Four score and two marriages ago…

Four score and two marriages ago…
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As I write this, Jon King on CNN has just announced that New Gingrich has swept South Carolina, and swept the Evangelical vote as well. The fact that this victory comes in the immediate aftermath of the revelation that Newt had actively pursued an “open marriage” with his second wife and current mistress-spouse makes me think that social conservatism is basically finished in America. The larger agenda of the so-called “Christian Right” has been effectively whittled down to only two identifiable policy positions — opposition to gay marriage and abortion — which can now be tacked to the campaign of just about any immoral hack in order to receive a pass. No higher standards need apply.

Gingrich’s success in this most Bible Belty of southern states only seems surprising or shocking or hypocritical if one assumes Evangelicals actually take their faith as seriously as they loudly claim to, which of course all statistical evidence suggests they do not. Polls have argued Born-Agains divorce just as much, if not more, than the national average, and have crafted bafflingly inane scriptural logic to excuse this, a sin that Jesus was extraordinarily explicit in condemning. They’ve also largely made peace with sex before marriage, recreational sex, sodomy (the heterosexual kind, at least), contraception, and a fair bit of promiscuity and adultery, too. In short, Evangelicals neither hold nor practice sexual standards that are that different than the godless American mainstream, just as they have long since ceased to care one way or another about other old-timey sins such as gambling, immodest dress, swearing, and pornography (fun fact! Did you know Gingrich is considered a founding father of online porn?).

The Republicans’ stalwart opposition to gay marriage and abortion that pundits so eagerly attribute to Evangelical influence is really best understood as a sort of vestigial so-con tail on what is basically a libertarian-plutocrat party for libertarian-plutocrats who may or may not also happen to be Christians. With homosexuality becoming increasingly tolerated in Evangelical circles (for the obvious reason that it’s arbitrary and hypocritical to demonize same-sex relations in their own epoch of anything-goes bedroom morality) it’s hard to think that gay marriage bashing is really an issue with any long-term legs. As I discussed in my review of the seminal book No Right Turn, it’s almost impossible for a conservative Christian in modern America to not have at least one gay friend, relative, or co-worker, all of which makes it that much harder to be particularly animated by the threatening “otherness” of homosexuality.

Abortion, similarly, has always been much more of a science and ethics question than a strictly religious one, and as our ability to observe and study in-womb development becomes more vivid and revealing, will likely continue to be. The issue already transcends the standard left-right dynamic (even atheist Christopher Hitchens was pro-life on scientific grounds), and its strength as an issue of polarization has just as much to do with unrepresentatively radical pro-choicers exerting control over the Democratic Party as the Christian Right’s hegemony over the GOP.

The end result of all this is more politicians like Newt Gingrich. But more politicians like Romney and Obama too, who also would have failed religious litmus tests in earlier eras where genuine so-cons held actual sway. If the 2008 election was seen as some critical evaluation of how far Americans had come on the question of race, 2012 certainly deserves equal historic status for finally settling the age-old of whether or not flawed personal lives can be disqualifiers. The Democrats already  made their position known some time ago, and now so too have the Republicans — their most religious, conservative faction and all. Case, evidently, closed.

Acceptance or indifference does not, however, automatically imply a lack of controversy. Whether or not we regard Gingrich’s many marriages — and the adulterous ways they ended — as particularly offensive or scandalous on some base, moral level, they do nevertheless imply a certain level of recklessness and arrogance that may be troubling in a purely secular sense. This is actually the great contradiction of liberalized politics: how does one pass judgement on serious personal misconduct without looking like a prude? The massive applause Gingrich received during Thursday’s debate for dressing-down Jon King’s “despicable” questions about the Speaker’s personal life revealed many Republicans are clearly swinging too far in the direction of self-righteous ambivalence, even if that entails nominating a true joke of a candidate in the process. They’re so over sex scandals they’ll make their flag-bearer a man who’s had so many he makes half the country’s skin crawl.

Whether we like it or not, elections are still about more than just ideas, and politicians are more than empty vessels who spout them. Personal trustworthiness, reliability, competence, maturity, and focus remain qualities as desired as fiscal responsibility or international knowledge, but also remain traits that are hard to measure through anything but a person’s decidedly human characteristics — including how they’ve handled themselves in trying private moments. In other words, it’s Newt’s cruel and egomaniacal conduct in handling his affairs that’s actually more worrying and revealing than the affairs themselves, and the single largest reason even a secular, liberal media can keep hammering him over it. And why they will eventually hammer him straight out of the race in the unlikely event he somehow bamboozles his way through the rest of the primaries.

