There sure is a lot of Mormon talk given that the administration has promised not to make it an issue. But then do they really need to? They have the MSM to do it for them. Sarah Pulliam Bailey asks:
Mitt Romney, while ramping up efforts to win swing voters who will play a large role in November’s election, has remained personally involved in trying to persuade conservative leaders to back him and help drive Republican turnout this fall.
Just maybe not the conservatives Ralph Reed thinks he should. Jacques Berlinerblau wrote a guest piece for WaPo giving Romney some advice on how to talk about religion:
Forget about those evangelicals who will never give you a fair shake:…And campaign hard among the evangelicals who will.
I think maybe that is exactly what is going on. Tobin Grant at Christianity Today did a very standard “Will Evangelicals…?” piece airing both positive and negative voices on the issue. I am growing tired of such pieces. They say nothing really. “On the one hand…on the other….” The essential question is who will win most of the votes? Because “evangelical” is a self-applied label and means so many things to so many people in the final exit polls it is likely to line up in accordance with general populace voting patterns, which is why the Berlinerblau idea is the important one.
Yesterday we saw race emerging as the new “code” for Mormon. Brad Hirschfeld sees a similar code emerging in the “secrecy” meme as we did yesterday. Said Hirschfeld:
The White House has consistently insisted that it would not make religion an issue in the presidential race, but with questions such as those raised by Axelrod, you have to wonder. Given the concerns expressed by large numbers of Americans about the Mormon faith and the LDS church, questions about what Romney “believes” and “what he stands for,” easily pass for thinly veiled references to the candidate’s faith.
“The ‘secrecy’ charge is particularly damaging for Romney because it is a clever way for Obama to exploit some Americans’ discomfort with Romney’s Mormon faith without ever raising the issue directly,” wrote Post columnist Marc A. Thiessen Monday.
Given the ongoing concerns expressed by Obama supporters about criticisms directed at the president which are little more than thinly veiled race-baiting, the Obama campaign needs to be especially cautious about this kind of talk. They need to be better disciplined when raising issues which they fully appreciate have the very real potential of pandering to the worst kind of anti-Mormon bias, especially given the ugly way in which some of the president’s detractors continue to question the his faith in baseless ways which pander to American haters of Islam.
Interesting, and threatening – He who lives by can indeed die by.
Someone has finally seen yet another “code” that I thought was in play but did not want to be the first one to name it and start the furor:
Ann Romney was already fully immersed in stay-at-home motherhood — raising five sons, ages six to 16, in her Belmont home — when Mormon prophet Ezra Taft Benson took to a pulpit on February 22, 1987 and delivered a definitive sermon on gender roles in the church titled, “To the Mothers of Zion.”
His message to working moms: “Come home.”
Yep, don’t kid yourselves, the entire “War on Women,” “Mommy Wars” meme is a disguised discussion about religion. This is one of those places where Mormons and Evangelicals line up like peas in a pod. You simply cannot say it is OK to attack Mormons like this, but it is not OK to attack Evangelicals on the same lines. We need to be standing together.
There is also efforts to develop the “trust” code. But Obama asking us to trust him after all the misdirection and jam down he has engaged in during is administration is a non-starter. There may be a lot of people suspicious about Romney and his faith, but Obama is a KNOWN quantity.
Which brings me back to yesterday’s “open up about Mormonism” trap. At Commentary, Seth Mandel points out that the article was self contradictory and concludes:
The best argument I can think of in favor of opening up the Mormon issue is that Democrats, as indicated by Axelrod, will attempt to portray the religion in the most negative light possible. It’s not just Axelrod. Columnists at the New York Times have joined the anti-Mormon campaign almost as soon as they heard Axelrod’s starter pistol. Maureen Dowd joined the fray, but of greater concern was Charles Blow’s anti-Mormon insult on Twitter directed at the candidate himself. Blow later offered a tweet that was about as close to an apology that Mormons were going to get out of him, and he did not lose his perch at the Times–a signal that unlike other prejudices, anti-Mormon bigotry is not a firing offense and will be tolerated at the New York Times. (It will also be tolerated, perhaps unsurprisingly, by MSNBC.)
The best antidote to this may be the familiarity with voters that all presidential candidates attain in the age of long campaigns, 24-hour news networks, and ubiquitous social media. Or it may be for the Mormon community to do its best to counter the Democrats’ campaign against the religion. But now faced with trying to win Democratic votes against an incumbent Democratic president, it may still be perilous for Romney to raise the issue himself.
The rigors of the campaign will do a lot, but Mandel is very right about the Mormon community. Political leadership is more reflective than it is magnetic. That is to say, it does not so much guide people as it gets in front of them when they are already headed in a direction. A great Mormon leader, political or spiritual, is not going to radically change public perception of Mormonism. Individual Mormons are the only ones that can do that. Over the back fence, in the grocery store, at the gym, in attendance of school functions – These are the places where those perceptions will change, and only individual Mormons can be in all those places.