Like many people, I spent my summer vacation with my large and fiercely loyal extended family. Unlike many people, my family is mixed. No, I don’t mean mixed race or mixed class, although we are that too, but mixed politically. There are plenty of lefties among us; there are also plenty of conservatives. During the Bush years, I often found it incomprehensible that these people whom I love and respect could vote for a man who got this country into wars they didn’t believe in and cultural battles over gay rights that they actually opposed. Among the Essig Republicans, there are no homophobes or hawks, just people who genuinely believe that the fiscal policies of the GOP are better for this country than the Democratic ones.
Like many people in mixed-political families, I more or less ignore it and focus on what ties us together: eating, eating, and more eating. This month, as I sat…
Politico reported on July 17 that campaign officials deny that there will be any repeat this year of Rick Warren’s 2008 Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency. It is not clear from the report whether these officials hale from the Romney or Obama camps (or both).
It’s the only news item of its kind that I have seen, so I am a bit confused (see my subsequent post of July 19 on the matter). Most news agencies are still reporting that the event is on the books. If–and at present it’s a big if–Warren’s hope for a 2012 reprise is currently off the table we must ask: Why?
I say this not only because the idea of a sectarian cleric religious-testing American presidential candidates is deeply problematic on Church/State grounds. (Will rabbis, Roman Catholic priests, imams and atheist chaplains be granted the same access and interviewing privileges?)
I would also avoid the shindig because the previous forum that Warren hosted was a disaster by standards of fair journalistic practice.
Don't wait for Romney to bring up religion. (Photo by Austen Hufford via Flickr/CC)
Four years and nine days ago today, Barack Obama stunned (uninitiated) analysts at a campaign stop in Zanesville Ohio with the announcement that if elected he would retain George W. Bush’s much-maligned Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. It would become “a critical part” of his administration, said the junior senator from Illinois.
Some liberals were shocked. They shouldn’t have been. As the current writer and a few others had been arguing prior to 2008, the Democrats had finally figured out that they could no longer be the “Party of Secularism.”
Ah 2008! Good times for Faith and Values politicking, be it red or blue. It seemed every candidate–from Mike Huckabee to John Edwards–was invoking God on …
" . . . and your pension and benefits too . . . " (photo by Flickr/CC user outcast104)
Just a few short years ago, vampires ruled. Twilight, True Blood, and other cultural obsessions posited the vampire as perfection–a strong predator who is not merely beautiful, but never ages. Joan Rivers with a mixed martial arts fighter’s body.
But perhaps it is a sign of our times that these ubervampires have morphed into the far more campy ones in Dark Shadows. As Americans lost our appetite for the sort of blood-sucking predators who ruled Hollywood and Wall Street, vampires no longer haunted our cultural imaginary as heroes, but as villains. By the time Matt Taibbi used the phrase “vampire squid” to describe Goldman Sacks in 2009, the vampire had lost his mojo.
The story focuses on a 54-page advertising plan that somehow dropped into the Times‘ outstretched hands “through a person not connected to the proposal who was alarmed by its tone.” The financial force behind the plan is the “conservative billionaire” Joe Ricketts who, according to a proxy, “is very concerned about the future direction of the country” (as conservative billionaires are wont to be).
The prospectus itself details a media strategy to flesh out the connections between Barack Obama and his controversial pastor,…
President Obama told ABC news yesterday that on the subject of same-sex marriage he has been “going through an evolution on this issue.”
He may indeed be going through an intellectual evolution in his thinking about the rights of gay people to marry. His recent remarks indicate that he has undergone a theological evolution as well. Recall that Obama cast his new-found stance on this issue as a reflection of his Christian scruples (a point I hope to explore in greater detail forthwith).
But permit me now in my capacity as a student of Faith and Values campaigning to point to a third type of evolution in his thinking: Obama’s strategists have completely given up on religious conservativesand concluded that they are irredeemably lost to Mitt Romney.
This observation needs to be properly contextualized. In 2008, Democrats were still reeling from the damage that the so-called…
About 30 seconds before Professor Matthew Bowman of Hampden-Sydney College sat down for an interview with me, I whispered to him:
Matthew, this interview is not for our colleagues in the American Academy of Religion. It’s not for the specialists that we write for in our scholarly publications. It’s for intelligent people everywhere, who will benefit from the breadth of your knowledge on this subject. So keep it real!