Perhaps someday we’ll learn to transcend even this, and declare absolutely everything about politicians’ personalities off limits for judgement, just as we have for race, gender, religion, and (now) personal misbehaviour. But I’d be curious to know what kind of America that would be.


  1. FLT

    Elephant in the room: Evangelical anti-Mormonism. The Evangelicals would rather die than see the LDS Church gain legitimacy and become socially-accepted. You've probably read that the hostility is based on doctrinal differences, but that's a lie. The real reason is because Protestant ministers, who make money off their flock, are terrified of losing parishioners (and thus business) to LDS proselyting efforts. Cynical as it sounds, it's totally true.

  2. Republicalifornian

    If you had just stopped at the first sentence, I'd be agreeing with you. I think fear of Romney as a Mormon gave a lot of backing to Newt, the current flavor of not-Romney, outweighing Newt's own questionable history.

    However, while I have Mormon friends who are genuinely nice people, I understand the suspicion with which people view Mormonism. Mormonism likes to masquerade as Christianity, even though there are TREMENDOUS doctrinal differences. Mormonism isn't a sect of Christianity anymore than Islam is (Islam also has a place for Jesus in its theology). Mormonism also has a very checkered past with scandals that are far more recent and intertwined with the history of this nation than most other religions. There are legitimate, non-financial reasons to be wary of Mormonism.

    Personally, I wouldn't avoid voting for Romney because he's Mormon. I think he's a politician through and through and will say (and do) what he feels he needs to to be elected (which is it's own reason not to vote for him), so he's not going to implement some crazy Mormon master plan as soon as he's President.

  3. @ThePsudo

    Mormons like to "masquerade as Christianity" by worshiping Jesus Christ. Islam doesn't do that. Christians do that.

  4. smpat04

    … are you aware that in the Islamic faith Jesus is a prophet?

  5. @ThePsudo

    Yes. But you don't worship prophets in Islam or Christianity.

  6. Reconquistadore

    Islam does, in fact, revere Jesus, even though Muslims do not pray to Jesus directly.

    In parallel, the official theologies of the Mormons do not permit prayer to nor the worship of Jesus, and Mormons generally pray to God the Father in the name of Jesus, but not to Jesus directly. This is very similar to the reverence shown by Muslims.

    To quote one of my favourite movies: "I think you picked a poor example."

  7. @ThePsudo

    In Mormonism, Jesus is God. In Islam, Jesus (Isus) is a prophet. In both Christianity and Islam, that distinction matters.

  8. @ThePsudo

    Sorry, Isa. Not Isus.

  9. Reconquistadore

    Correction: Jesus is *A* god in Mormonism. The Mormons believe in Jesus as the son of God, but unlike mainstream Christian theological standpoints on the Trinitarian Godhead, there is a distinction between Jesus and God the Father as unique, individual, and separate deities:

    "Specifically, the LDS do not accept the proposition that Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are "of one substance (homoousios) with the Father," as the Nicene Creed declares. Rather, LDS doctrine teaches that God the Father is physically and personally distinct from Jesus Christ, His Only Begotten Son. The Father is understood to be the literal father of His spirit children."

    In some respects, one could say Mormonism rather resembles a polytheistic religion with many gods.

    In summary: To Mormons, Jesus is a god. To Muslims, Jesus is a prophet. Mormons don't believe Jesus is God the Father any more than Muslims believe Jesus is Allah. Contrast this with the Trinitarian viewpoint of the mainstream Christian sects, which indicates Jesus, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit are aspects of the same, singular divinity.

  10. @ThePsudo

    Christians call Mormons polytheist because The Father and The Son are separate individuals perfectly united in purpose. Islam calls mainstream Christianity polytheist because God the Father is both one and three, not entirely singular. If the label "polytheist" bothered me, I would become a Muslim.

  11. Republicalifornian

    I think smpat04 and Reconquistadore explained the point I was trying to make about Mormonism and Islam nicely. I'll just add one more thing.

