Mormon and Undecided
I was serving in Billings, Montana, and a number of the church members that I interacted with regularly were fervently opposed to Bill Clinton. They were convinced that a vote for the Democratic candidate were votes for evil. Some of their arguments were persuasive to me, for the emphasis was on platform issues that would clearly show some conflict with my conservative religious background. The night of the election, I heard the poll results declare that Clinton would win the election, and I literally felt a sense of forboding for the future of my nation.
I share this background because I think that this experience—associating the Democratic party primarily with their platform's liberal positions on important moral issues—helps explain why less than 20% of Mormons in the USA identify as or lean Democratic. The Republican party, on the other hand, bills itself as patriotic, God-fearing, and defenders of traditional morality. And Mormons find much common ground on these points.
Twenty years have passed and the Republican party has nominated one of our own, Mitt Romney, as its candidate for the president of the United States of America. On Facebook and in the halls of the church, but never officially—The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not endorse parties or candidates—I hear many individual church members enthusiastic about Brother Romney's campaign, along with the same religious fears over another term by a Democratic president.
So let me start by saying that there is much that I like about the Romney candidacy. I believe he is very sincere about his motivation in seeking the office as being a desire to serve our nation. In spite of news reports about the public not relating to him, I actually find him likable. I share most of his values. I think the executive branch of the government would do well to have a business executive, and I would be happy to see the size and scope of the government reduced.
So it would seem that I should already be on the Romney bandwagon. Except that I voted for John Kerry in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008. It may be just as correct to say that I voted against George Bush and John McCain. If things don't change in the Republican party's philosophy and campaign strategy, it is quite likely that I will again vote for someone other than a Republican.
My transition to voting for the Democratic candidates occurred when I realized that I was tired of feeling primarily motivated to vote Republican over fears—fears about moral issues, fears about government spending, fears about the secularization of society, fears about immigration. As I thought about specific issues, I found more common ground with the Democratic positions than I had expected.
At present, the Romney campaign is following a course similar to my recollection of the McCain campaign. The campaign asserts that the slow recovery and government dysfunction are consequences of President Obama's plans and policies, and that we can not afford four more years of the same. I have two major gripes with this.
First, I have not forgotten that the government's dysfunction is the Republican's fault as much or more so than the Democrats. For a party's congressional leader to state that the highest priority is to cause a sitting president to fail is a terrible position to take. In his nomination speech, Mitt Romney stated, "That president [President Obama] was not the choice of our party but Americans always come together after elections. We are a good and generous people who are united by so much more than what divides us." And later, he said, "I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed." But in light of the Republican congressional delegation's obstructionist intent and actions, these words sounded particularly hollow.
Second, just as with McCain's campaign, the Romney campaign refuses to come out with specific proposals. He'll simplify the tax code? His running mate, Representative Paul Ryan came up with a very specific budget that he Democrats love to criticize. But that's not the Romney proposal, so you can't criticize it? What is the Romney proposal then? I'm an educated voter. I don't want catch phrases, sound bites, and broad brush strokes. Government is more than economy, even if the election is about the economy. I want to understand what you actually propose, not just that you'll reduce the tax burden and close loop holes. I want to know how it will impact citizens, education, the environment, the nation's defense. I'm interested in how you plan to balance the competing priorities more than just saying we'll shrink the size of the government. Please, treat me like a citizen. Let me make an informed decision.
So what aspects of the Democratic platform appeal to me? Here are some of the more prominent points.
- An appeal to humanity and compassion, and not just financial success and wealth
- An emphasis on the importance of nuanced diplomacy in world affairs and an acknowledgement that other nations' perceptions of America has been influenced by our past actions
- A recognition of the value of science in understanding our world and the impact of our actions on the environment
- A willingness to apply the power of the government to protect resources that are tempting to be exploited for short term gain but that will be necessary long-term, even if this leads to greater immediate expense