Mitt Romney at least gave two notable speeches, "Faith in America" and his withdrawal speech. That's two more notable speeches than any other candidate has produced thus far, and he'll undoubtedly get to make a prime-time speech at the convention as well. Romney's withdrawal seems to have spurred better commentary looking back than his candidacy did when live and kicking, for example "Romney, Mormons, and me" (Boston Globe), "Romney Bid Was a Crucible for Mormons" (AP), and several posts at Article VI (linking to the same articles I'm linking to and trying to find meaning for A6 without Romney in the race).
The most visible story is on today's front page of the Wall Street Journal, "Mormons Dismayed by Harsh Spotlight." It's just full of interesting observations and quotes. Here are a few of them, with my comments.
"Mitt Romney's campaign for the presidency brought more attention to the Mormon Church than it has had in years. What the church discovered was not heartening." Yes, I think many people both in and out of the Church were surprised by the persistence and grittiness of remarks directed not so much at Romney the candidate as at LDS doctrines and practices. The sort of commentary that would fall under the label "bigotry" if directed at other denominations was deemed fair comment when directed at the LDS Church. My point is that six months ago no one really expected that sort of discourse to be part of the mainstream media discussion.
Underscoring that point is this quote in the article from Armand Mauss, an LDS sociologist: "I don't think that any of us had any idea how much anti-Mormon stuff was out there. The Romney campaign has given the church a wake-up call. There is the equivalent of anti-Semitism still out there."
The writer interviewed Elder Ballard, who is quoted in this interesting paragraph:
That same month, M. Russell Ballard, one of the church's 12 apostles, or governors, urged students at a graduation at Church-owned Brigham Young University to use the Internet and "new media" to defend the faith. At least 150 new Mormon sites were created and registered with the site mormon-blogs.com. "People were haranguing us on the Internet," Mr. Ballard said in an interview. "I just felt we needed to unleash our own people."
Commenting on why Romney's candidacy was so exciting to many Mormons, LDS law prof Nate Oman is quoted as saying, "There's a member of the tribe that's up there. What happens to him is a test of whether or not our tribe gets included in the political universe." I think the fact that Romney was a serious candidate who received millions of votes and garnered a couple of hundred delegates means that we *are* in the presidential political universe in some sense.
At the same time, it's worth reminding everyone that that the vote for the presidency is our ONLY national election. Every other elected official represents a state or a district. Different informal rules apply to a national election. Politicians who are successful and respected in their states and in Congress often fail spectacularly when they take the national stage as presidential candidates. Romney and Mormonism are not unique in not playing well nationally — and Romney actually played pretty well, although Mormonism didn't. That might be different in 30 years. Might not. It certainly won't be different in four years. Romney 2012 won't happen. Personally, I think he'd make a fine Treasury Secretary. Until the IOC President spot opens up, that is.
Last quote, Armand Mauss again: "There will be a long-term consequence in the Mormon church. I think there is going to be a wholesale reconsideration with how Mormons should deal with the latent and overt anti-Mormon propaganda. I don't think the Mormons are ever again going to sorrowfully turn away and close the door and just keep out of the fray." I agree. One can debate whether all of the media attention directed at the LDS Church over the last year has been, on balance, beneficial or harmful to the image of the LDS Church, but things will never be quite the same. And this election cycle still has ten more months to run!