Category Archives: Politics

Why I’m leaving the Democratic Party

I have a lengthy post on one of my other blogs as to why the Left’s vicious and hypocritical reaction to Sarah Palin’s nomination has led me to finally leave the Democratic Party after 37 years:

The Democrats like to complain about “the politics of personal destruction”, even as they have mastered it (again, since Bill Clinton’s ascension in 1992). But the absolute frothing rage and vile, hypocritical and/or false attacks that have followed hard upon the announcement of Sarah Palin as the GOP Vice-Presidential candidate have left me appalled beyond words. The Left has shown once again that no one surpasses them at their willingness to utterly trash anyone — especially women and minorities — who defy or threaten them.

Here’s a simple thought experiement: suppose that Sarah Palin were a Democrat and had been chosen by Barack Obama as his VP candidate. Virutally everything that the Left is attacking Sarah Palin on right now would instead be touted as “real-world experience and understanding”, especially her time as mayor of a small town in Alaska.  They would fiercly mock any criticism, however mild, of Bristol’s pregnancy; they would tout Sarah’s choice to keep Trig (their Down’s Syndrome child) as showing how much of a ‘big tent’ the Democratic party has; and they would shout to the heavens Palin’s reformist credentials, particularly her fight against corrupt Republicans in Alaskan government.

For what it’s worth.  ..bruce..

What if Romney left the LDS Church?

As I type this, the news channel is blaring with filler waiting for Barack Obama to comment publicly on his announcement early today that he’s leaving the Trinity Unity Church of Christ, presumably as a consequence of the videotape of Father Michael Pfleger’s sermon in which he mentions Hillary Clinton. Obama has been attending Trinity for 20 years, and so questions are being raised about “what does he know now that he didn’t know then?”

Here’s the thought experiment that springs to mind: suppose Mitt Romney announced that he was leaving the LDS Church. Do you think that the media, or the Political Left, or the Religious Right would simply assume that he had truly abandoned LDS beliefs and history? What would Romney have to say and do in order for these groups to accept his word that he truly rejected the LDS Church? Burn his temple recommend? Drink wine and coffee in public? Ask to have his name removed from Church records?

And if he did all this, what would these groups then say about his integrity, judgment, and honesty?

On the other hand, how would Romney (say he were the GOP VP candidate) react if reporters started attending his home ward meetings and taking notes about Sacrament meeting talks and Sunday School/Priesthood lessons? (I suspect his reaction would be to sic the missionaries on them, but still….) And I’m sure that he’s be more than thrilled if they started listening to General Conference. 🙂

Comments? ..bruce..

Obama and Mormons — an update

I wrote several posts a few months back about the opportunity that Barack Obama had to gain support among American Latter-day Saints, particularly in the western US. In brief, I felt that Mormons were so upset about the anti-Mormon slurs being used against Mitt Romney that I felt there was a real opportunity for Obama to pick up significant LDS support in the general election.

Well, I now believe that such an opportunity is dwindling away, due to three main developments.

First, Mike Huckabee now appears to have lost his influence in the GOP campaign. Since his campaign and he himself were the worst offenders in anti-LDS slurs, that will go a long ways towards letting the anger that many Mormons felt towards such appalling tactics die down.

Second, John McCain appears to have buried the hatchet with Mitt Romney — they’ve done fund-raising events together, something McCain desperately needs help with — and there is serious talk about Romney as VP. (Personally, I’d rather see Condi Rice as VP, but I think she may carry too much baggage from the Bush Administration to be seriously considered.) Anyway, the McCain-Romney reconciliation likewise goes a long ways towards smoothing over some of the anti-Mormon jabs that came out of the McCain campaign in the primaries. Note, however, that there are still “social conservatives” (read: Evangelicals) who are apoplectic at the thought of Romney as VP. If this is seen as having torpedoed Romney’s selection as VP, McCain support could dwindle again.

