Some Wore Red, Some Wore Blue

March 8, 2005 | 88 comments
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Thanks for the introduction and the opportunity, Rosalynde. I feel lucky to have a big sister who precedes, exceeds, but includes me in just about every important thing.

Last November 2nd around 9 p.m., a friend from my Georgetown University institute class led an excursion of FHE group members to walk around the White House and imbibe the atmosphere of that contested residence. The conditions were the following: you had to have voted, and you had to wear a hat of your candidate’s color, red for Bush, blue for Kerry (evidently no one requested green, yellow, or rainbow striped). I didn’t join this outing, but I wondered afterward what color my hat would have to be. I’ll disclose without apology or equivocation that I voted for Bush in the last election. But I will also disclose–with a slightly shame-faced glance to see if my father is reading–that this red hat would have a distinctly purple cast in certain lights. And I don’t think I’m alone in this.

It’s actually quite ironic that politics should be the calling card of my debutante post. Although I live in Washington, D.C. and attend all of the big-name Georgetown lectures I can get tickets to, I also let my father cast my ballot for the first two presidential elections of my voting life (and all the state and locals in between) and I’ve been known to believe that the Balkan states are somewhere in the vicinity of West Virginia. So when campaign ads and bumper stickers began descending like a plague of locusts around last May, I felt slightly panicked. Suddenly friends and colleagues were demanding political opinions of me, front pages charted like complex equations the candidates’ respective standings, and even before-Sunday School conversation consisted of who was out on what campaign trail, where Bush was palm-pressing next, and how many more volunteers the Republican National Convention needed. I felt like an English major at a finance convention, a Baptist in American Fork, a country cousin at a cocktail party. And this is when I started to conceptualize my Theory of Political Confusion.

Like any other sort of identity formation, our political identities emerge from a subtle negotiation between past experiences, social influence, family inheritance, access to information, deeply-felt conviction, and perhaps sheer personality. I would imagine that our political identities also reflect, react to, or are mediated by our socio-economic standing, our religious affiliation, our place of residence, even our sexual identity. But while I am without doubt a middle-class, Mormon, Southern Californian heterosexual, I cannot say with the same self-assured certainty that I am or will always be a Republican. In fact, the only thing I can say with full confidence is that I’m politically confused. And by turns troubled, anxious, torn, and utterly indifferent. I’m thrilled that the Iraqi elections proceeded without serious disruption, but I’m pessimistic that our Western, Judeo-Christian, capitalist leadership will yield long-term, positive change in that area. I’m deeply concerned about the self-perpetuating cycle of poverty that governs so many inner-city families and welfare recipients, but I also believe that permanent solutions lie in hard work and taking individual responsibility. I vote Republican, but I listen to NPR.

So what do you think? Is this theory relevant to the LDS political experience? Can we graph a spectrum of Mormon political identity that starts with confusion and trifurcates toward the true and living GOP, a Moses 7:18 consecrated liberalism, or the adamantly apolitical? How is political identity formed among the Latter-day Saints? And what types of political behaviors do we engage in? (My Rush Limbaugh-listening father might be distressed to know that my most consistent political behavior is tuning into Morning Edition and the Diane Rehm Show) One of my sisters once quipped that Latter-day Saints are in the perfect political position: progressive but morally grounded, educated and industrious but compassionate. I took great comfort in that until she told me that she was poking fun the whole time. But is she right? Or dead wrong? What advice would you give new voters about how to form their political identities? Or perhaps I should drop the guise of detachment: what advice would you give me?

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88 Responses to Some Wore Red, Some Wore Blue

  1. dianna douglas on March 8, 2005 at 1:16 pm

    National Public Radio wears neither a red nor a blue hat.

  2. Ivan Wolfe on March 8, 2005 at 1:29 pm

    But – what color is NPR’s underwear? (to continue the clothing metaphor)

    I don’t like Rush Limbaugh OR Diane Reihm. Overall, I love NPR and find its “in-depthness” to be refreshing and a good alternative to the superficiality of nearly all broadcast news (the News Hour on PBS being the only real exception).

    However, I think NPR leans more than slightly left. (although NPR is a composite of several different programs, and some programs are more centered than others. But I can’t think of a single NPR program that comes close to leaning right).

  3. Kaimi on March 8, 2005 at 1:33 pm

    The hats imagery is wonderful, Naomi. It brings to mind the conventions of the spaghetti Western, with the red hats forming a posse to go round up those scoundrelly blue hats. (Or is it the other way around?).

    (And of course there’s the interesting issue of why the political right has coopted the color red — compare the current use of “red states” to the former uses such as a “red diaper baby.”)

    I do think that Latter Day Saints are in a unique position to draw from different political traditions. We have a history of being political mavericks, so why not go with it? We can tap into progressive roots like the United Order and even parts of the Proclamation. On the other hand, we can consider ourselves sufficiently grounded by our strong links to conservative moral values. We get the best of both worlds — what’s not to like?

  4. Rosalynde Welch on March 8, 2005 at 1:36 pm

    Great inaugural effort, Naomi! (Get it? Inaugural?)

    First of all… only in Georgetown. Only in Washington DC would an FHE group circle the walls of our latter-day Jericho to get them tumbling down–from fisticuffs between the red-hatted and the blue-hatted, most likely! (Can you imagine the family togetherness that would result if our family undertook that particular activity?)

    I have a theory about political identity: the human brain is programmed to imprint on partisan politics in college, and so the political identity with which one matriculates is likely to prove very, very tenacious. (Similarly, I firmly believe that the human brain is programmed to imprint on popular music in high school–the music one listens to in one’s junior year will forever define one’s taste. KROQ, for example, will never, ever again be as cool as it was in 1991. I still haven’t figured out how the cave men could mature psychically without either high school or popular music.) John still consistently self-identifies as a Democrat–an identity that was crucial to his psychic process of separating from the father in college–even though he’s consistently to the right of me on most issues. The corollary to this is that if one leaves college without a coherent political identity, one is likely to remain confused for the rest of one’s life. Or well into one’s thirties, at least, if my experience is any guide. Like you, I’m hopelessly inchoate when it comes to partisan political identity and policy; I simply don’t have the capacity, it seems, to think in the ways that political allegiance requires.

    I’d be tempted to blame it on a genetics–a missing or faulty “political party” gene–if our parents weren’t so clearly politically-enabled.

  5. Bryce I on March 8, 2005 at 1:43 pm

    Naomi–

    You think you have it bad — My liberal cousins live in Fairfax County. It’s hard to grow up as a liberal Democrat Mormon there.

