Posts Tagged ‘botched rhetoric’

“It would have been better for the nation if Mitt Romney had said he just wanted to spend more time with his family,” write the editors of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in an article titled A graceless Mitt Romney shows the nation how not to bow out of a race, reproduced in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Instead, the former Massachusetts governor, in dropping his bid for the Republican presidential nomination Thursday, insulted the patriotism of most of the American electorate – and its intelligence as well.

In his speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, Romney said he was stepping aside because, ”I simply cannot let my campaign be part of aiding a surrender to terror.”

Both of the candidates for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, Romney said, ”have made their intentions clear regarding Iraq and the war on terror: They would retreat, declare defeat.” For him to continue campaigning, he said, would ”forestall the launch of a national campaign, and frankly, I’d make it easier for Sen. Clinton or Obama to win.”

Even by today’s debased standards of political discourse, this borders on slander. Most Americans in both political parties have rejected President George W. Bush’s attempt to conflate the war in Iraq with the war on terrorism. Romney is bright enough to know the connection is dubious, but his comments suggest he’s craven enough to use it to curry favor with the party’s extreme right – just in case he wants to try again in 2012.

Yet it is exactly this sort of transparent, say-anything political opportunism that characterized and, ultimately, torpedoed Romney’s campaign. Time and again, he espoused positions that conflicted with views he had expressed previously – on abortion, gay rights, stem cell research, immigration and health-care reform. Those flip-flops, more than his Mormon faith, caused evangelical Christians in the GOP to be wary of him [...]

[...] Romney tried Thursday to compare his 2008 campaign with that of former California Gov. Ronald Reagan in 1976. Reagan, although narrowly trailing President Gerald R. Ford in the delegate count, took his battle for the nomination to the August convention in Kansas City. But those were different times, when primaries and state party conventions lasted well into the summer. Reagan didn’t have to wage an expensive six-month campaign to stay in the race, as Romney would.

Reagan did emerge, however, as the party’s heir apparent, a slot Romney clearly covets. His withdrawal from this race gives him four years to polish his conservative credentials for the next one – or change them if that’s more expedient [...]

John Ellis in a RealClearPolitics article titled The Romney Campaign’s 5 Big Mistakes comments as well on Romney’s invocation of Reagan:

[...] Having mismanaged their candidate to political defeat, the Romney team added insult to injury by spinning his departure as reminiscent of Ronald Reagan’s defeat in 1976. This is preposterous. Reagan electrified the conservative movement in 1964 with his televised address on behalf of Barry Goldwater. Reagan came within one endorsement — Strom Thurmond’s — of wresting away the Republican nomination from Richard Nixon in 1968. And when he arrived in Kansas City in the summer of 1976, he had carried any number of critical states by majority votes (and in some cases, by wide margins) in Republican primary elections. Reagan left the stage as a force because he was a force. Romney leaves the stage having carried Michigan and Massachusetts and a number of caucus states. And he leaves having given it his very best effort. But he does not leave as a force, because he is not yet a significant force in the Republican Party [...]

The emphases are ours, all ours.

The editorialists of The Kansas City Star concur with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in an editorial titled Romney’s withdrawal clears way for GOP’s best candidate

[...] In ceding the Republican nomination to John McCain on Thursday, Mitt Romney did not blame his own inept campaign.

He did not blame inconsistencies between his campaign rhetoric and his record as governor of Massachusetts.

He did not blame intraparty religious squabbles that another candidate, Mike Huckabee, cynically encouraged.

No, Romney chose to blame his withdrawal on . . . the Democrats!

As Romney told it, Sen. Hillary Clinton or Sen. Barack Obama would “surrender” to our enemies abroad.

By prolonging the Republican nomination battle, Romney said, he would dangerously hobble McCain’s ability to attack the Democrats. “And in this time of war,” Romney said, “I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror.”

That’s quite a charge, reminiscent of Vice President Dick Cheney’s worst rhetorical excesses. In the last presidential campaign, for example, Cheney was widely mocked for his claim that voting for Democrats would raise the danger of another big terrorist attack on the United States.

