Quantcast
Connect with us

The fascinating link between Romney’s Mormon religion and his criticism of Trump

Published

on

- Commentary

Mitt Romney has been one of few prominent Republicans to criticize Donald Trump, beginning with the 2016 presidential campaign. He did so again recently in response to Trump’s critical comments about John McCain.

“I can’t understand why the President would, once again, disparage a man as exemplary as my friend John McCain,” Romney tweeted.

Why is Romney staking out a lonely position as a Republican Trump critic?

Among the answers floated by observers are that he still wants to be president or he fundamentally misunderstands how to influence Trump’s political behavior, or both.

To date, though, there has been little mention of Romney’s religion. I’m a scholar who has studied the role of religion in U.S. politics, and I believe Romney’s Mormon faith is central to understanding his concerns about Trump’s character and leadership.

ADVERTISEMENT

Family’s deep Mormon roots

Donald Trump is arguably the least religious president in U.S. history and has displayed a penchant for moral relativism over bedrock beliefs.

Had he won the 2012 presidential campaign, Romney would have arguably been the most religious president ever.

Of course, Romney is personally motivated, politically calculating and pragmatic, like most national political figures. But he is also immensely devout. You cannot fully understand Mitt Romney without recognizing this.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon) asks adherents to regularly contribute significant amounts of time and resources to the church.

As I document in my book “Mitt Romney, Mormonism, and the 2012 Election,” Romney’s family has deep roots in Mormon history, tracing back to the conversion of his English ancestors 175 years ago. Romney has been a respected religious leader dating back to his mission in France, where he distinguished himself by assuming an expanded leadership role after surviving a deadly car accident, which killed the wife of the mission president.

Mormon missions involve two years of service, often seeking converts, anywhere in the world. Missionaries are allowed little contact with family or friends back home.

ADVERTISEMENT

Romney has particular standing in the state he now represents, after his management of the 2002 Olympics in Utah following a major corruption scandal. This event was a pivotal moment in the development of his political career because it provided national name recognition and revitalized his electoral prospects following a failed Senate bid in Massachusetts.

In 2012, he became the first Mormon presidential nominee of a major party, the centerpiece of the “Mormon Moment,” a term used to describe heightened attention and interest in LDS life within popular culture.

Driving forces

Righteousness, family and service are three crucial components of Mormon life and Romney’s life.

ADVERTISEMENT

For Mormons, the pursuit of righteousness is an overarching process of overcoming human weakness and moving toward God during one’s life. Being a faithful spouse and good role model for children is essential on earth and beyond as families seek to be sealed together for eternity. And Mormons dedicate around 20 hours per week to various church “callings.”

Trump is not visibly committed to any of these general values, prompting concern among Mormons. Just 14 percent of Utah voters in 2016 viewed Trump as a good role model. That’s a remarkable development considering that until recently, Mormons were the most Republican religious group in America. Nearly 70 percent still identify as “Republican.”

Several prominent Mormon politicians have publicly opposed Trump or Trump’s actions.

ADVERTISEMENT

Utah Sen. Mike Lee, a Republican, fought Trump’s nomination all the way to the floor of the 2016 national party convention. Former Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican from Arizona, was the first member of Congress to call for a primary challenge to the president. Former Utah Rep. Mia Love, a Republican, publicly rebuked the president for his derogatory comments about Haitians and his leadership of the Republican Party. Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, recently described President Trump as an “amoral” person with “no conscience” who is “without question the worst president we’ve ever had.”

‘Dishonesty … greed … misogyny’

These sentiments echo Romney’s 2016 speech at the University of Utah, during the Republican presidential primary.

Romney said that “dishonesty is Trump’s hallmark” and asked people to consider his defining attributes: “the bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third grade theatrics.”

ADVERTISEMENT

“Imagine your children and your grandchildren acting the way he does,” said Romney, adding that he encouraged Republican primary voters to choose anyone but Donald Trump.

Over the last two years, Romney criticized Trump’s comments on Charlottesville, where Trump suggested “both sides,” Neo-Nazis and their critics, were to blame for violence.

