Thoughts from the Anvil

December 4, 2007 | 43 comments
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I suspect that on Thursday Mitt Romney’s Mormonism will perform the function that Mormonism has been fulfilling in American politics for a century and a half: It will be an anvil on which this mainly Protestant nation hammers out the place of religion in public life.

In 1856, the Republican Party was founded in opposition to the twin relics of barbarism: polygamy and slavery. By 1862, the GOP had enough political power to start putting some legal muscle behind the campaign slogans, passing the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act. Four successive waves of legislation, prosecutions, and high-stakes litigation followed, until the church issued the Manifesto in 1890 and Utah joined the Union as a state. In the thirty odd years between the first Republican platform and the Manifesto, Protestant America used the Mormons to articulate the limits of religious toleration.

MormonismCartoon.jpgI find it fascinating that religiously motivated abolitionists were at times in the forefront of the anti-polygamy battles. In part, I suspect that the denunciation of Mormonism served an important function for them, namely as a defense to the frequent charges of religious extremism thrown at them by their critics. “We’re not the fanatics,” they in effect said, “those Mormons are!” Likewise, as Sally Gordon’s excellent book has shown, anti-polygamy allowed Protestant opponents of female suffrage, with their sanctified vision of the home that excluded women from the franchise, to say, in effect, “Hey, our religion is not repressing women. That is something only those nasty Mormons do!” In both instances, Mormonism served an important place in Protestant self-definition, and the intense legal pressure directed at the Mormons was as much about defining the identity of the anti-polygamists as it was about changing the identity of the Mormons, although change it the pressure did.

In the first decade of the 20th century, we saw a great aftershock of this battle. Mormonism once more became the anvil on which the rules of the game for religion in American politics were hammered out. Utah elected Reed Smoot (pictured to the right), a monogamous Mormon apostle, to the U.S. Senate. The result was a political firestorm, stoked in the Protestant churches and then played out in years of hearings before the Senate. The price of Reed Smoot’s admission to the Senate was a set of public pledges from the church hierarchy promising the final suppression of polygamy and the abandonment of lingering utopian ambitions. As Vanderbilt’s Kathleen Flake has compellingly demonstrated, however, Smoot’s election forced Protestant America to articulate the rules under which legitimate political participation was to be allowed, and there were specters other than Mormonism that stalked the Senate Committee on Privileges and Immunities. Rules for “Papists” and “Hebrews” were also being hammered out in those hearings.

On Thursday, I think that Romney’s speech will serve at least in part as an anvil on which one of the more surprising alliances in American politics will be hammered out: the one between conservative Catholics and Protestants. It wasn’t so long ago that the idea of an Evangelical-Catholic alliance would have been anathema to both sides. Indeed, the more conservative the believer the more anathema the alliance would have been. That changed beginning in the 1970s, when conservatives from both traditions decided that the forces of secularism were a greater threat than either Rome or heresy. The alliance, however, is not an entirely easy one. (Witness for example, the furor caused by Francis Beckwith’s conversion from Evangelicalism to Catholicism.) I suspect that not too far below the surface of the Religious Right one will find a deep-seated theological ambivalence: Did the religious conservatives sell-out theologically by clasping hands across what had been the ultimate divide in American religious politics?

benson_ike.jpgPart of this tension has been managed by the promotion of “The Great Tradition,” a somewhat fictitious creation that, like ‘Judeo-Christian culture,” provides a coping mechanism for the cognitive dissonance created by the contradictory pulls of politics and theology. In effect, it allows Protestant and Catholic activists to tell themselves, “I didn’t sell out my beliefs for control of Congress; after all we both believe in Nicea and Chalcedon.” In a world of un-conflicted sectarian competition, I suspect that the Mormon rejection of the creeds didn’t matter all that much. Sure, it meant that Mormon theology was wrong, but everyone else’s theology was wrong too, so there was no special Mormon problem. Likewise, Mormon rejection of the creeds didn’t matter all that much when Ike presided over a culturally self-confident and complacent Protestantism. “Letting Mormons sit at the table,” the Protestants in effect told themselves, “doesn’t say anything about Protestantism because everyone understands that we wield ultimate control.” (Hence, for example, Mormon apostle Ezra Taft Benson — pictured at his swearing in left — could serve in Ike’s cabinet without the sky falling for Evangelicals.) Not so in a world where Protestant hegemony is challenged by the forces of godlessness.

