I found it was very interesting to go over the CNN entrance polls
from the recent GOP caucus in the state of Nevada.
The first interesting observation that struck me is how the non-Romneys divided the evangelical Christian vote. These are voters I think I can safely say have a tendency to feel that social issues and character are more important factors than economic policies or foreign policy experience. Notice how Romney receives less than 50% of that vote. Another way to view this is that if Romney were running only against Santorum or Gingrich, he would actually lose the conservative religious vote.
Yes (24%) 28% 14% 43% 15%
No (76%) 19% 21% 52% 8%
Again, when it comes to the strong tea party support, the non-Romneys split the opposition to Romney and hand Romney a plurality that would not be his among these voters if he were only facing Gingrich or only facing Paul. This is the so called spoiler effect, but in this instance we might call it the moderate buffering effect. The so-called "true" conservatives, or what others might call the hard right reactionaries, are prevented from exerting more influence over the contest because their loyalty is split among several candidates.
Opinion of Tea Party Movement
Strongly Support (43%) 32% 17% 35% 16%
Somewhat Support (31%) 15% 16% 62% 6%
Neutral (19%) 9% 23% 64% 4%
And finally we have the most interesting chart of all, the most important candidate quality. Defeating Obama is the highest priority, more important than being a true conservative, and more important than either moral character or even having relevent experience. Romney clearly dominated in this most important category. It is clear that for the GOP only one thing really matters: get President Obama out of the White House, who for reasons none of them can really explain with a rational fact based analysis, is seen as an extremely dangerous un-American threat. This is I think the greatest mystery in present day GOP politics.
Romney also did respectably in the experience and moral character categories. Some glaring weaknesses are revealed in Gingrich's 2% among those who care most about moral character, and Romney's 4% among those who are looking for a candidate with "true" conservative credentials.
Most Important Candidate Quality
Can Defeat Obama (43%) 20% 5% 70% 4%
True Conservative (18%) 31% 39% 4% 26%
Strong Moral Character (20%) 2% 33% 51% 15%
Right Experience (16%) 34% 13% 51% 2%
The one point that struck me hardest of all was how badly people want to defeat Obama, combined with the strong showing Romney had with those who valued moral character above all else.
It goes without saying, with 4 years of experience under his belt, that President Obama is far more qualified for the job than Mitt Romney in terms of experience.
But how do President Obama and Mitt Romney stand side by side in a comparison of moral character? Both exhibit strong family values, being faithful to their wives and dedicated to their children. Obama has had some issues with smoking, which apparently he has put behind him, so he doesn't quite match up to Romney in the avoidance of vice category; presumably as a Mormon Romney avoids Coke, Pepsi, and coffee, and even wears special underwear that must do something to sanctify or purify his naughty bits. I don't really understand the whole secret Mormon underwear thing. Finally, both men exhibit excellent qualities of courage, tenacity, conviction, and work ethic.
Of the seven deadly sins Romney does quite well in all of them except in greed, and perhaps gluttony.
If you bothered to click that last link, you may agree that he seems quite convincing as a fudge-packer.
But the greed issue is where I don't think Romney's moral values stand up at all well. My opinion here is not based on some fairly high profile "gaffes" in which he has said shocking things, like "corporations are people, my friend" or "I don't care about poor people".
These things have received lots of media attention because they are very simple sound bites that don't really require much thought or knowledge to absorb. In all fairness to Mitt Romney, these damaging sound bites taken out of context unfairly misrepresent what he was really saying at the time.
When he said that corporations are people, he was only making the simple and obvious point that the profits of corporations end up going to people (people just like Mitt Romney) and that the work done by corporations is done by people (people more like you and I).
And when he said he doesn't care about poor people, he didn't mean to say that he is cruel and heartless, but only that in his view of things he thinks that the top of the economic scale and the bottom of the economic scale are quite similar in that they both enjoy such a lavish set of entitlements that they really have no problems to worry about. Many readers will disagree with this assessment, and may question Mitt's grasp on reality, but that is basically what Mitt said and what he really thinks; he did not mean that he is cold hearted and cruel with no concern for poor people. Anybody who thinks this is being unfair to Mitt.
Where the real moral problems come up is in Mitt Romney's experiences at Bain Capital, and the extremely lavish rewards he now enjoys as a consequence of those activities. Anyone who does not feel guilty about using somebody else's money to buy a corporation, then saddling that corporation with the debt in order to pay for the purchase and to extract tens of millions in dividends from the company, while enjoying a special carried interest tax break resulting in a lower tax rate than the typical wage earner must pay, is suffering from some serious moral deficiencies.
I'm not saying that you don't have to be plenty clever to get away with leveraging someone else's work and someone else's money to score a big pile of cash for yourself. But then you have to be pretty clever to perform just about any kind of con-artist scam. But to really top it all off, Mitt compounds his astonishing acts of brutal self-interest when he demonstrates the loutish insensitive dim-wittedness to assert with absolute confidence that envy is the only possible reason for people to criticize such marauding buccaneer business practices.
Obama on the other hand demonstrates a much greater level of concern about the poor and underprivileged, and the struggling have-nots, whom Republicans have shown the unmitigated audacity
recently to re-christen as the "soon to haves"
. Really one wonders how they do not feel ashamed by showing such contempt for the reasoning abilities of their voting base. On second thought though, they may not feel embarrassed by this because they have a realistic opinion of the reasoning abilities of their voting base.
Obama frequently expresses compassion for the poor and sick, which is in line with the example of Jesus Christ and the teachings he urged his followers to emulate. If Jesus Christ were asked to be a surrogate in the 2012 election, it's impossible for me to imagine that he would stand before crowds and without irony tell people that Mitt Romney's wealth was fully earned, fully deserved, and that his means of economic livelihood represents a virtuous model that all people should strive to follow.
So while both President Obama and Mitt Romney both exhibit excellent morality in their personal habits and hard working virtues, I have to say that overall President Obama stands taller in the moral character category.
In observing the results of the Nevada primary, one wonders how to find the consistency in emphasizing so strongly both moral character and the defeat of President Obama. I suspect it could be that Mitt Romney gets higher marks for morality than he might otherwise simply because the 300 years of systematic cruelty, violence, and oppression of black people by white people is so fresh in our recent memories that it makes it seem novel and surprising when the morals of a white man can even come close to comparing favorably with the morals of a black man. Or maybe that's not it. It could be that I'm confused and something else explains it. Like the title says, this is an admittedly amateur effort, so what do I know about morality, race, economic justice, and American politics? Don't hold me responsible if I lack the moral clarity of the mainstream American political media coverage. My eyes are so wide in awe and wonder at the mysteries of American politics that I just bit my tongue before I could take it out of my cheek.