My proposed linkage between anti-Mormon prejudice among evangelicals and the persistent flip-flop charge against Romney has drawn some interest, and raised the question of how one might go about demonstrating it. In a comment, Lowell Brown, who posts over at Article6, expressed the wish for some empirical evidence: “Now, did Romney make some Christians distrust him because he claimed to have very similar beliefs? Maybe, but I sure haven’t seen any data to support that hypothesis.” While I don’t know of any survey of the subject, there is some anecdotage that points strongly in that direction, and in mine.
To wit: Late last year, the Corner’s Jonah Goldberg quoted a number of responses to his thoughts about evangelical anti-Mormonism. One evangelical respondent wrote:
The sharper the contrast between Mormon and orthodox Christian doctrine, the better….To address one obvious objection, voting for a Jewish, Muslim, or even atheist candidate does not carry the same set of concerns. Unlike Mormonism, none of these other belief systems attempt to position themselves within the Christian faith.
It’s hardly a stretch to see this person as becoming even less likely to vote for Romney the more he made himself out to be like evangelicals. Then there’s this comment, along whose lines Goldberg said he received “piles”:
Speaking for myself, there is no policy that I think a Mormon would pursue that I find objectionable. I will not vote for a Mormon because they claim to be Christian, when they are not Christians. Electing, or even nominating, a Mormon continues to send the message to Americans that Mormons are fine and dandy, Christians like everyone else. Thousands of Christians are converted to Mormonism each year, and it is done under false pretenses. From what I have read, Mormons are very good at appearing to be orthodox Christians with new recruits. It’s only later that the blatantly non-orthodox views come out. So, I rule out voting for a Mormon not because of actual policies they might pursue, but because of the message their election would send to Americans.
Let me make a couple more quick comments. I would vote for a Jew. I would vote for a Hindu, an atheist, etc.
This, it seems to me, is pretty direct evidence in support of my proposition. The justification for voting against Mormons is not that they belong to some non-evangelical faith but that their faith misrepresents itself, and so is not to be trusted. Electing a Mormon would somehow sanction this way of doing business, and therefore send the wrong message to Americans. Under the circumstances, it is plain how the flip-flop charge reinforces the prejudice. What’s wrong with Romney the politician is what’s wrong with his faith: Both sail under false pretenses. Q.E.D.