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US government and politics no longer run by WASPs. Does it matter?

Neither of the top leaders in Congress nor any member of the US Supreme court is a WASP – a white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant. And now, for the first time in US history, none of the major party candidates for president or vice president is a WASP.

By Staff writer / August 19, 2012

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney leaves the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after services on Sunday in Wolefboro, N.H.

Evan Vucci/AP


No matter how it turns out, the 2012 presidential election will have made history.

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For the first time since the founding of the Republic, none of the major party candidates for president or vice president is a WASP – a white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant – a fact that was confirmed when Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan to be his running mate.

Mr. Romney is Mormon, Mr. Ryan and Vice President Joe Biden are Roman Catholic, and President Obama – a man of mixed race – most obviously is not a WASP.

With the candidacies of Mr. Obama and Sarah Palin in 2008, the trend toward greater diversity took a big step. But this year’s election and its lack of the kind of person the Founding Fathers were – ethnically, racially, and religiously, at least – is causing widespread comment.

The faith factor: Religion's new prominence in campaign 2012

“For the first time in our country’s history the Republican party is set to nominate a presidential ticket that does not include a Protestant,” writes religion scholar Thomas Whitley on the Associated Baptist Press news blog. “And in a strange turn of events that is sure to have many WASPs scratching their heads, President Obama will be the only Protestant on either party’s ticket.”

Will it make any difference in the election results?

The Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life recently reported “little evidence to suggest that concerns about the candidates’ respective faiths will have a meaningful impact in the fall elections.”

Rather than the passing of an era, the importance may be in the issues as informed by a candidate’s faith.

Although they both attend Catholic mass regularly, Ryan and Biden have very different positions on abortion, gay marriage, and the “social justice” aspects of the economy – subjects of high interest to movement conservatives, particularly evangelical Protestants.

“As Ryan and Vice President Joe Biden articulate their views, we will be tuning into an intra-Catholic conversation pitting ‘social justice’ Christians on the left versus ‘family values’ Christians on the right,” writes Boston University religion scholar Stephen Prothero on his CNN blog.

Some conservatives see Romney’s pick of Ryan in positive terms regarding the Wisconsin lawmaker’s religion.


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