Romney's Bold Risk

It was difficult to imagine what Mitt Romney would say in taking the risk of a speech on the touchy subject of religion, but the risk he took is well rewarded in the words he spoke to a crowd in College Station, Texas.

There is not time at present to launch into a long article on the electoral consequences of the current fight over religion in the public square and the voting booth, but the importance of religion in public and private life is central to the American self-image.

The central point in the civic debate should be well understood. Religion is the foundation of a person's understanding of reality. If the nation commits itself to one definition of "reality" over another it will grant political power to those who favor that definition.

Do you trust anyone to make that choice for you?

Posted by Lee Emmerich Jamison at December 6, 2007 2:17 PM
Comments
Comment #240142

Mitt dodged the issues that concern conservative Christians. He scored points on sounding a little Reaganesque, but, his content did not address the concerns held by Fundamentalist Right Evangelical Christians. The question now is, are the FREC’s capable of even noticing their concerns were not addressed, or were they duped by this stagecraft?

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 6, 2007 5:29 PM
Comment #240146

The only reason Mitt Romney has to answer for his religion to the Republican constituents he’s trying to reach out to is the
Republican emphasis on imposing theology on the public sphere. This is the irony, delicious to some Democrats, about the way Republicans have politicized religion, piety, and imposition of right-wing religious morals on the public.

This never had to be an issue. I could have remained a fun fact, but Republicans have got to unofficially apply what the Constitution prohibits it from officially instituting: a religious test.

We remain secular, as a nation, because we believe the choice should lie with the individual, not the government. I think if Republicans are truly concerned about conservatism, they should let religion fade into the background, because they can find nothing there but more walls to throw between them and other Americans; and in case you haven’t notice, they have enough walls built as it is.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 6, 2007 6:43 PM
Comment #240147

Stepehen, you’re wrong… the Constitution does not prohibit the Republican party from instituting a religious test on someone vying to be its presidential candidate.

That, and… I agree with everything else you said.

Posted by: Doug Langworthy at December 6, 2007 6:56 PM
Comment #240155

As someone who has lived among fundamentalists I can at least say that many of them know the world will not agree with them on everything. Fundamentalists know, for example, Reagan was not a fundamentalist. What he did as president, however, did not disserve them.

Those of us who are not fundamentalist, however, know full well that in many instances Democrats have applied religious tests to people over judicial appointments and those among their own ranks who would be permitted to speak to a national convention. White fundamentalists, Catholics, and professing Christians whose beliefs actually affect their policy choices need not apply.

Romney did something I think will serve him well. He showed himself to be committed to honoring faith in others and permitting it to express itself in public unashamedly. That flies in the face of the popular dogma of Europe and our intelligentsia in which faith is a discredited organism that does not yet know it is dead.

That ostracism, masquerading as laissez-faire, is not welcome in America. The people who exhibit it think we’re too dumb to know what they really think. Romney’s open arms for faiths unlike his own are a welcome contrast to that disdain.

He moved up several steps in my estimation.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at December 6, 2007 8:17 PM
Comment #240158

Lee, Its a shame Mitt has to resort to such tatics just because of his religious affiliations. Hopefully the repubs can correct this problem in their party one day.

I thought his “Radical violent Islam seeks to destroy us.” and other such comments regarding another religion was tacky at best. Sort of like pointing the finger at a few extremist Muslims in an effort to encourage the FREC’s to think the Mormons arent so bad in comparision? When I heard it I thought isnt that the kind of finger pointing your trying to avoid because of your religious affiliations Mitt.

Posted by: j2t2 at December 6, 2007 8:46 PM
Comment #240161

What is this..Are we in Iran were clerics decide who can hold office or not?

Lee
When have Dems applied religious test to judicial candidates or speakers?There are of course issues of public policy that may be determined by ones religious beliefs that are fair game but that is not religious discrimination. For example,segregation was bolstered by supposedly religious Bible supported doctrine. Should those views go challenged in a judicial nomination?


The religious right does have a great deal of faith(thats one word for it). This same faith that keeps them sending money to millionaire TV evangelist is probably strong enough for them to actually believe that Romney is sincere and not just a pandering politician with a history of flip flopping.. Got to hand it to him. He picked the only audience that might fall for for it.

Posted by: BillS at December 6, 2007 9:08 PM
Comment #240165

Doug, it is a fine point, but, enormously accurate of you to retort to Stephen that the Constitution imposes no religious test for office upon a political party. The electorate can, because the government could not enforce a restriction against voters choosing on the basis of religion.

