Artwork by: Mario Piperni
The 2012 Presidential Election has started in earnest now that the Republicans have settled on their candidate. The dog and pony show that the GOP put on as a race for the nomination didn’t ever really seem in doubt simply because the candidates were so prone to taking themselves out of the hunt. None of us believed for a minute that Michelle Bachman or Rick Perry stood a snowball’s chance in hell of being nominated to run against Obama in November while Gingrich has too much history in Washington to ever be elected and Santorum and Ron Paul were never taken seriously enough as candidates to be anything more than a foil for the Romney machine. Even so, Romney doesn’t really have the full support of Republicans, especially middle class Americans who have been nettled by many of Romney’s flippant references to his wealth. All of this raises serious questions about whether Republicans got the candidate that they want or just a faute de mieux.
By choosing Mitt Romney as their presidential candidate for the 2012 election the GOP has embraced the most extreme of their Right Wing candidates. While they have tried to shift the focus away from Romney’s more extremist views and onto his record as a captain of industry his radical religious stance and his rejection of a humanist view of society are a clear indication of whose interests he will be representing if he makes it to the White House. This raises the question of whether someone with such an extreme political persuasion can genuinely represent the People. If Mitt Romney is elected to be the President of the United States will the People be giving control of the country to a minority group of religious fanatics?
Right wing fundamentalist Christianity has already played a prominent part in the GOP presidential candidacy race with Mitt Romney’s connection to Mormonism and previously to Dominion Theology being described in terms that equated both movements with cults. The potential for leveraging political mileage out of Romney’s attachment to these cult like communities hasn’t been lost on either the media or the other candidates and even the almost unreligious Rick Perry made a campaign statement about his views on clerical influences in government that left no doubt that he wanted to distance himself from radical fundamentalist Christians in the Right Wing of the GOP, saying in his book On My Honor; “Let’s be clear: I don’t believe government, which taxes people regardless of their faith, should espouse a specific faith.”
The GOP has made serious efforts to play down Romney’s connection to Mormonism but the media still jumped all over the Romney family’s visit to the Latter Day Saints’ church in
Wolfeboro, the small New Hampshire town where the GOP candidate went for a short summer vacation with his family in July. Even though the political analysts are presently saying that Romney’s Mormonism won’t affect the Republican turnout to the election the fact remains that across the political board one fifth of Americans have indicated that they would never vote for a Mormon president, a figure that has remained unchanged since 19671. Meanwhile the Democrats have assiduously avoided playing the whacky religion card perhaps because recent polls have shown that 11% of Americans think that President Obama is a Muslim2.
It is well known that Mitt Romney is a fifth generation Mormon whose lineage in the religion goes back to Parley P. Pratt, one of the original leaders of the church. It would be naive to think that a religion that is so deeply ingrained in someone’s consciousness would not let its philosophies influence his decisions. Romney is no adult convert to LDS and so he has been indoctrinated all of his life to believe that by wearing special underwear and belonging to the inner sanctum of the Mormon world he is assured of his place in the first class heaven. He also believes that everyone on earth should be converted to Mormonism which seems a very limiting view for the President, who is supposed to be the prime proponent of our constitutional rights to hold. It also bodes poorly for America’s future relations with other cultures that hold non Christian spiritual beliefs.
Romney’s spiritual elitism doesn’t end there though and because one of the core doctrines of the LDS is that they are the chosen leaders of America he has been touted as seeing himself as the one who will finally fulfill the White Horse Prophecy that is a tenet of Mormonism no matter how stridently Romney denies it publicly. The danger if Romney is actually elected to be President is that he may interpret it as a mandate not only from the people but from God. It is this belief in clerical government that has developed Romney’s most dangerous political alliance to the Dominionists that inhabit the extremities of the GOP’s far Right Wing and who would turn the United States’ democracy into a theocracy that would make the Taliban’s model for government look decidedly liberal.
The push in America by many radical right wing supporters to have religion, and by that they mean fundamentalist Christianity, take more of an active role in government is espoused by them as the way to salvation and many equate the current world economic crisis to be a sign that we have departed from the laws of God by becoming more liberal and less devout. While the Fundamentalist’s scripture twisting diatribes are swallowed wholesale by those people that are clinging to the fast disappearing Christian world view, for most of the middle classes their agenda sounds like a fundamentalist cult. The drive to politicize Dominion Theology via its associated advocate groups, most notably The Christian Coalition of America (CCA), is the right wing fundamentalist response to what they see as the moral degeneration of accepting things like homosexuality, abortion, same sex marriages and many of the other liberal freedoms that are the hallmark of modern, first world Western cultures.
