Romney sells to the wrong voters

AP Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney listens as he is introduced during a campaign stop at American … Continued


Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney listens as he is introduced during a campaign stop at American Spring Wire on Sept. 26, 2012, in Bedford Heights, Ohio.

One of my friends in college had a part-time job selling shoes. His entrepreneurial philosophy was: when you’ve sold the shoes, shut up. Once a customer has agreed to buy a pair of shoes, he reasoned, you can’t sell the shoes any more. If you keep talking, you only risk killing the sale altogether.

Mitt Romney is selling shoes, which is why he says next to nothing about most everything, including his religion. Jonathan Merritt of Religion News Service tells us that Romney does not have an “evangelical problem.”

The supposition that evangelical voters cannot bring themselves to vote for a Mormon candidate, writes Merritt, is just “not true.”

View Photo Gallery: The Republican presidential nominee continues his campaign tour of the country’s swing states.

Indeed, the numbers show that evangelical Christians are just as solidly behind Romney as they were behind McCain four years ago. Faith-based voters of the evangelical Christian bloc are not “faith-based” at all, apparently, but are driven by political exigencies. According to Merritt, “Conservative Christians were always going to support the Republican candidate no matter who it was.”

No wonder that an entrepreneur as savvy as Romney has shut up. The evangelical bloc has bought the shoes. He’s not going to convince them any more that he’s the Republican nominee.

On the other hand, Romney still has customers wandering about the store. Recent numbers from the Pew Research Center show that Catholics and mainline Protestants were more enthusiastic for McCain eight years ago than they are now for Romney.

The media punditry continue to wonder what lies in the foundation of Romney’s character, and the fairly tepid feeling about Romney that polls consistently reveal suggests that everyday voters whose commitment isn’t first to a political ideology haven’t yet found a good reason to identify with Romney. If Romney wants to make a sale to these customers, he’ll have to abandon his policy of uneasy silence. Some authentic indication of a sound, religious foundation in Romney’s identity could go far in convincing the voters for whom a political agenda is no substitute for a deep, fervent commitment to the world.

In addition, for instance, to citing “shared moral values” (the non-confrontational euphemism that the Romney campaign has substituted for a genuine declaration of faith), Romney could explain something of the scriptural imperative in his religion to care for the poor without passing judgment on their poverty.

He might explain how his religious heritage values industry when it is in the service of building the communities in which everyone lives.

He could open up about the way his church trains its adherents to pay tithing without interrogating the collective good those funds support (and a flat 10 percent tithing rate, too, for rich and poor, together).

He could show how the core of his religion values education—in languages, history, international relations, even geology.

He could address the ways in which his religion demands environmental responsibility.

He could say something about the way his religion insists on a commitment to pursue wisdom before pursuing money.

He might even discuss the way his faith understands all of humanity—here in the U.S., in Estonia, in China, in Gaza, in Iran, and everywhere else—as a divine family, whose members have the same claim on the love, compassion, respect, and forbearance that we extend to the people in our own homes.

As long as he is content with selling shoes to evangelical voters—sales consummated by avoiding religious discourse entirely—Romney will have his Republican base and, in exchange, will have no claim on the genuinely faith-based voters who are sidling towards the candidate for whom religion is not an uncomfortable, embarrassing worldview that sells better when smothered.

David Mason is an associate professor at Rhodes College in Memphis. He is the author of “Theatre and Religion on Krishna’s Stage” and “My Mormonism: a primer for non-Mormons and Mormons, alike.” Follow him on Twitter: @fatsodoctor

David Mason
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  • Lalande21185

    Romney ain’t gonna woo THIS Catholic voter until he repents of his contempt for the poor and less fortunate in this country. “True religion is this: to come to the aid of widows and orphans” (James 1:27), and thousands upon thousands of other passages.

  • amelia45

    The bishops of the Catholic Church have raised a ruckus this year over what they call the threat to “religious freedom.” Of course, what they want is the religious freedom to deny religious freedom to others, by saying that allowing others to be free to practice their own faith is against their conscience. Which is true.

    Millions of Catholics aren’t buying the bishops on gay marriage or on the availability of contraceptives. Romney supports legislation that would ban gay marriage. Worse, his running mate wants no abortions, even in the case of rape or incest and wants supported Akins in trying to define a difference between “rape” and “forcible rape,” as if there were a difference. And, millions of Catholics really do believe in the Catholic teaching of preferrential options for the poor.

    Besides Catholics thinking the TeaPubs have gone too far, so do millions of women. And it is beginning to add up for women that Republican state legislatures all across the country are doing more and more to restrict abortions with inane kinds of things like “probes”. A majority of women support federal funding of Planned Parenthood not because of its providing abortions, but because it provides life saving contraceptives and medical exams.

    Republicans can’t go around angering Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, women, the old, and the poor and then expect to win elections.

