October 17, 2007

Can we judge the New Republic's attitude toward Mitt Romney by the photo chosen to illustrate an article about him?



But I don't think the author of the piece, Noam Scheiber, picked the photo, and it's not an unflattering article. Here's the core of it:
If the nomination went to the candidate most at home delivering PowerPoint presentations, Romney would almost certainly win it.

... Everything Romney has achieved in life, he's achieved thanks to his relentless empiricism and analytical rigor--in a word, his rationality....

And yet, it turns out that something as seemingly irrelevant as his religion inspires irrational fear and loathing among the people who will anoint the GOP nominee, particularly in the South...

41 comments:

MadisonMan said...

Why am I thinking of a proctologist?

Simon said...

You forgot the link. ;)

Does TNR really believe that religion is "irrelevant"? Come on. And Scheiber shabbily disrespects faith, people of faith generally, and Romney in particular, when he writes that "[i]t's not Romney's fault he was born into the Mormon faith," as if Romney either isn't a practicing Mormon, or that he is, he's simply mechanically going through the motions of a faith inculcated as a matter of upbringing.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Why am I thinking of a proctologist?

Maybe you need more fiber in your diet.

Ann Althouse said...

Simon, though there are many converts to Mormonism, do you really think he'd be a Mormon if he wasn't born into it.

Pogo said...

Keeping members a challenge for LDS church
By Peggy Fletcher Stack
The Salt Lake Tribune
06/22/2006

"According to LDS-published statistics, the annual number of LDS converts declined from a high of 321,385 in 1996 to 241,239 in 2004. In the 1990s, the church's growth rate went from 5 percent a year to 3 percent. "


LDS has at least a few converts every year.

Simon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Simon said...

Ann, I have no idea - but I think it denigrates faith to equate it with habit, which Scheiber implicitly seems to, as I read it.

Simon said...

Ann (addenda): Perhaps another way to look at it's the reverse: regardless of how many people convert to mormonism, there are a lot of folks who are born again, including converts from other Christian and quasi-Christian denominations. Scheiber says that it's not Romney's fault that he was "born into the Mormon faith," but even to the extent that Christian conservatives have a problem with Romney being a Mormon (and it's far from clear how far that really is), it seems to me, their problem is that he is a Mormon, not that he was born into the Mormon church. Regardless of the faith of his parents, if he'd later on been born again or converted to Catholicism, what have you, would Christian conservatives would have the same concerns about him?

Henry said...

Those poor irrational southern GOP voters. What if they are forced to choose between Romney and Guiliani?

Schreiber is trying to find an angle and he can't stand up for stumbling over conventional wisdom. Except that he doesn't seem to get religion:

"Nor is it his fault that, over the last generation, conservative voters have come to see religion as a proxy for moral character."

I don't think the Christian right is worried about the moral character of Mormons. It's the theology of Mormons that bother them.

Maybe they're worried about the moral character of a guy who looks scripted and opportunistic but that's not his fault either, is it? One can't help being born with a square jaw, or having a late-in-life epiphany on abortion.

Henry said...

Regarding Simon's point, it's worth noting that Bobby Jindal will probably be the next governor of Louisiana.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

It's a wonderfup picture for a caption contest. I also love the contrast between the pink curtains and the cyan gloves.

Michael_H said...

"And yet, it turns out that something as seemingly irrelevant as his religion inspires irrational fear and loathing among the people who will anoint the GOP nominee, particularly in the South..."

Based on what empirical evidence? Which polls? Taken by what pollsters? Among which group?

TNR writers and editors take no small privelege in making up facts, often based on their deep seated, personal, points of view.

I've lived in the South. Religious conservatives look to values and beliefs, and whether the politician is Baptist, Mormon, Catholic, etc. makes little difference (unless one is a snooty NE liberal imposing a personal prejudice on southerners..)

Ralph said...

This is petty, and it may be natural, but I'm not fond of men that age with shoe-polish-black hair. It may just be sour grapes that he has that much hair, but it's too much artifice for me.
I remember McCain looked like hell in 1998 or 99 because he'd had a face peal, which probably led to the melanoma he had in 2000. And Fred's suits fit badly since he lost weight. Too many handlers?

Pogo said...

Actually, it is the presence of any religion at all that inspires irrational fear and loathing among the MSM and the left.

Classic projection.

Too many jims said...

(unless one is a snooty NE liberal imposing a personal prejudice on southerners..)

Like the notable snooty NE liberal James Dobson. I have no idea how prejudice against Mormons will effect Romney but the belief that it will goes beyond "snooty NE liberals".

Mindsteps said...

Simon said...
"[i]t's not Romney's fault he was born into the Mormon faith," as if Romney either isn't a practicing Mormon, or that he is, he's simply mechanically going through the motions of a faith inculcated as a matter of upbringing.

