The Mitt Romney Rule

Another Lex Ronanis:*

Assuming

A. that most American conservative Mormons (i.e. most Mormons) wish for a Mitt Romney presidency, or at least wish him well,

and

B. that one hindrance for Romney is the perception that good Mormons are obligated to always follow the dicta of the Salt Lake Brethren,

then

C. evidence that good Mormons can share political views at odds with the Brethren is good for Romney,

therefore,

D. those who wish for (A) must not criticize those who display evidence of (C).

So, to provide two examples, Romney’s cause is helped by Utah’s striking down of Prohibition contrary to Heber J. Grant’s wishes and by Harry Reid’s voting against the Constutional Marriage Amendment.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Mitt Romney Rule: if you support Romney, do not criticize those who aid Romney’s candidacy by taking political positions at odds with the Brethren. That Romney himself used to do this (gays, abortion) is probably useful to him if he is to capture any of the middle vote in a general election.

So, give Harry your love. Hug your Democrat neighbour. Be kind to those hopeless liberal Mormons and their Berkeley ways.

__________

*Other “rules”:

1. The Larry King Rule: determine basic church positions by imagining how President Hinckley would respond to them on Larry King.

2. The Scientology Rule: if your actions would be deemed cultish if practiced by a Scientologist, they are cultish.

3. The TK Smoothie Rule (coined not by me but by David J): confronted by a doctrinal vacuum, Mormons are apt to fill it with all kinds of weirdness.

Comments

  1. BTW,
    How glad I am that Salt Lake never makes pronouncements on British politics. This leaves me blissfully un-anguished about supporting the Lesbian Dope Smoking Sheep Adopting Party.

  2. One flaw in your rule: “the Brethren” don’t endorse a candidate or a “politics” but rather regularly issue statements that members should carefully review the issues and vote according to their concience. Other than that minor quibble, your “rule” works perfectly.

  3. “the Brethren” don’t endorse a candidate or a “politics”

    Hmm… What about the good old days of statements such as “we firmly believe that the Equal Rights Amendment is not the answer” (Ensign, Dec. 1976)?

    Does it not count as politics when a political issue is recast as a moral issue?

    How about in this context: “The First Presidency has repeatedly encouraged Church members, in the exercise of their constitutional right as citizens, to make their influence felt in opposition to the proposed amendment” (Ensign, March 1980)?

    Or are you just talking about recently?

  4. Ronan – Thanks for your logical argument in favor of a politically diversified Mormon population. However, I’ve come to accept the fact that many of my fellow church members, even fellow ward members who supported me while I served as their bishop, will continue to assume there is an evil streak in me because I openly support Democratic candidates. 20 years ago while living in Sandy, Utah my neighbor from across the street, who I had known for more than 6 years and who I served with in the ward, stated to my face upon learning of my political leanings, “My grandfather said if you were a Democrat you were an evil person.” Say it slowly as if in a trance and you get the real effect of her comments to me.

    So, thanks for the good thoughts but don’t expect great changes.

  5. Peter, so you’re saying that Ronan’s rule is about taking an issue like the ERA and choosing to ignore counsel about that particular item rather than about a political movement in general? It might work in that case. But Ronan’s post seemed a little different than that, in essence assuming that the Church has somehow officially made a statement against the Democratic party or officially in favor of the Republican party when in fact the Church has explicitly stated that members should choose between the parties and candidates on their own judgment.

  6. No, John, I know that the church has not endorsed a particular party or movement.

    But when the church makes a statement with political ramifications (ERA, MX, SSM) some (many? most?) Mormons claim that the debate is over and that it is incumbent upon good Mormons to support whatever policy the Brethren are supporting.

    Harry Reid ignored the wishes of the Brethren by voting against the marriage amendment proposition; for Romney, Reid’s independence is useful, proving that Mormon politicians are not SLC-controlled robots as Linker suggested.

    Rank-and-file members are entitled, like Reid, to make their own judgments on political matters. That goes without saying, perhaps. But they are also free to make those judgments without being labeled as unfaithful apostates if they arrive at a different opinion than the Brethren. Whacking them with a Follow the Prophet Guilt Stick only proves Linker correct. That would be bad for Romney.

    So, support Romney? Then put away the stick.

  7. But, Ronan, what if we strongly oppose Romney’s politics? Does that mean we have to toe the line on everything else? Or is there no reciprocity in our rule. Or can we hope that American will reject Romney on political rather than religious grounds?

