Romney: The Social Conservative’s Dreamboat
The Tea Party has always been a little cagey when it comes to Mitt Romney. Their first problem with Romney was the perception that he was not as “constitutionally pure” as a Tea Party nominee should be. They wanted a patriot like James Madison or George Washington who could passionately articulate the principles of liberty. The Tea Party’s second problem with Mitt Romney was the perception that he was a social moderate, willing to compromise moral principles for political expediency. During the last year, however, Mitt Romney has weathered well. Blasts of opposition, severe scrutiny from the Right and Left, and a ferocious Republican primary season, have peeled off some misconceptions about Mitt Romney, while polishing him into an authentically American leader. And, as events have coalesced into a perfect storm of scandal, administrative breakdown, and tyrannical manipulation in the executive branch, Mitt Romney may be emerging as just the kind of social conservative the Tea Party has dreamed of.
Saturday, October 6, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–the Mormons–opened its twice-yearly “General Conference.” This conference is a global meeting broadcast to millions in numerous countries. One speech by the Mormon Apostle, Dallin H. Oaks, a former Justice of the Utah Supreme Court and past President of Brigham Young University, resonated with a theme of moral, social conservatism. The leaders of the Mormon Church avoid taking political sides, but the moral clarity with which Elder Oaks spoke about the need for a restoration of traditional values in American culture, was nearly indistinguishable from the “values voters” components of the Republican party platform. Elder Oaks spoke of the evils of moral decay in our public institutions, the disastrous breakdown of families, the impact of abortion and “zero population growth” on the demographics of Western nations, and the inexcusable crimes of man’s inhumanity to man.
Mitt Romney is a faithful and active member of the Mormon Church. His fiery performance at the first presidential debate with Barack Obama bespoke his core understanding of economic principles and the workings of Capitalism. It would benefit those concerned about his social conservatism, however, to note that his faith is also a driving force behind his fight to become the President of the United States. America needs an economic restoration and a moral restoration. Does Mitt Romney have just the right combination of experience, faith, and love of country to guide Americans to such a renewal?
The Mormon Church has been called a “uniquely American church” because of its founding in regions of rural New York and Pennsylvania just a few decades following the ratification of the Constitution of the United States. Members of the LDS Church are taught a deep reverence and affection for the events and principles of America’s founding. John Adams said:
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Mormons understand and teach that the virtue of a people is a source of strength and safety. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as other Christian churches, have known for centuries that without a moral populace the proposition of liberty in the United States becomes moot. The religious concept of morality is central to the viability of the secular government established by our Founders. In fact, the Founding Fathers are regarded by Mormons as men inspired of God. Of the Constitution, the founder of the Mormon Church, Joseph Smith, wrote:
The Constitution of the United States is a glorious standard; it is founded in the wisdom of God. It is a heavenly banner; it is to all those who are privileged with the sweets of liberty, like the cooling shades and refreshing waters of a great rock in a thirsty and weary land. It is like a great tree under whose branches men from every clime can be shielded from the burning rays of the sun. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.147)
In 1846, Mormons, after years of persecution by government officials in states such as Ohio and Missouri and certain federal government officers, and in the wake of the murders of Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum by a mob which was never held legally accountable, Brigham Young responded generously to the call from the United States government for a “Mormon Battalion” to lend support in the Mexican American War. A contingent of 500 Mormon men, accompanied by women and children, chose to serve the country that had slighted their religious and human rights. They marched for weeks until they reached California. Although the Mormon Battalion arrived after hostilities with Mexico had been quelled, feelings of duty, patriotism, and divine providence defined the attitudes and actions of those “Saints.”
Service to God and to one’s fellow men and country, like other Christian denominations, is the substrate of Mormon life in America. The Mormons view the United States of America as having a divinely appointed role as the promised land of freedom and opportunity, the Shining City on a Hill upon which all mankind may look as a beacon of hope. Their love of America does not diminish as her problems increase. Her promises do not fail because her leaders fail. The Mormon ethos is one of striving always to correct errors in one’s own life, and in the institutions of the civil society.
High-profile Mormon executives have emerged as leaders in the business world in recent years because their success rate is high in proportion to their percentage of the population. This is explained in part by the Mormon culture that emphasizes excellence and achievement. Mormons, in a sense, are prepared throughout their youth for leadership. Children as young as age 3 are encouraged, with the help of a parent or teacher, to give short talks in Sunday School classes. The fiscal responsibility and common-sense approaches to debt and self-sufficiency taught in the Mormon Church are core conservative principles that lend to the political leanings of most Mormons. A recent Pew Research Center study found that 66% of Mormons are “staunchly conservative,” compared to just 37% of the overall population in the U.S.
If the Tea Party wants to build up their ranks with socially conservative, morally minded, Capitalist patriots, they might look to the Mormon Church.
Mitt Romney’s amazing stamina is that of a man driven by principles which are more valuable than material wealth and more lasting that a term in political office. Mitt looks like a man on a mission to save the socioeconomic soul of America.