Noah Feldman, who works as an adjunct senior fellow for the council on foreign relations, wrote a long piece for the new york times magazine on mormons. it was published this weekend with the title "what is it about mormonism?"
this question has been a hot topic in mi casa since the iowa caucuses. lindsay, who rarely gets fired up about political stuff, is fired up. as a fellow employee of the council, lindsay took the liberty to tell mr. feldman what she thought of his article. she shared it with me, and i got permission from her to share it here. i think it is awesome. a cool dialogue has started between them since, but for the sake of keeping mr. feldman's comments personal, i will not share them here.
cheers to both noah and lindsay!
I don't believe we've had the pleasure of meeting, but I couldn't resist
the opportunity to weigh in on your NYTMag piece on Mormonism. In the five
years I've worked at CFR (first as an RA with Lee Feinstein and Anne-Marie
Slaughter, later with the Council's Task Force Program) I have been
surprised to find myself the only Mormon on staff at the Council--in either
Washington or New York.
Though I'm not a Republican, I have watched the Romney race with great
interest. And, like you, I have my own theories about what the future
holds if Romney doesn't win the Republication nomination. My prediction,
to add to your own, is a Mormon disaffection from the Republican party. Iowa was
not just a disappointment for Romney. The way he lost felt like a slap in
the face to many Mormons. Frankly, I was surprised at how upsetting it
was to me, and I'm not likely to vote for Romney in any case! Many Mormons
have spent much of the last century wearing Republicanism on their
sleeves--staunchly supporting the party, serving in the military and in
government positions, and busily embodying so many things (patriotism,
"family values", etc.) that the Republican party professes to care about
AND YET a candidate won Iowa partly because he exploited bigotry about
Mormons' theological beliefs and presented himself to the party as the
"Christian candidate." Of course Iowa is just one state, but if Mitt's
Mormonism ultimately keeps him off the ballot one wonders: why would
Mormons stay in a party that doesn't want them?!
Many American Mormons--inside and outside of the intermountain west--are
already voting Democratic. If the Evangelical influence on the Republican
party continues, I see this trend accelerating. (In the near term, if we
have an Obama-Huckabee general election, I think there's an outside chance
Obama could win the reddest of red states, particularly if he put any
effort in it.) Much of the intermountain west--Colorado, Arizona--is
already purple or turning that way. A smart DNC would sense its moment and
move in for the kill.
While I think your prediction that Mormon leaders may "minimize" or
moderate some of Mormonism's exceptional beliefs is certainly a
possibility, at the moment I hear the Church's leadership actually taking
the opposite tack. If you haven't already read it, I would refer you to an
address delivered by one of the Mormon Apostles, Jeffrey Holland, at the
last General Conference (the twice-yearly event in which members hear
directly from church leaders). It's a response to those who question
Mormonism's Christianity and, when I heard it at the time, thought it
sounded distinctly like a response to many of Romney's critics.
Thanks for a provocative, timely piece.