Trump Approval 2018 Mormon Edition

So many were shocked by today’s Gallup poll breaking down Trump’s job approval rating by religion. More Mormons approved of Trump’s Job performance than any of the other religious groups. A staggering 61% of Mormons approved of his performance. Like many people I was shocked it was that high. I suspect the poll seemed worse given it came out on a day when Trump was once again enmeshed in controversy over racist comments.After my initial nausea wore off I realized the was some nuance that we should probably point out. First off this isn’t approval of Trump but approval of his job performance. That’s a fairly ambiguous term. Many people might interpret it in terms of policy not character. That is people may very well be looking at what’s going on in the country and judge his approval in terms of that, not how they think about him as a person. So a respondent could easily despite Trump the person, hate the lack of character and inflammatory tweets, yet look at the stock market, unemployment, and growth and be quite happy.

For Republicans who were wary at how Trump would break with orthodoxy, after a rocky start he’s been fairly positive. Trump’s mostly picked judges conservatives like, has cut regulation, has been tougher on the international arena and achieved tax reform. Now you (and I) may well criticize these points in the details however that’s nuance the average respondent probably doesn’t consider.

More significantly for decades “job approval” has largely been a signifier for how well the country is doing. Taking it as a kind of determination on how people view Trump is problematic. There’s also a strong identity politics component to job approval polls. Democrats almost always approve of Democrats and disapprove of Republicans. Republicans disapprove of Democrats and approve of Republicans. So polls of this sort tell us much less than they may appear at first glance.

Even Mormonism’s top place is somewhat misleading given the broad category of Protestantism. Once you break out Protestantism into white Protestants you find that Mormons have exactly the same rate.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not happy about this. I think in particular that people seeing religious conservatives as so closely tied to Trump will hurt us long term. Indeed we may be losing a generation over politics not only in America but more especially around the world. My hope is that if Romney runs for Senate in Utah as expected he may provide not only pushback to Trump but a different more respectable figure to the world.

70 comments for “Trump Approval 2018 Mormon Edition

  1. Jerry Schmidt
    January 12, 2018 at 9:20 pm

    Trump is mostly what neo-Romans look for in a ruler; showing his virtus, suspicious of outsiders, still in favor of identifying people as infamia, and whose policies favor patricians over plebes though even the plebes see him as their ‘great white hope.”

    Plus, quite frankly, he’s not Pres. Obama.

    Mitt Romney is a serious contender: patrician, showing more convincing virtus, and a seemingly more refined person than the current president. Also, not Obama. And for Mormons, he’s LDS :). How could he possibly lose?

  2. Jerry Schmidt
    January 12, 2018 at 9:24 pm

    Disclaimer: My comments do not reflect the views of the original poster or this web site, but are exclusively my own. And I do mean exclusively.

  3. p
    January 12, 2018 at 10:54 pm

    Thank you Ezra Taft Benson!

    And if Beelzebub were Republican, too …?

    (Rather hilarious that next topic below is “Satan’s Plan Part 1” which I’ll be sure to study carefully.)

  4. January 13, 2018 at 12:43 am

    I’m pretty surprised too. I suspect the fact that more Mormons are the most republican affiliated denomination seems the best explanation for those results.

    http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/02/23/u-s-religious-groups-and-their-political-leanings/

    This does lead to some interesting juxtapositions though. Mormons generally have a fair bit of deep contact with other countries and cultures. I’m not sure how Trump’s xenophobia / isolationism resonates here? In our demographic, is his appeal economic? Anti state-sponsored “intersectional” religion? Is it simple power dynamics (defang the elite)? Or is it nationalism / anti-cosmopolitanism?

    My default answer is his appeal to strong in-group dynamics. “He’s got your back” sort of stuff.

  5. January 13, 2018 at 1:55 am

    By itself, this is not an informative statistic: party members tend to approve of party leaders, and a lot of Mormons are Republicans. Why not control for party affiliation the way other surveys control for, say, income? The interesting thing would be to see approval ratings by religion and party affiliation: how does approval among Mormon Republicans compare to other Republicans?

  6. Mortimer
    January 13, 2018 at 8:11 am

    Calculate the statistics any way you want, to me as a saint, this bottom-line number is nothing less than soul-crushing. It’s more than politics, this is about our humanity and identity, our very purpose.

    To heck with tax codes and filthy lucre, our leaders cannot continue to remain silent considering the consequences.

    Where is our discernment? Where is our outrage for the harm done to our brothers and sisters? Where is our voice?

  7. Clark
    January 13, 2018 at 12:57 pm

    Mortimer, I think many see anything less than full opposition in all ways and at all times to Trump as embrace of Trump. (I’m not saying you’re doing that – just that this is a common view especially on Twitter) My argument more or less is that many people don’t do that. They tend to look at what they like that’s happening in America and balance that against what they don’t like combined with group identity with the party in power. Job approval tends to reflect that much more than how they think of the person in charge.

    That means that regardless of the Democrat who was the last President the approval in Utah likely would have been reasonably close. i.e. it wasn’t just about Obama. Likewise Democrats do the same thing. The middle group is where the shifts tend to happen. Frankly Trump has a staggeringly low approval rating primarily because of that group. But Mormons mostly aren’t in that group.

    So what I’m saying is that while I wish the polls were different, we probably shouldn’t be surprised by them. The reality is that the vast majority of people in America are low information people. They don’t watch the news all the time and politics is pretty low on their concerns unless things are directly affecting them. We can debate whether that should be the case. I certainly wish it wasn’t. But it’s true even among Mormons.

    An other point I didn’t add in is that where people get their news matters a great deal. If you only watched Fox news you’d get a very different portrayal of Trump than if you watched say MSNBC. If you’re only getting news from what pops up on your Facebook feed then you’d get an even more distorted view of things. That’s why people opposed to Trump often see him in apocalyptic terms whereas outside of his egregiously crass and ignorant comments, in terms of what’s happening things are going better than I expected. That is Trump’s incompetence plus the strength of our system of government has limited his ability to screw things up too much. Whether that persists isn’t clear. He’s only been there a year thus far.

  8. Jerry Schmidt
    January 13, 2018 at 1:01 pm

    Mortimer, despite my apparent flippancy, my feelings are similar to yours. However, I am surrounded by humans who will most likely never share that outrage. I cannot say definitively why they are not outraged, and I lack sufficient virtus and elocution to persuade them. So I put my faith in the Messiah ben David (Jesus) and just keep swimming.

  9. Jerry Schmidt
    January 13, 2018 at 1:20 pm

    Clark, I realize reaction to a previous administration happens along party lines, but such a reaction I believe is a factor, just not limited to Pres. Obama. I believe that George W. Bush benefitted from backlash to Bill Clinton in winning that election, though I wouldn’t call it a primary causative factor.

    From social psycology experiments in the U.S. it was learned that Americans tend to vote not so much along ideological or party lines as was supposed, but which candidate demonstrated the most virtus, i.e. which one seemed most like a winner or effective leader. I realize the OP is about post-election job performance, but I suspect confirmation bias is a primary factor post-election; “Did we err in our choice for our current leader? Of corse not, or it’s too early to tell.”

    As you pointed out, ideological pov and insufficient data make such a view valid.

  10. fbisti
    January 13, 2018 at 2:17 pm

    While I agree with the thrust of your post, a correction: You stated, “Mormons approved the most of Trump of any of the groups at a staggering 60%.” The headline figure of 61% does not reflect *how much* respondents approved of Trump. A more correct statement would be “A higher proportion of Mormons approved…”

    Just being pedantic–though not for nothing.

  11. Clark Goble
    January 13, 2018 at 6:20 pm

    Fixed.

  12. Jerry Schmidt
    January 13, 2018 at 6:33 pm

    LOL

  13. January 13, 2018 at 6:45 pm

    It seems to me that for a significant proportion of the “forgotten” middle class, their approval of Trump doesn’t come from actually accomplishing anything; but from seeing well informed people get upset or concerned about what he says. They love seeing snowflakes souls’ get crushed. That seems to be all they care about. For them their review of Trump is “Crushed someones soul. Will vote for again.”

  14. January 13, 2018 at 10:54 pm

    Jader, I think your point is valid. A great many people are very sensitive about how new moral dynamics are congealing. This doesn’t require “high information voters”. It just requires them to sense, not just that power balances and culture wars are shifting, but that a new enforceable moral system is coming.

    People, even low information types, tend to be very sensitive about this. Just look at the average IQ of people who get into the intricacies of TMZ styled gossip…

    I expect mormons are very sensitive to anything that smells like an enforceable moral system (or quasi religion if you like). Thus there is tension among members who hate Trump for his affect & pride and those that value him for railing against “organization”. As Clark mentioned, people are happy he can’t do more damage. Others sincerely wish he could. Moral unfreezings, by their very nature, expand into even the most sacrosanct and seemingly rational of structures.

    For instance, I can certainly see many members being quite happy that Trump has appeared to remove a veneer of false righteousness from the face of politics and the Media. I just don’t think rationality (homo-economicus styled) goes very far in explaining people’s positive and negative emotions here. You’ve definitely have a highly moralized landscape. Why?

    To answer that you would either have to affirm Trumpism has a clear morality, or assume it is mostly reactionary. I don’t think MAGA nationalism has enough pieces to pull it into highly moral territory. You certainly get strong in-group / out-group dynamics with it. But, it doesn’t give you the celebratory ethos you get when useful structures like journalism, the courts, separation of powers, etc. get torn down. I believe, a good way to understand this via the ecstasy that comes from tearing down a moral usurper or thwarting off the yoke of an unpopular Moral Big Brother system.

    Mormons like to do this. Thus while Trump’s affect may be utterly “anti-mormon”, the one talon-claw he has is his foil against a forcefully congealing secular-progressive (state?) religion.

  15. Jerry Schmidt
    January 14, 2018 at 2:37 am

    As opposed to the defacto Constantinian Christianized semi-state religion thar exists now, or did exist in the U.S. at some point.

  16. Jerry Schmidt
    January 14, 2018 at 2:51 am

    So LDS approval of Donald Trump can be explained, at least in part, because he represents a firm resistance to those forces supposedly re-forming the U.S. into a post-Christian nation. I’ve heard others express this same fear of a post-Christian nation while considering Trump to be uncouth but necessary. I’m wracking my brain trying to remember where I heard this…

  17. chris g
    January 14, 2018 at 10:32 am

    Jerry, that is one of the ways I tend to see it. It is the change in enforceable morality that creates such dynamics. Changes to laissez faire pluralism (i.e. moving out from under dictatorial contro to fairly unregulated pluralisml) don’t tend to engender such backlashes.

    I also wouldn’t say “LDS approval”. I think there is enough diversity to make any single generalizing statements innappropriate. But I do think mormon morality biases people to see things in terms of either a pride or a moral-enforcement-resistance frame. Others also just see it as simple, rational, politics. And some just don’t care.

    I’d also support your comment that we do have a defecto Christianized semi-state religion. I just think the history of American pluralism has watered down its criminal based enforcement quite a bit. The growth of a competing state quasi-religion guaranteees no such restraint. Or at least that is true where such movements and their followers:
    -deny they are dogmatic or “religious” in any way,
    -can not see past the obvious universality of their position (it is obviously true for everyone)
    -deny accomodations or exceptions for other belief systems
    -attempt to use criminal codes to enforce their norms
    -deny any connections to common religious pluralism history & the reasons for it.

    Thus, the new kid on the block that comes around without any connection to pluralism’s social contracts are viewed quite warily. This of course does not negate the fact that many marginalized groups feel society’s current morality isn’t oppressive. They obviously do. They also have garnered enough advocates to create localized phase changes and push a competing solution at the societal level. But morality games tend to be mean nasty and often genocidally severe…

  18. ji
    January 14, 2018 at 12:00 pm

    This is a worthless question in a worthess poll.

    Approval could mean vigorous support, mild toleration, opposition to attempts to denigrate, or opposition to attempts to justify impeachment or 25th amendment action. I think many people’s “approval” of the President means they wish others would leave him alone. I don’t like him at all, but I oppose attempts to justify impeachment or 25th amendment action. I wish all of us would be more charitable, and sustain him as suggested by our articles of faith.

  19. Jerry Schmidt
    January 14, 2018 at 2:07 pm

    Chris g, I appreciate your candor, and accept the correction regarding generalized statements. I’m still growing to use more complex thinking as to human circumstances. :)

  20. Jerry Schmidt
    January 14, 2018 at 2:22 pm

    Sustaining a leader isn’t about charity. Sustaining a leader is about trust, and LDS or other religion or no religion, humans use biased perception in whom to trust. These biases tend to favor outward appearance over internal mettle, ever since the days when Israel wanted a king in the place of the system of judges implemented by the Lord. Even the Book of Mormon broke the situation down to no king over unrighteous king. Evil will prevail when good men do nothing, and though I am not close to being Moroni, if I don’t raise a warning voice when I see king-men or patricians attempt to grab power, then part of the guilt is mine.

  21. Clark Goble
    January 14, 2018 at 4:07 pm

    I think Chris is right broadly speaking. Jerry’s point actually plays into Chris’ point since you have had since the late 60’s a backlash with varying degrees of success to the established religious order. I’ve become somewhat persuaded by seeing a lot of these conflicts as due to elite competition. I know Chris favors that view of Peter Turchin’s. In that case the conflict 50 years ago from roughly 1968 through the early 70’s is akin to what we’re seeing now. Then “tear it down” held as much attraction as any particular egalitarian or Marxist perspective. Indeed many of those espousing more coherent philosophies in practice didn’t follow them too well.

    That said, I think it’s more than a little discouraging that so many Mormons are embracing angering supposed enemies rather than paying attention to what’s being done in the country. The very people who pay attention to slights from the secular left and who were upset by both Clintons now turn a blind eye to far more egregious things done. Maybe it’s an “human, all too human” moment. But one wishes we were better than that.

    I should also note that while not necessarily Mormons, Utah had extremely high approval of Bush when the rest of the country had become disenchanted in 2006. So this being out of step isn’t unusual. It’s just that then the explanation was that they liked Bush despite his missteps.

  22. ji
    January 14, 2018 at 7:06 pm

    i dislike it when some Mormons insist that all other Mormons, in order to be called good Mormons, must agree with them in political matters.

  23. Brandon J
    January 14, 2018 at 7:08 pm

    This is disgraceful. Liberalphobia is at the root of this. It is the fact that liberals and the Democratic Party tend to support legalized abortion and gay marriage that a good number of LDS folks will support any Republican no matter mendacious, corrupt, and authoritarian they are. Trump can brag of sexual assault, bash immigrants, lie and distort the truth, contradict himself repeatedly, reveal profound ignorance of even the basics of the constitution, obstruct justice, and have near weekly scandals, and still he is better than a liberal, because you know, emails. Weren’t these the same people who went insane over the Monica Lewinsky story?

