Political Animal


April 20, 2012 9:20 AM The Enemy of My Enemy

By Ed Kilgore

If you do go over to TNR to read Noam Scheiber’s piece on Obama’s “war room” operation, you might also check out my new column on why Democrats should have no illusions that conservative evangelical distaste towards Mormonism will cost Mitt Romney a significant number of votes. As Dallas First Baptist Church minister Robert Jeffress (who became nationally notorious for denying that Romney was a Christian as opposed to a “cult member” during 2011) said in endorsing Romney this week:

Given the choice between a Christian like Barack Obama who embraces very unbiblical principles like abortion and a Mormon like Mitt Romney who supports biblical values like the sanctity of life and marriage, I think there’s a good biblical case for voting for Mitt Romney.

There you have it. The Christian Right’s very foundation is the belief that “biblical values” make culture war the primary moral obligation of believers at this particular point in U.S. and world history. Even the most unusual allies in this war are treated much as the United States treated the Soviet Union during World War II. Meanwhile, mainline Protestants like Barack Obama, along with “Cafeteria Catholics” who disobey the Vatican’s moral teachings, are considered Christian-in-Name-Only, all the more contemptible, in fact, for abandoning what passes for “biblical truth” among conservative evangelicals, or, from somewhat different perspectives, among “traditionalist” Catholics or members of the LDS.

Christian Right leaders, or even the rank-and-file, may privately mock Mormons and their exotic theology. But in terms of political action, all that really matters is that they are comrades-in-arms in the great fight against feminists, unbelievers, and sell-out “liberal Christians.”

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Anonymous on April 20, 2012 9:28 AM:

    “Cafeteria Catholics” who disobey the Vatican’s moral teachings

    Sorry, but you're buying into the right's framing of all this.

    The Vatican's moral teachings on life call for Catholics to take a stand against abortion and euthanasia, but they also call for Catholics to stand against the death penalty and unnecessary wars like the war in Iraq.

    And, more recently, the USCCB denounced the Republicans' Ryan budget as immoral as well, for its evisceration of the poor.

    All American Catholics are "Cafeteria Catholics," but when conservatives pick and choose which parts of the Vatican's teachings they'll follow, for some reason they're given a free pass.

  • T2 on April 20, 2012 9:37 AM:

    “biblical values” make culture war " Is it a culture war? Sounds more like a Religious war to me......as in "my religion is better than your religion and therefore you must be vanquished"....as in The Crusades, or The Inquisition.

  • frazer on April 20, 2012 9:41 AM:

    Ditto for all Christians. "Biblical values" have been reduced to "oppose abortion and gay rights." As long as you do that, it doesn't matter how callous your policies are toward the poor and powerless.

  • stevio on April 20, 2012 9:41 AM:

    If Romoney was a communist, the right would figure-ot a way to support him over Obama. Bet on it.

    This has nothing to do with religion. It's all about money and power. Always has always will.

    Their true Holy Triad:

    Money, Power, Politics, with money and politics used to gain the third which brings in the money.

    There are many bozos on this bus...

  • mellowjohn on April 20, 2012 9:42 AM:

    and, of course, r-money is white.

  • rk21 on April 20, 2012 9:47 AM:

    I think what he really means is that given a choice between a black Kenyan heretic and a white heretic he'll go for the white guy.

  • david1234 on April 20, 2012 9:48 AM:

    I wonder how Evangelicals would respond to the following message.

    Mitt Romney is an unrepentant liar. You know it. God knows it. And the father of lies knows it. In the voting booth where only God can see, are you going to him that you think it is OK to lie?

  • delNorte on April 20, 2012 10:13 AM:

    I'm sure Obama supports sanctity of life and marriage, too.

    And, hasn't he prevented more abortions by expanding health care coverage and access to contraceptives than any Republican has?

  • Sisyphus on April 20, 2012 10:25 AM:

    I wonder if the church hierarchy realize how many this is driving away? I'm not saying the church should curb their moral message, but their mindless assault on "dissent" is really going to kill the church in America. "Dissent" is not the greatest threat to the church or to faith, and this new obsession with it smacks of hypocracy: follow our teachings on the sanctity of life, but don't expect us to defrock clerics who assault children.

  • T2 on April 20, 2012 10:26 AM:

    I thought Obama was married? Who is this MIchelle lady? What are those two kids doing there? is it a day care?

  • Jimo on April 20, 2012 10:27 AM:

    Christians in name only?

    LOL Ah, if only the good old days, when Christian referred to those who follow Christ.

    (Christ: the guy who never said a word against abortion or gay but had quite a lot of scorn for wealth and those who turn their backs on the poor.)

  • Quaker in a Basement on April 20, 2012 10:27 AM:

    Democrats should have no illusions that conservative evangelical distaste towards Mormonism will cost Mitt Romney a significant number of votes.

    Right after this gem, Ed, you go on to explain the views of politician-in-preacher's-clothing Robert Jeffress. How many votes does he get?

    My point is this: If you're counting votes, you need to look at voters, not self-promoting fake preachers.