    Mormonism is a religion of works, where you have to earn your way to the best afterlife, 'just like Jesus did'. Christianity is a religion of grace*, where Jesus did all the earning anyone needs to and good works are a grateful response to the mercy that has been shown to us. This a fundamental theological difference, which makes Mormonism so different from any other branch of Christianity that it can't be rightly considered Christianity.

    *Yes, I'm aware that there are Christians who mess this up and try to make it a religion of works. But that's not what the Bible teaches, and the Bible even spends significant ink on refuting early Christians who did the same.

  12. @ThePsudo

    Mormons are not a religion of works alone, but of works and of grace. They say "grace after all you can do." The Bible at least partially defends this idea with the statement "Faith without works is dead." (James 2:17) Repentance is a work, baptism is a work, and worship is a work; are you saying it is unChristian to value these works? Is a man saved if he has none of these, or contempt for these?

  13. Republicalifornian

    I would argue that the inclusion of any works as a requirement for salvation makes it a religion of works. In Christianity, grace comes BEFORE you 'do' anything (I do not consider repentance a work). The works are then a grateful response to the grace and salvation already received. This may seem like a small quibble, but in reality, it's huge. It means we do nothing, Jesus does everything. Consider the criminal next to Jesus on the cross. He was literally immobilized and dying. There was NOTHING good he could possibly do in this life. Yet, for his faith, he went to heaven.

    Certainly, it is good to show your faith through works (as the quote in James says), as genuine action demonstrates how you truly think and feel. It is good to be baptized as a declaration of your beliefs or to demonstrate your love through worship. But these things do not provide salvation by themselves (I would even argue they are their own reward). You can do these things, but if they aren't a reflection of salvation received in your heart, then you're not saved. Only grace can save. It's that difference between our beliefs that causes me to draw the distinction that I do.

  14. @ThePsudo

    What is the distinction between repentance and works?

    There was one thing the criminal crucified next to Jesus could do: have faith. Would he have been saved if he had not?

    Mormons also believe "these things do not provide salvation by themselves." All you can do won't be enough, so grace is always required. "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." Rev 3:20 Is opening a door not a work?

  15. @Kisai

    I read that Microsoft is lobbying to pass legal same-sex marriage laws in Washington state because it's becoming a problem in acquiring talent.

    It can be boiled down to "we can't hire people from gay families because they can't legally bring their spouse"

    As for other Christian dogma, I've hung out with born-again types. And yes they can find an excuse for everything. Nice people as long as you don't mind the otherwise G-rated rose colored glasses they see the world with.

    Newt, seems something of a joke. Not as much as a Joke as Ron Paul (who would be OK if he had some semblance of a foreign policy.) It seems like if Newt becomes the presidential candidate, republicans just don't care, and are willing to accept (or forgive) every ethical violation that comes to pass. Newt does whatever he wants, damned the consequences.

    Newt kinda reminds me of Gordon Cambell, where the voters keep re-electing him, no matter what indiscretion he pulls.

  16. Jonny

    Just because you don't agree with his foreign policy doesn't mean he doesn't have any "semblance of a foreign policy". His foreign policy is simply the opposite of all the other neo-cons. They want to bomb, invade (Iran, North Korea) and ask questions later, he doesn't. They want to have giant military bases sitting around in countries we were at war with 50+ years ago twiddling their thumbs and he doesn't.

    He wants to trade, listen and talk to other nations and only go to war when it's absolutely necessary and approved by Congress as per the Constitution. No nation building, no policing the world.. Hmm sounds like George W. Bush before he got elected..

  17. Josh

    Minus the whole desire to withdrawal from the United Nations, World Health Organization, World Trade Organization, The North American Free Trade Agreement, The International Monetary Fund, The World Bank and…well, I could go on. So actually, fairly different than Bush in foreign policy before his election.

  18. @Kisai

    Ron Paul's foreign policy amounts to not learning from WWII.

    The US intervention, good or bad, keeps all other countries in check and drives the US Economy. Ron Paul, is unfortunately so short-sighted that he doesn't realize how loony he sounds to the business community. He ultimately might be right about things, but the world politics doesn't change on a dime.

    If the US were to go back to where they were in 1941, they need a substantial change in energy policy first, and Japan and South Korea would have to build up their military, including nuclear weapons, setting the stage for either a war with North Korea or China. We don't want this.

  19. PTBO

    It is interesting how strong Conservative Christians have become in America with very little puch back from left wing Christians.

