An Al Smith Moment?

January 2, 2008 | 50 comments
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Here is my argument:

Let us suppose that Mitt Romney does not become the next president. What will this mean for the Mormons? There about 5.7 million Latter-day Saints in America, which in a nation of more than 300 million makes us demographic chicken feed, but the question is important for what it reveals about the presidency and its relationship to American citizenship.

You can read the rest of the argument here. What do you think? Too grim?

UPDATE: The Salt Lake Tribune ran a shorter version of the article in today’s (1/6/2008) edition. FYI.

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50 Responses to An Al Smith Moment?

  1. Dan on January 2, 2008 at 10:12 am

    I’m telling you guys that Romney’s religion would not have mattered as much if he ran as a moderate and stopped trying to get the religious conservative vote. A Mormon CAN be president here in America. Romney will lose, not because of his religion, but because he is an obvious panderer, shifting his views to the highest bidder. As long as he continues to do that, he will lose.

  2. Matt W. on January 2, 2008 at 10:15 am

    Let us suppose that Hillary Clinton does not become the next president. What will this mean for the Women?

    OR

    Let us suppose that Barack Obama does not become the next president. What will this mean for the African Americans?

    I just don’t think this is an effective line of reasoning.

  3. Nate Oman on January 2, 2008 at 10:19 am

    No one has seriously raised the possiblity that being black or being a woman disqualifies one from being president. When Slate or the New Republic start arguing that blacks or women are incompetent, then the analogy will hold. It might hold, for example, if there were a credible female candidate in same 1950 and flurry of speculation about whether women were qualifed to hold high office. Al Smith is an analogy not because he was a Catholic who lost, but because he was a Catholic whose Catholicism became an important issue.

  4. Ray on January 2, 2008 at 10:19 am

    Dan, it worked for Pres. Clinton. *grin*

    As for Romney, whatever else he is, he is incredibly intelligent. He has to get the Republican nomination to have any chance in the general election. Unfortunately, he couldn’t run as a moderate AND a Mormon and get the nomination – and he knew that. I’m not sure if he will be the Republican nominee, but he’s gone about it the only way that gives him any chance at all. That bothers me tremendously *as a fellow Mormon*, but I understand it completely.

  5. Ray on January 2, 2008 at 10:20 am

    Nate, I think your analysis is one of the best historical comparisons I have read.

  6. Adam Greenwood on January 2, 2008 at 10:23 am

    Probably too grim. Too soon to tell. For instance, no one thinks Orrin Hatch’s dismail failure of a campaign in 2000 was an ‘Al Smith’ moment. Its too soon to tell if a potential Romney failure would also be an Al Smith moment. If Romney got knocked out in NH, for instance, his membership in the Kingdom probably wouldn’t be the reason.

  7. Dan on January 2, 2008 at 10:23 am

    Nate,

    No one has seriously raised the possiblity that being black or being a woman disqualifies one from being president.

    Actually, Fred Thompson has.

    The former Tennessee senator was challenging potential caucus-goers to choose the best man to help fend off what he described as an assault by a Democratic Party that is “just salivating” to lead the country into a welfare state.

    “Who are we going to set on the road — what man are we going to set on the road — to lead us and to stand against this assault?” he asked, emphasizing the word ‘man.’ He couched his comments by saying “I say the word man advisedly. Now I’ve got a daughter that’s going to be president some day, I know it, and I am all for a woman president, just not this year, not next year.”

    Without saying Clinton’s name, he added: “There is no woman on the horizon that ought to be president next year, let’s all agree on that.”

  8. Ray on January 2, 2008 at 10:35 am

    Dan, that statement in no way says that a woman is inherently unworthy of the presidency. In fact, it says otherwise. It simply is a very direct comment on Hillary’s candidacy. It is a far cry from what Nate is chronicling – that a Mormon is unworthy explicitly because Mormons are intellectually and morally deficient simply because they are Mormon.

  9. Floyd the Wonderdog on January 2, 2008 at 10:35 am

    And that woman is Condie Rice.

