Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Religious Bigotry: Does It Come from The Right or The Left?

Hugh Hewitt sees it coming from the Left. My co-blogger at Article VI Blog sees it coming from the Right.

I think they're both right. What do you think?

Calling the Kosher Hedgehog . . . .

Kosher Hedgehog to the Rescue!

The Hedgehog speaks truth! Religious bigotry can come from the Left or the Right. Indeed, in the case of anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism and anti-Mormonism, historically it has also been a feature of the political, cultural, societal and religious center, what one might call the Protestant Mainstream, in relatively benign forms that typically involved discrimination but not overt violence.

However, there is a different impetus to the recent spate of articles warning of the dire consequences of a Mormon President of the United States, and the perpetrators are Democrats with an ulterior motive. I had previously expressed privately to the Hedghog my belief that these articles, including the Jacob Weisberg Slate column and the cover story by Damon Linker in the Jan. 1-15 edition of The New Republic were simply political hit jobs directed at Mitt Romney. To his credit and my pleased surprise, Tim Rutten of the Los Angeles Times agrees, in his column on January 13, 2007, entitled "Romney's Religious Rights." Rutten rejects all arguments that try to distinguish the attacks on Romney's Mormon faith from the universally acknowledged bigotry of the attacks on John F. Kennedy's Catholicism in 1960. Moreover, Rutten correctly identifies the real culprits behind this campaign:

"What both journals are doing is playing with social fire for the sake of narrow partisan advantage, hoping to knock a potentially attractive conservative candidate out of the running in much the same way that some Republican commentators desperately attempted to prod some Catholic bishop somewhere into denying Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry communion because he's pro-choice."

I will leave it to the reader to judge whether Rutten correctly describes what occurred during Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign. My own recollection is that it was the Catholic Bishops who on their own called for denial of communion to Mr. Kerry, without the need of prodding from Republican commentators, who merely gleefully watched and reported. In any event, Republicans certainly did not attack Kerry for being Catholic; at most they attacked him for being a bad Catholic.

In the case of Romney, Rutten has it exactly right. Slate and the New Republic were attempting preemptive strikes on a conservative GOP candidate whom they consider a grave threat to deny the White House to the Democrats in 2008. As Rutten notes, neither Weisberg, nor Linker discussed whether the Mormon faith of Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada)should disqualify him from being Senate Majority Leader.

The LDS Church is not a new phenomenon--it has played a significant role in American society, culture and politics for 176 years. During that time the Republic has somehow escaped political domination by the President of the LDS Church. Nor has Mormon faith been historically identified with conservative Republican politics (although you would never know it by reading Linker's article). In Arizona, where I grew up, all of my Mormon friends were Democrats and the Udall family exemplified liberal Democratic Party sentiments. Stewart Udall was Secretary of the Interior under JFK, and longtime Congressman Mo Udall unsuccessfully sought the Democratic Party's Presidential nomination in 1976. There are two Udalls in Congress today, and they are both liberal Democrats.

The failure to provide that perspective and factual counterpoint in the Damon Linker article in The New Republic in my opinion proves that the article was not an examination of a legitimate issue of public affairs, but rather the cynical use of religious bigotry for partisan political purposes. That, in my view, is even more contemptible than bigotry alone. As a long-time champion against religious bigotry, The New Republic should be ashamed that it published Damon Linker's article.


Blogger The Hedgehog said...

An excellent set of comments, Ralph. I knew you could do it!


Posted by The Hedgehog

Tuesday, January 16, 2007 2:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

lrjzbI had forgotten about the Udall family being LDS and in politics. Are Democrats in Arizona the same as Dems in Utah not much different from reps. or are they more like the national dems ultra libral? I think that the bigotry comes from both sides. Some of it comes from ignorance but most comes from political and social want of power and money. fear that the mormans will take away their congrations and therefor their money and then their power in the community.  

Posted by C. Mitchell

Tuesday, January 16, 2007 5:06:00 PM  
Blogger The Kosher Hedgehog said...

Answering C. Mitchell:

In my youth, Arizona Democrats were New Deal Democrats. The New Deal was a coalition of both true liberals and "Dixiecrats." The Dixiecrats were the product of what once was called "the Solid South," which had never forgiven the Republican Party for abolition of slavery and Reconstruction. On the one hand they were populist and favored many of FDR's policies to help the rural poor. On the other hand, they were racist, segregationist and opposed civil rights legislation.

The Udalls were definitely fully in the true blue liberal Democratic camp. But keep in mind that in those pre-Vietnam days liberal Democrats were staunch anti-communists and strong on national defense, as typified by leaders such as JFK and Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson of Washington.

The Republican Party in those days also was more ideologically diverse. George Romney, father of Mitt, was a liberal Republican. In those days the GOP had liberal leaders such as George Romney, who was the Governnor of Michigan, Senator Ed Brooke from Mass., Governor Nelson Rockerfeller from NY, Mayor John Lindsay from New York City and Senator Everett Dirksen of Illinois. All of these men adopted the traditional GOP position of support for civil rights legislation, rejecting the position of Senator Barry Goldwater, who believed that the civil rights laws violated states rights under our federal system. Unlike the Dixiecrats, Goldwater was no segregationist--he supported the desegregation of the Arizona National Guard before the Army desegretated, and he supported the desegregation of the Phoenix public schools before Brown v. Board of Education. But he was strict constructionist of the U.S. Constitution.

C. Mitchell has given me the opportunity to add one additional point to my original post. Despite Harry Reid and the current generation of Udalls in Congress, I believe an increasing number of Mormons tend to vote Republican for the same reason that the Orthodox Jewish vote has shifted to the right. When I was growing up, the ethical and social mores of the society at large were the family values espoused by both the LDS and traditional Judaism. However, as moral relativism and permissiveness became endemic in our society, and general moral standards declined in the 1960s and subsequent decades, Mormons and Orthodox Jews became social conservatives merely by adhering to their traditional family values. As a result, we often find ourselves unable to support the candidates and social policies espoused by the Democratic Party.  

Posted by The Kosher Hedgehog

Tuesday, January 16, 2007 6:11:00 PM  

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