Saturday, May 5, 2012

Mormons and Political Neutrality

There's a simple reason The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints makes such a point in every election year about maintaining its neutrality position on politics - to do otherwise would threaten its tax-exempt status.

In every election year in my lifetime there have always been statements issued by the Church's leaders encouraging members to become involved in politics. However, leaders never tell members how to become involved, which party to support or how to vote. This year in particular with a Mormon heading the Republican ticket, the Church has come up with a creative way to illustrate its position:

I have no idea how Mitt Romney will fare in the general election in November. Frankly, there are days I am almost ambivalent about the presidential race. I don't fear the attacks on the Church, and I am quite certain Romney will be a great candidate. What concerns me more is taking back a majority from Democrats in the Senate, which would depose another Mormon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).

If anyone needs an illustration about how bi-polar Mormons tend to be as a voting block, one need look no further than Harry Reid vs. Mitt Romney.

Even more surprising to me is how heavily-Mormon Utah in 2010 could elect Mike Lee, tea party favorite, and now in 2012 be clinging to Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT). Anyone who thinks Mormons vote in lock step in a block this way or that, simply doesn't know how convoluted their thinking politically can be. I have many friends who have remained independent in red Utah, claiming to vote for "the man" rather than the party. I took that position for many years as a registered independent so I could vote in whichever primary suited me that year.

Then Mitt Romney ran for president the first time and the only way I could cast a vote for him was to finally declare myself as a Republican. You're looking at a guy here who voted twice for Ross Perot in Utah where my vote literally makes no difference since in both cases the state went Republican as it always does.

This year we have a lot of interesting things happening. Peter Cooke, retired Mormon general Democrat is trying to generate some enthusiasm among Democrats to siphon off Republican support for Governor Gary Herbert. It's an attempt to revitalize the two-party system in Utah, but Herbert is a popular governor, having trounced his competition in the nominating convention and winning enough delegates to avoid a primary.

Mia Love
Mia Love is running in the general election for the newly-created 4th District seat against Jim Matheson, who changed districts for a more favorable demographic. I can't say I blame him. He's survived many attempts to oust him from office, but I've voted for him in the 2nd District in years past because I felt he was the best available candidate, until I became agitated and aroused. I backed Morgan Philpot last time around.

Matheson would become a six-term Congressman, but this year he may have met his match in Mia Love. How will he run opposed to a black Mormon woman who's smart, savvy and unafraid of anything with the name of Love? My prediction is that Utah is ready to elect her without any reservations in the 4th District.

So why can't Utah kick Orrin Hatch (78 years old) to the curb and deny him his seventh six-year term? He has served as a Senator longer than any other Utahn (36 years), and would become another Robert Byrd or Strom Thurmond who might serve until he dies in office. Dan Liljenquist is certainly a qualified and acceptable replacement for Orrin Hatch.

The answer: Utah Mormons are just a bi-polar bunch when it comes to their politics. It's no wonder the Church would never attempt to impose its will on their members.

It's kind of like trying to herd cats.

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