Can the “Mormon Way” Beat the “Chicago Way”?

“Why haven’t you converted to Mormonism yet, Dave,” my LDS friend asked me just as Nancy and I launched Evangelicals for Mitt, “We’re the Spartans of American religious institutions . . . We’re overflowing with highly patriotic and dedicated people, [and] the church was born, raised, and put through the refiner’s fire right here on American soil.” He went on to extol the unique combination of toughness and decency that characterized his own faith experience.  I’ve thought of his words in recent days as Mitt has faced the early-campaign version of the Obama onslaught, what NRO’s Michael Walsh consistently calls the “Chicago Way.”  The best definition of this “Chicago Way” is embedded here:

In short, the Chicago Way is ruthless, it escalates, and it ends when your opponent is in the (metaphorical, in this case) morgue.

That’s not Mitt’s way. But that’s doesn’t mean Mitt is going to lose. I’d suggest that Mitt has a better way, a way that will not only bring victory, but victory with greater dignity and a better opportunity to govern a divided country. We’ll call Mitt’s way the “Mormon Way.”

News flash: Mitt Romney is a Mormon — as was his father, his grandfather, and his father before him. The ethos and culture of the LDS church is part of him more even than the political culture of Chicago is part of President Obama, and that’s a good thing for this campaign and this country — a very good thing. Mitt’s way has unfolded before us over the last six years — when he began his quest for the presidency at roughly 1 percent in name recognition — and has progressed to today, where he stands in a dead heat with “The One,” the “Lightworker,” and the incumbent President of the United States.  What is Mitt’s way?  I’d suggest four key elements:

1. Discipline.  Throughout the twists and turns of the primary season, I can’t count the number of times I was told, “Mitt’s done.”  Or “Mitt’s done if he doesn’t change course.”  But he had a plan — to focus on the economy, run primarily an anti-Obama campaign, and focus on his opponents only when they presented a true threat.  And so we saw challenger after challenger come and go, from Rick Perry to Herman Cain to Newt Gingrich to Rick Santorum to Newt again and finally to Santorum again.  Rather than panic, Mitt was disciplined, stuck to his plan, stayed on message, avoided major gaffes (though there were certainly awkward moments) and ran well both from the front (New Hampshire) and from behind (Florida).  In other words, he executed disciplined, effective plans in response to the challenges of the moment.  That’s not to say that things went smoothly (nothing in the rough and tumble of politics is ever truly “smooth”), but his disciplined style blunted his opponents’ attacks, gave voters confidence, and helped carry him to the nomination.

2. Perseverance.  Those who didn’t follow the primaries closely forget how many times Mitt came from behind to win key primaries.  He was behind Gingrich in Iowa and ended in a dead heat with Santorum.  He was well behind Gingrich in Florida then won decisively.  He was behind Santorum in Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin yet pulled out victories in each of those key Midwestern states.  While discipline is critical to perseverance, true perseverance requires results — an ability to respond to the challenge of the moment and ultimately prevail.  Perseverance should be a key quality for all Christians, but it is a core part of the relatively recent DNA of the LDS church.  After all, any church that goes from an “extermination order” in 1838 to the fourth largest religious group in America by 2012 (with a flight across the wilderness sandwiched in between) possesses considerable perseverance.

3. Toughness.  Notice a theme here?  Each of the first three characteristics are classic requirements to triumph over adversity, and if the primaries taught us anything, it’s that Mitt can get tough when he needs to.  Remember sending friendly members of Congress to hound Newt Gingrich across Florida?  Remember the avalanche of attack ads that buried Santorum in Michigan and Ohio?  But it’s not just toughness on the attack that’s critical, it’s toughness when attacked.  And make no mistake, Mitt Romney is being attacked and will be attacked.  If Obama is playing the felony card by July, what’s in store for September and October?  Once again, toughness is in the LDS church’s DNA — inculcated and perpetuated by a relatively extreme missionary experience (far tougher than missions experiences for 99 percent of Protestants) that prepares LDS members for a life of self-sacrifice.

4.  Good cheer.  “I may not agree with Mormonism, but they’re great folks, very nice.”  How many times have you heard this statement.  Good cheer has become a hallmark of the LDS church, and it’s such a part of Mitt’s personality that he’s often mocked for it.  Unironic, non-profane good cheer is may be no longer cool or hip, but it’s one thing that sets Mitt apart from the extreme self-serious of Barack Obama and may ultimately enable the connection Mitt needs to make with the American people.

We’re only about 50 flips in the news cycle from the election — complete with talking heads braying day by day that Mitt is “losing it” or “off balance” or “finally hitting his stride” or “knocking Obama on his heels” depending on the conventional wisdom of the last nine seconds. But it strikes me that Mitt’s combination of discipline, perseverance, toughness, and — critically — good cheer are exactly the qualities needed to turn back the relentless and ever-escalating attacks that characterize the “Chicago Way.”  In other words, if Mitt stays on message, delivers the same kind of devastating counterpunches he delivered in the primaries, and does it without losing his essential and obvious decency, he’ll be far more effective than if he fought fire with fire.

