Friday, November 09, 2007

Democrats Buttering Up Mormons

In my continued look at Mormons and politics this month, I thought I would point out a small trend. Some Democrats have been looking at the "Mormon Question" in editorials and trying to sound rather appauled at how Romney has been treated. The real confusion is the insistance that they would never ever vote for him, but . . . his religion should be off limits to deciding to vote for him. Now, these statements have not come from any of the main Democratic operatives of the Presidential contenders. Thinking of why these Democrats would be sounding so respectful of Mitt and his religion, it might be a coup if those presidential Democratic contenders were to follow the examples. I think the real reasoning behind the Democrat's editorials (although I do think they are sincere in feelings if not in agenda) is to shave off a few Mormon votes from the Republicans.

One example comes from Democrat Martin Frost about Romney falling victim to voter descrimination because of his religion. Of course, "descrimination" is a catch-phrase in Democratic circles for those who need government (particularly Democrat) protection. He states:

As a Democrat, I wouldn’t vote for Romney in the general election if he is nominated by the Republican Party. But I’ll be damned if I can understand why he should be disqualified from seeking his party’s nomination because of his religion. This makes no logical sense in the world’s greatest democracy in the 21st century.

One of the reasons that this makes so little sense to me is that I have spent most of my adult life in the most religiously tolerant major city in the South -- Dallas, Texas.

Dallas, with a Jewish population of only about 35,000 out of more than one million residents, has been served by three Jewish mayors (Adlene Harrison, Annette Strauss and Laura Miller), numerous Jewish members of the City Council, two Jewish state representatives (Steve Wolens and Alvin Granoff) and a Jewish Congressman (myself).

Additionally, Dallas produced the first Jewish chairman of the Democratic National Committee (Bob Strauss) and the neighboring county to the north (Collin County) has been represented by a Jewish state senator (Florence Shapiro) for many years. All this has occurred in the last 30 years.

First, I think he overestimates the inclusive nature of Dallas, even by his own references. To be Jewish in the U.S. has been "mainstream" even by Evangelical Christian standards. They may think of them as lost, but not without hope or some sort of blessing from God as a "former" chosen people. What would really be impressive is if there were members of the Hindu, Muslim, or any other religion that were put in important politial and social positions.

What is really impressive, at least by Mormon standards, is his argument about the Mormon's place in U.S. society:

The answer that many people give is that Mormonism is a cult, not a religion. If that is so, then why do we permit Mormons who have served in our military to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery? . . .

Mormons pay taxes, can wear the uniform of our county, and can die for our country. There are Mormon members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. And yet significant numbers of voters believe they are not qualified to serve as president.

His argument shouldn't be refuted. It is a good and true one that I think should be heard. What I am looking at is the reason for such a "bold" declaration, particularly on Fox News. Anyone who knows the perception of that news channel knows exactly who he is trying to talk to; Convervatives. And Mormons are known as Conservatives, so they would be part of his audience. What he is doing, I think, is no so much talking to Evangelical Christians as he is Mormons. He is basically saying, I am a Democrat who is not voting Republican and yet I am more "enlightened and tolerant" than those large numbers of Mormons are voting with. This wasn't something I had thought possible until I read another article that sounded almost exactly the same.

In an op-ed article for The Carmi Times, another Democrat talks about the "Mormon Question" in relation to Romney and voters. He adds at the end, just to be clear:

I'm a Democrat and I'll be picking from among Hillary, Barack, John and the others when I step into the voting booth Feb. 5. And even if I were a Republican, I'm not at all sure that Romney would be my man.

What he has to say about Mormons comes right from the playbook if there was one that exists. There is the JFK and the Jewish reference:

And then, in 1960, we did the once unimaginable and elected a Roman Catholic, John F. Kennedy.

Since then we've further expanded our horizons. Millions voted in 2004 for an Orthodox Jew (Joe Lieberman) for vice president.

Again, Leiberman was a Democrat and second Evangelical Christians hold high regards if only in memorium for Jews because of (rather than inspite of) religious theology. He then goes on about the many respected and important people in the U.S. who are Mormons. Half way down, after he makes the list and confronts those who just don't know much about Mormons, the true group of his disagreements becomes evident:

Reason No. 2: Fear. A lot of evangelical Protestants believe that if Romney were elected president, the Mormon church would grow by leaps and bounds--at the expense of their own denominations. And, to be fair, many of them also believe that Mormons aren't Christians (despite the name of their church and their fervent claims to the contrary), and that people who convert to the LDS church are headed for Hell.

