Centerville Citizen cites the book Jesus Is Not a Republican, and makes the argument that open minded Utahns will not vote a straight party line this November. The implied thought is that those that vote a straight party ticket are uninformed and/or closed minded. Presumably this stupidity assessment only applies to those that vote Republican and not to those enlightened folks that select the straight line option under the kicking mule.
The book CC cites is a collection of essays that together make the argument that “a true follower of Jesus is far more likely to vote for a liberal Democrat than for a conservative Republican.” Essay writers argue that “the social conservatives allied with the Republican Party, exploit the name of Jesus to support policies that lead to injustice, war and cruelty.” Centerville Citizen extends this argument to Utah Mormons that vote Republican.
While denouncing Christian social conservatives for using the name of Jesus to sell their own brand of politics, the book hypocritically (and absurdly) engages in exactly the same tactic. This book is clearly not intended to convert social conservatives to the liberal cause, as it is merely a browbeating harangue that paints Republicans as insidiously evil spawn of Satan, while putting a lovely whitewash patina on a pastoral image of liberal Democrats. In other words, it is merely preaching to the choir. It may be intended to pull unaffiliated and uncommitted voters toward liberalism, but the harangue tactic certainly isn’t calculated to win over religious conservatives.
None of this is to say that the book fails to make any valid points. But the good points it does make are placed in such a skewed context as to diminish their validity. An objective observer might readily agree with the book’s title that Jesus is not a Republican. But such a person would also have to quickly conclude that he is not a Democrat either. And religious social conservatives are not going to agree with scriptural interpretations that suggest that Jesus teaches that big government programs are the solution to humanity’s problems.
CC cites an unreferenced article by President James E. Faust, 2nd Counselor in the LDS Church First Presidency (the church’s top ruling body) that explains why he is a Democrat. It must be recognized, however, that today’s Democratic Party is vastly different than the one President Faust represented in the Utah State Legislature from 1949 to 1951. At that time, Utah Mormons voted more Democratic than Republican.
But Utah Mormons fled the Democratic Party in droves during the 70s and 80s. It was not so much that Mormon thought changed as that the chief principles of the party changed. Utah Mormons left because they discovered that they no longer belonged. President Faust himself has frequently preached against principles that seem highly cherished by the Democratic Party mainstream.
Still, many Utah Mormons respect people like Democratic Congressman Jim Matheson of Utah’s 2nd Congressional District. He often votes counter to his own party, much to the chagrin of the party faithful (see here). But it increasingly seems that his maverick stance within his party is an anomaly, and that his work is doing little to move the party in a direction social conservatives think is good.
I do not believe that bashing socially conservative Mormons over the head with the arguments presented in Jesus Is Not a Republican is going to convert them to the cause of liberalism or to the Democratic Party. Utah Democrats might have more success if they were to invite Mormons to come and help fix what they see wrong with the party. Mormons have a good track history in being willing to take on service projects.
But nobody out there is extending such an invitation. Instead, they are saying, “You are clearly wrong, so join us and become like us.” Sorry, but that approach has never worked well in any realm, and it’s clearly not going to win many converts now.
Besides, religious social conservatives are not totally blind to GOP's problems. Indeed, they are often openly quite critical of the party. But they think they at least have a chance of achieving some of their goals via an alliance with the GOP that could not be realized with the Democrats.