I don’t usually care about what media hacks say about religion, but every once in awhile one finds a case that’s so egregious that it demands comment. I heard the audio here on Al Kresta’s program yesterday, and as far as I can see with a web search, Kresta is the only guy who has picked up on this. Lawrence O’Donnell, on his program The Last Word analyzed the question put to Ohio voters, “How much does it matter to you that a candidate share your religious beliefs?” (1. A great deal; 2. Somewhat; 3 Not much 4. Not at all) He claimed first that in Afghanistan, 100% of the population would have chosen “A great deal”, thus equating those who gave that answer with Islamism. He claimed that in a country which valued the separation of church and state, 100% would choose “not at all”, but in fact only 18% “got it right…THAT’s the American ideal…over 80% of Ohio Republicans registered varying degrees of agreement with the Taliban on this one.” Then he demonstrated that those who answered “not much” “weren’t good enough”, by changing the question to “voting on racial identity.” Then he piled on the media for not understanding that the results were “utterly scandalous”, that the media ignored the “religious bigotry” of Ohio voters, and criticized the religious pandering of candidates, implying through a clip from “The West Wing” that it’s “the easiest lie to tell.”
The thing that most shocked me was the utter contempt O’Donnell expressed for something like 40% of the electorate. Granted, virtually none of those people were watching his show; why should they, given that they would be insulted and belittled? MSNBC has become a boutique station for progressives, a bigger slicker Current TV, and they wonder why Fox gets the ratings. Do the media pander to viewers by asking candidates questions about their religion? Sure, if by “pander” you mean “tell viewers what they’re interested in”. TV is a business, not a government educational establishment.
I would have put myself in the “somewhat” category. It’s important to me that a politician fear God. because most don’t fear men too much, and somebody has to keep them in line. Beyond that, I’m not too persnickety. All things being equal, I’d vote for one of the Catholic candidates…but all things are never equal. Both of those guys are way too eager to use the power of government. In addition, Mr. Gingrich has a history of generating ideas without the foresight to see where they will go (e.g., the individual mandate for healthcare). As for his love life, the only thing I have over Newt is that I never left somebody for somebody else, and I don’t think that cuts much ice with God. He has presumably repented and been forgiven, and if God can do it, so can I. Mr. Paul received my vote, because I agree with his political philosophy, and he is a man of demonstrated (if imperfect) character, and his Protestantism is sufficient. Mr. Romney is of course a Damned Heretic, but his faith is also sufficient for me, and it’s probably a good thing for religious liberty to have a President whose spiritual ancestors were martyred for their beliefs. As for Mr. Obama, while he has done a minimal Christian public confession, I am not convinced that Jeremiah Wright’s church meets my criteria for religion, and his non-attendence as President leads me to wonder whether God is a factor in his life.
The race thing is even more of a hoot. I will freely admit that, all things being equal, I am “somewhat” more likely to vote for the white guy. But there’s that “all things” caveat again. I’d vote in a heartbeat for Walter Williams over Barack Obama, even though genetically the mulatto Obama “looks like me” more. I would have considered a vote for Herman Cain. The problem here is that O’Donnell thinks it’s a problem. Last time out, all things were not equal; many black people and not a few whites voted for Obama because he was black…yet somehow, that’s not racist. And people vote for candidates for all kinds of stupid reasons, conscious and unconscious: physical looks, the sound of the voice, their spouse. But mostly, people do a pretty good job overall of prioritizing their responses to various aspects of the candidate. If I base .01% of a decision on a candidate on whether he looks like me, am I a racist? Apparently the hicks in Ohio think this is American Idol or something, that they’re going to vote based on what Jayzuss tells them while they’re handling snakes. That doesn’t describe any Republican I know, but then I doubt O’Donnell knows any Republicans. And after this, I doubt there are many Republicans who would want to know him.