February 8, 2008

"So, was it good for the Mormons?"

Libby Copeland asks:
Romney seemed so Mormon, so squeaky clean, so Pollyanna-ish, even. (Remember when he went to Michigan and said he could bring those lost jobs back?) Romney's seeming normalcy isn't the norm anymore. Maybe we understand better those who've strayed or failed and recovered -- or, for that matter, those who aren't fabulously successful and can't put tens of millions into their own campaigns. Maybe we relate to the family lives of other candidates, candidates who have been divorced, who have blended families, whose children don't all campaign with them (and may not even like them). Sure, they're messier, but messy is authentic.

There was more to it than that, of course. Some evangelical voters -- who don't want messy -- see Mormonism as something other than Christianity. Mike Huckabee, an evangelical and former pastor, was speaking to them when he said, "Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the Devil are brothers?"
That is, we saw 2 kinds of prejudice — one for each end of the American cultural spectrum.

16 comments:

James M said...

Speaking only for myself, it was a little awkward having co-workers randomly ask me about my underwear. Other than that, it was a nice run while it lasted.

George said...

I don't think people really knew what to make of Gov. Romney's religious beliefs....

His speech (text here) sounded as though it were written by 8,000 speechwriters, not by a real person. Says zero about his denomination, except in comparison with other religious groups.

When he was asked that Bible question in that long ago debate (the one Huckabee nailed, so to speak), Romney's eyes glazed over, like he was caught in the headlights.

People were afraid to ask questions about the early days of Mormonism, and he seemed very timid about discussing his denomination.

Yesterday NPR asked Vin Weber if he thought Romney should have ditched his coat and tie in favor of more casual clothes, like windbreakers, earlier in the campaign.

Weber said no, that Romney wasn't the sort.

Reagan-lite.

Trooper York said...

Well my co-workers always ask me about my underwear. But usually just to ask if I have changed them recently.

Synova said...

I don't think that those voting *for* Huckabee were voting *against* Romney. I think they were voting *for* Huckabee.

I believe that Romney's problem, that far far outweighed his religion, was that he comes across bland.

And that's too bad.

rhhardin said...

The media are everything in determining who is willing to run.

There's no story for Mormons, unless there's cannibalism or something Utah'ish in it. Romney hasn't eaten anybody, as far as we know yet, but it was only a matter of time.

On the other hand, where is a good person going to come from, even if the media were willing to drop their moron audience?

They could certainly help clear the field by mocking Obama and Hillary. Rhetoric lessons for everybody!

Zeb Quinn said...

Did Mitt's effort advance the ball for Mormons? By the time he quit he did have many conservatives saying he was one of them. So that may show progress. But the fact is he lost, and he lost amid a lot of ambivalence about who he was, what he believed, and what he stood for. So it's hard to tell.

Besides, some historical perspective may be illustrative here. As far as I know, even as we speak, there has never been anyone elected to the presidency who wasn't to some degree passably identifiable as a conservative and/or mainstream Protestant, or, in the instance of JFK, a Roman Catholic. No Jews, no Muslims, no Mormons, and no professed atheists. 2008 is now shaping up to continue that history.

In the end Mitt really came no closer to getting the nomination than his father George Romney did 40 years ago. George was polling very favorbly, maybe even leading in the polls --ahead of Nixon-- when he made his remark about having been "brainwashed" about Vietnam. His numbers thereafter plummeted, and most analysts of the day attributed it directly to that comment. People didn't want to vote for someone who was susceptible to being brainwashed they said. Maybe what it really meant was that people didn't want to vote for a Mormon, and being susceptible to being brainwashed reinforced the reason why. So it was probably the Mormon thing then, and it is now too.

former law student said...

I don't remember George's religion ever being an issue when he was running for Governor or being Governor. He had been head of the fourth largest auto company, which was huge in the Automobile State. His offhand "brainwashing" comment sank his Presidential campaign just as Muskie's sudden tears did.

As a side note, George's wife Lenore decided to use her First Lady's name recognition to run for the Senate against the beloved Phil Hart. She lost of course.

titusmont said...

Its interesting that in Mass (which generally gets a bad rap) Romney won the governship and nomination for president.

Mass can't be all bad.

rhhardin said...

The only Romney Mormon remark I remember from George's run was that he wore a button fly because nobody should ever be in a hurry to get out of their pants.

This was before Taco Bell I think.