  • Mitt's Magic Underpants on April 20, 2012 10:33 AM:

    I think if the rednecks really knew about Romney's beliefs -- e.g., listened to "I Believe" from Book of Mormon -- they would stay home.

  • mallen on April 20, 2012 10:48 AM:

    When asked some question about some Mormon stuff the other day, Mitt (as his campaign people had instructed him, like everything else he ever says) said hwe wouldn't talk about theology but would talk about family values, or something like that.

    Those Mormon values include hating the gays and subjugation of women, which should be enough for most Christianists to enable them to ignore all the heretical Mormon nonsense.

  • emjayay on April 20, 2012 10:54 AM:

    Also, Mormons in the US are really really white.

  • Peter C on April 20, 2012 11:01 AM:

    I think the election may come down to the strength of the delusions of the radical right. Will their 'enthusiasm' hold up against everyday people saying 'But he's a Mormon and Mormons believe such weird things!' It depends upon how strong the authoritarian impulse is among their rank and file.

    If Obama hadn't gotten Osama bin Laden, it might be different. If Obama had not obviously been trying to reach consensus with the Republicans, it might be different.

    Yes, the whisperers of the radical right have convinced many people in 2008 that Obama was a muslim terrorist sympathizer, but that was when he was just a black Senator from Illinois. Now, he's been President for 4 years, and it is more difficult to make the case that he's a scary guy. Will they really trust a Mormon named 'Willard' who is super-wealthy, out of touch, talks out of both sides of his mouth, and obviously pushing changes which benefit him immediately but them only sometime in the future? It depends upon the strength of their attachment to their ministers and/or their husbands.

  • tolkien on April 20, 2012 11:03 AM:

    This has nothing to do with any kind of values. If Romney was pro-choice, pro gay marriage, against gun rights and an angry black man these scumbags would still be yelling at the base to vote for him, and if Obama was anti-choice, against gay marriage, pro gun proliferation, and a white christian war vet these people would still be arguing he was the coming of the antichrist.

    There are no values. There is no ideology. There is only my team and not my team, and for these people my team is defined as Republicans. That is everything. That is all. Everything else is just a smokescreen to fool the rubes.

  • bam on April 20, 2012 11:08 AM:

    I completely agree with this and here is why: I was working at the PTA bake sale (yes, stay at home mom) during the Republican primary last month and started talking to a guy active in republican county politics. Beyond the round and round talk of "there is so much we still don't know about Obama" (WTF?) what really struck me was this bit: His mom, an evangelical nut (his term- not mine) was staying home for the primary because "there was no one on the ballot she cared to vote for" (only Romney and Paul qualified). I said she was going to have the same problem in November and without missing a beat he replied "oh no, I guarantee you she will be here because she would rather have a Mormon president than a Muslim president". My heart sank because I know he is right and there are a lot more like her who will vote for that one reason.

  • cmdicely on April 20, 2012 11:11 AM:

    The Christian Right’s very foundation is the belief that "biblical values" make culture war the primary moral obligation of believers at this particular point in U.S. and world history.

    No, the Christian Right is an elite political movement whose foundation is that certain religious groups in the country can be easily motivated politically by suborning religious authority figures.

    What you are pointing to isn't the "foundation" of the Christian Right, its just a transitory propaganda point used to reconcile the facts (Mitt Romney is a member of a group many religious leaders attached to the Christian Right have described as a non-Christian cult, while Barack Obama is a member of group that can't reasonably be challenged as "not-Christian" as a matter of cult) that otherwise would seem to draw the groups specific proposal (Mitt Romney should be preferred over Barack Obama in the 2012 election) with their more general arguments (Christians should be preferred over non-Christians in the public sphere.)

    The Christian Right is very easy to understand if you stop trying to figure it out as an honest organic religious movement and pay attention to its history as a top-down tool of secular right-wing politics.

  • Darsan54 on April 20, 2012 11:13 AM:

    These "christians" are more about uniformity. They must all think and act alike, because in the end that's what defines them. For all the talk of freedom and independence, it is discouraged at every turn. Freedom is only what their leaders say it is.

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  • theperilouspea on April 20, 2012 11:27 AM:

    This is as good a time as any in the last sixties years , to rub salt into the eye of the hallucinatory fear of scary egalitarian meritocracy .
    If any may rise to "Heaven" who will shine my shoes ?
    Returning to the wonder of the wound'rous Maccabees ...
    BY ZEUS !
    Dreams of concord into commodities
    Human potential shrewdly made over into
    A shuffing suffering pointless wandering , YEA !
    You knowed it knowed it
    Oh give me a footsore home
    Where the Oligarchs roam
    Where the ultimatum and the ad hominem play
    Where seldom is heard a useful word , remember
    Charity ?
    Burning hot skies no longer cloudy
    Intolerance so pure the price of death is cheep
    The air and water owned bought ‘n sold
    Maccabees love a choking arid desert
    Not one bright penny that argues free air 'n water
    Comfort not for those who chose to be born wrong

  • Ron Byers on April 20, 2012 11:27 AM:

    I notice there is a real enthusiasm gap between Republicans and Democrats. It seems right now the Democrats are very enthusiastic. What we will discover in November is whether hate alone will motivate Republicans to come out in greater numbers than Democrats and whether the Republicans can convince a large number of "independents" to hate as deeply as their base. My feeling in April is the Republicans are staring at a giantic failure. The only things standing between them and national defeat are their voter suppression laws and the Citizens United wild cards.

