Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Like Josh Marshall, I have to wonder what's up with the Concord Monitor's anti-endorsement of Mitt Romney. On its face, the editorial is hard to argue with: Romney is a transparent phony who has reversed himself on the most basic issues in order to pander to the Republican base. (And although I think authenticity is rarely a useful metric, it certainly applies in Romney's case.)

What makes it weird is the language they use: Romney is "a disquieting figure", his words are "often chilling", he "most surely must be stopped." Get it? Romney isn't just undesirable as a candidate; he's dangerous.

Which is odd, because Romney's phoniness in itself shouldn't be a huge deal. The worst-case scenario is that his conversion is genuine--but even then, taking everything he says at face value, he's certainly no worse than the rest of the Republicans. Maybe he has no convictions at all, and he'll just do whatever increases his popularity; that would certainly be preferable to a president who clings to his delusions long after most people have rejected them. We've had plenty of phony Republicans in recent history, and Romney is hardly the worst of them.

And yet the editorial writers talk about Romney as if he were Greg Stillson.

I don't get it, but I do have a suspicion: I think it's about religion. A lot of Americans see the LDS as a cult, and Romney as their Manchurian Candidate. That's most common among authoritarian evangelicals, but it's not exclusive to them...and New Hampshire is a state with very few Mormons. Without ever mentioning religion, the editorial evokes an uneasiness that is religiously-based.

I could be wrong about this case, but I do know this: as long as Romney is a viable candidate, we will see a lot of coded (and not-so-coded) appeals to anti-Mormon bigotry. That's not a good thing, but it is the logical consequence of imposing religious standards on the political race--something Romney himself has indulged in.

No comments: