American Mormons Aren’t Leaving the GOP, the GOP is Leaving Us

Believe me, no one wants to write about the Trump campaign (yet again) less than I do. However, events last week might have long-term consequences for the position of Mormonism in American society, and I thought it was worth a little bit of a look.

The story starts with a major shake-up in the Trump campaign. As the NYT reported last week: Paul Manafort is out; Stephen K. Bannon is in. So, who are these two folks, and what do they have to do with Mormons?

Paul Manafort is famous for, among other things, working to rehabilitate the image and career of Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych is the authoritarian, pro-Russian Ukrainian politician who was ousted in that country’s Orange Revolution. Manafort is the guy who was hired to get Yanukovych back in power. He overhauled Yanukovych’s image from clothes and haircut to people-skills, as this Slate article details. Surely, the idea went, if Manafort  could sell Yanukovych, he could also sell Trump. Well, apparently not.

As for Stephen K. Bannon, he’s the guy who took over Breitbart after Andrew Breitbart died in 2012. Breitbart is a right-leaning Internet news/opinion site that—under Bannon’s leadership—has been heavily invested in Trump since the early days of his campaign. The most notorious example came from March, when a Breitbart reporter (Michelle Fields) claimed she’d been pushed and shoved by Trump’s then campaign manager. Bannon sided with the Trump campaign against his own reporter. As a result, Fields, her editor, and at least two more Breitbart employees quit in protest.

An illuminating article by Clare Malone at FiveThirtyEight details just how closely the fates of Bannon and Trump have been linked, crediting Bannon’s decision to turn Breitbart into essentially the PR arm of the Trump campaign with a marked increase in the site’s Internet traffic:


It’s unclear—to say the least—if Bannon’s leadership in the campaign will actually help Trump in the general election at all. In fact, the decision to retrench instead of reach out seems so counterproductive that many are speculating that Trump’s not even trying to win. Instead, he and Bannon are more interested in creating a news media empire to take on Fox News from the right. (This angle has been covered by CNN, the LA Times, Quartz, and others.)

So what does this have to do with American Mormons?

Although it’s highly unlikely that Utah, of all places, will end up being one of the deciding votes in this election, the fact that such a reliably Republican state has proven to be so reluctant to get behind Trump is making big news and embarrassing the Trump campaign. The mere fact that Trump’s victory in Utah is in question—a state where Bill Clinton finished third in 1992—is a thorn in the side of Trump supporters everywhere. When you add in the fact that the #NeverTrump candidate, Evan McMullin, is Mormon from Utah you can see why the Bannon/Trump axis would consider Mormons as traitors to the cause.

And so we get articles like this one from Breitbart’s Joel B. Pollak: Blue State Blues: Trump’s ‘Mormon Problem’ is Mitt Romney’s Fault or this one from anti-immigration hawk Tom Tancredo (writing for Breitbart): Will the Mormon Church’s Support for Muslim Immigration Block Trump’s Victory? The articles are not really coherent. Pollak blames Trump’s “Mormon Problem” on the fact that “Romney’s sway with fellow Mormons cannot be underestimated.” Romney attacked Trump and—like lemmings—we all fell in behind him. (Pollak condescendingly explains that this happens because “Every minority group has such icons, and rarely questions them.” So, at least we’re not dumber than other minority groups out there, for whatever that’s worth.)

On the other hand, Tancredo’s piece hinges on the idea that Mormons won’t just follow their leaders. As he puts it: “Probably 99% of Mormon citizens and voters can make that logical connection [see that “radical Islam is the number one enemy of religious liberty in the world today”] — even while their church leadership suffers an episode of moral incoherence.” So there’s no common theme about why or even whether Mormons will reject Trump in Utah. There is, however, some pretty clear groundwork being laid about where to place the blame if (as seems quite likely) Trump is defeated in November. (It won’t matter any more then than it does now that the actual impact of the Mormon vote on the general election is likely to be small.)

A lot about Trump’s presidential run has been unprecedented. Frankly, it ordinarily wouldn’t really matter at all if his followers adopted a particularly dim view of Mormons. That’s not going to be a new experience of us. But—stepping back and looking at the larger picture of American politics—the ascendance of the Trump/Breitbart machine seems entirely emblematic of the increasing polarization (and deteriorating seriousness and reasonability) of public discourse in American society. If any of the speculation about Trump’s long-run interests in competing with Fox turn out to be true, then—even if he loses the election—it could very well mean that we’ll see a rising media conglomerate drawing a bulls-eye on Mormonism from the right of the American political spectrum.

And that’s what I find most interesting. For decades—much longer than I’ve been alive—American Mormons have maintained ostensible political neutrality while overwhelmingly finding allies on the right rather than on the left. Of course there have always been Mormons in American who found their faith led them in the opposite direction, but by and large the connection between Mormons and the conservative wing of the Republican Party has been a given. It’s too early to call that state of affairs dead and buried, but the arrangement had already come under stress before the rise of Trump as General Authorities increasingly diverged from the right wing on the issue of immigration. Even if Breitbart/Trump don’t amount to much in the coming months and years, it may very well be that the underlying frictions between Mormons and the GOP continue to grow.

One way to look at this is pessimistic. Mormons are already, because of their staunch social conservatism favorite targets on the left. It fits with our never-distant fears of persecution to foretell an imminent future when we take just as much fire from the right.