  10. Dan on January 2, 2008 at 10:38 am

    Ray,

    Fred Thompson believes that no woman on the horizon ought to be president in 2009. Surely there are qualified women in America that could be president in 2009. More importantly, why does he emphasize the “man” vs the “woman” if he isn’t disqualifying women on the basis of their gender?

  11. Dan on January 2, 2008 at 10:39 am

    Ah yes, Condi Rice. The woman who led Benazir Bhutto to her death. The woman who, not experiencing birth pangs of her own, thought the bombing of Lebanon was a beautiful new creation, and that the people should just bear the pains like a mother giving birth. That woman?

  12. Dave on January 2, 2008 at 11:03 am

    There has to be a way to talk about the Mormon angle to Romney’s candidacy without igniting reflexive political sniping. I’m of the opinion that if there were a serious LDS candidate in the center or on the left of the political spectrum, the public discussion of Mormonism (indirectly by the candidates and oh-so-directly by many media commentators) would still have occurred. That’s what is really worth talking about.

    The surprise isn’t that the media is running articles. To me, what is surprising is how powerfully the Mormon aspect seems to move a big chunk of voters. After all, Mormons have been well represented in Congress and in government for some time and the sky hasn’t fallen. I don’t recall any serious objections to Mormons as athletes (“Do we really want a Mormon quarterbacking our professional football team?”), as executives (“Do we really want a Mormon as the CEO of our corporation?”), as military officers (“Do we really want a Mormon commanding US troops with live ammunition?”), as doctors (“Do I really want a Mormon working that scalpel when I’m on the operating table”), etc., so I’m not quite sure where the sudden handwringing about Mormonness is coming from. Maybe it’s just Iowa voters who are alarmed, and when the action moves to a, uh, more politically sophisticated state this strange obsession will go away. Maybe not.

    I wonder if any stories will emerge from the caucus discussions themselves? I imagine there may be some pointed exchanges between the Mitt and Huck supporters.

  13. Dan on January 2, 2008 at 11:08 am

    Dave,

    I don’t recall any serious objections to Mormons as athletes (”Do we really want a Mormon quarterbacking our professional football team?”), as executives (”Do we really want a Mormon as the CEO of our corporation?”), as military officers (”Do we really want a Mormon commanding US troops with live ammunition?”), as doctors (”Do I really want a Mormon working that scalpel when I’m on the operating table”), etc., so I’m not quite sure where the sudden handwringing about Mormonness is coming from.

    That’s a great point to make there. The difference between a Mormon football player and a Mormon president is that a Mormon president affects the culture of the country far more powerfully than a Mormon football player. We’re talking about the potential of changing the direction of the whole country. When you come to handling that kind of power, a man’s religion, at least when he wears it on his sleeve, plays an important part, especially to a section of the electorate that cares about religion.

  14. Dave on January 2, 2008 at 11:48 am

    Dan, when you say “he wears it on his sleeve,” you mean “takes his religion seriously.” All politicians coyly flaunt their religious affiliation when campaigning. So I think your comment directs our attention not to Romney (since all candidates play a subtle or not-so-subtle religion card) but to the American electorate’s view of Mormonism. It’s not really Romney’s politics or rhetoric that is driving the voter response on the Mormon issue.

  15. Matt Evans on January 2, 2008 at 11:53 am

    Regarding Dave’s question about the difference between choosing a Mormon CEO and choosing a Mormon president, I think the difference is the *symbolic* power of the presidency. People are comfortable entrusting actual power to Mormons — Mormons have proved competent — but people feel the president represents them by proxy to the world, they want the president to reflect their self-identity. It’s the same reason Bush’s malapropisms are argued to be an asset — they lead voters to like and identify with him, and for the presidency that’s more important than competence. At least since 1980 the most likable candidate has won.

    Oh, and Thompson was simply trying to fire up anti-Hillary voters without stooping to actually name her. I agree that his formulation was inelegant.

