Santorum surges in the polls

Rick Santorum has become a contender:

Riding a wave of momentum from his trio of victories on Tuesday Rick Santorum has opened up a wide lead in PPP’s newest national poll. He’s at 38% to 23% for Mitt Romney, 17% for Newt Gingrich, and 13% for Ron Paul.

Part of the reason for Santorum’s surge is his own high level of popularity. 64% of voters see him favorably to only 22% with a negative one. But the other, and maybe more important, reason is that Republicans are significantly souring on both Romney and Gingrich. Romney’s favorability is barely above water at 44/43, representing a 23 point net decline from our December national poll when he was +24 (55/31). Gingrich has fallen even further. A 44% plurality of GOP voters now hold a negative opinion of him to only 42% with a positive one. That’s a 34 point drop from 2 months ago when he was at +32 (60/28).

Santorum is now completely dominating with several key segments of the electorate, especially the most right leaning parts of the party. With those describing themselves as ‘very conservative,’ he’s now winning a majority of voters at 53% to 20% for Gingrich and 15% for Romney. Santorum gets a majority with Tea Party voters as well at 51% to 24% for Gingrich and 12% for Romney. And with Evangelicals he falls just short of a majority with 45% to 21% for Gingrich and 18% for Romney.

It used to be that Gingrich was leading with all these groups and Romney was staying competitive enough with them to hold the overall lead. No more- a consensus conservative candidate finally seems to be emerging and it’s Santorum.

The best thing Romney might have going for him right now is Gingrich’s continued presence in the race. If Gingrich dropped out 58% of his supporters say they would move to Santorum, while 22% would go to Romney and 17% to Paul. Santorum gets to 50% in the Newt free field to 28% for Romney and 15% for Paul.

via Santorum surges into the lead – Public Policy Polling.

HT to Ace of Spades, who discusses the numbers and quotes a new Rasmussen poll about how Romney and Santorum would do against Obama:

President Obama’s lead over Mitt Romney in a potential head-to-head contest has swelled to 10 points, with the president capturing 50% support to Mr. Romney’s 40%. Meanwhile, Rasmussen finds that Mr. Obama leads Mr. Santorum by just four points, 46% to 42%.

Santorum is  second in the delegate count:  Romney has 123; Santorum has 72; Gingrich has 32; and Paul has 19.

In other election developments, Romney won the Maine caucus, upsetting Ron Paul who was expected to win his first state.  Romney took 39%; Paul took 36%; Santorum took 18%; and Gingrich took 6%.

In other good news for Romney, he won the straw poll at CPAC, the big conservative activist convention.  He won 38% of the votes; Santorum had 31%; Gingrich had 15%; and Paul had 12%.

It appears that Romney is gradually winning over  conservatives but that Santorum has emerged as the main Romney alternative, displacing Newt Gingrich.  (He only got 15% at CPAC?)  Newt may come back on Super Tuesday since he has lots of fans in the South.  But so far he hasn’t done that well despite getting lots of attention.

 

Politics & Vocation

It’s interesting to see Roman Catholics appropriating Luther’s doctrine of vocation.  Traditionally, Catholics have used the term to refer only to the calling to be a priest, a monk, or a nun.  Matthew Cantirino here discusses a prominent Catholic thinker who says that we have a “baptismal vocation” to participate in the political process. It’s not quite as clear as Luther’s point that we have a vocation as citizens.  Still, at a time when many Christians are giving up on civic engagement and many others are misinterpreting what that means (NOT to take over so as to Christianize the government), the doctrine of vocation can help sort out our responsibilities, namely, to love and serve our neighbors in our civic life and political duties.

Harvard Law professor (and longtime First Things contributor and supporter) Mary Ann Glendon offers advice to young Christians inclined to politics in a recent interview with the National Catholic Register. Her main point is one especially worth noting in an election year: that while an obsession with the contemporary political scene can often distract us from more enduring truths, it still must be taken seriously and engaged thoughtfully. Glendon even goes as far as asserting that:

“Nearly everyone who takes his or her baptismal vocation seriously has some form of calling to participate in that process [ie, politics broadly understood], as he or she is able. If we Christians truly believe we are called to be a transformative presence in the world — to be salt, light and leaven — we have to do our best to improve the conditions under which we live, work and raise our children. Even our cloistered contemplatives are not merely meditating on the mystery of the universe — they are praying for the world.”

This is helpful advice for Christians in the public square today, where a sense of defeat can become overwhelming. Indeed, in recent years, there has been a movement among some on the ‘religious right’ towards shunning—even disdaining—politics altogether. This attitude has enjoyed a resurgence as something of a reaction to the previous decades of alliance between Christian leaders and partisan figures, especially in more fundamentalist circles. And, and Glendon notes with concern, many of today’s brightest and most devout students scarcely consider a political career at all, often believing it to be a certain path to corruption.

