Mitt Romney for President?

July 26, 2005 | 62 comments
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Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has presidential aspirations. He is a Republican in an overwhelmingly Democratic state. He is the son of George Romney, three-time Michigan governor who famously tanked his own presidential campaign by claiming that his initial support for the Vietnam War was due to the fact that he had been “brainwashed” by the U.S. military. Like his father, Mitt Romney has been a successful businessman. (He founded Bain & Company, a private equity firm). He also has a JD and an MBA, both from Harvard. And he gave Ted Kennedy a surprising run for his money in the 1994 Senate race.

Romney’s official bio touts his work in resuscitating the Salt Lake City Olympic Committee as his greatest pre-gubernatorial achievement. Unless you followed that story closely, it is easy to forget what a job Romney did with it. This is from Rocky Anderson, the Democrat mayor of Salt Lake City:

He was absolutely spectacular. He was a strong leader, extremely competent. He walked into an utter disaster, and slashed spending without cutting corners on what was necessary to put on an absolutely extraordinary Olympics. With his unique management skills we came out in the black–which no one ever dreamed.

More important than all of this to some people, however, is the fact that Romney is a Mormon. Predictably, some people are starting to ask: Would America elect a Mormon as President?

The big concern is that Romney may feel beholden to follow instructions from Church leaders: “So would Romney likewise feel obliged to follow the dictates of the church’s president, whom Mormons believe to be a divinely inspired prophet?” Of course, this question reminds us of a similar question posed to Jack Kennedy about his relationship to the Pope. Kennedy responded:

I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for president who happens also to be a Catholic . . . I do not speak for my church on public matters; and the church does not speak for me.

Could Romney give a Kennedy-esque response? I doubt that would suffice in today’s political environment, at least on a national stage (see more below), but if that is Romney’s intention, he had better tell his spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, who offered this statement:

[Governor Romney's] first obligation is to fulfill his duty of office, and that would take precedence over anything…. This is a governor who has signed a law permitting Sunday alcohol sales, and who has been open to an expansion of gaming. This is by no means someone who is marching in lockstep with his church.

My impression is that Romney, like all Mormon politicians, usually tries to walk a thin line. He does not want to be portrayed as the Church’s puppet, but at the same time, he does not want to defy the Church. Most Mormon politicians avoid this dilemma by noting that the Church has never told them how to vote on a particular piece of legislation. And as far I can tell, it is true that Church leaders do not attempt to exert direct influence on Mormon politicians. This was essentially Kennedy’s position with respect to the Catholic church, and it still works in local and state elections.

Fehrnstrom’s statement, however, does not take this tack. By asserting that Romney was not “marching in lockstep with his church,” Fehrnstrom staked out a position of defiance. Consider Romney’s actions with respect to gaming. The Church has an official policy in opposition to gambling and urges members to oppose its legalization. This anti-gambling message is repeated often in Church publications. To the extent that Romney “has been open to an expansion of gaming,” he appears to be in direct conflict with the Church’s teachings. Not being all that politically savvy, I wonder how being portrayed as a hypocrite helps Romney. This reminds me of John Kerry’s cafeteria Catholicism, which raised more questions than it answered.

Would America elect a Mormon as President? Perhaps. But as noted above, I doubt that Kennedy’s elegant fudging of the role of faith in politics would suffice today. As Ann Althouse has observed, the world today is much different than Jack Kennedy’s world, and “personal moral questions have become central” to politics in a way that they were not in 1960. In that milieu, I have serious doubts about the ability of a faithful Mormon to win an electoral majority, and I sincerely hope that no Mormon would be elected President on a platform that defies Church teachings. If so, it would be without my vote.

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62 Responses to Mitt Romney for President?

  1. John David Payne on July 26, 2005 at 4:58 pm

    Commentators at the National Review Online’s blog, “The Corner,” are wondering if Mitt Romney wears garments. (Here’s one link, but there are more. Scroll down.) I live in the Boston area, and have always heard and believed that Gov. Romney is a current temple recommend holder. But I must admit that I have no first-hand knowledge. (I’ve never seen him in the temple, for instance.) Anybody else? I know there are lots of other Bostonites in the Bloggernacle…

  2. diogenes on July 26, 2005 at 5:02 pm

    Frankly, I would have a difficult time voting for Romney after his Congressional testimony citing the Edmunds-Tucker Act as an “appropriate” federal governmental intervention in defining marriage.

    I believe I have a number of ancestors waiting on the other side of the veil to have a word with Mr. Romney about just how “appropriate” that kind of intervention was.