  24. Clark Goble
    January 14, 2018 at 7:19 pm

    Has little to do with political ideology so much as the person in power (who appears from all accounts to have little interest in policy). As I said if one is primarily focused on ideology one might well be pleased with Trump’s administration even if not necessarily with him. For myself, I consider myself a conservative and I wrote the OP. I think an interesting question is what happens after the 2018 elections when the GOP is expected to lose big in the House but possibly hold the Senate. (Depending upon what happens in Arizona’s primaries) Democrats are expected to open hearings on Trump in a fashion the GOP hasn’t. However it’s also possible Trump will go along with Democratic policy if the House and Senate can agree upon anything.

  25. Jerry Schmidt
    January 14, 2018 at 10:14 pm

    ji, I would take your hand as a brother and try to heal the injury I helped cause. Please forgive me.

  26. Mark N.
    January 15, 2018 at 12:56 am

    Given that I don’t think it’s possible to get anywhere near a 61% approval rating without a good number of sisters in the Church adding their approval in order to get to that number, all I can do is reference Ezra 9:3.

  27. Bryan in VA
    January 15, 2018 at 1:39 pm

    It seems to me that looking around at one’s seemingly like-minded peers and expressing alarm at what they approve of (in this case Trump’s performance) is majorly elitist.

    From my POV as politically conservative, Trump gives me about 30% of what I want from my government plus lots of incendiary rhetoric. Obama gave my 0% of what I wanted and somewhat less incendiary rhetoric, and Reagan gave me about 75% and was always positive and uplifting. I didn’t vote for Trump (nor Hillary) but what we have now is better IMHO that Obama, and is much much worse that what we had under Reagan. So, do I approve of Trump? You tell me.

  28. Clark Goble
    January 15, 2018 at 4:09 pm

    Bryan I’d say two things. First my own views don’t sound that different from what you say. Although I think the issue with Trump is more than just incendiary rhetorical. However I do agree that “job approval” is more complicated than it seems. If I wasn’t allowed to qualify things (and of course you can’t for a poll) then I’m not sure how I’d answer.

    To the first point though, I’d just say there’s nothing wrong with being elitist in this sense. Sometimes you ought express alarm. If that’s elitist so be it. I think the weird trend to seeing elitism as among the worst thing makes little sense. In particular I think it’s undermined the GOP into becoming too reactionary rather than trying to achieve desired ends.

  29. Mark N.
    January 15, 2018 at 4:19 pm

    Where are the sisters on this thread? Have they been cowed into silence, or is this usually just a “male participation only” blog?

  30. January 15, 2018 at 4:23 pm

    Elitism gets a bad name because elites control the medium and content of mass communication. Thus a certain social class, rightly or wrongly, has a disproportionate impact on the general populace. This is compounded once “hate speech” and “right think” get de facto codified into self-censorship, or as per Europe, criminal law.

    Do you need to have the right type and level of education to have an opinion in a democracy?

    Societies always seem to evolve to this point. Is it stable? No. At least not on the societal scales we now deal with.

    I’m not sure what this portends for communication though. It is obviously very problematic. We’re used to dealing with race issues – and not very good at it, but we are not at all used to dealing with cross caste communication. Trump really brings this home.

    I just worry that we sometimes forget the wisdom of “low information” commoners is often much more in tune with long-term adaptive considerations than high rationality might lead us to believe…

  31. Clark Goble
    January 15, 2018 at 5:58 pm

    Mark I’d love more women to chime in.

    Chris, while some elites control the medium, I think the bad name goes beyond that. However even though I’m very sympathetic to the idea low information people can be in tune with larger social movements that certain elites (especially academics) miss, I’m not sure that addresses more moral issues. That is if there is a right and wrong and we should be seeking to discern that, then what is adaptive and what is right need not be the same. Especially from a religious perspective.

    To give an example of that Turchin often sees the civil war as a significant inflection point for inter-elite conflict. After the war that tension is resolved for a new stability. Yet it’s hard to read the history of reconstruction and not think that morally, too much was given up. Further reading such things one can also see how the accidents of history – small events with big consequences – could have changed political outcomes a great deal. (Say Lincoln was not shot in the head during his assassination attempt)

    Even relative to the current tensions and conflicts it’s worth noting that the ways in which inter-elite completion could be resolved and underlying societal tensions eased. It’s rather interesting that Trump despite running as a transformative figure really hasn’t done that. Despite a lot of ways he could have. Instead he’s largely been hands off with the accident who runs each part of government having more free reign to implement their desired changes. (Contrast McMaster with Sessions for instance) Further in terms of legislative goals, Trump has for the most part subcontracted it all to Congress leading to a pretty mainstream Republican set of policy goals – if perhaps fairly incompetently organized and pursued.

    Also look at the accident of the election. Had just a few things differed (Clinton paying more attention to a few states, Comey not writing that letter, Weiner not having access to Clinton’s email) then the extremely close race could have gone the other way. That’s not to dismiss the underlying stresses that led to the nature of this last election. Just to note that the outcomes have a strong random component to them.

  32. Jane Smith
    January 17, 2018 at 10:37 am

    Trump supporters have been cowed into silence. I am not a low information but a high information voter and I am very pleased with the direction the executive branch has taken since the election. Do I agree with everything Trump does or says, no, but overall, I am grateful Trump won and Hillary lost. I like Neil Gorsuch on the bench and all the other conservative judges that have been confirmed. I am happy DOJ and CFPB slush funds have been shut off. I am happy about the tax cut package because it will help me and all my children and will help bring manufacturing jobs back to America. I am very happy ISIS has been, for the most part, driven out of Iraq and that Christians in Aleppo could celebrate Christmas this year. There has been an amazing turn around in Syria against ISIS.

    And about DACA…I wish congress would have reached a compromise. These individuals should not have their fate decided based on the whims of the executive branch but by the rule of law. Only congress can change the laws but compromise in the current climate is impossible. DACA was a temporary status, and could have been found unconstitutional if it had proceeded through the court system.

    I think for conservatives, Trump is a function over form “win.”

    I am very happy Hillary lost. I think the Clinton’s are corrupt to the core.

  33. ReTx
    January 17, 2018 at 12:13 pm

    I’m always a little suspicious of taking statistics too seriously without backup. 61% of Mormon’s approve of Pres. Trump’s job performance… Well what does that mean exactly? What questions were asked to come to that single number? Were the questions solely about policy? Was his tweeting, offensive statements, rudeness toward foreign governments etc., taken into account as part of his ‘job performance’?

    I didn’t seen answers to any of these questions on the link. I did notice that the interviews were done over the phone, which to me skews the numbers toward those willing to do a phone interview (and are people who answer their phones really representative of the entire nation? – On one hand, it’s kind of a funny question, but on the other hand, I know a whole ton of people who don’t answer the phone unless they recognize the number (what qualities, perspectives, alignments might they have in common to make them not willing to talk to strangers or spend time on an interview?)

    My guess is that the questions were about policy, not personality. And since I’m seeing a lot of liking of Pres.Trump’s policies from LDS members at church and on social medial, I’m not surprised by the numbers. I do find it embarrassing to have church members aligned with him as it makes us all look like hypocrites, but that’s my problem of course.

    Personally, I think we are being very short-sighted on a lot of issues. The three biggest being global warming, the national debt, and corporate influence of Washington DC. I see things like the current discussions/policies/failed-policies on healthcare and tax reform as being steps in refining our policies. Some of those steps have not gone the way I’d like, but I’m hopeful that the conversations will continue as we work through some try-fail cycles. I don’t see Trump as being re-electable (although since I didn’t see him as electable in the first place, I’ll admit I could be wrong) and look forward to seeing what a smart, strong democratic president will do in the next turn around (fingers-crossed and prayers said that the dems find someone great.)