  16. lamonte on January 2, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    Dan said “When you come to handling that kind of power, a man’s religion, at least when he wears it on his sleeve…”

    Let me first say that I do not support Mitt Romney for president but I do sympathize with what appears to be blatant bigtory on the part of so many – from both sides of the aisle. Nate points out the comments made by the Democratic voices at the New Republic, Slate and the odd rantings of Lawrence O’Donnell. And of course we have all studied the statistics showing anti-Mormon leanings of evangelicals on the right. For those of us who practice the religion it seems hard to understand the fear expressed by so many when we know that we are pretty reasonable people capable of reasonable political dialogue about politics. I say that as a very lonely voice of the left in my Republican dominated ward. I am still able to have friendly and reasonable conversations with my fellow ward members without much hope of changing their minds. I’m sure the feeling is mutual.

    But when Dan suggests that Mitt Romney is wearing his religion on his sleeve, I have to disagree. If he was wearing it on his sleeve he might raise the issue of Mike Huckabee being “an ordained minister” and suggest that for Mormons, Mitt Romney has holds – or has held – a higher office than “an ordained minister.” He might even claim that Huckabee’s priesthood is not valid – if he was wearing his religion on his sleeve. But it is, in fact, Huckabee who has used veiled symbolism in his advertising and not so subtle language in his speeches to send the message of his faith. Mitt Romney has presented himself as a conservative business man turned politician and others have raised the specter of his faith. Whether or not you agree with his assertions is another matter but he does not wear his religion on his sleeve. But I still won’t vote for him.

  17. Dan on January 2, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    Dave,

    Dan, when you say “he wears it on his sleeve,” you mean “takes his religion seriously.”

    I take my religion seriously. I think that the best way to describe someone wearing his religion on his sleeve is one who presses his morals upon others, who wants to legislate based on how his religion views morality. In a secular institution like ours that makes that person’s religion fair game.

  18. Dan on January 2, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    lamonte,

    You make a good point about Huckabee. However, before Huckabee came in and blew open the religion card, what other candidate tried to pander to the religious right with his talk of Christian morals and the like?

  19. Adam Greenwood on January 2, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    Y’all, quit getting lost in inflammatory side debates. Some people can’t help themselves, so its best to respond to their serious point or two and ignore the rest of what they say.

  20. lamonte on January 2, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    Adam – Thanks for bring us back to reality. To answer Nate’s question – No, I don’t think it is too grim. I think it is a serious issue that says alot about the open mindedness (or lack thereof) of Americans.

  21. California Condor on January 2, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    I enjoyed this editorial. Here is the best part:

    “…[Romney] is a technocrat more comfortable with the nitty-gritty of running reforming institutions. He has basically conservative instincts, but he also probably regards abortion and other hot-button ideological markers as essentially distractions. After an eight-year surplus of conviction and deficit of competence, technocracy has its appeals, but there is something a little frightening about a complete ideological vacuum.”

    This is why we should vote for Romney. He is hands-down the most talented person running for president right now. Rather than being a career politician living off of the state apparatus, he has contributed to the economy by working in the private sector. He has experience that would serve him well as president.

  22. Brewhaha on January 2, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    Did the Religious Right/Evangelicals wield alot of power and influence during Al Smith’s and/or JFK’s eras? This could be one difference that might relate to Nate’s argument.

  23. jjohnsen on January 2, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    No one has seriously raised the possiblity that being black or being a woman disqualifies one from being president. When Slate or the New Republic start arguing that blacks or women are incompetent, then the analogy will hold. It might hold, for example, if there were a credible female candidate in same 1950 and flurry of speculation about whether women were qualifed to hold high office. Al Smith is an analogy not because he was a Catholic who lost, but because he was a Catholic whose Catholicism became an important issue.

    People haven’t raised the possibility, but I’m sure there are some that feel that way. In 2008 people are comfortable saying publicly that they wouldn’t vote for a Mormon. They aren’t comfortable saying the same thing about African American or women, but I’m willing to bet when it comes down to pulling the lever at the polls, they’ll face as much or more discrimination than Romney. I know people that won’t vote for anyone other than an old white man.

  24. Adam Greenwood on January 2, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    I know people that won’t vote for anyone other than an old white man.

    Washington for President! The name you trust, the experience you need.

  25. MikeInWeHo on January 2, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    “I know people that won’t vote for anyone other than an old white man.” How odd that any Latter-day Saint would ever feel that way.

