Texas doesn’t allow Independents to vote in primary elections, so in order to vote in those elections, I have to commit for a year to being a Republican or Democrat. As a progressive radical moderate, every year I’ve held my nose and signed on as a Republican. This year, after being beaten over the head by Republican campaign ads in which each candidate tries to prove that he or she is most angry, intolerant, Christian Conservative, I had a change of heart. I held my nose and voted as a Democrat.
My LDS Facebook friends haven’t dropped me yet, but I know that most of their eyes rolled and heads shook when they found out the news. I think many of them have suspected me as a commie for years now, but to come out of the closet as a Democrat might be more than they can take. And I’m sure that before the campaign year is over I will hear someone say in a Sunday School class that they can’t understand how a Mormon in good standing could be a Democrat. Fortunately for me, political leanings aren’t on the list of questions to go to the temple, so everyone will have to just put up with me.
In truth, I think that there is plenty in both parties’ platforms that are at odds with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Neither the permissiveness of the Left nor the bigotry of the Right seem to fit well with good discipleship. But can a person be a Democrat and still be a good Mormon?
Here’s what I think:
I think that one of the reasons I didn’t mind the shift too much is that most of the big-ticket moral issues seem like dead issues to me. The Supreme Court has made abortion rights nearly unassailable, so voting on the basis of pro-life is an empty gesture. And so long as any state allows gay marriage, the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution means that all other states have to recognize it. And even the Church now supports equal rights for gays in employment and housing. Besides, with the number of sex scandals every year, it is hard for Republicans to argue that they are the paragons of virtue. At best, their argument is: “Our immorality is better than yours.” Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as “Onward, Christian Soldiers!”
To me, the issues that separate the parties at present don’t have a significant moral component, but even when there is a religious or moral component, I don’t agree with the Republicans on most of those issues. I don’t want prayer in school; I think religious instruction should be conducted in the home and in church. I don’t want creationism taught in schools, because most of the creationists’ views of the creation are contrary to mine. Again, I’ll cover that at home. Let’s face it: The “Christian Right” is primarily evangelical, and as a Mormon, I’m already on their bad side. Giving them more power isn’t necessarily a good thing for me. (Heck, they stayed home rather than vote for Mitt Romney, so why should I go out of my way for them?)
The issues I consider most important these days seem to place me just a little left of center. I care about immigration reform and think that we are doing both citizens and the 12 million or so people here without permission a huge disservice by not taking a more pragmatic approach to it. I think that pollution and climate change are huge issues, and I believe the Republicans are the equivalent of flat-earthers on that point. I think that the proliferation of guns and the increase of gun violence are connected at a fundamental level, and that we need to look for constitutional ways to stem gun violence and limit the accessibility of weapons and ammunition designed only to kill other people. I think poverty is more of a societal problem than a personal choice, and that there are too many hungry kids in our country. I believe that the death penalty should be abolished or strictly curtailed until we can find a better way of ensuring that juries don’t convict innocent people.
There are still plenty of issues where I am on board with the Republicans, but the number of such issues is shrinking. I think that the core of the Republican party has turned so far to the right that they are almost going backwards. I think the NRA are alarmists and irrational. I think Ted Cruz is a nutball. I think the Tea Party is an angry white guy’s club that is bordering on dangerous if they aren’t there already. And I am suspicious of anyone who openly runs their campaign on “God’s Word.” I suspect that if God showed up, they would call him a bleeding-heart hippie.
I’ll admit that my views over the years have changed a bit, and that I have probably slid a bit to the left on the political continuum. But I really do believe that the Republicans have run so far to the right that I can barely see the dust they are stirring up from where I am standing. So, for the moment at least, I’ve signed on with a different group of crazies, and I’m a registered Democrat. It’s kind of like choosing between lima beans and Brussels sprouts. You can complain that neither is a chocolate chip cookie, or you can hold your nose and make an unenviable decision.
This year, it’s lima beans for me.