Hence, I suspect that the reason why many within the Religious Right want to deny Romney (or any other Mormon) the Presidency is because Mormonism is an important theological marker that legitimizes the other theological compromises that have made the coalition possible. “Sure, we’ll work with the Papists,” the conservative Evangelical subconscious can say to itself, “but the Mormons are one theological compromise too far. I am not a theological sell-out because while I will accept Mormon votes, I will not accept a Mormon leader.” Soft-bigotry against Mormons facilitates broader theological cooperation.

As a Mormon, I have to say that living on the anvil where the concerns of others get hammered out can be a bit uncomfortable. On the other hand, I take solace in the fact that much of the time it probably really isn’t about Mormonism. Rather, it is about the theological stories that Mormonism allows conservative Protestants and Catholics to tell themselves.

(Originally posted at Concurring Opinions)

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43 Responses to Thoughts from the Anvil

  1. Dan on December 4, 2007 at 11:43 am

    Nicely written Nate.

    Frankly I’ve always liked living on that anvil and having my beliefs hammered around by varying factions. If it weren’t for some of that hammering, I might have left the church like my sister, long ago, shocked to learn some of the history of the church from unkind sources rather than on my own.

    I think that whatever the outcome of Romney’s speech, it will be good for Mormonism as a whole, or I should say differently, it won’t negatively effect our religion. We have a good root and are planted in rich ground, and our fruits will be delicious continuously.

  2. Peter LLC on December 4, 2007 at 11:57 am

    In today’s WaPo Richard Cohen writes about Mike Huckabee presenting himself as the “un-Mormon.”

  3. Matt Evans on December 4, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    The number of prominent protestants and Catholics to have formally backed Romney demonstrates, however, that many of them are willing to work with Mormons if necessary to stem stronger tides, and still see secularism as a greater threat. I suspect Romney would be a huge favorite in Iowa had he not taken policies outside the Mormon mainstream, on issues like abortion, all other things being equal. (All other things couldn’t be equal, of course, because his political resume is contingent on Massachusetts voters).

    Another way of saying the same thing: if we could combine the features of Hatch and Romney most appealing to Republican primary voters into a single candidate (Hatch’s positions, Romney’s charisma and leadership), that candidate would be leading in Iowa and South Carolina despite being a Mormon. This point is a safe bet because Romney is tied for the leads there even with his baggage.

    And lest we think ourselves unique, the Jehovah’s Witnesses can claim to be the anvil on which the judiciary has hammered out the First Amendment’s religion clauses.

  4. Ardis Parshall on December 4, 2007 at 12:23 pm

    And lest we think ourselves unique, the Jehovah’s Witnesses can claim to be the anvil on which the judiciary has hammered out the First Amendment’s religion clauses.

    So can the Amish — Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972).

  5. Nate Oman on December 4, 2007 at 12:34 pm

    I certainly wouldn’t claim that Mormons are unique in this way. The JW are a good example. I would, however, submit that no other religious group in American history has been on the anvil as repeatedly and as intensely as the Mormons. The JWs have fought about flag salutes and anti-soliciting ordinances. They have never been subject to wholesale incarceration, systematic political exclusion, or editorials in major news outlets on their religious unfitness for office.

    I also don’t think that Mormonism is an insuperable hurdle for Romeny or the Religious Right. My point is about why the conversation is even happening and why there is some much politico-theological ambivalence about Mormonism. My point is that Romney’s speech is as much about conservative Protestants and Catholics (but given primary demographics, especially Protestants) defining themselves as it is about Romney defining Mormonism.

  6. Matt Evans on December 4, 2007 at 1:40 pm

    Nate, I like your point about Mormonism defining the Protestant-Catholic perimeter. And unlike the Amish in Yoder and the JWs in most of their cases (children refusing blood transfusions being an exception), Mormons do have have the distinction of losing their biggest cases. Presiding Bishop being one that went our way.

  7. David Clark on December 4, 2007 at 1:43 pm

    They have never been subject to wholesale incarceration, systematic political exclusion, or editorials in major news outlets on their religious unfitness for office. Assuming you except actions by governments outside of the U.S.A.

  8. Seth R. on December 4, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    Nate, it’s worth noting that turn-of-the century Mormon anti-papist sermons and writings essentially tried to forge the same sort of alliance with the Protestant majority at the expense of the Catholics.

    Otherwise, and interesting way of looking at it.

  9. David Clark on December 4, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    Nate, sorry, you did put the disclaimer “in American History” delete comment #7.

  10. California Condor on December 4, 2007 at 1:59 pm

    Good essay.

    Reed Smoot was a member of BYU’s charter class in 1876. His oversize mustache in the picture above would probably be in violation of today’s honor code.

  11. Blake on December 4, 2007 at 2:20 pm

    Good post Nate. What I suspect is most uncomfortable for me is the seemingly implicit demand that Romney must explain his religious beliefs as a condition to hold office. If the line is being drawn based upon a sense of selling-out theogically, as you suggest, then the real issue is one of theological legitimacy as a test to political office. The suggestion has been made repeatedly that Romney has to explain how his beliefs are legitimate given the evangelical litmus test. That is truly scary to me.

    On the other hand, Romney cannot really address this issue. To explain his Mormon beliefs will only alienate evangelicals further because they will inevitably say: “well, we don’t believe that, and we’re the real christians here, so a vote for Romney is a vote against christianty.” I’m actually pretty closely paraphrasing a quote from an evangelical in a Iowa newspaper. To fail to address his Mormon beliefs will only serve to alienate evangelicals and those Mormons who so strongly identify with him.

    I also think that Matt is correct that, historically at least, Mormons lost the big cases and the U.S. government sought to eradicate Mormonism despite all that stuff in the First Amendment about religious freedom. We obviously don’t face that prospect now. However, I predict that the Romney candidacy will be the impetus for a political realignment for Mormons throughout the West. When Mormons see that a circle has been drawn and we have not been included within the political circle, I don’t see how it can fail to cause widespread seeking for realignment of political affiliation. The problem for Mormons generally is that they are not a good fit with the Democratic party which houses large numbers of liberals who despise Mormons more than evangelicals.

  12. john f. on December 4, 2007 at 2:24 pm

    Nate, thank you for this insightful analysis — I found this essay very enlightening.

    This description of Mormonism’s place in American life and politics is very compelling. It is a difficult role to play but has (so far) actually had decent outcomes for the course of American public life. For example, the Reynolds holding, although painful for the Church itself, was actually a necessary exploration of the reach and meaning of the First Amendment — one that I would hope most Latter-day Saints appreciate when applied to society broadly and not targeting specific LDS beliefs. (And, of course, most Latter-day Saints are deeply relieved by the eventual outcome of the course struck by Renolds, even if they remain unashamed of the polygamy of their own ancestors.) The Smoot Hearings are a similar example with an oddly fitting outcome for the broader American society, despite the pain of the experience. Perhaps this role is the only role that Mormonism as a movement will ever play in American society. Even so, it seems an important — even essential — role for someone to play, perhaps even providentially so.

  13. John C. on December 4, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    Mormons will clearly go Green in 2012! ;)

  14. Nate Oman on December 4, 2007 at 2:48 pm

    Blake: My problem with a widespread Mormon reallignment is that I just don’t see where else they are likely to go, particularlly as key Democratic leaders in the west (read the leaders in Utah) are likely incapable of meaningfully reaching out to Mormon voters given the base of their party. So long as Rocky Anderson or some variation on him is the most visible public face of the Democratic party in Utah, I don’t see much happening there. Maybe more entrepreneural Democrats in Idaho, Arizona, or Nevada can reach out to Mormons, but I am doubtful.

  15. SteveG on December 4, 2007 at 2:50 pm

    The more the Church is talked and written about (Romney’s candidacy as the current vehicle), the more publicized and out in the open the Church’s beliefs and principles will become. Isn’t this what we have wanted all along?

