Politics That Knows No Bounds

Patheos’s political question of the week is “For whom will you vote, and why?” The e-mail that went out to all of the relevant bloggers explained, “The challenge is to make a case for your preferred candidate in light of your most deeply held convictions.”

Normally, I’d blow this one right off because most of my deeply held convictions have nothing to do with politics. Indeed, that is the thing I react most violently against in American politics today: it knows no bounds.

The government grows ever larger and it dominates more of our time, our anxieties, our decisions. This is not healthy. Nor is it sustainable.

Democrats in DC truly believe the right solution to almost every problem is more government, even when that government threatens to trample religious liberties underfoot — as the Obama administration is set to do in a second term with its implementation of Obamacare. Some would assign to Obama and company base motives, but I truly believe they are incapable of seeing the issues any other way. A better, Buckleyan term for it would be invincible ignorance.

I am not a Republican but one of the reasons I end up voting that way more often than not is that the GOP has made some effort to restrain politics to its rightful place. It’s best to vote for Republicans with both eyes open, however, and selectively.

The other day I filled out my ballot here in Washington state, which has not the remotest chance of casting its Electoral College votes for Romney. This means my vote is really just a statement of preference. And so, as in the last election cycle, I voted for my dad, Bob Lott. (The last time I voted for a Republican for president was in 2000.)

The Bob Lott vote was no joke, though if I voted in a swing state like Virginia, I would have at least considered voting for Romney. Not because I trust him politically, mind you, but because Obama has been so awful on so many issues of great import — from spending to Obamacare to now just flat out lying about what happened in Libya. It might be nice if somebody showed him the door.

Many of my other votes for statewide races and for Congress went to Republicans, with one very obvious exception. Brad Owen is Democrat, but something of a throwback who recognizes that politics ought to have limits. He’s Washington State’s Lieutenant Governor who has served with distinction in that constitutionally small office since 1996.

As the world’s most living expert on the vice presidents, I never take lightly the possibility that the number two will have to step into a larger role. My political disagreements with the lieutenant governor are considerable, but everything we’ve seen of the man over the past 16 years leads me to believe Owen would make a fine governor, should the need arise.

Content Director’s Note: This post is a part of our Election Month at Patheos feature. Patheos was designed to present the world’s most compelling conversations on life’s most important questions. Please join the Facebook following for our new News and Politics Channel — and check back throughout the month for more commentary on Election 2012. Please use hashtag #PatheosElection on Twitter.

The Bestseller That Never Was

In the Huffington Post today, I write about my new short free e-book Mitt Romney’s Mormon-Christian Coalition. (Get it for no dollars and zero cents right here, folks.) It grew out of an earlier project that never got off the ground called The Case Against Mitt Romney.

It is one of the great disappointments of my life that that book never found a publisher, despite quite a lot of effort. It would have been used by critics of Romney in the Republican primaries and in the general election. Because of the nature of the book, as I explain in the HuffPo piece, it also would have been a good resource for his defenders.

There is an element of randomness in what makes for a hit, but it would have had the best chance of anything I’ve ever written in making all the relevant bestseller lists. At least I was able to salvage some of that project and knock out a quickie e-book. Hope y’all enjoy it.

My Catholic Problem — and Ours

I am grateful for the Patheos political question of the week this time out. A bunch of us have been asked to answer the question, “What are the key issues at stake in this election for people of your tradition?”

My religious tradition is Catholicism, full stop. There are two issues that should be of paramount importance to Catholics, and they make a choice at the presidential level very difficult.

One of those issues is abortion. The other one is not “social justice.” As I wrote in the Guardian last time out:

The Church believes in a hierarchy of evil, which has stark political implications. It means that certain issues are intrinsically more important than others. So long as it’s legal and widely available in the US, abortion will always trump social justice issues, even if the other issues might be worthy causes.

