The Complex Nature of Mormon Politics

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I haven’t seen this much writing about Mormons since Romney ran for president in 2012.

Over at NBC News,  historian Benjamin Park puts Mitt Romney’s impeachment trial vote to remove Donald Trump from office into some historical and religious context.  Here is a taste of his piece, “How Mitt Romney’s Impeachment Vote Was Influenced by His Mormon Faith“:

Members of the Mormon tradition once refused to fit into traditional political boundaries: Early members of the church typically threw their votes behind candidates on a case-by-case basis, predicated upon pledged support. And when political circumstances looked dire, they were not afraid of bold actions. Joseph Smith, the founding prophet of the faith, ran for president in 1844 and, once the church was settled in Utah, they formed their own political party in opposition to the national establishment. It was only in the 20th century, when the church and its members yearned for credibility and acceptance, that they embraced America’s two-party system.

But as the decades evolved, Utah’s vote transitioned as well. While the state at first featured two vibrant parties, after World War II — and especially following the culture wars of the 60s and the 70s — the “Mormon vote” became more or less synonymous with the “Republican Vote.” This was primarily due to a vocal LDS leadership who echoed anti-communist policies and anti-liberal social ideas, but it was also rooted the demographic makeup of Utah that positioned them with similar red states in the post-war era. Pew polling even revealed Mormons to be the most Republican religion in the nation.

So the fact that entrenched dissatisfaction with the current Republican establishment among the Mormon population has continued well into Trump’s administration is not surprising. A number of Trump’s most prominent Republican critics — including Romney, McMullin and Flake — are Mormon. And polling demonstrates that support for Trump continues to lag among Latter-day Saints voters compared to other Republican constituencies. It appears Mormons are less likely to simply overlook the morality issues that other white Christians broadly ignore, and less willing to make a pragmatic, silent sacrifice of principles for party unity.

Read the entire piece here.

Who Should Joe Biden Pick as His Republican Vice President?

098ac-bidenYesterday Joe Biden said that he would consider a Republican as his running mate if he were to win the Democratic nomination in 2020.  Let’s have some fun with this.  Who would make a good GOP running-mate for Biden?

John Kasich:  Anti-Trumper who might help Biden win Ohio

Jeff Flake: Anti-Trumper who might help Biden win Arizona.

Mitt Romney: Trump won Utah in 2016 by more than 18 points.  I don’t think putting Romney on the ticket will help Biden win Utah in 2020.  But Romney is a national Republican and a moderate who instituted Obamacare in Massachusetts before it was called Obamacare.

Jeb Bush:  This would be a strong anti-Trump ticket and might help Biden in Florida.

Condoleezza Rice:  She is only 65 years old and an anti-Trump moderate.

Who am I missing?

Jeff Flake to GOP: “You cannot go elsewhere for a soul”

Flake

I wish Jeff Flake did more to oppose Trump while he was a member of the Senate.  He voted with Trump 81% of the time.  (This was not as much as another supposedly “anti-Trump” Republican Senator Ben Sasse and a bit more than “anti-Trump” Senator Mitt Romney).

But he did something good today.

Here is a taste of his message to the members of his party:

My fellow Republicans, it is time to risk your careers in favor of your principles. Whether you believe the president deserves impeachment, you know he does not deserve reelection.

Our country will have more presidents. But principles, well, we get just one crack at those. For those who want to put America first, it is critically important at this moment in the life of our country that we all, here and now, do just that.

Trust me when I say that you can go elsewhere for a job. But you cannot go elsewhere for a soul.

Read the entire piece here.

Trump at the Faith and Freedom Coalition: I am Pro-Life, Pro-Family, a Lover of Neighbors, a Good Samaritan, and John McCain May Be in Hell

Here is the video:

Some comments/observations:

0:34ff: Ralph Reed, the founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, says he founded the organization to make sure that evangelicals “are the head and not the tail of our political system once again.”  What does this mean?  It comes pretty close to theocracy.  Reed and his followers on the Christian Right want evangelical Christians to be running the country.  The church should have no place for this kind of power-grabbing, but, alas, evangelicals have supported it for nearly fifty years.

15:30ff:  The video that airs before Trump comes out clearly illustrates that the POTUS has delivered for the Christian Right.  He appointed conservative justices, got the United States out of the Paris climate agreement, convinced the Christian Right that he did something to defend religious freedom (he did not), created jobs, moved the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, got us out of the Iran deal, and gave people a tax break.  Sean Hannity thinks Trump belongs on Mount Rushmore.

The video ends by extolling Trump as the most pro-life president in history.   If you only view pro-life in terms of abortion, one might say Barack Obama was the most pro-life president in the American history.  Abortion rates dropped precipitously under his watch.   Yes, Trump appointed Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, but we still have no idea how these two justices, and their conservative colleagues on the court, will reduce the number of abortions.

Of course, if we define pro-life broadly, to include a respect for life after a baby is born, Trump may be one of the least pro-life presidents in recent history.  His failure to address climate change will place future lives in jeopardy.  His immigration policy shows very little respect for the lives of refugees.  And we could go on.

The video also notes that Trump is the most pro-family POTUS in history.  When did separating children from their parents at the Mexican border become pro-family?

The video suggests that Trump has defended religious freedom.  Granted, he has talked a good game, but he has done very little in terms of policy.

17:55ff:  Ralph Reed introduces Trump.  His introduction is a revealing synopsis of the what the Christian Right is all about.  This is a political movement that tries to advance God’s will through the pursuit of power and the control of the levers of government.  Reed says that evangelicals have “integrity” because they have stood with Trump, who he describes as “this good man.”  I will give Trump credit.  He is a master politician.  He has deceived conservative evangelicals into believing that he actually cares about them.