I love the government and the Constitution of this land, but I do not love the damned rascals that administer the government. — Brigham Young

Third, and the real kicker, the whole flap over various sermons by Rev. Jeremiah Wright — and Obama’s only half-hearted attempts to distance himself from Wright’s more inflammatory remarks — has likely diminished most of the support that Obama might have gained among Latter-day Saints. In particular, the clip of Rev. Wright saying, “G** d*** America!” — which was repeatedly shown on the various news channels — would likely be very offensive and disturbing to most Americans Mormons. In spite of our own history of religious persecution and having to flee the United States for what was then Mexico (and is now Utah — which gives me a great idea for a new Absolut Vodka ad showing the kingdom of Deseret), American Mormons are profoundly patriotic and believe very much in American exceptionalism, even as we decry some of the idiocies of the past and present. And while we still wince over comments made by a few past Church leaders, in most such cases said leaders have been dead for decades or over a century, rather than being alive and now building a $1.6 million home in a mostly-white, affluent neighborhood (which raises questions about many of Rev. Wright’s comments and sermons).

Things could change again. McCain could do something profoundly stupid, such as choosing Mike Huckabee as VP, though I consider that highly unlikely. On the other hand, Obama’s most recent comments — about small-town people in Pennsylvania being “bitter” and “clinging to guns or religion” — aren’t going to play very well with Mormons living in the intermountain West.

In short, I just don’t think any significant shift to Obama is going to happen. ..bruce..

Restoring the earth and ourselves: Brigham Young

In the (out-of-print) anthology To The Glory of God (Deseret Book, 1974), Hugh Nibley had an entry entitled “Brigham Young on the Environment” (pp. 3-29). The entire article is worth reading, but I’ve always been intrigued by the following passage, which suggests that the Article of Faith that states that “the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory” is talking about work that we will have to do (Nibley’s citations are from the Journal of Discourses and indicate volumn:page:year):

If the earth still retained its paradisiacal glory, we would be justified in asking, “What do we do now?” But that glory has departed, and the first step in the rebuilding of Zion is to help bring it back. “Who placed the dark stain of sin upon this fair creation? Man. Who but man shall remove the foul blot and restore all things to their primeval purity and innocence? [That is a large order, an impossible assignment, and Brigham admits it.] But can he do this independent of heavenly aid? He cannot. To aid him in this work heavenly grace is here.” (10:301:64.) Fortunately it is God’s work, in which he allows us to participate. “The greatest acts of the mighty men,” said Joseph Smith, have been disastrous. “Before them the earth was a paradise, and behind them a desolate wilderness. . . . The designs of God, on the other hand” are that “the earth shall yield its increase, resume its paradisean glory, and become as the garden of the Lord.” It is a clear-cut and fundamental doctrine: “We believe . . . that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.” (Tenth Article of Faith.) that, however, according to the same Article of Faith, will be the last step of five in the rehabilitation of the earth, and according to Brigham Young, it was to be a long hard pull: “Not many generations will pass away before the days of man will again return. But it will take generations to entirely eradicate the influences of deleterious substances. This must be done before we can attain our paradaical [sic] state.” (8:64:60.)

Now, in fairness, I think that Nibley is misapplying that last quote a bit, though he may not have had the full paragraph on his note card (and appears to have a typo) — but the original, complete quote is in and of itself interesting and does indeed have environmental application and again is decades (if not a full century) ahead of its time:

If the days of man are to begin to return, we must cease all extravagant living. When men live to the age of a tree, their food will be fruit. Mothers, to produce offspring full of life and days, must cease drinking liquor, tea, and coffee, that their systems may be free from bad effects. If every woman in this Church will now cease drinking tea, coffee, liquor, and all other powerful stimulants, and live upon vegetables, &c., not many generations will pass away before the days of man will again return. But it will take generations to entirely eradicate the influences of deleterious substances. This must be done before we can attain our paradisaical state, for the Lord will bring again Zion to its paradisaical state.

