Wrestling With Romney

March 22, 2012

As a Conservative, I’m wrestling with Mitt Romney – not literally, of course, but figuratively, intellectually, politically, emotionally, even spiritually. In talking with many fellow Conservatives, I find that I’m not alone in this.

We have gone, as a party, 24 years since we last had a truly Conservative standard-bearer, and while I acknowledge that we may not see another man (or woman) of Reagan’s stature in our lifetimes, we can hope for a true Conservative to someday take the Party’s (and the country’s) leadership reins. However, this year, it looks like we’re going to get Mitt Romney, who is many things, but few would contend that he’s a Reaganesque Conservative.

This frustrates me, but to the extent that Mitt Romney seems to be wrapping up the nomination, I have to try to overcome this frustration and recognize that – as an overriding national and party priority – we must replace President Obama before he destroys constitutional government in America. If that means coming to terms with Romney, then so be it. Emotions and political orthodoxy will have to take a back seat.

So I’m wrestling.

Let’s start with his political experience. Romney clearly did not govern, in Massachusetts, from the Right – but with 85 percent of his legislators Democrats (think Barney Frank, the archetypal Massachusetts Liberal Democrat), if he wanted to get anything done, he had to find some middle ground meeting place. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt when he says he did his best to insert some rational, sane conservative principles into that chaotic leftist state, but I have to wonder how he’ll govern if elected. Will he stand on principle, or try to find a compromise that liberal Democrats will be willing to embrace? I wrestle with that.

And I think his business experience would likely put him in a good position to bring economic sanity back to government – especially if Republicans can hold the house and make real gains in the Senate. We need someone who understands business, someone who’s ready to put this country back to work by fueling private-sector growth (rather than by dumping tax dollars into supporting unionized public-sector job-holders). Romney certainly seems to have the credentials here, Not much to wrestle with, at least not on this point.

But if we don’t take back the Senate, he’ll be facing a Massachusetts-like legislative road-block, and I can’t help but wonder how he’ll govern if he needs to compromise to get things done. Bush 43 tried that early in his Presidency, turning the Education bill over to Ted Kennedy. We’ve seen how well that worked out. So I wonder … and I wrestle.

My home state, Nevada, has already selected Mitt as its choice for our Candidate – it did so four years ago as well. So my “choice” has been made for me, and I’m now on the sidelines, trying to figure ways of influencing others (if I’d like someone other than Romney).

That brings up something I have more experience with than many others, because Nevada is right next door to Utah (and I used to live in Utah as well). So, while many consider religion a radioactive topic – and if dealing with religious prejudice or bigotry, it should be – we cannot honestly deny that the Mormon factor isn’t important in Nevada’s selection of Mitt Romney – and ultimately, in the country’s perceptions as well, should he become the Republican standard-bearer.

Mormons are not a majority in Nevada, but they are a strong and largely united political plurality who often seem to block-vote in favor of Mormon candidates. For instance, exit polls that “technically Mormon” Harry Reid (did you even know he was a Mormon? Probably not …), despite his typically liberal stance in Congress, and despite Mormon’s typically right-of-center views, garners a strong Mormon vote every six years.

Especially in a caucus state like Nevada, voting blocks can have a disproportionate influence, and exit polls show that the Mormon factor certainly helped Mitt Romney here in Nevada. There’s nothing wrong with that – people can have many legitimate reasons to vote for a candidate, and having an affinity for one specific candidate is a good and legitimate reason. Certainly, few would object to the fact that black Americans turned out in record numbers and voted disproportionately for President Obama four years ago, and the same rationale seems to hold for Mormons in Nevada supporting Mitt Romney.

But to Republicans from states not heavily represented by Mormons, and for Americans in general (should Romney become our candidate), his religious beliefs will be an issue, whether we recognize it or not. We can sweep it under the rug, avoiding this issue in the name of political correctness … or, we can address it forthrightly. I hope that Republicans – and later, Americans – do the latter.

As someone who’s lived cheek-by-jowl with Mormons for more than two decades – the huge Mormon temple on the flanks of Sunrise Mountain here in Las Vegas is just a mile up the road from my house – I have learned a number of things about Mormons. Generally speaking, they are law-abiding and honest, and tend toward political conservatism. They love their families – they take care of themselves and their own, replacing government hand-outs with private charity. They tend to stick together, but this characteristic is applicable to any self-aware minority – it was, for instance, a hallmark of the early Christian church 2,000 years ago. As a rule, they take their religion seriously, and though there are dissidents and fallen-away members (known as “Jack Mormons” for reasons that escape me), most seem to try to follow their belief faithfully.

But we shouldn’t overlook the fact that there beliefs are well outside of the mainstream of Christianity. Like it or not, we cannot and should not ignore the fact that this raises an issue for at least some of those voters who consider matters of faith to be important elements in making their voting decisions.

Again, like it or not, the Republican Party has millions of members who vote their faith – who, for instance, oppose abortion or support Israel on religious grounds, and who feel far more comfortable voting for candidates who’s own faiths they understand, or even share.

As we move toward nominating Romney – not a done deal, not yet, but certainly more likely with each passing primary victory – we can hope that religious bigotry will not play a factor in the November election. But we also should not blind ourselves that Romney’s faith is an issue which must be addressed, because it won’t go away.

So I wrestle …

Ned Barnett
Nevada Conservative


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One Response to Wrestling With Romney

  1. Wrestling With Romney | Conservative USA on July 2, 2012 at 6:18 am

    […] a Conservative, I’m wrestling with Mitt Romney – not literally, of course, but figuratively, intellectually, politically, emotionally, even […]

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