The problem, as I spelled out in that piece, is that there is one issue that ought to be on equal footing with abortion, and Republicans are about as bad on it as Democrats are on abortion. The issue is war and the necessity that nations attempt to conform their actions to the Just War Theory. Republicans just do not believe in this. Take Iraq:

The Pope and his predecessor warned against this. John Paul II sent Cardinal Pio Laghi as an emissary to the White House who explained that the US invasion of Iraq would be “illegal” and “unjust”. Benedict XVI, then head of the teaching office of the Church, said that the “concept of a ‘preventive war’ does not appear in the Catechism of the Catholic Church,” with good reason.

Last time, Barack Obama was awful on abortion and he hasn’t gotten any better. Obamacare could seriously impede the operation of Catholic institutions, medical and otherwise, with its mandates to finance things the church — and millions of Catholics right along with it — considers deeply immoral.

Obama was a little bit better on war, though he’s proved extremely disappointing on that front as well — committing the country to war with Libya without so much as a by-your-leave to Congress, for one. Obama hasn’t committed ground troops to any new theaters. Other than that, he’s been a disaster.

Mitt Romney professes to be better than Obama on abortion these days. Indeed it would be hard to be any worse. Unlike many pols who profess to be “personally opposed, but” on the issue, we know that Romney actually was personally opposed even when he didn’t want to change the law, because as a Mormon bishop he urged several women not to have abortions.

Yet his political record is not encouraging. In Massachusetts, he took the path of least resistance, calling himself pro-choice and loudly defending that assertion. He has recently said that he would not advance legislation in Congress. The legislative point is a defensible one. From a pro-life point of view, all he has to do is sign legislation and appoint good judges, but it’s still discouraging for pro-lifers who signed onto his campaign thinking they’d found a genuine ally.

And war. Don’t get me started on Romney. The only hope is that Romney actually does not believe a lot of the crazy things he’s said on the campaign trail.

That’s possible. Romney’s father missed out on the Republican nomination in 1968 in part because he came out against Vietnam. The son may have taken from that defeat the importance of sounding hawkish. I know a lot of people think he’s too risk averse to get us into another Iraq, Afghanistan or even a Libya, but I’m not convinced.

Last time, faced with the choice between Obama and John McCain, I voted for Bob Lott, my dad. I just filled out my ballot last night and again voted for Bob Lott.

If Romney can get elected, unravel the worst parts of Obamacare and not get the nation into any more quagmires, he’ll have earned my vote in 2016 — and my respect. Regardless of how they vote in this election, I suspect many Catholics feel roughly the same way.

Content Director’s Note: This post is a part of our Election Month at Patheos feature. Patheos was designed to present the world’s most compelling conversations on life’s most important questions. Please join the Facebook following for our new News and Politics Channel — and check back throughout the month for more commentary on Election 2012. Please use hashtag #PatheosElection on Twitter.

Mitt Romney: The Sodium Pentothal Question

This Monday morning, Research on Religion has put up its hour-long interview with your diarist about the new free e-book (seriously, no dollars and zero cents right here folks), America’s shifting political-religious landscape and why a certain someone might have to publicly eat his hat if the GOP overperforms in Pennsylvania.

There may be one explosive aspect of this interview near the end, where I bust out what friends and colleagues have started referring to as “Mitt Romney: The Sodium Pentothal Question.” The question is this: Does Mitt Romney harbor some dislike for Catholic clergy, or at least their drinking?

This is not a political question. As I say in the interview, if I could get it out of him, I don’t think I’d actually do anything with it for a good long while. I’d just like to know.

I’m curious because he was given what many would consider good cause to dislike Catholic priests. If someone could go through what he went through without holding at least a mild grudge, he’d be a saint. [Read more...]

Ten Infallible Observations About Tonight’s Debate

1. Given the serious fluctuation in the polls everywhere, including in swing states, the stakes for tonight’s debate are incredibly high.

