Fair warning: The following comes from someone whose friends named a cocktail after him that is based upon the Old Fashioned. (That should be enough to offend someone in just about every camp.)
I listened to Gov. Romney’s commencement address at Liberty University yesterday, and I have to admit: I was prepared for the worst. Yes, I am both an evangelical and a Romney fan, but I also live in reality. And if you live there, it’s tough to deny that we evangelicals can be tough to please–and that the Romney campaign doesn’t have a track record of cracking our code consistently. Having confessed that, let me say that I agree with Santorum fan Tony Perkins and others (probably a first this cycle!) that Gov. Romney hit a grand slam home run. The main reason is that he made clear that there is a difference between theology and values. He didn’t imply that his theology is the same as ours as evangelicals; in fact, he explicitly said otherwise. That’s important. Also important is that he made crystal clear that his values are the same as ours, and that those are what should unite people of different faiths in endeavors like politics (not to mention works of mercy and other things). That has been EFM’s core argument since 2006.
One other important thing about Gov. Romney’s speech was the way he addressed the issue of gay marriage. As you know, that’s been a hot one this week. One of the things I have long appreciated about Gov. Romney is that when he does address this issue, he doesn’t do so the way too many evangelicals in politics do–with fiery, us-vs.-them rhetoric. He doesn’t shy away from his belief, which comes from his values, but he states it reasonably and even respectfully. You could also see this in the media appearances he did this week. As we’ve seen, his demeanor is actually a turnoff to some evangelicals, but I happen to appreciate it very much. It was helpful in Massachusetts during the bitter fight that began nearly ten years ago, but it’s even more so now, as the battle over marriage has become even more polarizing and emotional (particularly in my generation–you should see the two sides in my Facebook feed).
One other thing about Gov. Romney’s values and demeanor: I was traveling this week but wanted to pass along a subtly titled piece called “Mitt Romney, Conservative Cultural Icon,” from The American Spectator. It’s especially notable that the author is Peter Ferrara, who was part of the Gingrich campaign. I love this portion:
Obamunistas are saying that Obama is cool, and Romney is not. But cool to whom? Cool is in the eye of the beholder.
I have to admit that if you are an aging hippie who never grew up, still think that the counterculture of the 1960s was the highwater mark of American civilization, reject America’s capitalist economic system as inherently unfair and uncool in the grubby pursuit of profit, see America’s historic world-leading prosperity as crass materialism causing global poverty, and regard America’s world dominating superpower military as the tool of global imperialism, you would see Obama as very cool for bringing your values into the White House. Ditto that if you are a mental infant throwback stuck in the last century who thinks global socialism and Che T-shirts are cool.
But social and cultural conservatives would have just the opposite view. For them, Romney is the personal embodiment of their values. His personal life is right out of Ozzie and Harriett, Leave It to Beaver and Father Knows Best. The practical relevance of his Mormonism is that he is personally devoted to these values at his core. The offbeat theology of Mormonism is not at issue because he is not a Mormon theologian.
Moreover, his professional life involves the core of entrepreneurial capitalism. It has been all about the finance of struggling smaller and mid-size companies so they can grow into successful larger, national companies, creating boomlets of real jobs in the real world. Romney’s whole business life has been about the capital in capitalism, which means he knows first hand how the system works, and how to fix it. This is why he should personally appeal to the Tea Party as well as to social conservatives.
To the Left, therefore, Romney represents the personification of everything they hate (the precise word for today’s Left). A straight-laced Mormon who personally deeply believes and lives out traditional family values who is also personally a successful businessman, himself a card carrying member of the top 1%, from Wall Street to boot.
That frankly makes this election even more high stakes. For Romney is personally carrying the flag for cultural conservatism like no other candidate could. If he wins, he completely shatters left-wing mythology and demonology regarding social conservatism, the top 1%, and Wall Street. This is why social conservatives and Tea Party conservatives should now come together and enthusiastically support Romney.
As I noted at the beginning of this post, my friends know me as someone who thinks “old fashioned” is a compliment, so I admittedly have an unusual view of the world. But I agree with Mr. Ferrara that conservatives–and, I would add, particularly conservative evangelicals–can and should rally to the defense of a man whose life manifests what you might call our version of “cool.” That aspect of him, particularly his understanding of the preeminence of God and family, was on display yesterday at Liberty.