Baker contends this treatment is not just about Romney but suggests it is Rich’s profile of Mormons in general. That may seem like an unfair interpretation, though her argument is buttressed somewhat by this later passage:
Known for being frugal to a fault, Romney does not seem to particularly relish spending his fortune. He likes data, and his piles of dollars seem to be mainly markers to keep score of his success. Though he now tries to wrap himself in Main Street brands like Staples and Domino’s Pizza that passed through Bain’s clutches, he was not intellectually or managerially engaged in the businesses that Bain bought and sold; he didn’t run any of them. He seems to have no cultural passions beyond his and his wife’s first-date movie, The Sound of Music. He is not a sportsman or conspicuous sports fan. His only real, nonnumerical passions seem to be his photogenic, intact family, which he wields like a weapon whenever an opponent with multiple marriages like John McCain or Gingrich looms into view—and, of course, his faith.
That faith is key to the Romney mystery.
Baker notes this ‘too good’ twist is particularly interesting given that Mormons enjoyed incredibly positive media coverage in mid-century America for the same qualities.
She describes this media treatment in terms of the “model-minority” stereotype, which in academic discussion has been used to describe media coverage of Asian-Americans, and more recently Mormons. “The whole thing about the ‘model-minority,’ is that they may have a lot of positive qualities, but they also raise fears,” Baker says.
This leads to another common grievance Mormons have with commentaries about Romney and his faith—the tendency for commentators to hint that there is something sinister about a Mormon presidential candidate and that he/she would use his office to govern in the interest of the Mormon church.
Harold Bloom, writing in November in The New York Times’s Sunday Review discussed, in foreboding terms, the secrecy of Mormons and what that would mean if one of their number—just 2% of Americans—were elected president.
There are other secrets also, not tellable by the Mormon Church to those it calls “Gentiles,” oddly including Jews. That aspects of the religion of a devout president of the United States should be concealed from all but 2 percent of us may be a legitimate question that merits pondering.
And later he speaks of the “troublesome” political implications of Mormon theology:
The Mormon patriarch, secure in his marriage and large family, is promised by his faith a final ascension to godhead, with a planet all his own separate from the earth and nation where he now dwells. From the perspective of the White House, how would the nation and the world appear to President Romney? How would he represent the other 98 percent of his citizens?
In Salon, Sally Denton published an even more sinister and conspiracy-minded account that leans on the White Horse prophecy—a purported vision of Joseph Smith that the Mormon priesthood would save the US Constitution when it was “hanging by a thread,” and which is not official church doctrine—to suggest the idea that “Romney’s candidacy is part of the eternal plan and the candidate himself is fulfilling the destiny begun in what the church calls the ‘pre-existence.’”
She compels readers to be afraid of Mormons and their secret designs throughout the piece, with descriptions like:
The seeds of Romney’s unique brand of conservatism, often regarded with intense suspicion by most non-Mormon conservatives, were sown in the secretive, acquisitive, patriarchal, authoritarian religious empire run by “quorums” of men under an umbrella consortium called the General Authorities.
As intriguing as these stories are, they fail to consider certain realities, like Romney’s previous record as a governor and business person, or the careers of other Mormon politicians—not all of the same party and platforms, like Harry Reid and Tom Udall—or the pains the Mormon Church has taken to remain apart from politics. The idea that Romney would bring a “Mormon agenda” is likewise undermined by the fact that naturally, not all Mormons agree with him on everything. Consider this story from last month.
“It’s interesting there seems to be an assumption that Romney’s political beliefs are a function of, or conditioned by his religious beliefs where that assumption is not made with any of the other candidates,” says Terryl Givens, a professor of literature and religion at the University of Richmond who has written a number of books on Mormonism. Of course, Santorum wears his faith on his sleeve, and Gingrich makes no effort to underplay his Catholicism, but whatever influence their religion has on their makeup does not get cast as threatening.