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."

  • More Data On The Pile

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:58 am, October 19th 2013     —     1 Comment »

    We have been accumulating data on the effect of Mitt Romney’s faith on the last election.

    To date we have three very significant data points:

    We now have another point for the stack of data.  There is a blog post from a Benjamin Knoll @ HuffPo:

    Using a logistic regression statistical estimation procedure, I analyzed how individual-level attitudes toward Mormons affected the likelihood that someone would vote either for or against Romney in the 2012 general election. This procedure estimates the effect of a single variable (attitudes toward Mormons and Mormonism) on another variable (likelihood of voting for Romney), statistically controlling for a host of other factors including political ideology, demographics, and socioeconomic status.

    [...]

    It appears that most attitudes toward Mormons did not affect the likelihood of voting for Romney one way or another, with the exception of one key factor: whether or not a voter considers Mormons to be Christian. These results suggest that about 1 out of every 20 Republicans decided to stay home instead of turning out to vote for their party’s nominee because they don’t perceive Mormons as Christian.

    After that, rigor disappears fro the analysis and Knoll concludes, rather obviously:

    While I have provided evidence that Romney very likely did lose some (mostly Republican) votes as a result of negative attitudes toward his Mormon faith, this was ultimately not the decisive factor in the outcome of the election.

    There are no “decisive” factors in elections, despite the press’ never-ending attempts to turn the enormously complex into the stupefyingly simple.

    More work needs to be put into this question, not so much to understand Romney;s loss, but to help understand what is at root in the divisions that just cost the party such an enormous loss in the shutdown/debt limit debate.  How much did Romney’s candidacy contribute to the widespread impression among Christian voters that the Republican party has abandoned them?  What will it take for the party to woo them back?

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    Lines…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:30 am, October 17th 2013     —     Comment on this post »

    Daniel Henninger in the mornings WSJ on Republicans and messaging:

    Want a look at how a pro is spinning the Washington mess? Punch into Twitter.com and type “Barack Obama” into the search window. Click on “Barack Obama,” next to the “End This Now” logo. The Obama tweets the past week have been fairly amazing. As in the presidential campaign against Mitt Romney, the Twitter feeds going out in the name of the president of the United States are virtually wall-to-wall propaganda.

    Barack Obama: “If the debt ceiling isn’t raised by Thursday, America could face an economic shutdown.” This from the man who accuses the GOP of “manufacturing crises.”

    Everyone recalls the 2012 campaign’s carpet bombing of “the wealthiest,” even after they’d been shelled with a tax increase. Barack Obama has found—actually, it was handed to him—a scapegoat analogous to “the wealthiest” and “the banks” for his campaign to suppress votes for GOP candidates in the 2014 elections. It’s “tea party Republicans.”

    Barack Obama: “Tea Party Republicans are threatening an economic shutdown. Tell them to #EndThisNow.”

    Henninger has a heck of a point there, but there are also some lines that Obama seems to be willing to cross in his messaging that we should not.

    Line One – Henninger himself points out, “‘If the debt ceiling isn’t raised by Thursday, America could face an economic shutdown.This from the man who accuses the GOP of ‘manufacturing crises.’  In other words, the Obama messaging team in pretty much lying on this one.  Reasonable and attentive people know that a default was not happening today (soon, but not today) had yesterday’s poor excuse for a deal not occurred and that a default, while tremendously problematic would not completely shutter the US economy.  I suppose a case could be made that this phraseology was just “shorthand spin,” not really lying, but that is a pretty thin line.

    The second line is related – Obama is willing to pray on people’s ignorance, while we seek to end it.  The impact of a tweet like the one cited in the paragraph above is based solely on people not understanding how the government and the economy work or how they are related.  And this begins to raise issues when tweets are messaging.  How do we educate in 160 characters?

    The bottom line is one Henninger states outright, “ the Twitter feeds going out in the name of the president of the United States are virtually wall-to-wall propaganda.“  Do we really want to engage in propaganda?  Propaganda, “ideas or statements that are often false or exaggerated and that are spread in order to help a cause, a political leader, a government, etc.”  Propaganda is the tool of dictators, not democracies.  Propaganda erodes freedom and we are a party that seeks to promote and expand it.

    Henninger seems to think we need to dip into this pool:

    It may be voter brainwashing, but in the expanded media age in which we all marinate, it works.

    I will agree with its effectiveness, but I do not think we are therefore to “Go forth and do likewise.”  We have to find a better way.  In point of fact it could be argued that propaganda from our side of the aisle fueled at least part of this crisis.  Yesterday we looked at the fact that a significant portion of the Republican base has Obama so demonized in their view that he probably is covering his pitchfork and horns with make-up in public.  Obama is eight kinds of wrong, but he is not the devil.