  3. A. Greenwood on July 26, 2005 at 5:07 pm

    I understood Romney’s view to be that Edmunds-Tucker defined appropriate. In other words, not that it was OK at the time, but that it set a precedent for what kinds of federal action were permissible.

  4. Mike Parker on July 26, 2005 at 5:21 pm

    My impression is that Romney, like all Mormon politicians, usually tries to walk a thin line. He does not want to be portrayed as the Church’s puppet, but at the same time, he does not want to defy the Church.

    This encapsulates the central problem with being a politician. In order to get elected, you can’t say what you actually believe, you must say what will please a plurality of the voting public. So if you personally oppose, say, abortion, but the majority of your potential constituency supports it, you have to support it, too … or come up with a way of saying that you oppose it and support it simultaneously.

  5. lyle stamps on July 26, 2005 at 5:29 pm

    Gordon: to clarify; because Romeny was “open” to an “expansion of gaming,” you view this as outright rebellion/defiance against the LDS Church’s “urging” of its members to oppose legislation allowing/sponsorship of gambling; and would hence not be able in good conscience to vote for Romney?

    1. You seem to be reading alot into the phrase “not in lockstep.”
    2. Not following LDS Church “urgings” is in your mind apostacy and/or worthy of withholding your vote from [putting all other issues into the black box] an otherwise worthy LDS candidate?

    All I can say is that Romney seems to have more critics “in-house” than one would expect. Forget about winning the popular vote, he doesn’t seem to be able to win the “LDS” vote.

  6. Edna on July 26, 2005 at 5:32 pm

    I’m always suprised to see how small the Mormon world is- I know two of the three here from totally different sources.

    I am curious to hear others’ suggestions on what Romney should say regarding moral issues – to be consistant with LDS beliefs and not go so against the popular beliefs to render himself ineffective as a political leader.

    Any one have suggestions?

  7. lyle stamps on July 26, 2005 at 5:34 pm

    Gordon, you wrote:

    Predictably, some people are starting to ask: Would America elect a Mormon as President?

    I guess I’m just shocked that we are even asking this question. In a country that prohibits the use of religious litmust tests to prevent some religions from holding public office; In a country that “has a dream” of equality without respect to race (or religion?); how is this even an issue?

    I would be sad if the Althouse was right on this one; the return of de facto religious bigotry would be a big step backwards for this country.

  8. JKS on July 26, 2005 at 5:39 pm

    I wouldn’t have a big problem voting for someone who didn’t want to change all the laws to be Mormon commandments.
    For instance, I don’t think a mormon president has to want to change abortion laws. As long as he isn’t making abortion more legal, that is fine.
    He doesn’t need to want to bring back Prohibition.
    He doesn’t have to want “commandments” as “law.”
    If I ever became PTA president, I wouldn’t insist that coffee be banned at parent meetings at schools. If coffee was the issue of the day, and my supporters cared about changing the brand of coffee served, I wouldn’t mind having a platform “policy” about coffee.

  9. A. Greenwood on July 26, 2005 at 5:40 pm

    “So if you personally oppose, say, abortion, but the majority of your potential constituency supports it, you have to support it, too … or come up with a way of saying that you oppose it and support it simultaneously. ”

    I thought Romney’s take on abortion in Massachussetts was a rare instance of statesmanlike honesty–’my views are different than yours. If elected, I’ll do nothing to tamper with the status quo.’ I think this is acceptable and honest.

  10. Russell Arben Fox on July 26, 2005 at 5:53 pm

    I agree with Adam as regards Romney’s approach to abortion, as noted in this piece which Adam linked to in the sidebar:

    “I understand that my views on laws governing abortion set me in the minority in our Commonwealth. I am prolife. I believe that abortion is the wrong choice except in cases of incest, rape, and to save the life of the mother. I wish the people of America agreed, and that the laws of our nation could reflect that view. But while the nation remains so divided over abortion, I believe that the states, through the democratic process, should determine their own abortion laws and not have them dictated by judicial mandate.”

    This statement is, I think, both sensible and moral, one which does him a fair amount of credit as a public servant and a member of the church. His position on gambling, however, is a different matter….

  11. lyle stamps on July 26, 2005 at 5:55 pm

    Can we wait until he has a statement on gambling to judge him? A few words from a spokesman hardly seems like enough for a bloggernacle disciplinary counsel…

  12. Aaron Brown on July 26, 2005 at 5:57 pm

    “Would America elect a Mormon as President?”

    No. I’ll believe it when I see it.