Ultimately, however, as Glendon points out, this retreat impulse is misguided, overwrought, and even dangerous, as it allows others very hostile to religious faith to step in and have free reign. It is, as the ironic title of her lecture and interview alludes to, an implicit agreement with Max Weber’s thesis that “he who lets himself in for politics … contracts with diabolical powers.” So, she concedes, while “culture” may indeed more important than “politics” narrowly construed, there is a larger sense in which the latter is a constitutive element in the former. Referencing the example of Vaclav Havel, she calls the two part of a “two-way street” and notes that the two are, to a significant extent, inseparable. Especially in today’s America, where (national) politics occupies an admittedly bloated position, Christians really don’t have much of a choice in the matter.

via First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.  Here is a link to Glendon’s interview.

The conventional approach to politics is that everyone should follow his or her own rational self-interests.  The vocational approach says that we must deny our selves in love and service to our neighbor.  How might that latter emphasis manifest itself in a Christian’s political engagement?

Is the U.S. Constitution obsolete?

[An earlier version of this post went up with just the raw quotation and with my introduction, edits, and commentary  not showing up, for some reason.  Sorry for the confusion.]

Conservatives worry that the U. S. Constitution is being ignored.  The next step is for the Constitution to be spoken against and then repudiated.  That seems to be happening, even by a Supreme Court Justice!  In the meantime, the rest of the world has stopped imitating America’s constitutional system, which, in many people’s minds does not parcel out enough rights, and the rights it does recognize are the wrong ones:

In a television interview during a visit to Egypt last week, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the Supreme Court seemed to agree [with the irrelevance of the Constitution to new nations today]. “I would not look to the United States Constitution if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012,” she said. She recommended, instead, the South African Constitution, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the European Convention on Human Rights.

The rights guaranteed by the American Constitution are parsimonious by international standards, and they are frozen in amber. As Sanford Levinson wrote in 2006 in “Our Undemocratic Constitution,” “the U.S. Constitution is the most difficult to amend of any constitution currently existing in the world today.” (Yugoslavia used to hold that title, but Yugoslavia did not work out.)

Other nations routinely trade in their constitutions wholesale, replacing them on average every 19 years. By odd coincidence, Thomas Jefferson, in a 1789 letter to James Madison, once said that every constitution “naturally expires at the end of 19 years” because “the earth belongs always to the living generation.” These days, the overlap between the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and those most popular around the world is spotty.

Americans recognize rights not widely protected, including ones to a speedy and public trial, and are outliers in prohibiting government establishment of religion. But the Constitution is out of step with the rest of the world in failing to protect, at least in so many words, a right to travel, the presumption of innocence and entitlement to food, education and health care.

It has its idiosyncrasies. Only 2 percent of the world’s constitutions protect, as the Second Amendment does, a right to bear arms. (Its brothers in arms are Guatemala and Mexico.) . . . .

“America is in danger, I think, of becoming something of a legal backwater,” Justice Michael Kirby of the High Court of Australia said in a 2001 interview. He said that he looked instead to India, South Africa and New Zealand.

Mr. Barak, for his part, identified a new constitutional superpower: “Canadian law,” he wrote, “serves as a source of inspiration for many countries around the world.” The new study also suggests that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, adopted in 1982, may now be more influential than its American counterpart.

The Canadian Charter is both more expansive and less absolute. It guarantees equal rights for women and disabled people, allows affirmative action and requires that those arrested be informed of their rights. On the other hand, it balances those rights against “such reasonable limits” as “can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”

via ‘We the People’ Loses Appeal With People Around the World – NYTimes.com.

I suspect that in the years ahead, since nations come and go, that eventually we will be hearing calls to eliminate our obsolete constitution in favor of something new.   The new constitution will feature new rights (to food?  to health care? to travel?), but other rights will pass away–the right to keep and bear arms will be sure to go.  Also, if Canada is to be our guide, the right to express criticisms of Islam.  And we can be sure that there will be lots of other “reasonable limits” to what we will be allowed to do.

The Church of Planned Parenthood

Mollie Hemingway on the uproar over the Susan G. Komen foundation (which is devoted to fighting breast cancer) and its short-lived decision to stop giving money to Planned Parenthood.

If you thought that the media were irreligious, you were proved wrong. They couldn’t be more religious. It’s just that their church is Planned Parenthood. Their sacrament is abortion. Any attack against their church, such as Susan G. Komen’s decision to stop funding Planned Parenthood, has been met with the most fervent defense of the faith I’ve ever seen. Never mind that Planned Parenthood doesn’t even do mammograms. Never mind that the money in question is a small fraction of either organization’s budget.

Over at GetReligion, I look at some of the more egregious examples. But even these are only a small fraction of what’s coming down the pike in an unrelenting barrage in defense of Planned Parenthood.

And the Church of Planned Parenthood reigns supreme. They have vanquished their enemies and accomplished what they wanted. Komen funds will once again be funneled to a $1 billion organization that terminates 330,000 pregnancies a year.

via The Church of Planned Parenthood – Ricochet.com.

