It hasn’t gone unnoticed that Mitt “Etch-a-Sketch” Romney has a tendency to say whatever will get him elected. What doesn’t get a lot of mention is why. But I think Susan Jack at Liberals Unite gets it:
This might see strange to see so much flip flopping in a Presidential candidate, yet there is a pattern that makes utter sense in the larger Romney narrative; specifically that historically, Mormons as a whole have deemed it a holy rite to radically change their minds in the course of this very American Religion.
In other words, Romney thinks it’s acceptable to change his story in mid-stream because he comes from a culture where it’s acceptable to change your story in mid-stream. It’s typical of the way that Mormons handle doctrinal shift.
It follows this pattern:
Stage 1: Profession of faith
We believe Belief X.
Stage 2: Societal shift
Belief X becomes unpopular.
Stage 3: Stonewalling
We continue to believe Belief X even when it’s unpopular.
Stage 4: The tide turns
Belief X is becoming so unpopular that it’s hurting the bottom line.
Stage 5: Under the bus
We do not believe Belief X.
Pick all that apply.
5a: We have received a revelation that changes Belief X.
5b: X is not doctrinal.
Stage 6: Rewriting history
We never really believed Belief X.
Pick all that apply.
6a: Leaders were imperfect humans.
6b: Line upon line.
6c: That was folk doctrine.
6d: Belief X was not widespread.
6e: Belief X was peripheral, not core.
I don’t even mean to say that this process is motivated by outright dishonesty. To some extent, every member of the church participates in this process (especially in Stages 5 and 6) as they struggle to understand the bits of Mormon doctrine that don’t make sense, or as they try to integrate them with reality. This is how Mormons explain their doctrine to themselves, to each other, and ultimately to non-members. After a long while, this kind of amateur apologetics becomes habitual, and someone who’s served in the Church as long as Romney has would be very good at it. But it’s a slippery way of reasoning.
This method of reasoning carries over into Romney’s slippery explanations about his positions. His policies seem to change depending on who he’s talking to. He has been very light on details because, as LDS leaders must know, saying less gives you less to walk back later.
The similarities are obvious. For a Latter-day Saint, the one non-negotiable doctrine of the Church is that the Church is true. For Romney, the one non-negotiable doctrine is that he should be president.
Or as the Washington Post described Romney:
Every politician changes his mind sometimes; you’d worry if not. But rarely has a politician gotten so far with only one evident immutable belief: his conviction in his own fitness for higher office.