    Aaron B

  13. Geoff B on July 26, 2005 at 6:04 pm

    I’ve gotta agree with lyle on this. If Romney truly supports expanding gaming and gambling, then I have a big disagreement with him, but I haven’t heard that that is his official position. I need some specifics before being willing to condemn him on this issue.

  14. Greg Call on July 26, 2005 at 6:14 pm

    “[T]he Romney Administration is conducting its own gambling review that is due in early April. The Administration has said it is not opposed to gambling in principle, but is interested in expanding gambling if significant revenue could be generated.

    Governor [Romney] and leaders of the House and Senate haven’t expressed any principled objections to casino gambling. Their attitude so far seems to be, “Show me the money.”
    Governor Romney has said in the past that he would be willing to look at legalizing casinos if it pays significant revenue to the state.”

    from: http://www.massnews.com/2003_Editions/2003_Print_Editions/03_Mar/030103_mn_casino_hot_this_year.shtml

  15. Daniel on July 26, 2005 at 6:15 pm

    We should not make the good the enemy of the best. Just my $.02. If he decides to run and has a chance of winning, I’ll be working on his campaign. I was initially against him, but considering the field, I think he would do a great job.

  16. Rusty on July 26, 2005 at 6:18 pm

    I have a vague recollection of a prophesy (Joseph Smith? Brigham Young?) saying there would never be a Mormon president. Can anyone substantiate/refute that claim?

    If gambling is his biggest discrepancy with the Church, he’s doing quite well.

  17. Gordon Smith on July 26, 2005 at 6:18 pm

    Lyle, I hope some folks from Mass chime in here, but Romney has a more extensive record on gambling than simply this statement by his spokesman. Try this link for starters.

    Also, I think there is an important distinction between talking about Romney’s standing in the Church and his appeal to Mormon voters. Thanks to all of you who declined the invitation to discuss whether he wears garments.

    JKS, Last time I checked, the Church did not officially endorse the re-institution of Prohibition.

  18. diogenes on July 26, 2005 at 6:26 pm

    This statement is, I think, both sensible and moral, one which does him a fair amount of credit as a public servant and a member of the church.

    Possibly. But it also conflicts with what I recall him stating to be his position when he ran against Edward Kennedy for the Senate, when he seemed to be pitching himself as pro-choice. I suppose that people’s views change over time, and perhaps Romney’s views on abortion have changed since then. My concern is that Romney’s views seem to change based upon whatever audience he is addressing at the moment.

    This is admittedly true of most politicians — but if Romney’s LDS affiliation means something, then either he is not most politicians, or if he is, there is no particular reason to support him for being LDS.

  19. Russell Arben Fox on July 26, 2005 at 6:31 pm

    “If gambling is his biggest discrepancy with the Church, he’s doing quite well.”

    That assumes, Rusty, that gambling isn’t, or needn’t be, a particularly big deal insofar as Mormon political perspectives are concerned. I disagree.

  20. Prudence McPrude on July 26, 2005 at 6:39 pm

    Cecelia Farr should run for Governor or President, and then maybe BYU will find her “citizenship” less lacking.

  21. JKS on July 26, 2005 at 6:47 pm

    “JKS, Last time I checked, the Church did not officially endorse the re-institution of Prohibition. ”

    Right!!! Precisely my point. Just because we don’t drink doesn’t mean we have to have laws against it.
    Just because we don’t gamble, doesn’t mean we have to have laws against it.
    Just because we don’t……..

    So, I would have no problem voting for a Mormon, even if his platform wasn’t my personal preference. What are the chances that ANY person in the country would have exactly my views on everything. So, I’m used to voting for the “best” candidate out of the options, not the “perfect” candidate.

  22. A. Greenwood on July 26, 2005 at 6:54 pm

    The Church does support laws against gambling.

  23. Mark B. on July 26, 2005 at 6:56 pm

    I’m not certain that the Church’s position on abortion requires that one be “pro-life” as that term is used in the abortion wars.

    The policies on abortion spelled out in the General Handbook do not suggest involvement by the government in the decision whether to have an abortion. That decision, in the narrow circumstances described in the Handbook, is to be made with spouse, ecclesiastical leaders and the Lord. I don’t see consultation with the D.A. or the local judge as part of the process.

    In a country where abortion is banned in circumstances where the Church’s policy would permit it, would a Church member be out of line in advocating a liberalization of abortion laws?

    There are other grievous moral wrongs, in addition to abortion, that are not prosecuted as crimes in the U.S. (Some of them, such as adultery, may in fact be against the law, but those laws are virtually never enforced.) I don’t think that my Church membership requires me to support a renewed criminalization of adultery. Does it require that I support recriminalization of abortion?

