Iowa Republicans Grade Newt’s “Worldview”

Via Ed Kilgore, prominent Iowa Republican Craig Robinson grades the participants in last week’s Thanksgiving Family Forum on their Christian “worldview.” In a post, “Who Has the Worldview that Vander Plaats Is Looking For?” Robinson ranks Rick Santorum first, and Newt Gingrich fourth:

After the FAMiLY Leader forum, I’m not really sure what Gingrich’s worldview is. Does he have a phenomenal grasp on American history? Yes. Is he a gifted debater? Yes. Do I know why he believes what he believes? Not really. And that is why I have him in fourth place.

Today on Twitter, Kilgore points to a Des Moines Register interview in which Vander Plaats, whose organization has dismissed as inadequate all candidates but Bachmann, Gingrich, Perry and Santorum, now seems to have taken a shine to Gingrich:

Vander Plaats was particularly complimentary of Newt Gingrich’s performance in the two-hour forum, which focused mostly on social issues and how religion shapes the candidates’ world views.

“He’s very good, he’s very articulate and he puts it in such a historical, constitutional, world-view context,” Vander Plaats said. “He’s a great teacher.”

CNN reports that a group of social conservatives, including the forum’s host, the Family Leader, met in Des Moines this week to strategize about alternatives to Mitt Romney.

In a post back in April, I laid out why Bachmann’s education in “Christian worldview” would help her in Iowa. Christian worldview ideology holds that America is founded on Christianity, and should be governed by “biblical law,” given that Christianity is the only “true” worldview, in conflict with others, including Islam, secularism, socialism, and paganism. In August, with Perry’s entrance into the race, I argued that he had not internalized the worldview construct as Bachmann had, and focused more on sharing his own salvation story. 

But Gingrich? Sure, he recently (after two divorces) converted to Catholicism and has been extolling American exceptionalism; he’s appeared at Pastors Policy Briefings to sell his book (and reincarnation) Rediscovering God in America. But how much has he really learned at the feet of Christian right luminaries?

In my collection of political ephemera, I have a copy of Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority Report from September 1985. In it, there’s an article and accompanying advertisement for a conference hosted by the American Coalition for Traditional Values, an early religious right organization founded by Tim LaHaye. Billed as a how-to for Christians to win elections, and aimed at pastors, political candidates, and campaign staffers, LaHaye boasted that “several of our national board members like Dr. D. James Kennedy and Dr. Jerry Falwell team up with conservative Senators and congressmen like Helms, Armstrong, Kemp and Gingrich to provide dynamic programs.” (Gingrich was first elected to Congress in 1978, on his third attempt.) Gingrich, in other words, has long known how to pander to Christian right leaders and sell himself as someone who shares their “values” and, crucially here, win elections.