    If we believe that the Church is true, we should welcome the scrutiny. The Church and it’s mission will continue to roll forward, and we as members will have greater opportunities/responsibilities in building the Kingdom of God by answering the questions of a much more knowledgeable public.

  16. Adam Greenwood on December 4, 2007 at 2:52 pm

    At this point I see Romney getting a lot of support, including among evangelicals. There are enough worried people out there that some kind of speech like this might be appropriate but at this point arguing that the Republican Party has excluded Mormons looks a lot like petulance to me. I like Romney well enough but frankly there are lots of reasons other than the faith why he’s not rocketing to the top of the polls. I have my doubts about him myself and I suspect its not because of my anti-Mormon bias.

  17. Jacob M on December 4, 2007 at 3:09 pm

    john f. – I don’t think most LDS folks are pleased with the government deciding what is legal worship and what isn’t. We might be grateful that polygamy isn’t practiced in our church, but we are definitely not pleased with the government violating father’s constitutional rights, any more than we are happy that Missouri and Illinois violated our rights and forced us to move to Salt Lake, even though we flourished after getting to the Salt Lake.

    However, I’m somewhat ambivalent about the “Mormon” issue. I think Romney’s main problem is that he reminds too many conservatives of John Kerry. But I do think that when you have preachers recieve media attention for saying that a vote for Romney is a vot for Satan, there is something to be said about some of that bias.

    I do hope Romney does a good job on his speech.

    Adam – you have an anti-liberal-Mormon bias. (grin) An affliction that I sympathize with.

  18. Jacob M on December 4, 2007 at 3:10 pm

    That would be “a vote for Satan”, not a vot.

  19. Adam Greenwood on December 4, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    All those lemming Evangelicals think a vole for Romney is a vole for Satan.

  20. Joseph D. Walch on December 4, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    Soft-bigotry against Mormons facilitates broader theological cooperation.

    I’ve been struggling with the implications of this for some time. It does seem that the theological ground is shifting in a subtle way. As you have suggested in your article, the conversion of Francis Beckwith revealed the hardening (re: reinventing) of doctrinal (re: tribal) lines in American Protestantism, specifically the Evangelical wing; but, there were many who also saw the conversion as a reconciliation between the two grand traditions in western Christianity—the Protestant and the Catholic; which may also signal an increasing theological amalgamation between the two. Personally, I was hopeful that the latter was more accurate.

    Perhaps, as you’ve suggested, the bar of religious (re: tribal) orthodoxy (and hence exclusion) for the American Evangelical has been set at Mormonism. In many ways, the Secularist have also set the bar of ‘Reason’ at Mormonism; although they seem to be less tribal; forgiving the sins of one’s minority group as long as they kowtow to the correct alters of secularism. I don’t see our position as the ‘lone’ Anvil changing anytime soon, and the only thing this sectarian challenge will do to our country is force good men, like Romney, out of Politics by requiring compromise of private convictions based on tribal warfare.

    It would be terrible for America if Mormon lawmakers/executives are forced into a position of retreating into our own semi-majority representative districts, especially by a party that Mormon’s typically support more often than otherwise.

  21. Adam Greenwood on December 4, 2007 at 3:19 pm

    Ross Douthat responds to this post, saying, in effect, too bad:
    http://rossdouthat.theatlantic.com/archives/2007/12/mormonism_and_its_enemies_ii.php

  22. Jonathan Green on December 4, 2007 at 3:54 pm

    Interestingly, we have three posts up right now that touch on how white Protestant America has defined itself with respect to Mormonism at various times.

  23. Last Lemming on December 4, 2007 at 4:37 pm

    Reynolds was an outrage. Period.

    Adam said: All those lemming Evangelicals think a vole for Romney is a vole for Satan.

    If you see any of those lemmings, tell them I have a few extra inner tubes available for the right price.

  24. Jeremiah J on December 4, 2007 at 5:09 pm

    I supose some have read Iowa newspapers more than I have, but in order to buy into this idea of massive anti-Mormon bigotry in the Republican contest so far, I’d have to believe that Romney would be doing much better than he is doing if he just weren’t Mormon. But what I see is a candidate who’s doing quite well in Iowa and New Hampshire, and among donors, despite his pretty liberal record as governor of every conservative’s least favorite state (forget about the flip-flopping charge, which is usually lame, and you’ve still got a non-conservative record in office) and his pretty wooden, somewhat ham-fisted political style. Take away the Mormonism and Romney is doing about as well as I’d expect him to do, if not better.

