They’re not wrong

They’re not wrong. Not about everything.

I disagree with their choice of candidate. What they want would have—has had—disastrous results, but that doesn’t mean they’re entirely wrong.

And they’re not wrong only in the sense that everybody is entitled to their own opinion, although that’s true. Everybody can vote and campaign for the candidate of their choice, and there is no Master Election Supervisor who decides which reasons for voting are rational and appropriate and which aren’t. You can pull the lever for whomever you choose for any reason you want, and you don’t have to justify your choice to anyone, before or after. That’s just how democracy works.

And I don’t think their choice is irrational. Using a multi-dimensional utility function, we all get to choose how we weight the issues and various other factors, and if the factors you weight most highly lead you to vote Republican, that’s your call. I think that choice is already causing grievous harm to the country, but again, there’s no Master Ballot Overseer to make sure everyone is focusing on the correct issues before voting. It’s a democracy, etc., etc.

And I don’t think their issues are unimportant, at least not all of them. Looking at the “LDS for Trump” page, I don’t see much of a platform, but they mention a few issues. I’m not sure who “school-choice reform” is meant to appeal to. It seems like kind of a niche issue that comes up basically never in any church setting. The church doesn’t really get animated about “pro-life issues,” but it has at least taken a definite stand on abortion. It’s not one of the issues I care most about, but those who do care deeply certainly have some reasonable points. I simply don’t care about the premature expulsion of a blastocyst, but abortion takes place on a sliding scale between insignificance and horror, and I’m disturbed by the arguments for permitting late-term abortion—a euphemism for dismembering babies otherwise capable of life—in any circumstances. “It’s only a few hundred cases a year” is no more persuasive than it is for school shootings. The policies of each party affect the world in many ways, and I think the overall toll of maimed, starving, or otherwise harmed children and other people will be much lower with a Democratic president in office, but that doesn’t make all their issues vacuous. Voting for any candidate requires making compromises on issues of serious importance, and I will certainly make my own compromises (but this does not make both candidates in any sense a morally equivalent choice).

And I don’t think “LDS for Trump” is wrong to highlight concerns about religious freedom. There are certainly segments of society that disdain them and other traditional  believers in ways that impact their lives, and voting, campaigning, and politicking in all its forms is the correct way for citizens to seek remedies to indignities they have suffered.

And the members of “LDS for Trump” have correctly understood something crucial about how our government works today. Relations between citizens of different views are rarely a matter of legislative deal-making and compromise. Instead, the important decisions about what views are worthy of consideration and which can be banned from the public sphere are decided with Solomon-like presumption by judges. What’s the matter with Kansas? Kansans figured out, correctly, that being treated with dignity was more important than money or even health. People vote against their pocketbook because they’re voting for something even more basic: for being accorded the dignity due to a fellow citizen. And the key to that isn’t passing laws, unfortunately, but packing the courts.

So they’re not wrong about everything, even as their choices are destroying the country we live in. Liberal democracy, as others have said, is a hill worth dying on, but liberal democracy gives us a limited set of tools to work with: Argument. Persuasion. Discussion. Compromise. Free and fair elections. A free press and an informed citizenry. Unbiased expertise and equal application of the law.

And above all, empathy. It should be possible to reach workable agreements and compromises acceptable to most citizens on any issue, including abortion. Western Europe’s ban after 16 weeks in the context of comprehensive public and maternal health? Yes, I’ll gladly take that compromise. But compromise requires the admission that the other side is fundamentally legitimate. It means setting aside fantasies of one-sided political triumph and accepting legislative deal-making. And even persuasion is more effective if it begins by acknowledging the reality of political opponents’ concerns.

As fellow citizens, we owe the people who will vote for the opposing candidate our empathy. This is doubly true of “LDS for Trump,” whose burdens we have presumably covenanted to bear (but not: to affirm their fantasies).

So consider this a prelude of empathy to whatever else gets said in this election season where the choice between right and wrong is clear, the stakes are high, and the consequences for the fabric of our communities, whether political or religious, will be severe.

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