Wandering in the political wilderness

With Mitt Romney now officially out of the presidential race, the quest for a viable alternative candidate (in the eyes of this conservative-minded voter) looks pretty bleak.   McCain’s alright, I guess, and I’m gradually warming up to the idea of him as President.  I’m really getting a bad taste in my mouth from the party he represents, though.

Last Friday the Wall Street Journal ran a Page One story on how Romney’s campaign “exposed a surprisingly virulent strain of anti-Mormonism that had been largely hidden to the general public,” according to writer Suzanne Sataline.  Among the high(low)lights:

  • A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll in late January revealed that 50% of Americans said they would have reservations or be “very uncomfortable” about a Mormon as president. That same poll found that 81% would be “enthusiastic” or “comfortable” with an African-American and 76% with a woman.
  • In December, political pundit and actor Lawrence O’Donnell Jr. unleashed a tirade on the “McLaughlin Group” television talk show, tearing into the Mormon Church and Mr. Romney’s faith. “Romney comes from a religion founded by a criminal who was anti-American, pro-slavery, and a rapist. And he comes from that lineage and says, ‘I respect this religion fully.’…He’s got to answer.”
  • On the Internet, the Romney bid prompted an outpouring of broadsides against Mormonism from both the secular and religious worlds. Evangelical Christian speakers who consider it their mission to criticize Mormon beliefs lectured to church congregations across the country. Richard John Neuhaus, editor of the Catholic journal First Things, wrote that a Mormon presidency would threaten Christian faiths. Atheist author Christopher Hitchens called Mormonism “a mad cult” on Slate.com, and Bill Keller, a former convict who runs an online ministry in Florida, told a national radio audience that a vote for Mr. Romney was a vote for Satan.
  • In December, while campaigning for the Iowa caucuses, former Baptist preacher and Republican candidate Mike Huckabee asked a magazine reporter: “Don’t Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?” The Southern Baptist Convention, Mr. Huckabee’s denomination, posts essays on its Web site saying Mormonism is a non-Christian cult.

And on and on it goes.  Thankfully, many Mormons are rising up to diffuse the untruths and provocative statements spewed forth by the ignorant and the hate-mongers.  But it’s nonetheless disturbing to see so much hysteria and misinformation whipped up from people across the nation who just coincidentally also make up the base of the Republican party.  Mormons (by and large) tend to vote Republican because of the party’s stances on moral issues like homosexuality and abortion.  But the message that the party’s constituency seems to be sending to Mormons is, “We don’t want you.”

[More after the break.]

Now, I’m not trying to say that anti-Mormonism was the root cause of Romney’s failed presidential bid.  Mitt did enough to sink that ship all by himself, unfortunately.  But I do think it was key to his losses in the Southern states on Super Tuesday.  I also believe the main reason Huckabee stayed in the running despite a lack of funds was so he could play spoiler to Romney in the Bible Belt communities.

Time magazine ran an article a week ago (“The ‘I Hate Romney’ Club”) that documents the extent to which rival Republican campaigns went to try to bring Romney down.  Here’s a few interesting tidbits:

[T]he candidates’ staffs do seem to have bonded in their dislike of Romney. “It was very common for e-mails to be flying around between the Thompson, McCain and Giuliani campaigns,” says the former Thompson staffer, “Saying, ‘No matter what happens with us, we all need to make sure it’s not him.'” The staffer says that campaigns would share opposition research on Romney and offer each other tips on how best to undermine him: “Like, ‘Hey, I saw you hit Mitt on immigration have you thought about going after him on this issue?” In some cases, the attitude even extends to the top of the campaigns. The night of the Iowa caucuses, after getting a congratulatory call from McCain, Huckabee told the candidate, according to aides: “Now it’s your turn to kick his butt.”

Why Huckabee is still in the race at this point is anyone’s guess, as it appears his primary intention was to steal votes away from Romney and cozy up to McCain as his V.P. running mate.  But it does appear that this guy and others of his ilk are attempting to transform the Republican party into an “Evangelical and Protestant Christians ONLY” club, all of which raises the question of whether I should continue to cast my votes for a party that hates me because of my faith.

This seems like a pretty bold assertion, maybe even a foolish one.  But consider this: Do you think a Jewish person would stand a honest chance of winning the Republican nomination?  How about a Muslim?

Now ask these same questions from the perspective of the Democratic party, and you see that it’s a total non-issue from their perspective.  Heck, the very fact that the frontrunners on the Democratic side are a white woman and a black man with an Islamic heritage tells you all you need to know about how big of a stumblingblock issues of race, gender, faith and culture are to them.  And – this is just a hunch – I think that if either Clinton or Obama were LDS, it would be a total non-issue.  That the Democrats don’t have a problem with the Senate Majority Leader being Mormon makes me pretty confident about that.

