Article VI Blog

"Religion, Politics, the Presidency: Commentary by a Mormon, an Evangelical, and an Orthodox Christian"

United States Constitution — Article VI:

"No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

  • The Problematic Spin

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 12:15 pm, January 28th 2015     —     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.


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

    The Romney/Mormon Meme Now in Full Play

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:18 am, January 26th 2015     —     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.


    Posted in News Media Bias, Political Strategy, Religious Bigotry | 2 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Who Is Mixing What!?!?!? Beck and the Mormon Crack

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 12:47 pm, January 23rd 2015     —     1 Comment »

    McKay Coppins tweets of Glenn Beck:

    It is fascinating to watch this thing go all over twitter in a matter of seconds,  First thing, watch the video, there is no context whatsoever.  One must assume from the comments that Beck is commenting on some local Utah issue, but you can’t really tell.   Secondly, Beck has his history so, so wrong.  His reference to Smoot-Hawley is just bizarre.  One, not both, of the sponsors was a Mormon.  We did an extensive 5 part review (III - IIIIVV) of a book that centers on the seating of Reed Smoot way back when this blog started and there is simply no evidence that its was Smoot’s religious convictions that informed his sponsorship of that ill-fated tariff.  Finally there is the point that Beck himself, as almost everyone that responds to Coppins notes,  is a Mormon, though he is rumored to be having a crisis of faith.  I met Beck at Romney’s “Faith in America” speech back in ’07 and he then seemed a man who knew where the lines were.

    One must wonder here if Beck is not the one mixing his “gospel and politics.”  Could it be that Beck’s personal issues with his faith are influencing his comments?  One must also wonder with his “Tea Party” and “Bush/Romney” mentions if he is not reaching for a convenient stick to throw at candidates that he disagrees with?  That is to say, Beck appears to be the one using religion as a political weapon here.

    Regardless one thing is certain, and the Twitter response makes this quite plain, if a Mormon with as public a profile as Beck is going to take Mormon swipes like this open war on Mormons in public life has been declared if Romney runs.  Beck may have left himself some plausible deniability with the word “when,” but does he honestly think the general press is going to notice that or be so nuanced?

    This campaign has not even really started and it’s getting awfully ugly already.


    Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Consistency Matters

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 10:44 am, January 22nd 2015     —     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.


    Posted in News Media Bias, Religious Bigotry | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Hitting All The Marks

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:07 am, January 19th 2015     —     1 Comment »

    Yesterday, I reacted to the reactions to Romney’s Friday night speech to the RNC.  I did so becasue I did not have a chance to see the speech.  Well now I have.  Watch it with me:

    Ten days ago, after a magazine in Paris was shot up, I wrote this:

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

    What is the number one concern in that speech by Romney?  Making the world safer!  He is the first candidate or potential candidate to hit what this writer considers exactly the correct tone and stance.  In one speech he has moved me from thinking about what loyalty requires of me to being truly excited by what he has to offer the campaign.

    Well and truly done.


    Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Mitt’s Mormonism Front and Center?!

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

    This might have just gotten really fun.

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

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

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

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

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

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


    Posted in Candidate Qualifications, Identity Politics, Political Strategy | 2 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    « Previous Page« Previous« The Long Knives Are Out – And Some Of Them Say “Mormon”  |  Next »Next Page »Hitting All The Marks »