If Mitt Romney wins in November, his ascension to the White House will represent a historic moment for religious tolerance in general and for Mormons in particular. Most Mormons are, presumably, eagerly looking forward to such a milestone. But the couple dozen Mormons who crammed into a meeting room at a Charlotte Holiday Inn this afternoon had one thing in common: They’re all voting for Obama.
“Be proud of who you are,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid advised the gathering of LDS Democrats in his remarks, which were preceded by a roomwide rendition of the Mormon hymn “Have I Done Any Good in the World Today?”
“Don’t back down. Don’t be afraid of what your neighbors think.”
Reid was preceded at the podium by Scott Howell, a Democrat running a long-shot campaign against million-term incumbent and fellow Mormon Orrin Hatch in Utah this year. “I believe that I’m a Democrat because of my faith, not in spite of it,” Howell said.
That some Mormons are supporting Obama despite sharing a religion with Mitt Romney should hardly come as a surprise. Identity politics has always been a strong force in America — a recent poll, for example, showed that Obama is beating Romney among black voters 94 percent to zero percent — but it’s not the deciding factor for every single voter.
Still, a Romney victory would clearly be a huge development for Mormons, who experienced a long period of persecution in the United States and represent just 2 percent of the American population. Don’t these pro-Obama Mormons want to see Romney win, just a little bit?
“You know, you always want to root for the home team,” Howell told me. “But I think it’s the values of each candidate you have to look at.”
“You vote your conscience,” Howell’s deputy campaign manager, Caitlin Howell, agreed.
Asked if he wasn’t excited about seeing a Mormon become president, Taylor Hartley of Alpine, Utah, told me, “I’d love to.” But? “Compassion and charity … those are the most important virtues. And the political party that most closely aligns itself with compassion and charity is the Democratic party.”
Besides, while the vast majority of Mormons lean to the right — only 8 percent consider themselves liberal, according to Pew — Mormon Democrats have found that they can peacefully coexist with their more conservative peers.
“I haven’t really been chastised by anybody because of my beliefs, politically,” a Utahn named Gary told me. “In fact, my wife’s Republican.”