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."

  • First They Came For The Mormons…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:23 am, January 30th 2015     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Among the ugliest Mormon memes under which Romney has had to suffer is the charge of racism.  This charge is made because the CJCLDS was a bit later than the rest of the Christian church in emerging, officially, from its segregationist/racist past.  We all did it, we all got over it (at different rates), and it is now an artifact, not a current reality.  But in a campaign permeated with considerations of race Romney found himself painted with this entirely inapplicable and invalid brush.  There is not a racist bone in the man’s body, stories about his gardeners notwithstanding.

    From the standpoint of the non-Mormon writer on this blog, one of its chief reasons for the blog to exist is becasue you can bet if it works against Romney, they’ll use against  more mainstream Christian expressions next.  Yesterday, in The Atlantic, reliable lefty Peter Beinart did not disappoint.  Beinart accuses Bobby Jindal of bigotry because he promotes a passive cultural resistance among Christians but faults Muslims for failing to adapt to new cultures when they move to the West.  On first blush playing “semantic gotcha” comparing speeches separated by more than eleven months and thousands of miles is a game unworthy of an intellect as well formed as Beinart’s.  Beinart attempts to validate his claims here:

    Jindal supporters might resist the analogy. Christians, they might argue, don’t kill cartoonists or establish their own separate legal systems. But Jindal’s point in London was that the problems with Muslim immigrants go beyond issues of violence and law. The core danger, he insisted, is their refusal to assimilate into the culture of the countries to which they immigrate. And since Jindal has already declared that American (let alone European) culture is secular, any immigrant who refuses to assimilate into it is, by his definition, a threat.

    Except, of course, for one very pertinent fact – Christian culture is inherently non-violent while Muslim culture, at least its extreme Islamist wing which is a significant portion of Muslim culture generally, is inherently violent.  Issues of violence and law are matter of culture.  But this remains merely semantic.  That said, if we allow mere semantics to control a serious discussion about serious issues in which real people are dying then we have lost all sense of what is and is not important.

    What is plain here when one looks under the semantics is the lefty contention that religion, by virtue of having a clear and defined picture of right and wrong, is inherently bigoted.  In other words, “That worked on Romney, let’s aim broader.”

    We have seen more Mormon attacks on the undeclared candidacy of Romney in the last couple of weeks than we saw the entire last cycle.  And now we are seeing those attacks broaden to candidates of faith generally.  Some of that is due to Romney’s more open approach to his own religion in the build up.  But much of it is due to the obvious, if undeclared, battle that the current administration has fought against religious interests and concerns.  It seems clear, even before the campaign has started, that the free-for-all of a Republican primary season ahead best circle the religious wagons.  If we fight each other on those grounds, the left wins.

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    Posted in Doctrinal Obedience, News Media Bias, Political Strategy, Religious Bigotry, Social/Religious Trends, Understanding Religion | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    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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    The Romney/Mormon Meme Now in Full Play

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:18 am, January 26th 2015     &mdash      2 Comments »

    There have been rumors, and hints, and really silly comments, but with the appearance yesterday of this piece by Ashley Parker and Alex Thompson in the NYTimes, the Romney/Mormon meme hits a stride we did not see – even in 2008.

    A prominent Republican delivered a direct request to Mitt Romney not long ago: He should make a third run for the presidency, not for vanity or redemption, but to answer a higher calling from his faith.

    I hardly know where to begin with this piece.  Mike Huckabee has declared he is called by God to runBobby Jindal held a prayer rally this past weekend.  In radio interviews I have heard Scott Walker and John Kasich say they were praying about a run.  Where are the articles on the fact that their religion is motivating their considerations for a run?  Romney has made no remarks even remotely that religious.  The piece cites his speech to the RNC where he discussed his charity work related to the his church, but that is far from claiming divine inspiration or direction for a run.  Is the appearance of this article a testament to Romney’s instant front-runner status or to the NYTimes view that Mormons are weird?  If we did not have two campaign cycles to pretty much prove the later, one would tend to assume the former, but here we are.

    This is also particularly interesting because the greatest strength in the Mormon meme lies in separating Romney from the religious/conservative portion of the Republican party.  Yet pretty much every political analyst out there already sees the Republican primary as a Romney/Bush fight in the center/right arena and everybody else competing in a Over-The-Top-Rope Battle Royal in the religious/conservative arena, culminating in a final clash between the two or three to emerge from those fights.  In other words, Romney is right now already separated from the religious/conservative wing and this ammunition is best saved for the time he has to try and win them over.  Why now?