    I’m a woman and I voted for Clinton.

  34. Clark Goble
    January 17, 2018 at 1:08 pm

    ReTx, I think that was my point. This is an ambiguous question long asked that more or less just reflects whether the respondent is happy with the way the country is going and their political group’s place in it. I just don’t think it should be taken to reflect acceptance of everything the President does. Normally that’s not an issue however with a figure as rhetorically divisive as Trump some expect people to not act normally. Thus all the rhetoric of not “normalizing Trump” (whatever that means). The reality is that for better or worse the vast mass of the public is treating Trump like a regular politician. They may wish he didn’t tweet all these inflammatory things, but they just aren’t treating him different from most politicians. They have a handful of issues they care about and they judge him in terms of those and largely ignore the rest.

    Now long term I’m not sure that’s wise. Thus the divide between those fairly political who think longer term. I think Trump will be more devastating for the GOP than Nixon was. However Nixon also showcases how quick people are to ignore such things. Nixon was the worst political scandal of the 20th century. Yet within 6 years Ronald Reagan was President and a period of significant conservative movement in the country had begun. It’s quite possible that even if Trump is worse than Nixon and tarnishes the party that by 2024 as a practical matter it’ll be forgotten. It’ll excite the Democratic base, much like Republicans used Kennedy and Clinton for years to excite their base. But politics is fickle – especially in a system like the US where all the incentives are for a two party system meaning when one party does things people don’t like they vote for the other. Regardless of what they did in the past.

    Jane, I’d say that Trump’s effects are more complicated than you suggest. Particularly on the foreign stage. But it’s more longer term issues that I worry most about. For short term issues I think people can be quite happy with what’s happened in broad strokes. i.e. I don’t think the tax reform was a good reform, but it was a standard model GOP tax cut. I might wish they did something more transformative but it was something they could call reform. The judges are for the most part good. Cuts in regulation have been good, if perhaps not as well thought through as they could be. And the biggest Trump policy promises from the campaign never happened and likely never will. I think in terms of policy a different GOP candidate almost certainly would have gotten much more done. But as you note compared to what Clinton likely would have done there’s reasons for a conservative to be happy. And most liberals would have been upset regardless of the GOP candidate of 2015 acting as President. I just wish we didn’t have all the unnecessarily bad and divisive stuff to go along with it.

  35. Jane Smith
    January 17, 2018 at 1:23 pm

    For some, the judges, were the most important part of this election. Most Mormons are conservative, so I don’t think you should be surprised that most Mormons are happy with the conservative turn the government has taken. I find Hillary morally repugnant and ethically bankrupt plus her I don’t like her policies. I might find Trump morally bankrupt but I like his policies. It is impossible to evaluate Trump without understanding what the alternative choices were. For the most part, liberal Mormons loved Obama and his policies. I liked neither. I am responding to this expecting to be called names and denigrated and attacked but, I feel you may have a honest desire to understand what people are thinking, so I’m sticking my neck out.

    As far as the ‘foreign stage.’ I did not find Obama’s foreign policy something I would label a success.

  36. Rob Osborn
    January 17, 2018 at 2:14 pm

    Im not surprised at all. Trump has done more than any recent president to stand up for Christianity and its moral basis. He may be imperfect in many areas but it appears at least his policy making is in alignment with Christianity.

  37. Clark Goble
    January 17, 2018 at 3:23 pm

    Rob, sincere question since you believe that. How is a person who’s famous for adultery and misogyny and who talks down to most races standing up for Christianity’s moral basis? I’ve no intention of arguing the point. I’m just sincerely curious as how someone who believes that explains Trump’s rampant and well documented immorality. I can see people feeling like Trump was a last ditch effort to fight the culture wars against liberal secularism. But that seems different from standing up for Christian morality. You acknowledge what you say is Trump’s moral bankruptcy, but what in terms of policy has he done morally? (Beyond appointing conservative judges which seems somewhat different) And what’s the relationship of policy to standing up for Christian moral basis?

  38. January 17, 2018 at 3:31 pm

    While I don’t know what Rob might say, one easy way is to separate out the individual actions from group actions. Thus individually someone may be the antithesis of the group’s morality, but their actions may actually favour the group.

    Think of politicians who vote against and rail against abortion, only to have forced their mistress to have had one.

    I think issues of micro to macro morality are very important, and not all that well addressed.

    On the other political side you may have individuals who are not at all individually racist, but because they may not favour, or may oppose, certain political solutions or expressions are labelled (group) racists.

  39. Clark Goble
    January 17, 2018 at 3:52 pm

    Chris, but that’s more or less what I’m asking – what favors the group in this instance? Again, not interested in debating the point so I’ll not criticize it. I’m just earnestly curious. My guess is that underlying it is just the perception that Trump attacks the other group. i.e. the enemy of my enemy is my friend. But I’m curious if Rob would agree with that or if he’d point to specific policy changes.

  40. el oso
    January 17, 2018 at 4:28 pm

    I think that many LDS are judging President Trump in light of the previous president and his principle opponent. Viewed with that background it is easy to see why he retains support of a majority of LDS. If you do a comparison of Trump and Hillary on keeping the 10 commandments, for example, you would struggle to find more than 2 each that they have tried to keep. (Good thing that Honor your Father and Mother is in there) While I did not vote for Trump in 2016, I would generally support his policies now. He is far better than Hillary would have been. Trump has not had many huge accomplishments, but a slow unwinding of some of the worst Obama policies is actually a great thing. I do not think that the good economy is just an accident.

    If some LDS seem embarrassed that we support Trump as much as any other group, just remember who the opposition is. If the Democrat candidate had been Michael Dukakis instead of Hillary, the state of Utah might have been in play.

  41. Jane Smith
    January 17, 2018 at 5:16 pm

    I think this article explains it best why Christians and Catholics voted for Trump…and why the Mormons did too. Trump has rolled back transgender bathroom policies in schools, the Trump DOJ wrote a brief defending Masterpiece Cake Shop for the Supreme Court, he reinstate the ‘Mexico City policy’ on funding abortions overseas, many of Trump cabinet members participate in weekly Bible study together, Trump is trying to roll back the Johnson Amendment and signed an executive order to minimize it. There are more examples but the fact is, many Christians viewed the Obama Administration as anti-christian. https://www.lifesitenews.com/blogs/the-painfully-simple-reason-christians-voted-for-donald-trump-that-liberals

    “Many of my non-Christian and liberal friends find it bewildering that both evangelicals and Catholics voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump, a thrice-married casino operator infamous for his vulgar trash talk. I want to take a moment to explain to them directly why most Christians voted for him anyway. It’s simple, really: Christians voted for Donald Trump because they felt that the threat a de facto third Obama term posed to Christian communities was an existential one.”

