December 15, 2007

"The deeply dispiriting Romney-Huckabee religion showdown."

Here's an excellent piece by Kenneth Anderson — a former Mormon — in The Weekly Standard). It's quite long, but well worth reading. Conclusion:
The exchange between the Huckabee bigots among the evangelicals, on the one hand, and Romney-the-opportunist, on the other--between assertions of a "Christian presidency" and the dismaying response of "conservative multiculturalism"--might seem to many to be a struggle merely within the loopy, irrational religious backwoods of the Republican party. It is not. It is about this country and the rest of us and our long-term relationship to liberal toleration at its hour of grave need--and that is why Romney's wrong answer to the wrong question is so very, very dispiriting.


rhhardin said...

does anyone believe it was truly irrelevant to the public trust that Nancy Reagan consulted an astrologer on weighty matters of public policy?

A couple of defenses of astrology by Vicki Hearne and Douglas Adams

The piece omits that management consultants, which are rightly deplored, are simply experts on soap opera in the political sphere, and this aspect of their expertise matters because of the media business model, namely the soap opera audience.

Basically they understand women.

The right questions will never have legs because these women are not interested in them.

The 40% of women who are the target.

Either ridicule them into silence, or let the 60% who are above it lobby to eliminate women's suffrage to get rid of this vexatious voting bloc, and let politics pander to a different audience again.

hdhouse said...

The problem isn't in the debate. If politicians want to waste their precious audience time with these things so be it.

There are two other real issues at play here:

1. The early voting hangs by a thread between these two. If 100% of the 20% fringe that these positions attract show up at the caucuses and polls then we have a victor so however dispiriting this debate (sic!) is, it is calculated.

2. Does the debate go away after the elections and what of those who did the 100% of 20% thing? We can see by Mr. Bush that when he was too busy for almost anything else he took meetings with Dobson, Falwell et al and not meet and greet but 1 hour meetings with the president of the United States and remember Bush talking with Falwell about the upcoming Iraq invasion (then)?

I am disturbed that Romney and Huckfinn don't get the idea that it is scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. That is the the dispiriting part.

George M. Spencer said...

What's deeply dispiriting about it?

Let 'er rip. Take off the gloves and have at it.

There are major doctrinal differences between Mormonism and Protestantism and Catholicism. The press might sell more newspapers, and we might learn more about who believes what and why.

The day after Romney's speech the NYT ran a one paragraph sidebar about Mormonism. One paragraph!

Keith & Melanie Erickson said...

Want to know more about what Mormons believe. Look for yourself and don't depend on others to educate you. Go to or either site will answer questions.

Anonymous said...

All religious belief systems are fundamentally irrational. This doesn't make them "bad", or condemn religion. It's just a statement of fact, as opposed to faith - a nice word that is widely used to define away the irrationality. Arguments about which belief set is "correct" are simply ridiculous, though no doubt they will continue.

As for the article, "-a former Morman-" pretty well sums up the expected outcome, doesn't it?

Paddy O said...

P.Rich, I think you're calling some of the most intelligent and rational people in history irrational. Not saying that religion is entirely verifiable in every way, but it can certainly be rational.

You can even disagree with that point and still understand that there is not a black and white aspect. There are varying degrees of irrationality, and that comes in the historical claims of a religion, the extent to which a religion accurately understands human tendencies, and most fully is adaptable to changing contexts. That's why although a funny example, there never will be a religion based on a flying spaghetti monster. It claims nothing but its own absurdity and delivers nothing but denial of the whole. Religions that last and do echo into a society do make claims that connect with a substantive part of a person's understanding, even though they might also pluck at the mystical at the same time.

It's also the case that being irrational doesn't mean false. Quantum mechanics is deeply, deeply irrational. It's also entirely true. The universe doesn't really care if it's rational or not.

That all being said the Romney-Huckabee religion showdown is deeply dispiriting as its more a showdown between hucksters who have chosen their brand than the religions themselves.

hdhouse said...

those are good points Paddy O. my point was not so much that they debate this stuff which makes little sense as we are not electing a pope here but that the quality of one's religion is squared up against someone else's.

are presbyterians better than congregationalists? luthern church in america v. missouri synod?...
why would a president talk about such things? why would a would-be president feature these things..

i just don't get these guys. Mitt Romney's dad George could loose just fine without invoking his religion. The Huskster has trotted out his religion and his belief in guns so far...what's next? a talking dog?

Unknown said...

i just don't get these guys. Mitt Romney's dad George could loose just fine without invoking his religion.

Why can't people spell this word? It's lose, not loose. Sorry, but this bugs me big time. I never noticed it until a couple of years ago, and now I see it spelled incorrectly more often than not.

AlphaLiberal said...

It's good to see the vultures from the Republican Party's politicization of religion come home to roost.

Thanks to Huckabee and Romney, many Republicans are finally coming face-to-face with the consequences of these actions.

Republicans have been backing a guy for 8 years who says he's on a mission from God and is using churches like old man Richard J., Daley used patronage armies.


chuck b. said...

The essay uses the word "syncretic" which I like.

chuck b. said...

"On the other hand, we also recognize that religion is more than merely a set of rational and therefore mutable doctrines subject to rational scrutiny. It is also an affective identity in considerable measure acquired as part of who one is. In that sense and to that extent, it is accidental and immutable in the way that skin color, race, and ethnicity are accidental and immutable."

How can that possibly be true?

He's an *ex* Mormon?

People change religious beliefs quite often. Religion seems quite mutable.

Peter Hoh said...

Very interesting column. Thanks for pointing it out.

Can't put my finger on why, but the writing style seemed odd.

Ann Althouse said...

"Can't put my finger on why, but the writing style seemed odd."

The author's a law professor?

Peter Hoh said...

The author's a law professor?

Ah, so that's it. The piece is in desperate need of a radical rewrite, but I guess nobody wants to tell him that.

Not that I want a powerpoint presentation, but I do appreciate when a writer creates a frame on which to build the argument. I'm hard pressed to find that in this article.

He's got several important points embedded in there, but they are lost in a sea of sentences, and it's left to the reader to connect them.

Every so often, when something deserves to be spelled out, the writer opts for brevity. It's maddening.