  • Joel on April 20, 2012 11:40 AM:

    "unbiblical principles like abortion"

    Actually, Jesus was silent about abortion. He was also silent about homosexuality. However, he spoke clearly in favor of turning the other cheek rather than striking back at violence.

    Whenever someone uses the word "unbiblical," you can be sure they aren't referring to the, you know, Bible.

  • majun on April 20, 2012 11:48 AM:

    There has never been any doubt that the hard core of the Christian Right would vote against Obama. If Romney had "666" tattooed across his forehead, and came with horns, a tail, and slick Van Dyke, they would still pour out to vote against Obama. But the hard core is not monolithic and certainly not the majority of the vast Christian right wing that the GOP has come to rely on for electoral victory. Those whose religion is less tinged with outright racism will waver in the face of voting for a cultist and, given the choice between voting for a non-Christian member of the LDS Church and a suspected Muslim masquerading as a Christian, a percentage of them will stay home on November 6th.

    The relevant question is, will Romney's faith suppress enough of the right wing evangelical vote to counterbalance the voter suppression efforts against Democratic constituencies being made by GOP operatives and their allies. If two or three million GOP voting Evangelical Christians choose to sit on their hands instead of getting out to vote for Mitt, he has pretty much lost the race. The GOP is going to have to devote a lot of money to getting out the vote to make sure that that doesn't happen. Which raises the question, in a contest that is sure to break all records for campaign spending, probably even without taking into account the billions that will be spent by "independent" super PACs, will they have the money that it will take to pry loose the last couple of million voters that they will need to prevail?

    In the final crunch, during the last week of October, this is going to be all about money and getting out the vote.

  • rea on April 20, 2012 11:50 AM:

    Sounds like Robert Jeffress is straying from the party line, conceding that Obama is a Christian.

  • jim filyaw on April 20, 2012 1:26 PM:

    i agree that the born again crowd will support the g.o.p. ticket with the same devotion they've shown since the advent of the gipper. its never been about theology; its always been about politics and temporal power. but, you wonder when the point comes that the dimwits in the back pews start putting two and two together and realize they've been had.

  • Mitch on April 20, 2012 1:39 PM:

    It all depends on the believer, and we probably won't know the answer until after the election. My family in KY (all rampaging Fundamentalist Southern Baptists) are extremely anti-Mormon, and have stated repeatedly that they will not vote for Romney. To them, the choice between the "Liberal Abortionist Obama" and the "Blaspheming Heretic Romney" is proof that America has turned it's back on God. They will sit out this election and "leave it in God's hands," as they say.

    Of course, my family are extreme Fundies deep in Appalachia, and do not represent all "conservative Chistians" in the country. So I can't claim any special insight into the overall trend, but I can say that the Fundies I know and love would rather give up on the nation than vote for a Mormon heretic.

    Mostly, I figure it will be the "independents" who decide the race, not solid blocks like Evangelicals. But I consider how easy it is to avoid the polls, and how many people do not vote, and how close recent elections have been, and I could see this being a problem for the GOP this year—even if most Fundies do vote for Romney, a few percent less Evangelical votes could ensure Obama's nomination.

    So then comes the scary little whisper in the back of my mind:

    "Hey, Mitch, what if the GOP loses because of Fundies rejecting Mittens. . . so they become EVEN MORE extreme and theocratic in the next cycle? Isn't that what the GOP does in these situations? Lose and then become more and more extreme, more ideologically pure?"


  • Nicholas on April 20, 2012 2:11 PM:

    google: critical theory,

    now reread the conclusion:

    "But in terms of political action, all that really matters is that they are comrades-in-arms in the great fight against feminists, unbelievers, and sell-out “liberal Christians.”

    Now tell me again which side is most likely to be a country that I want to live in.

    For bonus points on this pop quiz:
    google: obama critical theory

  • MsJoanne on April 20, 2012 4:01 PM:

    "Vatican moral values" like turning the other cheek at predatory child rapists.

    I'm completely over religion. It has no place in society since few who call themselves Christian follow Christ in any real way. When the goal is to starve poor children and force women to go through childbirth no matter what, well, they and their fake religion and their fake outrages can kiss my ass.

  • Col Bat Guano on April 20, 2012 4:38 PM:

    google: obama critical theory

    Thank you for pointing out one of the dumbest political attacks this year.

  • Daddy Love on April 20, 2012 5:16 PM:

    It's no longer a culture war; it's completely a political war. Probably always was. The "culture war" trappings are to gull the rubes.

  • Doug on April 20, 2012 10:11 PM:

    "The 'culture war' trappings are to gull the rubes." Daddy Love @ 5:16 PM

    For the win!