With Mitt Romney out of the presidential race, who might the Mormon faithful back?
Of course, the Church is officially neutral on political candidates and parties (thank goodness). But let’s be honest, Romney’s failed attempt at the presidency has got to upset a lot of Latter-day Saints, who overwhelming backed Romney (at least in Utah), and who seem to not be very fond of John McCain or Mike Huckabee, not to mention Hillary Clinton.
But Latter-day Saints I have talked to have a fairly favorable view of another presidential candidate: Barack Obama.
Is it possible for a good number of Latter-day Saints to turn to this inspiring new face as their preferred presidential candidate?
I realize that I am facing incredible odds in this question of mine — 1964 was the last time a Democrat (Lyndon B. Johnson) took the state of Utah. But still, I think that if Latter-day Saints will take seriously the counsel of the late Gordon B. Hinckley, and vote for the best person, regardless of party (as he did throughout his life, voting for both Republicans and Democrats), then maybe, just maybe, Obama will gain support among the LDS faithful.
Let me be upfront. I am not a Democrat. I consider myself to be historically conservative and currently moderate. I have grown to be disenchanted by the Bush administration, as I’m sure many of my fellow Latter-day Saints have been. I was in support of the Iraq war at first, but now I realize that it was a major mistake and an abuse of power, and that it is not in the best interest of America or Iraq for us to stay there. Whatever good is being done there is negated three times over — by its costs in American and Iraqi lives, American dollars, and the continually neglected threat of terrorists in Afghanistan.
In regards to Iraq, we can’t simply say, “Well, what will happen if we pull out?” We need to also say, “What is happening, right here and right now, by our continuing to stay in?” I know that some Mormons are in total support of the war for various reasons. But can we really continue to let our troops — fathers and mothers — go back time after time after time to fight a war that is questionable? Our wonderful troops have sacrificed so much, and unless we have a draft or enlist many more individuals (your sons and daughters), we cannot continue to fight this war. It simply must end. I daresay that even some of my reddest fellow Saints are frightened by McCain’s assertion that we could be in Iraq for 100 years. A vote for John McCain is a vote for George Bush’s war. It’s a vote for the continued loss of American and Iraqi lives. It’s a vote for billions and billions of dollars to be spent — who will pay for it? It’s a vote for neglecting more serious needs — Afghanistan, Darfur and other genocides, our children’s educations, our own economy, and so on.
Conservatives worry about how liberals will raise taxes, but it is unrealistic to think that we can continue in this war, as we are, without either raising taxes or seriously depriving our children and others of crucial resources. It is not honest. It is not responsible. Either we hike taxes and stay in the war, or we get out. There’s no other honest way about it. (Remember the LDS principles of buying what you can pay for.) We need to be careful and measured about how we leave, which Obama wants to do, but let us be honest — we cannot keep fighting. The Iraqi government needs to take responsibility, and we need to move on. It is not unpatriotic, nor is it neglectful of our troops, to suggest that we need to move on if it really is true. Mitt Romney’s father George Romney, along with the rest of the nation, realized this about Vietnam. We need to follow his lead and realize it about Iraq.
Regarding the economy, I used to be in support of conservative principles, but I have grown to be fed up with the philosophy of giving tax breaks to the rich and not taking seriously the health care crisis in our country. (Obama, by the way, is not interested in raising taxes, but repealing the Bush tax cuts for those who make over $250,000. This group never asked for these tax cuts, nor do they need them, and the past several years have shown our economy to be worse off, not better, since their inception. Moreover, that these tax cuts have coincided with an ultra-expensive war is unbelievably dishonest.)
I have grown to realize that my religious beliefs require me to take the plight of struggling working families seriously, to no longer hide their faces behind an economic trickle-down curtain that allows me to ignore the growing poverty in our country. Like my fellow Latter-day Saints, I am sure, I am afraid that economic classes are being more polarized, that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. The middle class is shrinking. Selfishness is rampant. We have great need to worry, and the gospel of Jesus Christ is our only hope.
It is because of my belief in Jesus Christ that I believe we need a new political direction in our country. No, it won’t solve all our problems, and the Church will continue to grow to be independent and shine as a source of light and hope for all to see. But a new political direction can help us to better serve those who are need, and to better interface with the world around us. I envision a new type of political involvement among Latter-day Saints, in which Republicans, Democrats, and Independents work together in tackling the problems of our day. I am tired of political division. I am tired of political campaigns and platforms being bought by lobbyists, many of which do not really care about you or me.
President Hinckley would never have voted for someone simply because of his or her political party. What about you? Are you willing to entertain voting for a Democrat because it is for the good for the country? Are you willing to consider anew your political commitments and obligations? President Hinckley voted for individuals (Republicans and Democratics), not parties, as he has said in media interviews. So I ask, who is the best PERSON?
May I suggest that, in my opinion, the best person currently in the race is Barack Obama. If we can look past partisan politics, I think more will start seeing this. More and more Mormons are seeing it everyday. He is the friendliest candidate to taking faith seriously in the public square. He wants to unite the country, not divide us. He is a deeply religious man who takes his Christian faith seriously. He is one of the most “fair-minded” public figures that I have ever known of. He prays every day that he will be fair to others, that he will give them the benefit of the doubt. I encourage you to listen to his speech on the role of faith and politics, located on his web site.
I don’t agree with him on everything. I am very much pro-life and he is pro-choice, for example. I wish he would consider more of a pro-life position. But he is more concerned with fighting for sexual responsibility and decreasing abortions than he is about fighting about ideologies, which never gets us anywhere anyway. He is also very willing to continue to have a fair-minded conversation with pro-life Americans about the abortion issue, and what we can best do as a nation right now. Perhaps we should consider entering this conversation, rather than merely fighting about legal issues. Perhaps, just perhaps, such an approach will help us get the values of responsible sexuality into the hearts of American men and women. It really is a problem of the heart, isn’t it?
Consistent with our concern for innocent human lives, let us not forget that a war has and is continuing to claim thousands of lives, both soldiers and civilians. That a genocide in Darfur is claiming hundreds of thousands of lives and has displaced millions. That there are hard working families in our country who have a father or mother die because they don’t have adequate health care. Let us not allow an ideological fight (such as abortion) to keep us from taking seriously the pressing needs of our society. We have a responsibility to our citizens and to the world. This responsibility transcends political bickering. We have a responsibility to a troubled world to set an example as walkers of peace, as solvers of problems.
Obama also has compassion for our brothers and sisters from other nations, including those who have come into this country undocumented, often working long hours with little wages to support their families. Let us never forget, as our Church leaders have cautioned Utah legislators recently, that “illegal” immigrants are our brothers and sisters. Many are our fellow Saints. Obama is taking the immigration issue seriously, but he is also opposed to the radical and dehumanizing plans of some, such as punishing ordinary citizens who help out illegal immigrants or busing law-abiding immigrants back over the border. I have found that most of my fellow Latter-day Saints are much more compassionate regarding immigration than many other Americans are, while at the same time realizing that we need to work hard at solving the problem. Obama feels the same way, and he also realizes that much of the problem is due to NAFTA, signed into law by President Clinton, and other problematic American trade policies.
In addition to being the most faith-friendly candidate, I think he is also the most family-friendly candidate. One of his biggest concerns is fatherless homes. He is concerned about parents not taking responsibility for their children’s media watching. He is concerned with hard working families who don’t make enough to even begin to make ends meet. I encourage you to take a look at his issues in this regard on his website.
Obama is also the candidate who best approaches the LDS communitarian ethic. Politically speaking, he is not unlike Joseph Smith. His approach revolves around “we,” not “me.” His movement is completely invested by average Americans working together, many of whom have never been involved politically before. He has a charisma that inspires people to realize that they really can make a difference in this world. He desires to reach beyond petty bickering and divisions, realizing, as did Joseph Smith, that we can move beyond our differences and work together for positive change in the world.
Moreover, I think that he is the candidate who is the friendliest to the Mormon faith. He doesn’t demean LDS beliefs as Mike Huckabee did. He has strong family values and has been faithfully committed to one wife, unlike John McCain. In fact, his wife Michelle Obama recently visited with Elders Ballard and Cook about how we can better help American families. Take a look on the Church’s website.
I envision that an Obama presidential administration would be a very friendly place for LDS leaders to work with in order to tackle our common goals. I’m unsure if I can say the same thing about John McCain or Hillary Clinton.
In conclusion, I ask:
Is backing Obama in line with our political obligations?
Yes it is.
Should we consider rallying behind such a leader?
Yes we should.
Yes we can.
UPDATE: Check out this new post on Mormons and Obama.
Filed under: Politics | Tagged: Darfur, Economy, Faith and politics, Family, Gordon B. Hinckley, Health-care, Immigration, Iraq war, Joseph Smith, Michelle Obama, Obama, Politics, Poverty, pro-life, Utah |