    The theme of this blog during the crisis has been a bit different than JUST messaging.  (Messaging is important, but it is not the entire picture.)  Obama’s propaganda succeeds because our base is divided.  Everybody knows that, but everybody is seeing the divide in the terms Obama is defining instead of where they are.  It is not “Tea Party” v. “Establishment.”  It is “religiously motivated” v “those for whom religion is a secondary concern.”  (OK that needs to be rephrased in a tweetable form – ‘socialcons v tradcons’?)  Rightly or wrongly, the religiously motivated voters have perceived themselves pushed out of the Republican mainstream and have responded by starting to radicalize.  While I agree wholeheartedly that this is a matter more of perception that reality – the results of that perception are indeed very real.

    It is this divide that has to be fixed.  Fixing messaging is part of fixing that divide.  The party has to find a way to message that closes the divide, not enhances it.  Hence Hugh Hewitt’s statement:

    Look, it was a nasty defeat.  No Black Knight nonsense here. But there is zero upside in making a bad situation worse with the equivalent of a GOP mob war.

    But the people that lead the Religiously Motivated/socialcon/Tea Party bunch have to figured out how to message in a way that educates, not radicalizes.

    Otherwise we are playing by their playbook, not ours.  We cannot win that way.

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    The Great Divide

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:15 am, October 16th 2013     —     1 Comment »

    From William Galston in this morning WSJ:

    The tea party is Jacksonian America, aroused, angry and above all fearful, in full revolt against a new elite—backed by the new American demography—that threatens its interests and scorns its values.

    This is more than a columnist’s speculation. Stan Greenberg, a Democratic survey researcher whose focus groups with Macomb County Reagan Democrats in Michigan transformed political discourse in the 1980s, has recently released a similar study of the tea party. Supporters of the tea party, he finds, see President Obama as anti-Christian, and the president’s expansive use of executive authority evokes charges of “tyranny.” Mr. Obama, they believe, is pursuing a conscious strategy of building political support by increasing Americans’ dependence on government. A vast expansion of food stamps and disability programs and the push for immigration reform are key steps down that road. [emphasis added]

    Yesterday on The Hugh Hewitt Show Congressman John Campbell reported the the breakdown in the House came when those with religious objections to Obamacare objected to any funding deal that extends past the end of the year when rules requiring religious institutions to provide coverage for abortifacients would kick in.   As we said yesterday, religion is the elephant in the room.

    There are very real and extraordinarily serious religious issues facing the nation.

    Some comments need to be made.

    Firstly, these issues are too serious and way too deep to be resolved in the current crisis.  The best anybody could hope for is an extension in the delay of the implementation of the abortifacient rules.  Crisis’ like this are great messaging (up to a point) and they provide strong negotiating leverage for resolving very specific and well-defined policy differences.  But they do not and cannot resolve fundamental differences in philosophy, ideology and worldview – within a party or between the parties.  This point applies to all the practically innumerable objections to Obamacare.  It’s not going away, at least not right now – get specific and get real.

    Secondly, being in the minority and in opposition to governance is hardly new to the church.  The church in fact arose out of just such a state.  It is important to remember that Constantine was not regulated or legislated to Christianity, he converted.  Our faith is not defined by our governmental status.  Yes, there will be grave consequences to Obamacare’s regulations, but we have suffered many grave consequences throughout history.  We are still here, the Roman Empire (among others) is not.  We must bear that in mind as we conduct this fight.

    Finally, this old Emo Phillips joke too often describes how the church in America resolves its issues.  Res Ipsa Loquitor.


     

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    The Roots Of The Divide

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:33 am, October 15th 2013     —     2 Comments »

    Conor Friedersdorf @ The Atlantic is best described as a leftie provocateur.  His writing and arguments, while left-leaning, are generally cloaked sufficiently in reason to warrant a read.  And he usually gets read because his real stock in trade is to take on right-leaning media icons, thus “stealing” their audience, at least for the life of his most current piece.  He is the consummate counter-puncher.

    That is again the pattern in his latest:

    The Tea Party Gets Its Information from Enablers of Bushism

    This piece, cloaked in reason (and a discussion of a recent Ross Douthat piece) if not necessarily born of it, is really two things.  First it is a shot at Rush Limbaugh.  Not much of a surprise really – now he has the attention of all those Limbaugh listeners out there and his click rate skyrockets.  Secondly it is an attempt to separate the “Tea Party” from the “Republican Establishment.”  Which is, of course, an effort to permanently weaken the Republican party, turning the natural factions inside any party into mortal enemies.

    But inside this piece is a question worth examining.  Consider:

    Yes, Tea Party supporters regard the Republican establishment as having been thoroughly discredited during the Bush years. Yet they’ve continued to vest extraordinary trust in the cable news and talk radio personalities who spent the aughts slavishly supporting the GOP establishment. They get their information from erstwhile purveyors of pro-Bush propaganda, taking their cues come from the same people who enabled George W.  

    If the White House staffers, Washington, D.C., think tanks, and establishment media figures who enabled Bush-era excesses have all lost credibility, why not the movement conservative talkers who carried water for the same flawed governance?

    Let me rephrase this observation a bit.  “Gosh darn it, the ‘Tea Partiers’ just are not turning as whacky or moving away from the mainstream of American as much as I would like.”  Yet I must agree with Friedersdorf that there is a certain level of irrationality to the divides inside the Republican party.  The internal party conflicts seem out of proportion with the actual differences between the factions.

