The Meaning of the Mormon Republican Majority – Final

This thread is about played out, but a couple of final comments.

1. Clinton was one of the most gifted politicians of our time, and moved the national Democratic Party towards the center–think intervention in Bosnia & Kosovo, welfare reform, NAFTA & free trade–where it needs to be if it is to escape longterm structural minority status. Had Gore been able to run on Clinton’s record, Election 2000 would have been no contest . . .

(Though Lyle, please, let’s not argue about this. :) ) Had Gore run on Clinton’s record, he risked appearing to endorse Clinton’s conduct, but the only way to run away from his record was to move left, which is what Gore ultimately did. That undid the moderation of the Dems that Clinton had started, and contributed to increased polarization of the two parties which, I think, does not serve the country well. So for moderate Dems, Lewinsky-gate was a true Greek tragedy.

2. John Knowles made several insightful points in his thoughtful post.

a. On exemptions, I think the dominant view in the Republican Party on religion is a Wil Herbergian/this-is-a-Protestant/Catholic/Jewish-nation, so our government and laws ought properly to reflect this cultural majority (weak Establishment Clause), and exemptions are rarely necessary since this preferred/presumed religio-cultural understanding predominates in every state (weak Free Exercise Clause). The dominant Democratic view until recently has been civil libertarian, with particular solicitude for minority religions and minorities generally (strong Free Exercise Clause), but with strong suspicion for the P/C/J cultural understanding (strong Establishment). (The LDS church, incidentially, has skillfully played off both positions, suggesting that we are “just like the Protestants” at times, and at other times appealing to our minority status and history of persecution.) My own view on exemptions is that, however normatively appealing they might seem, they’re no longer plausible in a morally pluralistic society in which there are large numbers of ethically serious agnostics and atheists–e.g., how come religious people get exemptions, but secular folks with comparably serious moral concerns don’t? I actually think the Dems are moving in this direction, which means that within a decade, perhaps less, there’ll be no constituency for exemptions.

b. I also think John is right that the LDS church will not participate in faith-based funding. This illustrates the double-edged sword of Establishment Clause neutrality. Participation in the social welfare state is necessary to compete in the early 21st century when everything–including religion–is becoming consumerized. Those who choose not to participate, like the LDS church, are at a disadvantage, and may lose mass appeal as a result.

c. As to the Nixon-Clinton comparison, my experiences are similar to John’s (though admittedly not a scientific sample)–LDS Republicans tend to downplay Watergate, which involved quite extensive perjury and subversion of the justice system, while expressing outrage at Clinton’s dissembling to the grand jury which, though clearly wrong, was isolated. Perhaps we’re all more partisan than we like to admit, and that partisanship affects our judgments more than we like to admit.

3. As to Lyle’s lament for a good sexual-harassment plaintiff’s lawyer, first you need a plaintiff. Sexual harassment is *unwelcome* sexual attention, and whatever else one might say about the situation, it does not appear that Ms. Lewinsky found Clinton’s sexual attention unwelcome.


19 comments for “The Meaning of the Mormon Republican Majority – Final

  1. July 7, 2004 at 6:12 pm

    Nixon shouldn’t just be condemned for his quite extensive perjury and subversion of the justice system but also for his Oval Office closet anti-semitism. Apparently the tape recordings that were made (with his knowledge) contain extremely atrocious material. What a freak Nixon was!

  2. Hellmut Lotz
    July 7, 2004 at 6:17 pm

    Nice. It is not clear to me that refusing faith based funding will weaken the competitiveness of the LDS church. After all, state funded churches have become quite emaciated in Europe. Here is a wonderful webside with lots of papers and data on this issue: . Note especially the fascinating paper on “Markets for Martyrs” that includes a good discussion of state churches in contrast to religious movements that run on their own steam.

  3. john fowles
    July 7, 2004 at 8:58 pm

    That’s John Fowles Professor Gedicks–don’t you remember me!!!

    (I understand, you’re just mixing up your fiction authors, John Fowles [The Magus, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, The Collector, etc.] and John Knowles [A Separate Peace, etc.])

  4. john fowles
    July 7, 2004 at 9:02 pm

    danithew–let’s not go there. After all, you are condemning Truman in the same breath. His anti-semitic statements are even more shocking.

  5. Fred
    July 7, 2004 at 9:19 pm

    John, my apologies. I certainly do remember you, and never fear, I had you clearly in mind when I read all of your comments, I just mispelled your name.

    Ferd Geddicks

  6. Kingsley
    July 7, 2004 at 9:37 pm

    “So for moderate Dems, Lewinsky-gate was a true Greek tragedy.”

    It was a tragedy for us moderate Repubs (Pubs? Dupes? Rubes? Burs [as in “rough edges or areas”]? Pus? Burps? etc.), too. It was one of those things where, quoting T.S. Eliot now, “Between the desire/And the spasm … /Falls the Shadow,” the Shadow, of course, being the bestial rise of Savage and Moore and the decline of everything else, the desire and the spasm being things that require no interpretation.