    (Don’t even begin to suppose that any of the above means that I think Roe v. Wade is anything but an abominably bad piece of constitutional law.)

  24. Gordon Smith on July 26, 2005 at 6:56 pm

    JKS, Let me make this simple: the Church does not officially endorse laws prohibiting the manufacture of alcohol, but it does officially endose laws prohibiting gambling.

  25. Ben H on July 26, 2005 at 7:35 pm
  26. drex davis on July 26, 2005 at 7:43 pm

    He’d have to overcome this too . . .

    “A Gallup Poll in February 1999 found 17 percent of respondents saying they would not vote for a Mormon, while 6 percent opposed a Jew and 4 percent said they would be against a Catholic or a Baptist candidate.” (from http://www.newhousenews.com/archive/mcauliffe040105.html)

    What’s SAD is that it’s not much changed from a 1967 Gallup Poll. “In that 17 percent of respondents said they would not vote for a Mormon for president, even if their party “nominated a generally well-qualified person” of the faith. Thirteen percent said they would not vote for a Jew; 8 percent would not vote for a Catholic; and 3 percent would not vote for a Baptist.” (also from http://www.newhousenews.com/archive/mcauliffe040105.html)

    Tolerance for Jewish and Catholic politicians has imropved . . . why has it not for LDS politicians?

  27. drex davis on July 26, 2005 at 7:48 pm

    Here are some other must reads if you’re interested in this:

    Weekly Standard feature
    http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/005/672kwvro.asp

    National Review feature
    http://www.nationalreview.com/miller/miller200506031216.asp

    Hugh Hewitt interviewed him today too, and interviews him regularly . . . and likes him.
    http://www.hughhewitt.com

    Someone already called out the Corner at NRO . . . Kathryn Jean Lopez is a wee bit obsessed with him.

    If you want to see how he’s faring in a straw man poll, go here:
    http://www.patrickruffini.com/archives/2005/07/2008_straw_poll.php

  28. lyle on July 26, 2005 at 7:49 pm

    Drex: All the more reason _NOT_ to govern or campaign via polls. What a disastrous form of government that would be (is?).

    not to mention, it is one thing to state one’s position in a poll; quite another to do so in the voting booth. I have faith that Americans wouldn’t be bigots in general; and even moreso when they are faced with a concrete choice of candidate X whom they like, but is mormon, and Candidate Z, who they disagree with more, but isn’t.

    Are folks really going to vote against their political preferences to satisfy some religious bigotry?

  29. Jim F. on July 26, 2005 at 7:52 pm

    Lyle (#28): Are folks really going to vote against their political preferences to satisfy some religious bigotry?

    Absolutely. We do it all the time, whether as religious, racial or some other kind of bigotry. Few of us do it consciously, but it isn’t any less true that we do it.

  30. greenfrog on July 26, 2005 at 8:25 pm

    Are folks really going to vote against their political preferences to satisfy some religious bigotry?

    I agree, but I’d phrase the response slightly differently than Jim F. — I think that no, people won’t vote against their political preferences to satisfy some religious bigotry. However, they will allow their religious bigotry to shape their political preferences. The result is the same: prejudice shapes decisions such as voting.

  31. ed on July 26, 2005 at 8:55 pm

    I don’t know all that much about Mitt Romney, but from what I know I’d greatly prefer him to either of the choices we had in the last election.

    However, I can’t say I blame non-mormons from being concerned about his religion, and I wouldn’t necessarily call them “bigots” for feeling that way.

    Imagine you are a non-mormon. Now imagine seeing a video of primary children singing “follow the prophet, follow the prophet…” What would you think?

  32. lyle on July 26, 2005 at 9:15 pm

    and i just plain disagree. I would never vote for a candidate that opposed or was less favorable on issues that matter to me just because they were from a religion that I don’t happen to like; nor do I believe that principled conservatives or social conservatives would do so either.

    when talking about single issue, or social issue voters, there is a reason they are labelled as such. they don’t care about the other issues…

  33. Bryce I on July 26, 2005 at 10:59 pm

    lyle, don’t kid yourselves. Over on the homeschooling boards I frequent (mostly evangelical posters), the issue of a potential Romney presidential bid has been discussed more than once, and a while a majority of posters indicated that his religion did not matter as much as his stand on the issues, a sizable minority indicated that they would abstain from voting or vote third-party should Romney get the Republican nomination.

  34. Bryce I on July 26, 2005 at 11:00 pm

    um, that’s “don’t kid yourself.” I’m not trying to imply anything other than I can’t think straightl

  35. Jim F. on July 26, 2005 at 11:03 pm

    Greenfrog (#30): I like your way of putting it better than mine. It is more accurate. Thanks.

