December 01, 2011There are a lot of Republicans who really, really don't want Mitt Romney as their candidate.
I agree with them, for precisely opposite reasons.
The problem with the 2012 elections is that when you run polls that put "any Republican" against Barack Obama, "any Republican" wins easily.
But when you put a specific Republican currently running for the nomination against Obama, either Obama wins or it's a close thing.
In other words, the American public wants to get rid of Obama as president, but not if they have to replace him with any of the current field of Republicans.
That's what you get when the Republican Party is as ideologically driven as the Democratic Party.
A lot of Republicans hate Romney because he's Mormon, and they've been taught by their ministers that Mormons are an evil cult. This is absurdly false, but it's a serious factor in Republican politics.
They don't dare admit their Mormon-hatred openly, because the Republican Party needs the Mormon vote the way Democrats need and count on the Jewish vote – a small and much-maligned religious minority, but one that votes as a bloc and contributes time and money far beyond their numbers.
So it's not even a surprise that when a secularist attacks Mitt Romney for being Mormon, he does it in terms that are shockingly similar to the longtime tropes of anti-Semitism.
On Nov. 12, Harold Bloom published an essay on Mitt Romney that could have been written by the same guy who faked up the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion.
In case you want an education in bigotry by a sneering intellectual, here's the link:
What Bloom hates about Romney isn't his religious beliefs – he hates Baptists at least as much as he hates Mormons, mostly because Bloom hates all religions that actually make truth-claims.
No, what makes Bloom hate Romney is that Romney is rich, and the Mormon Church has tons of money and therefore a Romney victory would mean a victory for the "plutocracy" – government by the people with money.
Walter Russell Mead, about whom I know nothing, gave a ringing response to Bloom at The American Interest; if you care about the debate, here's the link: http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2011/11/28/nyt-slimes-romney/#comment-53170
I have only two reasons for bringing this up.
1. Romney probably won't be and shouldn't be the Republican nominee, because too many people on the left and the right just can't get over his being Mormon. So he'll be weak with the Republican base and easy to smear with independent voters.
Maybe he can overcome that and win anyway, but it's a gamble, and I don't know if America can afford to take such a chance right now.
2. I bring up Bloom's attack on Romney because I want to clear the record on Bloom's biggest point, which is that the Mormon Church has a lot of money.
It's true, and for one simple reason: Most Mormons actually live their religion. That means that most Mormons really don't smoke, drink alcohol, coffee or tea, or use illegal drugs; most Mormons don't have sex outside of marriage; most Mormons actually attend church meetings; and, above all, most Mormons pay tithing.
A literal 10 percent of their increase gets paid in to the Church. And since Mormons tend to end up in the middle class, regardless of where they started out, they mostly earn average or above-average incomes, and this means that at 10 percent, the Mormon Church receives billions of dollars a year.
In most churches there is a paid clergy, and this money flows to a large extent into salaries for individuals.
So I understand why people assume that because the Mormon Church takes in a lot of money from the voluntary contributions of its members, somebody must be getting very rich, or that money must be flowing out to gain political power.
But we who actually pay that tithing and see how it's spent know the truth.
The Mormon "clergy" consists of every adult Mormon, male and female, who is willing to serve. We all teach, minister, preach, preside, and serve as clerks, factotums, chair-setter-uppers, chair-taker-downers and all the other functions involved in running a church.
And none of us is paid.
At the very highest levels of the Mormon Church, the top authorities who devote their full time to church service can draw stipends for their support. Many of them don't, because they earned enough money in their previous secular careers that they don't need to.
But the ones who came from modest-paying professions do draw an income – about the same as a middle-level business executive. Enough that their families can live normal middle-class lives. Period.
All the rest of those billions of dollars flow to the publicly stated purposes of the Mormon Church. Because we actually attend church and all of us minister in it, we need a lot of buildings. Those cost money. That's a huge expense.
We operate a few schools in the US and Mexico, with paid teachers. Those are expensive, but the teachers and administrators aren't overpaid. Not even BYU's athletic coaches are overpaid.