But there’s also an optimistic way to look at it. It’s entirely possible that the alliance between American Mormons and the Republican Party has fostered a sense of complacency over issues where Mormons should not be complacent. There are areas where our theology and Republican policies seem to naturally fit (for example: emphasis on individual liberty and responsibility along with general social conservatism), but there are also areas where there is no such harmony. Two examples that come immediately to my mind are the environment (where Mormon doctrine emphasizes stewardship as opposed to notions of dominance or exploitation) and mass incarceration. We live in a country that locks up an astounding proportion of our citizens and does so as a result of a War on Drugs that is racist and exploitative. I think Jesus had some pretty strong things to say about prisoners and “grinding the faces of the poor,” but the seemingly comfortable fit between Mormons and the GOP has (perhaps) prevented us from looking beneath law-and-order rhetoric to see what has really been going on.

I do not foresee a shift in alignment. American Mormons are not going to be driven en masse by Trump from the GOP into the Democratic Party. The differences are too stark for us to find a home there. But we might start to question whether we ever should have taken it for granted that we had a home with the GOP, either. And—if the result is a greater awakening among Mormons to divine injunctions to fight injustice and build a society with more protection for the poor and vulnerable—then that won’t be a bad development at all.

33 comments for “American Mormons Aren’t Leaving the GOP, the GOP is Leaving Us

  1. Clark Goble
    August 22, 2016 at 1:39 pm

    So much depends upon what happens after November in the GOP. Will Trump try to continue to have influence via his block despite a big loss in order to regain face? Will the GOP leadership write off the problems of this year to a black swan event? Even beyond that, given Clinton’s unpopularity, how will her administration affect the development of the GOP? Especially if there are scandals or backlash to policy.

    No matter how you slice it the next few years should be interesting.

    To some of your other points. Democrats don’t exactly have clean hands in all this. They just look good relative to Trump. For instance the Podesta group has Manafort dealings and also was heavily involved in Ukraine. They also are under investigation for illegal dealings the same way Manafort was. Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta started the Podesta group although there’s mixed reports as to how involved with the Ukraine he was. Certainly his brother was heavily involved. They’re also heavily involved in Saudi Arabia.

    Given that the line between liberal internationalism and neoconservatism is pretty narrow (largely differing over how unilateral actions are perceived) it’ll be interesting to see whether we see significant realignment of constituencies over the next four years. The neocon wing has big clout in Washington but is small among the electorate. The libertarian oriented, social conservative and economic conservative wings all distrust Trump too. Breitbart dislikes most of the other parts of the coalition, especially the economic conservatives. It’ll be interesting seeing how Trump transforms the conservative media. There are rumors he may setup a Fox competitor and bring Ailes in. (Who is rumored to be a major consultant to Trump)

    My personal opinion is that long before Bannon took control of Breitbart the conservative media’s incentives were not well aligned with the party and movement. I think conservative media really pushed a lot of changes to the GOP that have contributed to a lot of its problems. Which isn’t to say GOP leadership hasn’t been dismal the last decade and a half as well. It has. Especially when compared to the political skills of Reid and Pelosi. Will conservative media, frankly most of whom were huge enablers of Trump, rethink their actions? Given the financial pressures on them, probably not. A lot of all this ends up being about the sad state of media due to the dramatically different media environment and poor ad revenue.

  2. Dave
    August 22, 2016 at 2:01 pm

    “American Mormons have maintained ostensible political neutrality while overwhelmingly finding allies on the right rather than on the left.” Yes. The Church is in fact highly aligned with the political right; the political neutrality claim may have had some credibility once upon a time, but not anymore. But Trump is putting most Mormons in the uncomfortable position of having to reassess that institutional and personal commitment, in much the same way that Romney winning the Republican nomination forced many Evangelicals to reassess their commitment to the Republican Party.

    But I think the worst outcome would be for Mormons to be in the position of appearing to have renounced both major parties. That’s what happened in Nauvoo, and the consequences were not good. It’s always good to have friends in Washington. Don’t burn both bridges.

  3. m
    August 22, 2016 at 2:11 pm

    “But we might start to question whether we ever should have taken it for granted that we had a home with the GOP…”

    I could not agree more that an unhinging of Mormons from the Republican party is an excellent consequence (and perhaps the only positive one) of the Trump candidacy.

    LDS teachings are far more centrist than I think most outsiders understand. I sincerely hope more Mormons will refuse to align themselves with any party and consider each candidate on their own merits.

    We seem to have outsourced decision-making to the party system for far too long.

  4. Owen
    August 22, 2016 at 4:17 pm

    I have a hard time with any attempt to connect Mormon doctrine to politics. The connection to the GOP is one first and foremost of geography, not ideology. If church HQ were in Seattle, LA, or Boston, this would all be very different. Utah has the location, demographics, and economy of a red state, so it’s a red state.

  5. GSO
    August 22, 2016 at 5:03 pm

    What’s more likely, the general authorities have all been opposed to communism, socialism, abortion, and all in favor of constitutional limited government because of growing up in Utah*, or because they are enlightened by the spirit and led to those conclusions because they are correct?

    While at the same time, Seattle and Chicago and LA types, who aren’t general authorities, have discerned something the church authorities haven’t because they are more open minded and not because of where **they** have grown up and for whatever reason are giving more weight to the things of man mingled with scripture than the totality of the revelations from God.

