Despite Pres. Obama’s improved performance in last night’s debate, I continue to predict, as I have for months, that the United States will elect a Mormon president in November. The stagnant economy continues to be the primary issue on peoples’ minds, and Romney offers a hope of a different course.
Mormons have been debating for years the issue of whether a Mormon in the White House would be a good or bad thing for the Church. There is some new information to consider that may make for worthwhile discussion. My take: there are potentially good things for the Church about a Mormon president, but also many potential things to worry about.
First the good news: there are signs that the religious right is unifying around the Romney candidacy. Billy Graham has even scrubbed a reference to Mormonism as a cult from his web site.
Clearly, the majority of right-wingers see Obama as even worse than a Mormon. The more cynical among you may point out (perhaps rightly so) that the true nature of right-wing anti-Mormonism has only been put on hold and that it is only a matter of time until it displays itself again.
But I would say there has been a subtle shift in the right-wing world that is really quite remarkable. I listen to a *lot* of talk radio, both local and national shows. Five years ago, the environment was very different regarding a Romney candidacy and the subject of his religion. Mike Huckabee played quite successfully on anti-Mormon bigotry in his campaign, and very few people called him on it. It was an ugly scene.
But the disastrous Obama administration has united the right-wingers against the larger threat, ie, four more years. So now right-wing talk show hosts rush to defend Romney against any attacks on his religion. They are quick to pan any hints of anti-Mormonism (quite rightly) as bigotry.
I would argue that a politically conservative world defending Mormonism during a Romney presidency is clearly a positive thing for the Church. It makes the Church more of a mainstream entity and helps us get over the “weirdness” factor that has interfered with missionary work since the 1830s. More people will be willing to at least be open to learning about the Church if it is seen as more mainstream.
On the other hand, there are many reasons to worry. There are always hazards for the Church with being associated with a particular political viewpoint. A “right-wing church” will potentially turn off a lot of people. The Gospel of Jesus Christ transcends politics, and a Romney presidency risks linking the Church to politics. This is why I must admit having Harry Reid as a prominent Democrat helps provide some balance (as much as I am embarrassed by Brother Reid’s many, many ill-advised comments and political positions).
Many people have forgotten how incredibly ugly the political environment was during the Bush presidency. Let’s be frank: the left absolutely despised President Bush and expressed it in extremely hateful ways. (In retrospect, I would like to point out that a lot of the left’s criticism of Pres. Bush was spot-on — I am talking about the environment created and the uncivil way the the criticism was expressed). Given that a President Romney would be ousting a progressive hero in President Obama, I expect the left to get even uglier.
So, with a Romney presidency we can look forward to a hateful left-wing mob continually and relentlessly using every possible tool to take down a man they will attempt to turn into Lucifer himself. Bill Maher has already shown us what to expect: endless “jokes” about Kolob, garments, the temple, Heavenly Mother and on and on.
I predict that such bigotry will become more mainstream during a Romney presidency. Now it is mostly on the fringes, spewed by Maher and Lawrence O’Donnell and a few other Mormonophobes. Soon it will be on the Daily Show and Rachel Maddow and will likely creep into the editorial pages of the NY Times and elsewhere. A Mormon president Romney means the normalization of left-wing anti-Mormonism.
Foreign policy thus becomes a critical issue for Pres. Romney. The left will forget all of the warmongering of the Obama administration, the drone attacks, the increased number of troops in Afghanistan and the killing of innocent 16-year-old Americans without due process. Unfortunately, a Pres. Romney is likely to continue such policies. Just wait for the outrage from the media elites when a Mormon president prosecutes the war on terror with the same fervor as Presidents Bush and Obama.
It seems inevitable to me that many wonderful, sacred things about the Church will be dragged through the mud in the next four years. The prophet will inevitably be insulted and the temple will be verbally desecrated.
Overall, it is difficult to argue that a Mormon president will be a “net positive” for the Church. And, once again, I marvel that anybody would want the job given all of the ugliness out there.