Those comments “caused racists to rejoice,” Romney said. And he described the Trump administration’s policy of separating immigrant families at the border as an “inexcusible” and “dark chapter in American history.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Romney has also criticized Trump on foreign affairs, race relations, the role of the press, and on his disparagement of John McCain. He has called Trump’s handling of meetings with Vladimir Putin “inappropriate” and described the president’s response to Russian meddling in American’s electoral process as “disgraceful and detrimental to our democratic principles.”

Romney has stated that “no American president has ever before vilified the American press as an ‘Enemy of the People.’” While recognizing this can benefit conservative politics, Romney expressed concern that “denigrating the media diminishes an institution that is critical to democracy, both here and abroad.”

Before no love lost

Romney has not uniformly opposed Trump. He accepted Trump’s endorsement in 2012 and was interviewed to be Trump’s secretary of state in 2016.

ADVERTISEMENT

That’s led critics to claim that Romney now craves the national spotlight, perhaps to fuel another presidential candidacy.

This is a bit simplistic.

In my opinion, Romney now holds the best elected position he could hope for. He represents the most distinctive Mormon subculture in the world and can probably do so as long as he wants. Romney has also made clear he has no interest in running for president again.

ADVERTISEMENT

Utah residents hold him in much higher regard than President Trump, so he can be relatively unconcerned with a primary challenge, which would not happen for five years anyhow.

And 54 percent of Utah residents support Romney’s criticism of the president, though 51 percent of Republicans do not.

“I know what my principles are,” Romney said, in defending his op-ed in The Washington Post, in which he wrote that Trump’s character is insufficient for a U.S. president.

ADVERTISEMENT

Sen. Romney will largely support conservative policies President Trump embraces, because he is conservative.

But I believe that as a Mormon and a politician, he will never be comfortable with what he sees as the president’s lack of character and leadership.The Conversation

By Luke Perry, Professor of Government at Utica College, Utica College

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Report typos and corrections to [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Commentary

Rand Paul just blocked the 9/11 victim fund because it isn’t paid for — but didn’t care when it was a $1.5 trillion tax cut

Published

on

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) blocked a call for unanimous consent on Wednesday to push forward with a funding extension for the victims of 9/11, claiming that the new spending should be paid for.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) called for the bill to be passed in the Senate by unanimous consent, but even a single lawmaker’s objection can block the move and slow down the process. The measure is still widely expected to pass, but Paul wants to use the opportunity to complain about the national debt.

“We need to address our massive debt in this country,” he said “We have a $22 trillion debt. We’re adding debt at about a trillion dollars a year. And therefore any new spending that we are approaching, any new program that’s going to have the longevity of 70-80 years, should be offset by cutting spending that’s less valuable. We need to at least have this debate.”

Continue Reading

Commentary

The numbers are definitively in: Trump’s tax cuts were an economic dud

Published

on

The most commonly heard refrain when Donald Trump and the GOP were seeking to pass some version of corporate tax reform went something like this: There are literally trillions of dollars trapped in offshore dollar deposits which, because of America’s uncompetitive tax rates, cannot be brought back home. Cut the corporate tax rate and get those dollars repatriated, thereby unleashing a flood of new job-creating investment in the process. Or so the pitch went.

Continue Reading
 

Commentary

Trump’s racist outburst contained an accidental truth about the dysfunctional state of America

Published

on

President Trump often puts thoughtful Americans in the position of choosing whether to concentrate on his racism or stupidity. Since the two mental pathologies typically interlock, the choice is not binary. The latest incident of imbecility from the White House — as almost everyone knows by now — has Trump excoriating four congresswomen (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib), three of whom were born in the United States, to go back to the countries where they came from. Rep. Omar of Minnesota, the only non-native born citizen in the group, arrived in America as a refugee at age 10, and has studied, worked and lived here ever since.Stumbling and sputtering under the blindness of his own hatred and ignorance, Trump might have actually fallen into an honest and accurate assessment of the United States. He not only told the congresswomen to go back to their countries of origin — for three of them that means staying right where they are — but described those places as “broken and crime infested.”

Continue Reading
 
 
 

Copyright © 2019 Raw Story Media, Inc. PO Box 21050, Washington, D.C. 20009 | Masthead | Privacy Policy | For corrections or concerns, please email [email protected]

Enjoy Summer! Try Raw Story Ad-Free for $1. Invest in Progressive Journalism.
close-image