Wednesday, January 9, 2008

MITT ROMNEY: Can A Mormon Make It To The White House?

Mitt Romney: Can a Mormon get to the White House?

I like Mitt Romney. I liked him from the time he took over the Salt Lake Olympics and turned it around. I thought then that he looked like presidential material and thought that he should go into politics. I didn’t know what his politics were, but I figured since he was a Mormon that they would likely be conservative, like mine. Later, when he went up against Kennedy for the US senate, I learned that, though he was obviously right of the Socialist, Ted, he was not as conservative as I had hoped. Still, he was a Republican and I wished him well. He lost that one, but he eventually won as Governor of Massachusetts, a traditionally liberal stronghold, and placed the governorship of that State much farther to the right than it had been for a very long time and was successful in making some good fiscal changes against great odds. When I learned of Mitt’s desire to run for President and that he had changed his opinions on abortion, I was a bit skeptical, thinking that he was perhaps calculating in his desire to be President, but I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, and I listened to his reason for his change of heart. I bought it. It may be that my giving him the benefit of the doubt is because I want to have a Mormon in the White House—I am a Mormon—but I don’t think so. Harry Reid is a Mormon, but I could never vote for him for any imagined office.

I do have to say, however, that the fact that Romney is a Mormon makes me proud of him. And, because of our shared religious and political beliefs, and the fact that he has served as Bishop and Stake President in our faith—I have also served in similar capacity and understand the unselfish service and spiritual commitment involved—I feel confident that he would serve honorably as President. The other big plus for me is that he is such a smart guy, easily the smartest guy of anyone running for the office at this time, and a financial genius. We need someone like him to tackle the economy and prepare us for the obvious world economic war on the horizon. He is also apparently committed to fighting the war against the Islamic Jihadists and to seriously try to control illegal immigration. When I stack him up against the others in the Republican field, all of whom have very strong points, I have to say that Mitt is my choice.

It is unlikely, however, that Romney can be elected. The biggest reason is that he is Mormon. James Joyner, in a recent article about the likelihood of a Mormon being elected, sited a poll showing that 24 percent of voters said they would never consider voting for a Mormon. Some will see that and be surprised that such religious bigotry still exists in America—the same poll showed that 5 percent would still not vote for a black person, so there was a positive. I was actually surprised that the number was so low. I am guessing that the vast majority of those opposed to a Mormon in the White House were of evangelical persuasion. My thoughts here are shaded by the fact that I am a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from a Baptist background. Virtually all of my extended family, on both my father’s and mother’s sides, were Baptists or of similar evangelical beliefs—I have a brother-in-law who is a Baptist minister. Though perhaps anecdotal, my experience as a convert has taught me that evangelical prejudice against Mormons, in particular, is both strong and widespread. When my parents and the younger half of my siblings joined the Mormon Church in the sixties, it created serious divisions that are still not completely healed. I have since lived in Kansas, Central America, California, Tennessee, and Utah, and in every place I have lived I have run into the same religious prejudice—“Mormons are a cult”, “Mormons believe that Jesus and Satan are brothers”, “Mormons are trying to take over the world”. I might interject here that Huckabee’s “innocent” question in an interview about his beliefs about Mormonism being a Christian religion, “Don’t Mormons believe that Jesus and the Devil are brothers? I don’t know”, was laughable in my opinion. He was a Baptist minister in Arkansas for over ten years. He knew exactly what he was saying. He was reminding the Evangelical electorate that Mormons are heretics.

I think that the “24 percent” group’s likely impact on the elections so far this year, cannot be ignored. As much as 60 percent of the Republican voters in Iowa were said to have been Evangelicals. I think it is safe to assume that the percentage of those voters who reflect the nation-wide “24 percent” anti- Mormon sentiment was significantly greater than a quarter of its number. It is easy for me to imagine evangelical pastors telling their churches to get out there and keep the Mormon out of the White House—that is exactly what I witnessed in my own Baptist congregation when the Catholic, Jack Kennedy, threatened the nation’s separation of Church and State. Before the focus on Mitt’s religion in Iowa, Romney was leading by big numbers in the Iowa Polls. It was closer in New Hampshire and the number of Evangelicals living in the state are comparably small to Iowa, but I suspect that there were enough of the “24 Percenters”, combined with the result in Iowa influencing the lemming-like voting patterns among American Voters to more than account for the 5 percent win of McCain. It will only get worse for Romney in the future, even if he wins in Michigan. Huckabee and McCain complain about Romney’s unfair “negative attack ads”—not a new stance for McCain during elections— and some political analysts seem to believe that his ”negative ads” turned some voters off. I think, however that the ads were helpful to delineate differences between specific candidates. I suspect it is preferable for some to ascribe a decision to not support Romney because of “his mean and unfair tactics” rather than their own religious prejudice.