26:50ff:  Trump mixes prayer and fear-mongering.  He tells evangelicals to pray for him because they are one vote or one justice away from everything changing in America. As I wrote in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, this type of fear-mongering is a staple of Christian Right politics.

28:00ff:  Trump implies that since he was elected president “we are saying Merry Christmas” again. He makes it sound like no one was saying this under Obama or previous presidents.

31:00ff:  Trump keeps saying that he repealed the Johnson Amendment.  He did not. But it doesn’t matter, because no one is going to look it up.

33:00ff:  Trump has now spoken to this group six times.  I would have to go back and check, but I think the outline for all six speeches is roughly the same.

34:30ff:  Evangelical Christians start chanting “Four More Years.”

35:00ff: Trump  mischaracterizes the Virginia abortion law and continues to play to evangelical fears by suggesting that the commonwealth is killing babies after they are born.

36:15ff: The “Four More Years” chants continue.

42:00ff:  Trump says that “we are respected again as a nation.”  If my experience in Italy earlier this month is any indication, this is not true.  Trump, and the United States, is a laughing stock in the country of my ancestors.

43:00ff:  Trump gives a shout-out to court evangelicals Jerry Falwell Jr. and Robert Jeffress.

44:00ff:  The evangelical Christians in the room start chanting “U.S.A., U.S.A, U.S.A.”

44:20ff:  Trump says he wants to talk to the “17%” of evangelicals who do not support him.  Sign me up!

44:30ff:  Trump says that we should be “loving others the way Christ loves us.”  Just Google the name “Donald Trump” to see how he is doing on this one.

45:00ff: Trump claims that there were “tens of thousands” of people outside the Orlando Arena waiting to get into his recent rally.  This is not true.

47:00ff:  Trump has the audacity to talk about how much women support him in the wake of this.

49:30ff:  Trump is encouraging everyone to “love their neighbors.”  (Unless, of course, they are refugees, Muslims, or undocumented immigrants).

50:15ff: Trump talks about his efforts at criminal justice reform.  Glad to see that he was able to get this done.

55:40ff: Trump calls-up a woman named Natalie Harp who is battling bone cancer and almost died because of a medical error. Trump takes credit for her survival.  Harp takes the lectern and gives a pro-Trump speech, describing Trump as the “Good Samaritan” who saved her life.  She says that Trump believes in the “survival of the fighters, not the survival of the fittest.” (Not sure exactly what this means).  She then generalizes her personal story by suggesting that the United States was lying near death on the side of the road and Donald Trump as the Good Samaritan came along, picked us up, and made America great again.

And we all thought Trump was actually King Cyrus.

1:01:00ff:  Conservative evangelicals cheer Trump’s border wall.  He claims he has already “built a lot of it” and it has “made a tremendous difference, like day and night.”

1:03:00ff: Trump blames the Democrats for the crisis on the Mexican border.  He falsely claims that Democrats want “open borders.”

1:10:56ff:  Trump makes another really bizarre and nasty attack on John McCain.  He does not mention McCain by name, but implies that the recently deceased Arizona Senator and other Republican Senators  (Jeff Flake?) who opposed him are “gone now, they’ve gone on to greener pastures, or perhaps far less green pastures, but they’re gone.  They’re gone….I’m very happy they’re gone.”  Trump is happy that McCain died of cancer.  He suggests that McCain might be in hell.

1:22:00: Trump says, “we know that faith and prayer, not government regulation, defines the moral character of our country. We know that families and churches, not government officials know best how to create strong and loving communities.”  I have always been baffled by this kind of rhetoric because there are so many examples in American history of Christian churches failing to do the work of creating strong and loving communities.  The churches in the South failed to stop racism, segregation, and Jim Crow.  This is why they needed federal government regulations. Churches have been unable to drastically reduce abortion in this country, forcing the Christian Right to address the issue through government regulations. In the end, conservative Christians like government when it suits their needs (after all, they want to control it), but they have little use for it when it does not.  I guess you could say the same things for liberals as well.

Hopefully this summary will save some of you from having to watch this.

Two Quick Thoughts About Jeff Flake

Get up to speed:

1). A lot of folks on the Left are not taking Flake’s speech seriously because he still votes most of the time with Donald Trump.  This is a fair observation, but I think it misses the point and lacks nuance.  Flake never said he was leaving the Republican Party or ceasing to vote conservative.  His primary criticism of Trump is grounded in the way the POTUS debases the office, tarnishes the reputation of the United States around the world, enables the alt-Right, etc….  I think you can say the same thing about Bob Corker and John McCain.  I understand the intellectual purity of those on the Left.  Flake is not a progressive and probably never will be a progressive.  But by attacking Flake for voting with conservatives, those on the Left fail to recognize gravity of this particular moment.  Their criticism of Flake’s voting record would be the same no matter who was in the White House.  I don’t understand why those on the Left can’t bring themselves to be happy about the potential political implications of Flake’s speech.  In other words, if those on the Left want Trump out of office, isn’t what Flake did a step in the right direction?

I like Philip Bump’s piece on this issue at The Washington Post and Kevin Drum’s take at Mother Jones.  Jana Riess, a Mormon who votes Democrat, wants to buy Flake a cup of coffee.

2). Why aren’t more moderate Republicans concerned that their party will be held hostage by the extremists when Flake, Corker, McCain, and others leave?  Shouldn’t they stay in the Senate and fight?  Ana Navarro actually made this argument yesterday on CNN.

OK–have at it.