Thursday, September 18, 2008

Why I'm a Democrat (sort of)

I say "sort of" because I believe (as it should go without saying) that my loyalty to a political party should never outrank my loyalty to my country, my faith, my family, or people in general. Also, I tend to feel a lot more like a "Democrat" around election time and especially when I'm living in Utah. When I lived in Massachusetts, my sense of being a Democrat was much less intense. And even now, I really try to be independent minded. (And I have plenty of good friends who differ from me in political views and party affiliation.)

My inclination toward the Democratic party came initially from my mother, a great woman and a faithful member of the Church. It has been confirmed over the years most strongly by my anti-war feelings. (I explain those feelings in an essay found at On other issues, my inclinations are divided between the parties.

In Utah, the Republican stranglehold has been very bad for the state. That’s the verdict of some Republican leaders even. The state legislature (the Republican portion at least) has been described—by Republicans!—as being like a “sick family.” Diversity is badly needed. And ethics reform is badly needed.* The issues Utah Democrats are very strong on include ethics, education, the environment, and health care (and they have very sensible positions on these issues). As for the national party, despite some areas where I have strong disagreement, I like Democratic stands on most of the issues I’ve just mentioned, plus foreign policy (no “bomb, bomb Iran” jokes, for instance) and civil rights (including both racial issues and civil liberties in general).

My last reason for preferring Democrats is that Republicans can really be mean. I know Democrats can too. But at the national conventions, there really has been a mean, nasty tone at the last couple of ones the Republicans have held. The Democrats by contrast have been much more positive and inclusive.

As for whether a Mormon (gasp!) really can vote Democratic, here’s my blog post on that question: “Religion and politics: Especially for Latter-day Saints” In short, I believe the Democratic Party needs more Mormons, and Mormons need more Democrats. The excessive (and sometimes mindless) identification of the Church and the Republican Party have led to all sorts of problems, including, in my view, a very badly distorted understanding of what the gospel is all about. (See my Daily Universe editorial for more on that.)

*On ethics: The Utah state legislature is one of the few in the country with no serious ethics rules on such matters as gifts from lobbyists. I'll need to do some research to get specific figures, but there are reports that ON AVERAGE lobbyists have given hundreds of thousands of dollars PER LEGISLATOR--and these gifts do not have to be reported; furthermore, there are no limits on what the legislators can do with the money. (Of course, lots of the gifts are "in kind"--dinners, tickets, etc.) Efforts by Democrats and some Republicans in the legislature to reform such practices have failed again and again. Democrats in particular are very keen to make some changes.