As you may have heard, Mitt Romney will be the commecement speaker at Liberty University–a.k.a., the School That Jerry Falwell Built–in Lynchburg this weekend. It will be an excellent opportunity to assess the skills which Mitt and his speechwriters have acquired in the fine art of the Christian Right dog whistle.
You can expect some hardy perennials (we’ve already seen a few in pre-released excerpts from his prepared remarks) like references to America’s “Judeo-Christian heritage” and “pro-family values” and “respect for human life,” along with excoriation of “activist judges” (though that one may have to be hedged a bit to make it clear there’s no problem with the “activist judges” that may soon declare the Affordable Care Act unconstitutonal) and “secularists.” But some of the newer items in the Christian Right/Tea Party vocabulary will undoubtedly show up, too, such as at least one extended shout-out to the Declaration of Independence (though perhaps not with any dangerous allusions to the church-state views of its principal author, Thomas Jefferson, who was from just up the road in Charlottesville), paens to “religious liberty” (i.e., freedom to discriminate), invocations of “constitututional conservatism” (i.e., the permanence of property rights and limits on federal power as expressed in 1789), etc.
It will be most interesting to see exactly how much attention Romney pays to the president’s support for same-sex marriage. On the one hand, this is one audience that will be pre-mobilized on the subject, and won’t need any specific urging to treat the November election as a “Cultural Antietam,” as Pat Buchanan put it today, much as Virginians love their Civil War references. His campaign may also want to use a fair amount of his stock speech emphasizing the economy to show that even people being trained to become culture warriors desperately want Mitt to unleash the nation’s job-creators.
On the other, Mitt may want to flex his muscles and let the MSM know it’s time to stop writing any stories about his problems with hard-core conservatives generally and with conservative evangelicals in particular. So some good bloody red meat that makes the crowd look like it’s ready to put Romney on its shoulders and carry him around the arena might be in order.
I’ll be watching closely.