And keep it real he did.
With his inner wonk summoned, validated, and released, Dr. Bowman (author of the fine monograph, The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith) proceeded to dazzle us with highly sophisticated insights about the Mormon community, rendered in clear, accessible locutions.
Our guest tries to make sense of an extremely curious demographic finding: When it comes to voting for a Mormon president, conservative Evangelicals and secular…
That deafening, churning, leather-on-wood sound you just heard is the sound of the entire Romney campaign “pivoting to the general,” as the pundits like to say.
In the coming months, Mitt and his Faith and Values team will need to figure out how to draw lucrative religious voting blocs to the Republican side of the ledger. Faith-based politicking is always a complicated affair, and for these reasons I offer a few hopefully helpful suggestions on how the Romney team ought to proceed:
Bait the secularists (if you must): Secular-bashing is among the easiest, and most intellectually dishonest, forms of Faith and Values politicking out there. Easy, because there is widespread confusion as to what “secularism” means. The dreaded “ism” can conveniently stand in for anything a politician loathes: godlessness, gang violence, pornography–it’s all good. Or, bad as the case may be.
On Meet the Press this morning, reports Politico, Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) speculated that Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith would be held against him in his potential run against Barack Obama:
Asked whether he thought that the Obama campaign would raise Mormonism as an issue against Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney, Labrador said, “I think the media is going to do that for the Obama campaign.”
While anti-Mormon prejudice is real–nearly a quarter of voters in 2007 said they would not vote for one–this claim seems a bit off the mark. To begin with, Obama has shown zero interest in damning any religious or (non-religious) group during his tenure as president.
Truth be told, most sitting presidents in recent memory, Republican or Democrat, have been extremely reluctant to invoke faith in anything but a positive, abstract, vague and platitudinous manner.
This has been a year when a lot of seriously bad laws concerning reproductive rights have been passed. In Wisconsin legislators voted that private health insurance is not allowed to cover abortions. In Tennessee, a bill calling for the publication of the names of doctors who perform abortions as well as detailed demographic information about the women who have them is moving through the legislature. Then there were the proposed “trans-vaginal rape” laws in Virginia, Texas, and Iowa. These laws would force women seeking abortion to have a trans-vaginal ultrasound, a procedure carried out by inserting a rather large and phallic instrument into a woman’s vagina. This would be mandatory even in cases of rape and incest.
But when it comes to just downright crazy laws, Arizona wins with reproductive rights (not to mention crazy racist and anti-immigration laws too. Go AZ!).
In the run-up to the 2008 presidential election, Christian Conservatives somehow neglected to get behind one candidate. Confronted with a slate that featured pro-choice Rudy Giuliani , flipfloppin’ Mitt Romney (a Mormon), and John McCain (who they simply hated), they finally coalesced around Mike Huckabee.
The former governor of Arkansas actually entered the race early, in January of 2007. He was scarcely noticed until December where he picked up: 1) steam, 2) the fealty of Chuck Norris, and, 3) the admiration of Iowans who then gifted him with a caucus victory in January 2008.
In 2012 the Christian Right witnessed the exact opposite scenario. The field was now flooded with candidates whose worldview was congenial to its own. These ranged from Catholics like Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich (a convert), to Evangelicals such as Tim Pawlenty (a convert from Roman Catholicism) to…
Gary Cooper in his most famous role, as Mitt Romney ...
Game theory is a branch of mathematics that I both love and hate: I hate it for the license it has provided for a certain breed of Strangelovian “strategic analysts” to shed their humanity in deference to an extended, bloodless exercise in mental masturbation whose presuppositions are frequently far removed from reality and which all too often serve to justify a pre-existing pro-military ideology, and I love it for the opportunity it provides to clarify one’s thinking via a seductive array of logical constructs … that are often reassuringly far removed from reality!
It’s seductive, often wrong, but great fun – enough so that I once wrote a book about it: The Survival Game, how game theory explains the biology of competition and…
Yesterday Mitt Romney may have found his campaign’s metaphor. The economy is sick, really sick. He is a caring doctor who understands how to heal the economy. So a vote for Dr. Mitt will make the economy better.