  8. john f.,

    i think that on 2 big conservative issues (gay rights and abortion), the Brethren actually do encourage a conservative view, sometimes on specific legislation. in my view, the church’s abortion position is not as conservative as many (in my experience) non-members assume it is, but that’s sort of the point, since i think ronan’s addressing public perception. while i would probably disagree with you even if we are talking about the reality, ronan is addressing the perception of lock-step thinking, i think.

    more generally, i think this ‘rule’ will help romney more in the general election, should he make it that far, since he will be fighting for more moderate votes. at the primary level, i think those who are opposed to his mormonism (mostly the evangelicals) are not so concerned with mormonism’s lack of political diversity than with the fact that they consider it a cult that proselytes from its own congregations.

    so, in general, i agree with the ‘rule,’ but would qualify it to mainly kick in when the national election begins, if romney is involved. i would also amend C to say “good for Romney and the Church’s public perception.”

  9. Sam,
    ‘Tis your burden, old boy. Good Mormons like yourselves who strongly oppose Romney prove Linker wrong which helps Romney. If you want to defeat Romney I suggest you play the other side, bring out the Follow the Prophet Guilt Stick (FoTPiGS), and prove that Mormons are Manchurian candidates! Write an OpEd for the DesNews stating that Reid should be excommunicated. Get lots of letters in support and voila! Romney’s toast! The whole thing would be made perfect if Public Affairs released a statement that Mormons were free to vote their conscience both in terms of parties and issues. Hopefully for you no-one will buy this, but then in the future liberal Mormons can trot out this statement whenever FOTPIGS is raised over their quivering heads.

    Great plan, eh? It’s kind of like when Romney voted for a Democrat primary candidate in order to get the worst Democrat on the ballot :)

  10. APJ,
    No doubt it’s good for the church’s public perception. Public Affairs love Reid!
    Lamonte,
    I grieve with you.

  11. APJ brings up a good point. I’ve always held that the church’s view on abortion(as stated in the Handbook of Instructions) is actually more liberal than the pro-lifer’s realize. That there might be occasions in which abortion is the right choice would be rejected by most of the christian right. So, unfortunately for the Mormon Republican, they’ve been voting at odds with the Brethren for years.

  12. So when can I get the Leather bound edition of the Book of Ronan? There is some shocking expose in the pages of ancient wisdom.

  13. Space Chick says:

    Ronan,

    you smoke sheep?

  14. SC,
    My Welsh ancestors did far worse.

    Doc,
    I prefer that these rules be held as oral traditions, passed down from father to son.

  15. Ronan – I’m glad to know we share a common ancestry but I wish you would not speak ill of the Welsh. ;-)

  16. “Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Mitt Romney Rule: if you support Romney, do not criticize those who aid Romney’s candidacy by taking political positions at odds with the Brethren.”

    I think this is fine, just so long as Romney’s supporters are free to criticize people the disagree with them for other reasons (i.e., political differences), just not because they are going against “The Church.”

  17. Greg,
    Of course, man!

  18. This post posits a means to help Romney, so does that mean Ronan supports Romney? Certainly not, because by showing support, he is clearly trying to undermine Romney by advancing the “all Mormons, even the liberal ones, vote the same”. So this is an anti-Romney post, except that if it is, it isn’t.

    I hate it when barbers shave themselves.

  19. Kevin Barney says:

    Another illustrative example, similar to the Prohibition one, is overwhelming support for FDR and the New Deal, which at that time meant overwhelming Mormon support as well.

    Mormon willingness to go their own way even in the face of the prophet’s own (different) preferences would make for a unique journalistic piece in a sea of now tired, retread articles.

  20. Peggy,
    Are you reading?!

  21. Peter, so you’re saying that Ronan’s rule is about taking an issue like the ERA and choosing to ignore counsel about that particular item rather than about a political movement in general?

    John,

    Are you suggesting that single issue politics is not politics at all?

    Certainly an interesting view, but I wonder how

    “the Brethren” don’t endorse a candidate or a “politics”

    follows from a distinction between official statements urging members “to make their influence felt in opposition” to single issues and general admonitions to vote one’s conscience.

  22. In 1998, Elder Marlin Jensen, a long time Weber County Democrat, now serving as a member of the 1st Quorum of the Seventy, gave an interview to the SL Tribune. Stating that the church was concerned about one party politics in Utah, he spoke about the need for more Mormons to be democrats. The prevailing opinion is that he was directed by the First Presidency to give the interview (Todd Compton, Sunstone Symposium 2001 address, available here: http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Oracle/7207/demosp.html).

    Although, some have accused me of smoking sheep for even knowing about this interview.

  23. jothegrill says:

    My family all got a good laugh a few years back when my father was to be honored by some local republican group. My dad has been a democrat since before I was born.

  24. Rank-and-file members are entitled, like Reid, to make their own judgments on political matters. That goes without saying, perhaps. But they are also free to make those judgments without being labeled as unfaithful apostates if they arrive at a different opinion than the Brethren. Whacking them with a Follow the Prophet Guilt Stick only proves Linker correct. That would be bad for Romney.