    I’m with you — I grew up pretty oblivious to the political goings-on in our country, but was a Democrat somewhat by default, because of my upbringing. I’ve been moving back and forth on the political spectrum, and while I haven’t found a permanent home, I’m much more aware and engaged that I was in my younger years. I find it liberating in a way. It has become the searching, questing aspect of my life that I never had as someone who was born under the covenant. Plus I get a lot of attention come election time.

    Your description of your father’s politics makes me laugh. I know my (liberal) brother enjoys baiting our mutual uncle Ron Frandsen at dinner parties.

  6. A. Greenwood on March 8, 2005 at 1:44 pm

    (And of course there’s the interesting issue of why the political right has coopted the color red – compare the current use of “red states” to the former uses such as a “red diaper baby.”)

    ‘Red’ is an imposed color, not a coopted color. It was the color assigned to Bush in 2000 by the networks (they had some sort of algorithm that determined who it was in every election). Since then red state/blue state has caught on so the algorithm has gone by the way side. As long as there is a geographic core of left-wing states and a geographic core of right wing states, the right will be red and the left blue, from now on. Some conversatives resent this, because red is the socialist color. Too bad.

  7. Adam on March 8, 2005 at 1:50 pm

    Naomi,

    Intriguing post. I look forward to the next one. I can’t speak to the LDS influence on forming political opinion; however, I stongly believe that a person’s fundamental moral beliefs should/do play a role in determining the political ideology they support. I think part of your confusion may stem from an acceptance of the general expectation that government is there to manage society’s ills. Whether it be Middle Eastern self determinism or inner-city poverty, I have serious doubts that the U.S. government is the proper entity to address these issues. Moreover, the Republican and Democratic parties are not philosophically stagnant. Ronald Reagan is famous for declaring that he didn’t leave the Democrats, they left him. Currently, I think both parties prove disappointing to many Americans. Still, I’d rather actively participate in a flawed system than abdicate my political voice due to apathy.

    As for Dianna’s comment- I couldn’t disagree more. NPR couldn’t offer a more liberal perspective if it was run by Castro. Still, it is incredibly informative and interesting, and for those able to recognize its agenda NPR makes for quite enjoyable listening.

  8. Bryce I on March 8, 2005 at 1:53 pm

    Since we’re on the subject of NPR, the best political listening on the radio is Imus in the Morning. He doesn’t claim to be a journalist, so he operates under a completely different set of rules when he talks to politicians and news reporters, who appear on his program with amazing regularity.

  9. William Morris on March 8, 2005 at 1:58 pm

    “NPR couldn’t offer a more liberal perspective if it was run by Castro.”

    Now that’s just silly. NPR represents a particular type of liberalism. If you really want a Castro-type liberal perspective listen to some of the radio stations in the Bay Area.

    But more to the point: NPR’s brand is one that I have very mixed feelings about, because while I like the ideas of liberalism when it comes to issues of civility and scholarship and the public sphere, I have serious problems with their particular liberal brand of gender and identity politics and how they approach religious communities.

  10. Adam on March 8, 2005 at 2:03 pm

    Ok. It is somewhat silly, but it makes my point.

  11. A. Greenwood on March 8, 2005 at 2:04 pm

    I’m pretty sure even “Adam” would recognize the Castro-comparison as hyperbole. NPR is definitely lefty, but their firing squads have been quiescent for years now and I hear last year they actually cut their secret police budget.

  12. A. Greenwood on March 8, 2005 at 2:06 pm

    Hey, “Adam”, could you add a last name or a last initial or something? I want to avoid confusion.

  13. Kaimi on March 8, 2005 at 2:07 pm

    I agree with William. Also, while I can’t myself claim expertise, I must say I’m under the vague impression that NPR doesn’t make nearly as good of cigars as Cuba does.

  14. Arturo Toscanini on March 8, 2005 at 2:16 pm

    I used to listen to NPR because I enjoyed the Christian Science news wire and especially the BBC world news—I still chuckle to myself when I think of the time that the preposterously self important sounding BBC host asked someone at the Cairo terrorism conference if it all wasn’t just “a load of sh*t.” But the rest of it was all to often just pseudo-intellectual tripe pre-occupied with faddish aesthetic questions of little value—like the segment on “All Things Considered” about lights at Wrigley field. I quit listening in 1997, when I got a car with a large CD magazine. I haven’t turned on the radio since.

    As far as political identity, I bring mine from extra-Mormon sources. Although my geneology has some near misses (e.g., a few great-great-etc. aunts and uncles who joined the church, went to Nauvoo and eventually West with the saints), my parents converted in the early sixties in Alexandria, Virginia. At the time they both came from Southern Democrat families. Virginia Democrats were the first in the South to begin voting Republicans in statewide and national offices when Governor Mills Godwin switched parties and ran again as a Republican and George McGovern became the Democratic presidential candidate. My family (and extended family) was no exception. Accordingly, I was raised Republican, and a Republican I’ve remained. And it just so happens that I’m Mormon.

    But having grown up in the DC area, I miss the atmosphere you describe in which discussing politics isn’t considered tiresome and people don’t flip out when you disagree with their most cherished views.

  15. Arturo Toscanini on March 8, 2005 at 2:19 pm

    Oh, and I forgot offer that advice you asked for. Here it is:

    Stay Republican and don’t listen to the Democrats! Why? Because the Democrats are wrong. If you need a better reason than that, I’m afraid there’s very little hope.

  16. JrL on March 8, 2005 at 2:24 pm

    “But having grown up in the DC area, I miss the atmosphere you describe in which discussing politics isn’t considered tiresome and people don’t flip out when you disagree with their most cherished views.”

    Now there’s a curious statement. I certainly found a lot more “flipping out” — at least among Church members — in political discussions in my pre- and post-DC lives than in my DC period.

  17. Dan Richards on March 8, 2005 at 2:25 pm

    Adam–
    In our house, the color connection has given new life to a phrase from the 1950s: Better dead than red.

    Naomi–
    I hope that Mosiah 4 would temper the ideology of any Ann Coulter acolytes among us. Likewise, any number of modern prophets have made statements of gospel doctrine that seem incompatible with a full embrace of a far-left mindset. In that sense, I hope that your sister’s description of us is more or less accurate and that we can combine the best of both sides. As for the political activities we engage in, I imagine we do most of the same stuff other people do: put bumper stickers on our cars, signs in our lawns, and ballots in the local precinct. We had a Kerry sticker on our car, while our LDS neighbors up the street had a Bush sign in their yard. Oddly enough, we never discussed politics with them, although we did continue to allow our kids to play together. :P

  18. Bill on March 8, 2005 at 2:37 pm

    JrL, I could be mistaken, but you seem to have misunderstood AT. I think you’re in agreement.

