Elections are about choices, and 2012’s pivotal election showcases two very different visions for America’s future. Governor Mitt Romney is quickly consolidating the Republican base to enthusiastically support him this November. His speech this weekend at Liberty University illustrates these efforts, providing an opportunity to underscore Romney’s embrace of American exceptionalism in both his public and private life.
Liberty University is the perfect venue for Governor Romney to make his case. With over 50,000 students, it’s America’s largest Evangelical school. Founded by Jerry Falwell, it’s affiliated with the largest Evangelical denomination in America, the 16 million members of the Southern Baptist Convention. Liberty University wisely offered Romney a platform to speak to social conservatives.
Romney wisely accepted, showing both support for cultural issues and also his desire to have a large and diverse political movement behind him to unseat one of the most radical big government presidents in America’s history. Some seek to make an issue of the fact that Romney is a Mormon–a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS). But those attacks will deservedly fail in a choice between Romney and Obama.
The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees that, in America, you have the legal right to be theologically wrong. This protection for diversity of belief includes matters large and small, covering not only Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Mormons, Catholics, and others, but also 422 Protestant denominations. While there are very significant theological differences between LDS and Evangelical doctrine, none of them are significant for national policymaking.
That’s because most voters only focus on religious beliefs insofar as they inform policy decisions. On those issues, there is little difference, for instance, between the faith teachings of Evangelicals, Catholics, and Mormons. All are pro-life, upholding the dignity of human life. All fully support marriage between a man and woman. All embrace the value of religious faith and practice, and pursue religious liberty.
Moreover, in an age where some seek to drive a wedge between fiscal conservatives and social conservatives, members of the LDS church understand that family issues are economic issues. They understand that children raised by a father and mother in a low-conflict marriage are more likely to graduate high school, graduate college, stay out of jail, secure a good-paying job, and eventually have successful marriages of their own. That’s one reason why the LDS church places such a premium on the hard work of childrearing, as seen in Ann Romney’s noble choice to work at home, investing in their family in a 24−7 job whose only paycheck is a dividend of love and satisfaction, and whose employee-of-the-month awards are photographs of a woman laughing and smiling with her children.
Contrast this pro-faith, pro-family picture with President Obama’s radical agenda. It’s more than his war on people of faith (especially Catholics) or his fringe views on abortion. In President Obama’s worldview, government usurps the place of family. Big Brother becomes Big Father who brings home the bacon through government entitlements covering everything from housing, to education, to food (stamps), to government-run healthcare. You need have faith in government alone, as the collective state becomes the god in whom you trust and from whom you receive your daily bread. And they replace the family unit with the state, undermining the foundational unit of civilization.
This attempt to–as President Obama puts it–“fundamentally transform the United States of America” must be stopped. And there is cause for hope, as the North Carolinians this week reaffirmed marriage as the union of one man and one woman in their state constitution. This is a fresh reminder that, despite the pontifications of urban and coastal elites that supporters of traditional marriage are on the wrong side of history, countless millions of Americans embrace marriage as a sacred institution that government can only recognize, not redefine. This marriage victory in a state that is not only a swing state, but also the location of the 2012 Democratic National Convention, bodes well for Romney’s support for marriage, helping him carry North Carolina and with it the White House.
(It also shows Obama to be on the horns of a dilemma. Whom will he alienate? His far-left base, or swing voters in swing states like North Carolina? Or will he refuse to “man up” and alienate both sides by failing to take a stand one way or the other?)
Both the LDS church in general–and the Romneys in particular–not only understand this idea of the family as the essential foundation for American prosperity; they embrace them. And the LDS focus on self-reliance at the family level, of responsibly stewarding financial resources and planning for a rainy day, is naturally opposed to big-government programs to redistribute wealth and centralize decisionmaking.
Surveying the differences between both candidates and considering what’s at stake (i.e., America’s future), we believe conservatives will flock to Romney. In a matchup between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, it’s an easy choice for conservatives like both of us to fully endorse Governor Romney in this year’s election.
Ken Blackwell and Ken Klukowski are on faculty at Liberty University and the authors of Resurgent: How Constitutional Conservatism Can Save America. Their political endorsement was in their personal capacities.