    *Of course many didn’t grow up in Utah and still lean this way

    Either way you slice it you can call bias, but it’s not clear to me why we trust the bias of those not in the FP and Q12, and presume that the church’s philosophical position which underlines it’s political leanings are just the result of geographical bias.

    I’ve traveled and lived more around the world than most. And while I know for certain many church members in Utah reflect the same innate bias that some church members in Chicago or Europe might have as a result of their left or right leaning geographical tendencies; that has nothing to do with why those tendencies are nurtured in the first place.

    In Utah the people are ‘conservative’ because it’s the correct position adopted from teachings and principles taught by church leaders as a result of being close to the spirit. Naturally, many members also inherit that position without having the same spiritual revelation initially, but that doesn’t make their position itself wrong.

    Unfortunately, for the left leaning naysayers who are annoyed with some right leaning members who may have jumped on the bandwagon without fully understanding the Lord’s way, the left leaners are not only just as often biased, but they’re also wrong in how they’ve applied the Lord’s teachings.

  6. Andrew
    August 22, 2016 at 6:04 pm

    You know it’s the twilight zone when Nathaniel Givens and John Dehlin are both fighting on the same side, in this case, #WithHer.

    Can I take a moment to just point out the irony of all this, if it’s not already obvious? How many times have we heard about the infamous White Horse prophecy? You know, all that talk about the constitution hanging by a thread and the Elders of Israel being the saving of it. Cue Battle Hymn played by MOTAB.

    So, that prophecy was supposedly going to be fulfilled back in 2008 and 2012 with the election of Mitt Romney, by stopping the liberal/socialist takeover of the USA. Now in 2016 the tables have turned and we’re going to fulfill this prophecy by doing exactly the opposite, helping to facilitate the liberal/socialist takeover of the USA…

    Hahaha. Except it’s not funny. I mean it is, but seriously, it’s not funny. What is wrong with you people? Is it just me or are we Mormons on the wrong side of basically any and every significant political issue pretty much since the very beginning of time? And here we go again…

    To be honest this has me thinking about resigning my church membership more than I ever have. I don’t think I ever seriously would, but I’m having those thoughts creep into my head like never before. Not out of petty spite or anything like that. It’s not about this election or anything specific. I’ve been one of those people dealing with a “faith crisis” for a while. While I agree with the arguments of many of those who are critical of the church, on various specific subjects, I’ve never identified with the people typically making them.

    The people who hang out on sites like BCC and RationalFaiths and MormonStories aren’t my people. Most of them are flaming liberals. Academic snobs, intellectual fascists, sissies. And even those who are “conservative” are basically the same, bent in a different self-absorbed fashion. I find myself in a church that has been feminized and become very superficial and haughty. Primary voices, plastic smiles, platitudes and prevarications. It’s a perfect storm of objectively uninspired leadership combined with a culture I not only don’t feel comfortable in but frankly have no respect for. Great for women, but basically a massively henpecked culture for all the guys… to a point that it’s even influencing national elections.

  7. Owen
    August 22, 2016 at 6:29 pm

    GSO, I didn’t say that anyone in those other places isn’t just as influenced by their environment or that any position is more or less right or principled. You’re the one who went down that road, and others feel they can prove the exact opposite by cherry picking the words of other general authorities. I’m sure you’re well aware of the years-long conflict between the arch anti communists like President Benson and his predecessors and other members of the 12. Our current history has mostly been written by the victors of that internal ideological struggle, since they ended up in charge of Correlation, but it is an incomplete and mutable understanding of who we are as a people.

  8. Brad L
    August 22, 2016 at 7:46 pm

    Dear mods, please put Andrew’s comment in moderation. We don’t need this sort of name-calling and incendiary rhetoric.

    You should note that the people who hang out on BCC, RationalFaiths, and MormonStories are largely the same kind of people who hang at on this blog.

  9. Red Mormon or Blue Devil?
    August 22, 2016 at 7:57 pm

    Certainly this is a turn of affairs that I find very interesting, having lived most of my non_Utah life in states where the Jewish vote was highly prized and actively courted. For decades now, most Republicans and Democrats rightly assumed that Utah and the Mormon voting block in Idaho, Arizona, and Nevada were squarely in the Red camp and little effort needed to be spent in listening to voter priorities or courting its commitment. So I’m really happy to see those assumptions coming under scrutiny.

    If the current climate were to continue, one has to wonder whether any Republican candidate could win in the future without the support of the “Mormon block”. That notwithstanding, Mr. Trump will not have my vote in the swing state of North Carolina either.

    Red Mormon or (Duke) Blue Devil, that is the question…

  10. Mark N.
    August 22, 2016 at 8:17 pm

    I’m not sure why anyone, anywhere, would expect coherence from Breitbart articles.

    As for Utah getting the blame for a Trump loss, it’ll just be one more state in a long list of states that Trump needed to win to even come close to having a shot at victory.