This is good news for the Romney campaign. After all, Romney keeps losing votes to a man who can’t even solve his own google problem, let alone run a campaign that doesn’t just sound like the mumblings of a crazy person. Rick Santorum’s no sex, no college, no separation of church and state, no kidding message is absurd, but apparently not as absurd as Romney’s incredible wealth. As Romney keeps sticking his millionaire foot in his millionaire mouth, saying things like his wife drives a couple of Cadillacs and that some of his friends own Nascar teams, voters go for the “sweet smell of Santorum.”
I would like to be the first in line to file a malpractice suit against Dr….
Rick Santorum may have hurled away his presidential aspirations this week when he put forth that he wanted to throw up when contemplating John F. Kennedy’s famous 1960 address on Church-State separation.
Which leads me to wonder: What issued from his body when he first heard John Lennon’s secular anthem “Imagine”?
I am not necessarily one to say “I told you so” a self-congratulating prig so permit me to rehearse some of my axioms about Faith and Values politicking, which Santorum’s Michigan implosion verified for all to see.
For starters, the American electorate is not presently receptive to full-blown, mixed-martial-arts, faith-based culture warrioring. The type of amplified appeals to divisive “religious” (read conservative Christian) themes articulated by Santorum, and…
I was quoted in the Washington Post yesterday as observing that “theological disputation [on the presidential campaign trail] is a loser.” I was referring to the rhetoric of candidate Rick Santorum, whose surge among GOP voters has been accompanied by a surge in vinegary faith-based oratory.
A comment Santorum made this weekend has made the rounds, and if you are addicted to Sunday morning news shows or CNN you now know it by heart. In a discussion about Obama’s environmentalist policies, Santorum lamented: “It’s about some phony ideal. Some phony theology. Not a theology based on the Bible. A different theology.”
Santorum spent Sunday walking that one back, sort of. Yet as the Washington Post article mentioned above demonstrated, the former senator is not unacquainted with the dark arts of faith-based disparagement.
Anathematizing is how I refer to this type of negative…
For years, everything I believed about American politics could be summed up in the following Gore Vidal bon mot:
America’s not the only one party system, but it’s the only one party system with two right wings.”
That more or less held true till the Dubbya years, when one of the wings went so far right it was no longer accurately described as a political party as much as a social movement fueled by Christian conservatism and funded by corporate interests.
Fortunately, another political aphorism arrived just in time for the 2008 presidential election, this one by humorist David Sedaris, who described people not committed to voting for Barack Obama thusly:
I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. “Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of s#$t…
Most of the sparks were generated by a few solid Romney v. Gingrich scrums. The former, reeling from recent lackluster debate performances, came out kickboxing and tarred the latter as a Freddie Mac lobbyist, an “influence peddler,” a Washington Insider and a pretty damn embarrassing failure as Speaker of the House.
Gingrich, for his part, repulsed the assaults, never losing his cool. Though at one point, he did something unusual and expounded on Romney’s debate strategy: “I understand your technique, which you used on McCain, you used on Huckabee . . . ” I can’t recall the last time I saw a candidate engage in an analysis of another’s rhetorical craft. Odd. But effective. Gingrich is becoming formidable-r with each passing debate.
Mitt Romney was thumped in the South Carolina primary tonight. This capped off a week of jittery debate performances, PR disasters (how many scholars reading this column are taxed at a rate of 15%?), and the puzzling inability to share his thoughts on Newt Gingrich’s desire to be shared by the women in his life.
Throughout this campaign I keep returning to (and abusing) the term “double down” and after tonight I understand why. As the South Carolina tally indicates, a significant portion of the GOP base is in full-fledged double-down mode.
They don’t want a boxer, they want a brawler–a wish predicated on a seething hatred of the policies of Barack Obama (and Barack Obama himself) that verges on the absurd.
I noticed, incidentally, a very similar animus on campuses emanating from the radical Left during the George W. Bush years. Yet it was a decidedly fringe phenomenon–sorry…
Today’s theme along the meme is “S#@t Straight Politicians Say… to Gay People.” And this has been an excellent week in the homophobic s#@t category.
Let’s start with our favorite homophobe, Rick Santorum, whose very name conjures up a cultural fear of anal sex and its aftermath. This week Santorum hit a high note of homophobia by once again confusing gay relationships with orgies. When asked about his opposition to gay marriage at a New Hampshire College Convention, Santorum replied
What about three men? If you think it’s okay for two, you have to differentiate for me why you’re not okay with three….