Sunday, November 18, 2007

Presidential Politics Get Nasty, but Maybe Not Enough

The Times Online has a nice summary story on the latest controversies in the presidential primaries. Despite the fact that the nominating conventions are still 8 or 9 months away, things are already getting nasty. Two things are going on. First, the Clinton folks are suggesting on background that they have some nasty business on Obama, but are refusing to share it. Who knows if they do. Either way it's hardball politics.

The second story is that in the last week someone was calling around Iowa doing some message testing on Mitt Romney, most of which turns on his Mormonism. The basic story is that some firm is calling households asking them, after 20 or so questions, whether they'd be more or less likely to vote for Romney for the nomination if they knew about some of the features of his relgion. Many, including Romney, have been mistakenly calling this is a "push poll". It's not. Push polls don't waste 20 questions before imparting negative information. They get right to it, because they are meant to reach several multiples more people than a poll which is message testing.

Nomenclature aside, what I think these stories are missing is a more central question. Namely, should voters be less likely to vote for Romney since he is a Mormon? Now, I for one don't really care if Romney follows the Mormon god or Zeus, but I would like him to answer the following question: Did he believe before 1978 that black males should be full participants in his church's sacrements? Because his Church certainly did not. No, they had to wait for a "revelation" before they realized that skin colour shouldn't preclude full participation. Religion is a private matter, perhaps, until it calls into question a politician's commitment to equal rights. So, let's take these questions out of polls and put them into a larger public space. I wonder which journalist will be the first to ask Romney when it dawned on him that his Church's doctrine was racist.

UPDATE: I guess this must be the reason why Romney doesn't want to talk about his religion. You don't want to give youth the idea that you could be an active leader in a church which had a fundamentally racist doctrine and then still become President.

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