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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Zundel: Religious bias took Romney out of race

By Aaron Zundel

On Thursday, Mitt Romney packed his bags and called it quits in his bid for the presidency of the United States (at least until 2012). Although I’m not necessarily upset by this (it’s no secret I’m a huge McCain fan), I must say that after watching the event unfold over the last week, I’m not very enthusiastic about the way it happened.

Some pundits say Romney’s campaign failed because his message just didn’t “click” with conservative voters. Others say the fact that he voted for stem cell research before he voted against it (and other such flip-flopping foibles) contributed to his political demise.

I disagree.

Though it runs counter to my own political preferences, I have to admit that in a time when Iraq is stabilizing but the economy is faltering and when the average American is losing more sleep over his or her 401k than fear of another Sept. 11, Romney was the obvious “conservative” choice for the presidential nomination. In fact, I don’t care what John McCain claims about being a “foot soldier” in the 1981 Reagan presidency (but, seriously, go McCain!) — if people were looking to put Reagan II in the White House, Romney was the finely coifed, fiscally competent, go-getter heir apparent to such a legacy.

In truth, Romney’s campaign didn’t fail because of “flip-flopping” or a failure to “click” or any other such nonsense. The campaign failed across the country for the same reason Romney received nearly 90 percent of the conservative vote here in Utah during Super Tuesday’s primaries. It failed because of religion.

When the thought of a Mormon in the White House crosses the average American’s mind (especially the religious, conservative mind), they get as skittish as the average Mormon gets excited — I know, I’ve seen more than enough locals support Mitt because he just so happens to pray the same way they do, and we’ve all read the polls about Americans and their hesitance to vote for a Mormon “under any circumstance.” Many conservatives, Mormons and non-Mormons alike, believe a President Romney would somehow carry Mormonism into the mainstream, legitimizing the religion and making it a force to reckon with on the world stage. Naturally, depending on what you believe about Mormonism, this is either a frightening or exhilarating possibility. The key to this whole Mormon domination scenario, though, is that it would never, ever happen.

In reality, both sets of conservatives are flat wrong for letting such a ridiculous notion sway their votes — and, dare I say it, anyone who thinks that way is misguided, an idiot, or both. We live in a country where the separation between church and state is vast, and Romney knows it. Sure, we still have our occasional squabbles over the technicalities (I still can’t believe people bickered so much over that whole “Ten Commandments in an Alabama courthouse” thing. I mean, win, lose or draw, one monument doesn’t make that much difference in the scheme of things), but even if a hypothetical President Romney wanted to advance, impose or invoke any sort of religious agenda, either clandestine or totalitarian, he’d get steam-rolled by the constitution faster than anyone could say “amen.”

Yeah, I like McCain, but I fear his attainment of the Republican nomination has come at the steep price of bigotry, of an America still suffering from some of the basest and ugliest human qualities there are. This time, prejudice only cost a man his political aspirations, but next time it could cost someone his or her freedom or life. Mormon or Catholic, Jew or Muslim, black or white, gay or straight, our superficial differences will continue to divide our country for as long as we let them.

In the future, Republicans might do well to take a page out of the Democrats’ book and support their presidential contenders based on individual merit, not something as arbitrary as their gender, skin color or religion. Better yet, Republicans could listen to the advice of one of their most honored political founders, Abraham Lincoln, when he said, “If there is anything that a man can do well, I say let him do it. Give him a chance.”

Wow. Imagine that.

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