religious conservatives render themselves completely irrelevant in a single gesture—the Romney question and the “Republican Collapse”
“A prominent evangelical supporter of Mitt Romney has written a memorandum to 150 conservative Christian leaders, warning of the prospect of Rudolph W. Giuliani or Hillary Rodham Clinton in the White House and making the case to rally around Mr. Romney,” writes Michael Luo in an NYT transmission titled Letter Urges Conservative Christians to Support Romney
The writer, Mark DeMoss, a publicity agent whose clients include the Rev. Franklin Graham, wrote the five-page letter, urging the recipients to “galvanize support around Mitt Romney, so Mr. Giuliani isn’t the unintended beneficiary of our divided support among several candidates.”
Or, “worse yet,” Mr. DeMoss added, “so we don’t abdicate the presidency (and the future of the Supreme Court) over to Hillary Clinton” … more
Some poor befuddled soul named Hugh Hewitt—nice internal rhyme—reproduces the DeMoss communique in a post titled Memo to Evangelicals. Here is an excerpt from the DeMoss memo—a riff on the CEO trope the Romney’s prate upon:
The President of the United States is the CEO of the largest enterprise on planet earth, presiding over a nearly $3 trillion budget and some 2 million employees (the size of the workforces of General Motors, General Electric, Citigroup, Ford, Hewlett-Packard and AT&T combined). Mitt Romney has already been the chief executive of one of the most successful investment management firms in the world—Bain Capital, with nearly $6 billion under management; a Winter Olympic Games (Salt Lake City, 2002), where he turned a $379 million operating deficit into one of the most profitable Games ever; and the state of Massachusetts, where he eliminated a $3 billion deficit without raising taxes or borrowing money … more
Question: Does this seem like an argument that would inspire an Evangelical?—or, more broadly, a religious conservative?—i.e. us, as we are observant Jews, not Christians. Think about it: The president is a CEO?—really?—are we really America INC.?—from whence comes our moral authority, may we ask?—DeMoss’s reasoning is sad to the point of tears.
Consider David Brook’s rejoinder to the claims of the Evangelical movement.
“Over the past decade, religious conservatives within the G.O.P. have argued that social policies should be guided by the eternal truths of natural law and that questions about stem cell research and euthanasia should reflect the immutable sacredness of human life,” writes David Brooks in a tedious and strangely organized but sometimes insightful op-ed titled The Republican Collapse.
But temperamental conservatives are suspicious of the idea of settling issues on the basis of abstract truth. These kinds of conservatives hold that moral laws emerge through deliberation and practice and that if legislation is going to be passed that slows medical progress, it shouldn’t be on the basis of abstract theological orthodoxy … more
We tend to agree with Brook’s description of the contradiction between valuing a tradition of deliberation and the notion abstract first principles whether derived from supernatural or other sources. Brook’s contradiction reaches its furthest extreme in the person of Willard Milton Romney himself. Regard: Willard Milton Romney negates on its face the Evangelical notion of political leadership that derives its legitimacy from a community’s interpretation of a sacred text or texts: he holds to different texts, but more importantly he held to different values. Now, in advance of a national election, he claims to have changed his mind such that he holds to the same or at least similar values, e.g. life, family. So in a sense he is a convert, but not a convert to what an Evangelical would consider a normative tradition; he is a convert in the ideological abstract, a contradiction in himself: a civic Evangelical, a secular or cultural Christian.
On what grounds can an Evangelical consider Willard Milton Romney? On pragmatic grounds? Hardly. On pragmatic grounds the other GOP candidates offer far more impressive biographies and resumes—and they are all at least consistent with themselves. The only real grounds that a DeMoss, Perkins, or a Bauer can consider a figure like Willard Milton Romney are mercenary grounds: only Romney has stooped, and consistently stooped, to kiss their rings, to put it gently, and he has been kind enough to morph himself into whatever form they desire. Hence, for the Evangelical movement to even consider the person of Willard Milton Romney signals their departure from relevance on the political or cultural scene—they have squandered their inheritance, their only real inheritance: their integrity to an historical tradition that values character, i.e. character derived from devotion to something higher than oneself.
Put more simply: Their absurd desire to be king-makers has called forth the most absurd of kings.