The Constitution prohibits a religious test for candidacy - meaning anyone can become a candidate, and office holder if elected, regardless of religious belief. That said, the Republican Party, as Stephen points out, violates the spirit of the Constitution and at times shoots itself in the foot by exercising that fine point you put on the legal distinction.

Mitt Romney is a case in point, where his affiliation with a religiously based Party gives rise to potential rejection of his candidacy by that Party’s constituents, precisely because of his particular religious affiliation, which does not reflect that of the majority of the Party.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 6, 2007 9:26 PM
Comment #240166

Lee said: “know full well that in many instances Democrats have applied religious tests to people over judicial appointments”

FALSE. Democrats applied a political test to the abortion issue in regard to judicial appointments. Had nothing to do with religion, as most Democrats are religious themselves, but, hold a different political policy position than the GOP on that issue.

Nice try, no Cigar!

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 6, 2007 9:29 PM
Comment #240167

Stephen:

We remain secular, as a nation,

Under God of course!!

Craig

Posted by: Craig Holmes at December 6, 2007 9:31 PM
Comment #240186

I read a transcript of the speech, and it seemed pretty calculated to tell a typical conservative Republican what he or she wants to hear. Believers good, people who believe in Jesus even better, non-believers bad.

Slightly bold idea, cautious execution.

Posted by: Woody Mena at December 7, 2007 7:19 AM
Comment #240191

David,

If you held your breath waiting for all those Christian pro-life Democrats who spoke in prime-time to have their say at a national convention you would have passed from blue to gray to moldering with John Brown.

If you advocate for those Christian Democrats who believe policies intended to support nuclear families are the best way to improve the lot of the poor and disadvantaged to have their say in Democratic leadership you might as well advocate nuclear war.

If you wait for the faith-based minority advocates of educational choice to have a voice in the Democratic Party against the entrenched power structure of union bosses you probably believe Hillary does channel Eleanor Roosevelt.

There is a religious test in the Democratic Party. It is the same test as the old 19th century saying of children in polite company- “they are to be seen but not heard.”

Posted by: Lee Jamison at December 7, 2007 9:13 AM
Comment #240218

Lee
Nearly all Democrats are pro-life. We just do not think it is any of the governments business to interfere with family planning decisions and regard those that do as a threat to individual liberty.There are those that insist their professed religion somehow gives them the right in stick their nose into very private decisions of others. Why would we give them a forum. Its a public policy matter ,not a religious test.

I assume that when you say “nuclear family”policies you mean to discriminate against homosexuals.Equal rights is a bedrock principle of the Democratic Party .Those that use their religion as a cloak to cover their hatred of their fellow Americans should have no expectation of a forum provided by a party so dedicated. Again this is not a religious test but a public policy issue.
The Constitution expressly prohibits state establishment of religion. Giving tax dollars to schools that work to establish religion is simply not legal. Americans remain free to send their children to religious schools.There needs be no debate on this.It is set law.
Are you now claimming union busting as a religious right? If you believe that teachers should make a decent living then you must ,to be consistent, support teachers unions. If you are in politics you will find the support recipricle.
This is not a religious issue either but one of public policy.
All this whinning that the Dems are picking on religion because we will not give hateful crackpots a forum is absurd.That task appears to be taken care of by the other party.

Posted by: BillS at December 7, 2007 12:58 PM
Comment #240222

Nuclear family means a man and woman who are both mother and father of, preferably, all the children in a family, when the children are not adopted. Such stable mutually supportive arrangements are less likely to produce children who wind up in poverty or in prison as adults.

As to homosexuality I have no agenda regarding what lasting, mutually supportive relationships people may choose. I heartily disavow an agenda founded either in promiscuity of any kind (such a life turns people into toys) or in some flag waving for a given manner in which people use their genitals.

Union busting is not a right. Nor are unions mandated in the Constitution. When unions, because of their political prerogatives, become an excuse for not trying ways to improve education for our children they are a liability, as, indeed they have proven themselves to be in the automotive industry. (They also should not, contrary to the expressed policy of the Democratic Party, be able to force union organizing votes in which workers are denied SECRET BALLOTS, and thus be given treemendous coercive power over those who oppose them!)

Posted by: Lee Jamison at December 7, 2007 1:29 PM
Comment #240237

Romney kicked a$$! Man that was such a great speech!! It was (extremely) positive, not to mention Presidential, and reinforced the American traditions and values. It’s good to hear positive references about our country and the founding fathers; I wish other Presidential Candidates would speak like that.

