There are three "M'"s that Mitt Romney's consultants know determine his plausibility as a candidate: Massachusetts, millionaire, and Mormonism.
The first M is a liability in the primary, where Romney will try to be the rare Massachusetts conservative (he has largely overcome this one, though perhaps not among the base); the second M is he is very, very wealthy (he is nearly out of the woods with this, in part, because Americans want to be among the rich, not against the rich; and now, the final M--'Mormonism'--is upon us.
Not surprisingly then, as Romney does better in the polls and in the states, this past week has seen a flurry of bigoted things said by left-wing pundits about Mormons, the latest of which are comments tweeted by Charles Blow of The New York Times and Joan Walsh, editor in chief for Salon. Both articles misunderstand the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I shall treat each in turn, explain why the left hates Mormons, and recommend means by which to protect Mormons, and Romney particularly, against this hateful prejudice.
The political left will no doubt mention that it is evangelicals, and certainly not they, that disdain Mormons, but this isn't true. According to Gallup, the Republican Party, the party of Evangelical Christians, saw a decrease in the numbers of Republicans saying they could not vote for a Mormon from 30% in 2007 to 18% in 2011, while among Democrats, the party of the secular left, that figure increased from 18% to 27% during that same time period.
There are all sorts of reasons for this decline of dislike among evangelicals (not least of which is Romney's efforts at outreach) but I think the most plausible is that the left is threatened by Mormons, who with their own institutions and charity, have little need of left wing utopian schemes and, in the West, at least, can challenge the claim that the welfare state is the best ordered regime. If Mormons can organize to defeat homosexuals and their assault on marriage in California, one of the most liberal states in the country, they are a powerful lot, indeed, and Mitt Romney, former governor of another of the most liberal states in the country, inspires fear. He looks like a president. He has the pedigree they tell us a president ought to have--having graduated well from Harvard Business School and Harvard Law School--and all the while shunning, or at least, not embracing the liberal politics that animate those institutions.
How often did we hear, for instance, that Barack Obama was president of the Harvard Law Review, as if that actually mattered? (Conveniently omitted is that his law review is the least cited.) For many Americans, especially those in the secular Boston-New York-Washington, D.C. where religious types are few, the only Mormon they may know is the one running for the presidency. This explains, perhaps, why so many in the media, which are overwhelmingly atheist and Democrat, have repeated the same sort of discredited pabulum to attack Mormons now.
Turning now to the tweets, here's Charles Blow, after Romney praised the traditional family:
"Let me just tell you this Mitt "Muddle Mouth": I'm a single parent and my kids are *amazing*! Stick that in your magic underwear."
Like most liberals, Blow is disdainful of tradition. Though he mentions the temple garment (which he slurs by calling it "magic underwear") Blow's antipathy for Romney stems from Blow's identity, as a single father, an identity which is rare. Blow knows well that most single parents are single mothers and single parenthood is extremely rare among fathers. I know that Blow knows this because Blow wrote about it in his column in The New York Times on January 24, 2009 [my emphasis]:
According to Child Trends, a Washington research group, 70 percent of black children are born to single mothers. Also, black children are the most likely to live in unsafe neighborhoods. And, black teenagers, both male and female, were more likely to report having been raped.
According to reports last year from the National Center for Children in Poverty, 60 percent of black children live in low-income families and a third live in poor families, a higher percentage than any other race.
You would have to be a New York Times columnist to believe that the two paragraphs are not related. Blacks tend to be poor because so many of them do not get married in the first place. And many blacks are never born in the first place, thanks to the prevalence of abortion in that community.
Mormons, by contrast, have very low rates of single parenthood, abortion, and divorce. A study, published in 1993 in Demography Magazine, concluded that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who marry in one of the Church's temples are the least likely of all Americans to divorce. Might Blow just be upset that Mormons do a better job? Might he be envious of the family life that Mormons lead?
Moving along, we turn to the hateful statement from Joan Walsh, editor-in-chief of Salon, who while alluding to the LDS faith practice of "baptism for the dead," tweeted, “Romney’s saving the soul of America – so he doesn’t have to baptize us after we’re dead.”
Walsh issued a non-apology apology the other night and has decided to block her bigotry in a statement from Elie Wiesel that criticized the Mormon practice and asked for Romney to respond to it. (It isn't clear whether or not Wiesel spoke on his own accord, or whether he was asked by a journalist.)
But it is clear that this is going to be a recurring meme among those left-wing journalists critical of Romney. It was first raised on the Daily Kos, but has now gone mainstream. Bob Schieffer, for instance, raised the issue of Romney's Mormonism and Elie Wiesel in an interview with Michael Kranish, co-author of The Real Romney.
Of course, Mormons have tried very hard to stop the practice of baptizing dead Jews, but it is impossible to police the members of 14 million Mormons worldwide. A compromise was brokered in 1995, though it remains contentious because some Mormons claim a first Amendment right to baptize Jews murdered in the Holocaust. (They are right.)
