From the Department of Flogging Dead Horses, I offer one last thought on Mitt Romney’s JFK moment, when he tried to ease the concerns of conservative voters concerning his Mormon religion. Actually, the horse I want to trot out is of a different stripe than the one much commented upon by some of America’s great pontificators.
In his eloquent speech in Texas last week, Romney said this: “Each religion has its own unique doctrines and history. These are not bases for criticism but rather a test of our tolerance.”
Ah, yes, tolerance. Let us talk about tolerance. I am all for it and so are millions of Americans. The trouble is that the folks Romney seeks to impress don’t much tolerate tolerance. Forgive me for saying so, but they seem more about intolerance.
You see, tolerance is what liberals do, or rather, what they are supposed to do. As I have observed before, liberals can oftentimes be illiberal. After all, they are the ones who put the “political” in “correctness.”
But, then again, conservatives are often unconservative. (What? You thought that running up huge deficits and invading another country on the basis of groundless suspicions were conservative policies?)
Political labels, as much fun as they are, can be misleading — but they can also be accurate. Of course, tolerant conservatives exist, but, by and large, that’s not the fun of being conservative.
Issues to a true right-winger are so many political wedgies causing a constant state of happy irritation. This is not so true of liberals, who by inclination have a live-and-let-live attitude and do not give wedgies because they fear that the victim might go off and have a cigarette to calm his nerves or perhaps flee in a SUV, thus adding to global warming.
Sadly, liberal contemplation is harder than conservative agitation. While liberals struggle to know what to tolerate, conservatives find it easier to be generally intolerant.
For example, I could be wrong, but I don’t think that the group that Romney seeks to appease is sitting around saying, “You know, those gay people need our sympathy!”
No, they are for making sure that gay people never have any chance to formalize their loving relationships lest the institution of marriage be brought to ruin. Millions of divorced heterosexuals haven’t done the trick, but apparently a few committed gay people might. Oh, the horror!
I could be wrong again, but I don’t think conservatives are sitting around Iowa saying, “You know, concerning these illegal immigrants, while I don’t like breaking the law, I love America so much that if I were in their shoes, I’d cross deserts to be here, too. So maybe we should consider amnesty for people whose crime is working hard for a better life for their families.”
No, they are all for hunting down poor people who do America’s dirty work and shipping them back to where they came from. In this way, America will be free of their baleful influence and we can congratulate ourselves as we make our own beds when we stay in motels.
I don’t think I am wrong about any of this because most of the Republican candidates — Romney included — are using these very same themes to pander to conservative voters. In these various manifestations of intolerance, one can detect a lot of Christianity, but precious few signs of Christian charity.
Of course, conservatives used to have more groups to obsess about than Mexicans and gays. There were blacks who wanted equal rights, women who wanted to vote, senior citizens who wanted some dignity in their old age with a retirement system such as Social Security. All were targets for conservatives back in the day. Political correctness — darn liberals! — has made some of them off-limits.
Now, with all this history gathered like storm clouds over the prairie, Mitt Romney gallops up in Texas and asks tolerance — tolerance! — of people raised in the great tradition of narrow-minded thought nurtured with great care by his own party. And these voters are suddenly supposed to shift mental gears and chant, “Tolerance: It’s not just for liberals anymore,” just because the topic is religion?
If you ask me, it was a good speech and it hasn’t got a prayer. For as was written long ago, in language understandable no matter what someone’s religion, “For whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.”
(Reg Henry is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. E-mail rhenry(at)post-gazette.com)