  19. Nate Oman on March 8, 2005 at 2:39 pm

    Rosalynde: For what it is worth, at least some social science evidence suggests that you are wrong. A while ago some political scientists did a study of the effect of college on political ideology. What they found was the universities tended to make people more liberal, but that it didn’t last. A couple of years out from school, and the liberalism is largely gone and the best indicator of political beliefs is likely to be socio-economic status.

  20. Mike Parker on March 8, 2005 at 2:40 pm

    So what color hat does a Libertarian wear?

    (Yes, I voted for Michael Badnarik last year.)

  21. Rosalynde Welch on March 8, 2005 at 2:42 pm

    Nate, but were those studies doubly-blinded, randomized, and did they sufficiently control for factors like astrological sign and propensity to order in Chinese? I thought not. My theory remains unassailable.

  22. Nate Oman on March 8, 2005 at 2:46 pm

    Naomi: God is a clearly a libertarian lawyer. Make your political choices accordingly.

  23. Matt on March 8, 2005 at 2:56 pm

    “Although I live in Washington, D.C. and attend all of the big-name Georgetown lectures I can get tickets to”

    Hope you’ve had better luck than I have. I’m also at G-town, and have struck out three times so far this year in the ticket wrangling.

    As to the theory, I tend to lean left, though I’m from one of the more conservative suburbs of Salt Lake. However, I think my political views are in fact partly a reaction against living near a chocolate shop that consistently displays John Birch Society slogans on its marquee.

  24. Matt on March 8, 2005 at 2:56 pm

    “Although I live in Washington, D.C. and attend all of the big-name Georgetown lectures I can get tickets to”

    Hope you’ve had better luck than I have. I’m also at G-town, and have struck out three times so far this year in the ticket wrangling.

    As to the theory, I tend to lean left, though I’m from one of the more conservative suburbs of Salt Lake. However, I think my political views are in fact partly a reaction against growing up near a chocolate shop that consistently displays John Birch Society slogans on its marquee.

  25. Naomi Frandsen on March 8, 2005 at 3:04 pm

    Thanks for your comments, everyone. I’ve always known NPR was formative in my political experience, but I didn’t realize what a site of both bonding and battling it could be!

    Dianna, thank you for clarifying NPR’s official political position. As an NPR producer, you would know, and I hereby refer all questions or complaints about NPR to you. I think the role of journalism–especially radio journalism–in politics is quite interesting, and Arturo, your comment (#14) seems to suggest some important questions. First, is journalism losing its objectivity? Is the trend of radio personalities no longer refering to themselves as journalists indicative of changes in the field? But at the same time, how will the listening public change the way they respond to a piece by a journalist vs. a piece by a guest writer. As style in journalism changes to become more narrative and humane, I wonder if it will become harder to detect increasingly subtle differences in voice and ethos. I will admit frankly that between NPR’s Morning Edition and dictionary.com’s word of the day, the origins of about 90% of my daily conversation could be demystified.

    Adam, thanks for explaining the history of red and blue in political races. I’m taking a seminar in the American 1930s, and red certainly doesn’t refer to the GOP in that period! It seemed like you were suggesting that red will probably always refer to Republicans and blue will always refer to Democrats since their popular identification in the last two elections. I’m worried about this, frankly. I would always get terribly depressed when I saw voter maps with blocs of red and borders of blue states. I think that convention visualizes, maybe over-exaggerates, and certainly simplifies issues of political division. I also think that convention creates a lot of paranoia about the breakdown of our shared culture and society. Perhaps we are graphically conceptualizing politics in harmful ways. Who can I complain to about this?

    So Rosalynde, it sounds like you’re suggesting that the pertinent question of political identity is less why and how and more when. That is consistent with my experience–in college, I was much more invested in keeping myself frenetically busy and I didn’t read newspapers or listen to the news. I didn’t even watch the news, for that matter. Hence, I am politically confused. But I also think that other influences such as proximity and relationships affect how and when we arrive at a political identity. Living in D.C. has required that I participate in the political process more knowledgably, and I’m grateful for that. I think about a mutual family member (who hasn’t responded to this post, so I won’t “out” her) who arrived at strong political convictions after marriage and, as it seems to me, in concert with her spouse. The more I listen to people my age (mid- to late-20s) talk about politics, the more I think that the system of identifying with a party is going to change within the next sevearl generations. We’ll have to see. If Arturo has his druthers, though, we’ll all just be Republicans because the Democrats are wrong :).

    Finally, thanks to Adam for commenting. Adam is a friend from my graduate program at Georgetown, and he’ll be able to add a valuable Jewish Republican East Coast English MA perspective, if he so chooses :).

  26. Frank McIntyre on March 8, 2005 at 3:20 pm

    Rosalynde: “…but were those studies doubly-blinded, randomized, and did they sufficiently control for factors like astrological sign and propensity to order in Chinese? I thought not. My theory remains unassailable.”

    You missed your true calling as a skeptical social scientist.

    “There goes another beautiful theory about to be murdered by a brutal gang of facts.”
    ~ Duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) .

  27. Rosalynde on March 8, 2005 at 3:27 pm

    Frank, have I ever shared my favorite impeccably-designed study with you? Enjoy.

  28. Jed on March 8, 2005 at 3:27 pm

    Naomi: A lot of voters are politically confused. It has always been so, now more than ever when the demise of modernism spells an end to the old sureties and the confidence in public institutions and the people who run them is at a low ebb. The idea of lots of people voting straight party all their lives is a myth anyway. The parties reinvent themselves every fifteen or twenty years; people often vote for what the party once was, not for what it is or has become. The GOP as a Mormon-friendly institution is really only thirty (and no more than fifty) years old. Look at the difference between Jimmy Carter and LBJ–a decade apart, very different Democrats. GOPs the same–GW Bush and Nixon, fiscally speaking, are miles apart. The idea of the party holding to a set of core principles over a lifetime is partly figment.

    Mormons have a lot to offer the political process, but among the largest offerings, I believe, is hope and optimism, both badly needed today: hope in the future (our Millennial hope, not our apocalyptic doom), and optimism in (a) the power of institutions, indeed corporations, to work positive change in the lives of people (our church being the template) and (b) optimism in knowing that God has inspired wise men and women in politics in the past and can do so in the future. Whether we talk about God as openly as Mr. Bush, of course, is a different question.

  29. Christian Y. Cardall on March 8, 2005 at 3:32 pm

    Naomi, if both your parents are staunch Republicans (I gather at least your dad is), I’m surprised you and Rosalynde aren’t. (Was your mom a Democrat, or maybe independent?) When parents are unified in their politics, it seems to me that their childrens’ political identity is about as strong their religious identity (which is not to say that it can’t change, only that it’s a very strong influence).

    I myself come from four Republican grandparents and two Republican parents. My grandmother would alternately refer to the “wrong” party as the “Dumbocrats” or “Damnocrats”. Accordingly, I am and probably always will be Republican, even though I have become much more liberal on social issues lately. I suppose I still fit into the Giuliani/Schwarzenegger wing of the party. As for advice: your current formulation, I vote Republican, but I listen to NPR is bang on. Keep it up.

    Changing either political or religious identities can be nearly so traumatic as to be impossible—witness Zell Miller still calling himself a Democrat, and people calling themselves “secular Jews” or “lapsed Catholics” or “ex-Mormons for Jesus”. You might think that the religious identity would be stronger, but I feel a potential transition of myself from Mormon to secular humanist would be easier than a change from Republican to Democrat—perhaps because I’ve always thought of Mormonism in such black and white terms, while the existence of Giuliani/Schwarzenegger wing of the Republican party is more accomodating of a partial shift.

  30. Christian Y. Cardall on March 8, 2005 at 3:42 pm

    My recollection of electoral maps that showed shades of purple was that Utah was the reddest state of all (or close to it). Aside from the obvious issues of abortion and homosexuality, the welfare/responsibility issue looms large. This can be viewed as a condemnation of the Saints’ materialism and lack of charity (e.g. Nibley), or as the continuing influence of Heber J. Grant’s strong condemnations of the dole. (My aforementioned grandmother thought FDR was pretty much the antichrist.)

  31. carleh on March 8, 2005 at 3:43 pm

    politics, politics, politics. Confusing tangles of misdirected idealism, jaded skepticism, tortured facts, and a limited budget. Politics is all about your list of priorities. If we lived in a perfectly cohesive world, the interests of none our priorities would conflict. But they do, all the time. I’m forever being emotionally strung along by various causes, only to find that I can’t have my cake and eat it too, to reference our most famous political martyr. Just kidding, Marie Antoinette probably isn’t our most famous political martyr. But right now I’m wrestling with my support of misdirected idealism. Usually, I accuse the liberals of that particular transgression, but these days, I find myself defending bush’s ideals in spite of the sadness of the real world. I don’t want to retreat into impotent isolation simply because our grand designs sometimes lead to disastrous ends. But how much political forgiveness should I extend? And how much criticism can I really offer when I can’t think of a better way to handle things?

  32. Jennifer Fox on March 8, 2005 at 3:45 pm

    As a fellow Washingtonian (and a political appointee in the Bush administration) I admire your strength to admit you don’t know. There has been alot of commentary in the press recently about the most powerful Democrat on the Hill being a Mormon (Harry Reid, D-Nevada) due to the percieved monopoly the GOP has over Mormons. Subsequent articles chronicled how the loss of the Mormons would effect the GOP in an election, so as the church grows in numbers it seems we will also grow in political muscle (one way or the other). This will likely effect the socialization process of young Mormons as they decide their political stance and whether or not they identify with the two party system (my guess is no). My only advice to you, Naomi, is something you already know, vote for the candidates and the issues and don’t let political muck get in the way.

  33. Paul Mortensen on March 8, 2005 at 3:47 pm

    When forming a political identity, the most important issue to address is the distinction between principle and policy. Policy is that ugly thing that shows up in the form of legislation, regulation, or judicial decision. Principle is the guiding force influencing decisions. Policy is the dreadful product of cooperation and compromise. Principle is the is the unadulterated product of experience (defining experience in the broadest sense possible to include education and socialization). Keep in mind that often there exists little connection between principle and policy. Your political identity as a Mormon should be determined based upon principle—not policy.

    My argument is best made through an example.

    Social Security. This policy has been evolving for more than 70 years and given current conditions presents a naked (can I use that word here???) example of conflicting principles between the two parties. The general position of the Rs is they want privatize the plan and allow individuals to own their retirement income. The Ds position is to continue the policy as a government mandated, managed, and administrated entitlement. Looking at the issue only from this perspective provides little insight into which side a practicing Mormon should ally but understanding the principles behind the above positions provides some important wisdom. The main principles driving the Rs’ position are: 1) self-sufficiency; and, 2) consumption moderation. The main principle driving the Ds’ position are: 1) individuals are responsible for society before themselves; and, 2) all risk should be shared in all circumstances. After identifying the principles driving the policy positions you can research these principles, identify which are most in harmony with gospel doctrine, and choose your allegiance.

  34. carleh on March 8, 2005 at 3:52 pm

    But Paul, in reference to post #33, all those principles are in accordance with the gospel!!! What should I do? Is it impossible to love my neighbor as myself after all?

  35. Paul Mortensen on March 8, 2005 at 3:58 pm

    You mistake love for responsiblility. Common mistake among the socialist leaners. The principle is responsibility not love. Risk, not compassion.

  36. Frank McIntyre on March 8, 2005 at 4:08 pm

    Rosalynde,

    Don’t tell anyone but biologists as a group wouldn’t know a statistic if it hit them in the head. I’m guessing this is where the field “bio-statistics” got started as the statisticians started invading en masse. The article was funny, but then they try to say that they’ve shown scientists should use common sense instead of mindless randomization. I agree wholeheartedly if “common sense” means about 30 credit hours of mathematical statistics and econometrics.

    Anyway, as for the post at hand, I pretty much vote based on who is likely to appoint judges who feel in some way constrained by the text of the constitution, subject to the caveat that the electee is not likely to commit adultery and has a reasonable amount of integrity. Most (but not all) economic problems can be fixed by a later administration or blunted by Congress, but judges stick around a long time and are hard to get rid of. Also, presidential economic behavior is notoriously hard to predict.

    So one option is to pick an issue that matters quite a bit, and then be a one-issue voter. It certainly cuts down on time collecting information.

  37. Jonathan Green on March 8, 2005 at 4:33 pm

    Paul Mortensen, the Democratic principles behind Social Security, if not expressed as a distorted caricature, might be something like: 1) People who spend their lives working, even for low wages, should not be exposed to destitutuion in old age. We’ve done that one before, and we don’t want to go back to it. 2) In general, there are levels of risk that no individual in society should be exposed to: job loss or medical disability, for example, should not lead inexorably to absolute financial ruin. 3) As fellow citizens, we share some of the responsibility for each other’s welfare. I find the Social Security program as presently constituted in closer agreement to my principles than any of the alternatives up for discussion.

