It looks like Mittens is our man, as far as the GOP presy-nom goes in this year of Our Lord 2012. Not my personal first choice, as I retained a sneaking affection for Rick Perry as one of the very first among our dear establishment Repubs who glommed onto the Tea Party from the get go … but, eh … this is not a perfect world, probably will never be a perfect world. Speaking as an amateur historian, it’s more interesting as an imperfect world anyway. As far as I’m concerned in this current election season, Anybody But Obama will do for me. I don’t care wildly for establishment career Republicans, especially the ones embedded in the Washington D.C. establishment like an impacted wisdom tooth … but in a realistic world, we work with what we can get.

Of course, one of the sneaky push-backs generated as the campaign season wears on through summer and fall will be objections and veiled – or not so veiled – criticisms of Mitten’s Mormon faith. That is, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, LDS for short, the common reference within those communities particularly thick with them. (In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, which saw the Enterprise crew voyage backwards in time to our tumultuous century, Captain Kirk attempted to cover for strangeness in Mr. Spock’s conduct by saying, “Oh, he did too much LDS in the Sixties. That line raised an enormous horse-laugh in the theater in Layton, Utah, where I saw that movie in first run: Probably not so much as a giggle, everywhere else.)
In the event of his nomination as GOP candidate, I remain confident that every scary trope about Mormons will be taken out and shaken vigorously, as representatives of the U.S. establishment press furrow their brows thoughtfully and mouth the successor-to-JournoList talking points, and members of the foreign press corps (such as the BBC) worry their pretty, empty heads about those crazy fundamentalist Americans going at it again. Christian fundamentalists on steroids, is what it will boil down to, I am sure. Polygamous marriage, every shopworn cliché about Religion American-style that you’ve ever seen in books, movies and television will be put out there. How our press nobility can accomplish this and still look away from the nuttier-‘n-squirrel-poop ravings of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright of Chicago without giving themselves existential whiplash, I can’t imagine. I am confident that a prospective Romney presidency will be painted as about one degree off from A Handmaid’s Tale, and there will be plenty of blue-state punters who will eat it up with a spoon. I would hope that the sensible ones would be able to stop hyperventilating long enough to listen to reason about all this.

In these modern days, a so-called Mormon theocracy wouldn’t be too bad, actually. Yes, I as a carefully raised Lutheran, believe that LDS theology and proposed pre-history of America is theologically suspect and to this date unsupported by archeological evidence; that Joseph Smith was a charismatic charlatan, and likely the hands of the mid-19th century LDS establishment would not bear a light misting with luminal with regard to certain occurrences, and that many of their established policies are justly deserving of criticism … Still and all, for a non-LDS outsider, the heart of Utah was not a bad place to live, when I came back from twelve years of living overseas, to an assignment in Utah, late in 1990.

Yes, I heard the jokes; about the women who had fled Utah for Iran, seeking political and sexual freedom, any number of gags concerning lime jello, and I saw the T-shirt with a map of all the Utah gambling resorts – all of them located on the borders of Utah. But once I came, and settled into a tiny 1930s house in South Ogden, I began to feel a lot of affection for the place, and for the people and particularly American culture who had made it so. The LDS church is quintessentially American – one of the largest and ultimately the most long-lasting of the early 19th century Utopian colonies. Give credit to Brigham Young, the horny old stoat: the man was an organizational and strategic genius, and the visions of Joseph Smith and the early Mormon pioneers inspired a level of devotion that subsequent hopeful creators of perfect societies can only envy.

First off, I never met so many lippy, independent and outspoken women as I did in Utah – until I came to Texas. Maybe the meek downtrodden women were all locked up in their homes save for the one supervised visit to the grocery store per week … but still. I plain old liked a lot of the things that made urban Utah nice to live in, just as I had liked a lot of the elements that made Greece a nice place to live, a decade earlier. There were some little local peculiarities – anti-American terroristic violence in Greece, and having to schlepp all the way to the on-base Class 6 store to purchase alcohol, in the case of Utah … but the fact remains that for me, it was a nice place to live, as a single parent with a 12 year old daughter, living in a working-class, pre-WWII era suburb within walking distance of my daughter’s school. I liked that the ZCMI outlets had a fantastically well-stocked kitchenware department, that bulk quantities of staple foods were available in retail outlets other than the membership stores like Sam’s and Costco, I liked having four seasons, and that people felt a responsibility to their neighborhood. The guy who lived on my block who was a building contractor; he came around with one of his tractors, and cleared the street of snow after a heavy snowfall. Even the slightly skeevy guy next door – when I had a problem with the driver’s side door-lock of my car (long story) – he came out with a ‘slim-jim’ and popped the lock for me.

