Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Wright Way and the Wrong Way

I've read a lot of commentary on the silly notion of a bunch of wealthy right-wingers that it would be sensible to attack the President based upon the footage of Reverend Jeremiah Wright's fiery sermons - footage we all saw four years ago. Never mind that there's no evidence that the President endorses Wrights views or attended the sermons at which the contentious remarks were made. There is a pervasive myth that McCain somehow would have won the 2008 race had only he been willing to attack Obama on race issues, and the apparent idea is to run a "Who are you going to believe - me, or your lying eyes" campaign depicting the President as an angry black man who has spent a lifetime merely pretending to be the calm centrist you see before you.

A lot of the commentary on Romney's effort to shut down that proposed campaign argues that Romney wants to keep the election focused on the economy, or sees potential in alienating moderate voters who may well be offended by race-baiting ads. And perhaps both of those theories are correct. But I see little evidence in Romney's own statements that he wants to limit the debate to the economy - the focus on the economy seems instead to come from his inability to gain traction on any of the other issues he's raised, such as the confabulated "apology tour", the missile treaty with Russia, his incorrect prognostications on the auto industry bailout, and the like.

On the other hand, one thing Romney does not have working in his favor is his religion. Despite his making a strong effort to minimize the differences between Mormonism and Christianity, evangelical voters continue to have a problem with him. It's difficult to distinguish to what degree their problem arises from his having, in the past, been sympathetic to gay rights, taken strong pro-choice positions, and having otherwise endorsed positions at odds with those held by religious social conservatives, as opposed to his faith, but it is fair to say that it was discomfort with Romney that buoyed Rick Santorum's campaign despite his obvious weaknesses as a candidate.

Romney has wrapped up the nomination process, and the polls thus predictably show that evangelical voters are lining up behind him. (Who else are they going to vote for?) Let's just say, this would be an awkward time for Romney to effectively make it "fair game" to attack a candidate based upon what he may have heard in Church. Given the nature of the Mormon priesthood and Romney's personal family history, there is little doubt that he has been exposed to religious teaching and preaching that many Americans would find alien and that, strictly speaking, evangelical voters would regard as dooming the believer to hell.

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