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Monday, February 4, 2008
posted by Kyle Hampton | 11:16 AM | permalink
I have enjoyed Evangelicals for Mitt for a long time. They are smart and insightful writers over there and have made a prominent and compelling case for Mitt Romney's candidacy. Thus, especially with the number of evangelical voters who will be casting their votes tomorrow, I thought it would be good to hear from a smart person, who also happens to be an evangelical voter. Here's my interview with Charles Mitchell:

What is your background?

I grew up in a middle-class family in Philadelphia. As far as I know, my father is a Republican and my mother is a Democrat—but even there, I’m not positive. It’s just not a huge topic of conversation. They both vote in every election, but they certainly never raised me to do something like this.

I was raised in the Roman Catholic tradition, but I did not then adhere to anything resembling Christianity—which is a slam on my own unbelief, not on Catholicism, though I do disagree with some of its doctrines. In college, I became involved in an evangelical Christian fellowship—despite the fact that I had no idea what an evangelical Christian was—and eventually confessed my own sin and hopelessness without God, and my need for salvation through Jesus Christ. After a bit of searching, I got involved in a Southern Baptist church and was baptized there.

My wife Charissa and I now live in the D.C. area. I work at a non-profit relating to higher-education reform and Charissa works in finance. We are members of a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America, which is the more conservative (theologically speaking) side of Presbyterianism.

How would you describe your views (i.e. conservative, moderate)?


Oh, you mean politics.

I’m a conservative with some libertarian instincts who sometimes supports the Republican Party and its candidates. I probably like President Bush more than 99 percent of the population, and I proudly voted for him, but I still don’t think he’s a conservative and he irritates me greatly sometimes. Without naming names, I’ll simply say that I would not be able to support in the general election all of the candidates who have pursued the Republican nomination this year—due to insufficient conservatism.

The last political candidate I really got into was then-Congressman Pat Toomey, who challenged Senator Arlen Specter in the Republican primary in 2004, when I lived in Pennsylvania. When Senator Specter prevailed, I supported his Democratic opponent in the general election. Another Republican who didn’t pass muster in my view was my congressman in Pennsylvania, Curt Weldon, who was eventually driven from office due to corruption. The same is true of Don Sherwood, who was my congressman in college.

Republicans like that aren’t worth supporting. In Senator Specter’s case, if you want a Democrat, elect one who admits to being one. And if you see a Republican—a member of the party that is known for being conservative, even though it often is not—behaving in an unacceptable manner, don’t let him tarnish the brand, as Congressmen Weldon and Sherwood, among many others, have.

Is there any sort of hierarchy for you in the spectrum of issues?

Simply put, I want a candidate who is committed to killing terrorists, keeping unborn babies alive, and protecting free markets—in that order. Other issues are important, but gravy. And as for the aforementioned troika, if we lose the war on terror—or whatever you want to call it—nothing else matters. Hence the order.

How did you first come to support Gov. Romney?

It was in 2005. I had been reading about him in conservative publications—John Miller and Terry Eastland had written cover stories in National Review and The Weekly Standard, respectively—and David French approached me. He, along with an evangelical friend of his, had been watching Governor Romney since 1994 and scheming about 2008 since November of 2004. He wanted to know if I would help him and his friend do some heavy lifting on the faith issue, and I agreed. It’s been a wild ride since then.

What appealed most to you about Gov. Romney’s candidacy?

Well, he satisfied my troika of criteria. Also, I think the country wants and needs a different kind of communicator than President Bush. Like I said, I love him more than most, but he sure has his deficiencies—and one of them is shown in the fact that, as I mentioned before, we still don’t even have a common name for this big war we’re in. I truly believe that the biggest problem we’re having stems from lack of support on the home front—and while the left surely hasn’t helped, I just don’t think President Bush’s communication has been up to snuff. People need to be constantly and coherently reminded as to what we’re doing and why, and that simply hasn’t happened. Governor Romney could do better.

Why Evangelicals for Mitt and how did it start?

The blog itself was just a natural outgrowth of the thinking David and the group of friends he assembled had been doing. I mean, come on—it was this or keep filling each other’s Inboxes with constant e-mails!

As far as timing, it happened right after we put together a pretty fun effort at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in March of 2006. That was the first presidential straw poll, and Governor Romney—as a Mormon from Massachusetts—was predicted to do very poorly. In fact, when we had the privilege of meeting him, I believe he said he’d be happy to get three percent. He didn’t know what we were up to, and he ended up beating everybody except the home-state favorite, Senator Bill Frist—who, as you know, didn’t end up running.

From your experience, do evangelicals have different priorities than other voters?