  26. jjohnsen on January 2, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    Yeah, I didn’t realize how that sounded until your comment Mike.

  27. Geoff B on January 2, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    Nate, to return to the original point of your post, I think the comparison between Al Smith and Romney is apt. There have been several other recent Mormons who have run for office, but Romney appears to be the most serious candidate. It is alarming that his religion has become such a central issue. I was listening to NPR yesterday, and there was a humorous show poking fun at all of the candidates. For McCain they sang “McCain’s campaign is plainly down the drain” to the tune of “My Fair Lady’s” “the Rain in Spain.” It was hilarious. But of course when it came to Romney all of the jokes were about polygamy and gay marriage, noting that Romney’s church opposes gay marriage so he must too. I didn’t think it was very funny, and the audience didn’t either. Religion was not an issue for any of the other candidates on the show, why is it an issue for Romney?

    I think it is a valid and important question to ask: Does being Mormon disqualify you for the presidency?

  28. MikeInWeHo on January 2, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    “Does being Mormon disqualify you for the presidency?” Of course not! I would vote for Harry Reid in a second. The real question is: Can a Mormon gain the Republican nomination in an era when that party is dominated by Evangelicals?

  29. Jeremiah J. on January 2, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    “I care because so long as a Mormon cannot be elected president because he is Mormon, I am a second-class citizen in our culture, a member of a tribe disqualified from full political participation.”

    I think that this depends on the grounds upon which Romney the Mormon is being rejected as a Mormon. I’m not entirely convinced that every reason for opposing a Mormon as Mormon is a bad one. And I don’t think that rejecting him as Mormon would necessarily mean that Mormons are second-class citizens.

    Example: Richard John Neuhaus guesses that many Christians oppose Romney because they are worried that a Mormon president will legitimize Mormonism and thus lead many Americans into religious error, endangering their salvation. Neuhaus says that this reasoning is legitimate, indeed, to call this reasoning bigoted is itself bigoted.

    My question is: What part of this argument do Mormons like Nate reject?
    Do they reject the idea that Romney’s victory could help Mormon evangelization? Do they admit that it could, and celebrate this fact, but claim that it’s not legitimate for anyone to bemoan it? Do they reject it in some other way? I’m not sure what I think about it.

    The classification *Mormon* is not merely “tribal”. It has significant moral and political content to it. It also has specific practical implications that people could legitimately favor or not. The left may not like the idea of another Jesus-confessing religious minority joining the ranks of the pround and defiant anti-secular “Judeo-Christian” horde. Some on the right may not want the Christian conservative deck to be reshuffled by adding another group of voices who may not accept some aspects of the consensus, or they may not like the idea of irritating Evagelical conservatives more than they are. These are historically-situated considerations to be sure, but it seems, reasonable ones, and ones which go well beyond Mitt Romney’s rights as a citizen.

    I think it interesting that more people are not rallying to Romney’s cause in the name of religious toleration, or at least noting that his success would be an advance. Some are, but others have very recently made significant protests about Muslims (real and imagined) being elected to office, and others believe that Romney is trying to join an exclusivist Christian political movement. So people either aren’t crazy about religious toleration or don’t think Romney will further it. However accurate those opinions are, they are a reflection of contemporary realities which must be considered when thinking about the meaning of Romney’s candidacy for American politics. Which is why we’re not talking about JFK or even Al Smith.

    It might be relevant in this context to note all the other people who stand little chance of being elected president and thus would be ready to decry their status as second-class citizens. If we had a three-way race between Clinton, Romney and Bloomberg, we’d only get to choose between those who owe their candidacies to massive riches or family connections.

  30. Mark N. on January 2, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    A little off-topic, to be sure, but I just saw this CNN Politics.com article: “Mysterious holiday card spotlights Romney’s religion”

    http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2007/12/30/mysterious-holiday-card-spotlights-romneys-religion/

    Somebody out there is playing dirty tricks, and is posing as a “good Mormon” to do it. “Paid for by the Boston Massachusetts Temple”, indeed.

