Thursday, August 07, 2008

Mitt Romney, Mormonism, and The Wall Street Journal

The following is an excerpt from today's post at Article VI Blog:

In its lead editorial today, the Journal ran a summary of McCain's best choices, and said this about The Question:

A name often mentioned is Mitt Romney, who looks and speaks the part and as an entrepreneur himself could help on the economy. The former Massachusetts Governor failed to catch fire in the primaries, though, and, however unfairly, his Mormonism seems to be an issue with many evangelicals. Our own concern is that he continues to defend his state health-care reform even as it looks increasingly like a fiscal disaster.

(Emphasis added.) This is fascinating on several levels. To begin with, the same piece describes Senator Joe Lieberman as "a splendid VP in our book" who "is solid on foreign policy and taxes," but would "probably alienate too many social conservatives." No mention of whether Lieberman's Orthodox Jewish faith would "be an issue" with any voter demographic.

So maybe Judaism has passed the "Kennedy test" and is now an acceptable faith for a presidential candidate, just as Catholicism is. (I am not so sure.)

I always like to re-cast statements made in the press about Romney's Mormonism, using other personal characteristics. Try these evaluations of any potential vice presidential pick:

  • "However unfairly, his Hispanic heritage seems to be an issue with many anglo voters."
  • "However unfairly, his African-American ancestry seems to be an issue with many white voters."
  • "However unfairly, her female gender seems to be an issue with many voters."

Kind of hard to imagine, aren't they?

What we have here is the foremost conservative editorial page in the country throwing up its hands on this question: Can a Mormon be elected president?

No, they say; that's unfair, but it's the reality.

I am not convinced, but for discussion purposes, let's assume they are.

If you're a Mormon kid in this country, your parents cannot yet tell you that you can grow up to be president of the United States.

If you're an evangelical, even one who supported Romney for president and who would like to see him as vice president, you must accept the distasteful reality that enough of your co-religionists have made such a stink about Romney's faith that the leading conservative newspaper in the nation thinks the Governor is not viable as McCain's running mate.

If you’re James Dobson or Al Mohler, you might toss and turn just a bit in your bed at night and wonder if you should have shown a bit more leadership — even a little spine — toward those who look to you as a leader.

Maybe you regret just a little bit that a paper like the Journal, which is friendly to the people you lead, simply assumes the existence of unyielding religious prejudice among them.

Maybe you regret even more that the Journal finds such prejudice so unyielding that a political candidate who professes a particular religion is destroyed.

Maybe you realize that you were in a position to stop that from happening, but did nothing — and probably even gave license to the prejudiced members of your flock.

That cannot feel good, deep down.

We might have a chance to see if the Journal is right, if McCain does pick Romney.

I have my doubts. But what we should all be thinking about is the place to which we have come.

It is not pretty.


I'll pose one further question: Will any credible national Evangelical leader write to the Wall Street Journal and take issue with the Journal's pragmatic conclusion that "however unfairly [Romney's] Mormonism seems to be an issue with many evangelicals," and that he is therefore a problematic choice for veep? That would be nice to see, but I am not holding my breath.

(More on this at Article VI Blog.)

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

In addition to your analysis, the WSJ comment seems to be an indictment of Evangelical close-mindedness. If I were in that camp, I would have to look deep inside myself and evaluate whether this thinking was harmonious with Christ's teachings.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008 9:35:00 AM  

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