I think the thing that I liked the very best was the family orientation. My neighbors were parents, or grandparents, or at the very least, prospective parents. Probably most of them were LDS: I know the next-door young couple was, and the woman across the street with a son exactly my daughter’s age was a back-slider. We were never proselytized to the point that I felt offended – or to any point at all, although the missionaries came to the door once, upon noticing that someone was living in a rental house which had been empty for a year. Nice boys; one was from Ireland, and we were sidelined into a long discussion about Irish legends and folklore. They were earnest, dedicated and sweet; the adult version of the typical LDS male which I encountered (so it’s a situational-selected pool and anecdote does not necessarily translate to data) was usually all that and with a refreshing sense of a sense of realism about a lot of things.

This brings me up to the time that we were stranded by car trouble in St. George; on the I-15 as we were headed north from Christmas with my parents. Something in the old Volvo died on the grade up the Virgin River – it eventually turned out to be the timing-gear disintegrating, but the mechanics at the garage that AAA towed it to thought it was something else, something they could fix in a few hours. So – to kill the time it would take for them to fix the car, we went off on foot to see what there was to see in St. George. And we finished up at the LDS Temple in St. George, where the docents doing tours were all genteel, elderly LDS members offering individual tours to those few tourists wandering into St. George on a mid-winter day.

We wound up getting the tour of the public areas of the temple complex from a retired maxillofacial surgeon, who blinked apologetically when I said that I was a feminist. (This was when I was at a mildly obnoxiously feminist phase of my life – I came very close to joining the Ogden chapter of NOW; only stymied because I couldn’t afford the membership fee, whatever it was at the time. The members of the local chapter were also earnest, dedicated and sweet – and also mildly embarrassed by the antics of the national organization.) The retired surgeon explained, sympathetically, that he was rather a feminist himself. He owned, he said, quite a lot of real property, and he was fully aware that in the natural way of things, his wife would outlive him and probably for a good few decades. He wanted her to be able to cope with his various holdings … so when he retired, he had taken steps to deed half of them over to her directly, for her to manage as she saw fit, without any input from him unless she asked for his assistance. I thought then, and still do – that it was a breathtakingly sensible way to share an estate and to ensure his wife’s future.

So – to my way of thinking, based on experience, an administration with an LDS frame of mind wouldn’t be half bad, really. God knows, we have done worse, and endured. Discuss.

(Crossposted at www.ncobrief.com)

27 thoughts on “L-D-S”

  1. I am not a Mormon – consider myself an Evangelical Christian – and to me his faith is absolutely irrelevant to the office he is seeking.

    I had a laugh the other day – Hugh Hewitt is interviewing some political pundit asking him “what is his chief advantage over Obama” – and the pundit is going into this lengthy spiel about how their views differ – to which Hewitt says that his chief advantage is that he “isn’t Obama”.

    At his point I would vote for anyone against Obama although Mitt’s coming out today for school vouchers is a big plus in my book –

    The fact that he saved the SLC Olympics from disaster tells me – together with his Baine Capital experience – he might even help the country in this mess of a fiscal mess.

  2. Romney’s religion is an issue because Obama needs to distract voters from thinking about Obama’s record. It’s not clear if the attacks hurt Romney on balance. Current practice is to have marginal media and political figures initiate an attack on a theme and then ramp up the attack if it polls well. If the anti-LDS attacks fade we will know that the political moderates and religious Christians they were directed at didn’t respond favorably. Romney has many flaws as a presidential candidate but he seems to be a decent person with an admirable personal life and a past that’s an open book. Personal attacks against him may backfire.

  3. The LDS stuff is all basically enemy-voter suppression. My guess is that it will be pushed in swing states where there is a significant evangelical element that dislikes Mormoms in an effort to get that part of the Republican base to stay home. Certainly there is enough anti-Mormom prejudice (as in I will not vote for a Mormon) for it to be worth Obama’s time to make sure everyone is aware that Romney is Mormon. More than that is probably a waste of time (this isn’t going to get this demographic to vote FOR Obama after all).

  4. Jonathan – I am wondering if it isn’t already backfiring. People are basically cynical to the MSM – look that the attack they tried on Gingrich in SC – people just voted for him anyway. And the Wash Post attack against Romney recently – just fizzled.

    In years past the subjects of the attack would have been the buzz for weeks to come – if not the rest of the campaign.