  31. C. Biden on January 2, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    “I care because so long as a Mormon cannot be elected president because he is Mormon, I am a second-class citizen in our culture, a member of a tribe disqualified from full political participation.”

    I read the entire piece in my newspaper this morning. While you make some excellent points, I think it’s a bit over the top. So often Mormons get on their pity-me-I’m-so-persecuted hobby horse, and, imho, your essay got too close to that horse for my comfort.

  32. SusanS on January 2, 2008 at 9:31 pm

    I sent this to my boss Nate. She agrees you write well, and it’s okay if I’m proud. But she tells me that she doesn’t think the “tribe” analogy holds for “religions that come with strict doctrines and ideologies.” What say you?

  33. Nate Oman on January 2, 2008 at 9:54 pm

    Well, I would point out that tribes come with ideologies and doctrines as well. I leaned heavily on the tribe word precisely because the Mormonism cannot be understood purely in doctrinal terms, there is a very important affective or ethic aspect to it. I certainly don’t experience Mormonism purely as a set of cognitive beliefs. I also experience it as a people to whom I belong. There is a certain model of religion at work in the notion that religion can be reduced to doctrine and belief, which I think is mistaken.

    Jeremiah: I am not sure to what extent the REASONS for rejecting a Mormon candidate because of Mormonism actually matter all that much. It is the rejection itself that works the exclusion. This is why I think that what laid the anti-Catholic “Al Smith” rule to rest was not a new understanding of what Catholicism meant, but the brute fact that JFK won. That is why in my final paragraph I say that the only thing that can erase the taint of an Al Smith like loss a victory. There is a difference between saying something like, “You are fellow citizen, but I disagree with you so I won’t vote for you” and saying, “You are one of THEM and there are certain things that THEY simply cannot ever do.” I am not quite sure how to articulate the difference, but it is there.

    I actually think that it would be possible for a candidate to hold certain beliefs as a result of Mormonism that properly speaking ought to disqualify him from public office. On the other hand, the inquiry ought to take the form of figuring out what the candidate him or herself believes. Finally, so long as membership in a group creates a de facto presumption against one, then one’s membership makes you less than a full citizen. Consider these dialogues:

    DIALOGUE 1
    Socrates: Candidate X is a Mormon. Mormons are A, B, and C, which disqualifies them from office. Therefore candidate X is disqualified.
    Glaucon: Yes it is so Socrates.

    DIALOGUE 2
    Socrates: Candidate X is a Mormon. Mormons are A, B, and C, which disqualifies them from office. Therefore candidate X is disqualied.
    Glaucon: But Mormons aren’t actually A, B, and C, at least all of them aren’t. Beside which Candidate X, while a Mormon, might not himself be A, B, and C.

    DIALOGUE 3.
    Socrates: Candidate X is A, B, and C.
    Glaucon: He ought to be disqualified from public office.
    Socrates: Yes it is so Glaucon. I wonder why he is that way?
    Glaucon: Not sure; I suspect that it might have something to do with his religious beliefs.

    My argument is premised on the notion that there is a meaningful distinction between these three dialogues. Mormonism is currently in something like Dialogue 1 or Dialogue 2. If Romney loses and the loss is assigned in large part to his Mormonism, then I think we stay in Dialouge 1 or Dialogue 2. Until you are in Dialogue 3, I think that Mormons are second class citizens in the way that I asserted in the column. Note, all of this is assumes that A, B, and C actually are things that ought to disqualify one for office. Once you get a lot of Dialogue 2 and Dialogue 1, however, I don’t think you can get to Dialogue 3 unless someone gets elected and folks see that the sky doesn’t fall.

    Okay. Back to grading exams with me.

  34. Jeremiah J. on January 2, 2008 at 10:27 pm

    Nate: I see a bit better what you are saying now. I was being too hypothetical–in Romney’s case, he has presented himself as a very safe Mormon, and his record in office indicates that he is very safe. So if he were rejected because of his Mormonism, it would probably mean that there is still a “rule” about Mormons being elected president. And your general point about a demonstration effect, if you will–(e.g. “a Mormon was elected in the past, therefore they’re acceptable to the country in general, therefore I should accept them too”)–seems plausible.