  11. Clark Goble
    August 22, 2016 at 8:19 pm

    Owen (4) while I think there’s a lot of truth to the regional issue I also think that Mormons are sympathetic to two of the postwar elements of the conservative coalition. There’s a strong sense of “leave me alone” and individual rights that are common in the more libertarian wing. Then for fairly understandable reasons there’s a lot of sympathy to the social conservative part of the coalition especially in the post-60’s backlash. For both, I think there are some obvious historic and also theological reasons why both seem appealing. I also think there’s an element of Mormonism quite conducive to the traditionalist wing of the conservative coalition as well, even if in many ways we’re also a somewhat radical group in our history. Still if you look at the post transition Mormonism after Heber J. Grant there’s a strong Burkean sense of conservatism within church governance as slow to change and suspicious of radical change without a strong burden of proof being met. I think the church body picks up on that too.

    That said clearly there are also elements of conservatism at odds with both our history and our culture/theology. I think Trump most clearly hits all those elements. Mormonism has bucked expectations many times. (Pres. Benson arguably was responsible for killing the MX Missile program in the 80’s for instance, and more recently Mormonism has gone against the immigration wave despite some figures being voted out on the anti-immigration wave like Rep. Canon a few years back)

    There’s a quite interesting tension in the state between the social conservatives like the Eagle Forum and the more libertarian conservatives like the Veritas group. You see this pop up regularly on things like alcohol laws.

    GSO (5) I think things are more complicated than you suggest. For one social conservatives who remain strong in the state aren’t exactly exemplars of limited government. Also a lot of the recent split in the GOP over immigration doesn’t make for traditional boundaries even within the church.

    While I personally think broadly conservative principles are correct, how those get manifest is much more up for grabs. There have always been very diverse conservative strains often with little love lost between the groups. (Consider for instance William F. Buckley on the anti-communist strain of 50’s conservatism represented by the John Birch Society or the Ayn Rand strain of libertarianism) Often even within one of the major parts of the conservative coalition such as the broad libertarian wing there are very different philosophical stances. (I know lots of libertarians who hate Ayn Rand and it’s arguably hard to reconcile her ardent atheism, anti-Christian charity stance and her well known appeal to both smoking, free love and selfishness with Mormon thought.)

    So first, saying “conservative” is meaningless unless you break down what one means by it. Second, anyone who is conservative ought know the history of the movement and its various manifestations and strains. Finally even within the state and broad politics there are elements of Mormon thought simply not well represented in most recent forms of conservatism that can’t be neglected. Broad concern for the poor for instance – although there are definitely parts of the movement that have focus on that. Jack Kemp’s strong concern for instance. (I wish we had more people like Kemp in the party today) Also say Milton Friedman’s view of a negative tax. (Or even some of Hayek’s views on taking care of the poor)

    Again though, it’s hard to overestimate how Trump pretty well is from a Mormon perspective nearly every element hated in conservatism with few of the strengths.

    Andrew (6) The White Horse Prophecy is of questionable authenticity. Note though that Brigham Young stated, “Will the Constitution be destroyed? No: it will be held inviolate by this people; and, as Joseph Smith said, ‘The time will come when the destiny of the nation will hang upon a single thread. At that critical juncture, this people will step forth and save it from the threatened destruction.’ It will be so.
    With regard to the doings of our fathers and the Constitution of the United States, I have to say, they present to us a glorious prospect in the future, but one we cannot attain to until the present abuses in the Government are corrected.”

    While I doubt the current election is that time, I also have zero doubt Trump cares not a wit about the constitution.

    Anyway, appealing to the White Horse Prophecy probably means you’re listening to the fringe and it’s typically means people won’t take you terribly seriously. (Whether pro-Mormon or more critical of Mormon)

    For the record, I consider myself a thoughtful conservative both theologically and politically.

  12. Brian
    August 22, 2016 at 8:33 pm

    What happened to the charitable comments stipulation? Lots of name-calling and high-mindedness in these few comments. Pres. Utchdorf’s “Four Titles” talk addresses the problems of assuming everyone should think the same as us, even politically. Also, FYI to Andrew, thought it’s hard to tell from your comment what your intent is, the White Horse prophecy was denounced by the church years ago. We don’t believe that tripe.

  13. August 22, 2016 at 8:34 pm

    Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, Andrew (#6)! I didn’t say I was supporting HRC or voting for her and–in point of fact–I’m not.

    But who I’m voting for–and why–are outside the scope of this post.

  14. August 22, 2016 at 9:27 pm

    In case folks are interested, here are a couple of relevant articles that came out today:

    The Alt-Right Gets Its Marching Orders To Go After A Different Religious Minority A RedState post draws the analogy between Breitbart’s approach to Mormonism and anti-Semitism.

    In our opinion: Response to attack on LDS Church’s immigration stance Deseret News responds to Tancredo’s Breitbart piece as well.