  38. A. Greenwood on March 8, 2005 at 4:46 pm

    “I pretty much vote based on who is likely to appoint judges who feel in some way constrained by the text of the constitution”

    Thanks, Frank M. You just cracked me up, in a good way.

  39. Arturo Toscanini on March 8, 2005 at 5:15 pm

    Naomi Frandsen: is journalism losing its objectivity? Is the trend of radio personalities no longer referring to themselves as journalists indicative of changes in the field? But at the same time, how will the listening public change the way they respond to a piece by a journalist vs. a piece by a guest writer.

    Objectivity was only ever a myth. I’m not trying to re-tread the tired old “Everybody’s biased” relativism. Reporters simply have axes to grind, and most people just don’t have impeccable ethics. The objectivity illusion is lifting now that news outlets are no longer aided and abetted by a near monopoly on information. Witness last years’ CBS News debacle:

    One full week after forensic analysts had torpedoed Rather’s story, he coolly stated the patently ridiculous, “If the documents are not what we were led to believe, I’d like to break that story.” In the past, Rather’s credibility may have actually carried the day. But the public already knew that there was no dispute over the documents. They were crude forgeries, and an agenda driven media bigwig was insisting against reason that they were real. The story of the forgeries had passed Rather by, and in doing so, it demonstrated that the media also had passed Rather by. The public watched as Rather became the aged silent film star who fails to notice that talkies have made him a relic of a bygone era: Dan Rather became Norma Desmond for the twenty-first century. And to this day, he believes that what he has to say still matters. Thus, he marches blindly along as though he were still providing objective news like he did in the days of the Reagan administration—and, of course, he is. All this illustrates why objectivity is on the way out: It is becoming a less and less tenable pretense.

    Incidentally, if you like dictionary.com’s word of the day, you should check out Merriam-Webster’s (you can sign up for the free email here.) Not only are the definitions much clearer, but the “Did You Know?” articles are quite informative.

  40. Naomi Frandsen on March 8, 2005 at 5:30 pm

    Paul, Jonathan, and Carleh, I’m glad you’ve hit upon Social Security as a concrete case of negotiating political identity. Like a lot of other ballot-box issues, I feel perplexed, equivocal, and undecisive about it. I think of Social Security as another percentage the government can have from my paycheck, and I plan on never having to depend on it when I get older. In other words, I brace myself for any adverse effects if might have on my life, and otherwise I try to avoid contact with it. Paul, your analysis of the principles behind Social Security suggests that it should be pretty easy to discern through logic and common sense the motivations and potential effects of policy and distill them into truth that then governs our lives. But that’s hard for me to do. How did you learn to do it? And how do you respond to people like, say, Jonathan, who offers an alternative but also valid (at least to me) analysis? These are the types of skills that politically confused people like me need to develop.

    Jed (#28) and Jennifer Fox (#32), you both brought up the phenomenon of the Mormon bloc vote and more broadly, how Latter-day Saints can benefit the political process. I like thinking about that question–what do we have to contribute, how can politics be better because of us. Frank, I would hope that Mormon judges would be more likely to avoid adultery–should we perhaps be encouraging the next generation of Latter-day Lawyers to become federally-appointed judges? But back to the issue at hand (an admittedly self-congratulatory one), we’ll have to see how the Mormons continue evolving as a voting bloc or as a political influence in future elections. Anyone want to bring up Mitt Romney?

    Lastly, Mike Parker, if you ever find a color for Libertarians, let me know and I’ll get something in a contrasting shade. My high school government teacher gave us all tests to let us know which party we belonged to, and I came out quite Populist. It’s 5:30 in Washington, D.C. now–time for All Things Considered on my local NPR station.

  41. Christie Frandsen on March 8, 2005 at 5:39 pm

    OK, I can see that my secret is out — Christian wrote: “Naomi, if both your parents are staunch Republicans (I gather at least your dad is), I’m surprised you and Rosalynde aren’t. (Was your mom a Democrat, or maybe independent?)” This is Naomi’s and Rosalynde’s mother — and it’s true, I am also politically confused!! I’ve been trying the old “act as if” theory for the past many years, but I can tell it’s not working. The bottom line is, EVERY political party and governmental institution and social/political system of every sort is built upon the sand and is destined to fall. I have a hard time giving my heart and soul to something that isn’t eternal. While I certainly lean to the right on fiscal and foreign policy and many social issues, I have a strong liberal steak too (but maybe it’s just a knee-jerk reaction against my husband’s ardent political views!) Carleh, (comment #31), you expressed my feelings perfectly — I’m a disillusioned idealist searching in vain for a telestial political party to bring about a celestial civilization! I’m waiting for Zion… So, once again, the mother gets the blame for her children’s problems… but if I have to take the blame for their defects, it’s only fair that I take the credit for their talents! The joke around our house is that all of my children get their looks from their father and their brains and talent from their mother. (I only wish that were true.) I think Rosalynde and Naomi are brilliant writers (and there’s 9 others where they came from!) and I’m delighted they have this forum full of appreciative and equally brilliant readers! -Christie Frandsen

  42. Rosalynde Welch on March 8, 2005 at 5:45 pm

    Ka-BOOM! Now MY head is exploding! (see Nate’s thread for more exploding heads, if it interests you) My mother outs herself as a conflicted Republican after all these years!

    For what it’s worth, Mama, I think I do a pretty good job of casting my political inaptitude as an intellectual virtue–you know, tirelessly dedicated to inquiry and industriously rejecting cant, and all that. So now I’ll give you credit for that one, too!

    But come on, aren’t Naomi and I the best writers of the bunch? Surely we deserve that at least, to compensate for a lifetime of political angst… (kidding) It’s sort of funny how we alternate: Rosalynde (conflicted), Gabrielle (certain), Naomi (conflicted), Brigham (VERY certain), Rachel (conflicted)…. We’ll see how the younger ones turn out.

  43. Arturo Toscanini on March 8, 2005 at 6:03 pm

    You crazy Frandsenettes! You make me wish they all could be California girls.

    You’re as cuddly as Care Bears!

    [Edited.]

  44. Christie Frandsen on March 8, 2005 at 6:10 pm

    Rosalynde, that is an interesting pattern developing in our family… and projecting down the line, I can see it might hold. As for declaring you and Naomi to be the best writers of the bunch, you put me in an impossible situation! What if the other kids read this and get their feelings hurt?? But what I CAN say is that you and Naomi left me in the dust many years ago… and isn’t that exactly what all parents hope for their children? To exceed their accomplishments and virtues in every way. It’s what I pray for.