    I was in California in 2000 when proposition 22 was on the ballot, the church really kicked in with a full-scale political movement, coordinated by bishops (I think). It was stated very explicitly that members could be approached to assist, but there should be no coersion and any member should be free to decline to be involved without any repercussions or consequences. I was on a ward council at the time and politely refused to be involved, and generally feeling like I did not need to defend that position. (It was as much in opposition to the whole proposition process, the mechanism of demagogues, as in opposition to the content of the law.) My motivation and worthiness was openly questioned (by a person who has gone on to become a famous Mormon and whose rigidity would surprise most of you), and the bishop defended my decision and that was the end of that. I’m sure it was a more uncomfortable experience for others in less liberal wards than ours.

    So generally, the church said, this is what we are doing, and let’s go. But if you don’t really want to, it’s OK. Hmm.

  25. It was as much in opposition to the whole proposition process, the mechanism of demagogues, as in opposition to the content of the law.

    I can identify with that. For example, I don’t have strong feelings one way or another on laws affecting gay rights; I can see both sides of certain specific issues. But I definitely wouldn’t want to be associated with many of those opposed to gay rights. That may be another with saying that I’m entirely comfortable with the moral position that Elder Oaks took in a recent “interview” posted on the church’s web site. But I don’t think he advocated, for example, that we should treat gays with anything less than full respect, and many of those involved in the “pro-family” movement do not behave as if they love their gay neighbors. I don’t want to have anything to do with that, nor do I want to be identified as one hating days, so I hesitate to publicly advocate the same political positions many of them have advocated.

    The fact is that we can have any number of reasons for taking a political stand. Even if I were to enthusiastically agree with the official counsel of supporting a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, that doesn’t mean I’d have to support any particular amendment that comes along. Some are reasonable, while others are unconscionable, and I certainly have the agency to use my own judgment to determine which is which.

  26. So generally, the church said, this is what we are doing, and let’s go. But if you don’t really want to, it’s OK. Hmm.

    A question on our usage of terms…

    When the term “The Church” is used in such context is it the official position or simply the members within a ward or stake etc who express thier opinion as the church?

    “Officially” the church is neutral as I understand it. Yet overwhelmingly these opinions of the “majority” are paraded as the church’s opinion. Does there need to be a clearer distinction in the “Rank and file” about this?

    Why do so many simply side with a party and ignore the issue at hand? Voting only left or right?

    Is it easier to not have to think about it and simply “vote the line” so to speak?

  27. a person who has gone on to become a famous Mormon and whose rigidity would surprise most of you

    Norbert,
    Come on man, name names! Or at least give us a clue.

  28. Norbert (#24), I was in Cali too in 2000 when the church was not only politicizing from the pulpit, but actually mobilizing phone-calling squads and door-to-door “tracting” for it. I was sickened by it. Made me wonder how the church maintained its tax exempt status after that.

    Ronan, if I’m not a Mitt guy (I’m ACLU), nor a Reid guy (I’m pro-choice and anti-state), am I exempt from the Romney Rule?

  29. The events of 2000 in California were shocking. When it was announced initially, I thought that it was being done by a rogue area authority. I came to realize that was my delusional thinking. They were instructed not to politicize from the pulpit, but I’m sure it was done. (Not in our ward: there would have been a monkey-cluster had that happened.) I’m hoping it was an experiment that went badly.

    #25: You may have misread me. I was equally opposed to the content of the law, and the sense of having some nasty bedfellows was palpable. But I also feel, before we start on any of that, that propositions (regardless of their original intent) have become a way to pass laws that represent the will of the majority of active voters but infringe on or limit the rights of a minority — the very circumstance the legislative process is meant to curb. Even if I agreed with the content, I would never actively politicize for a proposition which clearly had this intent.

    A clue for Ronan: the bishop who defended me plays a mission president in two LDS films.

  30. Not to threadjack, but that TK Smoothie stuff is just plain creepy.

  31. I have another Romney rule for Ronan:

    Thou shalt not run against thyself.

    Romney has been inflicting a lot of damage on himself by apologizing for his record. Now, his advisors are telling him to bash France and Massachusetts. That will only make him appear more desperate.

    Instead, Romney should run on his record and create the image of a competent conservative who can promote conservative causes and common sense solutions under the most difficult conditions.

    The man has a lot to show in terms of accomplishments. Even conservatives will understand that when Romney explains to them how his achievements are relevant to them and their families.

  32. Hellmut, it seems like that “now” is from back in December and also contains the plan to deal with his “apparent” flip flopping. (Which I agree is, if anything, a worse problem than his Mormonism)

    It’s hard to say what will happen as both McCain and Guiliani both have their own problems. But the media is definitely focusing in on Romney with the critical eye. However the media need to change its story every few months. (Witness the shift from love fest to critical eye on Obama)

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