So True

Rick Perlstein, in a piece about why Romney’s Mormonism won’t matter in the general, makes a great observation:

That’s the way cultural change works in America: the rest of us discard a prejudice that the right still clings to; in the fullness of time, the right comes around too, deploying clever rationalizations to forget they ever bore the prejudice in the first place. (Take their treatment of Martin Luther King – they went from initially blaming him for his own death, to, by the 1990s, lionizing him as a conservative role model – as an example.) Then they move on to some new existential terror, and the cycle repeats itself.

He forgot one part of the process, which is when the right blames the left for their own sins- “DEMOCRATS ARE THE REAL RACISTS,” but overall it is spot on.






41 replies
  1. 1
    jayackroyd says:

    John, no “a” in Perlstein.

    Can you say Reactionary Mind?

  2. 2
    cathyx says:

    There is one exception to this point. The accepting left won’t vote for Mitt. In the future if a democratic Mormon were to run, then he/she may get elected. But that will be because democrats voted for him. A black president got elected because democrats voted for him.

  3. 3
    flukebucket says:

    Well, Rick is a pearl of great price and let us not cast our pearls among the swine :-)

    I agree that Mitt’s Mormonism won’t make much of a difference. Married women voted for Newt Gingrich in South Carolina and it had nothing to do with the fact that Newt has found the Lord or that Mitt is a Mormon. In all honesty I can’t figure out what the hell it means.

  4. 4
    MBunge says:

    Yeah, I don’t think Perlstein is really the guy to turn to on the issue of whether or not Evangelicals will vote for a Mormon.

    Mike

  5. 5
    daveNYC says:

    If/When Romney loses we’ll be hearing how his loss was caused by Democrats’ anti-Mormon bigotry.

    Joy.

  6. 6
    Citizen Alan says:

    Not four years ago, I heard Baptist preachers openly call Mormonism a satanic cult. And now, they’re all going to pull the lever for a Bishop in that satanic cult rather than vote for q black man. Hilarious. Also pathetic.

  7. 7
    Violet says:

    I’m skeptical. Evangelicals think Mormonism is a cult. They may just not show up.

  8. 8
    Cat Lady says:

    Mitt’s not just a Mormon, he’s a Bishop, and Mormon beliefs and practices are very strange – it’s like Scientology, and I think an atheist would be elected before a Scientologist. Big Love, pedophile Jeffs, the whole sister wives thing… not buying it. The more Mitt’s candidacy makes people rub up against how his practices and beliefs might manifest in the White House, the more qualms you’ll see. Maybe the won’t be verbalized, but it’s going to be a big factor.

  9. 9
    Mnemosyne says:

    I think Perlstein is right that people won’t decide against voting for Mitt based primarily on his religion. There are so many other valid reasons not to vote for him that his religion is going to come way down in the pros and cons list.

  10. 10
    phoebes-in-santa fe says:

    You know, I never really had anything against Mormons, until I started reading details of the church practices gathered in the articles about Mitt Romney. For instance, the church’s habit of baptising dead people, the use of Mormon in money in defeating that California proposition okaying gay marriage, the financial schemes that seem to centered in Utah, and several other things.

    After learning more about Mormonism, my first reaction would be not to vote for one – not that I would have ever voted for Mitt Romney anyway – but then I realised there are several Democrats who are Mormon who I would vote for without a second thought. I voted for whichever Udall cousin is my senator here in NM – I can never keep them straight – and Harry Reid is a Mormon I would support.

    So, maybe it all goes back to the Mormon himself. I would vote for Democratic Mormons but not Republican ones!

  11. 11
    Tractarian says:

    You know, I never really had anything against Mormons, until I started reading details of the church practices gathered in the articles about Mitt Romney.

    Same here. Now I basically see them as Scientologists in suits.

  12. 12
    burnspbesq says:

    Maybe, maybe not.

    There has always been a disconnect between what voters are willing to say to pollsters or neighbors and what they are willing to do in the voting booth when nobody is looking over their shoulder. Not being a political scientist, I make no claim to any knowledge as to whether that disconnect is growing, shrinking, or staying about the same with the passage of time.

  13. 13
    gogol's wife says:

    @daveNYC:

    That will be just fine with me. Just as long as he loses.

  14. 14
    danimal says:

    I hope people don’t vote against Romney because he’s Mormon, but I doubt it. Churches have institutionalized the ‘Mormonism is a cult’ theology for decades; there has not been anywhere near the theological pushback in evangelical churches to make Mormonism acceptable.