    In Canada, Christianity in politics is far more muted these days . In the past however, religion was a far larger part of the Canadian political landscape on both sides of the political spectrum.
    You have to go back to the 40s when Alberta had "Bible Bill" as leader of the right wing Social Credit party and the Saskatchewan had Baptist preacher Tommy Douglas of the socialist CCF. The SK CCF was very regligous with Douglas kissing the Bible and promising to carry out God's will when he first got elected.

    Now it to the point with Southern Christians boo Ron Paul's reasonable desire to go to a "Golden Rule" style foriegn policy. It may have been a central tenant of Jesus Christ's teachings but it has no place among modern Christian voters apparently.

  20. @ThePsudo

    Newt Gingrich's popularity has always rather baffled me, and it's gradually beginning to repulse and embarrass me. Listening to Rush Limbaugh (who has some of the same personal problems) defend him on the air the other day did more to alienate me from the conservatism and Republicanism than any other event I can recall. Even Barry Goldwater's opposition to the Civil Rights Act could be chalked up to weird, obsolete reasoning from another era by a Ron-Paul-esque party outsider in a way this absolutely cannot.

    The reasoning that makes the most sense to me is that evangelical voters oppose Mormonism more than they oppose sin, rather like FLT says above. If that's true, Mormons (like me) have truly wasted their time trying to assimilate into a Christian culture that is doing more to offend morality than defend it.

  21. RJM

    To be fair, it is only a portion of Christian culture that is like that. The same Christians that are against gay marriage and side-eye Muslims.

    I myself am a Christian, and the only reason I really dislike Romney is his trying to appear poor when he really, really, REALLY is not. Dude, your rich as heck. Don't act so darn condescending to us poor poor people.

    I typically find that there are two types of Christians (when you break things down)- those who are suspicious of everyone labled an 'enemy' at their churches, and those who are pretty much cool with everyone who isn't screwing people over actively.

  22. @ThePsudo

    While that is true, Mormons aren't trying to fit in with the subset of Christians that are generally OK with people because we already fit in with them. It's the reluctant Christians that require work.

  23. Republicalifornian

    If it makes you feel any better, my facebook feed was flooded by Christian friends in South Carolina who felt the need to state that they a) didn't vote for Newt and b) were dismayed that so many other "Christians" were willing to overlook Newt's questionable ethical and moral background.

  24. @ThePsudo

    It does.

  25. David

    Matthew 7:3

  26. Cato

    I don't particularly like Gingrich, but given that his opponent is Romney, I'll vote for him if he's the only other valid choice. A Romney nomination is an Obama win in the general election. The last thing the Republicans could survive in this economic climate is someone who was responsible for firing untold numbers of Americans. The fact that video exists of him bragging about enjoying firing people only goes further to put the claims of electability in the rubbish bin. All Obama has to do is run an ad with those soundbites, and Romney sinks like a stone and never recovers. The Democrats and their allies are salivating over the easy win that we, in our infinite stupidity, are doing our best lemming-rush to hand them. The man is toxic, we need to ditch him.

  27. David Liao

    Romney also has a broader range of appeal though and has better cards to play in stealing independent, even Democrat, votes away from Obama.

    Off the top of my head, he could tout a successful government health care plan, a willingness to make sacrifices during tough business climates, his fairly clean family and personal history, as well as simply playing the card that liberals should not discriminate against him because he's Mormon because it would make them no better than the Republicans who did the same thing.

  28. garvin

    You're not gonna get very far in a General Election with Newt either man. I am willing to listen to Republican candidates when it comes down to them or Obama, but y'all gotta give me someone worth a turd if you want my vote. Huntsmen was great and y'all should have went with him. Instead I'm seeing Romney, Newt and Santorum, to be blunt the last two aren't serious choices and the first one… Well first there's the fact that he seems willing say almost anything to get power, second he was a CEO who as a group aren't covered in leadership glory in my book, thirdly I'm not sure he's willing to listen to average voters.

    As an right wing independent, Cato, seriously, don't think Newt is the horse to race against Obama. Course you don't exactly have a stable of thoroughbreds right now…

  29. Cato

    Exactly. This is the worst crop of candidates in the history of forever. I don't particularly like any of them, and it's a tough pill to swallow that I'll have to pull the lever for one of these clowns. It's a choice between automatic failure or 99% probability of failure no matter how you slice it.