Oh and he didn't drink coffee. I started at eleven.

Paddy O. said...

It's hard to show real prejudice with Romney. Had he been a real life long conservative, and had a proven record for social conservative positions, I think the his faith would have been significantly less of an issue.

Romney was anointed as the 'real conservative' only by talk radio and conservative magazines. But his background suggested a contrast with his present positions. So folks had to trust which was real. Unfortunately, many of those new realizations came as he was running for president, oddly enough, and so Romney didn't have a chance to put his newfound values into practice.

The ones who might be most charged with voting against his religion are precisely the ones who would also be most likely to vote against his record rather than his rhetoric.

Yes, there certainly is a bias to a greater or lesser extent depending on the particular evangelical community. But it can't be narrowed down to only that in this instance. With Obama the fact racism exists doesn't mean that a vote against Obama is a racist vote.

Romney wasn't helped by his religion, but it wasn't what did him in. Despite what the conservative media wanted to prove, Romney is no more trustworthy in many respects than McCain, and a lot less proven in many ways. It's just that Romney was more willing to kiss the rings of the conservative cardinals, just as Huckabee kisses the ring of Dobson to gain his, unprecedented, endorsement.

To say this was purely about his wealth, style or religion is ignoring precisely what the conservative media wanted people to ignore in their quest to punish McCain.

Or maybe it's that the rest of the country really doesn't like northeasterners after all.

Michael_H said...

Romney's religion didn't do him in - it was those in the media who chose to make an issue of his religion that did.

No one in the mainstream media ever winked an eye about Harry Reid's Mormonism. Of course Reid is a democrat, so the media gave him a pass. Being a Mormon, okay; being a republican Mormon, not so okay.

I don't care about the underwear, the temples, the missionary kids on my front porch, the choir, the trek to Salt Lake City, etc. It's their thing, and none of it is offensive or harmful.

I've worked with a number of Mormons, and have found them all to be good, kind, industrious, friendly, moral and pleasant people. I enjoyed their friendship. Some of them enrolled their kids in the local Catholic high school because they liked a values-based education. They were more open-minded about other peoples' religious faiths than other are of Mormonism.

I don't know how they raise their kids, but have you ever heard of Mormons in a street gang? Or in prison? Or running a drug cartel? Their family structure produces wonderful young men and women.

There is much more to like about Mormons and their religion than there is to dislike, and the evangelicals who found fault in Romney because of his religion had better dig into their souls a bit deeper and come to an understanding about their intolerance of a fellow Christian.

rhhardin said...

Imus said that the newly appointed Mormon chief prophet probably saw the withdrawal coming.

Charlie Eklund said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charlie Eklund said...

I wasn't opposed to Romney because of his religion. I was opposed to him because I viewed him as fundamentally untrustworthy.

For example, I couldn't have cared less whether Romney was a hunter or not, but in an effort to court NRA members and gun owners like me, he claimed to be a "life long hunter". As it turns out, Governor Romney had gone hunting just twice; once when he was 14 and then again last year. Does that make him a life long hunter or does it make him a prevaricator?

In my view, it makes him a prevaricator, and a dumb one at that, since the lie he told was both easily disproven and totally unnecessary. It concerned a matter of little consequence in and of itself. It only became important because of what his lie told me...what it told all of us...about his honesty.

sonicfrog said...

I was very impressed with Obama when he admitted up from that, yeah, he had used drugs. There was no "hummin' or hawin', he just laid the truth on the table. How refreshing is that? Eight years later, you STILL have people going after Bush for alleged cocaine use, something he sort of denies.

Synova, I agree. Romney's record as a business manager is impressive. He has the creds in that respect over all the other candidates. But, I for one, recognize you can't run a government like a business. For one, for many working for the government, they can't be fired for incompetency.

Romney's big problem was that he was, well, too plastic; too much like silly putty - always changing shape depending on the crowed he was speaking to. He didn't do it any better that John Kerry. He always seemed so.... fake. And I think it's funny that he only became the "True" conservative in the eyes of the referees, Rush, Hannity, Levin, etc., ONLY when it became clear that the much hated McCain was going to be the front-runner. If Romney was the type of conservative the right was looking for, why did they wait so long to endorse him?

sonicfrog said...

PS. Maybe Romney's problem was not that he had a squeaky clean image, maybe it was that that image seemed so genuine. I think it scares people to think someone is that immaculate and virtuous. It's just not normal!