Time for a Mormon Political Party?

There has been a great series of posts at Mirror of Justice about whether Catholics should create, or demand, their own political party — one that incorporates Catholic ideas and rejects the baggage that both major parties bring to the Catholic voter’s table. The discussion starts here with a discussion of Catholic politics and kicks into high gear with Mark Sargent’s call for a new party. The lengthy follow-up posts include Rick Garnett’s doubts; Rob Vischer’s suggestions for clarification; Mark’s revised statements; and further questions and discussion from Michael Scaperlanda, Stephen Bainbridge, and Vince Rougeau.

It’s a fascinating idea, and of course one that is easy to translate into terms I’m more familiar with. Let’s ask the question — is it time for a new Mormon political party?

Many aspects of both political parties are likely to be deeply unsatisfying to a Mormon voter. (As one voter notes, “I can hardly imagine feeling less inspired by a presidential election.”)

We have a history of political activism. When the major parties were unsatisfactory, Joseph Smith himself ran for president. His platform then was abolitionist, expansionist, and of course Mormon-friendly.

What would a Mormon political party look like today? Well, there are many areas where church members disagree politically. But in at least a few areas, the basic contours are relatively clear. A Mormon party would:

-Oppose homosexual marriage, through constitutional amendment.
-Oppose elective abortion.
-Not oppose stem-cell research at this time.
-Support strong associational rights of private groups.
-Support strong First Amendment rights.
-Probably take a moderate position on immigration.

Other positions might be:

-Possible support for school vouchers.
-Possible support for the Iraq war.
-Possible support for the death penalty.

But those are merely some issues that are considered important by the current parties in the existing political atmosphere. What might a Mormon party do to advance new ideas in the political debate?

-Advance legislation allowing expedited visa issuance for missionaries and for temple trips.
-Advance legislation that would strengthen families.
-Greatly increase humanitarian aid.
-Greatly increase resources for education.
-And maybe even bring back consecration, in small groups and communities.

This is a relatively quick list, and I’m sure I’m leaving out a lot. What do others think? Is there a place for a Mormon political party?

41 comments for “Time for a Mormon Political Party?

  1. October 5, 2004 at 11:48 am

    Whoa… your filtering service just blocked a comment that seemed completely legitimate.

  2. Kaimi
    October 5, 2004 at 11:51 am

    It did? e-mail me the text (or IM it to me) — I’ll see what the issue is.

  3. October 5, 2004 at 11:54 am

    I’m trying … gmail is giving me problems right now too so I’m having a bit of trouble. I’m guessing the problem is word in my comment about “oppose elective abortion” where I mention some possible exceptions. The probable problem word starts with “i” and ends in “t” (five letters). Maybe I’ll just remove that line from the comment for now.

  4. October 5, 2004 at 11:55 am

    I’d prefer to see a Mormon nation-state with a lot of Mormon political parties than a single Mormon political party in a non-Mormon nation-state.

    But for now (and the conceivable future) I’m very content to be a United States citizen.

    I have some fairly predictable editorial thoughts on the “oppose elective abortion” line of this post …

  5. Kaimi
    October 5, 2004 at 11:56 am

    Ahh, that one might be on our block list. WordPress handles blocking differently than MT, so it’s taking some tweaking.

    By the way, the word that triggers the block should be displayed on the block page.

  6. Kaimi
    October 5, 2004 at 12:00 pm

    Thanks for the heads-up danithew. I’ve removed the general block on the word “incest” so you’re free to use it in a comment now.

  7. Geoff B
    October 5, 2004 at 12:02 pm

    We’re unlikely to see a Mormon political party or a Catholic political party anytime soon. For better or worse, the Republicans are consolidating their position as a Mormon political party, and more and more Catholics are turning that way also (although that could easily change and it might be temporary). However, my bet for the Republican presidential candidate in 2008 is Mitt Romney, so we might see lots of claims that it’s a Mormon party after all.

  8. October 5, 2004 at 12:05 pm

    Kaimi, I’d be willing to see all the non-post related comments here (including this one) deleted. What’s T&S policy on that sort of thing?

  9. Bryce I
    October 5, 2004 at 12:07 pm

    Dan, but then you’d be taking away valuable comments from Kaimi’s post, thus reducing its value to his self-esteem.