  45. Bryce I on March 8, 2005 at 6:21 pm

    Christie –

    The interesting Frandsen family pattern is the conservative men marrying intelligent women who disagree with them politically. We’re always amused/amazed by Ron and Shauna, who seem to like and love each other very much even though their politics fall on opposite ends of the spectrum.

  46. Naomi Frandsen on March 8, 2005 at 6:21 pm

    Success! I got my mom to comment on my post! If you all knew how busy she is, you’d realize what a triumph this represents. I think my mom’s comment provides the perfect justification for Mormon Political Confusion: we consecrate our lives to the eternal but live in the telestial. Her comment also suggests another category for analyzing political identity: reaction to one’s spouse. Is it possible, I wonder, that spouses politically identify with each other at the beginning of their marriages and against each other later on? If this is the case, I may have discovered the root of my political confusion–I have no spouse to respond to yet!

  47. Steve Evans on March 8, 2005 at 6:24 pm

    Naomi, as for the spouse — talk to Rosalynde. She and I discussed how I could unload a certain roommate of mine…

  48. Arturo Toscanini on March 8, 2005 at 6:28 pm

    Oh, for crying out loud. Frandsenettes? Please tell me that I won’t be credited with coining that one.

  49. Kaimi on March 8, 2005 at 6:38 pm

    AT,

    You crossed the line, so take your lumps. And be glad that no one has decided to go back over the rest of your comments and insert random references to the Care Bears.

  50. Paul Mortensen on March 8, 2005 at 6:48 pm

    RE #37

    Here you’ve made the mistake of confusing fact with truth. I know. I know. I’m starting to sound like some philosophical nut-job but hear me out. In #1 phrases such as “low wages” and “destitution” imply facts (though ones not in evidence). In #2 you assume that a government mandated program is the only way to mitigate certain risk—and specifically name some (more assumed facts). In #3 you tie responsibility to citizenship (another fact). Principles are based on truth—not facts. When you distill down what you have above it looks a lot like my original posting. You merely put your specific historical view on a set of facts to dress up what you fear are an inferior set of principles. If I wanted to caricature the D position I could have done a much better job.

    Something to keep in mind is that individuals also have the choice about the class of principles used to define issues. In my original example I specifically chose principles that could be researched as part of gospel doctrine. I could have used a more secular approach in my SS example. For instance, I could have identified the principle driving the Rs as maximizing efficiency and the principle driving the Ds as maximizing security. However, the gospel is pretty much mute on those subjects and as a practicing Mormon I find it important to look for the gospel principles associated with issues I face in my everyday life.

  51. Christian Y. Cardall on March 8, 2005 at 7:00 pm

    Naomi (#46), have you finally got to the summit ahead of Rosalynde? I’ve seen your dad comment on one of her posts, but not your mom.

    Mom Frandsen, 9 more?! Mother of Rosalynde! If Rosalynde and Naomi are representative, you have one hell of a brood, and can be justifiably proud. You’ve rocked the world.

  52. Arturo Toscanini on March 8, 2005 at 7:01 pm

    Kaimi: You crossed the line, so take your lumps. And be glad that no one has decided to go back over the rest of your comments and insert random references to the Care Bears.

    Gd n, Km. n thr t sys tht Gd wll mke r wknsss nt strngths, s I thnk t’s rlly grt (Cr Br) hw y lwys mk ppl fl grtfl tht yr nt mr f n mbcl.

    [Edited.]

  53. Arturo Toscanini on March 8, 2005 at 7:10 pm

    Now that’s very funny.

  54. Carleh on March 8, 2005 at 7:19 pm

    Paul M.,
    In post #35, you seem to say that love and responsibility are not connected. You can certainly be responsible without loving, but loving without feeling responsible? I don’t know about that . . . don’t wrest my words though. I suppose that in a world where we have limited knowledge about consequences, we should stick to our habits of strict justice which we KNOW are right and god-fearing. It’s a terrible habit of mine to err on the side of mercy.

  55. Times and Seasons on March 8, 2005 at 7:21 pm

    Kaimi Wenger is not responsible for the changes to AT’s comments.

  56. Rachel (frandsen) on March 8, 2005 at 7:24 pm

    Mama,
    Wise of you to refrain from publicly proclaiming your favorite. There are in fact unseen eyes watching (although now no longer unseen). Rosalynde, it’ll take me a while to forgive you for not including me in your best-writers-of-the-family list. I always knew you had it in for us science majors. Of course, I cannot deny the empirical evidence (as a scientist, I have to at least acknowledge that) that you are more prolific, profound, and intelligent than I am. Oh, well. Hope meets reality, and reality wins again.

    p.s. – apologies to the onlookers who are compelled to indulge me in this bit of family correspondence.

  57. Russell Arben Fox on March 8, 2005 at 7:36 pm

    Naomi,

    “[I]f you ever find a color for Libertarians, let me know and I’ll get something in a contrasting shade. My high school government teacher gave us all tests to let us know which party we belonged to, and I came out quite Populist.”

    Really? Socially conservative, economically liberal, committed to collective action, civic morality and social justice combined, the whole nine yards? Wow. You don’t know how nice it is to run across someone willing to risk that label. Welcome to the club! (There are, I think, four of us.)

  58. Paul Mortensen on March 8, 2005 at 8:08 pm

    Re: #54

    I love my wife immensely but am I ultimately repsonsible for her salvation? No. There is an important distinction to be made between love and responsibility especially as it relates to politics.

  59. Silus Grok on March 8, 2005 at 8:33 pm

    “So what color hat does a Libertarian wear?”

    The color of water.

  60. Carleh on March 8, 2005 at 10:49 pm

    Paul,
    I’m sure you love your wife. Of course you are not ultimately responsible for her salvation. But if you can help her achieve salvation and you don’t, then you neglect the responsibility of love. I believe believe believe that we ought to find the ways we need each other, and thus the ways we can help each other. I concede the fact that perhaps the government is not well suited to individual acts of charity. But that goes back to my original question – should we stop trying because we haven’t got it right yet? But this has nothing to do with the post, it’s morphing into a pseudo religiou-philosophical argument. So that’s all I’ll say about it.

  61. annegb on March 8, 2005 at 11:40 pm

    I like Don Imus, as well. I can’t remember who is red and who is blue, the Democrats or Republicans.

    I can only take talk radio in small increments. The contention makes me nervous.

    One Relief Society the teacher was sort of slamming Democrats and I said I thought we needed both parties and they wanted good things for our country, they just disagreed on what those good things were. The Democrats in the room who were squirming visibly relaxed. I hate the polarity.