How about reparative/conversion therapy for Mormonism? I think Ann Coulter might be a particularly effective therapist for Mr. Romney. If she runs into trouble maybe she can consult with Dr. Helen.

rhhardin said...

I liked Wonkette :

Mitt To Beg Voters To Overlook His Scary and Confusing Religion

Nutty beliefs and magic pajamas are mentioned.

Right- or left- wing, they're nice words.

Ralph said...

The influence of the televangelists has waned, but religious prejudice is real (and natural to some degree). Southern Democrats voted for Kennedy in 1960, but not as much in the primaries, which are Mitt's hurdle with Repubs now.
My grandfather, a Tobacco Road lawyer & clerk of the county court, said after the assassination that "He got what he deserved", but I'll bet he'd voted for him (he certainly didn't vote for Nixon). I don't know if it was an Irish Orange/Green animus or federal/state official jealousy or a Southern/Boston Yankee thing, because he was also dead within a year.

hdhouse said...

"romney readies himself to stick it to yet another citizen"

Trooper York said...

Was this taken just before he was about to shake hands with Maureen Dowd?

B said...

Can we judge the New Republic's attitude toward Mitt Romney by the photo chosen to illustrate an article about him?

Of course; which publication does not choose their photos this way?

cyrus pinkerton said...

Actually, it is the presence of any religion at all that inspires irrational fear and loathing ...

Apparently not, Pogo. "Irrational fear and loathing" is significantly greater towards the nonreligious than the religious.

A March, 2007 survey done by Newsweek shows that 62% of people would refuse to vote for any candidate admitting to being an atheist.

And...

Here are the percentages of Americans who, according to a Pew Research Center survey, would refuse to vote for someone based on the relevant characteristic:

Catholic: 8%
Jewish: 10%
Evangelical Christian: 15%
Muslim: 38%
Atheist: 50%

bill said...

"Fudge, Packer?"

Line from Cannibal: The Musical. A student film by Trey Parker and Matt Stone (the South Park guys). The musical is in many ways an homage to "Oklahoma" as it tells the story of Alfred Packer, the first person ever convicted for cannibilism.

Mitch H. said...

My god, that photo. What is it with Massachusetts politicians and their ability to self-destruct on film?

Simon said...

Cyrus, if the statistic you quote (without citation, concededly) is accurate, doesn't it suggest that (1) religion isn't irrelevant to how people vote and (2) atheists are by far the most likely -- one in two, in fact -- to consider religion not only relevant but actually dispositive to their vote? It would seem to suggest that Christians and Jews are massively more tolerant of leaders who don't share their religious scruples. If that statistic is true.

Trooper York said...

Actually he was just about to pick up a take out order of Johnny cakes, for Vito, and you can never be too carefull.

Too many jims said...

Simon,

I think you are reading Cyrus's stats incorrectly. I think the percentages reflect what respondents to the poll would not vote for. That is, if a candidate is an atheist, 50% of the respondents said they would not vote for that candidate.

Cedarford said...

Much of the "controversy" about Romney's religion is manufactured by the media. Like Jews in the Senate, or Governorship of States, or high Cabinet Posts - Mormons have served all 3 slots over many decades with no "Dare We Elect a LDS???" controversy.

It is the media once again playing out their chosen narrative in the absence of reliable facts to weave a story. The story of stupid Southern Christians. Rudy is being used as a pawn in the media bashing, too. Rudy continues his amazing, surprising strength with the "You Know Who" Southern voters - DESPITE the storyline we in the media hew to that he should be unacceptable to "You Know Whos" - those stupid people with their irrational anti-abortion beliefs, their bigotry and Selma just yesterday!!

The media misses such voters vote like much of the rest of America - with strong leaders that share their values and beliefs. And people from "outside their region" - not religion - simply have to take a few extra steps to reassure voters.

Like with JFK and Lieberman, and barely Catholic Hollywood Ron Reagan...to make the sale. Or Arkansas outsider Bill Clinton showing voters in Pennsylvania he was no rube or Jimmy Carter retread.

Mitt & Rudy are doing well winning over elements of the Republican Base. Mitt more so than Rudy because he lives by their values, and shares most their beliefs. Rudy suceeds with an element that ignores his values because they place being a patriotic hawk 1st. But slowly and surely, Romney is getting endorsements from mainline Christian religious leaders that like what they see in Romney. (Ignore the media favorite religious kooks providing the "I hate all those Godless candidates"! soundbites. They serve the same purpose of Al Sharpton in NYC who is ready 24/7 to rush to a media studio to speak
for all black people on any issue.)

