Is Iowa a defining moment?

Peggy Noonan makes a very interesting point in today’s Wall Street Journal:

The Republican race looks–at the moment–to be determined primarily by one thing, the question of religious faith. In my lifetime faith has been a significant issue in presidential politics, but not the sole determinative one. Is that changing? If it is, it is not progress….

….Christian conservatives have been rising, most recently, for 30 years in national politics, since they helped elect Jimmy Carter. They care about the religious faith of their leaders, and their interest is legitimate. Faith is a shaping force. Lincoln got grilled on it. But there is a sense in Iowa now that faith has been heightened as a determining factor in how to vote, that such things as executive ability, professional history, temperament, character, political philosophy and professed stands are secondary, tertiary.

But they are not, and cannot be. They are central. Things seem to be getting out of kilter, with the emphasis shifting too far.

I won’t dispute that fact that faith and morals are central part to the human character. But we cannot allow ourselves or our party to be trapped in the idea that where someone goes to church is the be all and end all factor to determine qualification for public office. And nothing signified that more than Mike Huckabee’s appalling attacks on Mitt Romney for his faith. As if Huckabee is the be all and end all moral authority to decide whose version of Christianity constitutes a cult and whose does not. Frankly, that’s the kind of stupid, idiotic reasoning that makes me question Huckabee’s judgment and character, and leaves me with the feeling that Mike Huckabee does not have the temperament or the intelligence to be the President of the United States.

Noonan goes on to note:

I wonder if our old friend Ronald Reagan could rise in this party, this environment. Not a regular churchgoer, said he experienced God riding his horse at the ranch, divorced, relaxed about the faiths of his friends and aides, or about its absence. He was a believing Christian, but he spent his adulthood in relativist Hollywood, and had a father who belonged to what some saw, and even see, as the Catholic cult. I’m just not sure he’d be pure enough to make it in this party. I’m not sure he’d be considered good enough.

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And she’s right. A lot of the current crop of active Republicans put religious faith ahead of conservative principles. Nobody can questions Ronald Reagan’s conservative principles. But could a modern-day Reagan survive the questions about his faith? Are we seeing that overreaction playing out with the current state of Senator Fred Thompson’s campaign?

Again, do faith and morals have a place in political campaigns? Yes, but only to a certain extent. Because how a candidate exercises their religion and their morals undoubtedly seeps into their actions, experiences, and issues stances on the campaign trail. And through that prism is the only way that voters should be exercising a choice at the ballot box that has anything to do with religious faith.

I mean, clearly even in Maryland there are zealots and wackjobs who are Republicans who try to determine everything on faith alone, their rhetoric notwithstanding. But any voter who puts the pew where a candidate sits on Sunday at a higher priority than where the candidate stand on the issues the other six days is doing a disservice to themselves, their state, their nation, their party and, yes, their faith.


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