Thursday, December 13, 2007

Huckabee VS. Romney.

Things are heating up in the Republican primary race for the 2008 presidential elections. In a mere three weeks, party-members in Iowa are going to be casting votes for their favorites. If the results mirror current polls, Mike Huckabee is going to run away with the victory. Mitt Romney is his closest competitor, trailing by almost 15%. This is an odd situation for Romney, because until the beginning of December he had been the clear front-runner in this defining primary state. In fact he had a consistent lead for more than five months. What changes have caused this shift in loyalty? One could make a good case that Huckabee's systematic campaign of targeting Romney's Mormon faith has borne fruit.

Huckabee has not been shy about identifying himself as a "Christian Leader". Indeed there's a fair amount of truth to his claims. He's an ordained Baptist minister, and that particular credential promises to serve him well among the Christian Right. Not only does that position serve as an asset for Huckabee, but it also threatens to be damning for Romney. Because every time the man from Arkansas makes a point of calling himself a "Christian", the former governor of Massachusetts blanches. Many Protestant evangelicals (including Huckabee's Baptists) consider The Church of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons) heretical. Regardless of how much effort Romney puts into downplaying the effects of his faith, there is no doubt that it is qualitatively different from Christianity.

For better or worse, many Americans make political decisions according to their religious beliefs. Many among the faithful are immovably convinced that they are in the right, and that all disbelievers are (at the very least) wrong. It is for this reason that Romney is at a major disadvantage. If the majority of evangelical Christians see Mormonism as a "cult", it's not likely that they'll choose an adherent as their standard-bearer. The ironic thing is that Romney would have a much stronger chance at being successful with a Democratic support base. In that camp, regilious affiliations are often beside the point (JFK being an illustrative example). That's one of the reasons Romney was able to become Governor in the liberal state of Massachusetts. On the other hand, it seems unlikely that any Republican nominee can win the general election without the support of the Christian Dominion of America.

Huckabee has (of late) become even more blatant in his appeals to God's One True People. In an interview in last Sunday's New York Times Magazine, Huckabee was asked whether or not he considered The Church of Latter Day Saints a "cult". Although he responded in the negative, he followed his answer with a not-so-subtle question. He asked the reporter, "Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the Devil are brothers?" It was an extraordinarily strange forum for the Baptist to begin his interfaith theological examinations. One would have to be a complete political simpleton to believe that Huckabee's intentions were innocent. But still, much of the media is allowing him to backpedal from this divisive strategy. If they are correct in their analysis of Huckabee's sincerity, then I think such true ignorance should automatically disqualify him as a serious presidential contender. (Yet I would be dishonest if I said I didn't believe the current president is capable of posing a similarly stupid question.)

While I think that Huckabee has distinguished himself as either a crass political opportunist or a backwoods rube, I am not willing to discount a candidate's religious beliefs from the political dialogue. It is completely appropriate to question a potential leader's faith, especially when it has been used consistently as a badge of integrity. Rather than resort to idiotic concerns (such as framed in Huckabee's ridiculous question), we should examine the candidates' opinions on the validity of direct revelation. George W. Bush has continually expressed his belief that he is doing "God's work". Is that acceptable in today's sophisticated international arena? If we have reservations about a man's faith, it seems only natural to question his judgment. Mormons believe that the Brethren (upstanding male members of the church) are able to receive direct revelations from God. Haven't we had enough of being led by men claiming to be divine representatives? Are we that nostalgic for the Middle Ages?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said. Interview the next two white shirted "worldly" young men that knock at your door!

2:00 AM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

I'm always on the lookout.

4:31 PM  

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