Mitt Romney's Mormon Problem

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THE SPINE OCTOBER 23, 2006

Mitt Romney's Mormon Problem

As everyone knows, although he has not yet announced, Mitt Romney is running for president. Or, rather, he is running for the Republican nomination for president. I am not sure that he is actually the first Mormon to do so. But being a Mormon is clearly part of his strategy to win. There's nothing wrong with that. I don't know whether Al Smith mobilized Catholic clergy to help secure him the Democratic nod in 1928. But he certainly based the initial enthusiasm of his campaign in the immigrant big cities, many of them Catholic. I'd bet my last dollar that he also talked with the cardinal archbishop of New York. Of course, he won the Democratic nomination but lost the election ... big. The country was afraid that he'd call Rome every time he had a decision to make.

Well, whom might Romney call? Who knows. But we know to whom he's
speaking now. His brothers, his sons. A few elders of the Church of
Latter Day Saints, which is the proper name for the collective of the Mormon temples. Some Brigham Young alumni. Actually the people to whom he is close. Maybe most of them are Mormons. So already there are
(malevolently motivated) worry-warts pondering whether Romney has not actually brought down the wall between church and state even before he has announced his candidacy. On the front pages of Thursday and Friday's Boston Globe, there appeared two articles about Romney's enmeshment with his church. Some former IRS commissioner has apparently warned that the church might be jeopardizing its tax-exempt status if its officers weren't more careful about their ties with Romney.

Isn't Romney just really following in the well-trod trails of black and left-liberal candidates down the church aisles for enthusiasm, money and votes? And ditto for the far-right candidates down the aisles of evangelical and fundamentalist places of worship and social engagement?

Mormonism will inevitably become an issue in Romney's campaign because of its stand on polygamy and homosexuality, its history on race, et cetera. Romney will have to show that he has liberated himself from some of these views to be taken seriously even by conservatives. After all, the right-wing of the party to which he belongs is not soft on polygamy.

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posted in: the spine, religion, social issues, al smith

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