A love for the soul of the Republican party necessitates an evangelical vote for Mitt Romney.
The Republican party was born appealing to northern evangelical voters and those voters helped elect Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln led them in a great crusade to save the Union and free the slaves. Those old-line voters still exist in states like Iowa and Ohio where evangelicals still are a big force in the politics of the GOP.
These are the voters who can sing “Battle Hymn of the Republic” with no apologies.
New England, part of the Republican heartland, grew more secular and less reliable for the GOP. As recently as the 1930’s states like Vermont and New Hampshire retained their Civil War era allegiances, but the population was changing and voting patterns changed with the people.
The South was changing as well. By the 1970’s many southern people, especially evangelicals, were sick of the sin of racism. Leaders like Billy Graham began to move Southern Christians to repent and support equal voting rights.
Allegiance to the Confederacy faded and northern and southern evangelicals moved together. The old home of the evangelicals, the Republican party, became acceptable. There was, however, a bad side to this happy story of regional and racial reconciliation.
With sensible conservative “post-racial” evangelicals came unreconstructed Democrats who embraced federalism as justification for the rebellion of their ancestors. A fringe continued to attack Lincoln and refuse to honor the splendid work of the Rev. Martin Luther King.
Monday in South Carolina we saw the split in practice. One man, Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, argued for the Lincoln wing of the party. Another man, the governor of Texas, Rick Perry, played to the old Democratic base grafted into Lincoln’s party.
Asked about voting rights on Martin Luther King Day in Charleston, South Carolina, where the rebellion began, Perry claimed the federal government was at war with the states. He received “rebel yells” back from parts of the audience. This is not the first time in his career Perry has played the “secession” card.
Georgian Newt Gingrich, historian, ignored this shocking pander to the worst moment in American history. Despite a good record of reaching out to African-American voters in this race, he used questions about race to attack social welfare policies.
None of what he said was offensive by itself, but in context it was a failure of leadership. That it is now celebrated by some conservatives is sad.
By contrast Governor Romney argued for the same sensible conservative policies, but without any attempt to appeal to any bad motives that might exist for supporting those policies.
In his lifetime Governor Romney saw and rejoiced in his own church’s forward moves in racial issues. He is a man from Michigan and governor of Massachusetts, both seats of the old Republican heartland. But it is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints that is the fundamental reason he so easily embraces the roots causes of Lincoln’s old Republican Party.
The Mormon Church fully embraced the Constitution of 1789 and came to agree with Lincoln that the rights of the espoused in the Declaration of Independence were fundamental to understanding that document. They saw the wisdom in the modern world of marriage as a covenant between one man and one woman, another pillar of Lincoln’s old party.
At great cost, with deliberation and wisdom, they embraced the twin pillars of Lincoln’s party. This was not done lightly or in a corner, but in the full light of history. Despite persecution and the ignorance even of their allies, Mormon dominated areas became a new Republican heartland.
New England grew more Democratic, but Utah became more truly Republican. Mitt Romney’s own father reflects that journey through his fine service as a mainstream Republican governor of Michigan who supported civil rights for African-Americans.
South Carolina evangelicals mostly have escaped the evils of the past. Stereotypes of the state that limit evangelicals to Bob Jones University are ignorant and out of date. Even Bob Jones University has evolved in Lincoln’s direction in the area of race and civil rights.
The fight has mostly been won in Lincoln’s party, but not quite yet. McCain faced racist smears in South Carolina when running for president. Rick Perry could still send Confederate dog whistles to his audience and get a cheer. Not all evangelicals have been biblically reconstructed to embrace the Constitution and the rights of the Declaration for all Americans.
In this regard, the LDS church, Mitt Romney’s church, has proven better than these holdout, ragtag, remnants of an ignoble cause. His church--with its demands for service and charity--has learned the lessons of history and fully embraces the pillars of the old Republican moral causes: racial equality and traditional marriage.
I will never forget hearing the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing the “Battle Hymn” at Reagan’s Inauguration. They sang boldly and without apology that “as He died to make men holy” we should “live to make men free.” Whatever our theological differences, this was a group that had fully learned the civic lessons necessary for our Republic to function.
Governor Romney stands boldly as the heir of his faith and a worthy representative of Lincoln’s party. He will win South Carolina, because evangelicals also now sing the “Battle Hymn” and are leaving “Dixie” behind them.
John Mark Reynolds | Jan 19, 2012 12:56 PM