  15. zjg
    August 22, 2016 at 9:40 pm

    Just for the record, I’m very skeptical of claims that Mormon theology is what explains the Republican dominance of Mormon heavy western states like Utah. Our theology is so under theorized and exists at such a high level of generalization that, with some exceptions, it is hard to believe that it is strongly predictive of any particular political ideology. One of my favorite examples is free agency. On the one hand, one might think the Mormon commitment to free agency would augur in favor of a strong libertarian impulse. And then you get talks like the famous one by Elder Oakes (can’t remember the title off the top of my head) where he draws the distinction between free agency and freedom to argue in favor of government limits of all sorts on various social issues, a move that basically just defines away the theological point. Because of the under-theorization of free agency in Mormon theology, we can make those types of fairly bold philosophical moves without batting an eye. In my view, what explains Mormon politics is mood affiliation, in this case, the feeling or mood that modernity is vaguely inconsistent with Christianity and therefore an impulse to push back against what we tend to view as products of modernity, including things like gay marriage (although perhaps not other aspects of modernity that we tend to adopt relatively uncritically like careerism, consumerism, materialism, etc.) Additionally, when you look at other Christian denominations, like the Catholics, who do have systematized theology, you actually see a fair amount of diversity of opinion in politics among the orthodox. (Compare Alasdair Macintyre with John Courtney Murray). In other words, I tend to think that the monolithic nature of Mormon politics in the Southwest is actually evidence against, not for, the proposition that it is theology that is driving it.

  16. Tim
    August 22, 2016 at 10:32 pm

    Among the Mormons I know, I’ve been amazed at how many lifelong Republicans are (reluctantly) with her this year.

    If GOP continues down Breitbart/Trump route, I think Mormon support will drop (maybe from 80 percent to 60, or maybe even below 50…) Western Mormons are Republican because they are family-minded church-goers who distrust the federal government and want to be left alone. Not because they are particularly worried about Muslims, refugees, Mexicans, free trade agreements, Obama’s birth certificate, or most of the other alt-right grievances. Moreover, we believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men. Trump and the Brietbart crowd (how shall I put this?) do not always give the impression that they believe these things as strongly as do we (or Romney, McCain, both Bushes, etc.) We are not really the core audience for much of their rhetoric.

    I think some Mormons look at the Clinton Foundation work (schmoozing with rich people to raise billions of dollars for charity, maybe save a few hundred thousand lives in the process) and see a basically reasonable effort at leveraging resources to do good works, which we admire, even if we agree with critics that there are things that look like conflicts of interest. The Mormon church is also a pragmatic multi-billion dollar institution with good intentions and an opaque financial structure nobody understands… so maybe we’re more understanding about such things.

    Of course I doubt Hillary will ever be popular in Utah. But it is really rather amazing that she even has a chance.

  17. Clark Goble
    August 22, 2016 at 11:49 pm

    When the choice is Zika or Ebola always go with the Zika. But going with Zika doesn’t mean you would prefer to be virus free.

    Zjg (15) I don’t want to portray the theological connection as simple. First one has to note that it’s really not until after the Reagan era that the dominant Mormons a Republicans takes place even though there were strong conservative influences before that. In the pre-war era Mormons were surprisingly embracing the progressivism of Roosevelt and Wilson. You can read church magazines of that era and even manuals with very overt progressive elements. Well beyond what some progressives complain about today as conservative rhetoric in church literature. The church is far more neutral today (IMO) despite being overwhelmingly conservative.

    I also think that theological movement goes in both directions. The various strands of anti-communist conservatism in the early post-war era almost certainly affected how many (Benson, Skousen and others) read scripture. Over at BCC I’ve warned about reading contemporary political ideas of freedom into the Nephite narrative. However as communism was seen as a threat that notion of liberty became read into such text. This also transformed how many Mormons viewed the council in heaven with Jesus coming to be seen as a libertarian and Satan as a communist. It’s easy to see that this isn’t theology from Mormonism but a rethinking of Mormonism in light of these contemporary philosophies. But to many lay members that might not be obvious. (I’d argue in a similar way contemporary progressives are attempting to transform Mormon theology to fit their oppositions)

    That said while really abstract notions like freedom or war are inevitably fit to contemporary fears, I think it’s the less abstract ideas that have the biggest effect. It seems undeniable that Mormons both among the leadership but also among the laity were part of the backlash to many changes in morality. Intellectually that started in the pre-war era but it’s really the 1960’s when it becomes mainstream. It’s those culture war battles more than anything else that I think shifts Mormons to the Republican side of things starting in the 70’s but really culminating in the 90’s. Of course outside of abortion, I think those culture wars have largely come to an end. Prop-8 was the Church’s last gasp but the outcome never was in doubt. Even among Republicans or Mormon youth the views of the culture wars are considerably different. It’s not clear how the church will ultimately adapt. However it’s clear that a significant portion of the Rise of the Nones (as the demographic shift is termed) comes about due to that culture war perception.

    But we shouldn’t see the culture wars as the only thing going on. As I said I think there are lots of reasons from Mormon persecution and Mormon preaching going back to the 19th century why the libertarian view is attractive to many Mormons. Even if it is not at all a perfect fit. (If only because of that tension with the culture wars)

    Mormon senses of appropriateness towards authority as well as law and order also made Republicanism starting with Nixon very appealing.

    However into all of this there are also regional effects (and the attractiveness of libertarianism is also largely regional even if there are particular attractions for Mormons). The bigger question not well explained is why progressivism was so soundly rejected by Mormons. There while region effects matter, I think something else is going on as well.

  18. Clark Goble
    August 22, 2016 at 11:50 pm

    Sorry. Should be: “But going with Zika doesn’t mean you wouldn’t prefer to be virus free

  19. Cody Quirk
    August 23, 2016 at 2:41 am

    And yet not a single mention of Gary Johnson and/or the Libertarian factor. Never mind that GJ is currently polling at 16% in Utah, and Evan McMullin (while on the ballot in Utah), is on in only a few handful of states and will play a possible spoiler in the heart of the ‘Mormon Corridor’ alone, and no where else.

