For generations conservative evangelicals have been taught to dismiss the faith of the Latter Day Saints (the Mormons) as a heresy, a dangerous heresy.
Conservative evangelical leaders have taught recent generations of conservative evangelicals that Mormons and propagation of Mormon faith is dangerous. Because the Mormons (according to conservative evangelicals) teach people to worship a false version of Christ, they endanger people's chances for eternal salvation. (By the way, conservative evangelical broadcasting teaches that anyone teaching anything contrary to their core doctrines, that person is endangering other people's eternal salvation. So they're not just fear mongering about the Mormons; they're fear mongering about me, you (if you're not one of them)--*anybody* who teaches anything contrary to their core doctrines.)
Now you may not care about these doctrinal disputes between Christians who don't consider other Christians to be Christian. But it's going to play a role in who wins the presidency of the United States this year: so you even if you do not care about it, it is going to affect you--and therefore it matters.
Given the above the following news reporting about a poll this week also matters...
(A recent) poll found that Mr. Romney's Mormonism could help him among voters. The results of an online survey conducted by the Brookings Institute found that information about Mr. Romney's religion actually had little effect among white evangelicals, which make up a vast majority of the Republican voting base.
Before we get to the meat, let's not gloss over that last observation: "white evangelicals make up a vast majority of the Republican voting base."
Conservative white evangelicals made George W. Bush president instead of John Kerry, by a margin of millions. They're here to stay as force in presidential politics, and if you the Brookings Institution finding is any indication...
...they're willing to vote for Mormon to become president of the United States, despite decade after decade of anti-Mormon propaganda. As you recall, during the last presidential contest Mitt Romney's presidential bid ran aground in Iowa, where conservative evangelical candidate Mike Huckabee beat him easily after Romney had campaigned and spent heavily in the state primary. That result was due (in part) to conservative Iowa pastors doing "stop the Mormon" political activism. Romney's attempt to win over the public and conservative evangelicals with a "a candidate's religion shouldn't matter" speech--failed.
But Romney's back, the conservative evangelical vote is still key, and the Brookings poll says the doctrinal issue that mattered so much to conservative evangelical voters four years ago--doesn't matter any more.
If you don't like that poll, there's another one that came out this week that says:
--eighteen per cent of voters will not vote for a Mormon candidate for president.
--twenty-five per cent of Democrats polled will not vote for a Mormon for president.
--and ten per cent of Republicans will not vote for a Mormon candidate for president.
Those findings are from Gallup. If you believe the results, the reason that Mitt Romney may lose to Barack Obama in the fall may have more to do with his religion--than with his career of outsourcing American jobs, his expressed wish that General Motors be allowed to go bankrupt, or his Etch-A-Sketch lack of political principles.
Because the ten per cent of Republicans polled this year, the ones who say they won't vote for a Mormon president could cost Romney victory in a close election if their numbers are distributed across key states.
It would indeed be ironic if religious bigotry turned out to be an important factor in returning Barack Obama to the White House. For decades leaders of conservative evangelical broadcast media have been relentless in sowing anti-Mormon paranoia in their vast listening audiences around the country.
Earlier this year those same leaders and associated national religious right figures made an attempt to topple Romney and replace him with Rick Santorum. That notorious failure means that the leaders of the Christian right must now do a 180 degree turn on decades of anti-Mormon propaganda, convincing their supporters that something that was supposed to matter very much--matters not at all.
They have to do that in the space of a few months. And they may be able to do it; the process is already under way. The conservative evangelical voters have a proven tendency to adopt the opinion of the televangelists and leaders of "family values" activist groups--whatever that opinion may be; however contrary to the previous opinion. (Recall the religious right's flip-flop on candidate John McCain in the last election. Faced with the prospect of Barack Obama and the loss of down-ticket elections due to lower conservative evangelical voter turnout: the conservative evangelicals can even be persuaded to support a candidate who denounced their brand of sectarian politics.)