With a Mormon and a Catholic leading the pack, let’s pause for a few words from John F. Kennedy

On the morning after the photo-finish in Iowa, The New Yorker is waxing deeply philosophical:

What will be more telling, perhaps, is how the Republican candidates, in the primaries and caucuses to come, address the ideals and most personal beliefs of others. A party whose base has increasingly been oriented around the interests of politicized evangelism finds itself with a tie between a Mormon and a Catholic. (The “entrance polls” in Iowa, like many others so far, showed one set of numbers for those identifying themselves as “evangelical or born again,” and one set for those who do not.) One has been left to wonder how much of a factor Romney’s religion has been in his troubles with Republican voters. (They have so many non-sectarian reasons to suspect him that it’s hard to tease out.) In the 2008 election, as Hendrik Hertzberg noted at the time, Romney attempted to ingratiate himself by drawing a circle around the followers of organized religions generally, while casting aspersions on those who led a secular life. Santorum, meanwhile, has made religious beliefs about matters such as family planning and romantic relationships cornerstones of his political program.

We are more than a half century removed from John F. Kennedy’s campaign to be the first Catholic President. In a speech that he felt he needed to give, at the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, he said,

For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew—or a Quaker or a Unitarian or a Baptist.

Watching his speech on the subject now, one is struck not only by his words but by the expressions on the faces of the people who are listening—really listening, it appears, to words thoughtfully spoken…

This has not been the spirit of the speakers or the audience in the dozen or so debates so far. What will we see in the six scheduled for January alone, not to mention the ads that will air in the weeks and months ahead? What will the candidates, and their surrogates, have to say about each others’ religions? Or about people who have no religion at all, and—one hopes this won’t need to be said—are no less faithful citizens for it? (Kennedy, in a crucial phrase, spoke of the right to attend “or not attend” the church of one’s choice.)…

28 thoughts on “With a Mormon and a Catholic leading the pack, let’s pause for a few words from John F. Kennedy

  1. `Kathryn Fenner

    For someone who dislikes name brand politics, you sure are into injecting name brand religion into it….

  2. `Kathryn Fenner

    And if The New Yorker jumped off a bridge, would your blog?

    Don’t start spelling “vendor” “vender” and other weird style quirks, now. You’re already pretty far to the left in SC blogs.

  3. j

    90% who read Brad are more rational, educated and more experienced in political matters, and shall I say wiser, than the 10% that do and who are going to vote for a Repug.

  4. Bart

    “90% who read Brad are more rational, educated and more experienced in political matters, and shall I say wiser, than the 10% that do and who are going to vote for a Repug.”…j

    You had me right up to the last word, “Repug”. When I read any comments that use juvenile words like “Repub’,”Rethug”, “Democrap”, and other less than enlightening descriptions, immediately I lose interest and find no redeeming value in the comment.

    There are just as many “Repugs” who believe that they are more rational, educated, wiser, and more experienced in political matters than the 90% you refer to on this blog.

  5. j

    Bart, What can I say? I guess my finger slipped as the “g” and “b” are so close together on my little wireless notebook computer or maybe my fingers are too big.

  6. Doug Ross

    I bet the unemployment rate is a lot lower for Republicans than Democrats… and the rate for Republicans would be higher than that of Libertarians.

    Some of us gotta do the heavy lifting for the rest.

  7. Brad

    Of course, one might posit that no one who has been unemployed would be a libertarian — any more…

    The smugness that rises off libertarians like smoke is really something to see. Nothing bad could EVER happen to them, because they are so smart and hard-working and deserving, and so forth. Right, Doug?

  8. `Kathryn Fenner

    If the unemployment rate is lower for Reps. than Dems, first off, that may be b/c Reps are more likely to be doing the laying off than to be laid off. Second,which came first–unemployment or disillusionment with the Republican “bootstrap” privilege line?

  9. j

    Steven, I was really trying to get a rise out of you & you responded. The Repubs got us into the mess under W and if you think one of the current Rep candidates can get us out, you’re whistling in the wind – especially with the policies they espouse. Romney said something that was very revealing to the effect that his supporting pro-choice rights previously was that he couldn’t get elected if he didn’t. He probably would do 180-degree turns in some of his current stances if he were elected Pres.
    Doug, your proposition relative to unemployment & political affiliation would be interesting to explore. I think the current research is that it’s directly correlated to level of education. You and I both know the situation and background of education here in SC.

  10. Doug Ross


    The difference between libertarians and others is when something bad happens to them, they don’t look first for someone else to fix it.

