The EFM Feature
Nuke, from Flickr user Marshall Astor - Food Fetishist, used under a Creative Commons license

There’s a lot of chatter right now in conservative circles about Gov. Romney’s positions and rhetoric on social issues.  Yesterday, David and Nancy nailed the legal and policy aspects of the whole deal, and Nancy alluded to a rhetorical point to which I want to return.  She wrote the following:

For the first time in many years, conservatives have a presidential candidate who not only shares their core political and moral values but can also communicate those values in a persuasive, compelling, and—yes—unifying way.

Indeed.  One of the main things that is getting Gov. Romney in trouble with some social conservatives is that throughout his career–on which he’s never wavered on his opposition to gay marriage–he has consistently stressed the need for tolerance.  People seem to read into this that he is insincere in his opposition.  But as we here at EFM pointed out during the last cycle, Gov. Romney has consistently used this very language in the course of publicly opposing gay marriageincluding in a letter to the U.S. Senate, a Wall Street Journal op-ed, and an address to the Republican National Convention.

I don’t know Gov. Romney’s reasons for this choice of rhetoric, but I happen to think that while it’s terrible politics in a GOP primary, it happens to be both excellent general-election politics and good applied theology.  It’s bad primary politics because the Left has poisoned the term “tolerance,” loudly equating it with “approval,” and because to our own discredit, too many of us evangelicals get a charge out of rip-roaring anti-gay red meat–failing to recognize that we, like Paul, are the chief of sinners.  And if you read any poll, we are, not surprisingly, doing a terrible job convincing our fellow citizens of the merits of traditional marriage as a matter of public policy or even lifestyle.

Earlier in this cycle, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels got a lot of ink for proposing a “truce” on social issues.  That was misguided, as many pointed out, because if you stop fighting while the other side doesn’t, what you’re signing up for is not a truce, but a rout.  The rhetorical strategy many of us seem to prefer–including the man I’ve been predicting for months will be the story coming out of Iowa, my former home-state Senator–is to nuke the other side.  Gov. Romney’s strategy is neither to declare defeat nor to nuke ‘em, but rather to fight graciously, winsomely, and (based on his own life and character) credibly.

I understand how tempting it can be to nuke the other side rhetorically, believe me.  But how far has it gotten us?  Let’s quit questioning the crystal clear evidence that Gov. Romney is with us on marriage and abortion, and let’s change our tactics to something that might actually work.

About Charles Mitchell

EFM's resident Yankee, Charles Mitchell, works in the non-profit arena in his native Pennsylvania. He and his wife, Charissa, live near the state capital of Harrisburg with their daughter, Adeline, and are members of a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America.

Comments and Discussion

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4 Responses to Why Won’t He Nuke ‘Em?

  1. Rick says:

    It is time for Evangelicals and other Republicans to get behind Romney. He is the only one who can beat Obama. Gingrich is a great debater on points but Independents who ultimately decide elections look for the candidate who is most articulate, likable and charismatic. Every election since 1948, i.e. the TV era, has been won by the candidate that displayed these qualities in relatively greater abundance. Ronald Reagan was losing in the polls to Jimmy Carter in 1980 because Carter, with the help of the MSM, had portrayed Reagan as risky and dangerous. When Reagan got in front of the cameras for the debates, the American people found him to be warm, friendly, articulate and likable–much more than Carter. All the arguments that he was scary faded away. The American people realized they had been lied to and Reagan won in a landslide. If Reagan had come across like Gingrich, often, sour and grim like a college professor, then all the arguments that he was scary would have stuck. Why do you think Reagan was called the Tephlon President, because nothing the Dems and MSM threw at him would stick. Romney is by far the best communicator in the bunch and the one least open to attacks on his character. He has the potential to be another Great Communicator like Reagan. The press destroyed Gingrich in the 90s and they will do so again if he is nominated. Conservatives who do not trust Mttt need to get on board now if they want to beat Obama. There is simply no other candidate in the race who can. Ann Coulter is right.

  2. Brett Baker says:

    Charles, I know Mitt from when he was my church leader in Boston. This one is simiple: Hate the sin; love the sinner. Unfortunately, far too many interpret charity toward those we oppose as some kind of weakness or even endorsement. I suspect this is actually where much of the suspicion that Mitt lacks core values comes from, but the simple reality is that he’s never going to sound like a member of the Westboro Baptist Church. Sad that too many Conservatives seem to think he needs to.

  3. Michael Medford says:

    This talk of “tolerance” creates a dilemma. We need to be careful when we tolerate respectful language about our opponents and about things we disapprove of. A central element of our argument against Obama (his apologizing for America and his not actually being a real, believing Christian) is that he speaks respectfully about our geopolitical opponents and about Muslims. Obama is trapped being presidential he cannot give Christians the “red meat” we want. ( He cannot call Pakistan satanic because, after all, we need them to allow us to overfly their country in order to carry out our crusade in Afghanistan.)

    This gives us a huge opportunity: to condemn the “tolerant” and respectful speech that Obama’s office requires him to use. Our best strategy is to condemn toleration and respect. Now that Santorum is claiming the More-Christian-than-Mr. Romney role, we need to hold Mr. Romney’s feet to the fire. Mr. Romney should condemn gays in a full throated way. He should condemn Muslims and others who have strange un-Christian beliefs.

  4. Brett Baker says:

    It’s not going to happen, Michael. Mitt is a Matthew 5:44 kind of guy in his core, and that’s not going to change. But that doesn’t mean he won’t marshal every resource at his disposal to fight against threats like ‘gay marriage.’

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