  42. cmo
    January 17, 2018 at 5:47 pm

    Trump is low information and that is why his base is so vehemently loyal to him. I suspect the reason why Congressional Republicans are still supporting him is because at the end of the day he’ll sign whatever gets put in front of him. I think he and his cabinet are doing more harm than good. My concern is the damage Trump is doing internally without citizens realizing it. One example is with refugee resettlement. His lowering the refugee cap to 45,000 weakens the system of refugee resettlement that our country has developed. Also, the actual number of people coming in are projected to be far lower than that cap. This creates such strain on the system in place and in my eyes is a way to weaken and dismantle it. Resettlement agencies will have to close as they struggle to get the various kinds of help and support from the community. I am leading a co-sponsor team in my ward and we have already seen the effects as we have worked with a refugee resettlement agency helping a family that came in late fall. It has been eye opening for those of us to see the immediate consequence of what our President and his cabinet members are doing and none of it is of good report. Next year I would not be surprised if his chief of staff wins out and the cap is lowered to 15,000. Given the DACA fiasco and who was involved from his cabinet, I believe we are on that trajectory.

    On a side note in response the comment on Syria.
    Syria is a humanitarian disaster, nothing to celebrate there. ISIS was a major problem, but it was Assad who caused the real disasters in that war. His targeting of children, use of chemical weapons and installation of land mines against his own people is just incomprehensible. He is still in charge and Syrians are still suffering under his rule.

  43. January 17, 2018 at 5:57 pm

    While I’m no longer LDS, and I despise Trump as a human being. I cannot say I’m surprised most Mormons support him. As someone mentioned above, this is about identity politics and a hatred of the Left more than anything. Even Trump supporters who try to come across as reasonable and justified, cannot explain their support in rational terms without bashing some former Liberal politician like Obama or a Clinton.

  44. January 17, 2018 at 5:59 pm

    Though I will say that the best thing the Church could do to sway the disaffected would be to take a stand against Trump because of what he represents. It is nothing short of anti-Christ. Not that he IS the anti-Christ, but simply that he represents just about everything Christ taught against.

  45. el oso
    January 17, 2018 at 6:08 pm

    cmo,
    I think that Trump’s policy in Syria is a win vs. the disaster that you describe that happened under Obama.
    You indicate that there is major damage being done internally by the Trump administration and you cite the refugee cap and system generally. There is plenty of anti-Trump sentiment in media, but I have not heard much that I would classify as major damage. You say that the number of refugees coming into the country is dropping and that resettlement agencies are closing. That seems to be a logical response to the lower number of refugees. What are the detailed problems that you see?

  46. Bryan in VA
    January 17, 2018 at 7:45 pm

    @Kelvin Graham

    The Church didn’t take a stand against Obama. Why should it start with Trump? Obama is clearly not more virtuous than Trump.

  47. Brian
    January 17, 2018 at 8:49 pm

    Comments like “Obama is clearly not more virtues than Trump” show the current state of the GOP base’s blindness. At least Clark Goble shows some nuance in this regard. Unfortunately for conservatives like Clark, the base of the GOP is best displayed by comments like the one above. The GOP base elected Trump as their candidate. Sure one can vote against Hillary, but the right doesn’t seem to care that they voted in Trump in the primaries anymore, though there was initial consternation. Of course we’ve seen some push back on Trump and his policies (remember the Church making statements about refugees and religious freedom?) and there are a few moments of push-black in the party, see Senators Flake, McCain. But the base now largely has rejected those men. The GOP, whether some of the party want to accept it or not, it seems, is now taken over by those supportive of Trump who find it near impossible to view the vulgarities of Trump as somehow problematic.

  48. Bryan in VA
    January 17, 2018 at 10:01 pm

    @Brian

    OK, I’ll bite. What virtuous accomplishments would you attribute to Obama?

  49. January 17, 2018 at 10:07 pm

    Brian, is it possible that people also separate the moral character of the individual from the effects they expect to be produced by the person? Inferring that only moral people can produce outcomes we like is a bit of a stretch. This is doubly true when those outcomes are not limited to moral items (or things which are not interpreted morally). And triply true when when the morality in question is seen as tangential to the major concerns people have for a leadership role.

    Of course this may not be what is happening. It is entirely possible that many people view Trump’s level of morality as fundamentally similar to most any other politician. It just may be distributed differently. For instance, does everyone weight sexual proclivity the same as moral character traits like substance abstinence/control or in-group commitedness?

    There is more than one moral lens people use. Great moral awakenings (unfreezings) tend to put all this in limbo, making it really hard to nail down why people chose something that others see so differently.

    Pragmatics suggest there are a great deal of people who think differently from those who see Trump as an impossibly bad choice. Rationality suggests using this fact as a base for analysis rather than using “obvious morality” as a base. One view of group morality is that which the group sees as good. Obviously there is a large group who sees Trump or the things he can produce as “good” – regardless of how others feel. Attacking this without being able to understand what this “good” is seems hopelessly polarizing…

  50. Brian
    January 17, 2018 at 10:12 pm

    Bryan, okay, how about honoring a commitment to his wife? Really want to go here? Ridiculous. I’m not going to drag all of Trump’s immortals grotesqueries out here. You know them. Let’s not play stupid.

  51. Brian
    January 17, 2018 at 10:19 pm

    Chris, I have no idea what you’re arguing. Of course immoral people can intact good policies. Of course people view different acts as moral. This OP is talking about morals in the context of traditional Mormon values. And, as the OP suggests, Mormons are most likely looking at other factors than Trump’s personal moral uprightness (according to their traditions) when approving of him. I’m not arguing with that.

  52. January 17, 2018 at 10:49 pm

    Brian I’m simply saying that even within traditional mormonism there is a great deal of latitude in how to handle obviously imperfect secular political leaders. Traditional weightings of what type of sin is most egregious are now largely gone or, at least, are rapidly disappearing and easy to post facto rationalize away.

    All people really need to “be rational” is to have some plausible cognitive escape valves. Then it is only a matter of “well I like outcome A more than outcome B”. Anything more than this is a great overextension. In fact, I would suggest such overextension is the achilles heel of Rational Morality (aka Sam Harris styled rationality).

    In terms of Trump’s behaviour analyzing how mormon-righteous he is, while selfishlessly entertaining, is to a large extent pointless. The error bars are just enormous. Trump is a secular leader and will be analyzed by many Mormons as operating under a different set of rules. During a Great Moral Unfreezing, such as we’re now in, those rules are pretty chaotic and uncertain. The cross-sectional area between our religious world and secular world is similarly in upheaval. Thus I think the rational way to judge Trump and Trumpism is via a “plausible” burden of analysis rather than a “necessary” burden of analysis.

    Clark is assuming Mormons should analyze Trump according to Mormon standards. To that I would ask, Mormon standards for Mormons? Mormon standards for non-mormons? Mormon standards for non-mormons we hope act as mormon as they can?

    Thus the framing of the question is off and we see people assuming different standards. To make matters worse, the whole thing is colored by some pretty heavy biases that almost preclude rational conversation.

  53. January 18, 2018 at 12:05 am

    “What favors the group in this instance? Again, not interested in debating the point so I’ll not criticize it. I’m just earnestly curious.” – Clark

    I just lost a post closing windows, so, as a Canadian who really only finds the academic issues of your current social-dynamics interesting, and who is pretty apathetic toward individual’s Trump consternations, here’s some plausibly rational supports for Trump.

    SECULAR
    1. Immigration – It is fairly logical to consider immigration a global-warming level issue operating on decade rather that century level time-scale. Heavy immigration, especially during times of social decoherence is pretty existentially risky for societies. Social capital coherence levels have threshold phase change levels. While immigration certainly can be beneficial, worrying about immigration during a Great Moral Unfreezing, a severe intra-elite competition period, and a probe to a currently evolutionary unstable global world order, does seem plausibly rational.

