Several items I was too busy to blog about last week:
Mitt is most likely to be thought of as a flip-flopper by those with anti-Mormon sentiments. A new study out of Vanderbilt University attempts to understand why the flip-flopper tag has stuck to Romney, but not to many other candidates with records just as curvy. The study concludes that “of those who accuse Romney of flip-flopping, many admit it is Romney’s Mormonism and not his flip-flopping that is the real issue.” If Romney does eventually go down to defeat, some will question whether his religion played a significant role. However, most will likely say that it was his flip-flopping record that sealed his demise. If this study is correct, that may mean it was his religion after all.
Published before the Nevada caucuses, this piece in the Guardian asserted that “Romney Looks to Fellow Mormons in Nevada.” Feel free to search the story for any support of that headline. It’s clear that Mormons did strongly support Governor Romney in Nevada. What is not clear at all is that Romney made some special play for Mormon support, as this headline suggests. Despite rampant discussion of the intensity of Mormon support for Romney in that state, the most salient truth on the topic is that Romney had nothing to do with it. There’s a big difference between certain groups flocking to a candidate unbidden and of their own will (Romney’s Mormon support in Nevada) and a particular identity base being constantly coddled and spoken to in code and otherwise courted until they dutifully support a candidate (Huckabee’s evangelical support in Iowa). Whatever else may be said about the Nevada Mormon vote, Romney came by it honestly.
Ron Rosenbaum (who coincidentally works for Slate.com, Campaign 2008’s official purveyor of anti-Romney bile) posts on his blog with the following “Question for Mitt Romney:” “Did You Take a Stand Against the LDS Practice of Baptizing Holocaust Victims — and Adolf Hitler?” It’s the kind of gotcha piece that has become a classic these days- find some sketchy thing that was going on long ago and then find a way to tie a candidate tenuously to that practice by triangulation. Usually there’s no evidence at all to link the candidate with the controversial issue (anyone know if Romney participated in baptisms for Holocaust survivors? Didn’t think so), so the scandal-monger just steps back and asks “But did you take a stand against it????” As if everyone in the world is required to “take stands” against every wrong going on in the world around them. Ron Rosenbaum, did you take a stand against self-serious photographs being posted on blogs?
Of course, the scandal has a bit more heft is there actually is a “wrong” to take a stand against. But the LDS practice of baptizing the dead has always been tossed around as a possible controversy without ever really breaking through to the level of real scandal, to the great disappointment of many critics. One of the reasons people have a hard time getting behind this one is evident in Rosenbaum’s statement of the problem- that the LDS had the practice in the past (now ended) of performing proxy baptisms for holocaust victims AND other notables such as Adolf Hitler (meaning that the LDS performed such works for all dead people, and among them were some holocaust victims, as well as WWII era Nazi dictators). Thus, in the first instance, Rosenbaum suggests that Mormons are attempting to sully the religion of the Jewish victims, but also somehow honoring Hitler via the same treatment. Which is it- do baptisms for the dead rob the dead of their dignity, or unduly dignify dead villains, or both? The suppositions on which all such arguments depend are so abstract and hypothetical that it hardly makes for any kind of engaging scandal. But to take a step further into abstraction to tie Mitt Romney to the whole thing, via his failure to “take a stand” pushes the scandal-making tradition from respectable parlor game to wacky conspiracy theory. Not really befitting a real journalist, even if he is just writing on his blog.
Finally, from the “Mormons Speaking Out” file, Leonidas Ralph Mecham, a Mormon and former chief administrator of the U.S. Courts, has written a letter to G.E. C.E.O. Jeffrey Immelt expressing displeasure with Lawrence O’Donnell’s anti-Mormon screed, which aired on NBC’s McLaughlin Group. The letter is not exactly a model of restraint, and sometimes goes way too far in its rhetoric, but it gives yet another example of Mormons speaking persuasively against the widespread public mistreatment of their faith. To view the letter, click on this link:Mecham Letter