    But Imus, he lays it on the line and he isn’t offensive to me, although I know he bugs some people. Rush bothers me and Sean Hannity doesn’t let people finish. Dr. Laura writes better than she talks. I’m for being nice.

  62. Rosalynde Welch on March 8, 2005 at 11:45 pm

    Ah, Rachel, you assumed that there would be no retribution for heedlessly tossing off my repeated suggestions that you’re a wonderful writer and would make a great English major, did you? Well, now you see, vengeance can be so very swift. And so very, very painful.

    You are a wonderful writer, and an even better philosopher. And you may be my only hope for a sibling who will actually enjoy backpacking with us. So I hereby add you to the list of the best writers in the family.

  63. Tracy M. Frandsen on March 8, 2005 at 11:55 pm

    Dear Nieces:

    You have it all wrong. Your roots go back to Clarion water. After all, the Clarion Call should resonate in all of you. And, it is definately red!

    Love,

    Uncle Tracy

  64. Julie Carter-Hadley on March 9, 2005 at 2:07 am

    George Washington warned us against having political parties before he left . . . I wonder what he’d think of how “red” and “blue” things have become.

    It seems to me that Mormon voters fall into two categories: they either research everything and make very informed decisions, or they listen for catch phrases like “family” and “marraige” and vote accordingly. Personally, I am neither red nor blue. Sometimes the “red” guys are the better choice and sometimes the “blue.”

    Some friends of mine just got back from Egypt where there is some interesting feelings about the US and its actions. They were asked, in provokative tones, whom they were going to vote for. One friend, ever the diplomat, knew his conversers were anti-Bush (whom he was planning to vote for), so he put it this way: Bush, he may not be too good with the war, but he believes in stopping gay marraige and abortion; Kerry, he might be better about the war, but he’s for gay marraige and abortion. Who would get your vote? Interestingly, these Egyptians said they would surely vote for Bush since he is the “more moral” candidate. Alas that we must choose between the lesser of two . . . words fail me.

  65. Greg on March 9, 2005 at 2:19 am

    Julie C-H,
    You may want to advise your traveller friends that John Kerry was, in fact, opposed to gay marriage.

  66. D. Fletcher on March 9, 2005 at 2:31 am

    I don’t know where else to put this. I had dinner with Rosalynde last weekend (and Steve and Sumer Evans, Kaimi and Mardell Wenger). Can I please say that I think she’s wonderful, and I had a great time!

  67. Michael on March 9, 2005 at 8:31 am

    Dear Naomi,

    As an old friend of yours, I appreciate like always your talent for discussing difficult topics, that usually we don’t chat about with friends.

    As former politician in Europe, I can tell you that life is more complicated than it seems to be, and personal and group interests guide politics at a large extent. U.S. politics are not different, except that religious motivations are sometimes used there in order to motivate voters.

    Unity among people, and mutual respect are desirable, not divisions and persectution of minorities. The “ideals” and “moral values” should be about everybody’s prosperity, not only the majority, while some minorities are persecuted. And here I am still talking about colour minorities, sexual minorities and gender minorities.

    I personally think that it is necessary that 50% of the Senate and Congress members be women. That would hange politics a lot and make it more human-oriented.

  68. Arturo Toscanini on March 9, 2005 at 9:12 am

    Michael, your 50% hypothesis relies on sexist myths. Giving women the vote was supposed to have the exact same effect. Was Margaret Thatcher’s England more human-oriented? Is American politics more human oriented since it gave women the vote?

    And unity among people is an extremely expensive commodity, and a fleeting one at that. Moreover, the notion that a government should pursue it is patently dangerous, and in America, we have safeguards against such things. The first amendment, for example, guarantees that the government will not try unify Americans views on religions. Indeed, the need for voting at all comes about because (1) people are not unified, and (2) mutual respect abounds (if it didn’t, we’d skip voting and go straight to pogroms).

    Moreover, there is no solid, immovable majority. American Federal democracy is based on transient majorities built by transient coalitions of factions. It was designed that way, and it’s ended up working that way (thankfully). American (like other nations) suffers from the problem of trying to elevate its underclass. And though blacks are over represented in this underclass, there are many more white Americans receiving welfare than black Americans. The poverty cycle is not a racial problem.

  69. Christine Frandsen on March 9, 2005 at 10:33 am

    So Rosalynde, the thing that caught my eye – “Gabrielle (Certain), Brigham (very certain).” As his wife I know Brigham is definately “certain” (we mutually enjoy a large photo of President Bush that sits proudly on our book shelf) but wouldn’t you say Gabrielle is just as certain, and certainly more outspoken? Maybe we can pull Gabrielle and any remaining family members into this one :)

  70. Michael on March 9, 2005 at 10:53 am

    Arturo, first let me tell you that I like your name, it resonates of culture and talent.

    And I think you are expressing some interesting points, like analyzing Lady Thatcher’s performance as head of government of one of world’s political and economical leading countries. I think she only proved that women in politics can ba as good as men.

    As we both know, value should guide us when we choose the persons who represent us in executive positions. Supporting this viewpoint, there is a need for a whole culture to be created, so that women can get the visibility and “exposure” necessary to be elected. A positive discrimination policy would be helpful as first step.

    I am sorry, it is my opinion that the target 50% represents the real life, while the sexist number is the actual one, 10-15% women in the Senate and Congress.

    How do you define unity? How do you define uniformity? Did you get the difference? I think the name of the United States of America “states” the meaning of those terms. People that are united in rejecting uniformity :)

    Democracy is the rule of majority with respect of minorities. Historically there were social minorities who were not even recognized as political minorities (people of color, women, people of certain ethnic origins) so they could not express there vote. I think that today’s society is fairer than it was, and it needs to become even more fair in the future.

    Consultation (=vote) has not the same importance as decision (=lawmakers, executive, administration). THERE the representation needs to be fair, in my opinion.

  71. Kaimi on March 9, 2005 at 12:31 pm

    Everyone may have noticed that we now have Rosalynde permablogging and Naomi guest blogging, with sometime comments from Gabrielle, Rachel, Christine, Tracy, plus Roslaynde’s parents (and one of Rosalynde’s posts is based on her father’s notes). (Did I miss anyone?).

    However, Times and Seasons has “no comment” on the recurring rumor that the site will be renamed “Times and Frandsens” in the near future.

  72. Kaimi on March 9, 2005 at 12:34 pm

    Steve,

    Didn’t we all agree that the best approach for your roommate was arsenic? Marriage has significantly lower toxicity, under normal circumstances.

