WALTER RUSSELL MEAD: New York Times Slimes Romney.

Here at Via Meadia, we have written extensively about how reports of impending American theocracy have been greatly exaggerated. Indeed, put into historical perspective, the religious forces acting upon American politics today are far gentler than those of generations past. But it appears that the New York Times remains unconvinced, as evidenced by a recent spate of alarmist editorials about the faith of Mitt Romney.

This is not about Governor Romney, and it is not about the faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS). Via Meadia takes no view at this early stage about the merits or demerits of the various candidates, and our inveterate Anglicanism gets in the way of embracing the Mormon faith. But bigotry is something that needs to be fought in all its forms; unreasonable fears and prejudices based on religion will always be with us, but such fears belong in the gutter among the wackos, the haters and the tin-foil hat brigades on both the right and the left. When they rise from the sewers and the swamps into mainstream publications and can be casually uttered in polite company by distinguished professors, something is going very wrong, and people who believe in the American way need to speak up. . . .

As far as I can make out, Professor Bloom is more elitist misanthrope than bigot; his hatred and loathing for Mormonism is part of a broader and deeper disgust with almost everything that the common people think or do in the contemporary United States. The essay drips with condescension and disdain; he hates and fears the Mormons not because they are different from most of their fellow citizens but because they are like them. . . . I say nothing about the motives of Professor Bloom or the New York Times. But so far as I know, neither has ever expressed any concern over the stout Mormon faith of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

I have a comment and a question. Comment: The New York Times would never spread fear, uncertainty and doubt about a Muslim candidate’s religion in this fashion. Question: When George Romney ran in 1968, was the New York Times fretting about his Mormonism?

UPDATE: Reader John Ward emails: “I don’t recall the NYT having a fit when Mo Udall was running for the Democrat nomination for president.” I guess only Republican Mormons are scary.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader John Burke writes:

I worked in Udall’s New York Presidential campaign in 1975-1976 (after my earlier choice, Birch Bayh, dropped out). Trust me when I say that no one among New York Democrats ever said, boo, about Udall being a Mormon, even though a host of candidates were competing furiously for support within the party (Udall, Bayh, Fred Harris, Scoop Jackson, Jimmy Carter). All these candidates were grilled closely and frequently about where they had stood on the war, where they stood on amnesty for draft resisters, what they had done to block Nixon’s Supreme Court nominations, and dozens of other then-current issues. This questioning took place in living rooms and Democratic clubs with small groups. I was deeply involved in all of this from mid-1975 when Bayh began to line up NY support. I must say that I don’t even recall being aware of Udall’s being a Mormon, although it is a long time ago. I certainly would recall if anyone had made an issue of it (I remember clearly the shades of differences the candidates had on other matters).

Sad to see the NYT becoming so much more bigoted than it was a generation ago.