As I write, and barring some unimaginable miracle, the 2012 presidential race is over.  Barack Obama has won reelection by defeating Mitt Romney for the presidency of the United States.

I’m going to respond first as a serious, long-time political conservative because, in the end, I don’t believe that Mormonism played much of a role in the outcome of the election.  I hope I’m not being too political.

I find Governor Romney’s defeat deeply sad, because I genuinely do believe that President Obama has been a terrible president who has done – and will now continue to do – enormous damage to my country.

I’m sad, too, because one lesson that this election seems to present is that political conservatism of the kind in which I believe cannot now win a national election.  If we were unable to knock off so demonstrably incompetent a president with such a terrible economic record, it’s unlikely that we’ll be able to defeat a stronger candidate at any point in the foreseeable future.

Of course, the disgraceful complicity of the mainstream media in covering for the Obama administration on the fatal fiasco in Benghazi played something of a role in the last few weeks before the election.  Had Americans heard the full story of that appalling catastrophe, I’m reasonably confident that Mr. Obama would have lost.  But we conservatives have no realistic hope that the media will shed their ideological bias in the foreseeable future.

I take comfort in the thought that there are no permanent defeats in human history because, sadly, there are also no permanent victories.  Even mighty empires eventually die, as do bloodthirsty dictators.  But the grand cycles of human history are long, and I fear that the United States of America is solidly embarked on one – a cycle of reckless overspending, vastly overreaching government, welfare dependency, economic anemia, interference with religious freedom, and moral-cultural decay – from which it won’t recover during my lifetime, and perhaps not even during that of my children.  At a very minimum, a Supreme Court reshaped to a large extent in Mr. Obama’s image will hold sway over the country for decades to come.

Fortunately, my hope has never ultimately rested on shifting temporal things.  And the eternal things, the things that really matter, remain.  No government can touch them; they lie securely beyond the reach of the omnivorous State.

And that finally does bring me to Governor Romney’s widely-known Mormonism.  I believe that his candidacy did accomplish, on balance, significant good for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Reliable polls over the past year have shown a significant drop in the number of those who said they would never consider voting for a Mormon presidential candidate.  

Discussions broke out in many venues about the history, doctrines, and beliefs of Mormons.  Some of them were accurate and responsible; many were not.  But virtually all of them both reflected and stimulated increased interest in the Restored Gospel.  The so-called “Mormon moment” may not long survive Governor Romney’s presidential aspirations, but we may also never quite be able to settle completely back into the comfortable obscurity that we enjoyed before he began his campaign.