, and no doubt they would have been on display had he become president. But one of the reasons he lost twice is that he was often not who he said he was. Voters could tell that, too—the artificiality of his focus-group-chosen language was often striking—and they did not like it at all. A good marketing team would have understood that packaging Mitt Romney as something he was not was a mistake. Indeed, a really good marketing team would not have packaged him at all. They would have let this impressive man be himself.
More pertinently, this impressive man could himself have chosen to remain himself. David Frum maintains that Romney, one of the Republican Party’s “most articulate and intelligent standard-bearers in decades,” was “forced” by ideological conservatives “to jettison his own best self and best judgment.” There is of course something to this argument. Conservatives in key states, the argument continues, have a lock on the primary process. If Romney had not concealed his true moderate self and tacked to the right, he would have had little chance of capturing the Republican nomination. We cannot rerun history backward to see if such an analysis is correct. But a case can be made that voters of every stripe, including conservatives, would have had far more respect for Romney if he had resisted the conservative Siren calls to sail in their direction and, instead of posing as a “severe conservative,” had stood fast for what he believed.
In the wake of defeat, the Republican Party needs to strike out in a radically new direction—actually, not a radically new direction, but a radically old one–a conservative one, one in which “intuition, gut instincts, [and] ‘traditional’ ways of doing things,” the very things that the GOP professionals would mindlessly toss away, are again properly valued. Recapturing the White House will be difficult, but all the same it is simpler than the professionals would have us believe. We don’t need the APIs and other gizmos and the data analytic institute that they are recommending. What we need is a candidate who understands the country and its problems, is knowledgeable about its history, has a vision for its future, doesn’t buy the snake oil that the consultants are peddling, and unabashedly says what he believes. Mitt Romney could have been that candidate. Sadly, this man of so much promise and ability chose a different path.
I was neither as close to the campaign as Schoenfeld, nor am I a political pro, nor have I read the book, but reacting to this pocket argument, I think it suffers from two glaring problems. Problem one is that the candidate that did beat Romney in the last election won precisely because he did the data stuff that Schoenfeld argues against so much better than Romney. If you want to talk about a gap between the candidate’s “true” nature and his campaign rhetoric you need look no further than Barack Obama. Whether Schoenfeld wants to admit it or not, the stuff he says is inadequate just won two presidential elections. It is infuriating, particularly for conservatives, that image triumphs over substance, but here we are. Maybe Schoenfeld addresses this in the book, but if he does not, I would have to find the book as woefully short-sighted.
Now, that said, I too prefer a world where such apparent subterfuge is not the stuff of politics. And, I cannot disagree that conservatives, far more than liberals, tend to see through such and it can serve as a de-energizer for the base, but one must remember that elections are won by holding the base and winning the middle, not playing to the base. Barack Obama seems to make it transparent that such is how to win the middle. From this perspective, that means the base has got to wise up just a bit, Lord knows the liberal base has.
As to Romney “being himself” – here is where the second issue arises that this pocket presentation does not address. Conventional wisdom is that Romney lost the 2008 primary precisely because, a) his strategy hinged on winning Iowa, and b) far right conservatives and Evangelicals in Iowa organized against him precisely because he is a Mormon. Therefore, one must conclude that even if his strategy in 2012 did not hinge on Iowa, he had to de-emphasize his faith. And yet, his faith is precisely at the core of “himself” – I do know he and his family well enough to know that to be definitively true. You simply cannot talk about what Romney “should have done” without a serious discussion of how to handle his faith. Again, maybe the book does so, but this synopsis does not and therefore makes the book unattractive to this reader.
There is a two-way street here. Republican candidates might be more tempted to move to the right if they right were not so fickle, but Romney’s two campaigns seem to illustrate that moving to the right is not enough. In 2008 he was sincerely himself and could not get out of the primaries because of his ideology. If Schoenfeld is to be believed in 2012 he tried to be something else and THAT is the reason he lost. Somewhere in the mess, the right has got to make peace with compromise – move a bit more to the center. Schoenfeld seems to argue that it is up to the candidate to “lead” them there. I would challenge Schoenfeld to show me exactly where Obama has lead Democrats and how he has done so. They just seem to be smart enough to understand that lining up behind a guy, even if he is not ideal, and getting him elected is the best path to their particular agenda. Is it really too much to ask that of our side?
Why is it that liberals feel no qualms about being rude? Far too many people who are perfectly polite and courteous, otherwise, think nothing of insulting you for not sharing their political opinions.
Pretty good question, is it not? He cites example after example. Here’s a couple:
Liberals have no shame. A dinner guest in our home stood up at the table, clinked his wine glass and said, “It shows how stupid the American people are, they voted for Bush twice.” He turned to me, smirking, and said, “I know you voted for him.” A biochemist who had been too busy learning liberal doctrine instead of the basic manners of being a guest.
