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Faith and Politics


By Barbara Gordon - Posted on 07 December 2007

1. Romney

So, unless you're hiding from politics, you know the big news today is Romney's speech about faith and politics. Now, ostensibly, he was trying to allay the concerns that some evangelical Christian Republicans have regarding a candidate of the LDS faith. Romney, though, only mentioned his particulary religion once explicitly and once again indirectly.

I'm not sure what to say. The speech was eloquently written and delivered. It has been hailed as a success and may well slow the decline in his numbers.

But Romney is not very passionate or inspiring when he speaks. And the biggest criticism he faces is not that he is Mormon, it's that he lacks charisma and constancy. This speech did nothing to refute those complaints. He failed to emote or really connect with his audience; and although it's commendable that he refuses to "distance [him]self from the faith of [his] fathers," that single conviction doesn't change the fact that he's been all over the ideological map during his political career.

Romney, of course, does not have a monopoly on discussions of faith. Obama gave a moving speech on faith and politics eighteen months ago.

2. Huckabee

In other news today, Mike Huckabee, largely responsible for the decine in Romney's numbers in Iowa, made an odd statement. When asked what is responsible for the recent increase in his polling numbers, Huckabee replied, "There’s only one explanation for it, and it’s not a human one. It’s the same power that helped a little boy with two fish and five loaves feed a crowd of five thousand people"

Wow. To imply that the Almighty Himself is behind one's campaign and has offered His Personal endorsement for one's candidacy is dangerously presumptive and disgustingly hubristic. I've had a lot of respect for Huckabee up until now, and I applaud his decision to be forthright about his faith. But this is a serious misstep and I'm not certain he can recover. There are many people of faith in the United States, and a few of them will agree with Huckabee's assessment of his situation. But many others will see this as dangerously similar to President Bush's policy of rule by divine right.

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It will be interesting to see the results of these two statements. With them occurring together, it will be impossible to assess the impacts independently. If Romney moves up in the polls it could be because of his own speech, because of Huckabee's silly remark, or a little of both. It will also be interesting to see if some leaders of the evangelical community launch a public initiative to try to de-Christianize the LDS faith.

My overall impression is this: If Huckabee can downplay today's statement enough to save his campaign, I see Mitt and Mike splitting the social-conservative element of the Republican Party, leaving Giuliani to pick up the rest and win the nomination.

 

 

 

A great speech from an upstanding American of faith, conscience, and intelligence, but as you suggest, it does not have a “presidential” flavor to it. I am inclined to accept Governor Romney’s sincerity and I wholeheartedly attest to the truth of a message that secular ideologues will dismiss as a quaint collection of reactionary political utterances. It is for this reason that I thank you for so helpfully providing Senator Obama’s speech on the same topic. His take may be one of several reasons why we, as Republicans, have few or no misgivings about throwing our support behind this particular Democrat. (It is difficult to imagine any of his rivals comfortably and convincingly holding forth on this subject.) The senator’s convictions may also be contributing to Hillary Clinton’s “broad but shallow” support within her party, and along the same vein, might shed some light on those controversial “present” votes during his time in the Illinois Legislature (but let’s keep any such suspicions amongst ourselves, shall we?).

Mr. Huckabee’s amusingly messianic assertion is greater evidence that this field of Republican candidates is out of touch with and ill suited to serve the best interests of a diverse electorate--or even a healthy cross-section of party faithful. It is enough to make even the most self-respecting RFO get all giddy about Oprah.

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