I would submit that most conservative evangelicals are more focused on “values issues” than other voters—but also that the media can distort what those issues are. For instance, more of us than anybody realizes think the war is a values issue. I mean, by definition, the people who are trying to kill us want to destroy our civilization and our values. They want to turn the world into a caliphate—as Governor Romney has often said—and they aren’t shy about it. Sadly, we are!

From a theological point of view, other candidates have more in common with evangelicals. Why not support Mike Huckabee? John McCain?

As David—who is so much smarter than I am, despite the fact that he went to Harvard—puts it so well, theology is only important in a political race to the extent it affects public policy. With a Mormon, the places where we diverge—the Trinity, for instance—are not relevant to public policy. And the places where we are together—family values come to mind—are.

Don’t get me wrong; correct doctrine is extremely important. The Bible doesn’t mince words on that, and if Governor Romney believes all Mormon doctrines, I believe he’s mistaken and that it is a matter of eternal significance. But the mere fact that something is important to one’s relationship with God doesn’t mean it’s something we should give it prime consideration in a political race.

What’s prime consideration? Well, put it this way. If there were another candidate in the race who had all Governor Romney’s good qualities but happened to be a Presbyterian, I’d probably support him. Plain and simple, he’d be more likely to win, because there’d be no need for a website like EFM. But there isn’t. The only other candidate whose doctrine is—near as I can tell—close to mine has nothing of any intelligence to say on the central issue of our times (the war) and believes in massive governmental intervention in the economy. Sorry, but when we’re picking a president—not a pastor—having good theology doesn’t cancel all that stuff out.

What do you say to other evangelicals as to why they should vote for Mitt over other candidates?

At this stage, it’s very simple. The evangelical candidate is out. He will never be the nominee. It is a two-person race, Senator McCain vs. Governor Romney. Evangelicals are right to commend Senator McCain for his views on the war, and for his many pro-life votes in Congress, and for his personal heroism. But there is more than that to consider.

First and foremost is the issue of judges. Senator McCain has distinguished himself by his hostility to numerous conservative judges, even going so far as to unite with seven Democrats on a compromise that deep-sixed numerous conservative appointees. He’s also said, apparently, that he thinks Justice Alito is too conservative. He’s called our kind “agents of intolerance.” And he’s said forthrightly—just the other day—that “[i]t’s not social issues I care about.” Look, pro-life votes are one thing. But the next great battle in the abortion fight is picking the next Supreme Court justice—whose vote could decide the fate of Roe v. Wade. And it’s precisely on judges where Senator McCain has disappointed us before. The stakes are too high to risk having him do it again.

There’s also the issue of the economy. Senator McCain favors massively harmful schemes to combat global warming, and he vociferously opposed the Bush tax cuts—on grounds that sound a lot to me like covetousness, bashing the rich—when they were proposed. Now he says he’ll support renewing them, but why in the world would you make permanent something you thought was a terrible idea? Here again, he’s just not trustworthy on a key issue.

Senator McCain and Governor Romney are on two opposite trajectories. The older Governor Romney has gotten, the more conservative he’s gotten. I don’t know about you, but I can relate. On the other hand, as Senator McCain has aged, he’s gone off the reservation. In the 1980s, he was part of the Reagan Revolution. Today, his instincts reliably take him toward the positions of the mainstream media, not the conservative movement. That’s why he’s called the MSM “my base.”

It would be one thing to support Senator McCain against a candidate who was sure to mess up the war, appoint pro-abortion judges, and raise taxes. If he is the nominee, I will indeed support him against Senator Clinton or Senator Obama—who meet all the foregoing criteria. But there’s no reason to do so now, when there is another candidate who’s with us on all the important issues—not just one. And if you buy that but you’re still concerned about the Mormon issue…well, surf on over to EFM!


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Smart dude. I appreciate all his hard work.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at February 4, 2008 at 1:53 PM  

More evangelical leaders rallying for Romney today...

By Anonymous Anonymous, at February 4, 2008 at 2:41 PM  

Don't get me wrong, I am an avid reader of EFM and think the world of Charles and David, but why-o-why does this "trinity" thing keep coming up in the same paragraph with "the bible doesn't mince words..?" The word trinity is not in the bible ANYWHERE (no matter what translation you prefer) and the concept is not even "biblical" in the sense the Nicene creed promotes. Why does this creep into political discussions at all? I will be happy when all references to religion and backhanded compliments for Romney end. I will be even happier when judgment of Mitt's "eternal soul" likewise ends. It does not help when every endorsement for Romney includes a ominous prediction for his eternal destiny. May we all "work out our own salvation with fear and trembling" and leave the judgment statements to God above.

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