    So no, a Mormon realignment is not on the horizon. Just about every major constituency of both parties has at least as many slights to dwell on as the Mormons have within the GOP. That’s not to say that Mormon democrats can’t be successful in the West, but they are going to have to overcome a huge disadvantage in party ID which will last well into the future.

  25. Jeremiah J on December 4, 2007 at 5:24 pm

    To add to the last comment–look at the polls in Iowa. Despite talk of Huckabee’s anti-Mormon campaign, and Huck being the non-Mormon choice, it looks like Huckabee has taken support away from all four other front runners (McCain, Guiliani, Thompson, and Romney) about equally, in addition to grabbing a lot of undecideds–not just Romney. Romney has lost a few points (probably 3-4, but so have the others), but he’s still clearly stronger than anyone else except Huckabee in Iowa. So this is not nearly as much about Romney’s fall as it is Huck’s rise.

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2008/president/ia/iowa_republican_caucus-207.html

  26. Blake on December 4, 2007 at 5:37 pm

    Jeremiah you might be right. However, the polls suggest that evangelicals in particular favor Huckabee by 2 to 1 margins over Romney. Does anyone believe for 2 seconds that such disparity isn’t due to their own self-definition and wariness about Mormons? Because evangelicals are approximately 25% of the electorate it may be impossible for a Mormon to be elected in a national office. Of course there is no baseline to determine how Romney would do if he weren’t a Mormon. However, the numbers for Romney are very different among those who aren’t evangelicals and that provides some kind of comparison baseline.

    Of course, he does a lot worse among liberal democrats. So I agree that a wholesale defection of Mormons to the Democratic Party is unlikely. Yet wholesale defection from Republicans isn’t at all unlikely in my view. But that problem is just a reflection of the bigger problems that any Mormon has in a political arena where one’s religion is a major issue. No one has made an issue of religion for Huckabee who has literally defined himself as “the christian” in the race. Nor has anyone asked Hillary about the fine points of Hillary’s theology even tho she claims it has a profound influence on her. That is perhaps understandable given that a larger percentage of the electorate have some idea what Episcopalians and Methodists believe. Yet would the same kind of question dog a Jewish candidate like one of my favorites, Joseph Lieberman? Of course not, polls show that more people will vote for a Jewish president than for either a Catholic or Protestant!

  27. Nate Oman on December 4, 2007 at 6:25 pm

    Jeremiah J.: I don’t think that the anti-Mormon story — if it is there — will be told in Iowa or New Hampshire, but rather in South Carolina. My ultimate point is not that Romney’s Mormonism will be a deal killer. It might or might not be, and heaven knows that he has other problems. Rather my point is that his Speech is as much about conservative protestants defining themselves as it is about Romney defining Mormonism. They may or may not define themselves in such a way that they can support a Mormon. If so, that experience will change them, I think. I don’t expect that distaste for Mormon theology would go away or that SB would stop showing the Godmakers. But there would be a shift of sorts none the less.

  28. Jeremiah J. on December 4, 2007 at 8:17 pm

    Nate, I should have specifed that I wasn’t primarily responding to your essay, but to some of the comments. I like what you say, because it underlines the fact that religion, and especially religion in America needs to go through some process of negotiation, definition, what-have-you before it has any concrete political meaning. This is true even today where many observers act as though “evangelical” translates very directly into “politically active conservative” without trouble. It does so fairly well, but there is a relatively recent history behind that. Incidentally, I think your argument reminds me of, if I remember correctly, something Paul Reeve once wrote (I am correct?)–someone here at SVU was talking about it the other day. The idea that anti-Mormonism in the 19th century was part of an effort to bolster otherwise weak American national identity. Maybe that wasn’t Paul Reeve.