We also had dinner with a couple who spent the evening trashing Rudy Giulliani, claiming that the former mayor of New York had nothing to do with turning the city around, even though he took office in a crime-ridden city and stepped down when it was safe. It would have happened anyhow, they said. As we said goodnight in the driveway, one said with a grin, “We like you even if you are Republicans.”
and he concludes:
President Nixon proposed a healthcare plan that was blocked by Senator Ted Kennedy, and the senator later apologized for putting political interests ahead of the good of the country. He had not wanted Republicans to get credit for accomplishing something positive.
This is a critical time in America. Instead of taking sides we should be working together. Now is the time for liberals to emulate Ted Kennedy and, instead of automatically ridiculing conservatives for digging into questions about Benghazi, the IRS and the seizure of press records, help us find the truth – no matter what that might turn out to be.
That conclusion shows what results from such an approach – it forces one to embrace corruption for political survival.
But let’s return to his opening question – WHY? Every rude liberal you know will have a different answer. Most you will find, I think, are deeply personal. “I and those like me have been oppressed…” – “Well, I was treated like this….” And there in lies the rub – the left makes the personal political and vice-versa. Such is a result of absenting religion from public discourse. There are two ways in which this is easily demonstrated.
For most who are serious about their faith, religion is a personal balm. It is a place where one takes one’s feelings and finds comfort and solace when the world is unjust. Much of the great sacred music of the last 200 years or so came out of the slave camps of the old south when the slaves turned to faith in their very real and very genuine oppression. The world is neither fair nor just. Religion teaches us that we are “sinners” and that as such we will always mess up. Faith teaches us how to cope with a world of sinners, we don;t always need to try and fix it.
Which leads me to the second way that religion helps. Faith allows us to see beyond ourselves and our needs. For example – it allows us to see a world of sinners, even if we are unable to confront our own sin. By acknowledging a greater power, usually the God of Christianity, we gain a perspective on a problem that allows us to understand that our own personal concerns, painful though they may be, are not the definitive issue in the problem.
A personal view of the political allows for rudeness. When it is personal, disagreement is not with ideas, but with the person holding the ideas. Thus disagreement is insult and rudeness seems a reasonable response to insult.
I have many stories of such rudeness that I could share as well. There is one thing I know – we can ill-afford to respond in kind. If we dip into the game of dismissal, insult and rudeness, tempting though it is in the face of the onslaught, then we are playing on their turf, not our own. But more importantly, to do so is to abandon the perspective that our faith gives us, and therefore in some sense to hold less of our faith. We lose when that happens.
California senators introduced a bill on Thursday that would strip the Boy Scouts of America of its tax-exempt status in the state.
They’re not happy with the group’s recent vote on gay membership, saying it didn’t go far enough.
The bill passed the Senate 27-9.
Welcome to the chilling new age.
Coercion has replaced convincing. Decades upon decades of good acts and making good people is to be punished over a legitimate disagreement on a single issue!? This is abuse of government at its absolute worst. How can a government even dream of singling out an organization in this fashion? One organization! The power of government is being used not on a policy basis, but on a punitive, highly aimed basis. Was it not opposition to such government action that our nation was founded upon?
The threats of this action I have understood. Such threats are powerful rhetoric and policy changes are wrought in rhetoric. But to actually pull the trigger and act, and to do so based on a compromise action is frightening. This is political violence, make no mistake. We are unleashing forces that we may not be able to control.
This is the kind of thing that tells us there is more work to do if politically conservative Evangelicals and Mormons are really going to link arms on important issues.
We will probably never know if significant numbers of Evangelicals stayed home on Election Day 2012, or refused to vote for Romney, based on the GOP candidate’s religion. If they did, it was because of nonsense like this.
Fischer is a known dummy and worked hard against Romney because, Fischer so stated, of Romney’s religion. He is was one of the Iowa ringleaders and he gladly takes credit for 2008. I believe Romney effectively neutralized him in 2012. This sort of thing, odious as it is, is relatively isolated.
We will never know for certain if Evangelicals stayed home in 2012, but the evidence is awfully strong that they abstained from voting for Romney in significant numbers. My personal theory is that Evangelicals 1) are dissatisfied with “the establishment” generally and 2) were, we now know, actively suppressed from organizing. Put those things together and you have a very close race, when the president’s record should have had him far behind Romney. I believe that the steps Romney was forced to take to neutralize guys like Fischer contributed to the Evangelical ennui.
Under these circumstances is does not take “significant numbers” to make a difference. Very small numbers will do the trick if they are strategically located. But it is the combination of these factors that set the table for this sort of nonsense to make a difference. Absent the scandalous intimidation of the the Obama administration, most notably from the IRS, this stuff would not have been enough of a blip to matter.
Fischer should not have mattered, but he did because this administration, if not the most corrupt, is certainly shaping up to be the most unethical in history. The scandalous and the stupid – and effective, if disappointing combination.