  36. yossarian on July 27, 2005 at 1:25 am

    The real issue is not whether Republicans would vote for Romney in a general election (they most certainly would), but whether they will vote for him in the primaries, where the voters are more likely to be party activists, which in the Republican case is likely to be more conservative.

    The past couple of elections have shown great parity between the parties, despite the relative polarization of the candidates and around 80% is totally comitted to a party and candidate of either side regardless of who the candidate is and what particular policies they represent. The big question then is who can win the rare “swing voter,” but most importantly who can turn people out.

    People usually will not vote against a policy preference based upon religious bigotry. More likely they just won’t vote at all or they will vote for a third party. So, I personally think a Mormon could be elected currently, but they would have to be running against either a weak party or weak candidate. The real difficulty would be getting the nomination.

    But who cares about the here and now. We’ll have the celestial kingdom and they’ll have to settle for telestial.

  37. SFW on July 27, 2005 at 8:55 am

    Would the same speculative discussions take place if Harry Reid or another mormon democrat were running for president?

  38. John Morley on July 27, 2005 at 10:35 am

    The conversation here parallels the dilemma that inevitably follows Black candidates: they can’t get elected unless they try to appeal to mainstream Whites, but if they try to appeal to mainstream whites, they get accused of not being Black enough.

    The public conversation about garments, polygamy, etc. will be ugly if Romney runs. The last thing Romney and the Church needs is a contingent of Church members nitpicking Romney on the subtle word choice in his press releases and stupid issues like horse racing. This is especially true since Romney has already taken so much heat over life and marriage issues.

  39. Bryan Warnick on July 27, 2005 at 11:19 am

    Romney has rubbed me the wrong way since his graduation speech at the University of Utah in 1999. He didn’t put on his mortarboard, he said, because he was afraid it would mess up his hair. Give me a break.

  40. Mark B. on July 27, 2005 at 11:43 am

    When Mo Udall ran for President in 1976, there were some of the same issues raised. The mayor of Detroit, Coleman Young (who was black) made some comment about blacks and the priesthood, to which Mo replied (more or less) that he had left the church and repudiated that teaching years before.

  41. Yeechang Lee on July 27, 2005 at 11:46 am

    John Payne wrote:

    Commentators at the National Review Online’s blog, “The Corner,” are wondering if Mitt Romney wears garments.

    It’s important to point out that the Cornerites really *aren’t* wondering about that. On the contrary, they are discussing their belief that it’s pretty obnoxious for a reporter to ask someone whether he wears garments. The post John linked to is making fun of the sort of mindset that would pose the question in the first place.

  42. lyle stamps on July 27, 2005 at 11:46 am

    John: Good point. In addition, Bryan has informed us that hairstyles are now an important electoral decision making issue also.

  43. Wilfried on July 27, 2005 at 12:07 pm

    Yes, I know, this is the kind of discussion a little Belgian should stay out of. American politics. But I’ll risk it though.

    John Morley’s (# 38) comment helped me overcome my reticence: “The last thing Romney and the Church needs is a contingent of Church members nitpicking Romney on the subtle word choice in his press releases and stupid issues like horse racing.”

    I fully agree. I have been reading this post and some of the comments with growing disbelief. Who becomes President of the U.S. has an immense impact on the world, as we have witnessed the past 65 years and more. And especially the last years. The world is not interested in a U.S. President’s stand on gambling, and not in “moral” issues that, to them, pertain more to the realm of religious bigotry. It’s about war and peace on a world scale. International economy. Third world. Environment. I respect those who find some issues a litmus test to vote for or against a candidate, but I hope they will weigh all issues, for the good of the world, and put them in the balance.

    Only imagine what a U.S. President, who happens to be a Mormon, would mean for the image of the Church abroad.

    Detail: I was also disturbed by the quote from the General Handbook of Instructions about gambling. I thought the GHI is an internal document, always prone to change and not be quoted from in a public forum. And former copies are to be discarded, precisely to avoid quotations that would not apply any more.

  44. drex davis on July 27, 2005 at 12:20 pm

    John, you said (#38), “The public conversation about garments, polygamy, etc. will be ugly if Romney runs.”

    I don’t necessarily agree. If the discussions come up, and they inevitably would to some degree, I think we’ll see a pattern emerge.

    1. Someone will attack the church or the candidate for one of the myriad usual suspects – polygamy, blacks and the priesthood, “secret” ceremonies, the “hegemony” of the prophet and 12.