    Not to mention the fact, the separation strategy may not work this time.  Last Friday, conservative religious stalwart, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput spoke at BYU, addressing specifically the joint tasks confronting Catholics and Mormons.  Our old friend Albert Mohler has spoken at BYU several times in the last few years.  Bridges are being built as rapidly as possible. Here’s hoping they are being built faster than the NYTimes can tear them down.

    Then there is the article itself.  For one thing it never directly cites Romney, or his family.  It cites only other Mormon friends and acquaintances.  When it comes to trying to decide what Romney and his family think it quotes the “Mitt” movie.  That is not exactly great sourcing for a piece like this, particularly in light of numerous other candidates overtly stating their religious motivations and convictions.  The case made by the sources cited is essentially that Mormonism is a religion with a strong patriotic bent and that Romney is therefore strongly patriotic and motivated to serve his nation.  Gee, patriotism and a desire to serve, particularly as opposed to rule, is a pretty good thing in a presidential candidate.  Where’s the beef?

    So at its best the piece is an effort to drum up some “Mormon garbage” where there really is none.  From a source less prestigious outlet than the NYTimes, which featured it prominently in its politics section, this piece would not be worth the time I have already given it.  But it turns despicable with these paragraphs:

    Some Mormons also believe in something called the “white horse prophecy” that, while not official church doctrine, says the Constitution will “hang like a thread” and be saved by a white horse — which some elements believe to be the Mormon Church or a prophetic church figure. High-profile Mormon candidates often reinvigorate this lore, and Mr. Romney is no exception. A longtime friend says that he has seen Mr. Romney approached at church about the prophecy.

    “It makes him uncomfortable,” said the friend, speaking anonymously to discuss a delicate topic. “He kind of laughs it off and shrugs it off and doesn’t engage.”

    No named sources, a tacit denial by Romney according to those unnamed sources, and yet this generally ignored (note the word “some,” and the “not official church doctrine” admission, in even the NYT’s account) “prophecy” of the Mormon faith just has to come up.  Innuendo is as close as Parker and Thompson can come to making the case they set out to make in the piece.  This is beyond bad reporting – this is a hit piece, both on Romney and on Mormonism generally.

    We have contended on this blog since its inception that one of the reasons to guard Romneys’s Mormon flank was because if the secular left is allowed these attacks on Mormons  They will come for other faith expressions as well.  The last six years have proven us unfortunately correct.  Yet even the closed minds of the secular left can feel the winds of change in a nation fed up with religion bashing, and with robbing the religious of their most basic freedoms.  And so they return to the attacks that they used to leverage themselves into the position they have enjoyed this last half-decade.  We cannot let it work this time.

    Lowell adds . . .

    Johnlcbrown2.jpg has pretty much nailed this latest bit of New York Times journalism.  We’ve addressed the so-called White Horse Prophecy twice now, most recently here, and there is nothing left for us to say about it.  There should be nothing left for the Times to say about it, either.  But some things are just catnip for journalists.

    I think this paragraph from the Parker-Thompson piece begs the question, “So why did you write this anyway?”

    Of course, running for president is hardly the only way to serve, and plenty of non-Mormon politicians have spoken far more explicitly than Mr. Romney about being called by God to seek higher office.

    “Romney may have a sense of calling to be willing to subject himself to another round of humiliation, but how is that different from William Jennings Bryan or, for that matter, Huckabee or Santorum,” said Kathleen Flake, a professor of Mormon studies at the University of Virginia. She was speaking of Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas who ran in the Republican presidential primaries in 2008, and Rick Santorum, who ran in 2012.

    Indeed.  How it is different?

    That said, I see this Times article more positively than John does  – in a “glass is half-full” way.  For example, this may have been the most important paragraph in the piece:

    Mr. Romney’s faith was complicated by the fact that during his 2012 run, his team was reluctant to let him mention his religion at all, creating a vacuum that hid a side of him from voters and allowed it to be filled with Democratic attack ads. The 2014 Netflix “Mitt” documentary — from filmmaker Greg Whiteley, a Mormon — offered an appealing, behind-the-scenes look at Mr. Romney as a man of faith and family. Many in his inner circle said that if he runs again, this is the version of Mitt Romney that they would present to the country.