  30. Kadin

    "unrepresentatively radical pro-choicers exerting control over the Democratic Party"

    If only! I mean, I think the "safe, legal and rare" language was in the party platform for over a decade! It's (thankfully) been removed, but that wasn't so long ago. But while in real terms there has been some progress in other areas of reproductive health (contraceptives etc.), I don't think anything has been done at the federal level to improve access to abortion in the last 39 years – the Republicans keep whittling it down further and further, and the Democrats either ignore it or eagerly help them along. Don't forget that the Hyde amendment is a bipartisan measure and has passed every year in Congress since '76.

  31. Republicalifornian

    See also: China, India.

  32. J.J. McCullough

    But could a Democratic president ever appoint a pro-life judge? Or hell, even BE pro-life? The Democrats have a litmus test as strict on this issue as the GOP. Some have said it's the only true polarizing issue of federal American politics.

  33. anon

    And exactly who are these people?

    Because they are incredibly ill-informed.

  34. Kyle Everett

    For me the difference between Gingrich and Romney, as a Canadian living in NC, I'd go out of my way to get my citizenship to vote against Gingrich, rather than being meh about the choice between Romney and Obama. Gingrich makes me skin crawl. His total lack of personal values, the fact he'd stoop so low as to use left-wing tactics against Romney, and his egotism makes me against him.

    Romney I see as a slightly more to the right version of Obama and I can tolerate that.

  35. Republicalifornian

    I feel this post misses the mark in several places.

    1) As mentioned above by many posters, I think the Mormonism issue (wrongly) trumped Newt's background in evangelical's minds.

    2) Treating Evangelicals as one group is a bit simplistic. I know many Evangelicals who do truly hold strongly to their faith and demonstrate it with their actions (abstinence from sex before marriage, etc.). I also know others who associate with the group because it's what their parents did or because it's socially easier, and they do everything JJ mentioned above. Without getting into tons of detail on the subject, I'd say issue is not that Evangelicals are finally giving in to an inevitable cultural shift, but rather that the label is no longer an effective one. Both the faithful and the faithless wear it, so it's no wonder that those without the label are confused.

    3) Disqualifying someone based on flawed personal characteristics is a relatively new phenomenon in the US, not an age-old one. In the early 1900s, it was assumed everyone was flawed in some way. The question was whether or not the person could overcome their flawed nature to do great things. In the middle of the century, as we began to learn more about individual's personal lives and prosperity allowed for more pickiness, someone's moral character and their effectiveness became equally important. In the late 1900s, when it became impossible for anything not to be known about someone famous with the rise of the 24 hour news cycle and our hunger for scandal, the personal life actually became more important than if the person was effective, bringing about the downfall of otherwise strong performers. For Newt not to be judged on his personal character would actually be a return to the age old way of doing things, not something new.

  36. @ThePsudo

    Disqualifying people from high office for personal failings is not a new phenomenon in the USA. Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr were never Presidents. It might have stopped Ben Franklin, too, if his age hadn't already done so. All the way back to Jamestown had John Smith accusing the Governor of being insufficiently pious. More recently, the older generation criticized JFK for his womanizing and liberals perceived hypocrisy in Reagan's call for moral values as a divorcee. The 24-hour news cycle era may have brought the same discussion from political insiders' mouths to the world's ears, but it didn't create it as an influential issue in people's minds.

  37. Republicalifornian

    I painted with strokes a bit too broad in my original post. You are correct that personal morality attacks have long been an influential part of politics. However, I still hold that they are of greater importance today for two reasons: 1) Greater ability to find out about a person's missteps, 2) Greater ability to spread the word about it.

    For example, contrast Thomas Jefferson and Dominique Strauss-Kahn. It's now widely accepted that TJ had relations with his slave, Sally Hemmings. When allegations surfaced regarding TJ's impropriety, not only did it not force TJ from office, he never bothered to respond to the allegations (imagine that happening in today's media environment). In contrast, the mere allegation that DSK had accosted a hotel maid was enough to dash his presidential hopes (for now at least) even within more sexually liberal France. It's not hard to imagined that the hotel maid felt more empowered to tell her story (true or false) and that there were more outlets willing to carry it. Likewise, I don't know how much of a stage Newt's ex-wife would have found back in the 1700's (whether that's good or bad, I'll let you decide).