    /adding more deadwood to the thread

  10. Frank McIntyre
    October 5, 2004 at 12:11 pm

    I’m all for Kaimi having high self esteem. He deserves it after ressurecting T&S from the MT crash.

  11. October 5, 2004 at 12:11 pm

    Kaimi,

    You wrote that a Mormon political party would “Oppose elective abortion” but I think it’s important to add the exceptions where a Mormon political party would permit elective abortions (incest, rape, health of the mother concerns, etc.).

  12. Bryce I
    October 5, 2004 at 12:13 pm

    I think it’s clear from discussions here that it would be difficult to come up with a reasonably comprehensive party platform that the Times and Seasons community could all get on board with (although I suppose what Kaimi is suggesting is that it only need be more palatable than the current choices). I think it’s also clear that a Mormon party is not in the interests of the Church. The world of political discourse operates on a much different level than the world of religious discourse. Providing our enemies with a target in the political world would open us up to all kinds of attacks that would otherwise be frowned upon by American society.

  13. October 5, 2004 at 12:16 pm

    Like Bryce, I think there would be a lot of room for Mormons to disagree on a wide variety of issues (if not everything). I really like the idea that under the Mormon banner there’s plenty of room for disagreement on political matters.

    I’m Daniel Bartholomew and I approve of this message.

  14. Bryce I
    October 5, 2004 at 12:18 pm

    Actually, Frank, the cynic in me suspects that Kaimi is posting this topic as a front for a general free-for-all, pick your favorite controversial political hot topic discussion that will give rise to the first discussion thread with over 1000 comments.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Could be fun.

    And I agree that Kaimi deserves mad props (can I say that without sounding stupid?) for all the work on the site.

  15. Bryce I
    October 5, 2004 at 12:25 pm

    In the spirit of the orthodoxy/orthopraxy discussion a bit, what is meant here by “Mormon party”? Do you mean a party whose platform supports core Mormon beliefs? Or a party that would be likely to gain the support of a large number of Mormon voters?

    As an example of the difference, I would imagine that a Mormon party, in accordance with Church teaching, might want to enact legislation and policies designed to make it easier for a parent, specifically the mother, to stay at home with her children while they were young. However, I can also imagine that such a plank in the party platform might not receive broad support from the Church membership given the possible financial implications for a significant number of LDS families (two-income families would be penalized).

  16. Jim Richins
    October 5, 2004 at 12:33 pm

    There would also be a lot of controversy on “Strong First Amendment” rights. That phrase implies legal protection for pornography, which CLEARLY (after Saturday night) could not at all be a part of a Mormon political party.

    Besides, suppose there was a “Mormo-crat” party. Would association with the Mormo-crats become a Temple interview question? If I broke party lines to vote Republican (go Bush!!), would I need to schedule an interview with the Bishop?

  17. John H
    October 5, 2004 at 12:35 pm

    Kaimi,

    The Mormon party with the platform you outlined seems like another way to alienate a certain segment (small though we may be) of the Church. I wouldn’t support much of what you suggested above, but I can still go to Church and fit in reasonably well, despite opposition to the death penalty, etc.

    This would be a really harsh way of drawing the line in the sand for some of us. It would also signal to the rest of the world that if you’re a Mormon, you *have* to believe these things (even if you don’t).

  18. October 5, 2004 at 12:38 pm

    “is it time for a new Mormon political party”

    Absolutely not. We do not need one religion dictating the social policies of all other demographic groups.

  19. October 5, 2004 at 12:40 pm

    It’s been kind of fun living in a largely LDS community during this election process because I’ve seen a decent share of interactions between Mormons who are Democrats vs. a larger share of predictably conservative Republican Mormons. I found it amusing to observe a more conservative LDS guy express shock/surprise/dismay that another LDS member-neighbor (not me) could have a Kerry campaign sticker on his car and a Scott Matheson billboard up in his window. Seeing that register with someone was almost enough to make me turn Democrat right on the spot.

    It’s incredibly bizarre to me that people can really think they belong to the one-true-party. :)

  20. Kaimi
    October 5, 2004 at 12:49 pm

    I should probably be more clear about what I mean on the categories of issues.

    Some of the issues are tied to church statements. So positions on abortion or gay marriage are probably locked in.

    Others are my own tea-leaf-reading of general statements and attitudes. I think that many church leaders are not opposed to the death penalty; early church statements supported the detah penalty (blood atonement); combined, this gives a possibility that a Mormon party would support the death penalty. But that is by no means as locked-in as positions on abortion, for instance.