    I happen to agree with those “inner circle” members.  The result of Romney’s 2012 avoidance of discussing his faith was that millions of voters were prevented from seeing a fundamental aspect of who the man really is.  For example, I doubt the Obama team’s effort to paint Romney as an out-of-touch plutocrat would have succeeded if Romney’s deep commitment to personal, hands-on Christian discipleship and service had been more visible.  Many of those quoted in the Times article are close to Mitt Romney.  That tells me a 2016 run would be much different regarding how he lives his Mormon faith.  Good.

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    Consistency Matters

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 10:44 am, January 22nd 2015     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    In ’05-’06 when the name Mitt Romney first emerged in the presidential lists, it was almost immediately slammed with the descriptor “Mormon.”  He never did escape it in the ’08 primaries and in ’12 it hung around like a bad penny though not so ever present.  Ben Carson has been circulating his own name in the ’16 cycle for quite a while now.  Granted, Carson is on the fringes of the contest, but he has been out there and ever present.  He is a darling within certain circles in conservatism.  And yet just today I learned he is a Seventh-Day Adventist.

    And don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against an Adventist running for, or even being, president.  It is just a matter of what is good for the goose is good for the gander.  Seventh-Day Adventism grew out of the same “burned over district” in western and central New York that Mormonism did.  But why is Romney’s Mormonism so well known and Carson’s Adventism so little known,=?

    Much of it, of course, has to do with the seriousness of that candidacies.  Romney was a major player from the outset, Carson will have to work very, very hard to get to the point where he is in the game as much as Romney was out of the starting blocks. Much of it, also, has to do with the fact that this blog and many other places have worked very hard to remove religious bias from the voting public.  But we have also been of limited success.  We have quelled the voices, but the results of the last election would indicate not so much the bias.

    But what is really amazing is that Carson’s popularity seems to be, at least in part, amongst people that found Romney’s Mormonism off putting.  Or did they?  Perhaps religion was an easy stick to grab for when the opposition was really more political in nature, but a losing argument?  If so, then deep shame is to be assigned.

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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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    When Rumors Create Stupidity

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:38 am, December 10th 2014     &mdash      1 Comment »

    So, rumor has it that a lot of Republican money is holding back hoping that a single center-right (think Romney or Jeb Bush) candidate will appear.  Goodness knows they should have been writing checks the day after the mid-terms.

    That’s the stuff of politics.  Every serious source this blog has still says the chances of Romney running are practically non-existent, but that there is a great deal of pressure being applied in an effort to get him to change his mind, so most if this is speculative reporting at best.  But apparently the speculation is really scaring the people that worked so hard to help Romney lose last time – you know, the hardcore “Christian” types that would rather have the nation-rending, America weakening, violence tolerant administration we currently enjoy over having a *shudder* Mormon in the White House.

    I can tell because of this piece in the conservative Washington Times featuring at top a picture of the Salt Lake City LDS temple at sunset:

    A Utah high-schooler who wanted to volunteer at a local Salt Lake City charity was told to go home — that she wasn’t allowed to wear pants

    Oh wait, not really, they clarify a couple of paragraphs later:

    She said officials asked her to change into a skirt — but instead, she left.

    Ah – so she was not told to go home, she elected to go home.  Fascinating, particularly when the headline, featuring the word “booted,” and the lede tell a very different story.  Then they carry on about sexism and close the piece with this little snippet:

    The Salt Lake City Tribune reported that Ms. Partridge’s group was formerly called the Women’s Endowment Committee, an affiliation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    God save us from ourselves.  We’re going to, at a minimum, pick on an important and loyal party demographic over requiring ladies to wear skirts at a charity function!?  I wish I had the time to do an inventory of all the messes Obama has and will make before he is out of office and all the messes that Hillary Clinton will make messier, not to mention the new ones she will create.  This nation faces major issues and we’re worried about ladies skirts at a charity event?!

    One can only assume this cheap shot, coming from the right, is coming because someone fears the Romney rumors.

    Look, oppose Romney.  His performance record in presidential runs is all the argument you need.  Really, honestly, we need to get past this religion based stuff.  It’s playing Obama’s game and it is unbecoming of decent Republicans and conservatives.

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