A question for Romney: Whatever happened to simply congratulating the rival who beat you in a hard-fought primary battle?

Whether they count themselves as Democrats, Republicans or independents, many voters have tired of the bitter political partisanship they see in our national government.

So Romney’s statement Thursday provided further evidence of the tin ear that hurt his candidacy [...]

The reviews are in. Romney’s final tirade tanked. Romney departed us the same way he greeted us, disastrously.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“Romney leads in the delegate count, but I think this weekend’s results show astounding weakness in the candidate who was supposed to be the most electable conservative in the race,” writes Jonahtan Andler in an NRO The Corner blog burst titled Is Romney Viable?

Consider two things: 1) Romney spent $4 million and 22 days in South Carolina, and still finished behind Fred. 2) Romney has not one any seriously contested constest. Nevada? Wyoming? Please. Where Romney has made a major investment (Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina) he has failed. Michigan? No other candidate made a comparable investment or effort to winning the state, so I’m not sure that helps the case.What’s Romney’s problem? For many folks (my self included), it is a perceived insincerity. I too often get the sense that Romney is saying what he thinks folks want to hear instead of what he believes. It isn’t just the “evolution” of his views, it is also the small things: The small, subtle exaggerations that arise when Romney is trying to ingratiate himself with various groups. (Remember Romney the life-long hunter?) The blatant pandering to the auto industry in Michigan in a way that suggests some very unconservative views. Romney’s MBA style does not help much here, as it reinforces the perception of Romney as someone who solves problems without much regard to underlying ideological principle [...]

Yuh-huh. We concur. However: what impresses us are the numbers: US$4 million and 22 days, numbers consistent with every other contest that Romney has participated in, win or lose. Romney always-always draws the most pitiable ROI for his massive expenditures.

When Adler generalizes from his own perceptions we are sympathetic but less impressed. Yes, Romney excites our gag reflex too. But so did Pres. Clinton and he served two full terms. Our gag reflex is an unrealiable predictor. And so, we assume, is Adler’s.

The non-Evangelicals at the astroturfing flak-claque fraud-blog preposterously titled Evangelicals for Mitt issue this painfully honest rejoinder:

“Governor Romney did best in Michigan, the biggest and most urbanized of the major early states,” writes Charles Mitchell in a blog burst titled THE GOOD PROFESSOR MISFIRES

Now, ask yourself this question: Which of those states most closely resembles the battles to come? Unquestionably it’s Michigan. If you compare the size (big) and demographics (diverse) of Florida to any of these other places, Michigan’s the only reasonable answer. And then after Florida we have February 5th — where there are numerous contests across the country.

Florida, California, New York etc., resemble Michigan to the degree that they are big and urban? This is the point?

In both cases — Florida and February 5th — the candidates simply are not going to be able to reach most voters one-on-one (Senator McCain’s specialty) or prevail by appealing to a select set of religious believers (Governor Huckabee’s only recourse). They are going to have to do a lot of TV and use messages that resonate with a lot of people. That’s Governor Romney’s strength, and Michigan is the proof. He didn’t win there on account of his dad — if you look at the exit polls, he actually lost among the older voters who’d actually remember George Romney’s 1960s governorship. He won because he reached a huge number of voters on a topic they care about (the economy) with a message that was both conservative and forward looking (a.k.a. non-Huckabeean).

Retail (F2F) politics—as in the early primaries—is no longer possible let alone practicable, argues Mitchell. Targeting select demographics or communities of interest—Evangelicals, home-schoolers—is no longer as feasible, nor will it be as effective, he continues. In other words, expect less dialog (with voters and voter groups in shared spaces or various fora), and more dissemination (to the masses through media channels).

So: broadcast media become dominant in these later primaries, e.g. television.

This line is reasonable on its face.

This is the argument that interests us, yet another variation on the dejected, and despairing theme of “the voters will default to Romney!”

