Mormon Or Just Weird?

Aug 11 2011 @ 1:02pm

Douthat pokes holes in the Obama campaign's plan to "destroy" Mitt Romney, arguing that the "weirdness factor" it will emphasize is actually his Mormonism:

The trouble is that winking at Romney’s faith doesn't fit into any of the broader issues  that will be front-and-center in the 2012 campaign. The Bush campaign's attempt to NEWSWEEKpaint John Kerry as an effete, quasi-French flip-flopper who couldn't be trusted with the nation's defense made sense because 2004 was a wartime election, and the character issues went directly to questions about what Americans wanted in their commander-in-chief. I have a much harder time seeing how insinuations about the peculiarity of Romney's theological commitments fits into a narrative about why Americans shouldn't trust him with a lousy economy.

His Mormonism, in this sense, may turn out to be a lot like Barack Obama's connections to Bill Ayers and the Chicago left, which conservatives tried to make hay from in the waning days of the '08 election: In a different kind of race, it might be a serious liability, but in a campaign focused on jobs, debt and growth, trying to sow doubts about Romney’s faith will just make the Democrats look out of touch. They’d be much better off just accusing him of being a soulless corporate layoff artist and leaving it at that.

I'm not as sure as Ross is that the weirdness here is all about his religion (and I sure hope that wouldn't be exploited in any way). He is a little strange. I've never met anyone quite like him, both in his aw-shucks affability and a political flexibility that could win him a place in the Cirque du Soleil. There's a plasticness to him that makes him look as if he is always impersonating a human being rather than being one. Maybe it's just me. But I find him unrelatable and unlikable, and, for good or ill, that matters in a presidential candidate. If you have no compelling personality and your positions seem both cynically and strongly held, you're in trouble.

Larison maintains that the Obamaites won't need to mention his Mormonism because the Christianists will get creeped out anyway:

Concerns about Romney's religion carry more weight than weak guilt-by-association attacks.

 Among some conservative Christians, there is concern that electing a Mormon would represent a form of acceptance or an endorsement of a religion that they consider to be not only not Christian but fundamentally false and misleading. For those who insist that ours is or should be a "Christian nation," that is unacceptable. Among quite a few secular liberals and critics of "theocons," Mormonism represents the cultural conservatism they dislike, and the more alarmist arguments portray a Mormon President as a threat to the separation of church and state. Viewed this way, Romney's religion is not just a distinctive biographical detail, but something that potentially threatens the way that some conservatives and liberals understand what America is.