  7. July 7, 2004 at 9:46 pm

    Fred, I don’t think Lewinski is the person people are referring to when they accuse Clinton of sexual harassment. Extremely inappropriate, but probably not sexual harassment. As you may know there is at least one woman claiming he raped her and numerous other claims of sexual harassment.

    Regarding Mormon Republicans downplaying Watergate. Once again I’ve simply never, never heard that. Most Mormon Republicans I know hate Nixon, in part because of what he did to the party. While they may like some of his policies, I’ve simply never met a Nixon apologist in all my years here. Perhaps this is a Democratic urban legend? On the other hand I’ve met lots of Democratic Clinton apologists…

    I have a hard time seeing most Democrats as libertarian. They may want certain moral activities deregulated but many others regulated. Neither Democrats nor Republicans are terribly libertarian IMO.

    I fully agree that Clinton was moving the Democratic party towards the center. It is very, very sad that in these times when the Republicans are so weak that the Democrats have such a liberal ticket. I think that had they nominated more moderate candidates who were New Democrats there wouldn’t really be much of a contest. Regarding Gore, I think he truly was more liberal than Clinton. That’s the problem with assuming a VP will continue the policies of his administration. Unfortunately the far left was extremely motivated in their anti-Bush hatred, just as the far right was motivated back in ’96. This led to the nominating of very weak candidates. (Although they at least seem moderate in general economic policies – although so did Bush back in 2000)

  8. john fowles
    July 7, 2004 at 10:36 pm

    On reflection, most of the Nixon apologists that I’ve met are not LDS, and most of them live in Dallas.

    As to the Truman anti-semitic retort, I wasn’t bringing that up in defense of Nixon. I very greatly dislike almost everything about Nixon. I was just saying, let’s criticize relevant points about him and not just cry “anti-semite” and thus stop all discussion.

  9. Kingsley
    July 7, 2004 at 10:46 pm

    I doubt Danithew was trying to stop all discussion. Given the fact that Nixon’s quite freakish personality was revealed famously and in the raw on the tapes, and given the fact that his anti-semitism is a particularly freakish feature of the tapes, I think Danithew’s observation was relevant.

  10. john fowles
    July 7, 2004 at 11:09 pm

    Fred, no worries about the mispelling! I was just being semi-facetious. I guess I am a little irrational about the spelling of my name (it stems from a period of a couple of years when my bills and other more important documents were mispelling my name, everything from Sowles to Foul, etc).

    But I’ve very much enjoyed the discussions you have initiated.

  11. Ethesis (Stephen M)
    July 8, 2004 at 12:36 am

    I think that when you look at Nixon you need to see him in the context of a man who lost an election due to Mafia based fraud and the democratic Chicago and New York machines and who was facing LBJ who was using the FBI to directly attack his political enemies.

    Nixon always felt that he did less in the way of “bad things” than either Kennedy or LBJ, which is why he never apologized. Even more so, he wasn’t in on the actual break-in, “just” guilty of not being willing to cut loose the people who did it, loyal to those who were loyal to him.

    Liddy has an interesting perspective, as he appears to take “credit” for the violations *and* to have expected Nixon just to cut him off.

    I see Nixon as a tragic figure, though Clinton is in many ways a King Arthur for our times, with the travel office being his slaughter of the innocents and Lewinsky his Mordred.

    Too bad. Kerry really should have brought Bill back on board as V.P. That would have made a ticket.

    Though I’m in search of a fiscal conservative … (sigh, rough times for moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats these days).

  12. July 8, 2004 at 12:54 am

    That’s a good point Stephen. In fact as I recall he blamed his earlier loss to Kennedy to a lot of what was going on in Chicago and so forth – although today we remember more his sweating and uncomfort in the televised debate. I may be wrong, but I seem to recall after the 2000 “tie” that way back against JFK that Nixon could have challenged and really done a lot of damage to the country. He didn’t for the betterment of the country.

    Still, Nixon had his dirty tricks divisions and was a bad person for so many reasons. I think, like Clinton, that his political opponents came to truly hate him though. That has been going on with Bush as well. If Bush wins (which is definitely possible although I think the election Kerry’s to lose) I suspect we’ll see the kind of hate that accompanied Nixon’s second term. The difference is that I think Bush is a very good man, even if perhaps more than a little naive and incompetent at times.

  13. Kingsley
    July 8, 2004 at 12:55 am

    “I see Nixon as a tragic figure, though Clinton is in many ways a King Arthur for our times, with the travel office being his slaughter of the innocents and Lewinsky his Mordred.”

    Did you like Oliver Stone and Anthony Hopkins’s take? I rather did, though it was panned by more or less all the political mags I regularly read. I was moved by the image of a desperate, half-mad Nixon falling to his knees with a wondering Kissinger awkwardly following suit. That Clinton is the King Arthur of our times is a pathetic reflection of the times. I don’t think even 1,000 years of mythologizing could make anything truly grand or tragic of his story: he’d never find a T.H. White, much less a Mallory. And he’s not helping matters by writing a soft ‘n cuddly perfect-for-the-Oprah-generation memoir either.

  14. July 8, 2004 at 1:30 am

    There is an old Vulcan saying: Only Nixon could go to China.

    (Sorry, the Star Trek geek in me just had to throw that in there.)

    I believe I’ve sufficiently established my Mormon Republican credentials elsewhere. Here’s my position on Nixon: If he hadn’t resigned, he should have been impeached and convicted. Members of his own party convinced him that he should resign for the good of both the party and the nation.

    As for Clinton: I agree he was one of the most gifted and tragic political figures in recent history. Things would have turned out better for the Democratic party had he been encouraged to follow Nixon’s example and resign — as an incumbent President, Gore would almost certainly have won the 2000 election. As it happens, I like the way the 2000 election turned out, so I’m glad the Democrats short-sightedly defended Clinton’s perjury.

  15. Last_lemming
    July 8, 2004 at 10:12 am

    So when President Hinckley said that Clinton should not resign, but rather should let the process run its course, was he actually just running interference for Bush?

  16. July 8, 2004 at 11:30 am

    John Fowles,

    Wow… I never realized Truman had his share of anti-semitic statements. I’ll have to look that up.

    One reaction I have to that is that Truman’s historic recognition of Israel might have made up a little for any expressions of anti-semitism.

    I definitely was not intending to shut down discussion though. My apologies for being too terse or declamatory.

    But I still think Nixon was a freak. I’m not stating that because of any liberal bias. I usually vote Republican. :)


    I have to say that I was intrigued by your thought that Clinton would have made a great V.P. candidate for Kerry. If Clinton had been willing to play second-fiddle, that would have been something to see. I’m not sure whether Republicans would be afraid or elated at that possibility. My first reaction was “Yikes! That’s trouble!” My second reaction was: “Hmmm, maybe that would hurt the Democratic ticket.” I guess it’s too late to find out the answer to that question now.

  17. Fred
    July 8, 2004 at 6:04 pm

    I’m always amused by Republicans who think that the only machines/corruptions in politics are Democratic. Regarding Kennedy’s win, there is no doubt that Daly stole votes for Kennedy in Chicago BUT there is also no doubt that Nixon stole votes in heavily Republican southern Illinois. The conventional historical wisdom, then, is that Kennedy stole the election in Chi, Nixon tried to steal it back downstate but failed, leaving Kennedy as the more efficient thief (and the President).

  18. john fowles
    July 8, 2004 at 8:06 pm


    Again, I only responded by bringing up Truman’s anti-semitism because I thought that anti-semitism is a non-substantive criticism of Nixon’s horrible record. I wasn’t in any way defending Nixon or pointing out liberal/conservative divisions on Nixon criticism.

    About Truman, though, you wrote, “One reaction I have to that is that Truman’s historic recognition of Israel might have made up a little for any expressions of anti-semitism.” I thought you might be interested in the intriguing little detail that he expressed his anti-semitism precisely in the context of his recognition of Israel’s statehood. In his dairy in the late 1940’s, for example, he villified Jews for what he said was their selfishness in appropriating the Holocaust for themselves:

    “The Jews, I find, are very, very selfish. They care not how many Estonians, Latvians, Finns, Poles, Yugoslavs or Greeks get murdered or mistreated as D[isplaced] P[ersons] as long as the Jews get special treatment. Yet when they have power, physical, financial or political neither Hitler nor Stalin has anything on them for cruelty or mistreatment to the under dog.

    What is also fascinating about this anti-Jewish rant is that Truman then criticizes Mormons in the same breath (or at least in the very next sentence): “Put an underdog on top and it makes no difference whether his name is Russian, Jewish, Negro, Management, Labor, Mormon, Baptist he goes haywire. I’ve found very, very few who remember their past condition when prosperity comes.”

    See for more (I can’t seem to get links to work–any suggestions?).

  19. Nathan Tolman
    July 9, 2004 at 1:15 am

    On Nixon – I agree with others on this post. I have not heard very many Nixon Apologists out there, but as a Sinoligist, I must say a word about his China policy.

    Nixon’s move legitimated and empowered the moderates in the Party, like Foreign Minister Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping who wanted close relations with the West, giving them enough room to grow their power and push out the Radicals. If Nixon would not have done this the Radicals had a better chance of staying in power and with them a continuation of the Cultural Revolution, which cost millions of lives.

    Yes, he was selfish and perhaps wicked, but he did the right thing at the right time, at least in this case.

    On Clinton – As said in her NYT review of Clinton’s Book:

    In many ways, the book is a mirror of Mr. Clinton’s presidency: lack of discipline leading to squandered opportunities; high expectations, undermined by self-indulgence and scattered concentration.

    The comparison with Arthur is a bit . . . Romantic. If anything Clinton was his own Mordred.

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