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Monday, November 12, 2007
posted by Kyle Hampton | 4:18 PM | permalink
Jonathan Chait, that lover of the religious right, has a new article over at TNR, essentially proclaiming discrimination against Mitt Romney and his Mormonism to be the fault of the right's embrace of religion in politics. He concludes:
Not long ago, John McCain declared that, "since this nation was founded primarily on Christian principles ... personally, I prefer someone who I know has a solid grounding in my faith." GOP Representatives Virgil Goode and Bill Sali, and conservative talk show host Dennis Prager, have railed against Muslims and Hindus offering their own prayers in Congress. I'm sure most advocates of faith-based politics would abhor this sort of discrimination. But it's really just the natural conclusion from the premise of faith-based politics: If it makes sense to support public figures because they share our religious beliefs, then it also makes sense to oppose public figures who don't.

Of course Chait misses many points, but, in particular, misses the sophistication of religious voters. Beyond the extreme views of Goode and Sali and the like, religious voters have been extremely tolerant of people of other faiths. Why else would religious voters back such a wide ranging field of presidential candidates whose religious backgrounds couldn't be more different? The reason is that religious voters endorse people of religion, not because of simplistic identity politics, but because of what a faith tells the voter about that person. It's a level of sophistication removed from the blunt treatment that Chait gives religious voters.

Chait, unfortunately, looks at religious voters as liberals look at any other demographic: monolithic and simple-minded, voting for someone because of association with that group. Blacks vote for blacks. Hispanics for hispanics. Women for women. This is not, however, how religious voters behave (and I would argue most groups don't behave that way, but I digress). Religious voters take a person's religion as only an indication of that person's character. It tells them something about faith in the face of the unknown, about commitment to shared values, and about service to one's neighbor, among other things. None of these things are religion specific, nor do they facilitate identity politics.

So, what does this have to do with Mitt Romney, the subject of this blog? Chait would have it mean that Romney's nomination exposes the hipocracy of the religious right. I, however, see it differently. This is the first time that voters have been confronted with the implications of Mormonism. Particularly with respect to those attributes that Mormonism imbues in its followers, voters are asking themselves what it is that Mormonism means to Mitt Romney's faith in the face of the unknown, his committment to shared values, and about service to his neighbor, among other things. Normally these questions are easily answered as voters are familiar with evangelical protestants, Methodists, Baptists, and Catholics and what those religions mean to character and values. The unfamiliar Mormonism warrants additional investigation, but voters are drawing conclusions based on the candidate. The results have been somewhat mixed (some voters prefering familiarity), but probably better than most would have suspected. This is to be expected given the sophistication of religious voters. Otherwise, denominations would have quickly lined up behind the candidate of their religion. Nothing so simplistic has occured, further refuting Chait's argument.

Look for the continued sophistication of religious voters, who are able to look beyond the simple label that religion serves for Chait, and will vote for Mitt.

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1 Comments:


While this article first appeared Thursday, October 04, 2007 in Analecta Politica (www.howellunc.townhall.com) I am compelled to run it again. After all Paragraph 3, Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution means nothing to the MSM, or to Chris Matthews, or to the pathetic Keith Olbermann, or to Romney’s rivals.

Paragraph 3, Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution reads, “. . . all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” - emphasis added.

The Speech, the Speech! Mr. Romney, My Kingdom for the Speech! Thursday, October 04, 2007

Whew, let’s all just calm down. There is no reason for Romney’s “JFK” religion speech. Not yet.
While liberal pundits, the media, and a few Giulianiacs (read Novak) in New York are fixated on Romney’s religion, very few national evangelical leaders oppose Romney on religious grounds. For obvious reasons Catholic and Jewish leaders are rather adamant that there be no religious issue concerning Romney and the 2008 presidential race.
The loudest objections come from the left. Jacob Weisberg, editor of Slate, said, "Romney's religion will become an issue with moderate and secular voters - and rightly so." His justification comes from a rather strained reasoning that objecting to one’s “religious beliefs is not the same thing as prejudice based on religious heritage . . .”
What? Late last year Romney met with the prominent evangelical leaders. Oh, to have been a fly on that wall! From the few remarks made by some of the attendees, that meeting must have gone quite well.
Says Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, "Evangelicals know that they're not electing a theologian in chief, but a commander in chief. If they agree with Romney on social issues, his Mormonism won't be a hindrance . . ." And Jerry Falwell, who has often spoken in unflattering terms about Mormons said, "There's no question that there are strong feelings about Mormonism. But we're not electing a Sunday school teacher; we're electing a president. I do not believe his church affiliation will hinder his being a viable candidate among evangelicals."
So just who are these 24 percent of Americans (not 29 percent as reported by Novak.) who would not vote for a Mormon? see http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21036143/site/newsweek/
Well, certainly many are liberal and/or secular. In the same poll 14 percent said they would not vote for a woman, 64 percent said no to an Atheist. Even more telling is what Novak did not reveal.
In the same poll 68 percent of Americans said they had a favorable opinion of Mitt Romney while only 13 percent did not. Gee, I wonder what Hillary’s numbers would be.
So everybody, just take a deep breath. After Mitt has secured the nomination there will be plenty of time for The Speech.




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