Friday, April 27, 2012

Coming Soon: Religion and Media Blog Tour (also, some Friday thoughts)

Next week Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg is holding a two-week blog tour in connection with its new concentration in religion and media studies... and Uncle Sam's Attic is the tour's Thursday stop.  Dr. Mary Hess of Luther Seminary, an accomplished scholar in the fields of education, religion, popular culture and new media, will reply to a question I have posed to her--and will pose one for me to respond to, in turn.  Please join us next Thursday, May 3, and share your thoughts!  For more information and a complete list of tour sites, click here.

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Meanwhile, and at least tangentially related to the topic of the media, I was struck by an article I read the other day regarding Republicans' concerns about the negative effects of the party's protracted primary campaign.  Some notable Republicans are worried that presumptive nominee Mitt Romney will be unable to effectively transition from an "anti" politics toward articulation of a positive vision for the future of the United States.

I was reminded of Democrats' success in identifying Republican nominee Barry Goldwater as an extremist in the 1964 presidential campaign.  While such media milestones as the infamous Daisy Ad were notably uncharitable toward the Arizona senator, Goldwater didn't do himself many favors with his reputation for "anti" politics (i.e., opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964), and his impassioned proclamation at the Republican National Convention that "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice."  Unable to break out of the vice of negativity--and, quite possibly, insurmountably handicapped by national sentiment following John Kennedy's assassination the previous fall--Goldwater was buried under a landslide of votes for Lyndon Johnson.

But.  The 1964 election was notable for another speech.  In the closing days of the race, a former actor and General Electric spokesman by the name of Ronald Reagan gave a televised speech in support of Goldwater called "A Time for Choosing."  Reagan was polished; Reagan was articulate; Reagan looked nice, and friendly, and presented a positive vision for the future.  While 1964 looked like a dismal failure for the conservative wing of the GOP, in a broader sense it marked the foundation of what would become its most notable success.

Positive vision?  That, Reagan could do, regardless of how Americans have felt about his politics.  And it was remarkably effective for both the man and his party.  Whether Romney can channel similar vision remains to be seen.

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