Those who — like Professor Adler — don’t think Governor Romney can connect with primary voters are misjudging this race. This isn’t 2000, 1996, 1992, or any of the other recent campaigns — where you won by doing well in a large number of diners early on. That happened, but it didn’t prove decisive. Given that, we’re now in a different type of campaign — one where the primary weapons are broad-based, public appeals. And we’re also now at the stage of the campaign where the options available to conservatives who don’t want to find themselves making a choice in November between two people who might have been on the Democratic ticket in 2004 — Senators Clinton and McCain — are narrowing. As things start to settle, I think they’ll like what they see — mainly on TV, and addressing the range of issues we care about — from Governor Romney [...]

Follow the argument—we have paraphrased it, and enumerated the points, for clarity:

(1) Those who think Romney cannot connect with primary voters have misjudged this race.

(2) This is not like earlier races where you win by visiting lots of diners—Romney did this, but it did not prove decisive

(3) Given that we’re not in one of these earlier races, we’re now in a different kind of campaign (?)

(4) In this new kind of campaign the weapons are broad-based, public appeals

(5) And we’re at a stage in this new kind of campaign where the options for conservatives are growing fewer.

(6) As things start to settle [become more coherent? intelligible?] people will like what they see on television, and what they will see on television is Romney addressing the issues that they care about.

Mitchell’s conclusion as we understand it: Whether Romney can connect with voters or not will not decide the primaries. (Mitchell clearly assumes that Romney cannot connect with voters, otherwise we presume he would argue the point and provide evidence, but he doesn’t.) Other factors obtain: the size of the states, the sprawling urban battlegrounds, the nationally dispersed scope of the contests. So Romney need not connect with anyone in the concrete; he need only do so in the abstract. He need only connect with a television camera and say what people want to hear, as in Michigan.

Romney will prevail as he passes into the distributed and abstracted form of a talking-head, available only behind the prophylactic of a glowing screen.

Is the converse also true?—i.e. As a flesh-and-blood creature Romney loses. We would answer yes, and here is where we agree most heartily with Mitchell’s grim and despairing reasoning.

Problems with Mitchell’s line of argument:

(a) Romney’s use of television has delivered a wildly low ROI even where Romney has won. And Romney’s saturation tactics have more often than not backfired on the candidate. Question: Has Romney learned how to use the medium effectively in so short a time? Was Michigan a special case? Perhaps, perhaps not. See:

Zogby: “Iowan Republicans may have long ago grown tired of Mr. Romney’s ubiquitous presence. ‘You can advertise too much,’ he said. ‘People get tired of seeing the same old face, and he went negative. Iowans didn’t like it’”

(b) Romney’s message to Michigan was clearly and distinctly not just non-conservative, but counter-conservative. See:

Will Romney follow or develop this model? And: how much will it cost the US treasury if he does?

(c) And isn’t it odd that the chief argument emitted by Romney supporters is always “When Republicans have no choices, Republicans will choose Romney!” Here would be our favorite example:

Bopp’s argument according to Cillizza: “You might like Huckabee best but he can’t win. So, vote for the guy—Romney—you like second best”

(d) What about the South? What does SC predict for Romney in the South?

What Mitchell leaves unsaid is that Romney is a fabulously wealthy self-funder who has already squandered upwards of US$20 million on his own campaign: he is on the only candidate disposed to take full advantage of the new terrain as Mitchell describes it, as he is the only candidate with the money—his own—to pay for the expensive television ad buys. This is yet another aspect of Romneyism.

For the record: We predict that Romney wins the GOP nomination, but at tremendous cost to himself and, especially, the GOP. Our conclusion: Romney is viable only because the GOP is not. Think of Romney like a carrion beetle. A healthy organism only need crush it like a bug. A sick organism, on the other hand …

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

Here be his imperious aloofness, Willard Milton Romney himself, from a Romney campaign press release titled Governor Romney Addresses His Victory In Nevada And His Strategy To Strengthen The Economy

[...] “In the last week, that means that two of the battleground states have come out strongly for our campaign.

They’ve heard our message of change.

They’ve heard our message that Washington is broken, that we need to have the kind of change that will solve America’s problems.

Remarks:

Note what the hapless candidate thematizes (see our post script for what we mean by theme): “two battle ground states,” which gets pronominalized as “they” who heard our message of change etc., and “they” who heard our message that Washington is broke etc.