    Blake, yes I am willing to believe for 2 seconds that Huckabee’s rise could be attributed to something other than anti-Mormon prejudice. Evangelicals are favoring Huckabee by wide margins over everyone, not just over Romney. I couldn’t build in a lab a better candidate to get politically engaged evangelical voters (conservative or not). Assume that Romney is the victim of an anti-Mormon hit job in Iowa recently, and assume voters are really buying it. Then I would expect to see Romney taking a lot more than a 3-4 point hit, and running to all other candidates (not just to Huckabee). The evidence to me seems a lot more consistent with the idea that other candidates are starting to go on TV, and that evangelical voters are finding a guy they really like (rather than running from someone they really don’t like). In GOP polls Romney gets high marks for, among other things, honesty. That doesn’t fit with the extreme anti-Mormon criticisms of Romney which say his candidacy is a nefarious Mormon plot, or the idea that his professions of Christian belief are inauthentic.

  29. Blake on December 4, 2007 at 9:44 pm

    Jeremiah: I believe your view of the matter is too short term. If you look at the graph that you produce in post # 24, you’ll see that Huckabee begins to gain at the same time that Romney’s support begins to drop. In the past few weeks your assessment may be correct, but over the last few months it is not. There is a pretty close correlation between Romney’s drop and Hickabee’s emergence.

    Further, your conclusion disagrees with the pretty thorough documentary of Adam Christing who concludes that Romney doesn’t have a real shot because he is Mormon; whereas he would be a shoe-in if he were not. That said, I’m sure that there is a concerted anti-Mormon campaign among some evangelical churches in Iowa and aimed at getting evangelical to not vote for Romney in particular (I hope the IRS takes a real close look at the tax exempt status of such churches). You are probably correct, however, that it is also in part due to the fact that evangelicals will naturally identity with Huckabee more than Romney the same way Mormons in Utah naturally identity with Romney though he is from Massachusetts. Either way, Nate original thesis seems to be supported.

  30. Bob on December 4, 2007 at 11:37 pm

    The above posts seem to say: “Evangelicals”…. drop Hickabee and back Romney”. No one seems to say: “Mormons”….drop Romney and back Hickabee”. Can a Mormon say “I like Hickabee over Romney”?

  31. Richard O. on December 4, 2007 at 11:38 pm

    For years I have felt politically uncomfortable with the extreme secularization of Western European politics. But some of the religious “unpleasantness” that is currently happening in the Republican primary, for which Huckabee seems to be the standard bearer du jour, is making me feel less uncomfortable with the W. European model. But then, when I become calmer, I realize that a Mormon probably wouldn’t get very far in that political environment either.

  32. Ray on December 5, 2007 at 1:01 am

    #29 – Bob, it’s “Huckabee” – and why would we? Have you looked into his policies and actions as governor of Arkansas? Romney is about the only viable option other than Huckabee for evangelicals, while many Mormons have a much wider field from which to choose.

    Herein lies the difference between evangelical voters and Mormon voters – one of the points in the original post: We get hammered constantly as robot-like cultists who act at the whim of our religious leaders. However, while Mormons tend to vote Republican, there is fairly broad diversity of opinion and voting among their ranks – without explicit pressure for any particular candidate or party from their religious leaders. Evangelicals, otoh, vote (almost?) exclusively Republican – and usually for whichever candidate is identified as the most like them religiously. This means that Romney almost certainly will get a smaller percent of the Mormon vote than Huckabee will get of the Evangelical vote – except, ironically, for those whose leaders endorse Romney.

    That endorsement is the difference between this election and previous ones. This time, many prominent evangelical leaders have endorsed a Mormon over an ordained minister – putting many average evangelicals in a new position of having to accept their leaders’ endorsement and vote for a heretic or reject that endorsement and vote for a fellow believer. This election has the potential to either reinforce or shatter the former unanimity – and I, for one, am fascinated by the prospect.

  33. Nate Oman on December 5, 2007 at 10:43 am

    If anyone is interested, I put up a quick response at Concurring Opinions to Ross Douthat’s post over at the Atlantic Monthly blogs responding to this piece.

  34. bbell on December 5, 2007 at 11:20 am

    Ray,

    I have reviewed multiple studies of the voting patterns in 2000 and 2004.