2. If Mitt Romney wins this one decisively, the third debate won’t matter worth a whisker.

3. Regardless of the content of his answers, Obama is going to do his damndest to appear more decisive than last time. This will mean more decibels and fewere ums, ahs and uhs.

4. The Obama administration’s weakest point is Libya. Given his past willingness to criticize the administration over this, expect Romney to go after Benghazi with everything he’s got.

5. Let me apologize in advance to the neighbors for all the ruckus if Romney calls for Hillary’s scalp. [Read more...]

Take Responsibility Hillary, Resign

One empty phrase American politicians employ that reeks to the heavens is this: “I take responsibility.” It’s usually used as a way of evading responsibility for a screw-up that, in any decently run government, would be followed by resignation or worse.

The latest politician to claim responsibility is Hillary Clinton. She said during a state visit to Peru that the wider Obama administration should not be held responsible for her screw-up at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that led to the murder of ambassador Chris Stevens.

Our secretary of state claims that a State Department investigation is underway that will uncover exactly what happened and that justice will be done. That’s well and good but it should proceed without her, because she has proven that the American people cannot trust her on this matter.

She should resign immediately or Obama should fire her. If neither of these things happens in short order, American voters have a duty to punish her party at the ballot box in November.
[Read more...]

Divided We Stand! Wait, What?

As part of its big picture approach to this election, the question Patheos has asked many of us bloggers to noodle this week is, “What’s wrong — and what’s right — with the role of faith in American politics today?” I am, unfortunately, a bearer of bad news on this front.

After writing my new e-book Mitt Romney’s Mormon-Christian Coalition (download that for free here, folks; I did my damndest to make it a brief and entertaining read), I am struck by a divide in American politics that isn’t likely to go away any time soon. A chasm that became noticeable during the George W. Bush years has grown much wider during Barack Obama’s administration. American politics is coming to resemble old-style continental European politics, with both pro- and anti-clerical parties.

The big difference is that the United States has never had nor wanted an established church. And so our political parties are slowly re-sorting themselves along broader lines of the party that’s for a serious and robust role for religion in American life and one that is coming to oppose such a role.

The two greatest examples of this great re-sorting are 1) the fact that God was taken out of and then forced back into the Democratic platform this year over the loud objections of at least a plurality of the delegates; and 2) the fact that the GOP, a party with a Southern evangelical base, nominated a former Mormon bishop and stake president to run for president of the United States.

You can applaud Barack Obama for insisting his party’s platform take some notice of the historically God-fearing character of America. You can applaud Mitt Romney for betting that anti-Mormon prejudice would not be so virulent as to deny him his party’s nomination, and his party’s primary voters for proving him right. But if you are a sober-headed observer of American politics, you dare not lose sight of the darker reality these things signal as well.

Obama had to insist on the shout out to God because his party has become hostile to the Almighty and to religion unless it is a narrowly defined, neutered thing that agrees with the Democratic Party platform on all particulars. In the passage and implementation of Obamacare, the Democrats and the Obama administration have stridently refused to concede any real ground to religious sensibilities or freedom of conscience.

It was in this context that Romney’s win in the primaries happened. Anti-Mormon prejudice has probably lessened among evangelicals over the last few decades, but the relative tolerance of primary voters is not the real issue going into November. The real issue is that many believers and many religious institutions have come to view the whole Obama program as a threat and the Romney-Ryan ticket as the only realistic-though-imperfect weapon they have left to ward it off.

Even if they win, this new politics is a loss for America. Our constitution and bill of rights, our divided legislature, our conflicting branches of government, our broad two-party system — all were meant to keep the stakes of one election from ever getting this high.

Content Director’s Note: This post is a part of our Election Month at Patheos feature. Patheos was designed to present the world’s most compelling conversations on life’s most important questions. Please join the Facebook following for our new News and Politics Channel — and check back throughout the month for more commentary on Election 2012. Please use hashtag #PatheosElection on Twitter.