Theologically, Mormons believe that the doctrine of "free agency" continues long into the spirit world, where you go after you die. Mormons try to help those spirits come to know Christ and therefore ascend to the highest level of heaven. (The faith practice, incidentally, though unique to Mormons, wasn't always so. The early Catholic church and some early Christians practiced it, until it was declared forbidden.)
I must say that I wonder why this issue is so contentious. If the Mormons are right about the nature of the divine, then this is one of the greatest acts of kindness that could ever be performed, far kinder than the predominate Christian view that those who did not know Christ will languish in hell for eternity. If Mormons are wrong, well, it's the functional equivalent of giving someone a four leaf clover or praying to a flying spaghetti monster. No harm, no foul. Moreover, when someone is baptized posthumously, the doctrine of "free agency" still applies. The dead can still choose to reject or to embrace Mormonism, much as they did while still living. So when the widow of Danny Pearl (who was beheaded by Muslim terrorists) tells the Boston Globe that she finds it a mark of "disrespect" that Mormons tried to convert his spirit, it is, on the contrary, a mark of sincere respect. Ask yourself: if you had the keys to paradise, how selfish would it be to deny them to those who had suffered such horrendous crimes as the Holocaust and decapitation?
Naturally, one must ask why it is that at a time when so many of Obama's friends want to eliminate the state of the Jews and openly salute the murder of Israelis and Jews. Jeremiah Wright, one of the most notorious anti-Semites to enter the political fray, was listed among the Simon Wiesenthal's top ten most anti-Semitic/anti-Israel slurs of 2011, but Walsh, as with most commentators, will never call out Jeremiah Wright or Barack Obama for that bigotry.
Though Walsh flirted with criticizing Wright during the 2008 election, she will never ask Barack Obama if he shares his pastor's view that Jewish doctors created the HIV/AIDS virus. As I wrote about for The American Spectator, Wright has often recommended a favorite book of the Nation of Islam, Emerging Viruses: AIDS and Ebola: Nature, Accident, or Intentional?(1996), a self-published screed by Leonard G. Horowitz, a conspiracy theorist and former dentist, who argues that HIV began as a biological weapons project. "Based on this Tuskegee syphilis experiment and based on what has happened to Africans in this country, I believe our government is capable of doing anything," Wright said during the 2008 election. But the Jews, as always, are the ones that are the most capable of doing anything bad.
Alas, as conservatives, we should expect that these kind of attacks on Mormons will become more, rather than less frequent, because Mormons, with their own institutions and their own charity, represent a distinct threat to the welfare mentality of the left, as evidenced by a fantastic column in Mormons give more to charity than any other religious group and that's even excluding the tithe that they pay to their church.
This is why, for instance, that the dons of the welfare state, Ted Kennedy and the Kennedy family, were the first to launch some of the more hateful rhetoric against Mormons during the 1994 campaign. Rep. Joe Kennedy was more than happy to be the attack dog, saying “I believe very strongly in the separation between church and state, but I think that if a particular church has a belief that blacks are second-class citizens, and that’s the stated belief of the church, or that women are second-class citizens, I mean you ought to take a look at those issues.”
Then, as now, the media was more than happy to comply, with The Boston Globe and The Washington Post writing stories on the past two days about Mormonism and Jews and Mormonism and blacks. BuzzFeed was more than happy to write about the Mormon past of Marco Rubio, but nobody has written about how Roseanne Barr, candidate for the Green Party's nomination for president, was a Mormon until she was sixteen and that she even wrote about it in her autobiography. Nobody ever talks about Harry Reid's Mormonism. And, as Rosenberg points out in Tablet Magazine, "no one dared to mock the “magic underwear” of Orthodox Jews—tzitzit—when Joe Lieberman ran for vice president on the Democratic ticket, as pundits like Bill Maher and Maureen Dowd have done when it comes to Romney’s Mormon undergarments."
In 1994, Romney failed to defend himself against those attacks, much as I fear he will fail to defend himself against these attacks. His consultants mistakenly believe that the best way to inoculate their candidate is to avoid talking about Mormonism, but Romney's faith is a big part of his life, and indeed, one of the most humanizing things about him.
Part of the reason Romney will refuse to defend himself against attacks is that Mormons are taught to be as Christ-like as possible. That oftentimes means being humble and taking the abuses heaped upon them. Given that their forefathers were often slaughtered, this new abuse seems very light, indeed.
It falls then, to us, to protect our Mormon friends from the slime machine that the Democrats and the left-wing will visit upon them. If Mormons can be broken, the other, less devote faiths will follow, and that is exactly what we have seen with the Catholic Church. The left's new attack on religion is about divide and conquer and submitting all of us to their government yoke.
We would all do well to read Article 11 of the LDS Articles of Faith, "We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”
But the Mormons have that wrong. It isn't a privilege. It's a right and we must all defend it.