This is, of course, sad for the country at this time. Mitt is a very talented man who brings a lot of conservative leadership qualities to the plate. He recognizes the world’s economic challenges, with the likes of communist China, Russia and the Oil-producing third world states threatening to wreck us economically and weaken our influence for democracy on the world stage. That, along with his obvious clean living, willingness to seriously fight illegal immigration, desire to continue an aggressive war against radical Islamic terrorists, penchant towards cutting taxes and spending, along with his conversion to a pro-life position, if you trust his explanation for his enlightenment, should make him the Republican darling. However, as far as we have come from our nation’s inception in overcoming petty racial and religious bigotry, we still have a way to go.

So, I have to concede that it is not likely that a Mormon can get to the White House in today’s social and religious climate. In my opinion, Romney’s best chance of reaching the White House will likely be by way of the Vice Presidency this time around. On the bottom of the ticket he will attract less anti Mormon bigotry within the traditional Republican voting block and be able to prove himself for a future presidential bid. Perhaps, in another 4 to 8 years, Mormons will be as acceptable to American voters as black people have become. It is ironic to me that Evangelicals would not support Mormons who generally believe as they do on most political and social issues. Mormons are big believers in the divine power that brought The United States of America into existence, traditionally supported the same candidates that Evangelicals generally do. Utah voters, heavily Mormon, were the greatest supporters of Reagan and George W. Bush. We Mormons are among the strongest supporters of religious freedom and moral values in our nation. We would unabashedly vote for an Evangelical for president—we overwhelmingly did in the case of Bush—and would collectively condemn any equivalent religious bigotry proposed from within our ranks. We try to do the right thing and put the best candidate in the office, who will represent all of America, no matter his brand of Christianity.


Michael K. Mayer said...

Thanks for sharing your comments on Mitt. I disagree with you though. I believe Mitt will be president. I believe that, although the Mormon Question existed in 2007, Mitt has and will continue to successfully deal with America's unfounded fear, or prejudice of his faith.

We need to take heart in the fact that Mitt is a very sharp person. He was an unknown in this race but now is now the target of many attacks as the he is recognized as the one to beat. Mitt is a household name. That is not because is running for President, but because of his know how. Sam Brownback ran for President, and I bet you would be hard pressed to find an average American to recognize him.

You mentioned all the reasons Mitt should be President. I suggest to you that those are the reasons that he will become President. More than any candidate that I have seen, he is the first one that I have ever felt was really in control in an effective way of his campaign. Look, he turned the olympics around, came the closest to beating Kennedy in Mass. as a Republican, and one the govern's seat in THE liberal state. He has now run a very well oiled campaign. My point is that he is an excellent executive, and that is shining though.

He is winning debates, and scoring big in the primaries (Iowa, Wy, NH). He is succeeding.

As far as the Mormon thing, John Kennedy faced the same thing. I think we forget the hatred of Protestants against Catholics, yet we had a Catholic President. People don't hate Mormons (well some do) but they fear the unknown. Mormons are unknown and different.

Nevertheless, Mitt Romney is running a full speed ahead campaign on the issues. As he mentioned in the Faith speech, his highest calling from God will be to the people of the United States if elected.

I am somewhat disappointed in the Evangelical camps that are voting for Huckabee because outward conservative appearance. Just as I, a Mormon, will not for Romney simply due to that fact, these Evangelicals should not vote for a person with a record on par with John McCain. (Close Guantanamo and send the inmates to Levenworth???? What are you insane, Huckabee???)
Evangelicals should really wake to see that Romney is more of a true friend to their cause than Huckabee.

Now, let's look at the field. People who won't vote for a Mormon are more than likely "Christians" in the traditional sense. Those folks are social conservatives, so Rudy is out. They are also for national security, Huckabee is out (evidenced by his lack of true support,Christian callers to talk shows and talk show hosts themselves who see right through him. McCain never had a chance except with the hygiene deficient, Ben & Jerry's factory workers in New Hampshire. New Hampshire has been sadly invaded by liberal scum. Fred Thompson? Who's he? Where is he? Is he awake at the debates? Cute wife though. NO, Christians ain't voting for him. So, who is left? Romney. Who, when people truly look at him will see that he is all we should have voted for President in 1992. He will bring respect and dignity to the office of President again. An American we can look up to. This will come out more in time.

Now, will these folks who won't vote for a Mormon vote for Obama or Clinton. I don't think so.

So, Randy, let's not count Romney out just yet.

rardy mundy said...

In your reference to Baptist ministers exhorting their congregations to vote against certain candidates, it would be well to note that the Mormon Church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) routinely announces during political seasons (at church-wide and local levels) that the church does not endorse any political parties or candidates, nor does it allow church buildings to be used for political purposes at any time. Rather, the church routinely exhorts its members to choose candidates who they feel best reflects their values and would be best for the country (or more regional areas they may be running for).

Ingrid Harris said...

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