Diary

Romney's Mormonism as Sole Vote Criterion - Are We Really That Shallow?

Full disclosure: I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – a Mormon – and not particularly a fan of Mitt Romney.

The intent of this diary is not to begin yet another fractious debate on Mormon theology, and I ask commenters to please refrain from doing so.

This morning as I read reports of the Nevada caucus results, I was struck by how many articles on both liberal and conservative sites reported on the “Mormon vote” and the “non-Mormon vote” and various demographic results within those broad-brush categories. This rekindled in my mind the idea for this diary that has been poking around my subconscious for a while now.

My premise is this: it is shallow and silly to base one’s vote solely on the religion of a particular candidate. I will use Mitt Romney’s Mormonism as the vehicle for my thoughts, both on those who support him solely because he’s Mormon and those who don’t for that very same reason.

Support due to Mormonism
As a Mormon, I have heard too many members of my church say that they feel they have to support Romney for the simple reason that he’s a Mormon. I have several problems with this line of thought.

First, we as conservatives often argue against labeling people by demographic categories and using those labels to judge them. The argument is that we should reward people based on hard work and achievement rather than ethnicity, gender, or some other category. How then can we argue for rewarding someone with our vote solely based on their religious affiliation – yet another label?

Second, we have a really hard time accepting that African-Americans voted for Barack Obama because he’s black, without even attempting to figure out if his policies were in their best interest. Yet, isn’t that what is being done by voting for Romney because he’s Mormon?

Finally, how many conservatives would vote for Harry Reid just because he’s Mormon (and he is)? None that I know of. Thus it is a double standard to vote for Romney for that reason alone.

(As a side question, why is it that the media choose to focus like a spotlight on Romney’s Mormonism, but rarely mention Reid’s? Could it be liberal bias…)

Opposition due to Mormonism
I have heard and read conservatives saying that they could never vote for Romney because he’s a Mormon with the same frequency as those who say they support him for that reason. I think this is just as wrong.

The most common reason I hear for opposing Romney due to his religion are that he believes in a “different Jesus” from mainstream Christianity. While this point is debatable – and has been debated ad nauseum during this election cycle in many blogs and RedState diary comment threads – I see very little difference between this and saying one could not vote for a Jew or a Muslim or a Buddhist because they don’t believe in the divinity of Jesus. Surprisingly, I have never heard religion advanced as a reason not to vote for a non-Mormon candidate. It’s only in the case of a Mormon that the argument ever comes up. The real question is this…is a religious difference of whatever degree between a voter and a candidate really a justifiable reason to categorically reject that candidate, regardless of their positions on the issues and a potential preponderance of agreement on those issues with the same voter?

Another reason put forth for voting against Romney is the assumption that he will “take his direction from Salt Lake City.” This is problematic for two reasons. First, a similar argument was used against JFK in 1960. After he was elected, how many times did he consult with the pope on matters of policy? That’s right…not once. Secondly, there are examples where Romney’s documented positions on some issues (including abortion) have been different from those of established Church doctrine. If it has been true in the past, who’s to say it won’t also be true in the future? Also, the LDS church has a policy of strict political neutrality as an entity. While encouraging members to be politically active and voting for good candidates, they never support specific candidates. The focus is on issues of importance. It is even against Church policy to use buildings or member lists for political purposes.

Conclusion
In my mind, those on both sides of the Romney divide who use his religion as their sole criterion for their vote are being intellectually dishonest and lazy. Only by delving deeper into a candidate’s policy positions and ideals can we really know whether or not he is a good candidate – one for whom we can vote in good conscience. Arguments both ways have been made convincingly at RedState and other sites.

I encourage those who have the right and responsibility to vote to research all candidates and come to an informed decision rather than relying on religious prejudice and/or commonality to decide the direction of your vote.