I was decidedly neutral when it was announced by the powers that be in Mormon land (or “Utah” to outsiders) that Mitt Romney was the chosen one. He would rescue the 2002 Olympics, and so be it.
My neutrality arose from memories of his dad, and the appreciation I had for him in taking on Richard Nixon in the 1968 primaries. Not that I wanted him in the Whitehouse but his brand of Republicanism seemed tolerable compared to Barry Goldwater and then Nixon. A Rockefeller Republican, as it were, and lord knows that the Republican Party can do far worse than that.
But now, no, I don’t hesitate to say that a Romney presidency would be bad for this country. Nor do I have a doubt that it would lead to an impermissible mixing of church and state when I read things like the account in today’s newspaper about the rededication of the Utah State Capitol Building:
With an air of history and hope, Utah rededicated its Capitol on Friday, restoring the 93-year-old building to its original vision and returning the seat of state government to its residents.
More than 2,000 people jammed into the building to witness the invitation-only rededication ceremony, which opened with songs by the International Children’s Choir, clad in bright costumes from around the world.
Legislative leaders, the state’s congressional delegation, Huntsman and other dignitaries were escorted in and the crowd rose as Gordon B. Hinckley, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, stepped onto the raised stage and offered the dedicatory prayer.
First lady Mary Kaye Huntsman rang a brass bell that was answered by hundreds more, echoing off the stately dome and marble walls, growing to a crescendo that was joined by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing ”America the Beautiful.”
The Utah National Guard posted the flags and the children’s choir sang the national anthem, joined midway by the Tabernacle choir as several spectators wiped tears.
The Cathedral of the Madeleine Choir School joined the Tabernacle choir and 23rd Army Band in a stirring rendition of ”The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
The State spends 227 million taxpayer dollars to renovate our Capitol Building and the Mormons find a way to largely co-opt the session for a church party. Living here we come to learn that in important ways the Mormon Church is the government and the government is the Mormon Church. It’s a fact of daily life and, like it or not, something to just be accepted. But it is not something that we are required to pretend is not happening when it is in front of our eyes with such regularity.
The Olympics are world renowned as the greatest party on earth, except when they happen in Utah. Then the public celebrations were comparatively alcohol free, in keeping with local regulations, and the only parties available were by invitation only. Like the Capitol ceremony.
For Mitt, personally, the Olympics were a springboard to the governorship of Mass, and that tenure in office is being used in the hopes that it can springboard him into the White House. In other words, at a minimum, the behind the scenes politicking that lead to his selection to head the 2002 Olympics bestowed personal benefit, and Utah is a close knit place where favors are returned and are expected to be.
The source of all political power here is known, so the place to deliver repayments is also a matter of public knowledge. The Mormon Church gets its way. The Mormon political majority doesn’t play nice with others because they don’t need to. It’s taught that the leadership has a direct line to their god. And it seems eminently reasonable, all things considered, that said leadership expects to gain a direct line to The POTUS if and when Mitt Romney takes the oath of office.