    Conservatives may vote Romney, but there won’t be the enthusiasm/intensity that they normally muster. I strongly suspect a winger third party will draw 5-10% if Romney is the nominee.

  15. 15
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    His Mormonism won’t matter in the election.

    Two observations:
    1. His Moronism hopefully will matter.
    2. If he were to be elected, I want to hear the right say: “You may have elected a black man, but we elected a Mormon.”

  16. 16
    BrklynLibrul says:

    Love me some Rick Perlstein but I think he’s wrong on this one. As someone who grew up evangelical in the South, there’s a yawning chasm between the way evangelicals view Catholics versus the way they view Mormons. One’s a lesser but legitimate form of Christianity; the other’s a nauseating perversion of Christianity. Huge difference, and one that RP seems to miss here.

  17. 17
    JWL says:

    As absurd as the notion of Christianity’s “immaculate conception” truly is, it did take root over 2,000 years ago.

    On the other hand, the fairy tale that Joe Smith spun and marketed was sold during the 19th century, and is at least as preposterous a founding myth as that of the “Church” of Scientology. And yes, that gives me pause when sizing up a presidential candidate. I’d like Romney to be asked point blank: does he genuinely believe an “angel” named Moroni revealed itself to Joseph Smith?

  18. 18
    Betty Cracker says:

    Color me unconvinced too. Perlstein makes some good points, but I think it will take longer for the prejudice against Mormonism to go away than it did for the Catholic-hate to dissipate. For one thing, there are a lot MORE Catholics in the US. Mormons are still comparatively rare.

    On the other hand, hardcore wingnuts used to lap up Glenn Beck’s circus act, and he’s a Mormon, so maybe they’re further down the road than I realize…

  19. 19
    JasonF says:

    Wait, so Perlstein thinks the right will rally around Mitt Romney, and his evidence of this is a claim that the right hated John McCain but then rallied around him? But that’s not what happened. The right never rallied around McCain. That’s part of why he lost (and part of why Mitt will lose).

  20. 20

    @Betty Cracker: But Glenn Beck’s an entertainer-pundit. People don’t care about the religion of their entertainers. They know that it’s no skin off their backs. But Romney is running for the Big Seat, where he gets to make decisions about the rest of us. So everything about him is fair game, to say the least.

    And Betty, it doesn’t help that Mormonism is so secretive either. Generations of close contact with Catholics helped with the transition. People sort of knew what Catholics mostly taught, and the teachings were close enough for affection. How many people know about Mormonism?

  21. 21

    Then again, I distinctly remember being forced at the age of 10 to watch a film called “Heavenly Deception” in our church’s basement. It was about the Moonies and did a good job of whipping up hysteria about that ridiculous sect in our community. Now, 30 years later, no one in the Religious Right balks at quoting the Washington Times (aka “the Moonie Times”) for every fool thing they say. The Mormons have very little in common with mainstream Christianity, but they give lip-service to Jesus Christ, think that American exceptionalism is divinely ordained, and hate both abortion and gays. So why should the mainline Christians overcome their own distaste for Mormonism? It’s not like right-wing Christians are doing what Christ said either.

  22. 22
    The Moar You Know says:

    lionizing him as a conservative role model

    In what world have you seen MLK lionized as a role model by conservatives? I can’t find one conservative that privately doesn’t blame him at least partially for the total collapse of society and the end of white privilege.

  23. 23
    hamletta says:

    @Citizen Alan: That wasn’t hysteria. The Moonies are pretty damn creepy. I find it appalling that so many politicians suck up to Rev. Moon, because I’ve retained the childhood inculcation that he’s the devil, thanks to the work of some good journalists.

    The marriage ceremony he conducted at the DC Coliseum didn’t help, either.

  24. 24
    Violet says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    In what world have you seen MLK lionized as a role model by conservatives? I can’t find one conservative that privately doesn’t blame him at least partially for the total collapse of society and the end of white privilege.

    This past MLK day I heard more than one conservative pundit proclaiming that MLK was a conservative and that black people just didn’t understand that part about him and that African American kids should be taught that he was a conservative and then maybe they’d stop dropping out of school and wearing their pants so low and go get a job.

  25. 25
    John O says:

    Every sharp-eyed person with a lot of experience in the south that I know personally is pretty sure Romney’s faith is going to lose him some votes in the evangelical community, so I’m not buying it.

  26. 26
    Betty Cracker says:

    @CarolDuhart2: Good points. My hubby and I were discussing this the other day. We’re both fairly hardcore atheists. We don’t get in anyone’s face about it, but the whole religion thing mostly mystifies and annoys us.

    I know some warm, wonderful, kind, giving people who count their faith as the core of their being. I try not to be reductive or dismissive about it, and as long as they respect MY beliefs, we get along just fine.

    But I confess I find it harder to not attribute negative characteristics to people who hold beliefs like Scientology and Mormonism. Or any stripe of fundamentalism, really. Especially converts.

    To my way of thinking, it’s all a flaming pile of hooey. But at least Catholicism, for example, has the imprimatur of history — manipulated, anti-woman, etc., history, maybe, but its origins are somewhat shrouded in the mists of antiquity.

    I’m not saying mainstream Christianity hasn’t and isn’t yet being used to perpetrate great evil. But it somehow seems LESS dumb to believe implausible stories that were passed down from your family through the generations than to glom on to the self-serving ravings of some 19th century con man or 20th century sci-fi writer.

    My hubby, on the other hand, says since it’s all a crock, there’s no point picking between the varieties of bullshit and crediting some bullshit-believers with being less gullible than others. He may be right.

  27. 27
    John O says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    I like to say, “To each his/her own Invisible Sky Wizard,” out loud, if the subject comes up against my will. (Shorter.) And I try to leave it at that.

  28. 28
    PeakVT says:

    Perlstein should have said it won’t matter to independents.

  29. 29
    Chet says:

    Anybody who thinks Romney’s Mormonism won’t be an issue for the fundagelicals hasn’t spent much time in their company. Lucky them.

    If Mitt’s culture-war bona fides were impeccable, he might have a shot at winning some of them over. But they aren’t, and he won’t. Look for them to go third-party or sit 2012 out if he gets the nom.

  30. 30
    RSA says:

    That’s the way cultural change works in America: the rest of us discard a prejudice that the right still clings to; in the fullness of time, the right comes around too, deploying clever rationalizations to forget they ever bore the prejudice in the first place.

    This applies to more than prejudice. Which is why it’s infuriating to see older conservatives on Social Security and Medicare complaining about liberalism–where do they think these programs came from? And who fought against them at the time? (Actually, I don’t know about any resistance to SS, but Reagan famously warned that Medicare would lead to soshalism.)

  31. 31
    General Stuck says:

    Those who despise Obama and liberalism in general, will show up to vote for Mickey Mouse in pumps with an R on board. Even quite a few evangelicals. But there is like 60 million of them that tend to vote wingnuts, when they vote at all. Just 3 or 4 million staying home will spell almost certain defeat, especially since Romney and his tea tard xenophobic blathering pretty much shit cans them for the Hispanic vote, among other minorities.

    So I think Perlstein is wrong on this matter, and he underestimates the often conclusive events of better GOTV ops with enthusiastic evangelicals. Rove, et al, smartly incorporated them in 2004, neighborhood by neighborhood, all across the country, and especially Ohio, to drag their slacker wingnut neighbors to the polls. That just isn’t going to happen to the degree needed, with a Mormon on the ticket.

  32. 32
    feebog says:

    Mittens religion won’t matter to the people Perlstein hangs with, but I somehow doubt that he has been hanging with a lot of right wing fundies lately. The issue of Mitten’s religion is going to matter to some of them, the real question is how many, and where. Will enough of them stay home because they won’t voter for either a black man or a Morman? It could matter if the state is North Carolina, or Georgia, or Indiana, or Missouri. Obama won two of those states by slim margins in 2008, and lost the other two by equally slim margins. In the case of Missouri, a few thousand votes.

  33. 33
    eyelessgame says:

    A relatively bright conservative friend of mine absolutely flat-out refused to believe that conservatives were ever opposed to Civil Rights, to womens’ right to vote, to women being treated equally in the workplace, to the right of labor to organize, to — basically everything on that Lawrence O’Donnell list.

    Conservatives, as far as I can tell, lie to their own members. Every time they lose a fight, they try to drop down the memory hole the fact that theirs was the losing side.

  34. 34
    Chris says:

    Perlstein nails it. That’s exactly how racial progress happens in this country.

    @BrklynLibrul:

    As someone who grew up evangelical in the South, there’s a yawning chasm between the way evangelicals view Catholics versus the way they view Mormons. One’s a lesser but legitimate form of Christianity; the other’s a nauseating perversion of Christianity. Huge difference, and one that RP seems to miss here.

