Today over at RedState, Erick, well, sort of endorsed Governor Romney. Perhaps this is a bad idea, but I have a couple quibbles. Here is number one:
Were the Presidential Preference Primary held today, I’d be voting for MItt Romney. I’m not very enthusiastic about Mitt Romney, but I won’t be voting for Mr. Instability a/k/a John McCain. My preference is Rudy, but his positions on social matters prevent me from voting for him. I hope he’ll have a come to Jesus moment.
Assuming that Erick does not mean a genuine “come to Jesus moment”–as in, the Mayor inviting Christ into his heart, not the Mayor saying the right thing on abortion et al., I think he’s off base here. As we have mentioned many times here at EFM, words should not be sufficient to constitute a “conversion” on social issues here. Any pol can say, “I’m pro-life now,” as Erick appears to be encouraging Mayor Giuliani to do, as if it would put him on a par with Governor Romney. But it would not. The reason Governor Romney stands out is not just that he has said the right things on abortion, religious liberty, “gay marriage,” and related issues to NRO and Human Events. It’s that he has governed in a way that ought to make social conservatives super proud. For instance:
Gov. Romney does not just say he supports traditional marriage; he has defended traditional marriage at great political cost. In 2003, through a breathtaking act of judicial activism, Massachusetts’ supreme court imposed same-sex “marriage” on the state. If not for Gov. Romney’s swift intervention, this action may have led to a national constitutional crisis. Same-sex couples from across the U.S. could have come to Massachusetts, gotten “married,” and then demanded that their home states honor the “marriages”—creating a national wave of litigation and conflicting decisions from state to state. Instead, Gov. Romney and his staff vigorously enforced a little-known 1913 law that prevents out-of-state couples from marrying in Massachusetts if their marriage would be illegal in their home state, keeping Massachusetts from becoming, as he called it, “the Las Vegas of ‘gay marriage.’” He followed this stand with a dynamic and articulate response to Democratic efforts to dramatically expand embryonic stem cell research.
No matter what Mayor Giuliani says between now and 2008, he can’t equal the example Governor Romney has set–because he’s out of office. He has no way to prove whatever new convictions he might say he has. And with that being the case, why should we trust him? I believe in salvation–not voting–by faith alone.
Now that I’ve said I intend to vote for Romney, all things being equal, I want to also admit that I am one of those southern evangelicals who has deep qualms with Mitt Romney being a Mormon. I know I shouldn’t, but I do. And while everyone is talking about whether it will matter or not, I think I should chime in and say that yes it will, but no it shouldn’t (by the way, RedState is *not* the appropriate venue to debate Mormonism).
I was talking with a writer in D.C. some months back who viewed Mormonism as just another Christian denomination. I expressed to him that to me, voting for a Mormon would be, to me, no different that voting for a Muslim — it is not a Christian denomination in my book. Nonetheless, Romney has my vote.
Growing up in the South, I remember opening my grandmother’s closet one day to find several dozen Books of Mormom. “Nanny,” I exclaimed (yes, my Southern grandmother was “Nanny”), “what are these doing here?” “Well,” she responded with a look of grave concern, “as long as they’re giving them to me, they aren’t giving them to anybody else.” That upbringing is tempered with the fact that my best friend growing up was Mormon. But I say this all to say that while it shouldn’t — rationally and otherwise it should not — Mr. Romney’s religion weighs on me. I’m just glad it does not weigh on the constitution, which prohibits required fidelity to a religion in order to serve our country.
Again, EFM has pointed out over and over why we believe the “Mormon issue” should not be dispositive:
Yes, Gov. Romney is a Mormon. We are not. According to the liberal media, this is an unbridgeable gap, and evangelicals will never turn out to support a faithful Mormon like Governor Romney. As usual, the media have it wrong. And they root their error (as usual) in a fundamental misunderstanding about American evangelicals—seeing us as ignorant and intolerant simpletons who are incapable of making sophisticated political value judgments.
To be perfectly clear, we believe Governor Romney is not only acceptable to conservative Christians, but that he is clearly the best choice for people of faith. He is right on all the issues, and he has proven his positions with actions. He is a gifted and persuasive spokesman for our political and moral values. Here is the bottom line: the 2008 election is for president, not pastor. We would never advocate that the Governor become our pastor or lead our churches—we disagree with him profoundly on theological issues. But we reject the notion that the president of the United States has to be in perfect harmony with our religious doctrine. In fact, that is not a test that has been applied before—after all, Jimmy Carter was probably more theologically in line with evangelicals than Ronald Reagan, yet we believe that Reagan was clearly the better choice in 1980.
Let’s leave the absurd religious litmus test to the Democrats. What we want is a president who shares our moral and political values and will put them into action. A President Romney would do that—just as he’s done in Massachusetts—making him stand head and shoulders above the rest of the field.
Finally, it is not just our theory that evangelicals will support Governor Romney. In March, 2006, he shocked the political establishment by finishing second at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference straw poll in Memphis, Tennessee. We led the grassroots effort that put him above John McCain and George Allen, and where did he get the vast majority of his support? From the very Southern evangelicals who the media is convinced will not support a Mormon from Massachusetts.
Another perspectives on this is David’s excellent “When Does Theology Matter?“.
Don’t get me wrong–I’m delighted that Erick is supporting Governor Romney. But I think all of us should be careful about supposed conversions, as opposed to real ones, in the political realm, and that, well, convincing arguments have been made on the religious issue.