Avoiding the “Mormon issue”

Democrats laid off the “Mormon issue.” Good for us!

Ann Althouse is correct (blind squirrel theory in action? stopped clock theory in action?) to say that the absence of any “Mormon issue” in this campaign says something good about America.

But it seems to me that Althouse is not specific enough. Do you believe for a second that when the Democrats nominate one of the Udalls for President we won’t get a whole dose of anti-Mormonism from the fundies? After all, we got some of it in the GOP primaries this year.

And that led more than one Red-team pundit to predict a wave of anti-Mormon agitation by the Democrats. That wave never arrived.

No, this says something specifically good about the Blue team. We leave that to the other guys: the team Althouse plays.

Update Case in point: Ryan tells an evangelical group that Obama – the only Protestant on either ticket – threatens “Judeo-Christian values.”

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

21 thoughts on “Avoiding the “Mormon issue””

  1. I’m not surprised that Mormonism as a religion hasn’t been much of an issue (although I’m living out of the country right now and that’s one of the major things people ask about). The one area where he’d be genuinely vulnerable is on his church’s racist history; his father’s genuinely awesome on-the-right-side-of-historyness on civil rights mostly inoculates him from that critique (also, it’s not like he has muc support to lose there).

    I am somewhat surprised that the degree to which Romney’s professional career was aided by his religion hasn’t been more of a cause for concern. Some of his business success (on the Hilton board, lots of LDS investors including Hilton and Huntsman) depended on church connections. He wasn’t successful in politics till he was CEO of the SLC Olympics, and it’s naive to say his religion had nothing to do with that gig. It’s hardly the stuff of Scientology in terms of blending career and religion, but I’d think it would be an issue if a rich person from one of a number of other religions could trace so much of their business and political success to religion.

    I’m a lot more surprised that nepotism hasn’t been a more important theme. Ryan’s living off inherited riches (mostly his wife’s) and has done little besides be in Congress and says he’s self made. Romney’s routinely claimed that he derived no advantage from his wealth and connections. The contrast with the other ticket is incredible, yet it’s never come up. Obama’s touched on it in a couple speeches, but it would be interesting to relive this election in an environment where Obama didn’t have the luxury of being so cautious. I’d liked to have seen him use some of the more obvious attacks on Romney being out-of-touch and unable to see the silver spoon sticking out of his mouth.

  2. Maybe some of the Mormon non-issue stems from the observation Mitt has no scruples whatsoever. Being Mormon continues to be a net benefit for the Mittster so Mormon he stays. He’d be Hindu if that served him better. No point in focusing on his faith – he kinda doesn’t have any.

  3. Yes, Althouse is correct except that she leaves out the context (provided here) that allows a reader to actually understand what’s going on. I’d argue her perfect record remains unbroken.

  4. Usually the phrase/word “Judeo-Christian” really browns me off. I don’t much appreciate having my religion reduced to a hyphenated annex, and about 90% of the people who use “Judeo-Christian” really mean “Christian” but are tossing in another religion to avoid sounding bigoted. Case in point: Rick Santorum’s claim that the country was found on a “Protestant Judeo-Christian ethic.”

    However, I’ll give Ryan a pass on this, because the values he’s talking about don’t have anything to do with Christianity either.

    1. As Rep. Barney Frank asked, what does a Judeo-Christian look like? What kind of holiday card do you send one in December?

  5. Why shoudn’t we question someone who believes the things that mormons believe? Does anyone here understand the sillyness of that religion? Anyone?

  6. How on Earth is Mormonism any sillier than Christianity? My guess is you think that esoteric, not-important-to-the-faith things like Kolob are far more important than they are. At it’s heart, Mormon theology isn’t any sillier and is more humane than either Roman Catholic or Evangelical Protestant theology, at least if you actually understand it.

    1. give me a break — pyramid schemes, armed secessionism, and founded by a convicted fraudster — give me a break

      and black person are cursed and can’t be full members — give me a break

      it’s a cult full of good-hearted people at the bottom and complete hucksters at the top

    2. give me a break — pyramid schemes, armed secessionism, and founded by a convicted fraudster — give me a break

      and black people are cursed and can’t be full members — give me a break

      it’s a cult full of good-hearted people at the bottom and complete hucksters at the top

      1. Christianity believes that Christ rose bodily into heaven, and Catholicism believes that wine and crackers are magically transformed into Christ’s blood and body, but that eating them isn’t cannibalism. Those are no less weird than any tents of Mormonism. From my secular point of view, arguing about which religion is weirdest seems pretty, well, weird.