    However, this still leaves the question which Neuhaus raises, whether it is legit to vote against the percieved religious effects of a certain candidate’s victory (regardless of whether a Mormon “can” or should be allowed to hold and exercise the office). If it is legit and people think in these terms then you can never get to Dialogue 3. Perhaps even if it is legit that still leaves Mormons second class citizens (but it likely would also do so for many others who are not trinitarian Christians).

    Wow, you’re still grading exams? Isn’t that an unusual schedule, or am I too unfamiliar with how law schools run?

  35. Bookslinger on January 2, 2008 at 11:09 pm

    I’d like to see a BLACK MORMON WOMAN as president.
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    Write in Gladys Knight!

  36. ed johnson on January 2, 2008 at 11:19 pm

    Nate,

    Do you believe your argument apply equally to a scientologist running for president?

  37. Nate Oman on January 2, 2008 at 11:42 pm

    ed: Probably, it would depend on how salient the issue of scientology became in the campaign. I also don’t know enough about Scientology to know if they have the same sense of “peoplehood” that Mormons have.

    Jeremiah: My grades are due next week. I am a horrible procrastinator. I am now paying the price…

  38. Horebite on January 2, 2008 at 11:51 pm

    I think if Romney loses it would be for a number of reasons, one of which might be his religion. Some won’t vote for him because he’s changed positions, some won’t vote for him because he supports Bush too much, some won’t vote for him because (insert innumerable reasons here), and some won’t vote for him because he’s Mormon. If what’s left leaves him short of what he needs, then he lose, and his Mormonism might be the deciding factor, although we’ll probably never know for sure. If so, I think you’re right that it makes Mormons second-class citizens to some extent.

    A related question I’ve been thinking about lately: If Romney loses, who will be the first Mormon president and when will it be? Surely the next Mormon candidate will benefit from the fact that all of the Mormons’ dirty laundry has already been picked through, literally.

  39. Timer on January 2, 2008 at 11:55 pm

    “By raising the possibility that Mormonism de facto disqualifies one for the presidency, the furor over Romney’s religion has thrown the full citizenship of all Latter-day Saints into question. Ultimately, history suggests that the question can only be laid to rest by a Mormon being elected president.”

    I have a feeling our full citizenship is going to be in question for a long time.

    I guess I’m okay with that.

  40. Tim H on January 3, 2008 at 2:21 am

    Hey guys. I stumbled across this forum and probably wont be back, but I just wanted to leave my thoughts. I am Roman Catholic and a conservative voter. I tend to vote for people of faith because they tend to be better (honest) leaders. I don\’t think Romney\’s \”mormonism\” is the big issue from other conservative friends I\’ve discussed politics with. The concern is his integrity. He was pro choice, but now he\’s suddenly pro life. He was soft on illegals as governor, but now he wants to be tough on illegals as president. He was involved with Marriott hotels and their pay per view porn in the hotel rooms. People have trouble with his integrity…which is the real Romney? Amongst christian conservatives that is the issue, not his religion. But he isn\’t the only one……that\’s why even I still haven\’t decided on who to vote for. Every Republican candidate has his own issues to be concerned about, but those are Romney\’s in my opinion. BTW I like Oran Hatch, but I\’m against using fetuses for stem-cell research, which Oran supports–so now I have issues with him too. I\’m pro life can you tell?
    Us Catholics have alot of liberals like Kennedy and Kerry to be embarassed about and you guys have Harry Reid!! Anyway just my humble thoughts, best wishes to you all. Bye.

  41. SK on January 3, 2008 at 5:12 am

    Living in MA (and not LDS), what I find most amusing about Romney is that his Mormonism was never really at issue here. Liberals here disliked Romney for many reasons but picking on his religious beliefs was considered unfair play. This is how we had a Mormon governor and gay marriage in the same state. New Englanders believe in privacy, especially in the privacy of religious conviction, and they prefer that people keep their religious convictions *private*.

    Personally, I think Massachusetts has it right — its tolerance for both a personally conservative Mormon governor and gay marriage is built on the same principle — the principle of equal citizenship for all.

