Responding to Steve, Ryan, and others…
1. Steve worries that if Governor Romney gives “The Mormon Speech,” he “may give the secular world exactly what it wants—a setting apart of ‘religious’ views from those of more ‘practical’ public concerns.” On a similar note, reader William wonders what specific doctrinal issues Governor Romney should address. Both questions tell me that I’m not clearly conveying what I think The Speech should be about. Bluntly, I don’t think it should be about doctrine at all. The goal should not be to convince evangelicals that they shouldn’t care if their kids convert to Mormonism. That is (a) not an argument Governor Romney can win and (b) not the argument we need a presidential candidate to make. Rather, the speech should be about values. And the goal of it should be to point out that the values Governor Romney’s faith has given him are just like the values our faith has given us.
2. Ryan, the reader who e-mailed Steve, says that press coverage of Governor Romney’s faith is down. He’s got the numbers to back it up. I have no argument with his claim. But I do have an argument with his (and Steve’s) premise–namely, that the fact that coverage is down means we can move on. I think it means the opposite. Why? Because the media have been focusing on Governor Romney’s so-called flip-flops–to sow doubts in conservatives’ minds as to whether he is really one of us. For instance, the latest meme is that he used to be in favor of gay rights but switched to being an anti-”gay marriage” crusader. That, as we’ve pointed out before, is total bunk. Governor Romney never favored “gay marriage,” and his leadership on the issue while in office is clear to any fair-minded observer. What does this have to do with the Mormon issue? A great deal. Convincing conservative evangelicals to vote for a Mormon who shares their values is not a slam-dunk, but it’s doable. What, though, if slopped-together charges from the media and other candidates make them think he doesn’t really share their values? Then the Mormon issue is a moot point. Why even think through this contentious issue when the candidate in question isn’t (supposedly) a conservative? And that is precisely why folks are throwing these charges against Governor Romney–if folks like us are playing defense on his conservative credentials constantly, we can’t make progress on the next part of the formulation (convincing conservative evangelicals to vote for a conservative Mormon). Sorry, but the lack of coverage of the Mormon issue means we’re behind on this fight, not ahead.
3. If you agree with me that Governor Romney still needs to make some major progress on assuring evangelicals that he shares their values, it makes even more sense to make the speech–because it will get tons of attention. As reader David notes:
In a rather calculating sort of analysis you should also consider that the MSM is extremely interested in the Mormon Speech—some reporters because they see it as a way to exploit possible weakness, but most because they live in such a secular vacuum that something like this is compelling if not down right fascinating. It’s a new experience for many MSM people possibly an historical one and, like all media people on the hunt for a monumental story, they want to be part of it. I’ve watched tough anchors melt into humble men and women as they communicate not only verbally but heart to heart and sometimes spirit to spirit with Governor Romney. The media draw alone should be a huge consideration for the Romney team. Every new outlet and cable station will likely play it from beginning to end. It could mean millions of dollars in free advertising. I believe Governor Romney understands that a speech like this would be an opportunity to speak to millions of Americans about the very things he has been speaking to Iowans about on the campaign trail. He pulls out his family leg of his three-legged stool (metaphorically of course, he can leave the stool in Iowa) and he enumerates family values, exposes Americans to his family, talks to them about what he would do to improve family life in America. And by introducing these themes as part of an explanation of his religious convictions he not only explains his faith, but furthers his campaign. What a terrific opportunity. I say Miit, you can’t pass on the Mormon Speech. It would be nothing more than the most watched, most anticipated, most broadcast pro-family values speech in history, wouldn’t it?