Saturday, August 18, 2012

Mitt Snit

On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight. - The Boy Scout Oath

Dear Governor Romney:

The cover of my latest National Review says "Own It Mitt." The 'it' is your wealth, and the counsel is to embrace it, flaunt it, brag about it, hold it up as a model to which others might aspire. You are an American success story, Mitt. Your story is the country's story of entrepeneurship and individual initiative. You are a capitalist but, more than that, a capitalist who cares. You are the opposite of "you didn't build that" and other socialist sentiments emanating from certain quarters. So own it. It can be made to work to your advantage and presents to the electorate the stark choice before them: shall we embark upon the march to the collectivist's paradise, or return to the principle of individual liberty and responsibility that made our country great?

All of which may be true and none of which particularly bothers me. I should mention, however, that I have received 3 mailings from your campaign in the space of two weeks. In a couple of them you seem to have heard of me, because they are addressed to William. Kind of flattering. You even included a semi-glossy photo of you and your wife, whom I like better but whose name I can't remember. Included in all three, inevitably, is a request for money. Now I'm afraid you only love me for my money. But, having heard rumors that you are worth in excess of 200 million dollars, I have asked before, and will ask again: in which direction do you really think the money ought to be flowing? I have to mow my own lawn. I'm willing to bet 200 million dollars that you don't mow yours. And that's only the first item in a very long list.

But don't get me wrong; I don't hold it against you. In fact, good for you. Keep hauling in the dough and I don't even care if some of it is squirreled away in offshore accounts. Considering the federal behemoth's appetite for money it hasn't earned, I'd do the same. And don't think for a minute I believe any of the wicked lies the Obama campaign is spreading about you: that you want to destroy medicare (no one expects you to commit political suicide); that you haven't paid any taxes for a number of years; that you're the friend of Wall Street and the enemy of the middle class. I'm also fairly certain that you really believe Obamacare is bad for the country but Romneycare good for Massachusetts, that the latter is defensible and the former is not. I'm not sure how that argument goes exactly, but I can find room for the federalist case. It's okay to make someone buy something he doesn't want statewide but not nationwide. I'll work it out in my spare time. Nor do I pay heed to those partisan political hacks who call you a flip-flopper on abortion. You are a flip-flopper but you're my kind of flip-flopper and I love conversion stories. You are a genuine example of someone possessed of sufficient humility to admit that he was wrong. You even say on your website that "Taking innocent life is always wrong," and that includes saying 'no' to embryonic stem cell research. Good for you. Some prolife politicians miss that connection.

When I saw that you're in favor of a federal marriage amendment, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. Thinking what bliss it was to be alive at this time, I visited a friend's website with the intention of convincing him that this election was of sufficient importance that he ought to break his usual practice of not voting for the less evil of two "lizards"," as he likes to put it. (Trust me, I don't think of you that way.) He's on a sort of voting fast; hasn't participated since Bush/Clinton, and thinks the act of voting a mere perpetuation of a liberal dispensation he despises. In his words, it's a "quasi-sacramental act of personal allegiance to liberalism," and further believes that "universal suffrage is itself the lex orandi to liberalism’s lex credendi" (hope you're familiar with those terms). It's a little more complicated than I've presented, but I think you get the picture.

Anyway, just as I thought I might be making some progress with him, he decides he's not going to play fair anymore - by doing some research to prove that you might have some lizard in you - and comes up with this. It's a link to a news story in which I discovered that the man I was going to vote for, the man who stood before a roaring crowd at Liberty University to reaffirm that marriage is indeed between one man and one woman, is also in favor of allowing gay boys and men into the Scouts. The Boy Scouts. As Scouts and Scoutmasters. You can imagine my dismay. In fact, my initial reaction was ARE YOU SERIOUS? THE BOY SCOUTS? I calmed down pretty quickly but, I mean, the BOY Scouts? By 'gay' I assume you mean openly gay. If the scout or scoutmaster does not announce it, how will anyone know he's gay? And if no one knows, what's the point in saying that we admit gays? I could see how the gay scoutmaster might confess it to whoever hires him, and then it would remain between the two of them, kept secret from the scouts. But again, if it's going to be a secret anyway, what's the point? Will this be true also of the scouts themselves? You have to be at least 10 to get in and under 17. I figure most applicants are in the 10-12 age range. Picture the new gay scoutmaster's first meeting with his troop. He stands before them and says, "Hi, I'm Fred, your new scoutmaster. And I'm gay."