May God grant that we may see and enjoy it. Amen. (JD 8:64)

Something to think about. ..bruce..

Republican Mormons and Obama: a true-life story

The issue of potential LDS support for Obama continues to bubble around the bloggernacle; see for example here and here for opposing views. I will note for the record that I haven’t on this blog stated that I would support Obama or that I thought other Latter-day Saints should. What I have stated, repeatedly, is that with the right pro-active outreach from Obama himself, he could well win over Utah against a McCain/Huckabee or even a McCain/not-Huckabee ticket.

Here’s the interesting part. I’m in Utah this week, visiting relatives (kids, grandkids, in-laws, etc.), but I made some time today to have lunch with an old friend/colleague whom I’ve known since I taught at BYU some 20+ years ago. We exchange e-mails a few times a year, but it’s probably been a decade since we’ve actually seen each other face to face.

Anyway, we’re sitting at lunch today, and out of the blue, my friend — I’ll call him Bill — starts to raise the issue of the upcoming election. I’ll note for the record that he has never read this blog and he hasn’t read my other blog for a few months. Also, this is the issue he chose to raise; I had said absolutely nothing about politics or the election. And yet he proceeds to explain his feelings regarding the Republican primary race, particularly regarding the anti-Mormon aspect to it, then tells me that he’s been reading Obama’s book (The Audacity of Hope), which he says is actually quite rational and even-handed (his words). The upshot: he tells me that he’s voted a straight Republican party ticket for 25+ years, but he’s seriously considering voting for Obama in the fall, particularly if Huckabee is on the Republican ticket, but even if it’s just McCain plus someone else.

As I said elsewhere, the plural of ‘anecdote’ is not ‘data’. But it was startling to have Bill bring this up out of the blue and — with no input or prompting from me, and as I said, never having read this blog — recite to me almost exactly the same decision-making process that I’ve been describing here and that others have described elsewhere.  This is a self-described staunch LDS conservative, well-educated (PhD) and established in his profession, with a large family at home. Yet he’s ready to vote for Obama for all the reasons that we’ve been kicking around.

For what it’s worth.  ..bruce..

P.S. If you are interested in my personal political thinking, see this post on my other blog.

Huckabee backpedals, Marty critiques

GOP candidate Mike Huckabee now says that he was misunderstood in making what were perceived as anti-Mormon comments:

WASHINGTON — Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee says it is “unfounded” for anyone to say he has alienated the Mormon community or that he used rival Mitt Romney’s LDS faith as a wedge issue.

Huckabee, talking to reporters over breakfast in Washington Tuesday just two blocks from the White House, blamed a single remark he made to The New York Times Magazine last year — when he asked whether Mormons believed Jesus and Satan are brothers — as the cause of the angst in the Mormon community.

The LDS Church issued a statement following that remark that acknowledged the belief that Jesus and Satan were both children of God, as well as all of humanity. Still, Huckabee’s comment was seen by many as pejorative.

Some members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have charged that Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister and former Arkansas governor, was tapping into wariness about Mormons in campaigning against Romney. Some even raised the specter in letters to the editor that they would vote Democratic if Huckabee were the GOP nominee.

Huckabee said Tuesday he would have concern if anyone said he had estranged the Mormon community. 

Fine. If Huckabee is serious, here’s all he needs to to: publicly and unequivocally state “Yes, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a Christian church.”

Not holding my breath.

In the meantime, Martin E. Marty — who, unlike Huckabee, actually knows a fair amount about the LDS Church — has his own observations about what went on in the GOP primaries:

Now that Governor Romney is off the campaign trail — we don’t do any columns of candidates on the trail — we can, without commenting on him or the part his church and faith played in his demise, do a retrospective on the Mormon-hate that blighted air waves, the internet, and some printed quotations while he was spotlit…

Taking testimony about the evils of Mormonism by ex-Mormons is likely to be as objective as it is if it comes against Catholicism by ex-Catholics. Were it our calling, we could find profound fault with many policies and actions of some Latter-Day-Saints or members and leaders of other faiths. My own company, that of historians, is in the business of telling stories about others’ stories. No one is to be uncritical, where there is often much to criticize. But criticism is one thing; hate-speech and untruths are another.

