Utah Transcends Political Tribalism

This might be the last place you would expect to see it: a state where Republicans already prefer the inclusive message of Marco Rubio over the divisive messages of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz,* even before Rubio’s strong finish in South Carolina.** That is, if you didn’t know much about Utah. Utah is the reddest state in the Union, with a 36-point gap in party affiliation. Rubio is often called a moderate, so he should be the favorite in a place where the Republicans are tinted purple, like Massachusetts or Vermont, right? Nope! They prefer Trump, by 34 percentage points in Massachusetts and 15 in Vermont! Trump is leading nationally by around 14 points, and in nearly every state. Just look at the polls. Cruz won the Iowa caucus and leads in his home state of Texas and neighboring New Mexico. Otherwise, it is all about Trump right now—except in Utah.

How is the reddest state in the Union coming out in favor of a so-called moderate rather than a hard-liner like Cruz or Trump? Utah has a different brand of Republicans, much less likely to see the world in tribal terms, especially not ethnic tribes.

For most of us in this country today, national politics is driven more by what we hate and fear than by what we love. Most voters’ negative feelings toward the opposition party are stronger than their positive feelings for their own. This is called negative polarization, and its effects are as plain as day in the primary contests unfolding as we speak. Anger and self-righteousness are the dominant tone for the leading candidates in both parties’ races. Trump gladly and openly claims the mantle of anger, and even if Hillary is hanging onto more delegates, Bernie has dominated the debate with his more energizing message—revolution against a system that’s been rigged. For both Donald and Bernie, as much as anything the problem is about certain groups of people—those people—that are wrecking America.

Sadly, political discourse on the Left, rather than calling us to transcend barriers of race, ethnicity, gender, and so on, in recent years has come to treat these as the decisive features of the political landscape—and, oh, also economic status, which Bernie reminds us is actually a more serious issue today. Evangelical and blue collar whites, sensing their lack of favor, have moved away from the Democratic party lately and become major sources of support for Trump and Cruz. As a result, we see a tribal character to politics on both sides this cycle.

But Utah has a whole bunch of Mormons, and Mormons are different. Mormons are part of an institution that is deeply designed to overcome this kind of tribalism and actively build a different kind of community. Of course, the message of Christ has always called us to see our fellow human beings as our brothers and sisters, rich or poor, black or white, Jew or Gentile, bond or free. This message is there to be found in most any Christian church, but too often the institutions are set up in a way that undermines it. Too many church congregations are mainly white or black, rich or poor. People self-select into communities that are defined by these markers. The Catholic church is a distinctly global church, whose global character is much more visible than many others because of its global institutional structure, mostly absent in the Protestant world. Still, individual parishes are too much defined by “the big sort,” by which we divide ourselves into groups of similar race/class/ethnicity.

Mormons are different. Our congregations are defined in ways that cut across these divisions, often deliberately, and we are expected to go and serve and be served there. We are affected by the tribal tendencies too, but our church works decidedly against it. Where a church unit is particularly slanted in one direction or another, we will often change its boundaries, or call members of another congregation to go and serve there, even serving in a different language. Just as importantly, a large percentage of our members have served missions, sent far from home to serve people very different from them, not just for a week or two but for years, in another state or another country. With the recent change in age for missionary service, the percentage of active members who have served missions may rise very high indeed.

Even for those who have not served missions themselves, they are surrounded by people who have lived and learned to love the people all over the world. The stories, languages, relationships, and cuisine from these experiences become a routine part of the landscape in a Mormon ward. Our general authorities tell stories from their global travels and hold up the faith of saints in Africa or Latin America or Mongolia as an inspiring example for us all, as they would the saints in their own hometowns. A rising number of general authorities themselves hail from distant lands and express through their own accent and culture the same spiritual message that we all embrace. We celebrate the building of each new temple as they proliferate across the globe.

For generations, America has aspired to be a community defined by moral principles that transcend the obvious lines of tribalism. After centuries of apparent progress toward that ideal, the current trend is decidedly backward. In some sectors, we are failing because we have embraced new principles that refuse to let tribalism go. In other sectors, we are failing through a lack of deep commitment to any shared principles. One seriously wonders if America can stay the course. But the Mormons are doing it.

[*Cruz is obviously not as divisive as Trump, but he is still ready to, for instance, openly advocate treating refugees differently on the basis of their religion. Trump comes in noticeably behind both Rubio and Cruz in Utah.]

[**The Utah Policy poll I am looking at is from February 10-15, just after Rubio’s most disappointing debate performance and the New Hampshire primary in which Rubio placed fifth, making this strong level of support especially remarkable.]

66 comments for “Utah Transcends Political Tribalism

  1. February 24, 2016 at 7:44 am

    Nice post, Ben–thanks.

  2. Ardis
    February 24, 2016 at 10:28 am

    I would like to like this, if only for its seemingly hopeful tone. But I can’t like it, because I din’t believe it, because I listen to what real people say.

  3. Walter van Beek
    February 24, 2016 at 10:29 am

    It is an uplifting thought, Ben, for someone from overseas like me. We here in the Netherlands are watching these weird pre-elections with astonishment and trepidation, highly interesting from a scholarly viewpoint, but from a practical angle and a European standpoint you guys are playing with fire ,inside a munition factory! How can people who elected a president with the stature of Barack Obama even consider Donald Trump as president? Of course, Europe is far less right wing than the US, and someone like Sanders would be a respected social-democrat over here, part of a center-left coalition that governs the country. Sounds like Hilary as president and Sanders as VP, I guess. But then, between Obama and – our dear and forgotten – Mitt Romney, for us an election would not even have been needed, just an appointment by acclamation. Also for Mormon Europeans.
    I sincerely hope that the Mormons in the USA will overcome this tribalism, and opt for the best and most qualified candidates; the latter criterion would indicate a woman, of course. Or are the Republicans venting their deeply cultural dissatisfaction with their own chosen government because they reckon the present demographics of the USA will favour the democrat candidate anyway? Are those Trump fans secretly counting on Hilary Clinton?
    Walter van Beek

  4. Martin James
    February 24, 2016 at 11:17 am

    I think Utah used to be that way but is no longer. Even though Rubio may be the most popular he only has 24% of the vote and Rubio and Kasich combined have 28% compared to Trump/Cruz/Carson which have 49%.
    You can see the difference in the failure of the Utah legislature to agree on a Medicaid expansion plan despite the support of very traditional voice of the community establishment such as the governor, LDS church, chamber of commerce and the hospital association. Tribalism has come to Zion.
    Walter, we in the USA have a hard time knowing what to make of Europe when the people who seem to have power in the world as evidenced in Syria are countries like the USA, Russia, China, Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia.
    I’m not saying the means Europeans are incorrect or immoral in their political preferences, it is just hard to see how much it matters that you have been living under a security regime paid for by the United States. It all seems a bit like you are living off capital inherited from a colonial and aggressive past. What happens when that economic, political and military capital is gone.
    Again, I’m not arguing against the European perspective, I’m just saying it seems to exist within an international structure under transition. One example, would be the difference in opinions in say Poland or Turkey compared to where you live.

  5. February 24, 2016 at 11:34 am

    Ben, you seem to have omitted the terribly relevant fact that Rubio was Mormon for several years as a youth. That fact is well known in Mormon circles, which almost certainly explains some of his popularity in Utah. I’ll bet if Trump has been LDS for a few years as a kid, he’d be way ahead in Utah. See this Deseret News article from 2015, “Rubio plays up Mormon background on campaign trail.”

  6. Wally
    February 24, 2016 at 12:23 pm

    Ben, I’m surprised to see this from someone I assumed was better informed.

    First, the most recent poll has Cruz leading in Utah, not Rubio (Cruz 18%, Rubio 17%, Trump 13%).

    Second, calling Rubio a moderate is like calling Trump humble. Rubio’s positions on pretty much everything reflect the GOP elite’s preferences: reduce taxes on the hyperwealthy, cut benefits to the poor and elderly, oppose any measures to stop global warming, use the free market to fix the environment (haha), lower the corporate tax rate, deregulate Wall Street, and on and on. Rubio’s devotion to supply-side economics, as evidenced by his economic proposals, would balloon the deficit and increase the rampant inequality we are facing.

    Third, your rapid dismissal of the Democratic positions on various issues is surprising. In an election cycle where the Republicans are hurling insults and proposing absolutely ridiculous ideas, the Democrats have been discussing real issues that affect real people and are much more in line with, say Joseph Smith or Brigham Young.

    It’s a sad statement on Utah Mormons that so many blindly vote Republican, which is voting against their own and the country’s best interest—and in many cases voting against their religious beliefs. Most of my Republican neighbors don’t read a newspaper or watch a newscast or follow political discussion online. They vote straight R because they assume GOP stands for God’s Only Party.

  7. Last Lemming
    February 24, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    Dave’s comment suggests an easy solution for ex-Mormons who feel that they have been ostracized for their nonconformity–just run for president (preferably against a couple of loonies like Trump and Cruz) and all will be forgiven.

  8. rah
    February 24, 2016 at 1:30 pm

    Hmm. I am not sure the data supports this view. Here is a an aggregation of polling for Utah’s caucases. It is only recently that Rubio seems to have squeaked into the lead in what is a pretty mixed field. Cruz and Trump still have essentially equal support with Rubio.

    Here is SLTs poll from January.http://www.sltrib.com/home/3426560-155/poll-4-way-tie-among-gop-presidential and Cruz, Trump and Carson are all equally holding their own with Rubio. So very little evidence that Mormons are being more moderate, earlier.

    Here is a multiple poll aggregation. Trump was the leader (through the end of the year, with Cruz rising and just recently Rubio emerging. http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/pollster/2016-utah-presidential-republican-primary.

    So yeah maybe Trump didn’t have quite the lead he had in other places but both Trump and Cruz are highly dislikable. They aren’t Mormon “nice” and Cruz’s politics are incredibly conservative. So are Rubio’s really. He isn’t really a moderate except maybe on immigration which he has run away from. He just presents himself more reasonably.

  9. Ben Huff
    February 24, 2016 at 3:13 pm

    My point in this post is about political tribalism. I know it’s hard to do, folks, but let’s put a bookmark in the other issues and save them for another time!

    Note that I am describing tribalism on both the right and the left as the, or one of the, dominant features of this political cycle. So this is not about right or left. I have my opinions; I’ll save them for another time.

    Ardis, (#2), look at the statistics. Those are real people they are polling. If you think Utah is too tribal, try hanging out with Republicans somewhere else this season!

    Walter (#3), Bernie is just as much pinning his anger on “those people” as Trump is; he is just pinning it on different people. Notice that I used them both as examples in the post. Obama has used identity politics eagerly and consistently to divide us, repeatedly passing judgment on the basis of race in incidents where he knew none of the relevant details, and where further inquiry showed his snap judgments to be wrong. Obama’s reflex to take sides in identity politics has actually diminished his stature in office dramatically. I would say that his failure to really take up the cause of America as a whole is his primary failure in office, integrally linked with most of his other failures. He has approached the presidency as the leader of his party and of those who voted for him, not of the nation as a whole. I could develop this point at length, but I’ll move on. Hillary of course is using identity politics front and center, and it is a sign of the success of feminism that so many women are not impressed by her appeal to vote for her because she is a woman, especially young women. So, Bernie and Hillary are both waging heavily tribal campaigns; they are simply emphasizing different tribal markers, with Bernie emphasizing class. On the Republican side, though, there really are some candidates that are more and others that are less heavily relying on tribalism. Rubio is presenting a substantially more inclusive message than Cruz or Trump, and is strongly associated with a more inclusive approach to immigration in particular. That is my interest in this thread.

    Martin (#4), considering how big Trump’s lead is everywhere else, the fact that Rubio and Cruz are both ahead of him is very significant. I’m not saying that there is no tribalism in Utah. I am, though, saying that it is significantly less tribal than elsewhere. I put forward those stunning statistics, the big differences between Utah and elsewhere, as evidence.

    Dave (#5), this is certainly relevant. I hadn’t even heard about this until a few days ago, and I figured it was probably a rumor. If Rubio was playing it up, I guess it’s true. Still, he isn’t a Mormon; in fact as a former Mormon he would seem to be an apostate. So I have doubts about how big a factor this is.

    Just as importantly, notice that Cruz is also ahead of Trump among Utah Republicans. So this is as much about being less interested in the divisiveness of Trump as it is about Rubio in particular. I don’t know anywhere besides Utah where Trump’s numbers are that low. So I think my point stands.

    Wally (#6), dial back the pompousness. I specified the poll I was referring to, a poll of Utah Republicans February 10-15 by Utah Policy. Utah Policy reports results for Utah Republicans (Rubio leading by 2% over Cruz and 6% over Trump) and broader results for Utah (Cruz 18%, Rubio 17%, Trump 13%). Both results support my point, as I just explained in response to Dave, because Cruz is far less tribal than Trump. The result for Utah Republicans is particularly eye-catching, though, because Rubio isn’t leading in any other polls I’ve seen. Also, this is the poll that is properly comparable to the other polls in the RCP listing, which is why they list that result from Utah Policy rather than the other.

    On your other political points, suffice it to say that I disagree, and I have plenty more I could say about why. Trust me, I have studied the issues rather deeply. In this post I am talking about tribalism.

    rah (#8), the earlier data still support my point, because Trump has never polled anywhere near as strongly in Utah as he has nationally. Notice how far ahead of him Carson was at his peak. As for who is or isn’t “likeable” or “conservative” in general, that is just beside the point of the post. Rubio is clearly more inclusive and less tribal than Trump, and somewhat more inclusive than Cruz, even after giving up the position of the Gang of Eight.

  10. February 24, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    This has to be satire. Either way, Utah will embrace Trump come November. I live in an inclusive ward in urban Las Vegas and I see a lot of what Ben is talking about. However, I don’t know if most of Utah is like urban Las Vegas. I have also watched a group of sisters bully my wife this week because she is a Democrat.

    “But the Mormons are doing it.”

    Ben, you know this is not at all true, right? I realize that you are smarter than me…but this is fluff and it almost seems intentionally so.

  11. Ardis
    February 24, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    “Rubio was once Mormon.”

    Why does anyone think his one-time Mormonism is more relevant than his family’s LEAVING Mormonism?

  12. February 24, 2016 at 3:17 pm

    Mormonism doesn’t defy tribalism. It is a tribe.

  13. February 24, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    Ardis, I think we find positive connections when we are digging for them. Rubio’s popularity among Mormons has more to do with his Romney-style form of conservatism.

    Also, it is yet to be seen whether Utah rejects Trump. The poll only show a preference for certain alternatives.

  14. Martin James
    February 24, 2016 at 4:36 pm

    I think Trump lost a lot of Utah support with the comment on banning entry to the USA based on religion. Even the church commented on that.

  15. Ben Huff
    February 24, 2016 at 4:42 pm

    Chris (#12), by “tribalism” I am talking about dividing up loyalties by the superficial markers of race, class, ethnicity, gender, national origin and the like. Mormons have loyalty to one another, but it is decidedly not based on these things. Rather, it is based on a shared commitment to spiritual principles. And because these spiritual principles matter so much more to them than those other things, the importance of the usual tribal markers fades dramatically. I submit that there is a big and morally profound difference between having one’s loyalties driven by shared moral commitments and having one’s loyalties driven by race, class, gender, etc. If you disagree, go talk to Reverend Martin Luther King.

  16. February 24, 2016 at 5:19 pm

    “we in the USA have a hard time knowing what to make of Europe when the people who seem to have power in the world as evidenced in Syria are countries like the USA, Russia, China, Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia.”

    Martin, the countries you mention directly cause or at least facilitate untold suffering among the people of Syria, unleashing a refugee crisis not seen since European powers stopped going to war against each other. If this is what it means to “have power in the world,” the last thing Europe needs to worry about is being “incorrect or immoral in their political preferences”.

    “you have been living under a security regime paid for by the United States.”

    The US security regime during the Cold War was hardly an act of charity, and certainly cannot justify the price being paid by Europe for the US destabilization policy in the Middle East. For example, neutral countries like Austria and Sweden now host a number of refugees relative to their populations that threatens to destabilize their social welfare systems. They, as well as the rest of Europe (except France and the UK, I suppose), have nothing to do with the succession of toppled and failing states, the rise of ISIS and arms races across the region since the US began its ideologically motivated invasion of Iraq in 2003. The US “security regime” doesn’t stop them from paying a price, it ups the ante.

  17. Ben Huff
    February 24, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    peterllc (#16), your comment is off-topic since it does not engage the subject of tribalism (as was part of comment #4). With so many incendiary topics all around in politics, we have to keep focus if we are going to be able to discuss the original issue. I am likely to delete further off-topic comments.

  18. JimD
    February 24, 2016 at 5:58 pm

    I think there’s a culture of “niceness” in Utah which does not harmonize well with Trump’s style. This was also a problem for McCain, who (aside from being a war hero) tended to come across as a smug, ornery cuss; and accordingly got a lower percentage of the total Utah vote than any other Republican in a two-candidate election since Gerald Ford.

    Trump’s nomination probably wouldn’t exactly put Utah “in play” for the general; but it would probably be the closest we’ve seen since the Nixon administration.

  19. Clark Goble
    February 24, 2016 at 6:27 pm

    A few thoughts.

    First I think Rubio is called a moderate only because of one hot button issue: immigration. He came in with the tea party and his positions and Cruz’ are pretty similar. Cruz espouses slightly more realist foreign policy while Rubio is more neocon – although arguably those terms have lost most of their meaning these days.

    Regarding identity, I was really interested in how Nevada went. A lot of reporters were expecting Rubio to play off his roots there. However to me those roots always seemed a bit dubious. He had family in the Cuban community there but the Mormon connection always seemed pretty weak. It was interesting that being a former Mormon was seen by many Mormons as a positive rather than how inactive members are often seen. (Consider how the question of say Huntsman’s activity was discussed in the previous cycle)

    While I expected Rubio to do well at least trying to play up those identity links, I wasn’t terribly shocked to discover they didn’t work as well as some reporters thought. Cruz also had links, primarily through Senator Lee in Utah (although he’s also a friend to Rubio).

    Mormons might decry group identity but I think in practice we tend to play it in spades. However there are limits to it – with perhaps Senator Reid being the most obvious example of a member of the tribe that much of the tribe is uncomfortable with.

  20. Clark Goble
    February 24, 2016 at 6:43 pm

    One last thought – I think the reason Utah is distrustful of Trump isn’t the most interesting question. I think there are really obvious reasons why people would be suspicious of him. Rather the more interesting question is why Evangelicals are unexpectedly flocking to Trump. To me the interesting question in Utah is why Trump support is as high as it is. (I’d love to see more of a demographic breakdown of his support – does more of it come from non-Mormons)

    To the comments:

    Walter (3) What do you mean about Obama’s stature? Honest question. It seems to me that a lot of Obama’s appeal is due to our projections on top of him. That and contrasting his demeanor to how many other more populist politicians (say Sanders or Trump) adopt. Is that what you mean or do you mean his policies?

    It’s interesting to me as what I truly fear with Trump and Sanders is that the US is moving to a more European styled political breakdown. (I suspect if so it’ll be temporary if only because of the very different incentives in our system versus the various types of parliamentary systems)

    Martin (4) I think we’d had to have our head in the sand to deny tribalisms related to the various subgroups in national politics. But what’s more important is how these sub-tribes have related to each other. For instance in Utah politics within my lifetime there’s been a big divide between those emphasizing social conservatism (like the Eagle Forum) from more libertarian strains. I think we can miss a lot of those subgroup tensions. The recent rise of the Tea Party obviously has elements in Utah politics as well with figures like Sen Lee.

    The problem I have with appeals to identity or tribes is that often the tensions are overlooked. What’s most interesting about this election cycle is how with the Republicans and to a lesser extent the Democrats the tensions between members of the coalitions have become so frayed. I suspect we’re going to see a major political realignment – especially if Trump wins.

    Dave (5) I wonder how much of Rubio as Mormon plays up on our insecurities about being recognized in the country. Beyond that it seems odd that someone religiously we’d say fell away from the church is held up whereas others like Reid or Huntsman are treated so differently.

    Wally (6) I confess to me I don’t see a lot of difference between the nonsense on the right from Cruz or Trump and the nonsense on the left from people like Sanders. To me this is part and parcel of populism dominating where close attention to wonkish issues matters less than signaling ones commitment to some populist fear.

    When you have this populist fervor (I’m inclined to see it as a repeat of the Jacksonian movement in the 19th century) it’s all about signaling and tribe. The question for both parties is what sub-tribe dominates the overall tribe. (Given the structural incentives for there to be only two)

    Ben (9) I think I agree with you on Obama although I think that “taking sides” is incentivized so strongly in our system that it’s hard to avoid. Both Bush and Obama came in thinking they could work in a bipartisan way and both discovered to their surprise they couldn’t. Both then became demonized.

    JimD (18) I think that’s really perceptive. Trump’s style grates against us while it plays well in other areas. We’ll see how that develops. There’s also a sense in which many Mormon conservatives have been caught up in the development of a populist tribe starting in the late 1990’s. The tribe is as much defined by what it’s against as much as any stylistic markers.

  21. February 24, 2016 at 9:22 pm

    Ben, you and I have a long history of talking past each other. Glad we can continue the tradition. We might as well be writing two different languages.

  22. DEL
    February 24, 2016 at 11:42 pm

    If the respondents here are LDS, then it only shows a lack of lock-in-step tribalism. I support Kasich because he is a problem solver who leans conservative but is a pragmatist. Utah has had a tradition of electing practical politicians at the state level. But both parties have such tribal identities nowadays it seems we will never move forward with a consensus. We desperately need one who can pull us together. After all, as Americans we have more similarities than differences, yet you would never know it given the past 8-10 years of wrangling.

  23. February 25, 2016 at 12:27 am

    Do you think that Utahns prefer Rubio because they know that he used to attend the LDS church, and don’t look into why he stopped?

  24. February 25, 2016 at 1:23 am

    So, let me see if I’m following this. “Sadly,” other non-Mormon people out there suffer from tribalism, which is the unfortunate tendency to bucket people into “us” and the “other,” and attribute negative things to the other, such as saying “those people…are wrecking America.” However, unlike those other non-Mormon (non-Utah) people, “Mormons are different,” a “different brand,” and we don’t suffer from tribalism.

    Okie dokie.

  25. February 25, 2016 at 1:26 am

    So would you say that those other people are wrecking America with their tribalism? (Unlike us Mormons, who aren’t tribal.)

  26. Bree
    February 25, 2016 at 4:21 am

    ^^ Perfect, Cynthia.

  27. peterllc
    February 25, 2016 at 5:37 am

    Ben, I respectfully disagree that my comment is off-topic; indeed, I feel it addresses a point you made in your OP:

    “For generations, America has aspired to be a community defined by moral principles that transcend the obvious lines of tribalism. After centuries of apparent progress toward that ideal, the current trend is decidedly backward.”

    The dubious role of the US in Syria may not be something very many Americans care about, but to the extent that is true it simply underlines your point.

  28. February 25, 2016 at 5:37 am

    Sadly, however, it is not the same Christ.

  29. your food allergy is fake
    February 25, 2016 at 9:51 am

    Utah prefers Rubio because he is the least physically unattractive. No, I’m serious there might be something to this. Utah culture absolutely values physical appearance to a higher degree than the other places I’ve lived, including northern California, Chicago, the northeast, even the south!

  30. zjg
    February 25, 2016 at 10:58 am

    I must admit that I’m a bit puzzled by this post. I’ve always understood tribalism, especially in politics, to be about privileging group loyalty over ideas, and the piece you link to seems to adopt a very similar definition. If that’s our definition, and assuming the tribe here is the party itself, I would think that Trump supporters are in fact acting less tribally than Rubio supporters — sure, Trump sounds rhetorically extreme, but nobody thinks that he is the standard bearer of the Republican establishment. (See, e.g., the article in the New York Times today about the coming conflict between Trump and Paul Ryan). Rubio, by contrast, is probably the establishment candidate (a fact that in my opinion underscores the rightward shift in American politics, given what I perceive as Rubio’s many right-wing positions). Accordingly, the fact that Utah Mormons support Rubio doesn’t seem surprising in the least. Nor does it suggest that they aren’t acting tribally. If Mormons were to rally behind a candidate who wasn’t the establishment candidate and, unlike Trump, was focused on ideas rather than personality, then I would think that would be strong evidence of non-tribal behavior. I don’t see any evidence of that type of behavior among Mormons along the Wasatch Front or the Southwest.

  31. BlueRidgeMormon
    February 25, 2016 at 11:42 am

    Ben, I’m afraid I’m with Cynthia and Ardis and others: this is a baffling post that is (above all else) wishful thinking. And no I’m not threadjacking to highlight some side point; rather, specifically to your core thesis about tribalism – – I WANT what you’re saying to be true, but my experience is that it simply isn’t true.

    In other words, I actually think that one of the biggest challenges with day-to-day life in the church is in fact its very predilection toward tribalism. We might not tend to “tribalize” based on race or wealth (though I think we certainly DO do this sometimes)… but we most certainly tribalize around other measures of conformity. For instance, the very thing you want to use to demonstrate your point: political party! The church is hugely tribal in this respect, as others have pointed out.

    I teach early morning seminary in a strong LDS but very much “mission field-y” eastern USA stake, and I have students who have difficulty recognizing that nonMormons can also be good influences on them. “Us-vs-them” is very much alive and well in the church. That is to say: we are HIGHLY tribal. (Even if I regret pointing that out..)

  32. Clark Goble
    February 25, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    zjg, I think many Rubio supporters see him as the most likely to advance conservative ideology in government. They fear Trump because they don’t see him as sincere nor as a conservative. I don’t think Rubio is a good candidate in the least. Most of my worries from spring have proven true. He’s a worse public politician than Romney was. However in terms of the ideology, I think he fits much better than trump.

  33. February 25, 2016 at 4:35 pm

    “We might not tribalize based on race or wealth.” Really. We discriminated against blacks until 1978. And we still haven’t apologized for that. We currently discriminate against the LGBT community. And you can quote any number of GA talks that seem to support some form of a “prosperity gospel.” And aren’t all or most the GA fairly well off?

  34. BlueRidgeMormon
    February 25, 2016 at 4:43 pm

    Roger – agree, actually. You’re right. That said, I think some of us may have direct experience with multicultural wards, for example – – so the point was simply that in the day-to-day practice, tribalism based on ethnicity may not be the most prevalent form of tribalism in the church.

    But to infer from that (as I think Ben is doing), that therefore Utah Mormons aren’t tribal-ish, seems like a massive stretch to me. My primary point was that I think as a group, LDS folks are plenty tribal, especially in the “us vs them” variety.

  35. Ben Huff
    February 25, 2016 at 8:13 pm

    Several commenters have suggested that Mormons are plenty tribal, just not in a way that is based on race, ethnicity, national origin, class, gender, etc. In the OP, as I’ve mentioned, I am using “tribalism” to refer to basing loyalties on these markers, which are relatively shallow. I think it’s pretty obvious that Mormons have a strong sense of group loyalty to other Mormons. This is very different from the shallower kinds of tribalism, though, and I think the difference matters a lot. I dare say it is morally superior, and again I appeal to MLK in support, as well as to many other founding thinkers of the American project (yes, I just referred to MLK as one of the founding thinkers for the American project, as we know it, and btw none of these folks are Mormons). Humans have to live in communities with some level of common ground, and navigating community boundaries is always tricky and subject to errors and excesses, but defining one’s community largely by moral commitment I think is a pretty good way to do it. Some further observations on this issue:

    1) My point is not to say Mormons are awesome and other people are losers. Notice that I am appealing to moral and spiritual voices well beyond the Mormon community. My point is to say that (a) most of us, as Americans and children of the Enlightenment and, frankly, as Christians, aspire to see beyond these shallow barriers and achieve a moral community that transcends them; (b) America in general is actually not doing so hot on this aspiration right now, as evidenced by the current political scene; and (c) there are effective ways of overcoming shallow tribalism, as demonstrated by this pattern of relative success in the Mormon community; so (d) we (Americans, children of the Enlightenment, Christians) should not give in to the current shift toward shallow tribalism, but recognize it as a problem and get serious about strategies for reversing our slide!

    2) Part of why Mormons are so able to overcome barriers of race, ethnicity, class, and nationality and feel strong fellowship across them is precisely because they have this strong, shared commitment to spiritual values. So that shared commitment is doing some very positive work.

    3) This overcoming of racial/ethnic/national/class barriers doesn’t only have its effect within the Mormon community, either. The point of the OP, what the statistics indicate, is that Mormons are less drawn to rhetoric and ideas that would divide us along these lines, even when Mormonism is not part of the conversation at all. It’s not that we are annoyed when Trump makes rude comments about *Mormon* immigrants from Mexico or the Middle East or someplace; Mormonism has nothing to do with it. Rather, because we have experienced this strong moral community with people from Mexico, the Middle East, Madagascar, and Mongolia, we are more responsive to the humanity of people from these places regardless of their religion.

    So, (4) I think Americans, children of the Enlightenment, and Christians who share this aspiration to transcend shallow tribalism need to work on deepening our sense of shared values. This means talking about them at home, in the community, and in the media, educating our young people, working through the debates and differences that arise, and working to persuade and find common ground. The American project is at risk of failure in the very near future if current trends continue! I think we need to build more of our institutions (schools, universities, workplaces, media outlets) on explicit moral premises, so that our moral development and the building of moral community is no longer shoved into the margins. Our exclusion of our deepest moral commitments from public life, in the interest of getting along, is creating a moral Babel. Let’s change that!

  36. Ken
    February 25, 2016 at 8:19 pm

    Whenever I suffer from a recent dearth of having people look down their nose at me, all I have to do to remedy my withdrawal is come here to Times and Seasons and read a few comments, and, Voila! Problem solved! Thanks so much! ;-D (Would that I were only as enlightened as some/many of you folks are (Alas!). Sigh! Some day, perhaps! Some day!

  37. Ben Huff
    February 25, 2016 at 8:24 pm

    Aw, shucks, Ken, quit your flatterin. Any good blog oughtta be able to do that for you!

  38. lois
    February 25, 2016 at 8:54 pm

    First, I would point out 2 things. According to the February Utah Policy Poll, Rubio is favored by UT Republicans 24%, with Cruz a close second at 22%. Not a big difference there. Secondly, I would also make the case that Rubio is not a “moderate.” DW-nominate gave Rubio a decidedly right-wing rating–only 9 Senators further to the right than Rubio (Cruz being one of them).

    Definition of tribalism: the behavior and attitudes that stem from strong loyalty to one’s own tribe or social group.

    I was born and raised in UT. Tribalism is deeply ingrained in the UT Mormon culture. People are frequently identified as “Mormon” or “non-Mormon” by LDS church members living in UT. Frankly, the LDS church in the U.S. is primarily white and from the Western states, though there are other religious groups even less racially diverse (Jews for one). Additionally, according to Pew Research, 57% of Mormons surveyed reported all or most all of their friends were Mormon.

    Perhaps UT Mormons can look beyond race or class (though many rarely interface with different races/ethnicity), but many UT Mormons have a hard time looking beyond political party–accepting those who are liberal/Democrats.

  39. zjg
    February 25, 2016 at 9:26 pm

    I can’t stop thinking about this fascinating post, in no small part because it seems so very inconsistent with my own intuition about things. Whatever Utah’s support for Rubio says about Mormons’ ability to look beyond race or class differences, it doesn’t really tell us much about the political tribalism that seems to be the issue du jour (and which I mistakenly thought on a first, quick read, was the subject of the post). One of the most astute commentators on this type of tribalism among religious folks is, in my opinion, Marilynne Robinson. I think she’s generally understood to be addressing the Christian Right in general and evangelical Protestants in particular. But her criticisms sure ring true to my experience living in (or at least near) Mormon country. The fact that Utah Mormons support Rubio is hardly a response to this criticism.

  40. February 26, 2016 at 12:02 am

    I previously wrote: Whenever I suffer from a recent dearth of having people look down their nose at me, all I have to do to remedy my withdrawal is come here to Times and Seasons and read a few comments, and, Voila! Problem solved! Thanks so much! ;-D (Would that I were only as enlightened as some/many of you folks are (Alas!). Sigh! Some day, perhaps! Some day!

    Whereupon Ben Huff responded: Aw, shucks, Ken, quit your flatterin. Any good blog oughtta be able to do that for you!

    I now reply: Ben, Ben, Ben! You don’t give many members of the T&S Commentariat nearly the credit they for their ability to look down their noses at the deluded, the unenlightened, the backward!!! I can do no more than plead for them to deign to save me from my own ignorance! (Please! I BEG you!)

  41. February 26, 2016 at 1:20 am

    “This overcoming of racial/ethnic/national/class barriers….”

    You keep saying that like it’s a thing that has happened.

  42. Brad L
    February 26, 2016 at 3:00 am

    This idea that Mormons have overcome political tribalism is all based on the premise that the Republican voters among them tend to favor Marco Rubio (just barely more than Ted Cruz and Donald Trump) and that Marco Rubio is not a divisive candidate because he tends to avoid mentioning supposedly divisive issues such as economic inequality, women’s rights, racism, and discrimination based on ethnicity and nationality.

    Utah Mormons are plenty politically tribal. They knee-jerk vote Republican because, well, that’s just what the crowd does. Not to mention the fact that they vote Republican because they tend to be pro-life, against gay marriage, and for religious freedoms. Voting Republican simply because the party tends to be against gay marriage is not tribal?

    This idea that Mormons, because of their religion (a religion that officially discriminated against blacks up until 1978), have transcended racist, sexist, and ethnic-based discrimination much better than the rest of society in the US is baseless. No. While the Mormon religion and its core adherent have made significant progress on overcoming racist tendencies towards blacks and discrimination against people of different ethnic and national groups, it continues to be a religion that fosters sexist and homophobic tendencies and is not progressing on those issues at the same rate that other cultures in the US are.

    And this implicit notion that bringing up the issues of racism, economic disparity, sexism, is causing the divisions in society is nonsense. These issues have existed and continue to exist because of longstanding cultural trends in the US society and human nature. It is incumbent upon us to address the reality of these problems and take productive measures against them. Dismissing the mere mention of these issues as identity politics is a manifestation of naivete about the state of US society and the reality of human nature at best and blatant denialism at worst.

  43. Clark Goble
    February 26, 2016 at 11:36 am

    Ben (35) I’m trying to wrap my head around the shallow/deep markers for tribalism. I’m not sure I buy the rhetoric of saying only shallow markers entail tribalism. That’s because honestly a lot of the contemporary identity politics don’t seem tied to shallow markers. Some do of course, but even there I think it’s more complex than it appears at first glance. For example one might point to gender as a shallow marker yet male feminists who are seen as part of the tribe to the degree they espouse clear signals of group membership is a counter example. And on the right while there is sadly a rising “white nationalism” tribalism the non-shallow markers still seem to dominate.

    I guess I’m saying I’m not sure I buy this shallow/deep taxonomy.

    I definitely agree with you in terms of your taxonomy that Mormon identity tribalism isn’t based upon what you call shallow markers. Even to the degree it appears like it does (say on LGB issues) it seem really to be more about a focus on particular practices. My sense is even the most bigoted homophobe would be welcoming to someone LGB if they behaved according to the group identity markers. The issue is the secondary markers that LGB are (with some justification) typically unwilling to adopt.

  44. Wally
    February 26, 2016 at 11:56 am

    “I specified the poll I was referring to, a poll of Utah Republicans February 10-15 by Utah Policy.” So, your title specifically states that “Utah transcends political tribalism,” but you limit your analysis to just those who belong to the Republican Tribe? That seems odd, because if you include those who are independent, but lean Republican (unofficial members of the tribe), apparently the results change, and Cruz comes out on top. So only those who officially belong to the GOP Tribe count as Utahns?

    Tribalism: “loyalty to a tribe or other social group especially when combined with strong negative feelings for people outside the group.” This seems to be a pretty accurate description of Utah politics and what I was trying to point out in my previous “pompous” comment. Utah Mormons are so overwhelmingly tribal in regards to political parties that many cannot imagine voting for a Democrat, even when that candidate’s positions actually line up better with the voter’s deeper beliefs, personal values, and scriptures. In Utah, it’s all about tribalism. I know many Mormons who are far more Republican than they are Mormon, even if they can’t see it themselves. Sometimes, tribalism is hard to see, and it takes someone from outside the tribe to point it out.

    It’s enlightening as a left-leaning independent or Democrat going to church in Utah and hearing some of the comments in classes or even over the pulpit that show just how tribal most Mormons are. Take, for instance, the announcement about the time and location of “the” caucus meeting. It’s just assumed there is only one political party. Or the friend in high priest group who just assumes that everyone gets up in the morning and listens to Glen Beck like he does. This would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad. So, in short, I think you’re up the creek here with no paddle.

  45. Clark Goble
    February 26, 2016 at 3:16 pm

    Wally, how do you distinguish between tribalism and mere individual confirmation bias (say as with your Beck example).

  46. Ben H
    February 26, 2016 at 9:13 pm

    Wally, not wanting to vote for someone who you disagree with deeply on moral issues is not tribalism! It’s moral disagreement! And that is what voting is for, to support people for public office who we think will act in a way that fits our vision for the kind of society we want to live in. If you happen to think that Democratic positions are a better fit for Mormon scriptures than Republican ones, whether in general or in the case of a particular candidate, that sounds like a difference of interpretation, not tribalism.

    A generation ago there was enough overlap in the positions of the parties that it made sense to think that even for someone who usually votes Republican a particular Democratic candidate might be closer to one’s preferred positions than a particular Republican, those days are pretty much over. The two parties are too polarized, particularly since Obama took office and he and Harry Reid drove out the Blue Dog Democrats.

    Now, admittedly, there seem to be a lot of people on the left these days who seem unable to remember what a moral disagreement would be apart from mere approval or disapproval of some identity group. Not supporting this policy or that gets cast as hating this group or that group, but that is a cheap and unrealistic move. It assumes that the preferred policy actually is what is best for the group in question, for instance, which is usually a contested question.

    As for the difference between the two polls, if what we are trying to look at is how Utah compares to other states, we have to look at comparable polls. In the list I’m looking at on RCP, the polls are of Republicans, so the relevant comparison is the Utah Policy poll of Republicans. But rating Cruz or Rubio over Trump as in the other poll is still evidence of my point.

    Now, you’re right that the national political discourse is threatening to swamp the influence of churches on people’s moral convictions everywhere. But that’s not tribalism either; that’s just a sign of the cultural and institutional weakness of churches.

    Clark, the white nationalist tribal current you are referring to among Republicans these days is the main thing I am talking about Mormons departing from. People keep saying this is really not representative of the conservative movement, but unfortunately with Trump leading in state after state, and looking likely to win the Republican nomination, it looks like the movement may have changed quite a bit in the last few years. Even if it is not the dominant force in conservative politics today, it is much stronger than a few years ago, and it is significant that Mormons are resisting that trend.

  47. Tim
    February 26, 2016 at 10:08 pm

    Not sure where you live, Ben H, but Mormons in my corner of the Mormon Corridor are not resisting that trend. They are a tribal people, more likely to listen to their radio talk show hosts than to the church on issues where the two disagree. They agree with Mitt Romney or Ted Cruz on what to do with undocumented immigrants (make life so miserable for them that they leave, or deport them all) instead of with their church (let them remain here and allow them to continue to work here). They have an irrational fear of Muslims, immigrants (including refugees) and Democrats. Very few Mormons in this area are the exception (and most of the exceptions are no longer active in the church, as it’s hard to keep attending when everyone assumes everyone else is a part of the tribe, and you’re the only one in the ward who’s not part of the tribe).

    I know that that’s not the case elsewhere. I’ve lived in other areas where Mormons were not tribal–including a ward or two in the Mormon Corridor and several outside of it. In any case, I think it’s always harder to identify tribalism when you’re a part of it than when you’re on the outside looking in.

  48. Pacumeni
    February 27, 2016 at 5:28 pm

    Good post Ben. As you repeatedly and rightly point out, the interesting polling fact is the Utah deviation from other state polls in the direction of Rubio/Cruz and away from Trump. Anecdotes offered in rebuttal about tribalism that exists among us miss the point. The polling suggests that on the margins, Utah (and presumably Mormons) differ significantly from the larger population in their/our response to Trump’s divisive rhetoric and personal immaturity. We are unusually attached to Rubio who, in his demeanor and policies, is the most inclusive of the top three candidates. Those preference differences reflect well on our culture.

    Chances are good that Rubio is still a member of the Church, at least in the sense of being on the rolls. His membership is probably a small positive for Mormons when it is known because it means he knows something of our culture and once valued it. His lifestyle and continuing deep religiosity remains consistent with our general world view and way of living. (He continues to contribute a lot of money to his Church, for instance.) He separated from the Church at a young age (about 11 years old) when his family moved from Nevada back to Florida, which broke his connection with his local ward and left him with no family support for remaining active. Under the circumstances, the apostasy doesn’t seem very culpable. Had he left the Church as an adult, his one-time membership in the Church and apostasy from it would probably be a negative rather than a small positive. In any case, he wisely didn’t overplay his connection to the Church during the Nevada campaign.

  49. BlueRidgeMormon
    February 28, 2016 at 11:49 am

    So the OP and those friendly to it seem to be encouraged by behavior in Utah Mormonism that is posited to be evidence of a lower level of tribalism. Others (like me) aren’t convinced.

    But I think there’s a big underlying disconnect, which is: the data all this turns on, so to speak, is polling data that shows some level of preference in Utah for Rubio over Trump. Is this convincing?

    To which I would simply say: let’s see how the actual voting turns out. I’m less certain, when it comes right down to it, that Utahns will eschew Trump. They may… which would delight me … But let’s just see what happens, shall we?

    And, one more thing: should Utahns truly end up preferring Rubio at the voting box over Trump…. It still may not mean what I think Ben wants it to mean. Sure, we might like to think that a jettison of Trump might be due to a rejection of tribalism. But wouldn’t it be more plausible that it would simply represent (as Ben himself put it in a prior comment) moral disagreement? That maybe they’re just not comfortable with the sleazy multiple marriages, or the perceived dishonest business dealings, etc? To me that seems like a much more likely conclusion to draw than seeing a rejection of Trump as some evidence that Utah Mormons are somehow less “tribal” than other republicans.

  50. Brad L
    February 28, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    the white nationalist tribal current you are referring to among Republicans these days is the main thing I am talking about Mormons departing from

    The OP should have been based on this statement. The apparent unpopularity of Trump among Utah Republicans may be interpreted as a sign that white nationalist tribal current has less hold among Utah Republican Mormons than other places. That I could maybe agree with to an extent.

    The problem is that you are failing to recognize other forms of political tribalism among Mormon Utah Republicans.

    not wanting to vote for someone who you disagree with deeply on moral issues is not tribalism! It’s moral disagreement!

    Moral disagreement can most certainly be a form of tribalism. When a group of people are arriving at a moral position (and loudly labeling those in disagreement as immoral) largely because of groupthink, social pressure, and tradition, and not personal critical thinking about whether or not some action improves or harms individual and overall human well-being, and then voting for a candidate based on their conformity to a traditional uncritically thought-out moral position, then that is tribalism.

  51. Tim
    February 28, 2016 at 9:31 pm

    I definitely agree that Mormons depart from the white nationalist tribal current present in so many other places. The South and Midwest are full of cities and neighborhoods that are racially segregrated–where it’s socially unacceptable for whites to mingle socially with blacks outside of the workplace, and where blacks who do move into a white neighborhood are ostracized. So yes, Mormons might not–currently–be as racially tribal as many other groups, but we’re plenty tribal in other ways.

  52. Clark Goble
    February 28, 2016 at 9:36 pm

    My sense is the GOP is going to disintegrate if Trump wins the nomination. There are plenty who won’t support him anyway or anyhow. Neocons are going to go to Hillary (who is almost one herself). But those who hate the white nationalism Trump represents will never support him. It’s not at all clear what will come out of this this time next year.

  53. ji
    February 28, 2016 at 11:19 pm

    Why is it that people who don’t vote the way another wants them to are “tribal”? Those who vote the “right” way are thinkers and independent and honorable, but those who vote otherwise are “tribal”? That approach seems audacious and condescending to me…

  54. Brad L
    February 28, 2016 at 11:51 pm

    ji, you’re right to suggest that people are wrong to label others as tribal simply because they don’t vote the way that another wants. In the US, there are many informed Republican and Democratic voters whom I wouldn’t call tribal. But then there are those who vote for a party or back a particular social movement because of a sense of loyalty to their peers/copartisans and whose political passion is incorrigibly immune to reasoned well-evidenced arguments against the position(s) that they support and largely rooted in a fear and deep dislike of an opposing group. Those I would call tribal voters.

    There are those on the Democratic/liberal side who exaggerate the problem of racism in the US and make baseless provocative claims to attract the attention of uninformed masses. That is tribal politics, or identity politics. However, seasoned evidenced observations about racism and possible solutions to it is not tribal/identity politics.

    Similarly on the Republican/conservative side, some stoke the fears of uninformed masses about hyperinflation, immigrants, and the supposed dangers of gay marriage without providing solid evidence to back their claims. This is tribal politics. They flash signals that garner quick attention of the uninformed passionate masses, but do little to address these issues in a way that is consistent with evidence. However, genuine concern about inflation, immigration, and gay marriage with a body of solid evidence and an open mind to hear opposing views is not.

  55. Clark Goble
    February 29, 2016 at 11:18 am

    ji (53), while I have some issues with Ben’s taxonomy here, typically tribalism is seen as people who focus on in-group and out-group issues rather than particular policy details. As a practical matter once you join a group for ideological reasons psychologically most people tend to adopt some degree of tribalism. Often as the group adopts new positions they become markers for group identity and members of the group start adopting them as well even if perhaps they aren’t ideas they accept.

    There’s a fair bit written on this. Atran, who wrote the excellent evolutionary psychology analysis of religion In Gods We Trust has done some work on this identity politics as well that’s worth reading.

    I think you can see this in Mormon politics as well. When Mormons shifted from being Democrats to being Republicans they tended to adopt the policy preferences of the GOP even if perhaps they weren’t always well suited for traditional Mormon views. The shift tended to happen over economic freedom and moral issues yet you then see Mormons adopting straight Republican views in odd ways.

    This isn’t necessarily at odds with what Ben is saying. He’s just looking at tribalism based upon certain markers like ethnicity or skin color. I’m not sure that’s necessarily all that’s going on since I think the peer effect of Mormons being overwhelmingly Republican is a kind of political tribalism not unlike how African Americans tend to be Democrats.

  56. Martin James
    February 29, 2016 at 2:11 pm

    Very good comments. I think many of these comments haven’t given Ben credit for his point, but I also think Ben is missing what Trump is really about. The gift of Trump is that he has effectively ended the ability of Republicans to be tribal without thinking about it. The key thing that makes trump different is not that he is nationalistic, which he is, or racist, which I think he is not, but that he took on Fox news. He ended the ability of Republicans to turn on Fox news and be told a worldview. This is what was needed to end the simplistic 2-party tribalism that has been such a shackle on American politics.
    Trump is about laying bare the tensions underneath the surface between the people who have power and those who do not. Politicians in general and republicans in particular have been appearing corrupt because they have avoided openly addressing differences and the necessity of compromise. Trump has returned the art of the deal and compromise to the center of politics by not compromising. It is beautiful and awesome to behold.
    You can see this in the numbers and there is a point here that weakens Ben’s case somewhat about Utah being different. He is using Trump support as a percent of republicans rather than as a percent of the total population. Since Utah has more Republicans even though Trump has lower percentage, he has a much higher percentage of the total population that support him in Utah than many other states.
    I think it is a mistake to think of Trump as representing racial politics. Nationalist, yes, nativist likely, racist, not nearly so much. I think you see this both in the fact that he is not doing the best in the Southern states where the race issue is strongest. Being Mexican or Muslim or an immigrant is not a racial category.
    His appeal is greatest to the non-religious authoritarians. He seems to play much more on general themes of dominance and disgust and bottom line results than racial issues for people born in the USA.
    Although I would like to see more precision in the delineation of the various types of Utah tribalism, I think Ben is right that Utah is different and more importantly that it should be different. A few examples, Utah is among the highest in terms of the increase in percentages of marriages are multi-racial. Utah is among the highest for income mobility. Utah is among the highest for volunteerism. I think Ben is unquestionably right that a tribalism of shared religious principles is very different from other types of tribalism. The LDS religion is a religion of immigrants in many different countries. If Trump makes it more clear that the LDS tribe is not identical to the Fox news Republican tribe, then 3 cheers for Trump.

  57. Clark Goble
    February 29, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    The problem with Trump is that many in the GOP fundamentally see him as out-group in various ways. Some of this is seriously seeing him as a quasi-fascist threat or too out of line with ideology. The degree to which the “never Trump” is thinking through policy versus identity politics is debatable. My sense is that the majority are worried about policy rather than in-group markers. However as I mentioned you can have the same behavior and have it be for in-group/out-group maintenance or for serious policy reasons.

    I don’t think Trump is about laying bare the tensions between those who have power and those who don’t. I don’t think he cares. I think he’s very much about cynically manipulating the anger of those who do worry about such things though.

    Trump’s rise to me is completely due to the fault of cynical GOP leadership expediency. I knew the GOP was in trouble when back in the early days of the ACA they argued against it on the grounds Obama was cutting medicare. Effectively putting expediency above their ideas. Thereafter they ran on a “repeal and replace” platform but after nearly 8 years never came up with any serious replacement. (A few times some extremely vague ideas were put forth, but never seriously and no bill was ever put forward) At the same time GOP continued to ratchet up hyperbolic rhetoric on Obama that verged on the apocalyptic. I think it fair to say that even those who honestly disliked Obama’s policies were doing this for cynical reasons of engendering fear in the base to get votes. Surprise. The base paid attention and asked the obvious questions of why, if things were so apocalyptic, the people in congress weren’t acting like it once they were there. Expediency often involving outright lying and at best exaggerations have come home to roost. In many ways Trump is simply doing what the GOP has been doing the last decade only even more brazenly and cynically.

    While I truly fear Trump, the reality is that the GOP has no one to blame but themselves. They did everything they could to build up a cohesive party but did it by focusing in on in-group rather than ideology and facts. Now they are paying the price. I’m a strong conservative but the leadership of the party has been horrific. And those attacking them have been just as cynical. Seriously, how could anyone view Cruz’ actions in congress as anything particularly different from Tump? They never were going to work and Cruz put the appearance of fighting above actual achievements. If you look at the protest votes since the fall it’s been Cruz, Carson and Trump dominating the party.

    I don’t want to let voters off the hook of course. They are the ones allowing themselves to be bamboozled and accept all the hyperbole as facts. It’s not as if the information wasn’t there. And of course the press is also deserving of a lot of blame in this. While the press reports the facts it focuses on the circus. Worse, people notice when the press is biased and misleading. Even if the amount of press mistakes and bias is exaggerated, the mistake and emphasis is noticed by the public. There’s a reason people don’t trust the press anymore.

    All in all though we’re left with the current situation which is a disaster. There’s plenty of blame to go around to leadership, politicians, the press, and voters. However the reality is Trump will likely sweep the nomination, Clinton will win the election candidly, and the courts will take a dominate liberal stance over the next 4 years.

    How this all affects Mormons and Utah isn’t clear. It’s not clear what the breakdown of Trump, Cruz and Rubio support in Utah by religion. It’s not clear how Mormons will react to the breakdown of the GOP this summer. There’s too many unknowns for me to really comment on.

  58. Clark Goble
    February 29, 2016 at 4:44 pm

    Martin, I should add, that I think Trump is well beyond “nativist” (if one can be a nativist without being racist). I think this was always an unfortunate subtext in Republican election strategies going back at least to Nixon. Even people like Reagan who adopted a southern strategy simultaneously opposed more overt racism. (I recognize Reagan is complex, especially during his days as governor – but in terms of the times I think he also was more progressive in race than many of his party) Even if these things were done for expediency though I think most contemporary GOP were repelled by them. Trump on the other hand is using these issues as a wedge issue to get Democratic voters. He’s talking out of both sides of his mouth in a way that makes it hard to see him as doing anything but racism.

    As for not doing the best in the south, you’re wrong. He’s doing best in places with strong black populations. The strongest correlation for Trump voting is Google search for “n-word.” Of course correlation isn’t causation. Does he merely appeal to people who happen to have more racists among them (perhaps due to being low-education low-income voters) or is there a causal factor? Hard to say. Interestingly there are in many ways similar correlation with Sanders supporters.
    I don’t think Utah is as attractive for Trump if only because our views on race are quite different but also because our economy isn’t as focused on low skilled jobs. Especially for lost industries (the shutdown of Geneva Steel and slowdown in mining notwithstanding). That’s not to say there won’t be some caught up in the siren call of Trumpism. Some will – especially given the strong antigovernment thread in the GOP. I just think it’ll be less common than in the rust belt or south.

  59. Martin James
    February 29, 2016 at 6:06 pm

    If you look at voting rather than polls, South Carolina which has a much larger African American population than New Hampshire or Nevada had a lower percentage for Trump support. The NYT is not exactly a neutral party in that analysis. I just don’t see much of what Trump says as having that much to do with race for people born in the USA. Most of the controversy about Trump is what he says about other republicans and the media.
    As for Trump losing, well Romney lost and McCain lost and the Republicans haven’t had a big win since they lost California to the democrats with Bill Clinton. What states will Trump lose that Romney won? I’d bet none.
    My point wasn’t that the thinking had to do with policies or ideology, it has to do with thinking about what one’s in-group and out-group is.

  60. Clark Goble
    February 29, 2016 at 6:37 pm

    I think what Trump says about the media or Republicans is minor compared to his other issues. I’m actually sympathetic to him on W although he pushes it far too far into conspiracy theory. But I think Bush undoubtedly caused a lot of things he didn’t need to and simply didn’t do a good job.

    As for Trump in particular states. In New Hampshire Trump got 35.3%. In South Carolina he got 32.5%. Slightly low but not significantly so. There were some more detailed correlations but it seems Trump is pretty popular now so as time goes on I suspect the correlations will become less telling.

    To what Trump wins, it’s hard to say. I expect Trump to make a big pivot to the left once he has the nomination wrapped up. I’m sure he’ll keep his immigration absolutism along with his more Putin like views on the press and the like. How much this will take from Democrats isn’t clear. Already there are quite a few reports of people, especially in Massachusetts switching parties so as to be able to vote for Trump. How much of that is cynical Clinton supporters trying to undermine the GOP and how much are sincere Trump fans I can’t say. While I think Trump will lose, I also think Democrats are significantly underestimating his attractiveness to a big segment of their base. To them Trump simply proves all the caricatures of the GOP they’ve held as crass anti-intellectual racists. I think they are underestimating how much of their base will find Trump compelling. Especially the lower skilled whites who’ve seen little recovery under Obama.

  61. Clark Goble
    February 29, 2016 at 6:40 pm

    Didn’t address your final point. I think recognizing there’s an ill served subgroup in the GOP is completely correct. Further it’s a group that crosses party boundaries as I mentioned above. How much they see themselves as a single group isn’t clear to me yet. But among those whites who feel they are powerless Trump is extremely attractive. As I said earlier I think he’s cynically using this. But that’s really a different matter. My guess is that Clinton, who is fairly skilled politically, won’t ignore the Trump effect and will try and do things to attract this group. How much Trump can wedge that group away from Clinton remains to be seen.

  62. palerobber
    March 6, 2016 at 12:08 am

    Still, individual [Catholic] parishes are too much defined by “the big sort,” by which we divide ourselves into groups of similar race/class/ethnicity. Mormons are different. Our congregations are defined in ways that cut across these divisions.

    uh, not in Utah they’re not. have you ever visited?

  63. anon nona
    March 6, 2016 at 10:41 pm

    To clarify… Trump said that letting all Muslims into the country needs to stop UNTIL THEY COULD BE PROPERLY VETTED……until things can be figured out.

    I was just reading an article about Germany and Europe in general. By just opening the floodgates terrorists are coming in. ISIS said they would flood the West with terrorists and they are. So what is wrong with suspending immigration for a short time? Pres. Carter did it to Iranians.

    Why is no one whining and getting up in arms about the Christians and Muslims, who oppose ISIS in the Middle East, being tortured and killed yet are up in arms about Trump wanting to make sure tertorists do not get in. Yes, many are already here so we don’t need more.

    In 2015 almost 12,000 Christians were murdered in the Middle East and 13,000 Christian churches destroyed. Where is the outrage for this ? Where is the outrage when an eight year old girl sets herself on fire so she will not be raped by Muslims?

    Learn the truth.

  64. Clark Goble
    March 7, 2016 at 10:50 pm

    PaleRobber I actually think this is a huge problem in Utah and other dense Mormon areas. While it’s great to have the neighborhood connection I think it’s important to socialize with and serve people from different backgrounds as well.

  65. Brad L
    March 8, 2016 at 2:37 am

    anon nona, this is baseless (and disjointed) fearmongering at its worst. Like Trump, you suffer from an acute case of Islamophobia. This idea that Europe is suffering from Islamist terrorist attacks is groundless. Security is very good in Europe and there have actually been very few large Islamic terrorist attacks there in the past 30 years. The same goes for the US. Carter’s ban on visas for Iranian nationals is vastly different from Trump’s proposal, in that he didn’t target an entire religion and it was standard procedure for crisis management. Lots of people are horrified by the suffering of Muslims and Christians at the hand of ISIS. I don’t know why you think that they aren’t. Might it be because they are not calling for a full-scale invasion of Iraq and Syria? The US is already bombing ISIS. And full-scale invasions could lead to an even greater refugee crisis, more death and suffering, and could enable ISIS to recruit at a much, much faster pace. Bear in mind that the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq did nothing to stop the Taliban or prevent the growth and spread of radical violent Islamist movements. In fact, Islamist movements appear to have flourished largely because of these invasions. We must realize that the overwhelming majority of Muslims (we’re talking over 99% of those living in the US (at 3.3 million) and Europe (at 50 million)) simply do not pose a threat. Unfairly treating most Muslims as if they do pose a threat could very well backfire.

  66. March 29, 2016 at 3:22 am

    A mind-mannered people who are raised to trust authority will naturally fall easy prey to psychopathic causes and politicians who speak in a mild manner, dress nice, have short hair and smile — kind of like Ted Bundy. It is very dangerous not to know what a psychopath really is and how they think. Check this out if you like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUOjrYGI2iI I know a few people in Utah who are devout Mormons but who are really into analyzing psychology and politics. They are very much individual thinkers and voted for Trump. Not sure their votes counted though as I am hearing a lot about corruption in the political process of the state. Come on LDS people, pull out of your collective Stockholm Syndrome and realize that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely and that the people in Washington, DC do not think like you do.

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