    Now an increasing number just ignore them. I think the media lost a lot of their cred after Obama got in and made a record.

  5. Because of Obama’s own strange background, a lot of normal attacks on LDS aren’t available or will/have spectacular FAIL. LDS polygamy is over a century old issue and you have to go back pretty far in the Romney family tree for it to show up. Obama’s father was a polygamist. End result of Democrat push, normalizing polygamy. That’s not going to do the Democrat party any favors.

    No LDS sermon from the past is likely to be as recent, or as damaging as Rev. Wright’s “God damn America”, if the Democrat dirty trick squad can come up with anything at all. End result, an increase in religious bigotry. Thanks a lot Dems!

  6. Well you have your call and response working well.

    There are few things more ridiculous than the Mormon religion although some beliefs promulgated by peoples of the book come close.

    Attacking Mittens over this in America will be interesting though as you have a wide range of religious crazies in play.

  7. Attacks on Mr. Romney’s Mormonism open the door to investigation of Mr. Obama’s religious practices. Mr. Obama will likely do poorly on this exchange. The political radicalism preached from the pulpit in Rev. Wrights church is fairly commonplace in Chicago and other urban Black areas. But is not well known to most people, and many uncommitted voters might be shocked by it if they knew more about it. Mr. Obama is counting on the MSM maintaining a cone of silence on this, or suppressing any investigation with accusations of racism. But Mr. Obama could be hurt by this and he and his political and media proxies would be wiser to stay away from the issue of religion.

  8. ” Certainly there is enough anti-Mormom prejudice (as in I will not vote for a Mormon) for it to be worth Obama’s time to make sure everyone is aware that Romney is Mormon. ”

    Obama has united the evangelicals behind Romney better than Romney could have done it. The attack on the Catholic Church will not impress too many people but Catholics know all about it. Obama’s abortion policies will do the rest. Pengun is one of those militant atheists who think all religion is ridiculous. No believers (I am not one myself but consider myself agnostic) pay any attention to them. They are talking to themselves.

    It makes me think of Prius drivers.

  9. The attack on the Catholic Church will not impress too many people but Catholics know all about it. Obama’s abortion policies will do the rest.

    I am wondering how many knee-jerk Democratic voter Hispanic voters will change their minds over this. Just as how many blacks in the black churches will change over his gay marriage stance.

    It will be interesting.

  10. By their fruits you shall know them.

    It makes me wonder. If man is fallen and the world is corrupt, perhaps the even the purest message of God’s intent is corrupted in the telling. For if it is truly God’s word, aren’t people made better by it? Mormonism may be closer to the truth than I’d like it to be, given the sect’s foolish beginnings. I’d rather live in Salt Lake City than San Francisco, but, of course, I don’t live in either.

  11. Bill, I think the black churches are too invested in the “first black president” thing to change but there are people, like Charles Payne, for whom I have great respect, who admitted he voted for him because of the first black president thing but who will probably not be willing to do it twice.

    I listened to Charles Payne on the radio here for years but didn’t know he was blck until I saw him on TV. He sounds( to my California ears) like a white Chicagoan. Great personal story.

  12. Two of my husband’s best grad students have been Mormons – independent and original thinkers, the theology didn’t close their minds. My experience has been that Mormons, like most religions, attract a variety of characters – but that emphasis upon the home and family, the sense of community within the church and then within their children’s schools, have often (not always) made them real additions to the broader community.

    But what is going on in churches like Jeremiah Wright’s is troublesome and the fact that it has been seen as off-limits in the election is even more disturbing. For years, I’ve seen hints of it in my workers and students. That is bigotry and that is dangerous.

  13. I am afraid this election has the potential to be one of the dirtiest and most violent in our history.

    The racial angle is already being played to the hilt, even by dems against other dems. The occupissers are practicing on various meetings and gatherings, seeing how disruptive they can be and get away with it.

    I’ve said before that the tensions and animosities may very well result in street fighting reminiscent of the worst of the 1930’s here and in Europe.

    It looks like mud and blood all the way.

  14. Bill,

    I am not a Mormon — consider myself an Evangelical Christian — and to me his faith is absolutely irrelevant to the office he is seeking.

    According to quite a few in the MSM, you and I do not exist.

  15. I’d rather live in Salt Lake City than San Francisco…

    Oh, hell yes. People are probably a lot more tolerant and pleasant in Salt Lake City.

  16. A friend of mine is married to a non-Mormon from SLC. It is an interesting experience to go Sailing on the lake, I’m told. If you fall in, you almost bounce.

