“Back before election day, there was a part of me—the part of myself I don’t like—that harbored a secret, perverse desire that Bush would defeat Gore. Because a Bush victory, I thought, would offer me four illustrious years of taking the high road. I would be wise. Unlike my Republican brethren, who pooh-poohed Bill Clinton’s legitimacy from the get-go . . . I would be a bigger person . . . In my preelection daydream of what a Bush presidency might be like, I imagined that I would criticize his policies and lambaste his statements with a civics-minded nobility. All my venom, spite, and, as long as we’re dreaming, impeccable logic, would be directed at our president. As in “Look how our president is wrecking our country.”
– Sarah Vowell. “The Nerd Voice.” The Partly Cloudy Patriot
As the results of the Louisiana primary are rolling in tonight, I’m looking over the revised scoreboard for the GOP race for the Republican presidential nomination (which looks to me like a choice of being either drawn and quartered or raked over the breaking wheel) and considering the real possibility of one of these lunatics being elected president.
The likelihood of me actually voting for either of these guys (and, let’s face it kids, it’s down to Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum now) is as high as someone actually developing a warp drive engine next week to take us to the nearest star. However, the Evangelical base is nonetheless highly motivated, and that has left me kind of skittish and uneasy. My thoughts when contemplating the phrase “President Rick Santorum” include things like getting my passport renewed before it expires next year, and wondering what would be involved in obtaining a visa to Canada for four years. Tonight this actually led me to do a bit of reading on Canada’s immigration website blithely and (in appropriate Canadian fashion) understatedly titled, “Come to Canada,” in which I discovered that a passport claiming to have been issued by Somalia is not considered valid documentation for the Canadian government.
Of course, it’s still early in the game. The Republicans haven’t even chosen their David to go up against the liberal Goliath of Obama, and with all of the biblical rhetoric being thrown around, the analogy are inevitable. November is still a long ways away, and in an election year even the month before Election Day can seem like an entire year, with the barrage of campaign attack ads and relentless buttonholing of aggressively enthusiastic campaign workers.
Now, like Vowell, there is a perverse part of me that rather enjoys playing the part of the aggrieved contrarian antagonist. I enjoy the satisfaction of being justifiably outraged, especially when I find myself in the position of underdog. In 2008, I voted for Libertarian candidate Bob Barr in an act composed of one half protest and one half dreamy idealism. I knew that a third party candidate stood little chance of ever being elected, but goddammit if I was going to vote my values anyway.
And then Barack Obama was elected president, and for months I went on angry tirades about how stupid Americans were and how bad things were going to get under his malevolent socialist gaze. The socialist in sheep’s clothing had been elected by the dumb sheep of the country, but at least I wasn’t responsible. I could sit back and happily scowl at the grinning, snickering Obama supporters in that first year on whose heads the blood of the nation would eventually fall. And the angry part of me actually still can’t bring myself to refer to him as the president, and in the four years that he’s been in office I haven’t slipped once. For a while I even used the snide epithets “You-Know-Who” and “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” to talk about him.
And wouldn’t you know it, four years later, I’m thinking that universal health care might not be such a bad thing after all now that I’ve been uninsured for almost two years.
So is it fair to characterize Rick Santorum as a religious fanatic, and Mitt Romney as a religious nutcase? I don’t need to expound much further on my opinions about Santorum, but Romney worries me precisely because we don’t talk about his religious views.
From 1981 to 1994, Mitt Romney was a bishop in the Church of Latter-day Saints. For thirteen years he presided over and conducted meetings and worship services, served as president of the ward’s quorum of priests and acted as a “Judge in Israel.” He was not just a casual attender, like many politicians who attend church just in order to garner the Christian vote and support. The reason that we haven’t heard much about this may be that Mormons aren’t loud-and-proud in the way that Evangelicals are. Maybe more Christians would be understated about their beliefs if they had to do a mission and have doors slammed in their faces while trying to proselytize.
However, in order to be a Mormon you have to accept that the angel Moroni actually appeared to Joseph Smith and showed him the location of the gold plates that were basically buried right in his backyard. You have to actually believe that a Jewish prophet named Lehi brought his family to America in 600 BC (though no archaeological evidence of that exists). You have to believe that the Native Americans are descended from the 12 tribes of Israel (not to mention from a cultural group that was totally evil). You have to believe that if you’re lucky enough to be born male that when you die that you’ll have your own planet. If he’s a serious Mormon, he wears a special kind of underwear.
Unless he’s that two-faced as a politician, Romney really believes those things, which in my opinion is just a step above Scientology, with its teachings about Xenu the evil intergalactic overlord. This qualifies him and any Mormon as a nutcase, but of course in this country we respect irrational beliefs and call them “religion.”
And he wants to be President…