    It’s a mindset that many people do not have.

    I would also bet libertarians respond to personal requests for help with greater frequency. I’ve never turned down a request for help. But I don’t appreciate the idea that mandatory redistribution of wealth under threat of prosecution has proven to be effective.

  11. Doug Ross


    And wouldn’t level of education tie back to the efforts made by an individual to take responsibility for himself? I’m guessing there aren’t a whole lot of high school dropouts who are big on self-reliance and personal growth.

  12. Steven Davis

    @j – “Steven, I was really trying to get a rise out of you & you responded.”

    In other words, “trolling”. Most bloggers would toss you off their site, especially when you admit to it.

  13. Steven Davis

    @j – So if a Repubican got us into it, how is that Democrat in office working out trying to get us out of it? It appears that spending our way out isn’t working, but he’s determined to make it work no matter how far in debt he takes us.

  14. `Kathryn Fenner

    @Doug– I dispute your assertions that any political bent is more likely to help or be self-reliant. I believe numerous studies back me up.

    It is very difficult for the average person to contribute enough to help some one with real needs, which needs may have arisen through no fault of his or her own. Medical needs, special needs kids, etc.

  15. Doug Ross


    Really? Whenever average people I know are asked to help, they do what they can. Perfect example, a guy in our Sunday School class contracted a severe form of Parkinsons. Over the past two years, his disease progressed to where he was bedridden and then went into hospice. When his wife asked for help with getting a nurse to sit with him while she worked, individuals in the class of about 30 people contributed thousands of dollars to make it happen. And those who couldn’t give money, gave their time. And I can pretty much guarantee you that 90% of the class voted for McCain. I think the concept is that they (we) would rather have more of our own money to assist in ways that we see work versus giving more the government and watch it get wasted on below average performance.

  16. j

    Steven, I thought you had Econ 101 and understood our economy. If our nation has a 70+% consumer economy and if you and I aren’t spending, that leaves the govt to prime the pump. It’s unfortunate that the Repubs started two unnecessary wars, enacted Part D without paying for it and let the bank regulation go by the wayside. There a time lag in priming the pump and I presume that you understand where we’d be if we still had the policies from the same group in power in ’09 & ’10 that we had for eight years earlier. Where’s your sense of humor?

  17. Steven Davis

    @j – When it comes to taking crap, you’re at the back of my line. As far as humor, when did someone tell you you were funny?

    Brad, how’s that “Ignore” button coming?

  18. j

    Doug, bless you and your SS class for your commitment and generosity to this man and his family. The needs in our communities, our state and our country are much greater than the ability and willingness of individuals who are able to meet some of the needs of those in their church, congregation or communities.

    I can’t relate to McCain who has 11 houses as I just own two and my wife doesn’t own a multi-million dollar beer distributorship. I did not vote for him nor do I support the tax policies for which he’s voted. How about all those that are losing their homes in our country. It’s troubling to hear, but we are so insulated from them and hardly think of them or their situation.

    You’re a smart guy who is very generous but I wonder about your and my consciousness of the many needs of individuals who are faceless, behind doors that we’ll never open, nor do they attend church, synagogue or mosque. They have many faces which we’ll never see nor will we associate because they’re different from us who are blessed beyond what we deserve. We are not average.

  19. `Kathryn Fenner

    Doug– Just because 90% of your Sunday School class probably voted for McCain and also helped out a fellow member in no way gives us information about how the population at large helps based on political leanings. I could tell you about how 100% of the Columbia Friends did something, and how 0% voted for McCain, and it would not enlighten our discussion.

    Your friend was able to be helped by having connections to a fairly affluent crowd that was able to meet his needs. Great. That’s one story. What about all the kids who live somewhere where there are insufficient assets in the community to meet their needs?

    I also think we, as a society, do not pay our fair share to help those in need. We live in too big houses, too far away from where we need to be, driving too big vehicles, watch too big TVs on bloated cable/satellite offerings, etc. A just society would be making us make some harder choices with the money we are privileged to have, to ensure that no one goes hungry, homeless, hurting, unless he or she wants to.

  20. doug ross


    I guess it comes down to our differing beliefs on what freedom a person has to decide how to spend the money he oe she earns.

  21. Steven Davis

    j – I’d have to actually read it first, and I’ve got at least 26 better things to do first.

  22. `Kathryn Fenner

    @ Doug–Yup–and how much one owes for the privilege of earning it in a safe and orderly, more or less, society, and how much one should contribute to offset all the opportunities one had that others didn’t….

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