Posted by: rahdigly at December 7, 2007 3:51 PM
Comment #240238

I apologize in advance if this is a double post; it didn’t let me post the first time, and it didn’t look like the comment had gone up, so here it is again:

I think it’s an absolute shame that Romney had to give a speech to “explain away” his religion. That being said, I think it’s an even bigger shame that in explaining it away he and his staff felt compelled to do so not by invoking the idea of separation of church and state and saying Mormon officials would not influence him, but rather by essentially saying that he is completely open to influence from the “right” kind of religion.

I also found it a little bit disturbing that he characterized secularism—the idea that certain institutions, like the government, should be distinctly separate from religion—as a religion in itself. Secularism is a policy, which can be held independent of a person’s faith. To call out such a policy as religion is both a deliberate lie and an obvious attempt to hint that the separation of church and state would not fare well under his presidency.

I found the attempt to discredit atheism and agnosticism as lacking in freedom similarly disturbing and heavy-handed, especially considering the position of several of the founders in both their personal life and public policy. (“But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” -Thomas Jefferson)

However, I will say that I am glad he took care to include all religions (though he was careful to make sure it was all actual “faiths”) in the statement, as well as list freedom and liberty as the fundamental values of America; that was well done. In the end, though I disagree with large tracts of his speech, I think it was well written, and I think he will benefit from it.

Posted by: Webby at December 7, 2007 3:55 PM
Comment #240256

Lee
You contended that the Dem Party censors speakers for religious reasons. You are incorrect.The Reps on the other hand,do. Have you ever had a Muslum speaker at a convention? Where are the speakers from the Log Cabin or pro-choice caucus?Pandering to” primative Christian fundementalist at war with civilization”(Gore Vidal)has become a hallmark of the Rep Party.

Posted by: BillS at December 7, 2007 6:17 PM
Comment #240286
That flies in the face of the popular dogma of Europe and our intelligentsia in which faith is a discredited organism that does not yet know it is dead.

Any fact to backup such claim it’s a “popular” european view?
The last stats I know show that 52% of (EU) europeans believe in a God, 27% believe in some sort of spirit or life Force and only 18% do not believe at all.

Sure 18% is more than the 8% of american atheists/agnostics.

Still doesn’t make it a majority or even an enough part to be popular.

You seem to see european secularism as anti-religion. It’s not. It’s anti religion-dependent policy, nothing else, nothing more.

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at December 8, 2007 6:10 AM
Comment #240335

BillS,

This is an article about Muslim speakers at the 2004 convention.

As to pro-choice Republicans there are several that were included in the 2004 national convention. The Log Cabin Republicans website includes the following statement-

The RNC’s announced lineup of primetime speakers for the convention includes former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Arizona Senator John McCain, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and New York Governor George Pataki. Additionally, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will open the convention. All of these speakers have long histories of supporting policies that respect the GOP’s diversity.

It should be noted as well that Barbara Bush and former Republican presidential candidate Elizabeth Dole have both expressed pro-choice positions in the past. Both have spoken at national Republican conventions. My own mother is pro-choice. I would not dream of being dimissive of her position even if I do strongly disagree.

The fact that the deeply held positions of conservative and evangelical Christians have a home in the Republican Party while they are derided and denied any voice in the Democratic Party does not mean that the party will fail to be respectful of people with unlike views, regardless of how wishfully Democrats proclaim them to be intolerant.

Philippe,

My characterization may have been unfair, but if Europeans are given to belief they certainly seem untroubled by it. Romney’s paragraph late in his speech about Europe’s cathedrals-

I’m not sure that we fully appreciate the profound implications of our tradition of religious liberty. I’ve visited many of the magnificent cathedrals in Europe. They are so inspired, so grand and so empty. Raised up over generations, long ago, so many of the cathedrals now stand as the postcard backdrop to societies just too busy or too ‘enlightened’ to venture inside and kneel in prayer. The establishment of state religions in Europe did no favor to Europe’s churches. And though you will find many people of strong faith there, the churches themselves seem to be withering away.
seems to me to speak to a serious issue. Yes there is a “faith”, but not one that feels a deep desire to change things. It is more like Marx’s “opiate of the masses”.

America’s churches are stronger precisely because the inherent lack of governmental support means they must find the consequence they can express in real people’s lives on a daily basis- or wither.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at December 8, 2007 6:01 PM
Comment #240477

Romney’s speech does not seem to have had the desired result according to the polls. Social conservatives seem to be chucking Mitt for Huckabee. Change oriented Republicans seem to be moving to Ron Paul and moderates are hangin’ in with Giuliani.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 10, 2007 6:19 PM
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