Barack Obama is done. With little chance of any significant economic recovery before next year’s election, with the inability to run against the establishment (now that he is the establishment), and with the considerably depleted enthusiasm of his voting base, Obama has very little chance of winning a second term. Who will take his place?
Although fourteen months is an eternity in politics, and some kind of catastrophic event could change the entire the game, my prediction at this point is that Mitt Romney will be the next president. Rick Perry effortlessly took over the front runner status from him a few weeks ago, but ever since the Texas governor has demonstrated that he is, at this point at least, not very capable of maintaining that kind of position. Michelle Bachmann (the other leading candidate) continues to lack the quality of electability that would propel her to the nomination, and as she continues to go on the attack against Perry, she will end up bloodying herself a bit in the process. With none of the other candidates (for better or worse) able to get traction at this point, that leaves Romney to emerge once again as the leading contender. The early New Hampshire primary, which he is almost certain to win, should set him on the path to the nomination.
I have mixed feelings about Mitt Romney. On the one hand, he is not Barack Obama. Although he has held more liberal positions in the past, I will take him at his word and trust that he will govern as a conservative. At best, he is a true conservative who has taken some time to develop his mature convictions. At worst, he is a political chameleon who is riding the conservative bandwagon because conservatism is on the rise in the wake of the Obama nightmare. Either way, he will govern as a conservative, and that is a good thing.
On the other hand, he is a Mormon. Let me say two things at the outset on this point. First, Mormons are not Christians, in spite of the way the Latter Day Saints (LDS) church seeks to package itself these days. Their understanding of God, man, Christ, salvation, and a host of other issues is light years away from biblical Christianity. They deny the Trinity, the qualitative distinction between Creator and creature, the hypostatic union (union of a fully divine and fully human nature in the one person of Christ), and justification by faith. The LDS church teaches that God was once a man who, through his own adherence to Mormon teaching, including celestial marriage, has now ascended to godhood, where he lives with his many wives and engages in constant sexual intercourse in order to populate this world with his spirit children. This is not Christianity. It is a moralized paganism dressed up with Christian terminology.
Second, the fact that Romney is not a Christian is not my primary concern. A man does not have to be a Christian to be a good president. There are varieties of non-Christians that would not raise the main issue of concern that I have with Romney.
And that main issue is this: on May 6, 1845, Joseph Smith (founder of Mormonism) issued this prophecy:
You will see the constitution of the United States almost destroyed. It will hang like a thread. . . . A terrible revolution will take place in the land of America. . . . [T]he land will be left without a Supreme Government, . . . [Mormonism] will have gathered strength, sending out Elders to gather the honest in heart . . . to stand by the Constitution of the United States. . . . In these days . . . God will set up a Kingdom, never to be thrown down. . . . [T]he whole of America will be made the Zion of God.
Do Mormon politicians pay any heed to these words? Mormon Senator Orrin Hatch, during his own presidential campaign, famously said in 1999,
I’ve never seen it worse than this, where the Constitution literally is hanging by a thread.
We will side-step the misuse of the adverb “literally” for now and focus instead on the fact that in 1999, toward the end of the Clinton years, Senator Hatch interpreted events on the American landscape in categories derived from Joseph Smith’s prophecy and presumably viewed himself as a major player on the stage of Mormon eschatological expectation. It was not to be for Hatch, who never came close to the Republican nomination.
Enter Mitt Romney, twelve years later. If the Constitution was (literally, though not really literally!) hanging by a thread in 1999, what should we say about it now? Barack Obama’s pinky is thicker than Bill Clinton’s thigh (1 Kings 12:10). Does the LDS church see the events unfolding before us as the fulfillment of Smith’s prophecy? Does Mitt Romney view it that way? If elected, will Romney view himself as the primary agent in the long-awaited establishment of the Kingdom of Zion on earth, right here in America? And if so, how does that intersect with his understanding of the US Constitution and the freedoms it guarantees (especially to non-Mormons)? Will the LDS church assume that he has gone to Washington to do their bidding? If so, how will he respond to such assumptions?
I am just raising questions here. It may very well be that these kinds of questions are quite remote to Romney himself. And even if a gung-ho Mormon became president, that does not mean we have an automatic theocracy. As much as Barack Obama has expanded executive power, there remain considerable limits on what a president can do. But it is worth thinking about. These questions probably cannot and will not be answered until we have the opportunity to witness a Romney presidency for ourselves.