    As for JFK, he falls into the second period I specified and I feel that the lack of impact to his Presidential career proves my point (especially in comparison to Bill Clinton).

    Note: I always thought Hamilton was disqualified from being President because he was foreign born, not because of his personal life.

  38. @ThePsudo

    He lived in the United States when it became a nation. By that standard, he qualifies as a natural born citizen. If it were not so, the entire first generation of Americans would be foreign-born, since they were born in English colonies.

  39. Republicalifornian

    If he had been born in the colonies, yes. But from what I've read, Hamilton was born in the Caribbean, and so he wasn't considered natural born.

  40. @ThePsudo

    Hamilton was born in the Caribbean, but was included with the population that was granted natural born citizenship by living in the colonies during the revolution. Hamilton was actually quite the ideological nativist, arguing that immigrants since that time were not part of the revolution and, thus, deserved less of the rewards of America.

    An excellent book on the man:
    If you'd like to borrow my copy, email me at

  41. J.J. McCullough

    You make an interesting point about Evangelical labeling, which I agree, has probably become so broad and over-used to become practically useless. Such is the case with most labels of self-selection (including, I should say "Christian").

    But one of my points was that there's this big narrative about how a) Evangelicals hold a lot of sway over the GOP and b) have made the GOP into this very moralistic, puritan party. And I think the first fact is either untrue or meaningless, and the second is simply not borne out by evidence.

  42. Republicalifornian

    I'm going to try to be brief, but probably will fail due to the nuances here.

    In some part, I think we're agreeing. We both feel that it's overly simplistic for pollsters to identify an Evangelical base that all act a single way driven by their faith, and so drive the agenda of the GOP.

    In some part, I think there is more solidarity to the self described Evangelicals than you do. I think the anti-Mormonism madness is trumping the typical Evangelical concerns for a good section of the group, which is making the implications difficult to read. If Santorum had been the current 'Not Romney' flavor, the choice between the two wouldn't have been as stark, so it'd be a little more hidden. However, since Newt was the primary beneficiary, the hierarchy of what some Evangelicals want to vote for (regardless of how they live) has been exposed, and in turn hides how far the puritanical concerns may or may not have fallen.

    In some part, I feel that this driven by the two party system. There's almost a threshold. So long as Republicans* don't cross the imaginary line, they can count on (and take for granted) a certain amount of 'Christian Right' support, because those folks don't want to see Democrats in power with all that they think that that implies. However, if the Republican crosses that threshold, say by traveling out of the country to see his mistress or, gasp, being a Mormon, then the group will do whatever it can to see the party represented by someone else who can take them for granted.

    *As you've pointed out, same is true for Democrats, just for different positions on different issues.

  43. guest

    Let's get real here.
    South Carolinian Republicans have decided that they would rather have a serial philanderer, repeated ethics violator, Washington insider and Catholic represent them than Romney.
    What does this tell me? That some people will overlook ALMOST anything to go with a not-Romney.
    It also tells me that polling reflects heads, votes come from the gut.

  44. Virgil

    Well, I've thought about it, and I've come to the following conclusions

    (1) Social conservatism is not dead since social conservatives remain and will continue to push their agenda. If they need to push it through imperfect vessels then so be it…..note their support for Reagan, the first divorced President.

    (2) Gingrich won because (a) he had "fire in the belly" and (b) conservatives weren't ready to shut down the selection process just yet. Conservatives, with apologies to Lincoln, decided that they could not spare Gingrich since he fights.

    One commentator earlier mentioned that Romney seemed like a slightly more conservative version of Obama. If you believe that Obama is going down entirely the wrong path this is not a comforting thought. South Carolina Republicans probably came to the same conclusion.

  45. J.J. McCullough

    But what is "social conservatism"? It's not really a philosophy if it's just two positions on two very different and unrelated issues, one of which (abortion) doesn't even necessarily have to have a strong religious component.

    It's getting a bit like saying "fiscal conservatism" is defining by supporting abolishing the Department of Education and returning to the Gold Standard. They're two random issues that possibly can represent a larger, coherent worldview, but are just as easily random, reactionary positions held in isolation from any bigger, consistent philosophy.

  46. Puddle

    Well, there's also the death penalty and euthanasia, at least.