    2. Economics – It is certainly possible to view Reagan-esque trickle down economics as a bad idea. but this does not mean it is irrational. A focus on national economics is plausibly rational. While Trump may be pulling the wool over people’s eyes, even pyramid schemes pay out for a while. The question then become over which time period we are analyzing things. Transformational logic also has to be factored into things here. This complicates forward prediction. Thus as long as something is plausible, it is hard to discount it as “irrational”.

    RELIGIOUS
    3. Abortion – Some people, like me, suspect Trump, if he is successful in other areas, may try and pull a deal on abortion. This is especially if there’s a Roe v Wade repeal. The medical logic upon which the 20week cut-off is based is definitely out-dated. The trend to European standards seems clear: earlier cut-off dates, say 15 or 16 weeks, but greater 1st trimester access. Whether this is a net good or bad is debatable. But ditching late mid-term abortions and pushing a pro-life win is a logical mormon position.

    4. Interventionist Isolationism – Getting involved in foreign wars isn’t an especially Mormon position. The Nephites usually waited until they were attacked. Hedging in China and Russia via Mid-east control greatly increases the US’ meta-ethnic frontier. This really increases the chance of sever conflict and internal strife (usually over what to do in conflicts). Trump seemed poised to do this much to the State Dept. and Intelligence Dept’s obvious consternations. Russia gate has obviously tempered the hand he can now play there. But it was and is rational from a mormon perspective to pull back internationally.

    5. Word of Wisdom – While I think it is an extremely minor issue, Trump’s focus on sobriety provides a cognitive escape valve for some. “He can’t be all bad if he is able to control himself here. How can he be completely out of control, but in control here”. This probably just allows ex post facto rationalization of political outcomes that people like and minimization of other personality traits that they don’t like.

    6. Transparent Governance – While I won’t say Trump makes logical cases for policies, this is probably the first time many people have really gotten a taste of what the sausage factory is like. His tweets make people feel as if they have a special sense of what is really happening. There is no diplomatic nuance whose verbiage needs decoded. I suspect Mormons resonate with the idea of flat governance and leaders that we “know”. I suspect his “connection” to common people really resonates with mormonism anti-hierarchicalness. I honestly suspect this is a major factor for many people. We don’t expect our local leaders to be perfect. I think the more we know them and the longer we’ve known them, the more leeway we give them. In this sense, I think Trumps 30+ years in the public make him a known factor. Thus, his morality is almost beside the point. He is expected. People deal with this fine. It is the uncertainty of unknown morals and uncertain intentions and intention changes that really freaks people out. Many people have no clue what to expect from him. To them Trump is fully irrational. To others, however, he is the most eminently knowable and predictable politician ever.

    7. Land of Promise – Trump’s nationalism may resonate with some members idea of physical stewardship. By that I obviously don’t mean his environmental protectionism :) Rather, its his MAGA theme. This society needs to be something unique and special. The strings of Globalism water this down because the constrain uniqueness and self-determination. The Nephites were a distinct people. Mormons are a distinct people. This country should be…. Here I think voice really matters and resonates. People don’t want to be told they have no distinct American culture and that there are no sacraments nor standards for entering into full status in this society. This breaks all sorts religious thinking and social contracts (at least for some).

    8. Exposure of Wickedness – Mormons have gotten quite good at living in Mammon while remaining distinct from it. Trump is bringing to light (or from another perspective, causing the emergence of) all sorts of cabals. I think a lot of members resonate with this outcome. Better to know than to guess. This exposure of internal enemies is obviously a big factor in some of the Book of Mormon stories.

    9. Empathy with Joseph Smith – While it is obvious that Trump is no moral prophet, I suspect some members see the hate, vitriol and derangement syndrome people had toward Joseph and, if they are already inclined towards Trump or his policies, to see the same thing happening to him. While Trump purposefully brought on this derangement syndrome to form his teflon persona, to some extent, so did Joseph… Mormons, I think really hate mob derangement. I suspect this is why our populace bifurcates around Trump. Either there is a mob after him, or he is creating a mob against others.

    I’ll end it here.

  54. January 18, 2018 at 12:54 am

    @Jane Smith

    I think the Clinton’s are corrupt to the core.

    I keep hearing things like this, but I can’t think of anything that Hillary Clinton has done which could be considered corrupt.

  55. Bryan in VA
    January 18, 2018 at 7:00 am

    @jader3rd

    For starters, Hillary kept state secrets on her personal computer at home, instead of in authorized storage devices. She also attacked those women with whom her husband had affairs.

  56. Clark Goble
    January 18, 2018 at 11:50 am

    Chris, in terms of what people do I certainly don’t disagree with you. Whether they should reason that way seems a different issue. More or less your argument ends up being that moral norms are in chaos and under a process of redefinition, so Mormons should accept that. While I agree morals are in such turmoil, I’m not sure it then follows that we should accept such a revaluation of all values. Some things are right and some things are wrong.

    Now of course in a practical level the issue of results versus upending moral law is a traditional issue. You saw that with defenders of Nixon, Clinton and many others in the past. Admittedly Nixon happened during an other period of rapid norm change. Several historians have noted that Nixon’s main problem was adopting the norms that Johnson, Kennedy, and even Eisenhower held to at a time when societal norms had radically shifted. John Farrell for instance makes that argument in his recent biography.

    Likewise in certain ways Trump reflects social norms from an earlier period. Those norms weren’t good even then (and even in the early 80’s were looked down upon if tacitly accepted). The blatant misogyny, sexual immorality, racism, and most significantly an overall disregard for social norms. However as you point out people might look past those if they think they’re getting something. The question I raised is more whether people are really getting much. Certainly people can self-justify their explanations. I remain convinced that Trump’s primary appeal is less policy achievements than his offending the right people. That is people aren’t really looking at his personal morality nor achievements but that he angers their out-group. (Liberals, elites, academics, whomever is the prime focus for that person) That this might actually undermine their policy goals doesn’t really bother them.

    I don’t want to say that any particular individual takes that stance. While I personally find such a view deeply problematic, I think it’s somewhat understandable during a period of rapid social norm change. I think the problem with the list you gave, is how much of it is projective: what people hope he’ll do. It doesn’t really seem to reflect political realities. Roe v. Wade isn’t getting overthrown. It’s extremely dubious Trump’s immigration goals will get enacted and more likely he’s just solidified opposition to them. And so forth. Instead what we’re left with is he angers liberals and the press and elites overreact attacking him in ways they feel are unfair. But that’s not much to build a Presidency on.

    Ultimately though I think I’m asking if there is a Mormon view of such things. At what point do the actions of even someone defending your group become too much? Even if public moral norms are in turmoil I’m not sure that justifies giving up our moral center. The ends don’t justify the means. The deep problem I had with Clinton was the perception that they did. It now seems that Mormons are embracing the same stance they condemned so often in years past. It’s no longer the choice of Clinton versus Trump. That’s now irrelevant. To focus on it is to avoid confronting the current situation.

    Now of course my original post was to note the reasons why giving positive job approval doesn’t mean accepting Trump’s actions. But I would hope Mormons would call a spade a spade and condemn what is wrong for all.

  57. January 18, 2018 at 12:01 pm

    As the technocracy of the system solidifies and ossifies, risky behaviour becomes increasingly rational.

    The “should” question is in turmoil because as mormons how we judge secular morality is really up in arms. While we can identify what our own mormon based morality should be, we can longer apply that to non-mormons. Is homosexuality alright or not? What about open marriages? If Trump’s sexual proclivity was tacitly accepted by Melania, is it alright? If intersectionalism is OK with the ends justifying the means, then should we judge Trump’s initiatives by the same standard, etc. This is why the application of mormon standards to non-mormons is not simple. We are rally at a loss at what factors now matter and require nudges rather than draconian pressure. Where are the leverage points?

