Thanks to Jed Lewison's post, we've got a reminder of something Mitt Romney said in February about Barack Obama:
I think again that the president takes his philosophical leanings in this regard, not from those who are ardent believers in various faiths but instead from those who would like America to be more secular. And I’m not sure which is worse, him listening to Reverend Wright or him saying that we must be a less than Christian nation.Here's the thing:
Romney completely twisted Obama's words.
More after the jump.
Many, many other conservatives have done so as well. Here's the actual quote by Obama (from p. 258 in The Audacity of Hope) that Romney and the other conservatives refer to:
"Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.”I talk quite a bit about this remark by Obama, and conservatives like Rick Perry having twisted its meaning, in my forthcoming book Obama's America: A Transformative Vision of Our National Identity.
Obama is very clearly being inclusive of all religions, saying that those of every religious belief are part of America, part of the American community. Opposing this statement, as Romney does, means he believes Christianity ought to occupy a privileged position above other religions in today's America.
I'd be curious, to say the least, to see Romney take a stand directly on that. Either way, Romney has twisted what Obama said in the quote from February that Jed provided above, by saying that Obama said, "we must be a less than Christian nation."
As I've shown above, Obama said no such thing.
More broadly, Obama's conception of American national identity is one that emphasizes both inclusion and unity. These are both central for him and, I'd argue, for our country. The news today that more than 50% of American babies being born are non-white makes it even more imperative that Obama's vision succeeds. He has, for twenty years, written and spoken in language that seeks to encourage Americans of every ancestry, religion, culture, region, sexual orientation, and ideology to identify with one another as fellow Americans and with America as their country, even as we disagree on specific policies.
Obama's language about religious inclusion is a perfect example of this kind of inclusive, unified American national identity. Romney's statement, separate from the fact that it mischaracterized what Obama said, is divisive, it divides some Americans from others, it has an "us" and "them" mentality, whereas Obama wants all Americans to be "us." That's a key difference between the two candidates.