    2. Fair minded members of the media will be forced to make a choice – to stand by and let such attacks happen, to call such attacks out for what they are (as happened on the Corner at NRO. The Cornerites have all argued the complete irrelevance of whether Romney wears garments or not and they have been condemning such attacks [which are thinly veiled in the guise of "fact finding"]). I guess a third choice would be to “dig deeper into the facts” and report them before deciding if they’re relevant or not.

    We’ve always had our enemies. But people who otherwise would not have a reason to come to our defense will be forced to choose and I believe the net effect will be positive. Most fair people would come to the defense of any people who are the subject of bigoted attacks.

    The debates, if any, over the controversial events in the history of a candidates religious persuasion and their relevance to his fitness to govern – polygamy, blacks and the priesthood, etc. – would, I believe, take place in forums that allow us to participate, respond, clarify, etc.

    To people with open minds, people who carry and anti-Mormon agenda become pretty transparent once they have a little information. When I worked in New York City, I spent a lot of time working with people who had heard all of the anti-Mormon things, assumed that it couldn’t be all true but also assumed that some of it must be. They just didn’t care enough to go look up the facts for themselves. Once presented with an explanation from a member of the church, coupled with the fact that they knew me to be an ordinary guy who worked side by side with them, that tended to clear things up for them quickly. Many of these people were the first to some to my (or the church’s defense) when we’d come across the occasional bigot who felt the need to comment on my religion to them (behind my back) or to me (to my face).

    I see this as an opportunity to make some breakthroughs in how we are perceived as a people. Yes, we are (and should be) peculiar. But when the only members much of the county knows are the missionaries, their perception of us is one that is _too_ peculiar.

    My question in #26 went unanswered. I showed some poll data that showed that religious tolerance for politicians had improved for Jews and Catholics, but not for Mormons, then I asked, Why has it not for LDS politicians?

    My feeling is that it hasn’t because we haven’t yet had enough discussion about Mormon politicians on the level that we have for Jewish and Catholic ones. A Mitt Romney presidential run (even in the primaries) would help to break through. It would be different from an Orrin Hatch run . . . for the simple reason that it’s unusual that a Mormon Republican would’ve found political success in Democratic Massachusetts and that will invite more scrutiny. His biggest opposition might be from his own party who’d be suspicious of any Republican who’d be popular enough in Massachusetts to win the governorship.

    I don’t think, at this point, that he’d make it out of the primaries.

  45. Lamonte on July 27, 2005 at 12:49 pm

    Gordon Smith – “Would America elect a Mormon as President?”

    yossarian – “The real issue is not whether Republicans would vote for Romney in a general election (they most certainly would)…”

    The real question is who would be less likely to vote for Romney? Would it be liberal Democrats or extreme right wing evangelicals?

  46. Kevin Barney on July 27, 2005 at 12:50 pm

    I’m in the middle of Kathleen Flake’s _The Politics of American Religious Identity: The Seating of Senator Reed Smoot, Mormon Apostle_. Although Mormons are held in higher regard today than they were then, much of the dynamic in a Romney run would probably be similar to things that happened in the Smoot case. I think someone in the Romney camp ought to give that book a read.

    I’m at the part where Joseph F. Smith testified that he didn’t receive revelations, as a way to forestall Senate concern that his word was inviolable law to a Mormon. Then he goes home, and the SL: Tribune serially publishes his testimony, and it causes him lots of grief at home from people who assumed he had weekly tea with God.

    It’s a very difficult balancing act.

    Personally, I seriously doubt that any Mormon is electable today. But if anyone is, it is probably Romney. And realistically he would need to pledge to subordinate some of his LDS commitments in order for people to feel comfortable voting for him. I think the tack taken by his spokesman was necessary if he is going to get any real traction.

  47. Gordon Smith on July 27, 2005 at 1:39 pm

    This is in response to Wilifried’s comment (#43), with which I largely agree. Gambling is an issue of tremendous importance in the US, but not so much in presidential elections. Of course, my point was not that people should oppose Mitt Romney because he endorsed the expansion of gambling in Massachusetts. My point was that his endorsement of gambling — and subsequent use of that position to illustrate his independence from the Church — reveals something very unappealing about Romney’s character. The question of character is especially important to me when the candidate is a Mormon because his actions will reflect on me in a way that a non-Mormon candidate’s actions do not.

    Which leads me to your interesting statement, “Only just imagine what a U.S. President, who happens to be a Mormon, would mean for the image of the Church abroad.” I assume you mean that it would be a boost to the Church? What if George W. Bush were Mormon? Would that still be a plus, even though he is much reviled outside the US? I will confess that I would be quite content never to have a Mormon President of the US precisely because I do not want people around the world to judge the Church based on the actions of one politician.