Amen, Martin.  ..bruce..

Obama and the Mormons, redux

It was via an article by Rob Graham over at the Beehive Standard Weekly that I first learned of the outreach by Barack Obama campaign personnel towards Latter-day Saints here in the West. Now Rob has put together a rather lengthy commentary summarizing what’s been kicking around on various news sources and blogs: if Obama (w/out Clinton) is the Democratic candidate this fall, large numbers of Mormons may abandon the GOP and vote for Obama instead:

 The many Mormons I have spoken to in attempting to obtain a read on how Mormons will vote in November are universally stating that they will either not vote for the Republican candidate, which is likely to be McCain, or they will vote for Obama as a candidate who will include Mormons in his campaign. If the candidate is Huckabee, the Mormons will turn out in droves to reject him as he openly used religion against the Mormons, which would result in a heavy vote for Obama.

Obama has taken note. In Obama’s Super Tuesday speech, he made it very clear that his candidacy is inclusive of disaffected Republicans, as well as those who share differing religious views — e.g., code word for Mormons. He is a smart character and he knows what it feels like to be on the receiving end of bigotry. He perceives he can tap into that well and turn the Mormon vote in his direction. He can also bridge to the Mormons on race as Mormons have been viewed as intolerant because of excluding their priesthood leadership responsibilities where the rank-and-file Mormon population is far from racist and as a group they have been seeking a way to heal the perceived racist policies of the past. Many prominent black Americans, such as Gladys Knight, who have joined the church have found racial ignorance in the church’s mostly white and Hispanic population, but not intolerance or open racism in the church. With some patience, Obama can appeal to the members of the Mormon faith and become a popular symbol for overcoming the church’s past perceived isolationist and racially-based policies.

Of course, Obama sees the possibilities and recently sent his wife out to Salt Lake City to meet with two members of the Mormon Church hierarchy and had photographs taken with them. It was all smiles and mutual understanding. No one would have thought the Mormons would embrace so openly and warmly a black American candidate and his family, but bigotry, religious intolerance and racism does create a common cause and mutual understanding among its victims.

Like Evangelicals, Mormons also have their differences with liberals, but the feeling is different with Obama as he is reaching out and acknowledging the differences, but emphasizing the similarities while assuring Mormons that they would be treated with respect in expressing their differences. A close analysis of Obama’s policies finds some common ground which could result in broad-based support from Mormons. For instance, the Mormon emphasis on family values, education, welfare, compassion, self-reliance and the like are all significant political similarities.

Be sure to read the entire article. Graham pulls all the pieces together to a level of detail that no one has to date, at least not that I’ve seen.  I fully believe that with some relatively modest but explicit outreach towards Latter-day Saints, Obama could indeed gain hundreds of thousands of votes in key Western states, including Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Colorado, and California. Given how few votes the last few Presidential elections have hinged upon, that could be enough to help Obama win the Presidency.  ..bruce..