    That is what we no longer “know” and can’t really predict.

    As you know, I think inter-group relations are an excellent lens from which to view this. How do we find leverage points which don’t invite unnecessary conflict nor produce eventual influential-isolation?

  58. Clark Goble
    January 18, 2018 at 1:36 pm

    That’s what I’m questioning though Chris. Is how we judge secular morality up in arms? There’s definitely places where we assign a difference due to covenants or knowledge. So we don’t expect non-Mormons to abstain from tea and coffee for instance. We don’t ascribe evilness to people who have limited pre-marital sex due to their level of understanding even though we think it wrong. Yet we’re apt to still consider alcohol abuse or heavy promiscuity as wrong. Has anything changed? It’s not clear to me that what at least appears to be an open eyed transactional based marriage like Trump’s is viewed any better today than it would have been in the 1990’s. We might justify not complaining due to some desired or perceived as possible ends. But that seems different from Mormon morality of non-Mormons being up in the air.

    I agree that intergroup relations are how to view this. However again I think morality and higher expectations cut against that. There’s what’s “rational” at what we might call a natural man level. Then there’s what’s rational for those who know better and have more demanded of them.

  59. January 18, 2018 at 2:41 pm

    “Yet we’re apt to still consider alcohol abuse or heavy promiscuity as wrong.” Clark

    I honestly don’t think we can even say that anymore. Many may not like it from a quick emotional response, but do we consider promiscuous homosexuals as immoral? Not so much. That aspect of morality is up in the air. For some people, the morality of open marriages are uncertainly too. Things that were once unconscionable may now merely be “don’t likes”. Some of these don’t likes may even reached the stage of “I don’t like pink, but no one is immoral for wearing it”. That may be hard to believe, but working with youth, it is surprising how much core morals have really changed.

    For better or worse, the moral unfreezing means many people see Trump in these terms. From their perspective, is he any worse than that social justice zealot down the road burning the flag? The unfreezing of morality means lots of people are free to weight basically any random item as a make-or-break. It may not be logically consistent, but what I’ve been saying is, in the degree of flux we have, across the board logical moral consistency is pretty insignificant. Lots of weightings are plausible. Things that used to engender cognitive dissonance just don’t. Why? Once you reach a threshold of complexity rational-logical heuristics get thrown out for the efficiency of ad hoc reasoning.

    What seems to have taken off as a major point of analysis is the conviction to which any individual or group stands behind their own expressed behaviour. You firmly believe open marriage is OK and you aren’t wavering. The kids I deal with tend to say – “hey, if that’s their value system, who am I to destroy their self-expression and limit diversity”. The key is that such behaviour can’t be oppressive in nature (mainly it can’t be oppressive to clearly identified minority groups).

    All it takes then is to view Trump or his demographic as oppressed and somehow lots of weird doors open up. Then justification only requires the tiniest of thread to weave its magic. Hence my comment that the way to analyze the Trump morality question is via the possibility of rationality rather than some consequentialist across the board weighting of net morality. During inter-group conflict, that just doesn’t make sense. In times of minimal group conflict it, however, does. We just aren’t there. That totally changes how one has to view “rationality” and hence how the dynamics are well analyzed.

    Perhaps then, the best question is, if things ever settle down, what might we as Mormons feel guilty about in hindsight?

    To that I would suggest
    -immigration restrictions
    -purposefully inflammatory rhetoric

    But its interesting to note how essential those two things are during inter-group conflict… They get rationalized away for good evolutionary reasons.

  60. January 18, 2018 at 2:54 pm

    “For starters, Hillary kept state secrets on her personal computer at home”

    No, that’s not true. You cannot point to a single “state secret” that she kept on her computer. This is brietbart level ignorance.

  61. Tim
    January 18, 2018 at 7:39 pm

    The immigration impact is huge. He’s already announced the end of DACA and the end of TPS–meaning that well over 1,000,000 people are losing their right to live in the U.S. That has a huge impact on these individuals’ families, including many LDS families. Additionally, he’s threatening to end what he calls “chain immigration” (the real name for it is family-based immigration). Family-based immigration allows for husbands to be united with wives, and for children to be united to parents. Ending it would be an enormous tragedy.

    Additionally, the fact that someone with his personality is president has allowed all sorts of unacceptable behaviors to become “acceptable” again. Open racism, bigotry, and vulgarity, of course–but also infidelity and a long laundry list of other behavior.

  62. Bryan in VA
    January 18, 2018 at 9:28 pm

    @Kevin Graham

    No, I can’t point to a single state secret because I don’t look for classified information on the internet.

    Here’s all you need to know about Hillary’s emails from the rightest of Right Wing institutions… The University of Pennsylvania: https://www.factcheck.org/2016/07/a-guide-to-clintons-emails/

    Note that 2,000 of her emails of her emails contained classified information.

  63. Bryan in VA
    January 18, 2018 at 9:42 pm

    @jader3rd

    Here’s one more for you. As Secretary of State, Hillary met with 154 people from outside the government. At least 85 of those had given money to the Clinton Foundation. Access for sale… See https://apnews.com/82df550e1ec646098b434f7d5771f625

  64. January 19, 2018 at 1:51 am

    @Bryan in VA.
    Okay, I see that and wonder: of the Venn diagram of those who met with Secretary Clinton and donated to the Clinton Foundation, does that remain with in character for that group? I imagine those meeting with a high level government official are probably those who are well off or in leadership positions. What type of people give to the Clinton Foundation? People who are well off or are in leadership positions. So the fact that there are people who did meet while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State is not surprising.
    How does giving to a charity make tor corruption anyway? Did Secretary Clinton have any control or responsibilities to the Clinton Foundation while she was serving in the government? No, she did not. She gave it up %100 to make sure that there would be possible veneer of any kind of conflict of interests. Donating to a top rated (if not tnee top rated) charity is a pretty odd way to engage in corruption, don’t you think? The donations can\should be audited by the IRS. The Clinton Foundation will have separate auditors making sure that the money is coming and going as outlined by whatever policies they have.
    Donating to the Clinton Foundation does not personally enrich Hillary Clinton in any way. So that’s really odd corruption.
    Even if there was some sort of “pay to play” scheme going on, there would be a paper trail of somebody saying that someone isn’t allowed to meet until there’s a donation. Given all of the FOIFA requests that conservatives have made trying to find such a document, you’d think they would have found one should it have happened.
    This isn’t like the Trump Charities, that Trump had to dissolve once it was discovered that all the Trump Charities did was take donations, to use to make purchases of Trump products\artwork which were then placed in Trump owned businesses.
    So after a little bit of thought, I don’t really see any heretofore known definitions of corruption.
    I can reason to be suspicious, but, meh.

  65. Jerry Schmidt
    January 19, 2018 at 6:26 am

    Well, there hasn’t been any ” cowed silence.” At least two or more sides in this dialogue have been expressing themselves quite freely, as it should be. I may paint with too wide a brush at times, it’s a habit I’m trying to overcome, but I can step back and appreciate the free exchange of ideas. It has been good to see ad hominem dismissal give way to argument/counter-argument.

  66. January 19, 2018 at 9:36 am

    Here’s perhaps an easier way to understand what I’m saying.

    I think individual judgments about Trump’s morality are fine. Where things break down is when that analysis is extended / projected onto other people’s own personal judgments. Thus I am saying it has now become problematic to definitively say groups should judge others a certain way.