All right, I'm back to normal. Listen, Mr. Traditional Marriage candidate, the ethics of Christian sexual morality center entirely around marriage; that ethic claims that use of our sexual faculties is appropriate only to marriage, that marriage has an exclusive claim in this area. You must believe this. You're Mormon (don't worry, I'm not going there). Do you not see the disconnect in advocating for traditional sexual virtue and openly gay scoutmasters at the same time? When the gay scoutmaster (I assume that he must pledge fidelity to the same oath) swears on his honor to keep himself "physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight," what does he mean by morally straight? More importantly, what do you mean by it? Because I don't think he and you will mean the same thing.

Ah well. Until and unless you renounce this position, you've lost my vote. My aforementioned friend - the one who is the enemy of all lizards - will merely say 'I told you so.' Another friend at work is going to call me a Purist. I will answer, "Hell yes. I'm tired of taking one step forward and two back." Then he'll say, "You might as well vote for Obama, because a vote for no one is a vote for him." And I'll say, "A vote for no one is a vote for no one. It'll be as if I didn't exist. I'll amount to a mathematical zero." And he'll say, "The future of our country is at stake, and you don't care what happens to it."

Ah, but I do. To echo your position on abortion - that "it's always wrong to take innocent life" - do you likewise believe that it's always wrong to have sex outside of marriage, of whatever kind? If so, square that for me with your support of open gayness in an organization that has always supported your own understanding (and your Church's, by the way) of right sexual conduct. I won't vote for a man who wraps himself in the mantle of Christian morality, but doesn't believe that it's made of wholecloth. The unraveling will only continue.


Thomas D said...

Good morning, Bill!

Would it be appropriate to say that I enjoyed this post? It treats of serious matter, the moral dimensions of our politics, so I wonder if "enjoyment" is the reaction you were hoping for!

I've met Ann Romney. In 1994. I went to the campaign office on the Cambridge/Belmont line in the hopes of picking up a button or badge that said, "Romney for Senate." Mrs Romney excused herself for a moment (yes, she was staffing the virtually vacant campaign office!) and returned with lapel stickers. "We don't have any hard buttons," she said. I thought: like Gertrude Stein, only tender buttons? But of course I didn't say that.

I might go third party, myself. I have significant differences with the Libertarians, but they seem honest as politicians go. Of course, I live in Massachusetts, so however I vote, the result of my state's plebiscite is a foregone conclusion.

But I do worry, Bill, in your post (which is almost persuading me in a Mittward direction!) that you're making the perfect the enemy of the good. Of course, it's atrocious that Romney would capitulate on the Scouts and the gays. It's mind-boggling. It's gobsmacking, considering Romney's current resolve on other moral issues.

But if I lived in your state (which is very much "in play"), I'd find a way to vote Republican at least twice. Four more years of the current occupant of the White House is not, for me, a palatable option, and I know it isn't for you.

I don't know what to advise, if anything. I have a profound respect for your reasoning here. But if I were living in a so-called swing state, I'd be voting, campaigning, donating -- to and for the Republicans, even if Kay Bailey Hutchison were the nominee.

William Luse said...

Would it be appropriate to say that I enjoyed this post?

Of course. That's always my first aim.

you're making the perfect the enemy of the good.

I've heard that one, oh, about a million times. Perfection not being available, I'm making the good the enemy of the incoherent.