Note what the hapless candidate rhematizes: our campaign, and various messages.

The emphases are ours. Themes we have bolded.

Translation: We issued a message. Two battle ground states heard and agreed.

Michigan is Romney’s home state. Or one of his home states, and he promised Michigan voters a US$20 billion dollar bail out, only Romney wants to call it a “work out,” combined with a Washington-US automobile industry “partnership.”

Nevada was uncontested.

South Carolina, Romney’s first contest in a southern state, decided for Sen. McCain. Ominously, despite huge media buys that go back for months, despite having spent US$4 million (well in excess of any of his rivals), despite having camped out in the Palmetto State for 22 days, Romney came in fourth—fourth.

Back to Romney:

We won the primary together in Michigan, and we won this caucus process in Nevada.

Remarks:

An elaboration by way of specification. Romney now specifies which states (NV and MI) and by what processes (a primary and a caucus).

Note the abrupt change in point of view (POV), from “they” to “we.”

The “we” becomes the theme.

Back to Romney:

And if we were lucky enough to win Michigan and Nevada, that [combined victory] would be a pretty clear indication, in November of ’08 that is, that [combined victory] would be a pretty clear indication we were going on to win the White House.

Remarks:

Suddenly Romney shifts to a subjunctive mood and issues an if-then conditional clause.

If we were lucky enough?—Apparently we were lucky enough.

We only have one other state that would be keythat’s the state we happen to be in right now, which is Florida.

Remarks:

Florida.

Everything hinges on the sunshine state. Formerly all hopes rested on New Hampshire. Then it was surmised that Michigan would decide the issue of the GOP nomination. Then South Carolina. Now it is Florida.

The anticedent of that’s—the theme of the second clause is key, as in “the other state that would be key.”

South Carolina has disappeared.

If you can win those two states – Michigan and Nevada – it’d mean you’ve put together quite a coalition and have been able to make the kind of inroads you have to make to take the White House.

Remarks:

This line puzzles us. Note the shift in point of view from we to you. If you—that is, you being anyone?—if “one” can do x, then one has done “y”? Is this like a box that you need to check, an item on a to-do list?

The “you”—we would argue—is not “you” the listener. The “you” appears to be rival campaigns, or any campaign, or any hypothetical campaign that can win Michigan and Nevada.

This line repeats like a refrain the earlier if-then proposition of a Nevada and Michigan win only it attaches to a more elaborated conclusion: this “indicates” not simply the White House, this indicates that have developed a “coalition” that can “make the kind of inroads you have to make” to win the White House.

Yeah, only Romney has no coalition. He had tried to fashion himself the heir of the Reagan coalition with no success. 

He has no natural base.

His wins in MI and NV earned him nothing in SC.

It’s huge for us and we’re very, very pleased [...]

Remark:

We shift back again to “us,” to “we”.

Romney-oratory fascinates us. It is at once vapid and impoverished—like the prose version of a bulleted list—-yet almost dreamlike in its jarring shifts, strange associations, and jagged-edged dissonances, like the poetry of a file clerk.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

P.S. The theme (or topic) of a sentence or clause is what a sentence or clause is about. It is often but not always the grammatical subject. The theme is usually given information.

The rheme (or object or predicate) of a sentence is the information that links to or elaborates on the theme. The rheme is usually new information.

[...] “Just as surely as Obama’s campaign has surged since his Iowa speech, Romney’s has suffered since he failed to say what needed to be said in Texas a month ago,” writes the estimable and insightful Tim Rutten in an LA Times article titled A tale of two speeches

From the start, the former Massachusetts governor has had to cope with the problem of religious bigotry. One in four Americans say they’re reluctant to vote for a Mormon. That antipathy runs even higher among evangelical Protestants, who make up most of the GOP’s social-conservative wing.

In December, Romney attempted to emulate — in an attenuated fashion — John F. Kennedy’s famous 1960 appearance before a group of Protestant ministers hostile to the notion of a Catholic president. Kennedy hit the issue head on, mentioning his Catholicism 14 times, forthrightly embracing separation of church and state and promising to resist any attempt by the church hierarchy to dictate his conduct as an elected official.