    Thus, while I despise the anti-Mormon craziness I\’ve heard, it’s also quite familiar. Romney is now getting hit by the same religious intolerance from the same people who fought gay marriage here, with his support.

    We should be wary of arguing that A is a sinner and not like me, therefore A does not deserve full citizenship. I think that line of reasoning says nothing about faith and everything about a poor understanding of what makes America a great democracy.

    Supporters of gay marriage in MA had to fight Romney for equal citizenship. If he loses the nomination because others think his \”sin\” (their thinking, not mine) disqualifies him for office, I call it poetic justice.

  42. Adam Greenwood on January 3, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    Thanks for stopping by, Tim H. Some of us here are pretty pro-life too.

    SK, I think you’re ignoring the 1994 campaign, where Mormonism was an issue. Romney was able to get elected to the governorship later partly because all the anti-Mormon stuff had been already ventilated and a reaction had set in.

    Also, to the extent that there is more tolerance in Massachussetts, its the tolerance of condescension. Religion is thought to be a personal eccentricity and his Mormon religion is so fringe in MA anyway that it can’t be threatening. The tolerance of people who take particular religion seriously is a lot more meaningful.

  43. Ray on January 3, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    Adam, I think it’s interesting that religious tolerance often is weakest in those who demand it for themselves the most vocally. The “tolerance of condescension” still is better than the “intolerance of competing conviction”. Given the stereotype attitudes of the irreligious liberal and the evangelical conservative, I’ll take the irreligious liberal any day – and, ironically, twice on Sunday.

    We walk a fine line between the type of tolerance Joseph Smith preached so passionately and the claims of truth he made simultaneously. Unfortunately, it is far too easy to cross that line and allow the claims to temper our tolerance.

  44. Adam Greenwood on January 3, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    You and I disagree, Ray. Some of my best friends are hardcore Catholics and evangelicals and their genuine tolerance, born of love, is much more valuable to me than the pat-on-the-head type.

  45. Ray on January 3, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    I don’t disagree with that at all, Adam. I was comparing a mild tolerance with intolerance. I would far rather have and give tolerance born from real difference and mutual respect than the “pat-on-the-head” type – like I have experienced many times myself.

  46. Horebite on January 3, 2008 at 9:07 pm

    Tim H. (#40):

    Even though you probably won’t be back, I’ll respond anyway in case there are any others with the same view. I agree that there are many reasons why not to vote for Romney (as there are for every other candidate). I am not sure either that I will vote for him, although I’m leaning that way. However, I disagree with you that his Mormonism is not an issue for 2 reasons:

    1) I’m glad that you and those you associate with wouldn’t reject Romney because he’s a Mormon, but I can’t ignore the fact that there are polls that say that something like 30% of voters rule out voting for a Mormon. I think those kind of numbers are too high, but even if the number is something like 5%, that 5% can still affect the outcome, especially if they are concentrated in key states like Iowa.

    2) I wonder if there could be some subconscious discrimination. I feel that I favor Romney partially because he is a Mormon. I am trying to overcome that by asking myself, “who would I vote for if Romney was not Mormon”, and when I think of it that way I tend to lean less toward Romney and see good things in other candidates. Just as I know his Mormonism is not a reason to vote for Romney, but yet still subconsciously it makes me more likely the vote for him because I can relate to him, perhaps being Mormon makes him seem strange to others and therefore makes them less likely to vote for him. Such people would probably cite other reasons for not voting for him, but his Mormonism might be part of the real reason. I’m not saying you or your friends are doing this, but I think some people might.

    With that said, I think I’ve changed my position (no Romney-pun intended) since I posted #38. Here’s why:

    The argument, as I understand it, goes like this: If a Mormon can’t be president, then Mormons aren’t full citizens since they can’t participate fully in the political process. That’s true, but the problem is that if Romney loses the election when he would have won it had he not been Mormon, that doesn’t mean that a Mormon can’t be president.