  • Ronald Kirchem

    How could anyone take seriously a religion founded by a “prophet” who had a felony conviction for fraud before he “found” the golden tablets and magic spectacles, etc.? Just one example of the Mormons’ absurd belliefs: They think the American Indians are a lost tribe of Israel despite the fact that this is totally contradicted by the DNA and archeological evidence. The Mormons are entirely outside the Christian tradition–they are not even monotheists. Fawn Brodie conclusively proved that Joseph Smith was a paranoid schizophrenic–and we all know he was an extreme lecher. When he was attracted to a married woman, he would get a “vision” to send the husband on a fatal mission and then marry the widow!

  • mtmotoguy

    Mormons and evangelical Christians deserve each other. Both groups firmly believe, as an article of faith, that the world is less than 10,000 years old. This sort of nonsense should be disqualifying for public office.

  • DoubleD

    You’re kidding, right?! “Romney could explain something of the scriptural imperative in his religion to care for the poor without passing judgment on their poverty.” What a sick joke! He has already proven his complete contempt of the poor, then , BIG SURPRISE, in public says just the opposite. Any wonder that other Morons are deseparetly trying to distance themselves from this sociopath?

  • edrossdontcare

    I think this article is a roadmap for Romney to when a certain voting block. Unfortunately, David Mason is probably the only one in it.

  • misterjag

    To remain in good standing, Romney is required to tithe at least 10% of his income to the Morman Church. That represents about 80% of his charitable giving.

    Unfortunately, the tax exempt Morman Church is surprisingly uncharitable. According to an article I read in Business Week, less than 1% of the Church’s income is used for charitable purposes!

  • nimitz1

    when respondents were asked who, Obama or Romney, would best handle a variety of issues, Romney led on all but one including the economy (+9 percent), foreign policy (+3 percent), spending (+15 percent), taxes (+7 percent), Medicare (+2 percent), and jobs (+10 percent).

  • JImbo

    They’d probably call Jesus a communist nowadays.

  • TiredCynic


  • mwpalmer

    Charging Romney of “contempt for the poor and less fortunate” exposes Lalande as an unfortunate dupe of those who, ironically, want to destroy the moral foundations of our country. Indeed, Mitt’s private life suggests just the opposite.

    Caring for the widows and orphans is a thousand times better done by religion than government. Apparently, Romney understands that and lives it.

    Besides, in light of James 1:27, is not government established social welfare really a violation of the First Amendment?

  • Happy_Girl


    Lady you have been duped by the media. Romney lives and believes as you do and has sacrificed for it. He is trying to serve the Master i.e. our Savior.

  • persiflage

    I’m wondering why Romney is behind in every recent poll – if he’s viewed as such a superior choice on all the important issues.

    There are many reasons, but the fact that Romney, a moderate republican at heart, is trying to pass himself off as a rightwing republican in order to please the extremists and ultra-conservatives the GOP has always been the crux of the problem.

    Ryan on the other hand is the real thing – and something only a minority of citizens find the least bit appealing. Somewhere between Ryan an Iran, Romney just ‘McCained’ himself, or so it would appear.

  • persiflage

    And now we find Romney reversing himself yet again on healthcare reform, unions, etc. etc. etc. Honesty or republican extremism – it’s all very confusing.

  • IntellectOne

    Mitt Romney stood-up for the Freedom of Religion during the Republican Nominee Debates. He spoke of how the Freedom has been sucked out from the Roman Catholic Church with the passage of Obamacare. Mitt Romney was a great ‘Defender’ of the Roman Catholic Church’s Freedom to follow their own teaching.. If a Catholic votes for Obama and Biden, instead of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, they are nothing but a Heretic..

  • sandman839

    Any one who is truly christian can not vote for any person who is wanting to hurt the country and it’s people as much as the Greedy Old Party.

  • sandman839

    Were did you get your info, since every place I have seen any type of polling it is just the opposite. Right now Willard is not even as popular as Bush.

  • amelia45

    What the Catholic bishops want is the ability to deny freedom of conscience to others. They want their own but can only get it by denying it to others.

    What the Affordable Care Act does is leave decisions about contraceptives up to the individual. That is what religious freedom is: the freedom to choose the religion and the faith that one will live by. Without individual’s free to choose, there is no freedom.

    There is no religious freedom when one person or faith is allowed to coerce another into living by a faith that is not freely chosen.

  • amelia45

    “Romney could explain something of the scriptural imperative in his religion to care for the poor without passing judgment on their poverty.”

    It would be well if all Christians, including Mormons, explain how there is am imperative to care for the poor but they will dismantle food stamps, welfare and medical care for the poor. Somehow people returning to starvation, illness and death will “save” them.

    Romney lost this argument with his 47% remarks. He also lost the argument by putting most of his money in foreign accounts and investing in jobs in China rather than jobs here. Romney needs to put his money where his mouth is.

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