about “the speech”: Evangelicals want clear divisions, Romney wants to blur distinctions, and none of it matters anyway because Romney allowed the moment when he could have profitably addressed the so-called Mormon issue pass him by months ago

“MANCHESTER, N.H. — Mitt Romney said today that his long-awaited speech on his Mormon faith would not be a clear echo of the address made by John F. Kennedy in 1960 as he sought to become the nation’s first Catholic president,” writes Michael Levenson, Globe Staff, in an article titled Romney talks about his Mormon speech

Instead of a highly personal speech, Romney said he would talk more broadly on Thursday at the George Bush presidential library in College Station, Tex., about the role of religion in politics and of the nation’s religious heritage.

“I think JFK, or President Kennedy really did give the definitive speech on politics and religion, the political process and religious discrimination,” Romney said. “I think he said what had to be said. I don’t have anything really to add what he did, so I’m speaking on a related but different topic, which is the role of religion in a free society, if you will the faith in America, and the fact that I’m concerned that faith has disappeared in many respects from the public square.

“So I want to make sure we maintain our religious heritage in this country, not of a particular brand of faith, if you will, not of particular sect or a denomination but rather the great moral heritage we have is so critical to the great future of this country,” the former Massachusetts governor added … etc.

Say, what? Is that the issue? Evangelicals demur to vote for a Mormon because “faith has disappeared in many respects from the public square?” How does that follow? Here is CBN’s Brody’s account of Romney’s rhetorical problem:

… “If Romney wants to grab those crucial Evangelical votes in Iowa and elsewhere, he will earn their respect and come across as honest and authentic if he acknowledges the differences between the two religions. Evangelicals, for the most part, don’t want him to lump Mormonism and Christianity into the ‘we’re all the same’ category. I know Mormons feel differently about this but I’m just giving it to you straight. Values wise the two religions have a lot in common and I’m sure that will be a big part of his speech. But Evangelicals would trust him more, appreciate him more and respect him more if he came clean about the differences. I’m not saying he needs to do theological bullet points here. Of course not. But a little more would go a long way” …

NOTA: What Romney proposes is the precise opposite of what Brody advises—Brody wants distinctions, and Romney wants to claim that all sects and their sectaries are parts and equal partners in a  grand mosaic of sectarian unity-in-diversity, our so-called “great moral heritage,” whatever that means. But the point is moot. No matter what solution to the problem Romney chooses, he loses. He missed the moment and has allowed others—like Brody—to frame the debate and to specify its terms. The time to address this issue was last summer, or perhaps even as late as the Value Voters Summit. See:

how Romney botched the Mormon-Kennedy-speech issue by setting up impossible expectations, by consistently failing to identify opportunity and seize the initiative, and by allowing others to frame the debate

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

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  1. 1 Geer, Benson, and Merolla develop empirical evidence suggesting that Romney’s “speech” was misguided, wrongheaded, and counter-productive « who is willard milton romney?

    […] about “the speech”: Evangelicals want clear divisions, Romney wants to blur distinctions, and no… […]




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