A simple step for Obama

OK, Obama won the Utah Democratic primary (quite handily) and has other things to worry about for the next six months than how Utah will vote in the fall (such as, winning the nomination in the first place). But it strikes me that in an Obama/not-Hillary vs. McCain/maybe-Huckabee matchup, Obama could probably flip Utah (and possibly Idaho) from the red column to the blue — and gain support in heavily LDS areas of California and Arizona — with a simple statement along these lines [note: this is my suggested language, not anything that Obama has actually said]:

Republicans seek to divide, seek to exclude, seek to reject those who do not meet some obscure or arbitrary standard. We saw this during the Republican primaries, when an entire church — a uniquely American religion, one whose members are widely admired for their citizenship, their upright lives and their service to others — was repeatedly criticized as being not Christian, in fact as being of the devil. What’s more, this was done those who set themselves up as judges of all things Christian, by supporters of the Republican candidate for Vice-President, Mike Huckabee. Well, to our Mormon sisters and brothers, you who are our Christian sisters and brothers, we say: come home. Come back to the Democratic Party, which you supported through so much of the 20th Century. We have no questions of your Christian faith; indeed, your global humanitarian service, local community involvement, and commitment to religious pluralism are exactly what we want and need, what we as Democrats stand for. It is we, the Democratic Party, not the Republican Party, who say as your founder Joseph Smith said: ‘We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men and women the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.’ We seek to include, not exclude, to accept, not turn away. We are not afraid of your successes as a church; we welcome them and want to learn from them. To paraphrase the late Martin Luther King: we judge you not by the particulars of your faith but by the content of your character. Like many of us, you have known persecution and prejudice, and you cherish freedom and civil rights. And like many of us, you seek to build a better world. As our Christian brothers and sister, come join the rest of us — in all our variety of beliefs, faiths and convictions — in building that better world. Come home.

And with that one, short speech, Obama could well turn vast numbers of US-based Latter-day Saints into supporters, particularly given these factors. They may not change party registration (though I suspect quite a few would, particularly if Obama continued his outreach to Latter-day Saints after election), but I think they would vote heavily for Obama over McCain (and particularly McCain/Huckabee) in the fall.

Of course, if the GOP ticket is McCain/Romney, it wouldn’t matter what Obama said; Latter-day Saints would vote Republican in a big way. ..bruce..

Could Utah go Democratic? [UPDATED]

I’ve been saying for some time that there’s a real chance that Utah, considered the most Republican of all states, could actually go Democratic in the Presidential election this fall, particularly if Mike Huckabee is on the GOP ticket. As I pointed out in that previous article, Utah through most of the 20th Century (particularly the 1917-1985 period) elected a Democratic governor and at least one Democratic Senator about 75% of the time.

Now, an article in this morning’s Deseret News reports the following in the aftermath of Romney’s departure from the GOP nomination:

Only 30 percent of Utahns polled in a new Deseret Morning News/KSL-TV survey Thursday said they’d vote for the presumptive Republican nominee for president, Arizona Sen. John McCain.

And nearly as many, 25 percent, said they would cast their ballot for a Democrat, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama. Eleven percent said their choice was another Democrat, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.

The other Republicans still in the race, Texas Rep. Ron Paul and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, had only minimal support — 3 percent for Paul, a onetime Libertarian candidate for president, and just 2 percent for Huckabee, a Southern Baptist minister.

As I noted before, not just the Huckabee campaign but also (to a lesser extent) the McCain campaign has been involved in anti-Mormon smears while campaigning against Romney. Those should halt now that Romney’s out of the race — but the Republican Party should not underestimate how many Mormons are upset by the anti-Mormon prejudice rampant through the Religious Right portion of the GOP, particularly as it has come out during the campaign. If Obama wins the Democratic nomination and continues his outreach efforts to Mormons, and the GOP puts forth a McCain/Huckabee ticket, Utah could seriously be in play this fall. ..bruce..

UPDATE: While it’s merely anecdotal, here’s a post on an LDS blog that captures what a lot of Mormons are feeling. (Be sure to read the comments as well.)

UPDATE: On the other hand, just to keep perspective, the last time that Utah went Democratic in a US Presidential election was 40 years ago, in 1968, when Utah (like pretty much the rest of the country) went for Johnson over Goldwater.

UPDATE: On the third hand, here’s an experience I just had where a friend — a Utah Republican of long standing — informed me out of the blue that he’s seriously thinking of voting for Obama.