Dominionism has become deeply entrenched in the GOP in recent decades and while Romney isn’t directly associated with them anymore many of the power players in the Republican Party are. Two of the GOP candidates that ran against Romney for the Republican nomination, Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry, both have strong ties to Dominionism as do many of Romney’s more Right Wing supporters in both Houses. Even though this powerful lobby group didn’t get one of their candidates into the Presidential race this time they still have a marked influence over Romney and are sure to use their common interests in establishing a theocratic elite to push their agenda should Romney be elected.
Romney’s plans to go to Israel could represent an effort to look more like a mainstream Christian to ensure that he has the support of the middle ground in the GOP that is more than a little frightened by the zeal of the Fundamental Christian Right Wing lobby. It could also be interpreted as some sort of messiah fixation that Romney should make a pilgrimage before ascending to his proper place as the savior of the nation. Either way it is a clear signal that Romney intends to include his religious beliefs in his political agenda. George W. Bush may have talked to God every day while he was in office but Mitt Romney seems intent on inviting his God to sit in on his cabinet meetings.
All of this means that the next election isn’t all about health care and the national debt like the media would have us all believe. The next election is about the ownership of our souls. If the Fundamentalist Christians do get their man into the Oval Office the struggle to keep the narrow minded views of a few religious extremists out of the government’s policies will become more difficult. The religious zealots have already contributed to the dumbing down of the education system by insisting on banning anything that contravenes their ridiculous creationist beliefs or narrow views on morality. If they achieve any real political power or influence it would seem that there is a danger of many of the social advances that have been hard won in previous decades could all be undone in one Presidential term of office.
The ironic aspect of all of this is that in order to get the votes that he needs Romney will have to convince the Tea Party that he isn’t too extreme to represent their interests. The middle ground of the GOP wants to see Obama out of office but could be wary of the price that they pay by installing Romney in his place. The darling media clown of the Tea Party Glenn Beck famously jumped on board the Romney bandwagon as soon as he was confirmed as the GOP candidate but was also quick to add that he would have been willing to back anybody in order to see Obama out of the Oval Office- hardly a stirring endorsement of Romney’s campaign and policies to the Republican faithful. Even so, this seems to be the general feeling that the middle ground in the GOP has for Romney; he’s not the man that they wanted for the job but now that he is the man that they have got they will probably support him just to oppose Obama. If this is the case then Romney has a lot of hard work ahead of him convincing these middle class Americans that he understands their concerns and intends to represent their interests.
Given Romney’s long record of flip-flopping on issues like planned parenthood and his apparent disregard for the very poor middle class Republicans could be forgiven for not trusting that he has given up his more extreme Right Wing attitudes and his affiliation with the Dominionists especially after Erich Fehrnstrom, a senior advisor to Romney, went on the record at CNN with claims that he could change his position on any number of conservative issues during the presidential campaign3. The Tea Party are rightly wary of backing a candidate that has indicated that he changes his policies like shaking an etch-a-sketch which prompted his rival for the GOP nomination at the time Rick Santorum to say; “Well, that should be comforting to all of you who are voting in this primary.”
The difficulty that the GOP had in choosing a candidate that would have broad appeal for middle class America is just another symptom of the diminishing relevance of the Republican Party to the fastest growing demographic in American society today, the young. As western culture becomes increasingly non-religious the Fundamentalist Christians become more marginalized and in an attempt to retain their WASPish illusion of America they are making an all out push to grasp the reins of power.
With the bulk of moderate Republicans preparing to vote for Romney for no other reason than because he is not Barack Obama the Christian Right have their best chance to railroad the middle class vote to unknowingly support their Fundamentalist agenda. Republicans may feel that they need to oust Obama but it remains to be seen whether they are willing to pay the price of electing Mitt Romney in his place.
1. Trouble for Mitt Romney? Poll says anti-Mormon bias unchanged since 1967, Daniel Burke, Washington Post June 22 2012