Instead of addressing the issue forthrightly, as Kennedy had, Romney temporized and attempted to placate the religious right by soft-pedaling his own faith — which he mentioned only once — and by attacking secular humanism and proclaiming his own belief in Jesus Christ.

It wasn’t simply pandering, it was oddly bloodless. How, for example, could a Mormon candidate for the Republican presidential nomination fail to mention that his party’s very first national platform was built on two planks — the abolition of slavery and the elimination of Mormonism, both of which those first Republicans deemed “barbarous?” How could he not take the opportunity to remind his handpicked Republican audience that, as recently as the 1890s, thousands of Mormon men were arrested and imprisoned by the United States Army or that the U.S. Senate refused to seat a lawfully elected member from Utah because he was a Mormon?

Rather than do those things, he attempted to ingratiate himself to that very sector of popular opinion in which anti-Mormon prejudice remains most intact. In the process, he helped legitimize fundamentalist preacher-turned-pol Mike Huckabee’s naked appeals to Christian voters in Iowa. It’s a pitch Romney — and America — are likely to hear a lot more of in South Carolina and beyond, where the evangelical vote is even stronger [...]

We heartily concur. We argued early on that it was Romney who made Gov. Huckabee’s rise in Iowa even possible. See:

Romney’s absurd marketing strategy enables Gov. Mike Huckabee

Romney’s “speech” sealed the hapless candidate’s fate in Iowa and the South, and it never had to be that way.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

You can read Rasmussen’s full analysis here.

Michael Luo, from an earlier discussion:

… Nevertheless, Mr. Romney spent much of the spring and summer focusing more on bolstering his credentials as a conservative champion as he fended off vigorous criticism for his more moderate past. Romney advisers believe they have succeeded in establishing his conservative bona fides, even though lingering questions about his authenticity persist, and are able now to move on to focusing on the next layer of voters.

“If you look now and you ask, ‘Is Mitt Romney a conservative?’ People would say, ‘Yes,’” said Russ Schriefer, one of the campaign’s media strategists.

“Now as we get closer to the election,” Mr. Schriefer said, “I think we need to be focusing more on his experience. What is it about Mitt Romney that makes him unique? What is it that makes him uniquely qualified? He has the experience. He has the experience to manage big things. He’s done it before.”

Um, not so fast, Russ. Your hapless candidate is losing ground. Less people believe that Romney is a conservative, not more. So perhaps what makes Romney “unique” is his singular ability to leave his listeners ambivalent and unconvinced.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“Locked in a potentially fateful battle for evangelical Iowa caucus goers with Mike Huckabee, God-o-Meter has learned that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has enlisted prominent evangelical publicist Mark DeMoss to tape ads on his behalf for broadcast on Iowa Christian radio,” writes preposterously monikered G-d-o-Meter in a belief.net G-d-o-Meter post titled Romney Taps Top Evangelicals for New Ads

DeMoss tells God-o-Meter that he taped roughly a half-dozen such spots after landing in Iowa on Monday evening and that well-know evangelical legal advocate Jay Sekulow and pro-life activist James Bopp. Jr. have been tapped to record similar spots.

“I spoke as an evangelical southern Baptist as to why I had chosen to support Mitt Romney,” DeMoss said in an interview Monday night, noting that he penned three of the spots himself and also worked from three or four other scripts that the Romney campaign had developed. “[The ads] speak to both his values and his competence.”

DeMoss did not know which of his spots would be aired or when, but he expected Iowa Christian radio stations to begin carrying some this week. A Romney spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A former chief of staff to the Moral Majority’s Jerry Falwell, DeMoss is founder of The DeMoss Group, a top Christian PR firm. His clients have included Billy Graham, Campus Crusade for Christ, and Promise Keepers. He has never previously appeared in an ad for a candidate for office, even for Romney. DeMoss said he’ll remain in Iowa through this Wednesday, spending time addressing pastors on Romney’s behalf.

“I’m trying to persuade pastors that it’s important that candidates share our values and that if there is more than one than one that shares our values, then I want to pick the most competent and most experienced,” DeMoss said.

