You might be surprised to hear how important the dead vote is these days. It's something of secret due to heavily biased reporting. After all, the vast majority of reporters and editors employed in the media are living, giving rise to a heavy pro-living, anti-dead bias in their political reporting. But more and more deceased voters are turning out and playing a role that may be even more important in 2008 than it was in 2004.
Romney was expected to be popular among dead voters partly because he is a member of a Church with a tremendous outreach program to the dead. The LDS and early Christian concept of "baptism for the dead" actually has significant political consequences on the other side, according to some pundits. With LDS missionary work on the other side and proxy baptisms being performed, you can imagine that the Church is well known. Actually, the LDS missionary work there looks a lot like free counseling and socializing. Even many who have no interest in the religious message enjoy the attention and occasional "love bombing" they get, though the Church certainly has its critics among the dead.
Here in Wisconsin, our politicians know that they need the dead vote to win. In the last presidential election, for example, anti-dead bigots (a handful of Republicans in this case) cried fowl when Milwaukee reported 4500 more votes than there were registered voters in the 2004 election. How could there be more than 100% voter turn out in such a large city? Easy -- the officially reported registered voters excluded the dead, almost like they were non-entities. But this institutional bigotry didn't keep them from turning out to vote.
The so-called "pro-living" forces called it "voter fraud" when they knew full well that they were actually seeking to disenfranchise the dead. If anyone has given their all to build up this country, it's the dead, and the least we can do is to let them vote without railing against them and spreading anti-dead bigotry. Let them vote and rest in peace. But no, the anti-dead used their political machine to drive an "anti voter fraud" bill through Wisconsin's legislature, a bill which required some allegedly minimal form of ID for voters to vote. Sounded nice in theory, but it was thinly veiled anti-dead bigotry, exploiting their natural inability to use tangible ID that the living take for granted. The anti-dead contingent cried fowl when Governor Doyle vetoed the bill. But Doyle, to his credit, remained true to his promise to make the votes of each voter count. Especially those who have already given their all (and kept giving quite a lot after death as well, thanks to probate and our high estate tax).
Anyway, McCain floated the Romney idea to see what kind of lift it gave him among the dead. The lift, unfortunately, was obscured by bad polling. Instead of sampling both sides of the spirit world, paradise and that other place, lazy pollsters just surveyed the other place where the elections and polls tend to be highly rigged. The Romney balloon popped, even though he could have brought in a lot of valuable dead voters.
I try to stay away from politics on this blog, especially given my profound distaste for party politics and for both major parties, but the theological aspects of the presidential campaign demand attention.
What's done is done, but if McCain had gone with Romney, could the LDS angle make a difference in the 2008 election? At least for Wisconsin, the statistics are impressive: 74% of deceased Wisconsin voters surveyed said they have positive feelings about the Church for its outreach efforts to the dead. While 87% of dead prospective voters surveyed planned to vote for Obama, when asked how they would feel about a Mormon Vice President, 36% of the deceased pro-Obama forces said they would consider switching their vote to McCain. And nearly two-thirds of those willing to switch in favor a Mormon VP indicated that they would vote more than once. Finally, over 53% of the dead surveyed said they would vote for a Mormon presidential candidate regardless of party affiliation. Harry Reid, take note.
To gain further insights, we interviewed one frequent deceased voter, a man who for reasons of personal privacy asked only to be identified as "Bob from Wisconsin." Bob helped settle central Wisconsin in the 1840s, and while he was apathetic about politics at the time of his death in 1868, in recent years he has become a frequent voter. He voted eight times in the 2004 presidential election.
Mormanity: Bob, have you heard of the LDS Church?And there you have it.
Bob: You bet! I'm Lutheran, but I've had the missionary discussions about thirty times over the past century and have been to some of their meetings over here. A bit different, but the people are great.
Mormanity: Are you aware of LDS baptism for the dead?
Bob: Aware of it? Hah! I've been baptized by them at least 16 times. I've got distant Mormon relatives all over the country now, and they keep duplicating my work, failing to check the records and see that I've already been taken care of. Way too much, if you ask me.
Mormanity: It's a nuisance?
Bob: Sure is! Every baptism means I get another little message informing me -- kind of like e-mail, you know -- about the . . . Ooops, I'm not supposed to talk about details here. Never mind.
Mormanity: So you're not Lutheran, but have positive feelings about the LDS Church, apart from some redundant baptismal work -- is that right?
Bob: Sure, they're about the only group among the living the really seems to treat us as more than just a name to use for occasional elections.
Mormanity: So if there were a Mormon candidate, would you vote for him?
Bob: I think so. All else being equal.
Mormanity: What about a vice presidential candidate? Would that change things?
Bob: I'm not following this campaign too closely, but it might.
Mormanity: What if I told you that a Mormon had been named as the running mate of --
Bob: Don't tell me that Hillary picked Harry Reid! I'm all for Hillary, but Harry's a different story. That guy -- was he really baptized Mormon?
Mormanity: No, I'm talking about Mitt Romney for the Republicans. For McCain.
Bob: Whew, I didn't see that coming. Romney, eh? Well, Maybe. Might consider it. Will that be on CNN tonight?
Mormanity: Maybe - at the moment it's just reliable speculation possibly leaked by insiders in the McCain campaign.
Don't underestimate the impact of the dead in the election this year. Though both parties will operate under the handicap of not having a direct LDS connection, we may still hear party spokesman preparing the faithful for election day by chanting that famous old campaign motto: "bring out your dead, bring out your dead." I just hope the media (not just the mediums) will be more open about it so the dead won't feel like second-class citizens.