September 16, 2007

mittromneyyouth03.jpg (Photo courtesy Princess SparklePony)

WaPo: Almost 40 years ago, a 21-year-old Mitt Romney watched as his father's presidential campaign stumbled to a halt. George Romney's 1968 bid for the White House failed for several reasons -- his notorious remark that U.S. generals had brainwashed him into supporting the Vietnam War, the surprise entry into the race of fellow liberal Republican Nelson Rockefeller, Richard M. Nixon's establishment appeal. But his Mormonism wasn't among them.[..]

George Romney's candidacy did spark some news stories about the refusal of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to allow blacks to join the priesthood, a policy that was reversed in 1978. But his strong civil rights record as governor of Michigan inoculated him against charges of racism, and reporters otherwise paid virtually no attention to his religion.

So how, four decades later, has Mormonism become a major factor, and perhaps the defining challenge, in Mitt Romney's race for the White House? Is it possible that the country has grown less tolerant? When it comes to putting a Mormon in the White House, the answer may be yes. In February, a Gallup poll showed that more than a third of Americans would not vote for a Mormon or had reservations about doing so.

Maybe it's just my highly attuned case of schadenfreude, but doesn't it seem that if the Republicans hadn't spent the better part of the last fifty years constantly reinforcing an "us vs. them" mentality and being suspicious or downright scornful of anyone who didn't conform to a very narrow and rigid construct of acceptability, they wouldn't find themselves in this situation now?

In any event, the article's author, Dan Gilgoff, is the author of a fantastic book, The Jesus Machine, and will be the guest at FDL's Book Salon on September 23rd.


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