    The Libertarian factor should be discussed since Gary and the Utah Libertarian Party has been reaching out significantly to the Saints and the Utah population in general; one only has to read many of the various articles and editorials about this in the Deseret News, and one especially should better highlight the libertarian undercurrent among the LDS flock in politics.

    There is no question that Gary Johnson will play a far more larger & greater role in this presidential election then Evan McMullin will; for one, Evan entered into the race too late, and there is no question that Evan’s views and beliefs mirror that of a typical neoconservative like Jeb Bush or John McCain -instead of being a sincere principled conservative and supporter of our U.S. Constitution.

  20. Andrew
    August 23, 2016 at 8:37 am

    I thank Nathaniel for letting my comment through. And I thank all those saying my comment should be deleted for proving my point. Grow a pair. I didn’t call anybody “names.”

    Nathaniel, as for saying you don’t support Hillary, give me a break. I’m sorry buddy but it simply doesn’t work that way. You can’t hide behind some moral high ground to excuse the plain consequence of your actions. “It’s not my fault she was raped, it’s the rapists fault.” Yeah, true, but you just stood there and did nothing. I’ll agree that you aren’t the rapist, but you are something…

    For all their treachery, one thing I’ll say about the democrats is they are unified. Just like the conservatives they have a lot of competing interests, but at the end of the day they band together for a common cause: beating republicans. While they may have different reasons for their thievery, at the end of the day they agree, you’re getting robbed. The republicans on the other hand are this fractured bunch of whiners, a bunch of perpetual losers who cannot win because they’re always too busy fighting other republicans.

    For goodness sakes, a lot of so-called conservatives are putting up more resistance to Trump than they ever have Obama or any democrat! I realize you aren’t really a political commentator, and I haven’t read enough of your blog posts over the years to know what you have or haven’t said in the past, but have you ever posted articles talking smack about Obama? Or Hillary? Or the namby pampy Republicans that are letting them get away with murder? Or McCain? Or Romney? Have you been using this online platform to speak out against all these people, and their problems, or just Trump?

    And my point here is not to call you out specifically, but I’m really just speaking to an overall pattern. You are certainly free to support whoever you want. If the Romney/McCain-style Republican is your brand of politician, good for you. I’m just letting you know what the rest of us see… for the past several decades we, as in we the base of the GOP, have been supporting the squishy candidates we’ve been given. In other words, we’ve been going along with “your” people. And where’s it gotten us?

    We want to try something new… but instead of supporting the team, the prudish Mormons are turning up their noses are the sight of our cage fighter because, gasp, horror of horrors, he’s got some tattoos! No no, that would somehow compromise their principles. Never mind the fact that our virtual cage fight is really an epic battle over the literal enslavement of humankind. But hey, no worries, so long as you don’t feel icky in the presence of a guy with tattoos. Whatever makes you feel good.

  21. JT
    August 23, 2016 at 8:54 am

    I don’t agree with Andrew by any means, but versions of his comment are posted on these sites all the time, just from the other end of the political spectrum. I think it would be hypocritical to start filtering them now.

  22. JT
    August 23, 2016 at 9:01 am

    Mark –

    As for Utah getting the blame for a Trump loss, it’ll just be one more state in a long list of states that Trump needed to win to even come close to having a shot at victory.

    Mormons were just one more group (2% of voters) in a long list of groups that supported Proposition 8 in California . . . . It won’t stop another Fred Karger from writing the narrative on who to blame for the loss.

  23. August 23, 2016 at 9:02 am


    As I’ve said on Facebook, the folks who support Hillary claim that if I don’t support her, I’m supporting Trump. The folks who support Trump claim that if I don’t support him, I’m supporting Hillary. And the Gary Johnson folks make basically the same argument. If that logic, which you’re repeating here, were actually true, if I chose not tp vote I would somehow magically be casting three votes! Amazing! So no, I don’t buy your argument. Perhaps I’ll write a post about the silly things people say and believe about voting, but not today. Today, I’m just going to mention that your argument doesn’t even faze me, and that in particular the over-the-top rape analogy doesn’t exactly add to your credibility.

    Have you been using this online platform to speak out against all these people, and their problems, or just Trump?

    I started blogging originally in 2006 at a now-defunct personal blog, and my primary target was President Obama. I’ve maintained a group blog (Difficult Run) since 2012 where we primarily blog about economics and politics, and I’ve argued for and against many policies (more often than politicians) there as well. The only reason I posted this political post at Times and Seasons was because the primary subject was actually Mormons in America.

    But hey, no worries, so long as you don’t feel icky in the presence of a guy with tattoos. Whatever makes you feel good.

    You had it right earlier when you talked about reluctance to “compromise [our] principles.” The tattoo analogy–while not as over-the-top as the rape analogy–is just as ineffectual. The problems that I and many other Republicans have with Trump are not superficial or cosmetic. You might not agree with that, but–if you’re so interested in unity–you might want to at least acknowledge it.

    I’m not going to get into what I consider those problems to be. I didn’t write this post primarily to attack Trump. If you want to have that debate, check out Difficult Run. Here are the posts my co-bloggers and I have written about him recently: I’m not going to have that debate here, however. It’s just not what this post is (primarily) about.