Libertarians, who want to legalize prostitution and all sorts of drugs and get government out of marriage and abortion - and Kay Bailey Hutchison, who has no problem with babies in the womb being filleted alive, really are lizards, and voting for them only perpetuates the slow death of our culture.

I might vote for national and statewide congressional candidates if I can find any who are serious.

Thomas D said...

Bill -- Quite right. I'm notoriously pliable on politics, I fear -- having the ability to (in Phil Gramm's phrase) "see three sides of a two-sided issue."

Perfectly just, those qualms and objections to the Libertarian agenda, and I share most of them. But pot should be legal, I think. There are pro-life libertarians who point out that abortion violates the "harm principle" of liberty: I don't have the right to hurt other people, or to kill them. But I fear that most Libertarians are, as you say, pro-abortion or shruggingly agnostic on the issue. Full disclosure: I voted Libertarian in the 1996 Presidential contest.

When I said I'd vote for the Republicans even if Sen. Hutchison were on the ticket, that was perhaps hyperbole! But I find myself semi-leaning sorta-Republican for the reasons described by Mark Shea: Better a jerk who doesn't care about you than a fiend who hates your guts.

I do have respect for those who abstain from this quadrennial folderol. I can see someone not wanting to be tainted by ... well, by politics!

William Luse said...

I'm not saying, btw, that if you vote for Romney you're doing something wrong. You're not. I feel the urgency of ousting Obama as much as anyone. My decision, which is subject to change, is purely personal.

Lydia McGrew said...

Well, since you're doing research, I hope you won't mind if I give you an IOU for the links on this and for the moment just take my word for it that I researched it six months ago or so: On ESCR Romney's position is weird. Better than McCain (McCain was Mr. ESCR-federally-funded-all-the-way), but still not good. Romney supports ESCR research on "extra" IVF embryos but opposes creating embryos specifically for ESCR. The funding issue is up in the air, even after his pro-life conversion. At one point he said that he opposed funding for such research even on "spare" IVF embryos, but that he wouldn't outlaw it (if he could). At another point (and this was also after his conversion) he applauded, as I recall it, a bill that involved _funding_ ESCR on "spare" embryos but outlawed the creation of embryos for research. So we've got mixed signals on the funding issue.

He's also recently said in his speech to the NAACP that he hopes to represent "every race, creed, and sexual orientation." One can call that a throwaway line, but it's not a throwaway line I feel comfortable living with. That link I do have ready to hand:

I'm not on a voting fast. I would have been very willing to vote and even campaign for Rick Santorum had he won the nomination. But Romney just doesn't cut it for me.

TS said...

Oh, ouch, hate to lose a Romeny vote in a toss-up state like Floriday. The curse of the internet is too much information about the candidates, because the closer you look at 'em, the less you'll want to vote for them. It's sort of like high-def tv and what it does to otherwise pretty faces.

William Luse said...

Why doesn't this surprise me? I didn't see that ESCR subtlety on his website, but then I was reading fast.

"every race, creed, and sexual orientation" is never a throwaway line. He either believes it's the right thing to do, or he's pandering.

Santorum, the contraception hypocrite, is back where he belongs. He also supported "enhanced interrogation techniques." But voting for him would have been no worse than doing the same for Romney.

William Luse said...

I would like to add that you've been doing God's work on a couple of recent threads at W4.

William Luse said...

TS and I must have been posting at the same time. My previous two comments were for Lydia.

For TS: "It's sort of like high-def tv and what it does to otherwise pretty faces" - made me laugh.

You know, TS, another thing I haven't heard is any talk from Romney about abolishing things like the DOE (education), the DOE (energy), the EPA and the CIA. Okay, just kidding about the CIA. We need spies and guys who know best how to interrogate in enhancement mode.

My wife is still working on me. I may have to vote to keep peace in the house.

Paul Cella said...

I thought your martial analogy in Zippy's thread was quite sound, and as I pointed out, even Zippy couldn't avoid using it. An individual soldier is not in the business of judging the efficacy of proposed military actions, particularly the efficacy of his small part to play in said actions.

