Why Elect A Mormon?

Rob Long’s brilliant and gutsy post reminded me of something I thought of during the first presidential debate, as I watched Mitt Romney passionately make his case against President Obama. It was reinforced during the second debate and the Al Smith dinner, and I’m pleased both Romney and Ryan beat the odds and beat this.

What Rob’s post recalled for me is how earnest most Mormons are. It used to annoy me when I was a brain-dead liberal. I recall in high school traveling across the (Wyoming) border filled with a sense of misplaced sophistication and self-righteous cynicism into the heart of the Beehive State because one of their silly universities had the temerity to offer me a full-ride journalism scholarship. I went there primarily to slay them with my progressive worldview and to carve a righteous notch into my ideological gun.

It didn’t work, though. At each meeting with Mormon professors and representatives of the college, I found them to be cheerful, sharp, optimistic, self-deprecating, and sincere about wanting me to enroll. It was horribly depressing. Despite my sneering and obvious (to me) superiority, they really wanted me to come to their university. Despite my bad attitude, they pressed on as if I’d some day share their optimism. Not only that, they invited me to dinner at their homes and introduced me to their wives (note: one wife per professor) and children and overlooked my eye-rolling snark.

I remember driving home confused. These people I thought I disliked had turned out to be friendly, nice, well-read, smart, and humble. They were so used to being attacked by self-righteous jerks like me that they grinned, overlooked it and moved on. They were intelligent, ridiculously and sincerely nice, and gleeful free-market capitalists. Plus, they were patriotic. Oh, and their wives and daughters were (and are) absolutely gorgeous.

I ended up not attending the University of Utah. But on that recruiting trip, I learned something — although it took a couple of years to sink in and admit. Despite the problems I have with the origins and beliefs of that church, their faithful are among the most terrific people in this country. And because of their crazy and hard-to-explain faith, they’re used to being dissed by people like me (in a younger version). Luckily, their faith and optimism is strong enough to overlook sophomoric attacks.

Which is why Mitt Romney might turn out to be an amazingly well-prepared and great president.