“I believe there are lots of people who are supporting Governor Huckabee merely because of his faith, without regard for anything else. I’ll ask them what they know about [Huckabee] and the answer I get is that he stands up for Christ.”

“We don’t apply that standard in selecting a doctor or somebody to build our house,” DeMoss continued, “So why would we apply it to picking a president?”

DeMoss began helping Romney last year, when he suspected that a Mormon presidential candidate would meet resistance in the evangelical community. Describing one of the radio spots he taped on Monday, he said, “As a conservative evangelical Southern Baptist, I’m supporting Mitt Romney because while we worship differently on Sundays, we share common values” … etc.

Remarks:

(1) Are the Romneys obsessed with religion?—i.e. other peoples’ religions?—or: is this Romney raging against the limit of Romney’s method of co-opting the support of rivals, opponents, or adversaries, i.e. to transform himself into the person of his rival, opponent, or adversary. Examples:

Romney transformed himself into a conservative to identify himself with the same wing of his party that doomed his father’s chances at the presidency.

Romney the self-described pro-choice, social progressive transforming himself into a conservative in advance of a national election.

And: Romney has largely gotten away with it. He always has. How can you argue against someone who suddenly agrees with you, and further claims to have always agreed with you? Answer: you can’t. OTOH, you tend to regard that person with deep suspicion.

But the Evangelical movement confronts Romney with a social and political formation that—at least at the ground level, if not among the more easily suborned elites—flatly refuses to accept Romney’s attempts to identify himself as one of their own without paying in full the price for admission that they would demand of anyone who claimed to be an Evangelical: a conversion, complete with a testimony—a real conversion this time.

(2) In Romney’s “speech” Romney identified the Mormon confession with Protestant and Catholic confessions on grounds of the name and person of Jesu Christo—the testimony of the Apostles, the creeds and canons etc., got omitted, and rightly so, but even with the omission Romney had issued a theological claim as David Kuo argues:

… But it was also a profoundly spiritual speech. He said he was going to stand up for his faith and that he wasn’t going to get into the business of theology. Then he did just that. In the middle of the speech was this:

There is one fundamental question about which I often am asked. What do I believe about Jesus Christ? I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind. My church’s beliefs about Christ may not all be the same as those of other faiths. Each religion has its own unique doctrines and history. These are not bases for criticism but rather a test of our tolerance. Religious tolerance would be a shallow principle indeed if it were reserved only for faiths with which we agree.

In that single paragraph he blew his chance to slam the door on the pastor-in-chief idea because he was, consciously or not, making the theological argument that Mormonism was basically a part of historic Christianity. And it is, in the judgment of most liberal and conservative Christian theologians, not a part of historic Christianity. The fact that we will now be debating this is evidence of the one paragraph gaffe … etc.

This we argue is—or, at least was—the “larger project” of Romney’s “speech”. Now apparently the Romneys want to forget “the speech” and move on.

(3) Romney has wisely abandoned (2) and reverted to a far less controversial and ambitious different faiths, same values line. It issues into arguments as bland, bloodless, and non-compelling as these:

“We don’t apply [the] standard [of faith] in selecting a doctor or somebody to build our house,” DeMoss continued, “So why would we apply it to picking a president?”

Romney as a “competent” mechanic? Is this the expansive vision that an aspirant to our highest office should retail? Answer: probably not.

Question: What if your mechanic represented himself or herself to you as someone, or some thing, that they were not?

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

” … many observers still don’t fully understand why evangelical Christian voters are having a problem with Romney’s Mormon religion,” writes Stuart Rothenberg in a realclearpolitics article titled Why Mitt Romney Can’t ‘Solve’ His Mormon Problem

It’s not merely that they disagree with his church on matters of theology or, as some may believe, that they are intolerant. The issue is far more fundamental than that.Many evangelicals won’t vote for a Mormon for president of the United States for the same reason that almost all Jews would not vote for a candidate (for any office, I expect) who is a member of Jews for Jesus. For Jews, the Jews for Jesus movement is a deceptive attempt to woo Jews to Christianity under the guise of remaining true to Judaism.