The Mormon Church also publishes books and manuals and produces videos and ads to bring our message to the world. Those aren't cheap, but they don't make money – they are, in effect, just preaching.
When you see a Mormon ad on television, it isn't asking you to donate money, it's asking you to live a better, more Christlike life, so you and the people you love can be happier.
The Mormon Church also contributes heavily to feeding the needy here and abroad; we cooperate with other churches in trying to reach out to better the material lives of poor people in every nation. We are at the forefront of disaster relief everywhere, and our church buildings, where we have them, are open to serve the public as shelters and distribution points in times of disaster.
That's where our money goes. Nobody gets rich from Mormon tithes. Period. The fastest way to get excommunicated from the Church is to dip your hand into the till. You don't steal the widow's mite.
And, most important, the Mormon Church does not use its money to try to gain political power. The Church does occasionally take a stand on moral issues, sometimes publicly, sometimes in private conversations with government leaders.
But we do not pay bribes or ransoms; the Church forbids the use of its meetinghouses, funds and membership rolls in support of any party or candidate. Mormons are not told how to vote.
Keep in mind that while the Mormon Church began in the United States, today more Mormons speak Spanish than English. We're a worldwide church, and we wouldn't last long in most countries if we ever meddled in politics anywhere.
We would far rather have our missionaries on the streets in every city in the world than have a Mormon in the White House or at the head of any government.
So while you may dislike us or disagree with us, keep in mind that whatever wealth the Mormon Church has comes from the voluntary contributions of members who are hard-working, productive citizens; and it is all used (and audited!) for the legitimate building, educational, preaching and relief purposes openly declared by the Church and participated in by all its members.
As for Mitt Romney, I think he's a good and decent man – just like Obama. They are both faithful to their wives. They are both good fathers. They both think and care deeply about the issues facing America, and they both try to find a way to make America a better place to live.
But I'd rather not vote for either of them, because each of them defines the "good" of America in ways I strongly disagree with.
And, to my own disgust, I find myself right now leaning toward Newt Gingrich, a man who, as a human being, in my opinion does not measure up to either Romney or Obama.
But I think he'd make a better president than either. I can support his position on more issues than either of the others'. And as he (incredibly) rises in the polls, I think Gingrich is the kind of practical politician who can get good things done.
It wasn't Clinton who balanced the budget back in the 1990s. It was Newt Gingrich, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Until Gingrich engineered the impossible by winning Republican control of the Congress for the first time since the 1952 election, Clinton did nothing to balance the budget. Gingrich made a budget-balancer out of him.
Maybe, as president, Gingrich could do it again. The world is heading for a financial disaster so terrible that we can hardly imagine it. Governments made the disaster; but America also created the peace that allowed the world system of free trade to flourish, raising living standards everywhere.
There can be no new revelations about Gingrich. We already know every appalling thing about him, because the left borked and palined him in the 1990s, and there's nothing left to uncover.
So if you Republicans actually want to get rid of Obama, stop looking at "true conservatives" – they won't get the votes of independents and swing Democrats like me.
And don't nominate Romney, either – he's too fragile and, being a Mormon, too easy to tear down and destroy. The left will be so glad to do it.
I think Gingrich is your best choice, because despite his negatives, there is nobody smarter or more capable or with a better record of good government seeking the office of president right now.
He'll blow Mr. Teleprompter out of the water. And he'll know how to work with Congress after he's elected.
As a Mormon, I'll defend Romney's Mormonness. Mormons are perfectly normal, good people, and we deserve our chance to run for any office and make our normal share of stupid mistakes, just like anybody else.
But, partly because being Mormon makes him so vulnerable, Romney's not the best candidate in 2012. If Gingrich chooses him as his vice presidential nominee, I wouldn't oppose it; but Gingrich should be president.
That's my opinion – as a Mormon, as a Democrat and as an American who believes our country has a unique responsibility to choose strong, wise leaders for the free world.