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Is Mormonism the new GOP Islam

by Eric Ferguson on January 25, 2012

UPDATE: Great example, sounds just like “some of my best friends are black”

There is anecdotal evidence running around, like this, and this, and this, and especially this, that the Christian conservative base of the GOP dislikes Mormons.

There’s exit poll data too. From South Carolina:

Born-again or evangelical Christians accounted for nearly two-thirds of the electorate and Gingrich easily beat Romney in that group: 44 percent to 21 percent.

Three out of five voters interviewed in the exit poll said that it mattered somewhat or greatly whether a candidate shared their religious views and Gingrich beat Romney by better than two to one among such voters.

Among those who said having shared religious beliefs with a presidential contender did not much matter or didn’t matter at all, Romney prevailed, 39 percent to Gingrich’s 32 percent.

So conservatives dislike Mormons, apparently for theological reasons, and Mormons tend to be — conservative? They do. Among Mormons, Republican identification leads Democratic identification 59-14. OK, I get that Mormons are conservative, but why? Since Mormons are a minority disliked, even despised, by the religious majority, wouldn’t that tend to make them, dare I say it, Democrats? Like other religious minorities? Those who hold the beliefs of Christian liberals, or other abrahamic religions, or polytheistic religions, or who hold no religious beliefs, tend to be liberals/progressives/Democrats … but not Mormons. Yes, Mormons hold the same opinions as conservatives, except for one that would seem rather important, that Mormons are some sort of heretics who cannot be trusted, at least not to the extent of putting them in elected office. So, Mormons, are you sure you’re in the right party?
When I said in the headline “Mormonism is the new Islam”, I mean that Mitt Romney’s candidacy (and to a much lesser extent Jon Huntsman’s) has made Mormonism a salient issue for Christian conservatives. Muslims have been their enemy number 1 and probably still are (especially if there’s not an atheist around). I’m not suggesting the animosity, even hatred, exhibited towards Muslims has suddenly switched to Mormons. It’s not that bad. On the other hand, I would think if you’re of the religion being viewed as the heresy, it’s bad enough. I’m not as mystified by a Republican Mormon as by a Republican Muslim, but still, Mormons, whatever opinions you share with conservatives — they really seem to not like you. Sure, some got elected to something in areas where Mormons are a minority, but you hear the rhetoric in the presidential campaign aimed your way.

So, Mormons should be — Democrats? Really? Like Democrats would ever elect a Mormon? We have. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is a Mormon, and while he’s come in for plenty of criticism from his own side, the criticism hasn’t included charges of heresy. Senators Jon Tester of Montana and Tom Udall of New Mexico are Mormon, and have been criticized for some votes, but not for belonging to some “cult”. So Mormon Democrats — clearly not impossible.

So yes, Mormons, come on over. Join the Democrats/progressives/liberals. Will there be some awkwardness? Sure. Some of us on the left need to ban the phrase “magic underwear” from our vocabularies. References to multiple wives are probably unfair while Christian conservatives are voting for Newt Gingrich. It goes both ways however: if you’ve shared the Republicans’ antipathy to Muslims, well, that has to stop. We welcome Muslims over here. We welcome Jews too, who like you have been kicked around by the Christian majority, but who don’t take it well when some Mormons baptize Jewish graves. There could be questions. Notice though how Muslims, Jews, and Christians have a spotty history of getting along, yet they seem to be managing to move past differences, at least the liberals of each group. So, there is no reason not to join in. Better prepare yourselves though for the polytheists and non-theists, which, depending on your background, you may not have encountered before, at least not in the uncloseted form, but we welcome them too. Accept them as you want to be accepted, and you should be OK.

Mormons might want to be prepared for a non-white problem, specifically, that you used to have a problem with non-whites. It’s only a generation ago that only whites could be priests. Not been the case for while, true, but there could be some lingering hard feelings. If there is any lingering racism, well, you’re probably not reading this far, but time for some introspection on that.

What about Prop. 8? Let’s say it’s enough of a sore point that I probably don’t even need to explain what that refers to — but just to be safe, I will. That was the ballot proposition in California in 2008 that put a ban on marriage equality into the state constitution, overriding a state supreme court decision that legalized it. Much of the funding for it came from the Mormon church — which is a bit awkward as one of liberalism’s values is accepting gay people as they are and believing they should be equal under the law. Funny thing — when you take people’s rights away, they tend not to like you. I have a feeling homophobia is the biggest block Mormons need to get past and yes, you need to. “Diversity” means accepting a lot of different people, each person finding and confronting their own prejudices, but the one exception to diversity is people who disapprove of diversity.

Are there liberals who won’t vote for a Mormon? Probably. When I’ve heard the question raised, it was in regard to Romney, and it is the case liberals won’t vote for Romney. All Mormons? Maybe, and if it’s over theology, or just an assumption the Mormon will be a conservative without hearing out the individual candidate, that would be wrong. However, in terms of actual Mormon candidates running as Democrats, turns out liberals did vote for them. So apparently it isn’t a stopper.

Is it realistic of us on the left to think we can win over Mormons, even while making it clear that we’re more accepting of a religious minority? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth trying. That 59-14 split means we’ve got 14% already. Winning a bigger minority is still a minority — but it’s also bigger. Doing better is going to require reaching out to Mormons, making them feel welcome, and while we can’t control whether someone else is racist, or homophobic, or whatever the word is for people bigoted against other religions, we can look at the ugliness of the anti-Mormon rhetoric on the right, and not emulate it ourselves.

UPDATE: Just came across a prime example of my main point, that it’s odd Mormons are generally conservatives when conservatives don’t want them around:

“There’s another factor.

“Mitt Romney’s Mormon. I mean, I like Mormons. I have a lot of Mormon friends, actually. But I would rather see a Christian as a leader of the free world, leader of America,” said Flannery.

 

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