Last week’s anti-Mormon push polling scandal seems to have died quite rapidly. This is not surprising – such reporting is always anecdotal in nature and absent evidence of a bigger picture, it just has nowhere to go. It is the opinion of some in the punditry community that the Mormon issue has been sufficiently delegitimized that we are not going to see it – though we have been insisting here that we will see it simply out of desperation and a lack of other ammunition on the part of Mitt Romney’s opponents.
There are three reasons we continue to hold to that theory right now.
(1) There remains within the conservative movement a number of reluctant Romney voters whose reluctance is religiously based. There are too many pieces like this and this dealing with that reluctance that portray Romney as a less than ideal candidate, but the best alternative. That is a tempting opening for a political opponent to exploit.
(2) Among the far left, in the wake of Prop 8 animus towards Mormons is extraordinary. Just because the public demonstrations and vandalism and violence have died down it does not mean the sentiment has. One need only haunt the sites in the LGBT community or hardcore left like the Democratic Underground to know this.
(3) Inside the liberal bubble, religion generally is considered an acceptable place for mockery and derision. The distinctives within the Mormon faith make it a particularly easy target for such mockery. Witness Newsbusters description of a Stephen Colbert interview on NPR.
That said, however, everyday we grow closer to the election and the Mormon card is not played is a day that proves us, gratefully, wrong. With the election now officially less than a month away I find myself wondering what if I am wrong and they are right? What if the card does not get played in the election?
Well, with regards to the issues inside conservatism nothing will make them go away completely like a Romney victory and successful governance on his part. Conservatives are going to respect it if it works. If Romney loses, you can bet your bottom dollar that there will be a great deal of Mormon backlash, albeit civil, inside the conservative movement and the Republican party But the post-debate polling trends are making that look increasingly unlikely. (Not to mention the absolutely feckless governance by the current occupant of the White House.)
What I am far more worried about in terms of ugly anti-Mormonism is a Romney win. There is so much ugliness inside the left-bubble, particularly on this issue, that once they lose their chosen one their reactions will be less than kind. Once action starts to occur inside the government with which they disagree, and without the constraints of trying to re-elect their chosen one, the Mormon Card may become an oft-wielded weapon in their opposition. I would expect every conservative action on the part of a Romney administration to be met with shouts of “Watch Salt Lake City,” and “theocracy.” We saw a goodly amount of the latter with George W. Bush and I think it could only get worse with Romney.
Is it too early to worry about what is going to happen after the election? Probably, and it is certainly too early to be distracted for an all out effort to elect Mitt Romney. Just thought it was time to point that if we get to the election without the Mormon card being played, it does not mean it is not still in the deck.
Lowell adds: Doonesbury joins in the faith-mocking
My guess is that John is right and that neither candidate’s faith will be a significant visible factor in the campaign. In a very close election, we may never know whether diehard orthodox Christians stayed home on election day, or whether independent voters paid any attention at all to Obama’s relationship with Jeremiah Wright. In other words, faith probably won’t be a decisive factor.
That doesn’t mean faith won’t be discussed among people who are of the same mind. People on the left will still talk to and agree with each other about Romney’s Mormonism, something they love to do.
For example, in today’s Doonesbury cartoon Garry Trudeau mocks Romney’s service as a full-time missionary in France, over 40 years ago. This raises the usual questions:
- Would Trudeau ever mock Joe Lieberman’s Jewishness, or (heaven forbid!) any Muslim’s faith? I doubt it, but I hope readers will correct me if I am wrong.
- Same question about Obama’s association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Can you imagine it?
- And by the way, I wonder if Trudeau sees anything worthy of mockery in Obama’s activities at the age of 19 or 20?
Of course, this Doonesbury bit appears in Slate, which is an online echo chamber for the left. I doubt Trudeau or his work has influenced many voters in the last 30 years, but he does provide an interesting window into the double standard liberals apply to religion and politics.
Meanwhile, thanks to reader Prof. Dan Peterson, we have this brief commentary from Robert George about the Catholic push poll John writes about above. Maybe it was push-back like George’s that caused the push-pollers to slither back into the swamp they came from.
AFTERNOON UPDATE: Stay classy, Obama fans!