Monday, January 31, 2005

Mormons, Conservatives, Liberals, Democrats, and Republicans

It seems rather odd to have a Mormon as the most powerful elected Democrat in Washington, D.C. – Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada) – especially given that the majority of Latter-Day Saints in the U.S. cannot even fathom identifying with the Democratic Party. It’s not just Mormons, either. Recent studies show that most church-going folks in the U.S. are non-Democrats.

Why is it that so many regular church attending people are not only non-Democrats, but anti-Democrats? I don’t think I can answer that any better than Salt Lake City resident Tracy Booth did in a recent letter printed in the Deseret News. This reader states that yesterday’s Democratic Party was about “poverty, bad education, pollution, labor abuse, civil liberties, etc.,” but that today it “is all about abortion, same-sex marriage, gay rights and all-around extreme tree hugging.” While this statement is a little blunt, probably most regular church attending folks would agree with it.

Let’s face it; no political party closely aligns with LDS or other Christian teachings. However, since the 1960s the Democratic Party has come to be so controlled by its socially strident left wing that, with few exceptions, social conservatives cannot be part of it regardless of how they feel on fiscal issues.

It boggles the mind that Senator Reid has risen to such a prominent position in the party despite the fact that he is pro-life (or as the liberal media would say: anti-pro-choice – now, isn’t that a sweet way to put it?) Usually Democratic officials that don’t consent to the sacrament of abortion rights are excommunicated from the party.

The Democratic party does not understand religious people and cannot even speak coherently to issues important to them. The ridiculousness of Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton condescendingly intoning religious sounding statements grates on the ears like fingernails on a chalkboard to both religious and non-religious people alike. It is akin to an engineering research assistant lecturing a group of English Lit. grads about the finer points of traditional prose.

The Republican Party, on the other hand, at least offers a home to social conservatives where they can have a voice. They rarely get their way when it comes down to actual policy, but their voice helps hold the line. They often feel ignored, but they actually do help shape policy. While liberal Republicans don’t always appreciate the religious arm of the party, at least the party doesn’t treat religious folks like they’ve got a third hand growing out of their foreheads.

Interestingly, social conservatives are not uniformly fiscal conservatives. So while the Republican Party talks about smaller government, it does not really hold to it in the way that Libertarians do. And while Libertarians are outspoken, their official fiscally conservative and socially liberal party platform does not appeal to most Utahans.

As the Democrats have waned in Utah to near third-party status, the Republicans have become both the majority and minority parties. While there is a solid core of our state Republican politicians that stand shoulder to shoulder on social issues, the same is not true on fiscal issues. So, as reported in the SL Trib, the Republicans in Utah are both responsible for the biggest tax increases and the biggest tax cuts.

The Democratic Party is in search of a new soul right now. It’s wonderful that we have prominent people like Senator Reid that can help influence that search. But I have the feeling that it will be a long time before most religious people feel at home with the party – if that day ever comes.

In the meantime, social and religious conservatives will default to the Republican Party, which means that at the national level they risk being taken for granted and marginalized, with the party paying them only lip service. Ditto for fiscal conservatives at the state level.

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