Interesting. We developed the same example to support the same point several weeks ago. Regard:

… We have no problem with Christians [We're Jews, BTW]. We will happily vote for Christians, Hindus, or even, hypothetically, Muslims, depending on their views, opinions, positions, policies etc. But: When e.g. so-called Jews for Jesus claim that they are Jews, or that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, or when Christians lecture us about how Jesus is the fulfillment of our law and our prophets, or when millennialists (or pre- or post-millennialists) lecture us about how Jews must return to Israel for Jesus to return, then we take exception—then we insist on drawing distinctions, explaining the differences etc.

Omnis determinatio est negatio—all determination is negation—is a fact of social life—we define ourselves not so much by what we are as by what we are not, and we guard our sense of identity jealously. You do not threaten us to the degree that you are different from us, or that you tell us that we are different from you—we are respecters of difference and appreciators of diversity; rather: you threaten us to the degree that you tell us that we are the same … etc.

Back to Rothenberg:

Likewise, for evangelicals, Mormons are not “Christians” in the sense that evangelicals understand the term, and by portraying themselves as “Christians,” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is deceptively wooing evangelicals or potential adherents away from Christianity.

Evangelicals see Mormons as trying to blur the line between Christianity and Mormonism, just as Jews see Jews for Jesus as trying to blur the lines between Judaism and Christianity.

In each case, Mormons and Jews would not want to elevate to high office someone who might give legitimacy to a group that passes itself off as something that it is not, and that threatens their own group.

Any president’s religious views are likely to receive attention in the national media, and the authority of the office is likely to translate to added authority and respectability for the president’s religion.

Given this fundamental belief (which is hardly irrational), when Romney said, midway in his speech at the Bush Library, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind,” he was actually reminding evangelicals who are uncomfortable with Mormonism that his election would help erase the lines between what they view as the two very different religions.

To people who have been taught as children that Mormonism is a cult and who regard some of the more unusual Mormon beliefs as heresy, one speech from Mitt Romney is not going to allay all of their fears.

For many Catholics and Jews, the idea that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is somehow a threat to evangelical Christianity probably seems absurd. But that is what many believe, and that view makes Romney’s religion a grave concern to evangelicals, no matter how much they agree with the former governor’s views or admire his values.

Anyone who has followed the internal fights of Judaism, with Orthodox Jewish authorities refusing to accept the practices of the Reform, the Reconstructionist or even the Conservative movements, should begin to understand the fundamental problem that many evangelicals have with the Mormon Church.

Many in the media portray evangelical attitudes toward Mormonism as a form of bigotry and religious intolerance akin to the anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic sentiment that was once so prevalent in this country and is much rarer these days.

But it is a very different kind of concern, a concern about the meaning of Christianity.

Few in this country would disagree with Mitt Romney’s assertion at the Bush Library that, “A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should be rejected because of his faith.” And just as few would doubt his promise that, if he is elected president, “no authorities of my church … will ever exert influence on presidential decisions.”

But Romney’s “Mormon problem” bears little resemblance to John F. Kennedy’s “Catholic problem” in 1960. Few evangelicals worry that the former Massachusetts governor will call Salt Lake City for instructions on how to proceed as president.

And Romney’s problem isn’t merely that evangelicals won’t vote for nonevangelicals. They will and they have voted for Protestants, Catholics and Jews. Some have even voted for Mormons for lower office.

Given that evangelicals see Mormonism as deceptive and an attempt to pass itself off as a form of Christianity, one speech about tolerance and the importance of faith is not likely to convince evangelicals to support Romney. I’m willing to bet that American Jews would overwhelmingly feel the same about voting for someone who is a “messianic Jew.”

The emphases are ours, all ours.

We concur. Others have developed empirical evidence to support Rothenberg’s claims—claims that we have advanced ourselves in our own analysis of “the speech.” See:

Geer, Benson, and Merolla develop empirical evidence suggesting that Romney’s “speech” was misguided, wrongheaded, and counter-productive

yours &c.
dr. g.d.





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