Another thing I've said from time to time is that we have nowhere been given any guarantee that we'll have good candidates to vote for. You're old enough to have set down votes for Reagan; that's something to take pride in. Me? Well, it sure looks like I'll never have so congenial an option.

I think Zippy's position is defensible but imprudent.

Anonymous said...


I objected to a military analogy to voting, not to politics generally. Voting is the Mass of liberalism's armies, not a weapon used against its enemies.

TS said...

Bill, I'm so desperate that I'll just take him not stampeding religious liberties. He can have the DOE.

William Luse said...

"Voting is the Mass of liberalism's armies"

So voting and liberalism are inextricable? Can't have one without the other? Voting *just is* to worship at the shrine of liberalism? That's what it sounds like you're saying.

TS, DOE's (education's) federal fingers help churn out the soldiers in Zippy's army of liberalism, thoughtless zealots who don't see a problem with stampeding your religious liberties. Garbage always ends up in the same landfill. I don't see Romney changing this.

William Luse said...

"Bill, I'm so desperate that..."

I feel your pain. But you know, I think Zippy would say that this is what liberalism does to us, and what I meant by 'one step forward, two back.' We keep voting in the hope of beating back the liberal understanding of Progress; it seemed in 1980 that we were close to succeeding. Now we're back to same old/same old. Worse, in fact. What kind of country could elect an Obama? Still, I'm not convinced voting is the root of all evil, or even just a symptom. Something more fundamental is at work.

Anonymous said...

That is what it is now in my view, Bill, yes. Whether it was ever something else is literally an academic question.

Paul Cella said...

I attend a church where we do quite a bit of voting. For elders and deacons, lay officers, major financial decisions, etc. We're in the midst of renovating a property purchased some years ago (which purchase required a congregational vote) on Peachtree St: we want to be serving the city right in the heart of the city, in contrast to so many other Evangelicals who have been bailing for the suburbs for decades. This has necessitated several major votes by the congregation. Solemn, prayerful votes.

I wonder if Zippy would categorize these voting activities as rituals in the liberal black mass as well?

It's important to note, as well, that the presbyterian and congregationist church structure is one of the key historical incubators for American democracy. It is not hard to show, for instance, the echoes of the solemn assembly that produced the Mayflower Compact in the phrasings of the Declaration of Independence.

Then again, I hear the bitter words of the Prophet Isaiah:

Bring no more vain offerings;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—
I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.

Anonymous said...

Are those voting activities mass-scale democracy with universal suffrage? Because those are the words I've repeatedly used.

On the other hand I do think that liberalism and the Protestant revolt are connected, so I won't categorically deny all connection between the anti-episcopalian practices of some Protestant congregations and liberalism.

Paul Cella said...

Everything but the mass-scale. I think we have in the neighborhood of 350-400 church members.

Anonymous said...

Everything but the mass-scale.

And "universal", as in, extending to all of free and equal humanity (except when it doesn't: universal suffrage is one of those liberal structural ideas, derivative from the self-contradiction "equal rights," which is impossible in reality; thus giving rise to unprincipled exceptions accompanied by a refusal to question the principle).

Both of those change things rather dramatically, I would say.

William Luse said...

Along with universal suffrage (which probably is a very bad thing, and I'm not thinking of women), you'll recall, Paul, that Zippy denies that the "just powers of government derive from the consent of the governed." (It's also not hard to see how the former thing derived from the latter.) I tend to agree with him. I don't have a problem in principle, and within very strictly defined parameters, the people voting for the governors, but the just powers of government *just are* the just powers of government. We can't know what those are without knowing what justice is. In the end, whatever regime is in place will go the way of all flesh without Christian orthodoxy as its soul. I wrote recently that democracy cannot survive without conservatism, conservatism cannot do the same without Christianity, and therefore democracy without Christianity will die. That's what's happening now, and the death looks to be accelerating at an unexpected pace.

I haven't had time to flesh this out, and probably never will have, but it would make a great blog topic for Paul Cella.