    Some of that sense is, of course, the MSM portraying it that way in an effort permanently cripple Republicans.  But I think there is an elephant in the room that no one is discussing.

    Religion.

    The Tea Party was born out of one really bad presidential candidate (John McCain) losing the election and in protest to the incredibly left leaning policies of the victor of that election.  McCain is no friend of the Religious Right.  What we are now seeing, which is a bit ugly but not nearly so ugly as the MSM would have us think, is born of a candidate that many of the Religious Right viewed as antithetical to their faith.   This latter fact is a crying shame because Mitt Romney, while a Mormon, came much, much closer to representing the Christian Right than John McCain could ever dream of.  But because he was a Mormon, many viewed him as McCain writ large.

    Religious talk was suppressed in the last election.  It was destructive to Romney in the 2008 primary and therefore sidelined in 2012.  The opposition left it lying because suppressed it provided a hidden lever that could be used in the general.  Even after the Civil Rights movements and its legislative results, African-Americans in the South had a difficult time obtaining office because while race was never discussed, it was whispered.  Romney’s Mormon faith was whispered throughout 2012.  Many a conservative vote was idle when it got to the presidential portion of the ballot.

    The reason the divide inside the Republican party seems irrational is because no one is willing to discuss its roots.  The current crisis is too immediate and too consequential for such a discussion now – but once past, the discussion must begin.  You cannot solve problems that you are not willing to stare in the face.

    Tradition holds that a failed candidate like Romney is supposed to fade into the woodwork, but maybe he is the only one that can start this discussion?  Maybe the Limbaughs of the world that Friedersdorf paints as the irrational bridge between the two factions can get the job done?  I am sure there are other and better ideas on how to get this working again, what I know is we have to acknowledge the elephant.

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    Not Everything Is Personal

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:02 am, October 14th 2013     —     Comment on this post »

    WaPo is giving coverage and coverage to a personal feud between Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid, as it appears they are the last “negotiating” to try and get some sort of deal on the current fiscal crisis.  I could not help but think that it should not be personal with these stakes.  At The Fix, Chris Cillizza and Sean Sullivan said:

    Politics — particularly when the stakes are this high — is a personal business, and trust is at the core of any deal.

    Trust is indeed at the heart of any deal, but personal?  Trust does not always have to be personal.  Trust can also be placed in law, or in some cases simple negotiating leverage – trust does not have to be personal.

    I think this strikes right at the heart of many of the problems the nation faces today.  We view everything on personal terms.  And so, as McConnell and Reid are at personal odds, we pick sides when we should be looking for the best deal.  The only consistent in seemingly any negotiation involving Obama of late is his personal view of himself.  Ideas, even political stratagem, seem secondary his personal ego.

    In the last election it seems clear that people voted on who they, personally, could identity with or the vote that made them feel better about themselves far more than they did on the candidates qualifications for office, or his stance on policy.

    The good of the nation matters more than Obama’s ego or any personal disagreements between McConnell and Reid.   They should be able to set those aside in a situation like this.  It is the tradition our nation is built upon.  I cannot help but think of a couple of verses of Scripture:

    Prov 29:9When a wise man has a controversy with a foolish man, The foolish man either rages or laughs, and there is no rest.

    Prov 29:15The rod and reproof give wisdom, But a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.

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    A Bad Taste In My Mouth

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:31 am, October 13th 2013     —     Comment on this post »

    As Congress hurtles towards a lack of resolution, I found this headline amusing:

    Allen West: Obama is a Spoiled Brat, Don’t Reward Bad Behavior

    and I found my morning newsletter from the Washington Times this morning most troubling. (depicted here).  Obama does indeed leave no impression more than that of a spoiled brat.  Here’s a fuller West quote:

    “We gave him a state senator position in Chicago, we gave him a U.S. Senate position out of the state of Illinois, unproven, untested, no resume, we gave him the presidency — twice. So if you continue to reward bad behavior, you’re going to get more of that bad behavior.”

    How are brats made?  They are made when they do not earn what they get and when they are given an outsized sense of importance.  That’s why I had a problem with the newsletter this morning.  With governmental negotiations in the state they are in, with portions of the Middle East in chaos and the whole region threatening to completely destabilize, with earthquakes, fires, flood and storms battering the world and taking live, the Washington Times sees fit to lead with the Value Voters Summit?!

    Now, I want to make it clear, this rant is not about Ted Cruz.  He is a good man, and he is certainly more qualified for the White House than its current occupant – this is about Evangelicals.  Were this a presidential  election season the VVS Straw Poll would have some importance, but right now?  It’s worthless.  For the last couple of cycles in off years it was usually won by Ron Paul.  We have already made it plain that we think Evangelicals behaved like brats in 2012.  Coverage like this is how such brattiness is created.

    And what really bothers me is that the humility that Christianity should engender in us should prevent such an attitude from developing.

    *SIGH*

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