Wednesday, December 5, 2007

What's A Mormon To Do?

Mitt Romney Is No Jack Kennedy - Kenneth L. Woodward opines, actually complains, that Mitt's plan to publicly address his Mormon faith is not Kennedyesque because, unlike Kennedy: Mitt hasn't been nominated; he doesn't face organized religions who are officially endorsing bigotry; and, he will be addressing a Republican only audience. Yes, Mr. Woodward, the situation is not identical to 1960, but so what. Like Jack Kennedy, Mitt Romney is making the same basic decision to address questions about his faith in response to intolerance and doing so in the only way that makes sense given the circumstances in 2007. More importantly, we can move from the dark ages of the 1960s, when Marilyn Monroe and others hid under Jack's bed, to an enlightened administration with two or more first ladies (well maybe ladies 1A, 1B and 1C) representing us around the globe.

Polls show Romney is losing votes to Huckabee because of voters' concern that Mormons are not true Christians. What is Mitt supposed to do? Ignore this until after the nomination is decided in the hope that he can then make a more Kennedyesque speech? Great idea, unless Mitt loses the nomination because of the "Mormon Issue", as the Time's likes to call it. The Democrats had already nominated Al Smith, another Roman Catholic, in 1928. Kennedy made a tactical decision. He would get the nomination first, and address religion when it would get the most votes, and when the bigots had made themselves most vulnerable by their own actions. Mitt seems to have noticed that the Republican's haven't nominated a Mormon for President yet and he's in a tight race for the nomination - different circumstances call for different tactics. It might be more like Jack for Mitt to wait for the general election to raise the issue, it would also create some basic confusion about Mitt's real religion -would he be a Mormon or a moron.

Should Mitt ignore the problem just because it results from individual bigotry, rather than official intolerance on the part of organized religion? The votes lost to religious bigotry are just as real for Romney as they were for Kennedy. Sure, most voters aren't up on the details of Mormon theology. To me, and possibly to Mr. Woodward, the question of whether Mormons are Christians or not seems arcane, and irrelevant to Romney's Presidential qualifications. The point is, it seems to matter to Republican voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. The fact that it may be a relatively smaller percentage of bigots than Kennedy addressed in 1960, the fact that Christian officials no longer speak for these bigots, doesn't change the only fact that matters - people are voting against Romney because he is a Mormon even though this seems to have nothing to do with his ability or willingness to perform the duties of the office of President.

Finally, Mr. Woodward whines that Romney will address an audience of Republicans, not hostile members of the opposition party in a mixed audience like Kennedy did in 1960. Wake Up. Mitt is still running for the nomination. McCain, Huckabee, Giuliani, et al, are the opposition. There will be plenty of Republicans in the crowd who want to see Mitt lose. There will be Republicans in the crowd who won't vote for a Mormon because he's a Mormon. These are the hostile doubter Mitt is facing down on this issue, not Democrats who will vote against Mitt without regard to his religion.

Mr. Woodward's entire editorial seems nearly as pointless as the question of whether or not a Mormon is a Christian. As Good As News has not endorsed Romney, or anyone else, for President, but we predicted long ago that Huckabee would gain as the primaries drew nigh and that Romney would land the nomination with a moving speech that explained how his faith shaped his vision and why that faith would only help, not hinder, his work as President. We wish him well, not necessarily in his quest for the Presidency, but in his quest to remove intolerance from the race.

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