  24. August 23, 2016 at 9:05 am


    Mormons were just one more group (2% of voters) in a long list of groups that supported Proposition 8 in California

    Exactly. People who go looking for scapegoats are hardly the type to let common sense or facts get in the way. The narrative that is already being built is that Mormons are traitors. I don’t know if the narrative will ever get really big or not, but the fact that Utah just isn’t that influential of a state in the grand scheme of things certainly won’t make a difference to that outcome one way or the other.

  25. Tim
    August 23, 2016 at 9:28 am

    Andrew, don’t over-complicate the matter. I voted for Romney and both Bushes but his year will vote for Clinton because I think she would be a better president than Trump. That’s it. I do not share your view of Trump as an epic cage fighter battling the literal enslavement of humankind. I more or less agree with Romney’s take on Trump.

  26. Andrew
    August 23, 2016 at 9:45 am


    Respectfully, I have friends that I served with in the military that are literally buried in the ground, so the rape analogy really isn’t over the top to me. I’ve almost been one of those guys myself several times. These aren’t subtle topics. And just last night I got word from my neighbors that a dead body was dumped about a mile from our house and gang/drug activity is increasing in the area. I live in the country on a large piece of property. My neighbors all have large acre lots. So when I say dumped a mile away that literally means dead body on next door neighbors property.

    If you want to get into specifics I’m happy to, but the TLDR point is that the open borders policies are having very real negative consequences in my neck of the woods. Schools are a disaster. Hospitals are closing all throughout rural TX. Crime is on the rise. Taxes are going up to pay for the social burden. In what way is my “rape” analogy over the top, exactly? I’m afraid to send my kids to public school despite paying about $10k/year in taxes to the local school system. Bodies are getting dumped just down the road from my house. Drug deals are going down in front of my house. I can go on and on with this.

    I am a rape victim! And you’re the guy in some other unaffected part of the country who just doesn’t care. “ohs well, not my problem”

    Even just with respect to the church it’s a burden. There are a lot of illegals in the church locally and we expend a lot of resources on them, time and money. And frankly local church policy, which is dictated from on high of course, serves to aid and abet. It’s maddening.

    And again no disrespect, but without specifics, I’m going to assume your issues with Trump are the same superficial issues that 90% of other people have. Perhaps you’re the one guy that has legitimately good disagreements with Trump, meaning reasons that aren’t hypocritical, but I highly doubt that. Virtually all complaints with Trump are about “how” something was said rather than “what” was actually said. If you’re saying your complaint with Trump is purely about policy, for example you are pro-open-borders and pro-amnesty and he’s not. Ok, that’s a real issues-based complaint. But my reaction is to point out that you’re not a conservative and never have been. On this particular issue, you’re a liberal, you’re a democrat. So don’t insult us republicans by acting like we’re the problem, we’re not, you are. You’re the one that’s been lying to us the whole time, disingenuously acting like you want to secure the border when really you never had any intention of doing so. Either that or you’ve been fooling yourself to think that the base of the party ever wanted open borders.

    A bit of a side topic, but that’s a major problem in the GOP. There are a lot of people who go along with the party line rather than manning up and telling the group how they really feel. Having a team-spirit and going with the party is one thing, but lying about where you stand on issues is another. I’m cool with working together, but we should be totally honest about our positions on different things. I’m willing to compromise on certain things.

    Like the Todd Akin debacle. See, it turns out that while the party line is highly pro-life and seemingly obsessed with abortion, most of the voters don’t actually care that much. I remember seeing a stat that something like 80% of republicans are cool with abortion in cases of rape for example. And I’m one of those. I’m happy to go along with the group on this issue though. If the group wants to be anti-abortion, I’m cool with that, but truth be told it’s not a hill I’m willing to die on. I’ll vote for the pro-life candidate if it gets the border secured and the debt issues property addressed, etc. I really don’t care about abortion though as a standalone issue.

    A lot of republicans do this same thing with the border. For decades now they’ve been talking the talk, acting like they want to secure the border, but it’s just a big fat lie. And now those chickens are coming home to roost. While guys like McCain and Flake and Romney don’t actually want to secure the border, they’ve been lying to the base about it for years and years acting like they do. Now we’ve got a candidate who is no-joke serious about securing the border and people are peeing all over themselves. And within the LDS world, all those liberal Mormons that whined about the church getting involved in politics with prop8, etc., are suddenly giddy with joy that the church is joining the fight to help Hillary win as they sit back and watch the GOP eat itself.

  27. Clark Goble
    August 23, 2016 at 9:57 am

    Cody as I said there’s a natural libertarian element in Utah. Johnson made Utah the center of his campaign and then made a series of tone deaf comments on issues important to Mormons. As many have noted Johnson’s form of libertarian seems to equate it to social liberal + economic conservative. But it’s fair to ask just how libertarian that actually is. A lot of people will vote for him simply as a protest vote. I think McMullin has a chance to take votes away from Johnson in the key “I hate both of them” constituency simply over issues like drugs and religious liberties. Nationally now that polls are including both the libertarian party and the green party I think that’ll dilute Johnson’s vote so he won’t make it to the debates.

