Unless you were listening carefully, you might have missed Mitt Romney's dog whistle to the Christian Right in his speech in Tampa. But stick with me for a few short paragraphs, and you too can learn to hear -- and to deliver -- this year's dog whistle to the Christian Right.
In order to hear it like the dog being whistled to, as I know you would, really all you need to know is that the major Christian Right organizations have a simple and consistent message that has been gaining traction since the release of The Manhattan Declaration in 2009. The Manhattan Declaration is the premier alliance of conservative evangelical and Catholic leaders. It was principally drafted by Catholic Right strategist, Robert George. They claim more than a half million people have joined with the likes of such original signers as Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, and James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family.
There are only three-closely related issues for the Christian Right. Abortion, homosexuality and religious freedom -- in that order. You might also see such variations on the theme, as life, marriage and religious liberty. But the meaning is essentially the same. This is not to say that other issues are unimportant, but to say that these are the most important, and they are always stated in this way, in this order.
For example, the Family Research Council has jointly sponsored the Values Bus with the Heritage Foundation encouraging conservative voter participation. Their slogan -- in banners painted on the side of the bus: Your Money, Your Values, Your Vote. Heritage is mostly about the Money part. And FRC Action's stated agenda is: "Defending Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty." The Values Bus, BTW, will be in Charlotte during the Democratic Convention but, probably wisely, not at the convention itself.
So you may be wondering, how did Romney do the dog whistle? Well your wait is over:
"As president, I will protect the sanctity of life. I will honor the institution of marriage. And I will guarantee America's first liberty: the freedom of religion."There were other explicit panders to the Christian Right for those with ears to hear. But that is enough dog whistle training for today.
Meanwhile, here is a one minute video of Tony Perkins explaining what the Values Bus is all about.