In the battle between the vicious worldliness of the Chicago Way versus the tough winsomeness of the LDS culture, I’ll take the LDS every time.

Patricia Arquette, It’s Time to Admit: It’s a Great Time to Be a Girl
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  • Nate

    I sincerely hope I can one day be more like the Frenches. It has been so enjoyable reading the writings of these two devout Evangelical followers of Christ help so many navigate the campaign of Gov. Romney and his Church. The Mormon missionary zeal that permeates many of the comment from us members of the LDS Church surely bother some, but it is a testament to their Faith that they haven’t expressed any resentment and on the contrary been extremely classy handling Mormons and those not so fond of Mormons alike. A hat tip to them. We all need to stick together. These last few months are going to be brutal. Let’s continue to help each other onto victory. Maybe we can put into effect an extermination order of “The Chicago Way”.

  • Max Power

    Great article. The “Chicago” way will eventually be seen for the disgrace it is. The higher road is always better in the end.

  • Kim Hopper

    Another interesting insight to “the Chicago Way” vs the “Mormon Way” is that these two were born almost at the same time. The LDS settlement in Illionois was a bustling, industrious city with ordered streets and buildings dwarfing Chicago at the time. I like the comparison. Great article.

  • David French

    Interesting. I’m not familiar with that history.

  • Carolyn B Ugolini

    And Nauvoo was bigger than Chicago before the Mormons were expelled in 1846.

  • Kristen

    When the Saints were driven out of Missouri, they settled across the Mississippi River in Commerce, Illinois. It was not much more than a swamp and the saints drained it. It was renamed Navuoo. A Hebrew word meaning Beautiful. It became a large bustling city of brick homes and well-laid out farms, larger than Chicago in the 1840′s. The Saints were again driven west – in the middle of winter – across the Mississippie and the population plummeted.

  • David French

    Thanks so much, Nate. Your words mean a lot :)

  • Hannah Rebekah

    Great article David. The one thing that Romney has that “The Chicago Way” doesn’t have is an abiding faith and dependance on God. Romney will do his part and leave the rest up to God. It may be time for Nancy to get a fast going again to connect us all to that divine power that never faileth. The prayer of the masses can pull down the powers of heaven. This land is God’s and the Bible and Book of Mormon testify to that. We all have a part to keep it secure for God, our faith, and our families regardless of what sect we adhere to. Consider what this Baptist Minister says about this land being talked about in the Bible:
    He also teaches out of the Book of Mormon, which his article, The Baptist Version of the Book Mormon” explains and why it is a secular book for all. Of course Mormons see it as much more than that but still a great article by a non-member.

  • Aloe Vera Guy

    Great opinion piece. As a LDS myself, I’m curious as to your response to the question that was utilized for the lead! If you eventually become a “Mormon” or not, it is good to have you in iur corner! – David Honaker – Phoenix, AZ, USA

  • Nancy French

    David, I think he was mainly referring to me.

  • Sharlene Barber

    Great article, David. I have long been an admirer of yours and Nancy’s. You are both absolutely remarkable. Whenver I get discouraged, I look to you two for strength. Your words have helped me to stay the course and stay calm during this time, in particular, when so many lies are being put out there about Mitt.
    I love your Monday Fasts. I can’t always join in, but I always feel better when I do. Thanks for this article and your support of the Romneys all these years. I hope you meet you at convention. :)

  • Sharlene Barber

    Kim, what a wonderful analysis!! So true! And to take it one step further, the Mormons built that city themselves—the government didn’t. :)

  • Lance in TX

    Is you want to read more interesting Mormon History, look up the “Mormon Battalion”. This was during the time that the Mormons were being forced out of Nauvoo. From Wikipedia:

    The Mormon Battalion was the only religiously based unit in United States military history, and it served from July 1846 to July 1847 during the Mexican-American War. The battalion was a volunteer unit of between 534 and 559 Latter-day Saints men led by Mormon company officers, commanded by regular US army officers. During its service, the battalion made a grueling march nearly 2,000 miles long from Council Bluffs, Iowa to San Diego.

    The battalion’s march and service was instrumental in helping the US secure much of the American Southwest, including new lands in several Western states, especially the Gadsden Purchase of 1853 of much of southern Arizona. The march also opened a southern wagon route to California. Veterans of the battalion played significant roles in America’s westward expansion in California, Utah, Arizona and other parts of the West.

  • Michael B.

    This election offers a clear choice between a going- through- the- motions Christian (Obama) and Mitt Romney, whose relationship with God has been the focus of his life.