    Andrew, saying that conservatives are stronger anti-Trump than anti-Obama just seems wrong. But I do think it undeniable that if one is a more traditional Reagan style conservative that Trump is a much bigger threat long term than Obama or even Clinton is. If Trump wins he’s not only a short term threat to the country on constitutional grounds due to his temperment. It’s very conceivable that he transforms the Republican party into something radically different. Heck, that’s a danger even if he loses.

    JT, the Trump forces is very good at demonizing others. They’ll then reach out to them and be unable to understand why they’ve burned their bridges. This is true of Breitbart in general. Trump and Breitbart act the way they do and then are flummoxed that people are upset. (I’d say this applies to Cruz too)

  28. August 23, 2016 at 10:06 am


    You’re not convincing me, and I’m still not going to get into that debate on this thread. If you really want to talk about it, comment on Difficult Run or even use the contact form there and send me a message directly.

  29. Clark Goble
    August 23, 2016 at 10:24 am

    Andrew my strong suspicion is that the problems of rural texas are due to more than immigration. (With I believe net immigration now negative) It’s larger economic issues as well as the drop in the price of oil. Those have cascading effects. But even acknowledging some economic problems when poor move into an area already stressed with lack of resources, it’s completely unclear that Trump will solve anything. He’s telling people what they wish to hear but do you really believe congress will pass the tens of billions for a real wall? And do you really think smugglers won’t figure ways around the wall? Already Trump is changing his tune on immigration. Given Trumps temperment, why do you think he’s trustworthy at all on this issue?

  30. brian
    August 23, 2016 at 11:34 am

    Someone wants their own blog.

  31. Wally
    August 23, 2016 at 12:34 pm

    The GOP started leaving me when Reagan started promoting voodoo economics (supply-side nonsense) and the party began lining up as toadies of big corporations and their wealthy masters. Of course, Mormons have always had an affinity for authoritarian figures and policies, so the LDS shift to the right should not be a surprise.

    But it is what has happened in the past decade or so that has caused me to become a Democrat. I simply cannot support the Republican position on:
    • global warming (denying the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community),
    • health care (refusing to join the rest of the civilized world in considering health care a right, not a privilege),
    • gun control (refusing even to ban military-style assault weapons, to prevent people on the terrorist watch list from easily getting guns, and to close the gun show loophole),
    • education (at least in Utah that means underpaying teachers and overcrowding classrooms),
    • taxes (let’s keep cutting taxes on those who have made off like bandits in today’s rigged economy and claim falsely that the U.S. is overtaxed—we are in fact taxed less than every OECD country except Mexico, Chile, and South Korea),
    • military spending and war-mongering (we spend more than the next 12 countries combined, but that is not enough for those who want to funnel even more money into the military-industrial complex and pursue wars that make things worse, not better),
    • middle-class jobs (the GOP may give lip-service to this issue, but their policies and actions indicate they really are concerned only with the infamous job-creators [conservative code for the wealthy, whether they create jobs or not]),
    • pollution (repeatedly threatening to gut EPA regulations that keep our air and water clean).

    Well, that’s the short list. The GOP is in deep trouble because Trump has exposed the fact that a large segment of Republican voters don’t care at all about their precious (and illogical) conservative ideology. They have been fed the invective of hatred, anger, paranoia, and bigotry for so long now that they think government is the enemy and that the world is going to hell in a handbasket and needs a crude-talking strongman to “fix” things. They can’t come out of the echo chamber long enough to see what is really happening outside the cocoon of Fox News and conservative talk radio.

    Sure, the Democrats are not perfect, but they are at least connected to reality and the issues that actually do matter. Bernie Sanders was so successful not because he was a deranged lunatic but because he was saying things that needed to be said—and everybody knew it.

    I’m not sure the GOP will survive Trump, partly because he is the direct result of where they have been heading for some time now. He is not an aberration. He is simply amplifying the message the GOP has been sending out for some time now. He just came faster and louder than they anticipated. That he does not have a coherent stance on any issue is indicative of the larger party, which has been living in fantasyland for a long time now.

    I mean, how can you take a party seriously that preaches small government and low taxes and balanced budgets, all the while understanding that the retirement of the Baby Boomers means that Medicare and Social Security must expand, not contract. And the Republicans also want to increase military spending. These three items comprise the bulk of our federal budget. The rest is pocket change in comparison. So conservative dogma simply doesn’t add up. The embrace of contradictory objectives is an indication of irrational thinking, perhaps even mental illness. And don’t think Paul Ryan is any more sane than Donald Trump. His proposals also don’t add up.

    So, what will Mormons do when the GOP disintegrates? Good question. It would probably be a good idea to get educated on the issues, though, and to bone up on arithmetic.

  32. Brad L
    August 23, 2016 at 1:46 pm

    Andrew called people who hang out at blogs that attract pretty much the same element of people as this blog “snobs, fascists, and sissies.” You also said that the LDS church has been “feminized.” Sexist much? Why this comment isn’t in moderation is beyond me. And why people are spending time feeding this troll is beyond me as well. I would completely expect that if I posted a comment calling commenters and bloggers on this blog conservative tribalists and reactionary fools who hate and blame the poor and minorities that it would be put in moderation. Andrew’s comment is well below of civility that should be expected on this blog.

  33. August 23, 2016 at 1:48 pm

    Not much of the conversation at this point is really germane to the original post, and life’s too short to babysit comment threads. I’m closing this one.

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