Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Ever notice that Romney ryhmes with OMNI?

And by OMNI I mean spanish UFO's, not Book of Mormon prophets or defunct provo dance clubs.

This rich guy newspaper that apparently can't afford to pay for real photos and instead uses old-timey drawings ran a pretty good story on Mitt Romney.

Honestly, I'm getting a little tired of the Romney-Mormonism discussion. How many ways can we say "Kennedy already settled the issue, religion doesn't matter"? And how many ways can we say "Mormons are a wierd, scary, quaint, and ridiculous cult"? It pretty much boils down to those two sides.

But it got me thinking. What kind of effect would a Romney nomination have on the Republican party? What kind of effect would a Romney victory have on the United States. What kind of effect would both have on the church?

I.
My view is that a Romney nomination would bring a fantastic change to the Republican party. It would show that the majority of Republicans are not paranoid anti-science fundamentalists, but decent people who hold conservative values but are reasonable and willing to compromise. It would re-enthrone religious tolerance as a conservative virtue. It would have the effect of banishing the extreme evangelicals (not most evangelicals, just the extreme ones) to the outer wings of the party. This would be a much better Republican party.

II.
On the other hand, I have my doubts about Romney. He seems very willing to shift his views depending on the audience and the race. He is too willing, in my opinion, to embrace people like Ann Coulter, and to identify with them. But he is bright, he is competent, and in the past he has demonstrated the ability to see both sides and be moderate. I have also heard by hearsay from people who know Romney personally, that he is not nearly as right-wing as he is now appearing to be. One man in particular said that he had no idea why Romney was acting this way. I know its a campaign strategy, but it smacks of dishonesty. Romney's support for Bush's foreign policy decisions is probably the thing that mystifies me the most. I would have a difficult time voting for anyone who supports the recent accretion of executive power and wants to "double Guantanamo." Bottom line: I think the old Romney, the one that ran against Teddy Kennedy, or even the one that ran for Governor of Mass. would be a pretty decent president. The new Romney worries me. I suspect that an elected Romney might shed the new Romney, but I'm not sure I'd want to bet on it.

III.
A Romney nomination would have a mixed impact on the Church. On the one hand, it would signal that the church is more acceptable to Republicans as a group. This could also mean that traditionally very conservative religious groups may soften up on their anti-mormon bent. Or they might just leave the Republican party. The point is, it would force a choice: stop hating Mormons so much, or give up your political clout. Either option would be good, either for the church or for the GOP. On the other hand, a Romney nomination may strengthen the already too-strong tie between Mormons (note: not the Church) and Republicans and embolden and seemingly legitimize Mormons who believe that GOP stands for God's Own Party. These folks are rare, but there's usually one or two in every ward who think that the UN is the Gadianton Robbers, that the civil rights movement was an attempted Communist takeover, that the First Presidency and all the Apostles are closet republicans, that the church's political neutrality is only a PR front, and/or that the temple recommend interview is designed to ferret out liberals. A Romney nomination might add fuel to their fire. On the other hand, this very possibility might prompt the institutional church to emphasize neutrality even more, and could clarify it for many.

IV.
A Romney presidency would, in my opinion have terrible effects on the international church. It's no secret that the U.S. is not so well liked in the world these days. If President Romney did indeed continue to push Bush's foreign policy ideals, these horrible ideas would be connected in the minds of many with the church. Not such a good missionary tool. I also wonder about even the physical safety of missionaries in places like Latin America if the world at large began to see U.S. foreign policy as Mormon-inspired in some way. I don't think it would be entirely disastrous, or that it would kill the missionary program. After all, no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing. But it would be a significant and substantial challenge for the church.

What it all comes down to for me is that I want Romney to get the nomination. But I don't want him to win unless perhaps Clinton is the alternative.

4 comments:

Cabeza said...

This raises a lot of good points.

That op-ed piece from the Wall Street Journal was pretty good. What frustrates me is that it's about the third or fourth article like that that I've read--recommending to Romney and his campaign how they can better represent the man's religious views and the position of the Church when it comes to politics. But somehow, the Romney camp hasn't gotten that message. How many people need to say it in high-profile fora?

The stubborn old-guard members of the Church that think that the First Presidency really advocates any one party definitely need a swift kick in the head.

And Romney does need to stop flip-flopping.

And Ann Coulter is an idiot.

Romney's remark about doubling Guantanamo pretty much helped me make up my up-to-now undecided mind about him. Holy cow that scared the heck out of me. I can't vote for someone with a foreign/domestic policy outlook like that.

What really surprises me there, and about the Romney remake as a whole, is that the media is all a-buzz with talk about Bush's record-low approval ratings. His unsuccessful foreign policy. His tendency lately to alienate everyone. Many have remarked, including me, that the Republican Party needs to present a candidate that will bring the Party back toward the middle of the road, appeal to the swing voters, and even convince some Democrats of his legitimacy. But instead, Romney goes for the right-wing Bush supporter stance. If Romney does somehow get the nomination, I would be surprised if he wins unless he flip-flops again and makes himself more mainstream before November '08.

On the other hand, I can see your points about the potential benefits to the GOP and to the Church if he at least gains the nomination. And if he doesn't get it, it needs to be clearly unrelated to the question of his religion, as the WSJ notes.

Rodrigo said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bjorn said...

I think point I is why Romney will have a harder time at the polls, even more so then the Mormon thing. People on both sides are pulling for the extremists, even if the majority is moderate, the fundies organize, and vote. I, for one, am craving some moderation.

JKC said...

Cabeza,

The flip-flopping thing is interesting. I think Republicans kind of shot themselves in the foot making it such a huge part of the 2004 campaign. Kerry could have done a better job dealing with it, for sure. But it really was dishonest. To accuse someone of changing positions based on procedural votes is pretty lame.

But the thing is, all politicians change position to a certain extent. Had Bush not been so hard on Kerry about the flip-flopping, maybe Romney could play it off a little better now. But since his changes of mind are on the most controversial issues, the whole flip-flop thing is really obvious. Everyone remembers 2004 and thinks flip-flop.

I wonder if part of the reason Romney seems reluctant to address religion and the church and politics clearly and put it to rest is the fact that he wants to belong to the right-wing religious club. If he disavows that his religion will guide his policy, he looks like a secular liberal, anathema to the evangelical wing.

The odd thing is, though, mormon doctrine is just as anathema to most of these people. Maybe he wants to play up the conservatism of mormons as a guarantee to the right-wing of the GOP that we won't drop the baton.

Bjorn,

I think you're right. The whole moderation thing is really the paradox of the 2-party system. Usually, only a radical can get the nomination, and only a moderate can win. So you get people trying to be radical before the primaries and then they have to make a choice between "flip-flopping" for the general election or just trying to organize the radicals even more. The first choice makes you look inconsistent and opens you up to criticism. The second leaves you less politically vulnerable but is risky, divisive and unproductive. I think one of Karl Rove's legacies to American politics is that he demonstrated the viability of option 2. You can be a radical and still win (even if you have to go to the Supreme Court to do so) if you can get enough radicals out to vote.