By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger
Even as we watch the violent collision of politics and religion at American embassies around the world, here at home Presidential politics took a decidedly religious turn. Mitt Romney, trailing in several decisive purple states, has resorted to the “God Card.” Capitalizing on the omission (and later reinsertion) of God into the Democratic Party platform, Romney has recently added God into his stump speech, “I will not take God out of my heart, I will not take God out of the public square, and I will not take it out of the platform of my party.” [Insert Amen! here].
Here in Virginia, Romney raised the specter of a “godless” Obama removing “In God We Trust” from the currency and from the Pledge of Allegiance. Standing before the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach amid throngs of veterans and their families (mostly all white and very conservative), Romney remarked, “Our pledge says ‘under God. I will not take God out of the name of our platform. I will not take God off our coins. And I will not take God out of my heart.” Never you mind that Obama wears his religion like a ribbon or that the President never suggested removing “God” from the Pledge or off of US currency, God is good politics.
Romney’s strategy appears to fit hand-in-glove with his new-found anti-abortion policy. In 1994 while running for office in deep blue Massachusetts, Romney extolled the virtues of guaranteeing women their reproductive freedom under Roe v. Wade:
“One of the great things about our nation … is that we’re each entitled to have strong personal beliefs, and we encourage other people to do the same. But as a nation, we recognize the right of all people to believe as they want and not to impose our beliefs on other people. I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country. I have since the time that my mom took that position when she ran in 1970 as a U.S. Senate candidate. I believe that since Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years, that we should sustain and support it, and I sustain and support that law, and the right of a woman to make that choice, and my personal beliefs, like the personal beliefs of other people, should not be brought into a political campaign.“
However, Romney’s position has “evolved” and by 2005 he said:
“I am pro-life. I believe that abortion is the wrong choice except in cases of incest, rape, and to save the life of the mother. I wish the people of America agreed, and that the laws of our nation could reflect that view. But while the nation remains so divided over abortion, I believe that the states, through the democratic process, should determine their own abortion laws and not have them dictated by judicial mandate.”
At the Republican Convention he furnished new red meat to anti-abortionists saying he would nominate Supreme Court justices who would overturn Row v. Wade. While it’s fairly obvious that Romney has no firm convictions on the issue, he does firmly believe that the issue is a winner among the religiously conservative base that now grips the Republican Party.
But the question remains about how well this strategy of placing God squarely on your side will do among the general voting population. Polls show Americans are more and more rejecting traditional religion for something spiritual but less dogmatic. Atheists/agnostics are the nations’ fastest growing “religion” category even though their numbers are still quite small at 15%. There is no reliable data showing that a candidate’s religious beliefs sway voters one way or the other. If they did, Romney’s Mormonism would be more of a handicap to his election bid.
But there remains a more fundamental question highlighted by violent religious protests from Libya to Australia. Will Americans, seeing the carnage that religious fanaticism has wrought at America’s foreign outposts, begin to question the wisdom of electing leaders who pursue political goals through religious rhetoric?
~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger