Toolkit for Commies

On my last post I got this comment from the lovely Lars:

Lars said...[reply]
So this is totally not related to this post...I'm a long time stalker of your blog. Years ago (i think it was the previous presidential election) you wrote a post about how you managed to be mormon and democrat at the same time. I loved the way you wrote it. I'm not liberal, but am continually having to defend friends and family members who are, to my very ULTRA conservative in-laws. would you be willing to link that post, so I can give her well written summary of why it is totally ok to be Mormon and liberal and it's actually not against the church and you will not be sent to outer darkness because of it? Thanks!

I am absolutely going to do my best to help her out here. The post in question is Why I am Glad Today is Election Day from 2008. Rereading it now, I still agree with my four-years-ago self, and I absolutely loved re-reading the thoughtful, civil, fabulous discussion that happened afterwards in the comments section. It is a strengthening tonic against, say, the stuff you are probably seeing on Facebook every day if you aren't hiding most people's status updates.

Because yay, we are now wrapping up another nasty election where, to up the stakes even further, the Republican candidate is also a Mormon. So if you vote Democrat as an LDS person you are being extra, extra evil. I do think, though, that maybe in the last four years things have gotten a bit . . . better? Maybe? Is that just me? The LDS Democrats seem a bit more loud and proud, perhaps. Or maybe it's that I've switched wards recently to one where a member of the Relief Society actually got up and apologized for making a brief, negative political comment the previous week. I already loved this sweet woman, and now I love her even more and feel like my ward is super true, y'all.

Also? In the last four years I became even more of a crazy feminist and changed my political affiliation from Independent to Democrat. BOOM. (And that is the sound of my poor father clutching his left arm and falling over while simultaneously vomiting in his mouth a little bit. Love you, Dad!)

My basic points in the Election Day post of 2008 were these:

1. You can be LDS and be a Democrat. (Updated note: you can also be a communist, a socialist, vote for the Labour party, or be in whatever other parties exist in all the other countries of the world where there are LDS congregations. But if there is a party that is for puppy killing, you can't be in that one. Sorry. There are limits.)

2. Just like there is room for other kinds of diversity within the members of the LDS faith, there should be room for diversity of political thought.

3. Partisan imbalance is a bad thing and the leaders of the LDS church are actually pretty concerned about that.

4. Ultimately, it's nobody's darn business who you vote for, and that kind of discussion does not belong at church. We might as well start talking salaries, birth control, and preferred bedroom activities (like knitting) while we're at it. (See: other things that are personal and don't belong in Sunday School.)

Of course, I'm just one person mouthing off on the Interwebs. Here are some links to a few sources that are probably more useful. The trouble, is, though, that we generally only want to hear what we want to hear. So you may not (read: won't) be able to change anyone's mind, but you can for sure try.

This is really the best thing to show people who are willing to have a reasonable conversation with you. In 1998, Elder Marlin K. Jensen was asked by church officials to speak to the Salt Lake Tribune about the recent perception of the LDS church as a one-party church. (Utah did not start to become an overwhelmingly red state until the 1970s.) I quote him in my previous post, and you can read a transcript of the interview here. He expresses his (and the church leadership's) concerns about the political imbalance in the Intermountain West--that it's "not healthy" and "not in our best interest."

Why I'm a Mormon Democrat by Boyd Peterson, September 2009

Here is a September 2012 article in the Salt Lake Tribune about the national gathering of LDS Democrats just before the party's convention in Charlotte. During the meeting, Democratic Senate candidate Scott Howell related a conversation he had with the late President Hinckley after Howell had been offered a leadership position if he would switch over to the Republican party. According to Howell, President Hinckley said to him, "Young man, you will not join that Republican party. We need good men and women in both parties. We are not a Republican church."

LDS Democratic Caucus webpage


Happy Reading!

I would like to poll the collective a bit, here. Am I on crack for thinking that maybe things have gotten a little bit better on the "you must vote this one certain way otherwise you do not have a testimony" front? Have we become a bit more tolerant and less into each other's business? Maybe I've just been spending too much time reading Joanna Brooks and feeling all optimistic, I don't even know. Does anyone else have any feelings or experiences about that? Are those of you on the moderate-to-liberal end of the spectrum feeling pressure to (or the assumption that you will) vote for Mitt Romney simply because he is Republican and/or because he's LDS?

My sister Spitfire says she knows more people now from Utah who are Democrats, including several of the missionaries she served with, so she thinks it's more acceptable now in Utah to be a Democrat. She wants me to know, though, that in the Midwest it is still not okay to be a Democrat, no matter what religion you are. She said they would routinely have this conversation while knocking on doors:

Midwest resident: Well, I'm not interested in hearing what you have to say, but . . . [whispered] I'm voting for Mitt!

Spitfire & Companion. Um . . . okay. How about we share with you a bit more about what Mitt really believes, then!


Anyway, I can't wait to see your comments, and just think! In 72 hours the 2012 election will be over, and then we will have five whole minutes before the 2016 race kicks off.


Cooldad said... [reply]

I am having difficulty posting this comment because I am left handed and my left arm is still numb after reading this post. Of course it is okay for LDS member to be Democrat. Remember all libs vote on Wednesday.

Ana said... [reply]

FIVE minutes! LOVE it!!!

Señora H-B said... [reply]

Brilliant, brilliant post. I was recently discussing the need for balance in government with some internet friends. I think that this is so crucial. I do feel like my vote will just be canceling out my rabidly Republican* brother-in-law's vote. I am much more interested in our local elections this year because we are home to one of the now famously-mouthy-about-reproductive-issues national legislative candidates. I do not want him making decisions for me. I'll tell you that.

Truth be told, I just can't wait for the "Barack Obama is the devil" and "Mitt Romney is Satan" ads.

Señora H-B said... [reply]

GAH! I meant to say that "I just can't wait for the "Barack Obama is the devil" and "Mitt Romney is Satan" ads to be over.

Amanda said... [reply]

I've felt like an outsider as a Mormon democrat, but no one has ever made me feel unacceptable or like I was breaking a sacred taboo. People assume I'm voting for Romney all the time when they start Obama-bashing, and then they look all embarrassed when I tell them that I'm voting for him... Again.

Science Teacher Mommy said... [reply]

Dear girl. I've "outed" myself in the last couple years too. There was one facebook day that garnered like 50 comments because I so publicly outed myself. Go big or go home, you know. I have also posted the link to that blogpost several times in the last couple of years . . . though the linkage to the Jensen talk no longer works. I think you can still find it through the Mormon Democrats site. Anyway, you are awesome. And you are in good company. Social networking has shown me in the last year just what good company it is. A series of (private) FB posts this last week with some of my strongest feminist/LDS/democrat/independent or some combination of all of those reaffirmed that yes, some things are indeed getting better. Everywhere. Women can go on missions at 19 now. That one fact will do more for the Church in the next generation than can even be measured. Good times ahead for progressive Mormons, no matter who wins the election.

Liz Johnson said... [reply]

I'm in the Midwest, and in my old ward, it was totally fine to be a Mormon democrat. In fact, it was a respected thing, and everybody was crazy respectful. Now that we've moved to the suburbs, though, it is much, much, MUCH less ok. I've found that if you have a lot of social/economic/racial diversity, then political diversity is ok, too. But if you're around a bunch of upper-crust, white Mormons, chances are your democrat-ness is going to be seen as a sign of sure apostasy.

Señora H-B - do you refer to a certain candidate running for Senate with the initials RM? Because, if so, high-five from a fellow Hoosier resident! Wassup.

Jenny said... [reply]

My last ward was Provo ward by BYU full of BYU professors and employees that were democrats. I felt like there was a really good mix and a lot of people were involved in local politics and our new Logan ward kind of acts like the Aggies and the republican party are the only possible choices for people.

Jenny said... [reply]

I meant it was full of. Typing on my phone is lame.

Jen said... [reply]

I am neither Republican nor Democrat--that is by choice. I live in Massachusetts were I (and 53% of my fellow Bay-staters) are classified as "unenrolled." I chose this, because MA is an open primary state, and unenrolled (albeit still registered) voters can choose the ballot they want when they walk into their polling place. It's a [small-d] democratic miracle.

That said, I made a conscious decision about 5 years ago to leave the Republican party for a lot of reasons, and as time has passed I would definitely say that I share most of my values with both the [large-D] Democratic and Green Parties. (Jill Stein has impressed me this cycle.)

Living in Massachusetts has afforded me a lot more acceptance in the LDS community, as one can probably imagine. It's not completely ideal YET, but it's certainly a more progressive LDS environment than, say, the ward I attended in the Indian Hills neighborhood of Provo 10 years ago.

Also? Bravo. This post is wonderful.

BeccaVT said... [reply]

I'm another stalker!

I really have no idea if it's better or worse than 2008, because I reacted to 2008 by choosing to change the sample of people I talk politics with. As a Democrat, I will talk politics to anyone who is willing to be respectful and non-crazy. This excludes plenty of acquaintances of both parties. I will talk to nobody, of either party, at church or work about politics.

Therefore, my observations are that the political discourse this season is markedly better than any other I have experienced. BOOM - democracy in action, achieved by shutting down speech on core political issues.

