The Campaign Spot

Faith Shouldn’t Keep Anyone Off Any Presidential Ticket!

Oh, please:

Rubio was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with his family at around the age of eight, and remained active in the faith for a number of years during his early youth, family members told BuzzFeed.

Rubio spokesman Alex Conant confirmed the story to BuzzFeed, and said Rubio returned to the Catholic church a few years later with his family, receiving his first communion on Christmas day in 1984 at the age of 13.

The revelation adds a new dimension to Rubio’s already-nuanced religious history—and could complicate his political future at a time when many Republicans see him as the odds-on favorite for the 2012 vice presidential nod. Vice presidential candidates are traditionally chosen to provide ethnic and religious balance to a ticket. Mitt Romney’s Mormonism and Rubio’s Catholic faith would already mean the first two members of minority traditions on a Republican ticket in American history. Rubio’s Mormon roots could further complicate that calculation.

Readers of the Morning Jolt know I enjoy Ace at Ace of Spades a great deal, and so this is a temporary, good-natured disagreement, but I think he is spectacularly wrong about this:

Problematic for a Romney/Rubio ticket. Two Mormons on the ticket? That’s not exactly a “balanced” draw.

I don’t want to say it’s disqualifying (at least as far as Romney selecting him) but I have to think it’s actually disqualifying.

And I like Rubio. I’ve been saying for two years that we don’t know who the presidential candidate will be but we know exactly who the vice presidential candidate will be.


Not that it’s a crime. Just that it precludes one particularly-strong ticket. Probably our strongest.

You could leave Marco Rubio off the GOP ticket for a lot of reasons. You might think he’s too young. You might think he hasn’t spent enough time in statewide office. You might think he’s not ready to be a heartbeat away from the presidency, or that he’s not a good fit with the supportive, behind-the-scenes role of the vice presidency.

But to leave him off the ticket because he was once a member of the Mormon church is insane, and to me, represents acquiescing to religious bigotry.

I want the best president, and the best candidate, available. I don’t care if that candidate is Catholic, Protestant, Mormon, Jewish, Jehovah’s Witness, or Bajoran. I want the best ticket, and I don’t care if the pair are of the same religion. Sure, tickets are traditionally balanced in several ways, but to demand religious “balance” is to enact a de facto religious test for the Oval Office. And it seems pretty relevant to point out that even for those who would impose that illogical, unconstitutional requirement, there already is balance: Marco Rubio is Catholic. (UPDATE: “While Rubio continues to identify as a Conservative Roman Catholic, he frequently attends a non-denominational Baptist church with his family in Florida.”)

At some point, you pick your best ticket, put your best players on the field so to speak, and you take your chances. Yes, I know some voters are wary, or even hostile, about the Mormon faith. (Note that there is more hostility among self-identified Democrats than self-identified Protestants.) In the end, I don’t really care what these bigots think. Everyone whose religious faith does not include elements that other Americans find weird, please step forward.

We all pick our hill to die on, and I’m perfectly fine with mine being the fight against a religious test for office.

Do we fear that the Obama campaign might try to not-too-subtly fan the flames of public suspicion about the Mormon faith?

Let them try. Let’s let President Hope and Change run on persistent themes of Mormons’ unfitness for office. Let’s let them show the world precisely what kind of bigots and hypocrites they are. Let’s let Jeremiah Wright’s prize pupil, who defined his campaign in messianic tones, imply that the religious beliefs of a Mormon make him just too weird to be president.

“Don’t vote for Romney-Rubio! One’s Mormon, and the other used to be!” Folks, if that argument works to sway an election, we deserve to collapse.

I mean, if the Obama campaign wants to make the 2012 race about who experimented with what in their youth, we can go there.

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