  47. David Liao

    Honestly, I think it had to do more with the $5 million emergency infusion Newt Gingrich got from Sheldon Adelson before the South Carolina primary. Gingrich decried the use of Super PACs by Romney to anonymously attack and discredit him in Iowa but turned around and did the same thing in South Carolina to Romney.

    If there had been no Citizens United Supreme Court decision, Romney would have walked into the primaries with a $50 million bankroll and just steamrolled everyone else. Whether or not the decision benefits elections or not, it has definitely changed the outlook of the primaries and whether or not it's inevitable Romney will win enough of them for the nomination.

  48. Nanon

    "The Republicans’ stalwart opposition to gay marriage and abortion that pundits so eagerly attribute to Evangelical influence is really best understood as a sort of vestigial so-con tail on what is basically a libertarian-plutocrat party for libertarian-plutocrats who may or may not also happen to be Christians."

    Are you kidding me? I suspect you are the one viewing things through rose-colored glasses. I don't know about Canada (though I have some suspicions, see gay marriage topic of your recent comics), but in the US, conservative social values are alive and well among a significant portion of the population. Whether those views coexist with behavior that contradicts them is in fact a separate and interesting question. Your later comments about how voters are willing to overlook personal issues to choose a candidate seem closer to the mark, especially given their limited options. (That tack is also more consistent with a comic you wrote some time ago about 'diverse' candidates becoming more common as conservative standard-bearers). Opposition to abortion and gay marriage are real issues to these voters, which is why their candidates continue to discuss them. I have no doubt such voters would similarly oppose 'open marriage' becoming a formal legal category. You may not agree with social conservatives, but they are a significant force in this country and it seems a bit foolhardy to overlook that as a result of the peculiarities of this election cycle.

  49. Republicalifornian

    My guess is because they feel Santorum doesn't have a shot at beating Obama. I think if they felt he had a shot, he would be picked over Newt.

    But I could be wrong.

  50. Republicalifornian

    Also, Perry's support probably helped too, but I think that came from the same place.

  51. John Paladin

    You are correct that Mormons technically do not pray to Jesus – they pray to the Father in the name of Jesus, just like He taught His followers to do (Matt 6:9).
    However, you are absolutely incorrect to say that Mormons do not worship Jesus.
    Anyways, what I actually came here to say is that perhaps I was wrong…
    Maybe I have underestimated South Carolina. Perhaps Republicans there just believe Newt is the better candidate. Perhaps they don’t care about the other problems he has, they just think that he is a stronger representative than Romney. If this is the case – good for them. If, however, this is not the case, shame.

  52. John Paladin


    Again, on behalf of my Church, I beg to disagree.

    Mormons do believe that works are important – and that we will be judged according to them – but no Mormon believes that their work ALONE will ever qualify them for any eternal reward. The LDS Church teaches that the Atonement of Christ and faith in His name alone can save – but that those who follow Christ will manifest that in their deeds. Indeed, Christ himself said this was how His followers would be identified – by their fruits.

    So, Mormons believe more in a hybrid model if you will – we cannot be saved by works alone, but those who have faith in Christ will do what He has asked. Indeed, obedience is an important part of discipleship.

    Lastly, I hate when people outside my Church incorrectly tell me what my Church teaches. (Actually, I’m not that keen on it when people inside my Church incorrectly tell me what my Church teaches)

  53. Republicalifornian

    As mentioned in my response to the Psudo above, I would argue the inclusion of any works, even as a 'hybrid', makes it a religion of works. Either grace alone saves or it doesn't. Christ's followers may be identified by their actions, but those actions do not give them their identity, anymore than wearing an elephant sticker makes me a Republican.

    Judging from what you and the Psudo have said, works are necessary for salvation in Mormonism. I believe salvation precedes works. We are not judged for our works because Christ made our works irrelevant. To me, that is a critical difference which causes me to draw the distinction that I do between our religions.

    As for commenting on what Mormonism believes, I was drawing upon conversations that I've had with Mormons and what they've expressed. If that doesn't match with your beliefs, well, not everything that other Christians express absolutely matches my beliefs. But it's the only thing I have to go on if I'm not to only talk about people who are exactly like me.

  54. @BigJonB36

    I would say Social Conservatism is a luxury we cannot afford due to the bad economy.

    One could also argue that one reason that Romney is still competitive in this race is because a large chunk of the GOP electorate is disgusted with Gingrich's private life (and Santorum hasn't given anyone any real reason to support him).