Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Most Utah Mormons Will Remain Republican

Even as Utah Democrats exult over mild wording in a recent LDS Church First Presidency statement that can be interpreted to mean that official sanction has been granted for Mormons to be Democrats, there is widespread recognition that most Utah Mormons will continue to vote Republican—at least for the time being.

I offered my opinion here as to some of the reasons that Utah Mormons largely identify with the GOP. Paul Rolly says here that Democratic anti-Mormon sentiments are party to blame for the dearth of Mormon Democrats. Allan Carlson of the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society offers more information here that I believe shines additional light on this topic.

Let’s stipulate that all major political parties are coalitions of various groups that band together for political power. Intra-party politics have all of the elements of inter-party politics plus some. It takes a lot of wrangling (and sometimes bludgeoning) for a party to offer a cohesive message on any given issue.

Let’s also stipulate that groups with political power come and go. Their influence waxes and wanes. Groups can also shift political parties. Carlson says that this is what happened in the early 60s through the early 80s. The Democratic Party was once the haven of family friendly policies. They appealed to union members and wage-level workers primarily due to policies that promoted single-income families.

The Republican Party was the abode of business, and interestingly, feminists. In the first six decades of the 20th Century, feminists and business had an alliance. Both wanted to get women into the workforce, but for different reasons. Feminists wanted equality while business viewed stay-at-home mothers as a waste of human resources.

As leftists increased their power in the Democratic Party in the 60s and 70s, pro-family groups lost power in the party. Feminists began aligning more with leftists and began moving to the Democratic Party during the turbulent culture wars. For many, the Democrats came to look like the party of immorality, decadence, anti-Americanism, and high taxes. Pushed out of the Democratic Party, pro-family groups and pro-defense groups aligned with the Republican Party.

This same time period saw Utah Mormons defect from the Democrats to the Republicans in droves. This was more than coincidence. The LDS Church is extremely pro-family. The realignment of pro-family groups to the GOP brought Mormons in tow. This dynamic allowed the upstart Republican Orrin Hatch to unseat 3-term Democratic Senator Frank Moss in 1976.

Carlson argues, however, that the partnership with big business has almost always left pro-family Republicans with the short end of the stick. Republicans have supported policy after policy designed to create more personal debt and to get mothers out of their homes and into the workforce. This fuels business and economic growth, but at the cost of creating a populace indentured to business by debt (creating a permanent cash flow to business) and relegating child rearing to the level of menial and unimportant. K-Street Republicans view pro-family Republicans like nutty relatives in the attic. Carlson says that every time pro-family desires come into conflict with business interests, business comes out on top.

It appears that pro-family interests find a poor fit in the Republican Party, but find absolutely no fit at all in a Democratic Party that is increasingly controlled by the far left (see herescroll down to Publisher’s Opinion). Pro-family groups are not strong enough to create a viable third party. For the time being I believe they will continue to dwell uneasily in the GOP, constantly drubbed by their senior partner. It appears that Wasatch Front Mormons will largely follow this lead and will remain largely Republican. But the day may come when this changes, just as it did when dynamics changed just a few decades ago.


mark smith said...

The main advantage that republicans have over democrats is their stance on moral issues. For instance, I find abortion abhorent, and this makes democrats so hard to support.

Reach Upward said...

Through the first half of the 20th Century, stances on the types of family-firendly moral issues you reference were mixed across both parties. This landscape changed drastically starting in the 60s. As Democrats increasingly aligned with leftists, the GOP became the only remaining haven for these kinds of values.

Of course, liberals are quick to point out that they stand for morals too. They believe unwanted births are immoral and that morality dictates "caring" about a mother and a child once a child is born (meaning government assistance). They believe that it's moral to "care" about the environment (even if it means trampling on individual rights). They claim moral high ground on representing the working class, although, the policies promoted have changed from when they sought to promote single-income families. None of these stances add up to values that support the traditional family.

Even if the GOP is not a valiant defender of family values, at least it offers them some kind of haven.

Steve said...

Simply labeling Democrats as anti-family is an inaccurate statement. Unlike some Utah Mormons, I have lived "out of Zion" and seen how people of all political stripes value family. Merely referencing the abortion and sexual orientation issues as the sole metrics of family friendliness is way too simplistic. It is a mark of intolerance of other views.

One of the many things of the current American Republican Movement that concerns me is that the Religious Right has hijacked it. This religious cohorts rejects the notion that it is possible to shun a sin while loving the sinner -- as Jesus Christ taught by example. However, if "pro-family" Republicans are incapable of at least tolerating others' political views, then how we expect them to exercise tolerance a la Christ?

ed said...

I find it incredibly sad (and ironic) that Utahns of the LDS faith cling stubbornly to the notion that Republicans are "good" and Democrats "bad", given the fact that the national GOP kowtows to the so-called Christian Coalition, fueled by the likes of Dobson, Robertson, et al and these folks don't even consider Mormons to be Christian. All those guys harassing you outside the Convention Center twice a year? They're Southern Baptists, and I guarantee they vote Republican.

I respectively suggest that Utah Mormons wake up and start voting based on the individual and the issues, and not the party affiliation.

Reach Upward said...

Intolerance resides on both sides of the aisle. I always find it interesting when Democrats suggest that Utah Mormons are blind to the fact that the Republican Christian right largely hate Mormons, when the Democratic left secularists can't even view religious people as if they have a brain or a right to live.

If I understand it correctly, conservative Mormons view the Mormon-Christian split as an internecine squabble. At least they speak the same language and work for similar political ends. That does not make it right to lack objectivity.

I did not mean to reduce the definition of family friendliness to a couple of issues, but you can cover only so many things in a single blog. I'm completely open to anyone willing to demonstrate that the Democratic Party is more open to preserving the traditional family than the GOP. I don't think anyone can seriously make that case today, although, that could change with time.

I don't think either party does very well at working to preserve the family as defined in the church's family proclamation, but at least the GOP currently gives some of these ideas a seat at the table.

Anonymous said...

Which is more evil....

That which claims to represent righteousness....but doesn't...

Or that which claims morality of an alien and false nature but holds true to its own principles?

One side are hypocrits...

The other are liars.

One side are relativists...

The other are liars.

No side has the right answer. I have an idea....but no method to make it work.

Cameron said...

I have been greatly interested in the Mormon Democrat debate these last few weeks. I have always considered myself a conservative, but there are a few things I am unsure of in the Republican party. So I've begun to think.

Part of my problem with the Democrat party is illustrated here: http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=21896.

While I'm still in the process of defining my views, instances like these don't help the Dems' chances at recruiting me.

Reach Upward said...

Cameron, just to be fair, let's realize that the Republicans have their share of nutcakes as well. Major parties that become highly exclusive cannot remain major parties for long, so all major parties welcome their share of folks on the fringes. It's when the fringe becomes the center of the party that you have to worry (unless you're part of the fringe, that is).

Comparing LDS doctrine to major party platforms doesn't exactly yield a natural fit anywhere. I guess the point is to select a party that most closely aligns with the principles you believe to be both true and significant with the understanding that you're making friends with mammon, which is commanded in D&C 22:22.

Or you can choose to remain unaffiliated, but that course prevents you from having much say in who ends up on the ballot and who ends up representing you.