Romney and Reid

Over at Times and Seasons, Kaimi linked a Weekly Standard article that offered, in my opinion, an excellent analysis of whether Mitt Romney’s faith as a Latter-day Saint will permanently handicap him as a presidential candidate. Given what I know of the vindictiveness and prejudice of Evangelical Christians, I have consistently made the argument that neither Romney nor any other Latter-day Saint could possibly be elected as President of the United States because of Evangelical hatred of Latter-day Saints. But Terry Eastland’s analysis has influenced my thinking to be more positive.

Eastland brought Reid into the picture. In an earlier post over at United Brethren, I argued (in a tongue-in-cheek tone but in all seriousness) that the only way a third-party candidate could win the presidency would be if two Latter-day Saints ran against each other, since my foundational premise is that a Latter-day Saint could never be elected over the calumny sure to be offered by so-called “Christians.” But Eastland’s analysis of how Reid could play into the picture caught my attention:

If Romney ran and were in the lead or gaining ground, a desperate candidate, or more likely a political action committee, might bring up the church’s pre-1978 exclusion of blacks from the priesthood, or the continuing exclusion of women. Or there might be an attack on Mormon doctrine–to the effect that Romney is a member of a cult. The evangelical leaders I spoke with said that such an attack wouldn’t work, as it would be seen as way over the line of what’s politically acceptable. It’s interesting to imagine who might rise to Romney’s defense, and it’s not inconceivable that Harry Reid–the Senate minority leader and a Mormon (one of just 4 Democrats among the 16 Mormons in the Senate and the House)–would protest, especially if his party or its allies were the ones lobbing the grenades.

In the first bolded portion, I must admit that I disagree with this part of Eastland’s analysis. Eastland claims that “The evangelical leaders I spoke with said that such an attack wouldn’t work, as it would be seen as way over the line of what’s politically acceptable.” I simply do not think that Evangelicals would pull punches when it came down to the wire out of a concern that disparaging Romney’s religion would be seen as “way over the line of what’s politically acceptable.” Instead, I believe they would resort to tired Evangelical methods of disseminating falsehoods or half-truths about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in an effort to cast it as a dangerous cult. Evangelicals have been too consistent in taking this road to think that they would somehow lay off when the stakes are so high as to have a Latter-day Saint president of the United States.

In the second bolded portion, however, I find Eastland’s analysis to be intriguing. Having Reid as the Senate minority leader could go a long way in preventing a Democratic candidate from resorting to such anti-Mormon bigotry (which, without Reid there to cry foul would, I fear, be considered completely legitimate by both liberal and conservative alike). But as a faithful Latter-day Saint himself, Reid would hardly sit by and allow a smear campaign against Romney based on Romney’s faith. After all, what does the pre-1978 exclusion of blacks from the priesthood have anything at all to do with Mitt Romney or his qualifications for the presidency? Absolutely nothing. In the first place, the exclusion cannot be imputed to Romney. In the second place, whether such exclusion was justified or not (and who is to be the judge of that?) the Church no longer excludes blacks from the priesthood (it also did not exclude them at the very beginning, in the 1830s and 40s). The women and the priesthood would be a red-herring, especially if lobbed by Ted Kennedy, whose brother was the first and only Catholic president, the Catholic exclusion of women from priesthood ordination notwithstanding.

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9 Responses to Romney and Reid

  1. Anonymous says:

    I’m happy to see John warming to Mitt’s possible candidacy.

    However, I continue to disagree re: potential smears from Evangelicals/other LDS ‘haters’. While John has lived amongs Evangelicals for more of his life; I think his experiences are largely about 10 years out of date (i.e. since he left Texas). Just as racism is dying down; so is Anti-Mormonism. I’ve worked, politically, with Evangelicals over the last 10 years; and while many don’t see me as a “brother”; they are not insulting nor dislike my presence or political support.

    I think the article has it exactly right…Romney is a perfect medium conservative candidate; who won’t due as well vs. Frist or Santorum; but would win easily vs. McCain or Guiliani (sp?). At the end of the day; some conservatives/GOP folks may not like Mormons. However, they aren’t going to launch an intraparty smear fight over it. The GOP has becoming increasingly aware of LDS voters and this will only continue. As Mitt said, (paraphrase) “my party accepts religious believers”.  

    Posted by lyle stamps

  2. Anonymous says:

    I guess I should start reading Times & Seasons before I post on my own blog, since this article is the subject of my most recent post as well.

    This (edited) line from the article struck me: “Mormons…would tend to see Romney’s election as a sign that they are accepted as full participants in the American experiment.” I hope it will also be a sign of our maturity as a religious community that Mormon Democrats like myself won’t vote for Mitt just because he’s LDS. I certainly like him more than I like Pres Bush, but if he get’s the GOP nomination and the Democrats nominate a strong candidate, I’m likely to vote for the Democrat (particularly given Romney’s rightward tilt of late). 

    Posted by Chris Williams

  3. Anonymous says:

    Chris: Maturity or lack of foresight? A Mormon as President would open alot of doors to the missionaries. It might also close some; but it seems that it would be a net win; and a large one at that. So, if you are putting souls into your electoral decision making process, does that shift your vote? 

    Posted by lyle stamps

  4. Anonymous says:

    Chris, that’s a good point. Also, Kaimi didn’t actually post about it at T&S but just linked it in his notes from all over. So it looks like you did in fact scoop it for the Bloggernacle over at Outer Boroughs . (Looks like I should have checked around the blogs a little more before posting this here!) 

    Posted by john fowles

  5. Anonymous says:

    Lyle:

    Thanks for your post on this on my blog — I posed a question to you there that answers the question you pose to me here.

    John:

    Without saying it, I’ve revealed that I don’t read T&S much anymore. ;)

    As for me scooping you, well… I’m honored to be in your company on the issue, whoever posted first. 

    Posted by Chris Williams

  6. Anonymous says:

    Let’s look at this from a different view. In what ways could it benefit Satan’s plan to have a Mormon president?

    1) Blame it on the Mormons when the dollar crashes?
    2) Give more creedence to “Of course the NWO/UN/etc is not Gadianton, if it were the Mormon president would shut it down”.
    3) … 

    Posted by Daylan Darby

  7. Anonymous says:

    Avoiding evil rather than creating good will never win… 

    Posted by lyle stamps

  8. Anonymous says:

    That’s actually an interesting point. Consider all the people who blame the depression on the actions of Smoot. Just imagine what would happen if an LDS president screwed up. Not that I expect to see one in my lifetime. While I think Romney will run I don’t think he’ll win the nomination. Personally I’m hoping for Condi.  

    Posted by Clark

  9. Anonymous says:

    The plan isn’t for him to win 2008; but to run strong enough to get the VP nomination; then he can be Pres. in 2012 or 2016.  

    Posted by lyle stamps

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