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Tim Rutten did a piece, “Mitt Romney should not face a religious ‘Test’ ” for the LA Times that was carried in local Tri-City Herald, June 3, 2011. Mr. Rutten discusses conservative Christians’ opposition to Mitt Romney because he is Mormon and why that is counter to our Founding Fathers’ belief in separation of church and state. Politically Mr. Romney is a fair to good match for this group, he’s a little too Left (Moderate) to be an ideal match, but acceptable- one would think. Additionally as a moderate conservative from a liberal state, he has a proven track record when a group (Republicans) are trying to identify a potential candidate to oust an incumbent democratic President.
I consider myself a moderate conservative and I have two practical/political concerns with the religious right’s ardent opposition to Mr. Romney based on his beliefs. The first is basic. Aren’t we the country that says, “I may not agree with your religious preferences, but I will defend your right to have those preferences.” Their position is Mr. Romney’s theology is incorrect (or worse) and therefore he is unacceptable to run our country. I agree with the first half; I don’t agree with his theology either. But he has demonstrated his abilities as a Governor; that’s what I care about. If a Mormon Governor is not acceptable to evangelicals, what about a Catholic one, or an Episcopalian (they’re almost Catholic)? And by this logic, certainly no non-Christian could be considered for public office. I cannot accept that there are no individuals who would be acceptable, competent public officials outside of the Fundamentalist Christian circle. Once a group initiates such a strong “Them and Us” mentality, the “us” circle starts getting tighter and tighter as the definition of “True Believer” slowly excludes the fringes. As soon as we declare someone “unacceptable” based on their religious beliefs, we set ourselves up to be excluded next when we are found not to be “acceptable enough”.
My second concern is that as the ultra-conservative right becomes more influential in the Republican Party, the party itself becomes less influential with moderates, and potentially becomes marginalized in American politics, thus producing an essentially one-party system. Again as a conservative independent, I align with and support Republican candidates much more often than Democratic ones. However, if the Republican candidates are too conservative, I’ll choose the Democrats.
When I was freshly out of the military in the early 70’s, I was dabbling in politics and trying to decide a life’s direction. At the time I believed in supporting candidates with the “right” political ideology, not necessarily “electable” candidates. That was a naïve opinion, because if your candidate isn’t elected, it generally doesn’t matter what they believed and supported. They aren’t in office. To be sure, I don’t advocate supporting candidates who are charismatic or great showmen (or women) but are not qualified and competent. I do believe in supporting competent, qualified candidates who are fiscally conservative, even if they veer right a bit on social issues.
What to do? Maybe we need to form a new “Moderates Party.” Are there enough dedicated, politically energized moderates to make a party viable? Or by their very nature are most Moderates like me: not energized enough about politics to make a political party function; not energized enough to put viable candidates on the ballot and get them elected to office? Would welcome any comments people have on this.