  48. Gordon Smith on July 27, 2005 at 1:51 pm

    Also in response to Wilfried’s comment, I have edited the post to remove the quotation from the GHI.

  49. Bryan Warnick on July 27, 2005 at 1:54 pm

    Hairstyles are important. Just ask John Kerry.

  50. lyle stamps on July 27, 2005 at 2:01 pm

    Gordon:

    1. Does Romney’s willingness to be an elected leader in a democratic society, which doesn’t necessarily follow his personal religious preferences, reflect negatively on his character? Or does it positively reflect that he is willing to serve in elected office, as Church leaders have also “urged” members? Perhaps we have a simple case of two different exhortations to action by Church Leaders and how to prioritize/rank them.

    2. re: A “Mormon” U.S. president. While I’m not sure, my guess is that Wilfriend is referring to the fact that many supposedly tolerant/liberal Western governments list the LDS Church as a “sect” or “cult” and monitor our activities. Perhaps they might find that diplomatically impossible to continue with a “Mormon” U.S. President?

    I confess that I would like there to be a Mormon president for no other reason that it would make it politically impolite to discriminate against the LDS Church in other countries or deny visas to LDS missionaries.

  51. Wilfried on July 27, 2005 at 2:35 pm

    Interesting question about the image of the Church abroad, Gordon: ” What if George W. Bush were Mormon? Would that still be a plus, even though he is much reviled outside the US?”

    Some quick thoughts:

    1. Contrary to the U.S., Church-affiliation and politics are not as closely perceived in other countries, certainly not in Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and I guess in most Western-Europe. Italy and Spain may still be somewhat different. In my experience, a politician can be a member of a Church, but what he does in politics is considered a different realm. That explains why, e.g. in Belgium, avowed Catholic politicians, all members of the “Christian party” (basically Catholic) have voted for abortion, SSM, and euthanasia. It is considered part of their personal conviction (or political opportunism) and the Catholic Church does not interfere (any more) with their work in such matters. People consider it a plus if politicians do not tie their decisions to a religious ideology. Strict separation of Church and State. A Church may proclaim a position, politicians of that denomination may or may not follow that.

    So, to come back to the initial question, whatever an American president might do, this would normally not affect the negative or the positive perception of the Church to which he belongs. And I presume no American president will ever say that he took a certain stand because his Church told him to. George W. Bush is Methodist? Nobody abroad will deduct from that membership a position for or against the Methodist Church, since that Church is also sufficiently known.

    2. Effect on the image of the Mormon Church abroad. Lyle (# 50) already basically said what I would have said (thanks, Lyle). A President, who happens to be Mormon, would greatly change the perception of Mormonism abroad. In most countries, we’re still considered a weird cult, a strange little sect living in the Rocky Mountains. The simple fact that someone in high position, in whatever realm, is a Mormon, helps improve the image of the Church. A U.S. President would top them all. As Lyle mentioned as example: “It would make it politically impolite to discriminate against the LDS Church in other countries or deny visas to LDS missionaries.” It would also generate more interest in the Church with, I believe, an overall positive outcome. But, agreed, the better the president would be perceived internationally, the better for the image of a Church like ours, still coming out of obscurity.

  52. greenfrog on July 27, 2005 at 8:22 pm

    An interesting (to me, at least) tangent that occurred to me in reading Wilifred’s #43: it is interesting that pronouncements from the Church seem to focus on individual morality (gambling, p0rn, marriage structures, mind-altering substances, etc.) and little-to-none on more global community issues — environment, poverty, war, etc.

    Perhaps in a presidential election, the divide between personal morality and global policy issues is wide enough (at least for an LDS candidate) that the points of intersection would be relatively few.

  53. Mark N. on July 27, 2005 at 8:45 pm

    With regard to Romney’s position on gaming:

    I’m a California resident, and I rarely get out of the state. It’s been years since I’ve been to Las Vegas (I made a brief stop there with my parents on one of our family vacations, back when I was probably 6 or 7 years old), so I really don’t know about the relationship between the Church, the members and the “entertainment” industry in Las Vegas, but I had heard A) that the LDS population in Las Vegas is quite large, and B) that there are many members of the Church who work for hotels where casinos are located, for example, and that the position of the Church is that provided the member isn’t working directly for the casino in some way (as a blackjack dealer or pit boss or beverage server, for example), employment in the industry doesn’t affect their Church membership in any way, even though the position might only exist because of the large numbers of people drawn to the city because it is a Mecca of gambling (you could be a cook or other food preparation worker in a hotel buffet restaurant in other words — gamblers gotta eat, too).