  • Sagrav

    The accumulation of wealth has been the focus of Mitt Romney’s life, consequences be damned. He has no concern for American workers (and worked very diligently at shipping “costly” American jobs overseas), he has no concern for the health of our planet’s environment, he has a record of hiding his monetary assets to prevent the US government for acquiring much needed tax dollars, and he would throw every last one of his supporters under the bus if he or his campaign stood to gain from it.

    Mitt Romney asked himself, “What would Jesus do?” The answer he got was apparently, “Run a cutthroat company that guts struggling businesses, ship blue collar workers’ jobs to China, and buy a nice yacht.”

    Oh well. At least he gives lip service to anti-choice groups.

  • Chris J. Gardner

    wonderful…..I am afraid he will continue to protect the Bush administration policies that only take care of the wealthy and this countries economy will only get worse until there is a revolution against a blind government and the corrupt wealthy. It is because of the laws and legislaturesfrom our govrrnment that our countries economy is in the toilet. Our president will fix it if congress would let him.His fight against greed and corruption must go on.

  • Evan Maughan

    1) Let’s start with the fact that Obama has outsourced more jobs – with OUR money – than Mitt ever did with HIS money.
    2) Bain Capt. under Mitt Romney was one of the most successful venture capitalist firms in the U.S. – ever. For the economically illiterate, that means that using investor money combined with experience in efficient management, Romney saved many jobs and created new ones. Once again, with THEIR money not ours.
    3) Romney is not making policy that not only slowed the recovery, but has made it harder for the economy to bounce back. Historically all recessions will rebound naturally and we should be well out of the crisis of 07, we are not – thank you Mr. President.
    4) This “cutthroat” businessman has donated 10s of thousands of voluntary service to his church for no pay, gave away his father’s inheritance, governed Mass. without taking a salary, and lead the Olympics without pay (well they payed him but he gave it all back), and has given at least ten percent of his income to his church.
    5) Using the rhetoric of class envy is another example of how Obama is trying to divide and conquer by separating Americans – pitting one group against another. He hopes that, as Lenin stated, there are many “useful idiots” out there who will fall for the politics of envy.
    6) Mitt has created more jobs – here – with private investment than has Obama. There are fewer jobs now in the U.S. than the day Obama took office. Reagan inherited a worse mess than Obama in 1980, by this time in his administration the economy was booming, and he won in a landslide based on his record. Why wont Obama run on his record?
    7) What have you done to create jobs here in America?

  • Evan Maughan

    Chris says: “It is because of the laws and legislaturesfrom our govrrnment that our countries economy is in the toilet”
    Other than the typos the above statement is true.
    Then you give this whooper! “Our president will fix it if congress would let him.His fight against greed and corruption must go on.” When Obama took office, he had big majorities in the House and Senate for two years! He came into office with high popularity and a lot of political capital. What stopped our Dear Leader from fight off greed and corruption then? Why did Obama bring in MORE lobbiest than the past administration? Why are there so many scandals in this white house if the president is fighting corruption? Does this mean Obama is corrupt himself or totally, in over his head, completely incompetent.

    Please show me how Obama in his first four years has done anything to fight corruption effectively (indeed show how he hasn’t added to it).

    Fighting greed. Does this mean punish the wealthy, stoke up class envy, and use the power of the state to steal from the producers to increase the size and authority of government over the individual? To that, I will agree with you 100%, Obama has done an outstanding job. Obama is doing his best to fight “greed”. Give him four more years and personal property and individualism will be fundamentally transformed, and the Civil Society our founders set up will no longer be.

  • Evan Maughan

    I’m torn. I’ve been a lurker for a long time and have grown to love their blog. I would be quite happy to see them one day join our church. Like C.S. Lewis, I see them as “dry” Mormons.

    But then what would become of Evangelicals for Mitt? It is nice coming to a site run by Evangelicals that do not believe we eat babies and torture small cute furry animals. You do a great service to both Evangelicals and LDS members. Carry on and may God bless your efforts.

  • Evan Maughan

    One huge difference between LDS thought and the world according to Obama. We believe the constitution was divinely inspired of God. Obama believes that he is “The One” and will not even refer to the word creator when referencing any of the founding documents.

    For those non LDS who would like to know more there is a good article by Dallin Oaks. Elder Oaks was a former Utah supreme court justice and now serves in the Quorum of the Twelve.

  • Sharon

    Evan, Thanks for your well worded and well thought out reply!!

  • Sharon

    Another great reply, thanks Evan!

  • Kelly Kullberg

    Excellent question, how to get rid of the Chicago machine effectively, legally and ethically. We don’t have the same tools they have (eg.s deception, force, union thugs) but we do have prayer, faith and courage. Thank you for this, Dave.

  • Kay Stephens

    There are nine books from one author that are called “The work and the Glory”. They give a short but very good history of this LDS church. The only fiction is in the names of the main family, The Steeds. The whole experience of that family was very real to many of my ancestors. They can be bought one at a time or as a set from I believe Deseret Book. You may want to learn a little more about this church. There is also a three part movie on DVD by the same name and tells the story also.