Evangelicals and Mitt

On the right: A probable Rick Santorum supporter
in happier days, during the most recent General Conference
of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The sign held by the man on the left reads “Don’t leave me with protesters.  Need tickets.

With others, I’ve argued that Evangelical Protestant resistance to the idea of a Mormon president has been a major drag on Mitt Romney’s campaign and a significant factor in Rick Santorum’s surprising persistence in the race.  There was support for Mr. Santorum, yes, but perhaps even more so, opposition to Mr. Romney.

Senator Santorum has now suspended his campaign, and Mitt Romney is the all but inevitable Republican nominee.  I’m interested to see how things proceed from here.

I don’t want to give the impression, though, that I think all Evangelicals have been so unreasonable in their response to Mitt Romney.

Two websites deserve special kudos, and will play an important role in the months ahead:

First, David and Nancy French, along with Charles Mitchell, founded Evangelicals for Mitt.  (Timothy Dalrymple has since joined them in the effort.)  They’ve done wonderful work, arguing for religious tolerance and that Latter-day Saints and Evangelicals can make common cause on issues of public policy where they share values.

Second, Article 6 Blog — the title refers to the clause in the Constitution that forbids religious tests for federal office — bills itself as “Religion, Politics, the Presidency: Commentary by a Mormon, an Evangelical, and an Orthodox Christian.”  (The three men behind the project are profiled here.)  It’s dedicated to discussion of whether a Mormon can and should be elected president, arguing that the question shouldn’t even be asked.

I predict that the religious question will loom (covertly) large over the next few months, and these two sites will be very valuable in the conversation.

Much of the religious opposition, of course, will come from secularists, as well.  It won’t be only — and perhaps not even primarily — the Evangelical Right.  Evangelicals are likely, most of them, to coalesce, however reluctantly, around Mitt Romney and against Barack Obama.

And, for what it’s worth, the other principal weapon that the Obama campaign will wield against Mr. Romney will be class warfare.

Romney will be depicted as out of touch with real Americans, uncaring, and the like.

We’ve already gotten a foretaste of what’s to come in Mr. Obama’s demand, repeated today, that wealthy Americans pay the same tax rate that middle class and poorer Americans pay.  It sounds only reasonable, at first blush, but it’s economically stupid.

First of all, wealthy Americans pay essentially the same tax rate on “earned income” (the phrase is problematic, but widespread) that less wealthy Americans do.  The difference isn’t so much between classes of people as it is between types of income.  Income from investments is taxed at a lower rate than salaries are.

Second, federal policy has long taxed income from investments at a lower rate in order to encourage investment, because capital investment is essential to creating and maintaining businesses, which create and maintain jobs.  To substantially boost taxes on investment income is economically self-destructive, and particularly so at a time when the American economy desperately needs help.  (Barack Obama either doesn’t understand this or doesn’t care.  Either is reason enough that he shouldn’t be president.)

Third, most wealthy Americans pay far more money in taxes, in absolute terms, than the middle class does, while a very large chunk of Americans pays no income tax at all.

Sadly, though, I think that Barack Obama’s rhetoric of envy and class warfare will be fairly successful.

A large section of the American population — roughly identical with the segment that pays no taxes — is heavily dependent upon federal transfer payments.  Most of them will happily support tax increases on the “rich.”  (A plan to rob Peter in order to pay Paul, Bernard Shaw observed many years ago, can always count on the support of Paul.) 

This is going to be an interesting election, and Mitt Romney is going to need the support of Evangelical conservatives to win it.

The alternative is terrifying.  Four more years of Barack Obama will give us a very liberal Supreme Court for the next generation.  Four more years of Barack Obama will seriously cripple our already ailing economy.

There’s a joke that, I’m told, is going around Germany:

A Portuguese, an Italian, and a Greek go into a bar.  The German pays.

But when the American economy goes into the tank, it’s not obvious who’s going to pay to bail us out.  It’s far from clear that anybody could, even if somebody wanted to.

This is serious business.

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