    It appears to me that Romney recognizes that as a politician working in the world as it is, and not just for Zion alone, he has to deal with the realities of people’s lives who have not (yet) made any LDS covenants or any other commitments to any other churches as well. To paraphrase one of our Imperious Leaders, you work with the society you have and not with the society you wish you had.

  54. A. Greenwood on July 27, 2005 at 8:46 pm

    Imperious Leaders?

  55. Mark N. on July 27, 2005 at 8:52 pm

    Pronunciation: im-’pir-E-&s
    Function: adjective
    Etymology: Latin imperiosus, from imperium
    1 a : befitting or characteristic of one of eminent rank or attainments : COMMANDING, DOMINANT b : marked by arrogant assurance : DOMINEERING

  56. Mark N. on July 27, 2005 at 8:54 pm

    I’m referring to Rumsfeld, specifically, I believe, who made a similar comment about working with the military you have as opposed to the one you might wish you had; not Church leaders.

  57. Gordon Smith on July 27, 2005 at 11:10 pm

    Lyle and Wilfried, I think those are good points about benefits of having a Mormon President, though I am skeptical of Wilfried’s story about the separation of a politician’s religion from his policies, at least when that person is President of the US. It seems to me that the President is unique, and comparing him to local politicians in Belgium may not work. I can say that I heard more than one reference to George W’s Christianity this summer.

    Also, greenfrog is right about Church policies being directed at issues of personal morality, but as I noted here after the last election, same-sex marriage may have been the decisive issue.

  58. Wilfried on July 28, 2005 at 1:32 am

    Gordon, thanks for the response, but I think you partially misread my own comment when you stated: ” … the President is unique, and comparing him to local politicians in Belgium may not work. I can say that I heard more than one reference to George W’s Christianity this summer”

    My text may have been ambiguous. To clarify: I was only speaking of the perception in Europe as to the relation between a politician and his Church, since the discussion was about the effect of a President, who happens to be a Mormon, on the image of the Church. I tried to say that the fact that George W. Bush is a Methodist (I think) does not affect the way the Methodist Church is perceived in Europe, because that Church already has a set image. It would not be the same for Mormonism, because people would have to adjust their perception of the Mormon Church, now only known as an obscure cult.

    Also, references in Europe to Bush’s “Christianity” (which Gordon mentioned) is still something else than a clear identification of his Church. Moreover, when I hear such a reference in Europe, it pertains more to Bush’s addressing a segment of Christian voters in the U.S. The European perception, again, does not seem to imply an evaluation of his personal conviction, but more of his electoral maneuvering.

    Bottomline is, of course, that the relation between politics and religion is a complex thing on either side of the Atlantic. Still, we would welcome a U.S.-President being Mormon!

  59. manaen on July 29, 2005 at 3:04 am

    Mitt Romney seems to offer much to Repulican strategy: a successful moderate holder of major office in a blue state.

    After their pasting west of the Mississippi in the last election, the Democrats need a successful, moderate political veteran from a western state. Say… Harry Reid.

    Now, that would be a fun election to watch — our pro-life moderate Mormon can beat your pro-life moderate Mormon.

  60. AH on July 30, 2005 at 5:06 pm

    I think it might be more plausible scenario that Romney get’s picked to be a VP candidate. Not that I’m a big McCain fan, but electorally-speaking a McCain/Romney ticket would make major inroads into blue-state territory in my opinion. McCain has enough crossover appeal to attract a LOT of moderates and a fair share of liberals. And if Romney could carry a NE state or two, then the party is over for the Dems. Then when McCain dies midway through his 1st term (face it, he’s old), Romney becomes the #1 man. Everyone will see the paranoia about having a ‘Mormon’ for President was a bunch of hulla-baloo and reelect him in 2012.

  61. AH on July 30, 2005 at 5:09 pm

    ..and if there is a McCain/Romney ticket, I wouldn’t be one bit suprised to see a Hillary/Reid ticket. We might might just get a Mormon either way!

  62. Jason on August 20, 2005 at 5:43 am

    Coming in kind of late to the race, but what troubles me that that Romney has also vetoed an emergency contrceptives bill in Massachusetts. I guess that he believes that rape victims wanted to be raped, and therefore they wanted a child. According to Church stances, rape victims are entitled to abort the child. Why would we even want a president like that?

    Also, even though I like Orrin Hatch, I am LDS also, and I also feel strongly that we should not be in the arena of politics. That area is way too corrupting.

    Just my two cents.

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