    To illustrate my point, let’s say hypothetically that Obama loses in Iowa by 1 vote. Did he lose because he was black? Probably. Is there 1 racist voter in Iowa that would have voted for him if he were white? Probably. Of course, there are some that would vote for him because he’s black, but my point still is valid. If there is 1 more racist voter than there are black-pride voters, and Obama loses by 1 vote, does that mean blacks are not full citizens? No, that means that there are still elements of racism in our nation, which is a shame.

    The same conclusion could be reached for Romney. If he loses by a hair because he’s Mormon, when he would have won by a hair if he wasn’t, that doesn’t make Mormons half-citizens. That just means there are elements of bigotry against Mormons in our society, just as there are elements of racism, sexism, anti-semiticism, etc.

  47. Adam Greenwood on January 3, 2008 at 11:33 pm

    If early results from Iowa hold up, then unfortunately Nate Oman might have proved a true prophet. Romney got crushed–which I think will ultimately crush his campaign–and from what I’ve read a very high percentage of the caucus-goers said that voting for someone of their own faith was important to them. Needless to say, Romney did not get very many of these votes and Huckabee got a lot of them.

    If Romney had followed a different strategy or the vagaries of the campaign had worked differently, we’d still be normal citizens. But now we’re on our way to being second class. I am delighted.

  48. Ray on January 4, 2008 at 12:23 am

    Fox estimated that 46% of the Republicans who voted in Iowa self-identified as evangelical Christian. There is little doubt that the religions of the two leaders were the primary cause of the outcome.

  49. Susan Jones on January 4, 2008 at 1:44 am

    The neighbor who came over with cookies (I live in CA) when we moved here, has not spoken to me in 8 years since she found out I was a Mormon. I bet she would NEVER vote for me for president, so I am not running. Besides, I am a white Mormon woman, so that makes me a 2 time looser. So I will save my not-even-close millions and just not run. But is Nate right about tribal discrimination? You bet he is. Has the media gone crazy over “Mormonism”, you bet they have. Just take some of those conversations and substitute ‘black’ or ‘Jew ‘ in for Mormon and watch the fireworks that would follow! Very patriotic those firewords, dont’ you think? Oh, well, at least as a Mormon, I suffer in comfort.

  50. Meg on January 4, 2008 at 5:37 am

    I’m not sure that I can agree that if Mitt does not get the republican nomination it makes him a second class citizen in any particularly meaningful way. If I agree that “so long as a Mormon cannot be elected president because he is Mormon, I am a second-class citizen in our culture, a member of a tribe disqualified from full political participation” then I must also acknowledge all the other things that seem to disqualify me from full political participation. If you line up the portraits of the presidents on the wall, what do you have? A bunch of generic-looking old white guys. You add in some basic information, and it still all pretty much looks the same. For the most part, our presidents have been wealthy, educated men. Mitt Romney fits this profile well, and his portrait would hang well with the rest, there being nothing particularly distinctive about him. Romney is pretty much the same rich old white guy as the rest of them, so the first thing on the list that disqualifies him from the presidency is his religion. A lot of people are disqualified a lot sooner and by a lot more, so I’d still say that in the grand scheme of things Mitt Romney got pretty lucky.

    Sure, he’ll have to deal with those who won’t vote for him because he’s LDS, just like Hilary Clinton will have to deal with those who won’t vote for her because she’s a woman and Barack Obama will have to deal with those who won’t vote for him because of his race. I think we have to take facing discrimination as an essential characteristic of being part of a group that is traditionally not a part of America’s ruling class. To me, being a second-class citizen implies some kind of unique discrimination, branding me to be particularly different from the masses. However, it seems like most people – the great majority – have some kind of characteristic (one completely independent of merit, like race, gender, or religion) that puts them at odds with the traditional image of the presidency. That’s why all the presidents look so much alike. It’s been pretty clear, at least up until the present, who is welcome, and who is not. The presidency is this great symbolic representation of the ruling elite and most of us can’t even pretend to fit into that image. So if that makes me a second -class citizen, then, alright, I guess I am, but I’d say I’m in the company of most people, for whom recognition as a member of the ruling elite is at best an uphill battle, and at worst, practically an impossibility.

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Times and Seasons is a place to gather and discuss ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints.