What if they held an election, and no one blogged about it?

redgraphActually, that’s exactly what just happened. Sixty-three House seats changed hands in November, governors got voted in and out of office, statewide propositions got passed and defeated—without a single post, let alone an old-fashioned righteous flamewar, on the Mormon blogs I read regularly. You would think that Mormons had nothing to do with this last election, but the opposite is the case. Some of the biggest political actors on either side are church members. This fact  is part of the reason that now is such a miserable moment to be writing about politics from a Mormon perspective. On both the left and right, being a Mormon makes it difficult to march in lock-step with our preferred fellow travelers and complicates our relationships with the heroes, villains, and leading issues of the moment.

Not that it’s ever easy for Mormon Democrats, of course. If you want to access the anti-Mormon id of the political left, read through the comment section of any large left-leaning political blog when a Mormon topic comes up. You will inevitably find a few people eager to spread ignorant or conscious untruths, and a general willingness to take them at face value.

But at this moment, life as a Mormon Democrat is particularly tricky. Glenn Beck, the villain of the moment, is not just a Mormon, but someone whose fame rests on mainstreaming the Mormon flavor of right wing paranoia. It’s difficult, for example, to join the throng chortling over Beck’s touting of food storage, however misguided his approach, when you have spent a month living off of your own food storage. The great cause of the left, equality for gays, is also one that saps enthusiasm for political engagement. Even if one supports gay marriage, it is very difficult for a Mormon to adhere to the party line that all opposition to it is based only on hate-filled bigotry. And for all the legislative accomplishments of the last two years, the profound sense of disappointment over opportunities lost is focused primarily on the failures in the Senate, a body led by Mormon Senator Harry Reid.

Reid, of course, represents a special challenge for Mormon Republicans. He is the political right’s villain of the moment, and also a part of the body of the Church, and one for which the church’s public affairs office is quite grateful. (My esteemed fellow bloggers regularly remind us in the side bar that Reid promotes the interests of the biggest industry in his state, which is tea weak enough to satisfy any Word of Wisdom fundamentalist.) Moreover, Reid is a glaring reminder that the Glenn Beck-inspired Tea Party movement managed to nominate a number of candidates who hurt Republican electoral fortunes on the margin in the last election. I don’t have a good read on the pulse of the American right, but the cause of the moment seems to be immigration. On one side of the issue is Mormon State Senator Russell Pearce of Arizona. On the other side, we have the church-endorsed Utah Compact. Immigration will never be an effective rallying cry for Mormon Republicans in any case: there are too many Spanish-speaking congregations in the U.S., too many missionaries who care far more about proselytizing to illegal immigrants than expelling them, and too much experience with good people living in other countries who would like to come here, work hard, and get rich.

Lurking in the wings, we have Mitt Romney waiting for another run at the presidency, faced with the choice between campaigning as the moderate Republican technocrat that everyone believes he is, entirely out of step with the fired-up Tea Party base, whose Massachusetts health care plan served as a model for the national plan that is now the bugaboo of the right, or running as a born-again tea-drinking true believer and thereby solidifying the widely-held image of a politician always chasing popularity over principle.

It is, in other words, a thoroughly lousy moment for 2004-, 2006-, or 2008-era partisan political trench warfare. Let a thousand doctrinal commentaries bloom instead.

41 comments for “What if they held an election, and no one blogged about it?

  1. I don’t have a good read on the pulse of the American right, but the cause of the moment seems to be immigration.

    The focus on the American right at the moment is almost entirely fiscal.

  2. You’ve had too much Egg Nog Jonathan. There were two posts here on the Election. Nobody cared_ it was a none event. The Republicans only increased the size of their vacumm of leadership on the federal level.

  3. Or, to be more trenchant, put not your trust in princes. Even non-gentile ones.

    Part of the decline in partisan trench warfare is simply that the Bloggernacle is getting older and we’ve all explained to each other that each other’s politics are the politics of ninnies and the Devil several times over. We’re at the seven-year itch in our hate relationship.

  4. I agree with Jakob that the main thing talked about on the political right is fiscal responsibility.

  5. Jakob J is right. Virtually every other cause on the right pales in comparison to fiscal policy right now. Immigration is almost unmentioned.

  6. I would say that the main different between 07-08 and 2010 is that we get much more wrapped up in Presidential elections. They become much more personal and exciting.

  7. Jakob J is spot on — and that’s why Romney will have a good shot at the presidency in 2012. Like it or not.

  8. If we could get a balanced budget amendment, I imagine most conservatives would be more than happy to split the difference between tax increases and spending cuts necessary to do it. Not in 2020 – tomorrow.

  9. There will not be a balanced-budget amendment soon, or likely ever. As things now stand, it will not make it out of a Democratic Senate. I also cannot imagine that 3/4 of the states would support it.

  10. Mark D.,
    I totally agree. That’s why when I find somebody suffering away on life support, I say the best way to help them is to take away 20 to 40 percent of the life support they have immediately. They always perk right up.

  11. Mark D.: When it is seen that to have a balanced budget, the Military will have to be cut half, Capital Gains go up___good bye Conservatives.

    California has a balanced budget law__it does no good__we are still in the hole.

  12. A balanced budget doesn’t stop Congress from providing the resources to keep any number of supplicants on “life support”. It just makes them be honest about it.

  13. Mark: Supplicants are pennies in the Budget. The top four programs are about 95% (guess) of it___and they have a no cut.

  14. Everyone who receives government funding is a supplicant, living off the imperfectly expressed generosity of others. The problem is the grantors and grantees both are about to go bankrupt.

  15. I am rather surprised to see (perhaps I missed it) that no one here has blogged about the book, American Grace, which discusses American religiosity and the rather unique interaction religion has on politics. The book is fascinating. I think it is a worthy topic of T&S.

  16. The focus on the American right at the moment is almost entirely fiscal.

    That’s an utter joke. Are you guys telling me that those on the right are willing to make a choice, right now, to choose between raising taxes in order to pay for the currently unfunded war in Iraq and war in Afghanistan, or to end those wars immediately for lack of actually paying them? Don’t give me none of that crap that conservatives have EVER actually been concerned about fiscal policies.

  17. I like this new fiscal approach to pacifism, Dan.

    What if they gave a war and no one ponied up?

    Make loot, not war.

    No blood for free!

    1 2 3 4, we must stop this war whose ROI does not justify the allocation of capital.

    I plan to email these slogans to noted rightwinger Barack Obama right away in hopes that he will see the errors of his ways.

    P.S. I think you misspelled ‘udder.’

  18. H. Ross:

    which is why 77% of house republicans and 88% of sentate republicans just voted for a fiscal policy bill that adds another $900B to the federal deficit. yes, there are very focused on fiscal responsibility.

    to the extent the american right cares about fiscal matters, the only common thread detectable in their actual votes, as opposed to their rhetoric, is a desire to withold any sort of public resource or benfit from those deemed socially unworthy or undesireable (illegal immigrants, unwed mothers, the unemployed and uninsured, the poor, artists, drug addicts, AIDS victims, minorities, etc.).

  19. interest post, Jonathan. i agree that it’s an ackward time for mormons on both sides of the aisle.

    one note:
    you accurately cited the embarassing anti-mormonism that crops up on leftblogs whenever a mormon related topic comes up. but you failed to mention the equally bigoted treatment mormons receive on rightblogs (FreeRepublic to name one specifically). and this coming from those who are their political allies, both in terms of the party id of a large majority of american mormons and in terms of most political issues the LDS church takes a position on.

  20. Thank you for all the comments! I very much appreciate the attempts to start an old-fashioned round of recrimination.

    I confess, I had forgotten about all the excitement over fiscal policy on the right. I was blinded by my liberal skepticism, I suppose. But, as Adam has pointed out, financial politics sucks the life out of any slogan. “The top marginal tax rate must fall to 35%” shouts one side. “No, they must rise to 41%!” shouts the other. It surely doesn’t help that you have to get way out on the fringes, of Mormonism and of politics, before you find an interesting intersection of our religion and financial policy.

    Palerobber, my familiarity with conservative political blogs is too limited for me to comment on how Mormon topics are treated in their comments sections. Thanks for the information.

  21. Dan, evidence free cries of insincerity aside, withdrawing from Afghanistan is not the only way to cut spending. Even after across the board cuts amounting to one half of the deficit, Congress retains the ability to determine whether Afghanistan is a higher priority than other defense spending – or other spending period and make the choice appropriately. I don’t know what they would decide.

    Finally, I think you radically overestimate conservative enthusiasm for the war in Afghanistan. The defense department appears to be more or less ineffective at getting anything done there, and conservative feelings about continuing active offensive operations there are probably lukewarm at best. Imagining they feel otherwise is either dishonest or out of touch.

  22. “The top marginal tax rate must fall to 35%” shouts one side. “No, they must rise to 41%!” shouts the other.

    At least conservatives have plans they are willing to take political heat for achieving a balanced budget. We could double the tax rates on all the people making over $250,000 and it would hardly make a dent.

    The dirty secret of left-liberal spending priorities – discretionary programs that are all ready the law of the land – is that they require hefty tax increases on the middle class to fund. Something like a 15% VAT tax for example. So where are all the honest Democrats out there willing to admit that?

    Certainly there are plenty of dishonest Republicans out there, who manage to pretend that Medicare can continue on its current track indefinitely, or pretend that the revenue to close the gap is going to magically appear without raising taxes in general. But these days they have a short lifespan in conservative politics, and that will probably continue.

  23. We conservatives are generally only in favor of foreign wars when Republicans are President.

    The honorable exceptions are the neo-conservatives, on the one hand, who think that the DoD should be the world’s social workers, and the paleo-conservatives on the other, who think that the neo-cons are Joooos.

  24. “We conservatives are generally only in favor of foreign wars when Republicans are President.”

    Very true.

    When a Republican isn’t president then they openly criticize it as world policing, too expensive and ideologically motivated to avoid problems back home, like Clinton and Kosovo and so on..the hypocrisy in US politics is bewildering!

  25. 25 – withdrawing from Afghanistan may not be the only way to cut spending, but it would be a step in the right direction.

    The estimated deficit for 2010 is 1.4 trillion. Defense spending accounts for 750 billion. Which would make it look large enough to cut the deficit in half. The problem is that the government accounts on a cash basis, so we’re probably still paying for Vietnam in that 750 billion, just like we’ll still be paying for Afghanistan and Iraq until around 2050 or later. Conservative estimates I’ve heard state that Iraq (alone) has an accrual-based accounting cost of around 13 trillion dollars. Unfortunately pulling out now won’t erase the expenditures that we’ve made nor the cash we will have to pay for the next 40 years. Saying that conservative enthusiasm for Afghanistan is lukewarm is meaningless, we’ve already incurred the costs. Saying “well I don’t want to be there either” doesn’t do any good. We already have been there, and will continue to pay for it.

    Look, I’m anything but a Democrat (I ally closest with Libertarians, and I usually vote Republican), but the simple fact is that GWBush was more fiscally irresponsible by putting us in Iraq (almost unilaterally – i.e. without the financial backing of anyone else) than any Democrat has ever had the ability to be. Republicans should (but obviously never will) own up to that fact.

    Its great to pretend to be fiscally responsible, but if you weren’t 9 years ago, its a little meaningless now.

  26. #26 “But these days they have a short lifespan in conservative politics, and that will probably continue.”

    Actually these days it needs to be a completely new party, different to Reagan and his voodoo economics, one that actually believes in spending cuts and does them. So far, well since Reagan, republicans managed to lower taxes (mostly for the rich) but then increased government spending ie equals deficit……and voodooism!

    Shame so many members of the US church actually supported those stupid ideas for so long! Now they seem to be coming round to reason again with these tea party meetings. Hopefully they will support reason and good economics because as the world knows when the USA sneezes we all catch a cold.

  27. Mark D.,

    Finally, I think you radically overestimate conservative enthusiasm for the war in Afghanistan.

    Oh, sure, now that a Democrat is in charge…they were quite enthusiastic not so long ago.

  28. Adam,

    The point is not that the war should be ended immediately or even immediately funded with higher taxes. The point is to raise the insincerity of the cries for fiscal responsibility from those on the right. Conservatives love Ronald Reagan. He’s a Holy Saint in their eyes. They don’t even want to talk about how he raised taxes, and also tripled the national debt. And we’re supposed to believe that today’s “fiscal conservatism” should follow in the footsteps of Ronald Reagan….hah! In the end, this blustering over fiscal responsibility from those on the right only appears when a Democrat is in power…and it is particularly intense right now because the current Democrat is not only a liberal type, but he’s also black with a Muslim name. Few characteristics are more “other” than that of Barack Hussein Obama. How can any right thinking American patriot TRUST such a person to manage the finances of the country? Only conservatives know how to manage deficits…

  29. Mark D. “So where are all the honest Democrats out there willing to admit that”? Here’s one! I’m ready for a 15% VAT. (I already own all my junk).
    Gee__I wonder how many thousands the Taliban have spend on the War?!
    I think Iraq made money.

  30. Jonathan, perhaps it is my browser, but I can’t figure out what the graph attached to this post is about. Is that T&S’s readership over time? :)

  31. Sure, it is true that republicans have not been fiscally responsible, and likewise, Barack Obama doesn’t support gay marriage. La-di-da. The politicians leading the major parties are never aligned perfectly with the causes of the idealogical movements in the country because they are trying to get elected.

  32. Dan,
    if it makes you feel better to think that republican politicians are and were irresponsible spenders, by all means, do so. If partisanship salves your psychic wounds, apply the balm liberally. You won’t be the only one.

  33. Adam,

    I’m talking about your average conservative Joe. They’ve never actually cared about the deficit, because if they did, they would demand that we actually pay for the wars they so willingly let others die for in their names.

  34. Dan,
    I have a harder time endorsing ill-feeling and partisan hatred for the average member of the other side, since there’s so many more of them. It starts bordering on a lack of charity. I suppose you could just claim it was your recognition of a particular instantiation of the fall.

  35. Dan,

    The right doesn’t care about convincing the left they care about the deficit. They are using the issue for political gain.

    Politicians on the right and left are playing the real life equivalent of a complex turn-based strategy game with one another. They don’t care about being consistent or avoiding hypocrisy unless it gives them a leg up in the overall contest.

    Our problem is that we expect them to be above such gamesmanship.

  36. If you objectively compare the two parties they are pretty much the same. Lets see, Bush increased socialized health care more than any other previous president, he got us into two wars (one where all the reasons have been proven false), and he took away many of our civil liberties (patriot act, Guantanamo, etc.). Obama has increased socialized health care more than any previous president, he has continued two unpopular wars (after receiving the Nobel Peace prize) and has expanded or increased them to other countries (Yemen, Pakistan, Iran (economic sanctions is a form of war), etc.), he has taken away our civil liberties (made it possible to kill American citizens by presidential decree, etc.).

    That’s my take on it. I don’t know why the Left and the Right fight so much. Both sides are mercantilists.

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