  21. Frank McIntyre
    October 5, 2004 at 12:53 pm

    Kaimi,

    When you say “bring back consecration”, what exactly do you mean? Do you mean setting up legal institutions that allow for the needed group ownership or something along these lines?

  22. October 5, 2004 at 1:09 pm

    I nominate Bryce as the only true and living Presidential Candidate with whom… well, you know.

  23. Julie in Austin
    October 5, 2004 at 1:33 pm

    “And I want to bear my testimony, that I know the Mormocrats are true . . .”

    I think a Mo political party is a really bad idea. But, just as an intellectual exercise, it should adopt the following:

    (1) allow social security credits for time spent out of the workforce raising families

    (2) penalize parents who abandon their families in a serious financial way (i.e., today, most women have a serious drop in lifestyle after a divorce, this position would ensure that that wouldn’t happen). (I’m feeling particularly bitter about this at this moment because a friend with two small children was recently left high and dry by her cad of a husband.)

    (3) Increase penalties for child, spousal, and sexual abuse.

    That’s just off the top of my head.

  24. Mark B
    October 5, 2004 at 1:47 pm

    Yeccchh! (To steal a line from Alfred E. Newman.

    I remember the good old days, when we could criticize Dirty Uncle Ernie Wilkinson without feeling guilty for criticizing one of “the Brethren.” Now we can’t criticize Merrill Bateman and his running of BYU (E. Samuelson has been around for too short a time for me to know much about what he’s up to) without wondering how that is consistent with sustaining the brethren.

    Can you imagine if this were transferred to the political sphere? If the Republican party in Utah is a close analog to what a Mormon political party would be, I’d have to move to Canada. (See the Uchtdorf-Bednar post and comments.)

  25. Bill
    October 5, 2004 at 1:57 pm

    It was precisely the separation of church and state so carefully enacted by the founders that allowed the conditions for the church to come into existence in the first place. Why would we possibly want to turn our back on the Enlightenment, and go in the direction of the Islamic republics?

  26. October 5, 2004 at 2:05 pm

    Bill, I might agree with you on your main point (separation of church and state is great). But the idea that Mormondom would go in the same direction as the Islamic Republics sounds like a bit much.

    I can imagine that Mormon political bureaucracy could certainly prove to be irritating in certain aspects (I’m remembering my BYU experience). But I sincerely hope it would not create the degree of coercion and misogynistic practices that are put in place by those who seek to implement sharia (in Saudi Arabia, Iran, etc.).

    It’s the difference between pressuring men and women to wear knee-length shorts in public as opposed to forcing women to wear an abaya or a burka in public. Just a slight difference mind you:!:

  27. Bill
    October 5, 2004 at 2:24 pm

    I figured the reference would be provocative, but it’s just to point out that theocratic regimes in general, whether benign or not, have not been very successful. The West mostly dispensed with them hundreds of years ago. I, for one, prefer living in the modern world.

  28. ed
    October 5, 2004 at 3:41 pm

    Mark B.: “I remember the good old days, when we could criticize Dirty Uncle Ernie Wilkinson without feeling guilty for criticizing one of “the Brethren.â€? Now we can’t criticize Merrill Bateman and his running of BYU… without wondering how that is consistent with sustaining the brethren.”

    This is a pretty interesting point. How far does our duty to “sustain our leaders” go when ecclesiastical authority bleeds into the more secular realm? Was it wrong to criticize Bateman just because he was a GA? Or was it just as wrong to criticize Pres. Wilkinson? When is right or wrong to criticize any church employee, or any policy of a church controlled institution?

  29. Dustin
    October 5, 2004 at 5:24 pm

    I don’t think that criticizing on a more secular point of church practice (such as the rearrangement of the BYU athletic program) constitutes not “sustaining the brethren”. I personally believe that there’s a limit to inspiration on such points. It’s not like criticizing the Brethren for not allowing women in the priesthood, or even like being critical of the Church’s new stance on a gay marriage ammendment.

  30. Mark B
    October 5, 2004 at 5:50 pm

    You mean we can criticize BYU’s maintenance of those morally and educationally corrupt big-time football and basketball programs without losing our temple recommends? Whew, what a relief!

