As I have pointed out before, predicting political outcomes, particularly today, is not easy. Even a few weeks ago, outspoken conservative pundit Ann Coulter was defiant in her assertion about a Romney/Cain presidency. No sooner were the words out of her mouth than Herman Cain was forced out by public opinion.
Do I now believe Romney is the de facto choice? Not by a long shot.
Primary voting will start next week in Iowa, and will over the next few months cascade across the nation. The nominating process is different for each party in each state (as witnessed by Gingrich not being able get his name on the ballot in Virginia last week), because 50 states hold presidential primaries first, culminating in the general election in November. Right now Romney has emerged through ten debates as the front-runner by most everyone's calculations. I saw a Rasmussen poll last week that indicated Romney has a six-percentage-point lead over President Obama in a hypothetical election matchup. (By the way, those polls change daily, and it's way too early to put any meaning on them other than just being interesting to look at).
So here's my bold prediction for the political year of 2012: Americans are going to be confronted with a choice for president as polarizing as the parties themselves.
In my rational mind (the best part of me), I wonder and ask myself, "Isn't it obvious that the majority of Americans would rather have a Mormon than a Marxist in the White House?" That is such a loaded question, because we're contrasting a religion with a political philosophy, but in today's world the distinctions are blurry at best. There are many who still contend Obama is not really a Christian, but a closet Muslim. I'll leave that question alone and take the president at his word on it that he is Christian. He isn't the first U. S. President to fail to affiliate with a local congregation in Washington. (Wonder where Mitt and his family would go to church). Romney got clobbered in the last election cycle for engaging in the theological nuances. This time, he's bridled his tongue on religious topics. But still, I have to ask, given the choice between someone who believes in the self-determination of the old American ideals, and someone who advocates a government solution (tied to a tax) for everything that moves, isn't the choice obvious that religion must take a back seat?
Not that he ever asked me about my opinion on the matter, but I offered it to Mitt months ago.
Either by following my advice, unwittingly, or by design, this election cycle Romney has steered away from theological hypotheticals. He's stayed with policy debates, right where he should be. We're in the "Mormon moment" not in small part because of the candidacies of Romney and Huntsman, but brace yourselves, the withering attacks against Mormonism will not abate if Romney becomes the nominee.
I'd like to think we're past all that, and there's a useful website designed to put it all into perspective, but bigots will abound, and there is absolutely nothing anyone can do about them and their hate speech. The contrast between Obama and Romney will only become more and more obvious as the months go by this year.
I'd love to hear Romney talk about how the Church has helped him define and identify his compassion for every individual. Stick to the universal truths. What about how the Church informs him about the love of liberty in this country? I've heard him touch briefly on those topics, and the public needs to hear a lot more about that in broad brush strokes, rather getting lost in the weeds with theology. Agency is the under-girding and overarching principle associated with the plan of happiness. The blessing to choose our freedom, define our liberty, exercise our passion for self-determination and self-actualization is at the core. Society can prosper if those principles are re-enthroned, having nothing to do with the divisive question, "Which Church?"
As Mormons (speaking only for myself), we should be welcoming the scrutiny of those who sincerely want to examine Romney's faith. Trust me on this one, no one is interested in scrutinizing Obama's religious beliefs very carefully. Why? Because Romney has built his whole life on the foundation of "Mormonism," and those who would attempt to crumble the foundation of that will never tire, and will have little interest in trying to figure out what makes Obama tick. Many see the results in Romney's life, the long-standing and successful marriage, the five stalwart sons, the wealth, the prestige that goes with it, and they want to dismiss the picture as "too perfect." Most of the attacks against Romney (he's the first to admit there are chinks in his mortar) will be ad hominem, having little to do with anything of substance, just as they have been since the moment Joseph Smith stepped out of that grove of trees in upper-state New York near Palmyra, where he offered a simple testimony of the reality of God and His Son, Jesus Christ.
By contrast, I saw a writer the other day who suggests President Obama has a theological worldview that essentially takes the economic and “class struggle” teachings of Karl Marx, then superimposes Bible verses over it. His observation was helpful to me to try and understand the direction Obama has taken us. His beliefs preach that successful people are oppressors who need to be conquered, and that the “oppressed” should live off other people’s largesse. This notion of temporal "collective salvation" is at its base. It is a political philosophy, simply economic by its definition, not spiritual or religious. "Liberation theology" is what it's all about, it's political, having little to do with individual salvation embodied in the atonement of Jesus Christ. Instead, the Marxist view is that we must be liberated from those who succeed who must pay their "fair share" to liberate the poor by compulsion. Marxism declares God as dead, then uses words like "theology" and "salvation" to define an anti-God agenda. When they take the view government, surely, can do that better than depending upon capitalists, they take a turn in the road 180 degrees opposite from the gospel of Jesus Christ.
And some would say, there you go again, Dave, mixing politics with religion (a toxic elixir), but remember, I'm not the one stirring the witch's brew here. The Marxists will be first to yell about separation of church and state, but they are ones who have intentionally blurred the distinctions. I'm hoping in this election cycle, if nothing else, Romney will be savvy enough to point out the differences clearly, concisely, and understandably.
I say, forget the minuscule nuances that separate Mormonism from Evangelicalism and Catholicism. Surely we have not lost our way so badly that we cannot see the adverse effects of Marxism and socialism that have been allowed to strangle us as Americans, have we? Are we so blind we cannot discern the destructive path ahead taken by Europe?
As I've said before, I am stunned that in two short years we forsook the Reagan/Thatcher/Pope John Paul II triumvirate who delivered us from Communism, and called it out for the evil it was. Even now in Russia, we see the people standing up against the rigged election process that made it possible for Putin to stay enthroned.
So I would ask which came first, American ideals or Christianity? Which is the reflection and which is the true flame? I contend Christianity embraces every religion, including Islam, because we are all of Abraham. The religion of "the fathers" - and by that term I refer to the ancient patriarchs - IS Christianity. From the beginning in the war in heaven, freedom, agency, and choice were sacred and were to be protected vigorously.
I've added Connor Boyack's new book, Latter-day Liberty, to my list of recommended reading on this page. I'd recommend from time to time you check out his blog, by clicking on the links to his articles. It's time to stop drifting in our lazy beliefs about the price for freedom that will be extracted and demanded before this Titanic struggle for freedom has its final winding up scenes. (By the way, this time the "Titanic" survives).
So bring on the scrutiny of Mormonism. Let the political "colonoscopy" begin. Compared to Marxism, or any other "ism" like Communism, socialism, fascism or anything else out there, it's a winner. As I've stated before, I'm actually quite indifferent as to who wins the White House this year, because anyone who displaces its current occupant will be a huge upgrade, and despite all the political machinations Zion will emerge triumphant even if she continues to be "chastened for a season." (D&C 101:18-42).
The only question is will Americans give both Mormonism and Marxism a thorough and exhaustive examination? If you can accept Marxism in the White House, tell me again why having a Mormon there is so radical.