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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A New Kind of Mormon Candidate




http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/06/21/understanding-jon-huntsmans-distinct-brand-of-mormonism/
http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/06/28/my-take-for-huntsman-a-little-faith-could-go-a-long-way/

I spoke a few weeks ago about the most popular Mormon candidate for the Republican Party, Mitt Romney and his appeal to me, which quickly faded in comparison to Ron Paul. But, unbeknownst to me, there was another Mormon candidate for president who started his campaign under my nose. Jon Huntsman Jr. was the U.S. ambassador to China under Barack Obama, having resigned a few months ago to focus on his presidential campaigning, no doubt. In comparison to Mitt Romney as a fellow member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, there are some stark differences that would put Huntsman as a possible candidate I’d vote for, even with my miniscule political aptitude and nominal conservative beliefs.

First off, Huntsman is less prominent in his Mormonism, since Mitt Romney has served in some function within the church at various points on his life. Not to mention Romney is over 10 years older than Huntsman, so he’s in a different generation of Mormons. Romney’s Mormon roots come from the 60s and 70s, where Mormons tried to distinguish themselves from American culture, which they saw as decadent and manifesting the end times of some form or another. In this sense, Romney has a disposition to make his religion a big part of his campaign, which could serve to further isolate him from the many Americans who wouldn’t vote for him because of his Mormonism even if he was well qualified. On the other hand, Huntsman’s generation is more accessible to non-Mormon Americans, associated with the “I’m a Mormon” online campaign you see across the Internet. Huntsman himself is associated with the LDS Church, but at the same time, he has an adopted daughter who was born into a Hindu culture, another into Buddhist culture, and his children also go to Catholic school to boot. So he clearly has an openness that Romney lacks in terms of religious engagement and diversity.

On issues of GLBT, Huntsman’s got my vote more than Romney at least, though Ron Paul’s advocacy of state’s rights on legislation of gay marriage, etc, has a nice ring as well. Huntsman supports civil unions, while Romney only wants them to have the basic legally equivalent rights to straight couples. But Romney was probably involved with the generation of Mormons that supported Proposition 8 in California a few years back, so his stance on gay marriage and civil unions is not too surprising. In other political terms, Huntsman and Romney are pretty similar, considering they’re running a Republican ticket: fiscally conservative, some social conservative positions, pro life in one way or another, among other talking points. Huntsman seems to be willing to engage in bipartisanship, which many Republicans are much more resistant to, if the healthcare extravaganza was any indication. Being the ambassador to China is a plus, since he sees the priority of keeping good relations with China. He no doubt had prior experience with China in his missionary trip for 2 years in Taiwan, and that was part of what got him his position as Chinese ambassador under Obama.

All in all, Huntsman seems like one of the most sensible Republican candidates so far, even with a background that might make many suspicious on its face. Mormon candidates are still low on the list of trustworthy candidates, though there is more likelihood that they’d be accepted by Americans before a homosexual or a septuagenarian, not to mention the most “untrustworthy” candidate, atheists. Ron Paul seems similar to Huntsman in some ways, though Paul has more of the Constitutionalist and Libertarian leanings that many Republicans pick and choose on, though I’m technically more anarchist than anything else, I’ve found. I imagine Huntsman will be a good nominee for Republicans, but Michelle Bachmann has become a media darling for Republicans to latch onto, not to mention others in the big pooling. Popularity in politics will be the determining factor, so we’ll see what happens in the coming months and year. Until next time, Namaste and aloha.

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