    He is the Cuban-American who was waiting to hear about his medical school application at UC. Finally, he drove up to SF and asked. It was in some Hispanic AA committee and held up for weeks. He asked if they would just classify him as white. He was accepted a week later.

    My college roommate (who I just heard from after 40 years) had a wealthy real estate developer father who insisted that his doctor, lawyer and accountant be Mormon. He didn’t really trust anyone else. He, of course was not.

  17. It’s not all sunshine and daisies in Utah though – they have their own problems just like any metro area. For all my visits to Ogden (for work), it’s always struck me as a odd combination of California (from the skiers), old-time midwest, and big-city metro area underclass. A very eclectic mix. The problems I alude to are the six cops who got shot last year down in SLC. Concerning the Mormons themselves, any of them I’ve worked with have been courteous and hard-working, and certainly not openly proselytizing, although they’ll certainly answer questions if you ask.

    Reminds me, was on a trip to the Czech, taking a day off to go to Prague – as I sit in the old-town square, next to the monument to Jan Huss, who approaches me but two earnest young LDS missionaries! Very polite, I squeezed a short tour from them – they way they told it, they were there less to convert than to fight against the rampant atheism that they found.

    However, I wouldn’t underestimate how backcountry evangelicals in the south view the Mormons. There’s a sister plant to the one in Ogden, and if you want to rile up the blue collars, just ask them what they think of Mormonism… Ha! The steam fairly rises.

  18. Then there was Howard Hughes’ inner called the Mormon Mafia – picked I assume because they were trustworthy.

  19. Man – i am wondering if I have had some mini strokes – looking at my posts. Mind thought i had typed “inner circle”. Typed “inner” .

    They were known as the “Mormon Mafia”.

    I knew someone whose father worked for Hughes (don’t think he was in the MM)

    He got a lot of late night phone calls. This was before his Las Vegas Days.

  20. My mother-in-law worked for Hughes and they were quite close. She was the adult supervision for various Hughes starlets you never heard of, like Faith Domergue. She also worked in his office at Hughes Productions on Romaine street. It became notorious because they would lower a basket from a window to get lunch delivery from a nearby delicatessen. It was allegedly mysterious but it was just because the building was on a hill and had steep flights of stairs.

    A lot of Hughes’ problems came from his deafness. As he got more deaf, he got more paranoid. When he fired Noah Dietrich whose daughter, Kathy, was a classmate of mine in college, he ended up in the hands of a bunch of weird folks who took everything he said literally. Sort of like Nixon and Haldeman. I never met him but he was always around. That was well before Las Vegas but when he started buying Vegas property, all his employees started buying the adjacent lots. They may have thought him a bit weird but nobody doubted his wisdom.

    Jane Russell was his famous discovery when she was in high school. My wedding reception was at her house when she was married to Bob Waterfield. Hughes’ worst business mistake was to wait too long to go to jets with TWA. Don Douglas, another genius, made the same mistake.

  21. My father, who grew up in Los Angeles, said that Hughes really changed after his plane crash in 1948. According to him anyway that’s when he went from publicly dashing playboy to recluse.

    I thought the move The Aviator was pretty accurate but couldn’t get past the physical persona of Leonardo DiCaprio playing Hughes.

    Of course I have nothing to base this on other than my perceptions.

  22. “Hughes really changed after his plane crash in 1948. ”

    I think that’s when his hearing went. My mother-in-law said he would come out of his office and ask others to leave the outer office if he got a phone call. He was so afraid of being overheard. She told me that about 1960 but it began earlier, maybe as early as 1948. My wife and I went to a dinner in about 1961 on tickets that Hughes had bought for a benefit. Everybody using the tickets had a background check. He was pretty paranoid by that time.

  23. Michael – one wonders how accurate the movie was – according to the movie – his paranoia and obsessive-compulsiveness began at childhood – when his mother, bathing him at about 6 – warned him of caching a disease from an epidemic in Houston at the time.

    But then when it comes to movies I have learned from experience to question historical accuracy.

    Then too I think he was really burned in that plane wreck – my father, who lived in Hollywood, remembered it. So when the paranoia actually started who can say – perhaps one could say he had a proclivity towards it but the accident really brought it out?

    My friend’s father – can’t even remember who it was at the time – but he really did get calls at 3AM asking him to buy suits and shoes –

  24. The Aviator was a good movie. The 1948 air crash was an amazing scene. Hughes standing up to the combined power of business and government was done well and was timely. It was a fictionalized account. For factual accuracy I would look for a scholarly biography, not a Hollywood movie.

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