And don't forget in all the lazy media stories of religious fanatic litmus tests and carefully selected zealots chosen by the media to "prove" their narrative of intolerant Southerners - that the media is ignoring Democrats with good chances in certain Southern states.
Hillary has many positives that evangelical Christians concerned with issues care about.. Health care reform, duty to help others in need, being against all wealth in America going into the hands of a few, stopping the gutting of good-paying jobs that fill the Megachurches with people and funds, that America should only go to war when American lives are at stake. She may not only lock up the black vote, but get a majority of Southern or Midwest women in certain states. And a share of white men upset with losing health care, losing jobs to China, declining standards of living.

cyrus pinkerton said...

Too Many Jims,

Exactly right. Thank you.

Ralph said...

Reagan's father was a lapsed Catholic, but Ronnie was raised a Protestant, Disciples of Christ, IIRC.

Ralph said...

"Irrational fear and loathing" is significantly greater towards the nonreligious than the religious.
If you consider the anti-religious, the intensity is there, but not the numbers. My b-i-l rags on the Bible Belt so much I wonder why he lives there.

Simon said...

Too Many Jims said...
"I think you are reading Cyrus's stats incorrectly. I think the percentages reflect what respondents to the poll would not vote for. That is, if a candidate is an atheist, 50% of the respondents said they would not vote for that candidate."

Perhaps, but I don't think we can say without more context. I'm not in the habit of doing other people's research for them, so if Cyrus doesn't want to provide a link, he's stuck with us interpreting the freestanding, plain meaning of the words he quotes. As I read it, adequately restated, Cyrus quoted a text that said that, "the percentage[] of [Atheist] Americans who, according to a Pew Research Center survey, would refuse to vote for someone based on the relevant characteristic ... [is] 50%," whereas "the percentages of [Evangelical] Americans who, according to a Pew Research Center survey, would refuse to vote for someone based on the relevant characteristic ... [is] 18%" Of course, this isn't to say that your reading's unreasonable, either, and if Cyrus would link to documents he's quoting (a bad habit shared by many of our visitors from the leftfield, it seems), then naturally, that may well provide context that refutes my reading.

Pogo said...

cyrus,

What makes you think those numbers mean people are being irrational?

ron st.amant said...

The photo makes me think that if Romney is elected and builds a second Gitmo he wants to be a 'hands on' 'enhanced' interrogator!

Simon said...

Pogo said...
"cyrus, What makes you think those numbers mean people are being irrational?"

Well, quite. Even if we assume Too Many Jims' reading of Cyrus' stat is correct, is there anything irrational about saying "I'm not going to vote for someone who believes in X"? Does it matter whether X represents that person's being a Marxist or a Muslim? Refusing to vote for someone based on their religion strikes me as being much more akin to voting based on whether a candidate has an R or a D after their name. It's nothing at all like refusing to vote for someone based on the color of their skin, for example, because unlike a racial criterion or a gender criterion, a religious criterion inquires into a candidate's views (insofar as a person's religion implies fidelity to a certain set of beliefs -- if it didn't, their putative faith is empty -- the absence of such a metric, I suspect, being one reason why atheists might be broadly seen as unworthy of public office). If we're not supposed to vote based on a candidate's views, what are we supposed to vote based on?

Ralph said...

unworthy of public office
I assume you mean untrustworthy. On the other hand, Bill carried that Bible to church every week, so perhaps we should look for different cues (some of us thought him untrustworthy and oily from the get go). He still claims we questioned his legitimacy, when it was really his fitness for office.

Liam said...

Cool!

So, I guess that there'd be no uproar if they posed Barney Frank in that same light?

Oh, goodness no. It'd only be OK to do that to Larry Craig.

My bad.

Simon said...

Ralph, quite so, and there are pro-choice politicians who claim to be Catholics. I'm not suggesting it's a sufficient qualification that someone says they're of a certain religion, only that a person's religion is a valid and relevant criterion for assessing whether you ought to vote for them for political office.

James said...

Um, Liam? So the media made Romney go to a fudge shop? This is just bad foresight on the part of his handlers, not noticing that the photo-op would be in front of a big sign that says FUDGE, and even worse, putting gloves on. I've seen bad pictures of all candidates, it probably has less to do with the political bias (in most cases) and more to do with a good sense of humor.

Revenant said...

A March, 2007 survey done by Newsweek shows that 62% of people would refuse to vote for any candidate admitting to being an atheist.

And sadly I'm pretty sure that's actually an improvement over the 2004 election season. Maybe people are a little "Jesus'd out" after eight years of Bush. Oh well, at least we can comfort ourselves with the fact that people are even less willing to vote for Scientologists.

The really fun trivia fact is that eight states still have laws on the books banning atheists from holding elected office (they aren't enforced, of course).

A Christian Prophet said...

I really think Romney would win EVERYBODY over with the following speech on religion:

http://christianprophecy.blogspot.com/2007/10/mitt-romneys-speech-on-religion.html