Tuesday, December 4, 2007

For Me (and For Many), It’s a Two-Man Contest.

With my first post on the Mitt Rocks site, I have to say that if the election were held today, I’d vote Mitt Romney. The recent rise of Mike Huckabee has been surprising and has even caused me to consider him as a candidate, which is why I consider it a two man race. Before I compare Romney and Huckabee and talk about Romney's upcoming speech, let first explain a bit about my background and then mention why I would discount the other leading candidates.

I am one of those who might be classed as an evangelical conservative, though unfortunately it seems necessary to define both of those terms. By evangelical, I believe in and respect the Bible as God’s primary message to people on earth. While I do not discount the fact that God can and does answer prayers and speaks through individuals (such as pastors, teachers and ordinary people), all of these sources should be secondary to what has been clearly communicated in the Bible. Second, as a conservative, I have a lot in common with Kennedy’s vision of asking what each of us can do for our country rather than what our country can do for us. In that way, I am generally for lower taxes, smaller government and increased personal responsibility. Government should assist individuals where appropriate and do things such as build bridges, provide for national defense, fair trade and safety regulations that individuals cannot effectively do on their own. I should also make it clear that I am not a Mormon.

It would be tough for me to vote for some of the current candidates currently under consideration for the Republican nomination. I could not bring myself to vote for Giuliani for any reason, as his past support of abortion, gun control and other liberal ideals. Regarding Fred Thompson, it seems like the public was looking to be inspired by the fictional D.A. Arthur Branch rather than the real Fred Thomson who does not have the same charisma. John McCain has my respect for his service to the country in war and peace, but I do not believe he can win the election nor inspire the party, which is why I believe it is down to Huckabee and Romney.

America has a tradition of nominating and electing former governors, including Bush, Clinton, Reagan and Carter in recent years and both Huckabee and Romney have this executive experience. Both Romney and Huckabee have supported increasing heath care coverage for the most vulnerable residents of their states, factors that should assist them in the general election and appear to be the right course of action. In addition, both have solid conservative credentials though they have had to make some compromises with Democrats.

Huckabee can be considered a dark horse candidate, and that makes him a threat to a number of the other rivals, including Mitt Romney. As of mid-summer, he regularly had less than a single percentage of the primary voters and a miniscule campaign infrastructure. That allowed him to fly under the radar, and his record as governor is only now being scrutinized in depth. I really did not consider him as a legitimate candidate until the past few weeks. Still, I have some reservations about the appearance of some of his decisions, both in terms of raising taxes and illegal or improper benefits he may have obtained. Keep in mind some of those same sorts of questions were raised about another famous Arkansas governor who later became President: The nation came to find out that some of Clinton’s alleged past practices as governor continued as President. As a dark horse, we do not know enough about these issues and we may never know. Yet to his credit, Huckabee has performed well in the debates. He would be an interesting nominee for the Republicans and would be a credible rival to Hillary Clinton (and her famous husband) in particular.

Still, if the election were held today, I would vote Mitt Romney. Romney has good credentials as a leader, as a governor and as head of the Salt Lake City Olympics. His business experience definitely appeals to me as well, and Romney has built a large and comprehensive campaign organization. I also am not aware of any ethical questions regarding Romney, in contrast with some allegations against Huckabee. Romney also would be a credible candidate against any of the Democratic challengers, and he would put Massachusetts and Michigan in play for the Republicans for the first time in 20 years.

On Thursday, Romney is slated to discuss his Mormon faith. While I do not believe that this should be a campaign issue, it is important for Romney to address this issue in the same way Kennedy did in 1960. Both Kennedy and Romney have been victims of ignorance and bigotry. Ignorance is a lack of knowledge about a subject. Bigotry is an ill-formed prejudice or a lack of respect for persons or opinions different from your own. Unfortunately, many people in the U.S. are ignorant of LDS teachings. If you asked the average American if Mormons practice polygamy, many would answer yes even though polygamy has been officially denounced for more than a century. That is ignorance, not bigotry. Incidentally, many people would ignorantly say that Catholics worship Mary, though the official Catholic doctrine on the subject is far more nuanced on that subject. Unfortunately, many of those same individuals would have an unfair prejudice against a Mormon candidate.

Romney will not succeed erasing ignorance about what Mormons believe. I know that really learning about LDS teachings requires quite a bit of in-depth study, and this is not realistic for the average American. However, what Romney can do is provide a pathway that would allow people to get past their own bigotry. For example, Thomas Jefferson is regarded as a Deist rather than a Christian, yet he was one of our greatest leaders in part because his faith was a foundation for is worldview that treasured human rights. Romney can do the same, but he cannot do this by defending Mormonism: There are a number of fundamental doctrinal differences between Mormonism and the traditional Christian faith. Yet if Romney outlines some of the key formative and personal experiences of his faith and how these translate into his life, he may succeed in combating bigotry against his candidacy. People fear the unknown, and Kennedy had to assure a public that he would not take orders from the Pope. Similarly, Romney has to convince people that he would be a President who has a strong faith who shares the same foundational values as the average voter.

Regardless of our faith tradition, be it Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Mormon or any other faith, we all would do well to abide by the words of the Old Testament prophet Micah:

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God.

If each of us (and each of our leaders) worked hard for these traits, we would have a country that would be the model for the world. This is the country we should seek, both in the leaders we choose and in how we put our own beliefs into action every day.

Brent M

2 comments:

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