    Yes, though as someone who’s got experience being Catholic in a fundie setting, I’d say it’s a little more extreme – let’s say that Catholicism, to them, is a Satan-inspired nauseating perversion of Christianity, while Mormonism is a death cult entirely outside the bounds of Christianity. (Barring Islam, I don’t think I ever heard any other religion come in for as much crap as Mormonism).

    @The Moar You Know:

    In what world have you seen MLK lionized as a role model by conservatives? I can’t find one conservative that privately doesn’t blame him at least partially for the total collapse of society and the end of white privilege.

    Maybe it’s a generational thing. I’m a Millennial – and those same fundies I just mentioned were firmly convinced that MLK was in their spiritual tradition. He was a Christian, doncha know! And a pastor! And he was from back before the nasty ole days, before Roe v. Wade, before Teh Ghey, etc. Of course he’d be horrified by the mean ole liberals and how they’re destroying our country. And he’d totally join our crusade to stop them.

    For people who’re old enough to actually remember MLK, I’m sure there’s a lot of residual hate for the uppity [DING!] But the people my age have completely drunk the kool aid. So it goes.

  35. 35
    Chris says:

    @eyelessgame:

    Conservatives, as far as I can tell, lie to their own members. Every time they lose a fight, they try to drop down the memory hole the fact that theirs was the losing side.

    A side-effect of their general attempt to rewrite history in ways that blank out all the ugly spots. Goes with the territory when your entire ideology is backward-looking (and backward-justifying).

  36. 36
    eyelessgame says:

    About eight years ago, we were occasionally going to a local megachurch. (Great moms group, when we had preschoolers). I had several reactions to it: they had a great band; it was interesting anthropologically; they reminded me nostalgically a little of how my grandfather used to preach; they asked for money a whole damn lot; they were really good at the soft-sell (saving the hard-sell hellfire-and-damnation crap for the “kids classes” – one of the things that stopped me from ever going back); they got major overconcern fits about really stupid things (like The Da Vinci Code); they told you how to vote while making a big show of telling you how they didn’t tell you how to vote … and they really, really didn’t like the competition (which in our neck of the woods is a large Mormon Tabernacle a mile or so up the road).

    I’m wondering what’ll happen there when the general election comes and it’s between an evangelical-rooted Christian and a Mormon. (Actually, I’m not wondering at all. I’m just a little curious how they’ll justify the inevitable face heel turn.)

  37. 37
    boss bitch says:

    Romney’s religion won’t be that big of a deal in the general because he is running as a Republican. If he was a Democrat, they would have already had the media exploring whether or not Mormon’s eat babies in their magic underwear. The smear campaign would be devastating. BUT he’s a Republican and Democrats, specifically Pres.Obama, won’t be going after Romney for his religious beliefs.

  38. 38
    Water balloon says:

    I think Mitt’s Mormonism will end up as a wash. Some evangelicals will stay home and allow Obama to win in either Virginia, North Carolina or Florida again. On the other hand, Romney will get a boost in Western states like Nevada and Colorado.

  39. 39
    mclaren says:

    Romney’s Mormonism won’t matter if he makes it to the general election as the Republican nominee. But Romney’s Mormonism is most definitely a huge issue in the Republican primaries, because (as polls show) between 50% and 60% of all Republican primary voters are fundamentalist evangelical Christians who say they would refuse to vote for a Mormon regardless of any other considerations.

  40. 40
    Rhoda says:

    Mitt Romney is spending 16 million to kill Newt. That he has to spend that much money on NEWT GINGRICH is sad and pathetic and speaks to a deep resistance to him within the Republican conservative voters. Maybe it’s his personality; but he’s not any more dickish than other nominees. I’m putting it on the Mormonism. I also think this was a big part of what alienated the 2008 Republican nominees and allowed them to gang up on him. I’m actually shocked that he’s going to win this thing. I blame it on Pawlenty being so weak as to drop out after a freakin’ straw poll. And Santorum hasn’t impressed; so that leaves the anti-Mitt vote to Newt and Newt is not an acceptable Republican nominee.

    But even with all that; I’m really shocked Mittens is likely the nominee and think that he’s going to have to top the Palin pick to get the vote out. Because he is not acceptable to the base of the party.

  41. 41
    Cacti says:

    @Water balloon:

    I think Mitt’s Mormonism will end up as a wash. Some evangelicals will stay home and allow Obama to win in either Virginia, North Carolina or Florida again. On the other hand, Romney will get a boost in Western states like Nevada and Colorado.

    That’s not a wash.

    If Romney loses Florida, he loses the election.

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