    This does not imply our Mormon group is no longer able to maintain internal norms and standards. But only that the interpretation of their projection onto the way people judge is now in flux.

    Here’s an example. Can we say members who consider non-member homosexuality as moral are themselves socially immoral from a mormon perspective? I believe individuals can judge behaviour done by external actors in a wide variety of ways. Once we say our group can only consider the actions of others “this way”, you run into problems. Are we condemning the actions or the reasons for those actions. Condemning the actions is context independent. Considering the reasons for those actions brings in context. I think in times of moral unfreezing context must always be considered.

    Thus I think comments like Tim’s,

    “Additionally, the fact that someone with his personality is president has allowed all sorts of unacceptable behaviors to become “acceptable” again. Open racism, bigotry, and vulgarity, of course–but also infidelity and a long laundry list of other behavior.”

    are fine from an individual perspective but are naive when they are assumed to constrain what other people should feel and judge. Forcing such projections are likely to discount the contextual analysis of 61% of mormons. Forcing certain context free judgments tends to come across as authoritarianly naive progressive puritanism. Clark, as you may remember from Beneke’s book on the emergence of religious pluralism, context free judgements are what sects devolve into during Great Awakenings (denomination X’s actions are always wrong, therefore even identifying with that group is wrong). This occurs before people realize this is bunk and come to terms with the idea that people with all sorts of perspectives are “moral”, they’re just taking different paths to pro-social behaviour.

    This doesn’t of course imply all roads are equal. Some are obviously more efficient and effective than others. But assuming efficient is context independent is a bit of a stretch. At a population level you may be able to make probabilistic arguments, but again the issue I raised is judgments crossing the micro-macro divide.

  67. Brian
    January 19, 2018 at 11:49 am

    Interesting thoughts throughout, but my most pressing question raised by all of this back-and-forth is this: is the Chris/Clark Goble discussion brotherly/familial banter, or just same last-name coincidence? :)

  68. Clark
    January 19, 2018 at 12:29 pm

    Chris, as you know from our other discussions I don’t think we disagree that much. I think more or less what you’re getting at is that public norms are in flux, Mormons are part of both the Mormon sphere and other spheres including the broad political one. This affects their views of norms. Where I disagree is that I think for most (but definitely not all) Mormon norms dominate. Further, while Mormon norms are under tension, particularly by public norms, I think that ultimately the only norms really in question are in question for different reasons.

    The main Mormon norm facing tension is, as you note, homosexuality. But while that’s affected by the chaos of secular public norms the bigger issue seems to be an inherent conflict within Mormon norms quite independent of secular norms. We have the norm of no sex before marriage. We have the norm of God not asking us to do something we can’t do. We have the norm of being married. If for at least a significant group homosexual attraction is not changeable by will alone then those values are in conflict. Now it’s aggravated by there now being a public option of marriage that seems to offer a solution except that it runs up against the norm of marriage just being between opposite sexes. I think it’s that inherent tension that’s the issue.

    The secondary Mormon norm under tension is women’s power within the community as well as role models. However I think that’s far less of an issue further that seems one that at least to a degree can be dealt with in a fashion the homosexual issue can’t. (Giving the General Relief Society board and Ward Relief Society Presidents more prominent and influence)

    The problem with Trump largely has nothing to do with those two issues except to the degree there’s a fairly broad general American backlash over the recent social changes of the last 15 years in broad society. Yet most of the criticisms of Trump aren’t related to this at all nor do they seem to be tied to any Mormon norm under tension.

  69. Clark
    January 19, 2018 at 12:41 pm

    Brian, we’re brothers. He’s the smarter one. Plus as you can tell from his language it’s related to his own discipline of group dynamics and change.

    Jader, I think HRC’s corruption has been highly exaggerated – especially compared to the blatant easy to demonstrate corruption of Trump. However she’s not exactly as clean as some wish to portray her either. I think any more normal Democratic candidate including ones Republicans dislike such as Warren would have easily beat Trump. More extreme candidates like Bernie might be harder to predict although I think he’d win too.

    As someone who had a security clearance though I will say that if I’d handled my secure email the way HRC did I’d have immediately been fired and very likely have faced charges.

    With regards to the Clinton foundation I’m not sure it’s fair to say it doesn’t enrich the Clintons at all. A common feature of foundations (and this is just as true of Trump’s far more corrupt foundations) is that you can expense trips and many other things through the foundation. However the overhead wasn’t egregious – 3rd parties found 89% went to charity rather than overhead – and conservative media in particular exaggerated things horribly.

    Overall though whether you think the Clintons were treated fairly or not, they had a long established perception among the public. Trump was able to leverage that. I still don’t understand why Democrats thought nominating her was a good idea. Most of what happened was pretty predictable. She won the nomination mainly because she’d ensured she’d have no serious challengers. Then someone like Bernie still did far better than he should have because even Democrats were uncomfortable with her. Had Republicans nominated someone other than Trump they’d likely have won easily. But Republican primary voters upset at establishment Republicans picked Cruz and Trump as their two favorites. (Admittedly even Jeb! had big issues due to his connection with his brother – but I suspect he’d have done much better than Trump)

  70. January 19, 2018 at 7:33 pm

    Clark, I agree with your points (except who is smarter).

    I think the flux of our mormon norms concerning non-mormon norms are the major issue around resolving the Trump morality issue.

    But going along with your thread of mormon internal flux areas relevant to Trumpism…

    1. Fake news & hyperbole in the public sphere
    If it is good for the goose it is good for the gander. After all, in politics is it Truth or (neo-Marxist) salesmanship balance mormons are after? I think this moral position in mormonism is increasing in uncertainty. Islam has a similar tension in their internal statements and their external statements. Our history has more of those tensions than some realize.

    2. Judgment on outcomes vs. intentions
    As per Trolley problems, this really distinguishes how “liberals” and “conservatives” moralize. I suspect this is in big flux in the mormon community. There was a recent post on this here at T&S, so not much more needs said. This question does have a big impact on how you look at Trump. I think it is the major lens for Trumpism. People who are gambling on outcomes are worrying little about intentional purity. Others are heavily biased toward intentional assessments. Our societal moral unfreezing has to be having some major effects here. But, at this point, inside mormonism I suspect it mainly deals with the severity of the sin, not whether or not something is a sin.

    3. Marriage
    I think even within the mormon community we don’t judge divorce as harshly as we once did. I suspect many people see divorce in the non-mormon community as fairly probably. And, the logic might go, if it is fairly probable, does it really make a difference if the papers are signed before other relationships happen? While we may maintain a covenant type approach, I think we apply it less to others.

    4. Language
    Swear words are changing. Rather than dealing with sex, they now usually deal with race. But I suspect there is a bifurcation here, even within mormonism. If frank talk about sex is alright, what about frank talk of race (as you might hear in Europe)? Such expressions have been sacrilized by some and judged common by others. The talk/language itslef doesn’t necessarily make one racist or not, so I suspect judgements on Trump here are a more than a little bit….non-rational. Though I certainly agree they are offensive to many

    5. False offence
    I hate the term snowflake, but I don’t know how else to talk about hyper-sensitivity and its blowback. I think mormons in general have very traditional perspectives which malign “crying wolf”. I think this morality is bifurcating: some members are heavily biasing toward victims as the arbiters of offense, while some are heavily biasing to a “toughen up”, inoculation position. Thus Trump really splits the population with his affect.

    I don’t think Trump’s racism charges represent much of a moral flux issue. I think people are, rationally, split on whether or not he is classically racism, structurally racist, or just indifferent.

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