        1. Bingo. (Sorry, I think the cool kidssay +1.)

          I don’t know Betsy’s beliefs, but in general, any member of religion A complaining about how weird religion B is reminds me of people arguing about the weirdness of other culture’s foods, only sillier, because diet actually makes a difference in health outcomes.

      2. You left out the poligamists, the baptizing dead people from other religions, and the fact that they conduct all their rituals in utter secrecy (insert a winking face here).

    3. I COMPLETELY DISAGREE with this.

      Firstly, all religions have involve assumptions about a supernatural world (and the influence of that supernatural world on the physical world) that are scientifically implausible. In fact, this scientific implausibility is what identifies the important things in a religion. Mormonism, however, relies on an interpretation of American pre-history for which, if modern archeology and genetics are to be believed, almost certainly did not happen.

      Secondly, the stories about Joseph Smith and the Plates of Gold are also difficult to take seriously. They are a clear attempt, lacking in other religions, to provide a textual basis for the truth of the religious texts, within the religious texts themselves (until the Golden Plates disappeared of course). Is that not a little too convenient? It is different from other religious texts, which are presented either as stories of what had happenned long ago, or as testimony of what had recently happened, but without such a strained attempt to authenticate them other than recognizing their great antiquity.

      Thirdly, I find the Book of Mormon to lack the offbeat profundity of other religious texts. While those normally have some offbeat things where the powers of God (or gods) is shown to work in profound or mysterious ways that are not really connected to the rest of the text, the Book of Mormon is very straight-forward. It establishes the settlement of the Americas by the lost tribes, the coming of Jesus and his doctrine to the Americas, and the destruction of the lost tribes’ civilization in the Americas.

      Fourthly, Joseph Smith had a lot to gain from Mormonism if it went out well (which it has in the long-run, although Smith ended up being killed). Even the most cynical Grand Inquisitor of sixteenth century Spain would have had to share with other clerics, and even then it’s not like the Grand Inquisitor was making stuff up off the top of his head as opposed to following what had been already established by other people.

      Fourthly, I have nothing against Mormons or the Mormon Church. They seem like fine people, although I do not intent to vote for Mitt Romney, an opportunist supported by fanatics.

      1. Firstly, obviously the second “Fourthly” should be “Fifthly.”
        Secondly, I did not really need to do all-caps.
        Thirdly, whatever.

    4. Without getting into the theological niceties and absurdities, different faiths may – on average- impart different values and priorities. Certain feelings about war, for example, or about the acceptance of racial minorities, or the acceptance of homosexuality and transgender identity. Abortion. Materialism. The role of the state in the social safety net. Medical intervention in end-of-life issues. Medical intervention at all, even.

      These are all issues of vital importance to how a President will govern the nation, and someone who identifies with a faith that has strong implication for any of them really can reasonably be asked about that.

  7. I think it’s bullshit, Mark! The teabaggers never shut up about Rev. Wright, but Romney swore (by his entrails) allegiance to a church that was officially, openly, institutionally and virulently racist until 1978, and it’s off-limits to discussion?

    Yeah, because “it’s OK if you’re a Republican,” and there’s nothing the pundits love better than seeing Democrats fight with one hand tied behind their backs.

    1. Mitt Romney is not responsible for his religious upbringing, but he remained affiliated well into his adulthood before the Mormon Church, in the wake of scrutiny into Bob Jones University’s tax exempt status, eliminated the ban on blacks in its priesthood. (Mitt was then 31 years old.) Governor Romney has never declared that the ban was wrong.

      As I had written before, suppose Robert Byrd had remained a lifelong member of the Ku Klux Klan, never declaring that lynchings and cross burnings were and are evil. Would he have become a leader in the U. S. Senate, let alone President Pro Tem thereof? (Third in line of presidential succession, BTW)

    2. I agree Betsy. Off limits is the bad news. This wasn’t Mo Udall after all…

      But there is good news too:
      All the evangelicals have to hold their nose and vote for a Mormon and pretend that that doesn’t give them pruritus to the very roots of their butt hairs.

      Maybe it just me, but I love the thought of them saying “yum” as they sit down to a steaming plate of heathen Mormonism…

  8. A very civilized (as always) discussion on NPR this morning, an operative for Huckabee’s campaign discussing how great it was that Romney’s Mormonism wasn’t an issue, that Americans had mostly moved past such concernes. He also said, essentially, that Obama being black wasn’t an issue either. Clearly said operative lives in a different world.

    Let’s see Muslim Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota run for President – then we’ll see how irrelevant religion is to Americans.

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