Just to give you a bit of a taste for the Republican xenophobia out there, one of the criticisms of Barack Obama I’ve heard going around is this: “Do you think the American people are ready to elect a president whose middle name is ‘Hussein’?” 

Give me a break.  I mean, really. 

‘Hussein’ is one of the most common Arabic names in the world, and you’re going to try to whip up opposition by drawing such a patently false (not to mention transparent in its intent to use fear as a tool) connection to Saddam and radical jihad?

So I’m considering taking my vote to the Democrats, specifically Mr. Obama (take that, xenophobes!), happy in the knowledge that my faith won’t deter them from taking me into their diversity-loving, tolerance-advocating arms.  Except for the fact that they’re a little too tolerant of some practices and lifestyles which my faith and my heart tell me should be avoided.  Plus there’s that whole “immediate pullout from Iraq” thing which I’m not too sure has much basis in reality.

So what’s a conservative, values-driven Mormon like myself to do?

As I said before, I think I can reconcile myself to McCain.  The military experience is working pretty strongly in his favor at this point.  But I will not vote Republican if Huckabee is on the ticket.  I can forgive him for his craftily concealed anti-Mormon slurs, but I will not trust the man with the office of Vice President of the United States for wearing his hatred of the Church (or any other group he categorizes as “non-Christian” within the narrow limits established by the Southern Baptist Convention) so brazenly on his sleeve.

Look, I don’t care what Huckabee’s personal beliefs are.  If he thinks that Mormons are a bunch of half-crazed devil worshipers, so be it.  But he has no right to make those kinds of opinions public.  Isn’t “Don’t Alienate Your Constituency” one of the first lessons they teach you in Politics 101?

I was hoping that Michael Bloomberg would throw his hat into the ring as a third-party candidate, even though history has taught us that those guys have zero chance of actually winning an election.  I might go for Romney as a write-in candidate out of protest, but I don’t know if the electronic polling stations in Georgia allow write-ins.  Or I might just skip the question altogether. 

As for the issue of rampant, unchecked anti-Mormonism, I believe it will continue to proliferate until those who care enough make it extremely un-P.C. for others to engage in.  And that’s going to take a lot of work.  If there’s one thing the Romney campaign has taught members of the Church, it’s that we have a l-o-o-o-n-g ways to go yet in gaining widespread public acceptance.

3 Responses to “Wandering in the political wilderness”

  1. Grampa and I agree with you. Huckabee lost me early in the race because he was using his religion to sell himself. I found early on that I can’t trust someone who wants to sell me something and uses religion to do it. We are not active in Mormonism any more, and that is a long story, but we felt that Romney was competent to govern this nation and turn the economy around. I feel he is a good man. So now, who do we vote for? We don’t like McCain, and feel he is too old for the burden that being President places. So there is Hilary and Obama. I would love to see a woman as President, but she is not the one. That leaves us with one choice. We have evaluated the stated beliefs of all of the candidates and his seem OK. But who knows if he is a good man……….

  2. I would definitely give the Character Award to Obama above all the other candidates still in the race. Yeah, he admits to getting into drugs once, and he’s still working on that smoking habit, but at least he recognizes the error of his ways and isn’t trying to go down the “I-didn’t-inhale” path of a certain other recent President. If anything, I think that would give him greater empathy for those who continue to struggle with drug habits, as well as make him much more determined to help others overcome their addictions.

    I share your sentiments on McCain’s age. I wouldn’t say it’s a deal-breaker for the presidency, but it is something that gives me pause – similar to Bob Dole in ’96.

  3. Don’t confuse Lawrence O’Donnell with intelligent life. He launches tirades at anything he doesn’t know about or understand, which means he does it frequently. I certainly agree with your conundrum over whom to support, now that Mitt has gone. I was hoping Fred would do better, but that fizzled and now I must chose between the evangelist and the semi-conservative and neither get my blood pumping.

    As for the negative comments, I can’t hope to have a world that completely accepts my faith until Christ comes again, so that isn’t a consideration. Just because the Jackass party accepts everyone doesn’t mean I would want to associate with them. The Hon. Mr Reid may claim membership in the Church, but I don’t want to associate with his ilk either. If he were to have his way and the way of his party, the noble cause which I had the honor to participate in would be thrown away like a used tissue. The sacrifices made would be so much bird cage lining, and I just can’t abide that thought. So, like Don Quixote. I shall continue to tilt until I cannot anymore.

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