Debbie Barr said... [reply]

I can attest to what Spitfire said about the Midwest. At least here in my ward in Indiana, that's pretty much how it goes. We're working on it.

And by the way, most people don't know this, but during the early years of the church most members voted democratic. In fact, when Utah was trying to become a state they had to instruct some of the apostles to help organize the republican party, which was pretty much non-existant at the time there, in order to show that both parties -were- represented.

Fun little fact.

goddessdivine said... [reply]

It's all relative. As a conservative, if I lived in a place like say....New England, I'm sure I'd be feeling out of place. Which is fine. It's a different mindset out there; and since on a whole, that area is more progressive, so are the members of The Church who reside there.

shaunie said... [reply]

I can only answer for parts of the American west, but I would say that more suburban areas housing Mormons have recognized that being progressive or Democrat does not make you evil. Rural areas though? They're still holding onto that idea. It'll take a generation dying off to make a noticeable dent in the mindset there.

Lady J said... [reply]

Agree with you Nem. Over here, politics almost never gets discussed at church and we all know that we have voters of all shades amongst us.
As for the American elections - I think Obama should have a second term to see what he can do. He was naive in thinking that he could come into office and work with both Republicans and Democrats to put through the changes he wanted to see happen, and not brilliant at comumnicating them - sadly. I increasingly think that over-entrenched party politics is the real demon in all elections - here and there. Obama is not the first elected leader to want to work across the political spectrum for the common good (we sort of hoped that a coalition in the UK might manage to achieve that at our last elecion) but too many of the party 'faithful' in both camps will only accept their own policies as valid and find every way they can to obstruct those of the 'oppostion'.

Katie said... [reply]

Can someone define or explain the term "progressive Mormon" for me? Thanks.

MissRissa said... [reply]

This is great! Have you listened to this weeks This American Life? There was a man from a small southern town who was a secret democrat- he wouldnt share his name, the town, he drove Ira around in his mothers car so he wouldn't be recognized :) My favorite story was the man who wouldn't le his friend eat his meat at his BBQ's if his friend voted for Obama :)

Shelley said... [reply]

I live in the South, but in a ward populated by Utah transplants. My husband and I are labeled as weirdos because we could have gone to BYU and CHOSE TO GO SOMEWHERE ELSE. So people just assume that we must be wicked democrats because we don't support BYU or Utah. It's hilarious when I tell people I voted for Mitt, you can see the confused looks on their faces. Then they remember that my husband works for NASA, and no one within 5 square miles of NASA would vote for Obama for because of all the people he laid off. Then the light bulb goes on, and then they start nodding and realize I still am a crazy liberal I just took a break from it because of the NASA issue. It's hilarious.

liesel said... [reply]
This comment has been removed by the author.
liesel said... [reply]

You are brilliant. Truly. I really actually despise politics and how it turns normally happy nice people into rabid, mouth-foaming angry people who spout uninformed, unresearched rhetoric. Makes me want to avoid it altogether, in a horribly unpatriotic way. Sigh.. but I don't. I go to church and I cringe when everyone bears their testimony about voting, because they really toe the line with Appropriate Political References. And I have my silly as-yet-unsent-off ballot that I still haven't filled out yet, because when I read about all of the issues I had to vote on it made me cranky.

Anyways, my whine is slightly off topic... but I do think in general it has gotten better to be open minded in the church. I had to laugh when a lady I visit taught confessed to my companion and I that she had voted for Obama as if she was revealing a horrible secret we would shun her for. Instead we laughed and told her we both had as well. And lo, it was awesome.

Kelly said... [reply]

It was kind of hilarious in the run up to the 2004 primaries when all of these people showed up in my Cambridge, MA singles ward to work on the Romney campaign, only to receive a fairly lukewarm reception on the political front from the usual ward members, who leaned heavily Democrat. The transplants expected everyone to be all Romney rah rah rah, especially since he was our governor at one point.

Massachusetts, and New England in general, is interesting because there are some VERY conservative members here (Mitt Romney's neighbors, Utah transplants) and there are some VERY liberal members here (Judy Dushku, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich). That said, I am usually fairly quiet about my political leanings at church, unless I'm asked directly. My ward is pretty split, from what I can gather, but we don't talk about it much.

I don't know if it's getting better or not. Your perception might be right on (I'm not in Utah, so I can't comment on that), or it may be who you're reading/hanging out with. I think there's getting to be a huge generational split, marked by younger people leaving the Church in droves.

I personally get a lot more pushback from my Southern relatives than anyone at church, which is why I don't talk politics with family at all. My grandma couldn't contain herself on the phone last night, though, and excitedly exclaimed, "We might have a new president after Tuesday!" My reply: "Yeah, we might.... That's definitely one of the options."

Kelly said... [reply]

Um, that would be the 2008 primaries. Not 2004. :)

Nemesis said... [reply]

@Katie, who asked, "Can someone please define or explain the term "progressive Mormon" for me? Thanks."

A person advocating or implementing social reform or new, liberal ideas.

My own (probably inadequate) stab is that the term "progressive" is used to indicate that one tends to be liberal/left-leaning in attitudes about social (and maybe fiscal?) issues. I think it's a big term, though. And when you talk about progressive Mormons there is the question about whether that is simply another term for "Mormon who leans left politically" or if it means something like "Mormon who would like to see social reform WITHIN the Church." Or both.

Nemesis said... [reply]

Anybody else want to have a go?

Anna B said... [reply]

amen, sista. i surely hope that things have gotten better.

Science Teacher Mommy said... [reply]

I say "progressive" because my own political attitudes align a lot more with the original progressive party--government should be there to help the middle and lower classes, workers have rights to be treated fairly, there is more success than capitalism, government programs should be advanced to help families, governments have an obligation to preserve green space, etc. The progressives gave us universal suffrage, child labor laws, some of the earliest innovators in public education whose ideas are still important, elected (not appointed) Senators. They also gave us prohibition, but it should be noted that its intent by outlawing the SELLING (not consuming) of liquor was to stop the back room politicking that was taking place outside the public discourse. (Can anybody say "anonymous billionaire donors/Koch brothers?") The Progressives were early supporters of science and logic in education, politics and public discourse. They also supported early birth control efforts in order for women to have more choices. The wanted government to operate efficiently and transparently.

Now, I'm a Democrat, but I don't necessarily count myself as a liberal because I live in Oregon where the REAL liberals are. But as I read about the progressives I admire their grass-roots-can-do-get-out-and-vote-and-stand-up-for-what-you-believe-in way of going about life. I still think a lot of their original platform holds relevance in our modern discourse--free and fair education for all, civil rights, women's ability to choose (and be more educated about choosing), environmentalism . . . these issues have typically been championed by Democrats, not Republicans. Nothing in the current Republican platform can possibly benefit my family. I fully recognize that this is not the case for everyone.

Emilie said... [reply]

Well, I am a Republican. And super proud of it. Not because of my Religion, but because I more closely believe what that platform stands for and then any others. My father, a Canadian, became a US citizen last year and promptly listed himself officially a Democrat. Although, none of his children were at all surprised by this. We've known since forever.

For me, while I don't understand or relate to my Dad's point of views, I have seen my whole life how he has been able to hold and live these beliefs and still maintain a good strong standing with the gospel teachings and posses one of the strongest testimonies I know.

I have a number of friends in my ward who are Democrats. We are great friends who just don't mention politics with each other because we know we will not change anyone's opinion. And that's cool.

We all still like chocolate and that's whats really important.

mj said... [reply]

I think it is maybe just the teeniest bit less evil to be a Democrat now, but I'm not sure. I once heard from one of the other Democrats in our ward that there were five of us. She had counted. No idea if that number is accurate but I do know for a fact that our current RS Pres AND the previous one are both Democrats. Mua ha ha ha. And that is how we slowly infiltrate and take over the church . . . (kidding about that, of course).

Christina said... [reply]

Having not lived in Utah since BYU, I cannot comment on that. But I have lived in the Midwest for awhile now (recently transplanted to Indiana) and I can say that generally speaking there are a whole lot of Democrats out here (especially in the heavily union--or ex-union and now dying--towns), so maybe it's just where your sister served?

Alice said... [reply]

I loved this post! It made the wounds from being called a political cross-dresser heal! Apparently, according to this person, it is better to be a straight party voter than a political "cross dresser"! Thanks so much for the breath of fresh air and helping me not feel like I am evil because I may have chosen a Democrat on a few of the lines!

Lars said... [reply]

Oh, good I was hoping you would do a new post about this. In general I would say that it's easier to be Mormon and democrat, except when you're dealing with my in laws (who really are awesome by the way, other than this. yay for the election today so all of this can end!) They just can't get past abortion and gay-marriage and feel as though those are the ONLY platforms democrats have. i don't know that i'll ever be able to explain this to them, but oh well. At least I'll get a five minute break from it tomorrow after the election. ;)

Anonymous said... [reply]

I had to come and share with you this experience I've had today. I posted a little essay on my blog that included the facts that I am a) Mormon, and b) a democrat. This one woman flipped. her. lid. She basically questioned how a democrat could actually get a temple recommend. She actually truly did. I couldn't believe how she took my words and turned them to question my worthiness.
Sigh. Thanks for being the Voice of Reason. Really.

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