I offer this just as a brief introduction to Mollie’s in depth analysis of the story and its media coverage at the said Get Religion site  here.

Lars Walker’s new novel

Lars Walker is someone who hangs out at this blog fairly often.  He is also an accomplished novelist.   He has a new novel out entitled  Troll Valley.

Lars specializes in tales about Norway, especially the ancient Vikings in their transition from paganism to Christianity.  (See West Oversea.)  But this one is about Norwegians in Minnesota, settlers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries on the farms and in the small towns that would give us the Lake Woebegone cliches.  But there is much more to these people than that.

Lars also specializes in hard-hitting Christian critiques of modernity.  (See Wolf Time.)  For all of the Little House on the Prairie charm of watching the main character Chris Andersen and his family ply their customs in the New World, we see change a-brewing.  His father invents a better farm device, leaves the farm for town where he builds a factory and makes a fortune–embodying the industrial revolution with both its good sides and its down sides.  I was most taken, though, with his mother, who shows how a certain kind of Pietism can turn to moralism, which can then turn to progressivism, which can then turn against the very Christianity that inspired its beginnings.  Mrs. Andersen’s do-gooderism turns her into a crusader for prohibition and then for the women’s suffrage and then for a “moral progress” that has no room for the Bible and that wreaks havoc in her family.

And Lars also specializes in writing about the strange denizens of Scandinavian myth, legend, and folklore.  (See The Year of the Warrior.)  The thing about Chris Anderson is that, as he struggles with his withered arm and his self-doubts, he sees elvish creatures from a parallel world.  And he is regularly visited by his fairy godmother, who herself yearns for baptism and the Christian faith.  All of these fantasy elements are going on at the same time as the realistic story and as a sort of commentary on what is happening.  One critic has called what Lars is doing “Christian magical realism,” which is a good description, a reference to the quite interesting style pioneered by Latin American authors such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  (And it’s about time that contemporary Christian authors go beyond formula fiction to experiment with more sophisticated styles and literary effects.)

Another contemporary feature of this novel is that it is being published solely as an e-book, which means too that it costs a mere $2.99.  So if you have a Kindle or the equivalent, download   Troll Valley.

Your religion mustn’t affect your life!

Vanderbilt is doubling down on its insistence that Christian groups on campus must admit non-Christians.  What’s interesting is hearing the university try to justify that.  Robert Shibley of the civil liberty group FIRE quotes Vanderbilt’s provost explaining the policy to a gathering of students, answering a question from someone in the Christian Legal Society:

VANDERBILT LAW STUDENT AND CLS MEMBER PALMER WILLIAMS: I am a little confused by the fact that under your policy, I can gather with a group of my friends, or a group of like-minded people, I can state my beliefs, but as soon as I go as far as writing down what we believe in, and then try to live by those beliefs as a community on campus, then I’m not allowed to do that.

VICE CHANCELLOR [RICHARD] MCCARTY: What I’m going to challenge you to do, [is] to be open to a member that doesn’t share your faith beliefs who could be a wonderful member of CLS, maybe even a leader. But we’re not saying you have to vote for that person. We’re simply saying that person, who maybe does not profess allegiance to Jesus Christ as his or her Lord and Savior, should be allowed to run for office in CLS. Maybe it’s not chair or president, maybe it’s a person who is amazing at social outreach. It would still be consistent with your goals of serving the underserved with legal advice and legal services, but maybe isn’t Christian but they endorse what you’re trying to do. Give that person a chance. . . . Now let me give you another example, and this would affect all of you. I’m Catholic. What if my faith beliefs guided all of the decisions I make from day to day?

[At this point, the crowd applauds the idea that people should live according to their faith.]

No they shouldn’t! No they shouldn’t! No they shouldn’t! No they shouldn’t! [Disagreement from crowd.] Well, I know you do, but I’m telling you that as a Catholic I am very comfortable using my best judgment as a person to make decisions. As a Catholic, if I held that life begins at conception, I’d have a very big problem with our hospital. Right? Would I not? . . . I would, but I don’t. . . . We don’t want to have personal religious views intrude on good decisionmaking on this campus. They can guide your personal conduct, but I’m not going to let my faith life intrude. I’ll do the best I can at making good decisions, but I’m not going to impose my beliefs on others, not going to do it.

Comments Mr. Shibley:  “Yes, you just heard the vice chancellor of Vanderbilt University tell students that they shouldn’t let their religious views intrude on their decisionmaking. That their religious beliefs should not guide their day-to-day actions. That people who reject faith in Jesus Christ should be given a chance as leaders of a Christian group (he later adds that Muslim groups must retain leaders who have lost faith in Allah). And to top it off, he uses the fact that as a Catholic, he has no problem with the abortions performed in Vanderbilt’s hospital as an example of what is expected.”

via The Fallout from Christian Legal Society – Robert Shibley – National Review Online.


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