Are they right? Make that judgment on your own, if you care to.

But would a Mormon president open the floodgates of conversions to the LDS church? I don't think so. Ask yourself: Have the United Methodists blossomed under George W. Bush? Did Bill Clinton attract new Baptists in droves? Would you convert to another religion just because the president espoused that faith? . . .

Would a Mormon president do what the church president out in Salt Lake told him to do? Did Kennedy follow the pope's orders? Come on.

There isn't any concrete proof of a political move by the Democrats that they are courting Mormon votes. So far becaue of the minimal number of Mormons and the concentrated geography of membership it isn't a group that would spark much interest to court. However, it would seem that Democrats could make inroads if they were to adopt the stance of these two commentators and talk up the "protected minority" status they like to tout.

Not that I would vote Democrat because the party still doesn't hold to my political beliefs. That, perhaps, is the greatest hurdle that would need to be crossed. It isn't insurmountable with other Mormons. All it would take is a more libertarian (and less Liberal) position and greater religious (not dogmatic, anti- or a-religious) focus. Taken together, the Democrats have a good hand to criple the Republican party in the West if they play it right. Again, not that I would want that. Rather, I would just like to see rhetoric turn to action and conservatism become more a political (and generic relgious) than theological movement.


Anonymous said...

Why would Democrats be courting the Mormon vote if they don't care about the Mormon faith as a characteristic of their politicians?

Jettboy said...

As a way to take away votes from the Religious Right of the Republican Party. At the least, to get Mormons to stay home and not vote out of frustration.

As to your statement, "they don't care about the Mormon faith" is the part that keeps more Mormons from voting Democrat. Many support the party that takes religion seriously than one that sometimes seems rather negative toward it, especially of the organized variety.

Anonymous said...


You misunderstood my statement that "they don't care about the Mormon faith."

What I mean is they don't judge the politician by his religion, unless that politician wears his religion on his sleeve. Note how little is made mention among liberals about Senator Reid's faith. That's because he keeps it separate from his politics.

Jettboy said...

"Note how little is made mention among liberals about Senator Reid's faith. That's because he keeps it separate from his politics."

Oh, I understood you alright. I just don't think you understood me. Many Mormons are troubled that he keeps it seperate from his politics, because religion is important to them. Now, dogmatism and exclusion in politics is not considered acceptable, as I have articulated, but a lack of religion in politicians is.

Romney pretty much put it best for how many Mormons feel on the subject. He has said to paraphrase, they don't care what church a politician goes to as long as they go to church as a religious person. As for the politician, if the religion doesn't inform them of their views then there is a question of honesty. It is because the Democrats are so hush-hush and even condemnatory toward religions that many Mormons would rather stick with an abusive partnership that at least has religious faith than those who "hide it under a bushel."

Anonymous said...

well jettboy, I think you truly misunderstand liberals and Democrats when it comes to religion, and I highly doubt you will see them properly. I've said my peace.

ogre said...

I think it's more accurate to say that Democrats are trying to make the point that they're not hostile to Mormons. The fact that Sen Reid is Mormon is well known--and isn't held up as a reason to like, dislike, support or oppose him. Politics, and not religious identity, is what matters inside the Democratic party.

Were one of the Democratic front candidates Mormon, I'm quite confident that the discussion would sound rather different. Few Democrats would be worried about a Mormon candidate (and no more than they're worried about the attitude of the voters toward a black or woman). But it's clear that if the Mormon candidate were a Democrat... the somewhat muted and guarded reaction of the "Christian" wing of the GOP (should American parties have religious wings?) would be pretty full throated in their religious bigotry.

Yes, Mormons on average are conservative. The Democrats aren't expecting to win over vast numbers of conservative voters (nor do they need to...). But there are plenty of Mormon moderates who will vote for a party that makes more sense to them as long as it's not hostile to their faith. That's the point of the "courting" going on. They're making the point that the party isn't hostile to Mormons. It's just hostile to the array of conservatives who've brought us to the point we're at as a nation, treading towards economic disaster, bogged down in a war that never made sense, unable to get in sight of a balanced budget--but unable to turn down another round of high proof tax cuts for the wealthy, and stirring up ethnic, racial and even religious hostility at home.

I've lived in small town Utah. I know what the real values are, what people want and are concerned about--and most of those seem to be addressed only in name right now by conservatives. That's what the Democrats are courting Mormons over--not because they expect a massive shift in fundamental viewpoint, but because they believe that there's significant ground in common with people of good will, regardless of their religious beliefs.