Thursday, January 3, 2019

Is the White Horse Back?

For years I've enjoyed poking fun at Mitt Romney, better known to his detractors as Mittens. Romney's general awkwardness probably cost him the presidency in 2012, and on top of all that it's pretty easy to poke fun at anybody who owns a car elevator. One thing that I will say, though, is that Romney has been a consistent critic of President Donald Trump. Romney was elected Utah's Junior Senator in November, replacing the retiring Orrin Hatch, and his return to politics did not disappoint.

Romney penned an op-ed for the Washington Post that was highly critical of the president, prompting predictable angry tweets. Despite how amusing I find these occasional exchanges between prominent Republicans and the president are, Amanda Marcotte at Salon points out that up until now Republican criticism of Trump has been little more than sound and fury signifying nothing. Criticism may be rare, but actual votes against the president's agenda are pretty much non-existent.

The one noteworthy case I can think of is the late Senator John McCain who voted for cloture on the ACA repeal and then turned around and voted against the bill, killing it on the Senate floor. For the most part even the president's critics rapidly become his enablers and fall in line with their party when a vote is called, and Senator Romney will probably be no different. Already, comments like these do not sound encouraging.

But the (very) small chance that he might be even a little different is where this post drifts from politics in Augoeides territory. For years, rumors have circulated regarding "The White Horse Prophecy," an old piece of Mormon folklore - and possibly more. From Wikipedia:

The White Horse Prophecy is the popular name given an influential but disputed version given by Edwin Rushton, in about 1900, of statements supposedly made in 1843 by Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, on the future of the Latter Day Saints (popularly called Mormons) and the United States.

The Latter Day Saints, according to Rushton's version, would "go to the Rocky Mountains and... be a great and mighty people," associated in the prophecy's figurative language, with one of the biblical four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in the Book of Revelation. Smith's supposed original statement predicts that the US Constitution will one day "hang like a thread" but be saved by Latter-day Saints. The embellished version portrays it to be "by the efforts of the White Horse."

On the basis of either Rushton's version, which is widely known as "the White Horse Prophecy," or Smith's original statement, both some critics of Mormonism and some Mormon folk doctrine enthusiasts hold that Mormons should or actually expect that the US will eventually become a theocracy dominated by the LDS Church. However, some observers interpret the Mormon cultural artifact more blandly.

The idea that members of the LDS Church will someday or at various times take action to save an imperiled US Constitution has been referenced by numerous LDS Church leaders, but as to the Rushton version of the Prophecy, the LDS Church has stated that "the so-called 'White Horse Prophecy'... is not embraced as Church doctrine; while numerous Mormon fundamentalists continue to preach the doctrine."

The rumor I'm talking about does not concern the details of the story itself, but rather the assertion that Mitt Romney believes himself to be the White Horse. Romney has always denied it and downplayed any questions about it. But various commentators over the years have debated whether or not it might be true.

I know that a lot of conservative media argues otherwise, but to me the idea of the "Constitution hanging by a thread" under Obama was laughable. Obama was caricatured in conservative media as some kind of crazy socialist radical when in fact he was a centrist "New Democrat" who sometimes talked like a progressive. To be clear, I do like much of what he did, but I see my political beliefs as pretty reasonable and I'm further to the left than Obama ever was.

For example, the ACA ("Obamacare") was based on the Massachusetts health care plan enacted into law by - you guessed it - Mittens himself. That in turn was based on a plan created by the conservative Heritage Foundation. Obama never prosecuted any of finance douchebags involved in the 2008 crash. He campaigned on ending the wars started by his predecessor, but continued them for years before starting the process of bringing troops home. And so forth.

I also find it profoundly ironic, given the level of conservative squawking about it, that Obama never came for anybody's guns. Meanwhile, conservative hero Trump is coming for your bump stocks.

At any rate, as I see it the idea of the "Constitution hanging by a thread" under Trump makes a lot more sense. Not necessarily because of Trump's policies, but rather because of his emoluments clause violations, campaign finance violations, possible collusion with Russia, and whatever else is sitting on Robert Mueller's desk. It doesn't seem like such a big reach to suggest that the current situation could become a constitutional crisis - depending, of course, on the contents of Mueller's eventual report and the reaction to it by Senate Republicans.

Without Senate votes from Republicans, articles of impeachment passed by the House of Representatives are meaningless. Removing Trump from office requires a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate and the Democrats don't even hold a simple majority there. So a group of Republicans has to decide that they are fed up with Trump before anything is going to happen. Could Mittens conceivably pull together and lead such a group, should the Mueller report prove damning enough?

I'm not about to hold my breath on that one, truth be told. It probably will never happen. But if that extremely unlikely scenario does come to pass, maybe Mittens really was the White Horse all along.

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