  31. Adam Greenwood
    October 5, 2004 at 6:22 pm

    What’s wrong with the old Mormon political party? :)

  32. October 5, 2004 at 11:43 pm

    What would happen if someone in your Bishopric was running under this parties banner and you openly supported another? The stress it could cause would be a large problem in any ward.
    I think a member based party would be a bad idea.

    We should understand that there is a seperation in the issues here. If this party takes control in a state(example Democrats in California). Would we be living under a Mormon party rule or a Mormon doctrine rule. That is where I would difer in support. Mormon party rule is almost Utah today(if I am correct). Most party officers are members and it does influence them. Mormon doctrine rule would be BYU ethics rules on dress, social acts, and even living quarters, in our houses. The diference is how far would the party want to change things to their own view if in power. The latter example I would be leary of..

  33. Jim F.
    October 6, 2004 at 12:36 am

    Is there any reason that a political party must run candidates? Why couldn’t there be a political party whose purpose was to further the interest of its members without necessarily running anyone for office? I’m not arguing that there should be a Mormon party. I don’t know what I think of that idea. I’m just pointing out that a genuine party does more than run candidates for office and that doing so isn’t necessary for a party to be a party.

  34. Larry
    October 6, 2004 at 12:52 am

    Wouldn’t it be a think tank or institute with supporters if it didn’t run candidates? Isn’t that what Cleon Skousen tried with the Freeman Institute?

  35. Jettboy
    October 6, 2004 at 1:02 am

    “I figured the reference would be provocative, but it’s just to point out that theocratic regimes in general, whether benign or not, have not been very successful. The West mostly dispensed with them hundreds of years ago. I, for one, prefer living in the modern world.”

    I had to laugh at this as Theological Regimes have outlasted Democracies for thousands of years. The longest Democracy to ever exist is the United States of America for a little over 200 years. The longest Theocracy to ever exist was Egypt for a little over a thousand years. France, England, Spain, and all the Muslim nations have existed for perhaps close to 500 years. That is, of course, if you count the length of time in power (or at least the main faith, if not the same authorities) as a sign of success.

    Even then, remember that the millenium will essentially be a Theocracy albeit run directly (rather than indirectly) by Jesus Christ as oversear.

  36. Jim F.
    October 6, 2004 at 1:04 am

    A party is, among other things, a side in a discussion or dispute. I assume that is where our use of the word in the term “political party” came from. It also means a group of persons with a common purpose, often temporary. That, too, seems relevant. Either of those meanings would describe well a group that seeks to further the interests of its members. Though we are accustomed to thinking of political parties as running candidates, there’s no reason they have to do so.

  37. Jettboy
    October 6, 2004 at 1:07 am

    I mean “France, England, Spain when controlled by Priests and the Muslim nations that still exist as such have or had existed for perhaps close to 500 years.” By the way, I have no doubt that Iraq and Afganastan — like Turkey (?) — will be a Democratic Theocracy.

  38. October 6, 2004 at 1:16 am

    Is there any reason that a political party must run candidates?

    Nope. They are called political action committees(?). PAC’s. They can be faith based, and many are.

  39. ed
    October 6, 2004 at 10:51 am

    Dustin says: “I don’t think that criticizing on a more secular point of church practice (such as the rearrangement of the BYU athletic program) constitutes not “sustaining the brethren”. I personally believe that there’s a limit to inspiration on such points. It’s not like criticizing the Brethren for not allowing women in the priesthood, or even like being critical of the Church’s new stance on a gay marriage ammendment. ”

    I don’t really understand the distinction here. What is the crucial difference between a decision to reorganize the athletic department and the decision to support the gay marriage amendment? And how do we draw the line in these and other cases? Is it ok to criticize church leaders about BYU athletics? What else might it be ok to criticize them about? You may suppose that their decisions about BYU athletics fall beyond the “limit to inspiration,” but someone else might just as well believe that their position on the gay marriage amendment is not inspired either. I suppose there are many on this board who don’t believe that the policy on blacks and the priesthood was inspired…was it ok to criticize that?

  40. Larry
    October 7, 2004 at 12:28 am

    Jim F.
    I have to concede to your point. There is an interesting article on Frontpage Magazine that talks about the “Shadow Party” that is influencing the left but running no candidates.

  41. October 7, 2004 at 12:09 pm

    Bryce has informed me that just signing my comments “Nathan” doesn’t cut it. See my solution.

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