    Mormons and Evangelicals voted in almost identical percentages for Bush. Around 75-80%.

    The two most reliable voter blocs for Bush are LDS and Evangelicals. Not that LDS are that big of a voting block.

  35. Adam Greenwood on December 5, 2007 at 11:25 am

    We need to separate out tribalism–evangelicals tending to vote for evangelicals, Mormons tending to vote for Mormons–from anti-Mormon prejudice. Huckabee’s rise has a lot more to do with tribalism than it has to do with anti-Mormon prejudice in my opinion.

  36. Nate Oman on December 5, 2007 at 11:57 am

    Adam: I think that you are right. However, there is something at work in the political antipathy toward Romney’s Mormonism among some (but by no means all) Evangelicals that cannot be explained merely as tribalism.

  37. Adam Greenwood on December 5, 2007 at 12:04 pm

    Granted. Its also true that Mormon disdain for Huckabee is in part anti-evangelicalism, though pretty muted.

  38. Matt Evans on December 5, 2007 at 12:04 pm
  39. Jacob M on December 5, 2007 at 12:20 pm

    Personal favorite from that,

    Also, I do not support a “religious test” for people running for office. I can decide my vote anyway I wish (short of selling it I believe). So I am getting tired of people claiming that I cannot take Romney’s membership in a cult masquerading as a Christian church into account when I vote.

    Talk about wanting it both ways. Thanks for linking to this, Matt. I got a good chuckle.

  40. Bob on December 5, 2007 at 12:22 pm

    #34: I generally agree with you, but I am not sure Mormon or evangelicals need to give up ALL their tribalism. Years ago, at USC, a basketball coach stated his son. A ‘bench player’ demanded more playing time saying he was as good as the son. “You’re right, but I love my son, so you will have to be BETTER than him to get more playing time”. I think it’s Ok to put your ‘Favorite Son’ at the top of your list, just don’t leave him there if someone show you he’s better.

  41. Paul Reeve on December 5, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    #28 “I think your argument reminds me of, if I remember correctly, something Paul Reeve once wrote (I am correct?)–someone here at SVU was talking about it the other day. The idea that anti-Mormonism in the 19th century was part of an effort to bolster otherwise weak American national identity. Maybe that wasn’t Paul Reeve.”

    Jeremiah, I’m not sure I wrote exactly that, but the comment could be referring to Making Space on the Western Frontier, where, similar to Nate’s thesis here, I argue that at least a part of the identity that silver miners at Picohe, Nevada, invented for themselves in the last half of the nineteenth century came about as a result of looking at the Mormons and deciding who and what they were not. They were capitalistic, not communal, they valued the individual over the community, they favored monogamy over polygamy (with a jealous eye toward all the Mormon women at the same time), they were democratic, not theocratic, they were Christian, not Mormon, and they were civilized, not uncivilized; in other words, they were American and the Mormons were not. I think you are correct, if I read Nate right, that he is making a similar argument in a different setting. Great post, btw, Nate. And Jeremiah, please say “Hi y’all” to my friends at SVU.

  42. Jeremiah J on December 5, 2007 at 4:53 pm

    “Mormons and Evangelicals voted in almost identical percentages for Bush. Around 75-80%.

    The two most reliable voter blocs for Bush are LDS and Evangelicals. Not that LDS are that big of a voting block.”

    I’d like to see those voter studies. The LDS vote is hard to meaure, because in much of the country there are not studies directly aimed at Mormons, or in the general surveys there are not statistically significant numbers of Mormons. The only good analysis I’ve seen, in stuff by Quin Monson and David Campbell, shows Mormons supporting Bush at around 88% (!!! yeah, I know). *White* evangelicals (there are black evangelicals, of course, who voted strongly for Kerry) came in at 68% for Bush in 2004 in Pew Research Center numbers. So Mormons are higher than you think, while white evangelicals are lower than you think, and the numbers for evangelicals (non-white and white together) are considerably lower than you think.

  43. Jeremiah J on December 5, 2007 at 5:01 pm

    Sorry, white evangelicals at 78% for Bush in 2004. So that number is in line with your 75-80% figure.