  73. Naomi Frandsen on March 9, 2005 at 12:35 pm

    Thanks to all who have continued making this thread of conversation interesting. Considered as a whole, this post and its subsequent comments may well model the actual political situation: discussion devolving into all-out baiting (thanks for the comic relief, Arturo and Kaimi. The revisions of each others’ posts is reminiscent of the majority of bills that are passed in Congress); a little family laundry being aired (welcome, Christine, Rachel, and Uncle Tracy! And D. Fletcher, I’m thrilled that you think Rosalynde is wonderful. We all wish we could have dinner with her), some serious debating being surreptitiously conducted on the sides (Julie C-H, Michael/Mihai, Arturo), and finally the voice of insititutional authority intervening to set things right (Times and Seasons, I’m glad you saw fit to comment). It reminds me of standing in line along the Mall to get into the Inauguration on January 20th– the true test of democracy was if these huge crowds of people all striving for the same thing could avoid inflicting injury or death on each other.

    Some notes: Paul Mortensen, you made a distinction between fact and truth in the formation of principles which should then guide our opinions about policy. What is the role of facts? You seemed to be disparaging them, or at least discrediting them as a unit of analysis. But I have to admit that facts–which I think of as real conditions that can be verified–are sometimes the most powerful means of persuasion about certain policies. For me, at least. And on a related note, Michael (sau mai bine spus, Mihai), you suggest that interest, not principles, leads politics around the world, that the best situation would be a rule of the majority with a little encouragement (say, 50%) to represent minorities or those not in power, and that unity is what we shold be striving for in politics. The concept of unity, though, is an extraordinarily powerful principle that is actually threatened (so it seems to me) by trying to legislate it (in positive discrimination, for example). Unity seems to me to be a result or an organic process in which a group of people comes to listen to, understand, and love each other, and ultimately be willing to sacrifice for each other’s well being. In this sense, unity is the blessing, not the precondition, of the proper state of democracy. So Michael, are you an idealist trying to keep from being disillusioned by present political conditions? As for Arturo’s response, I agree that unity is something of a fiction, and not even a very useful one, since our concept of government is built on difference. So it seems like in the best theory of government, leaders should just let people live as they choose. But I find myself hesitating over that, because many of the issues under debate today are trying to sort out how much we just let people live as they choose and how much we try to establish a base of shared values.

    Thanks for your comment, annegb. I think that a basic morality of being nice is probably the way we will get through all of this anyway, and I agree that I personally can’t take more than small doses of politics before I need to clear my head with something else. Like making my bed, going grocery shopping, or finishing my reading for class next week.

    And Russell Arbin Fox, I’m glad I have a political ally as a self-outed populist. You make it sound a lot better than my economics brother did, who looked at me with disbelief and made some comment about me having a hard heart and a soft head.

  74. Paul Mortensen on March 9, 2005 at 12:36 pm

    RE #68

    Arturo, concerning your comment about the struggle to “elevate the underclass,” are you asserting that such an endeavor is the reason that governments have been “instituted among men”? Is that purely a philosophical view or do you support it from a doctrinal perspective?

    RE #70

    How does practicing “positive” discrimination move society forward to a point where discrimination becomes a non-issue? Have you read any of the works of Thomas Sowell? He effectly undermines your argument about representation in several of his books (The Quest for Cosmic Justice being one of them). How do you account for minorities with overrepresentation in elite professions (a situation quite common in democracies around the world)? What sort of doctrinal argument would you make to justify “positive” discrimination?

  75. Naomi Frandsen on March 9, 2005 at 12:41 pm

    Oh yes, and about that marriage offer, Steve, I’m actually looking to fill an intern position for a boyfriend this summer if he’s interested in applying. I can’t make any promises about full-time employment after August, and the benefits and pay will definitely be slim to nonexistent, but as an alternative to arsenic, you’re welcome to send his resume along. Signing off from Times and Frandsens, this is Naomi.

  76. Christie Frandsen on March 9, 2005 at 12:43 pm

    Personal to Christian Y. Cardall (comment #51): I DO have an extraordinary brood! And I wouldn’t trade any of them for that doctorate degree in religious studies I never earned (although after Rosalynde earned her doctorate while simultaneously bearing two children and supporting a husband through an MD/PhD program, my excuse started looking pretty feeble…)
    Remember when the Saints were forced to create a two party system in Utah in order to qualify for statehood? As the story goes, Brigham stood up in conference, and with an arbitrary wave of his hand, divided them up into Republicans and Democrats. A vigorous two-party system is good for telestial politics, I am so bold as to say it’s even good for the Church — maybe it’s good for marriages too! I have always felt like my children were enriched by the differences between my husband and me, stressful though those differences can be at times…
    Tracy — I didn’t know you were a blogger!!! So many family secrets being revealed on this site! And it’s undoubtedly more than any of you ever wanted to know about the Frandsen Family. Our apologies…

  77. Rosalynde Welch on March 9, 2005 at 1:04 pm

    Awww, thanks D.! You were so kind and welcoming that I forgot to be overawed at meeting the composer of the sublime “Weeping Mary”–in fact, you put me at such ease that I may have even forgotten to gush about it! It’s wonderful, and so are you.

  78. D. Fletcher on March 9, 2005 at 1:07 pm

    Oh, aren’t you sweet?! Well, it was a wonderful dinner, thanks for letting me come.

  79. Paul Mortensen on March 9, 2005 at 1:26 pm

    Naomi,

    I don’t discount facts as a measuring stick for policy outcomes. However, facts and truth exist independently of each other and principles ought to be based on truth rather than fact. That’s not to say that facts and truth cannot be mutually supportive of each. The main problem with facts is that they are open to interpretation–that’s why there’s peer review in scientific journals and why evidence is presented to a jury at a trial (to determine the facts of a case). In both of the aforementioned cases it’s possible to arrive at different conclusions based on facts.

    Truth is quite different. It exists independent of facts. Let me give a doctrinal example (one given in a sacrament meeting sermon) concerning prayer. The speaker related a story of a missionary who had returned from his mission and immediately went on a vacation with his family to a dude ranch in Texas. The day before the family was to leave the returned missionary lost his wallet and a momento from his mission during a horseback-riding excursion through thick, waist-high grass. The family immediatly banded together and began to search for the items but was unsuccessful during which time the returned missionary become more and more agitated and contentious. The following morning the young man arose, realized his error from the previous day, prayed for forgiveness and assistnce with finding his lost items, and recommenced the search. Within a few minutes the young man had found is lost items and offered a prayer of thanks. Now, the speaker used this story to support the subject of the importance of prayer in our daily lives and pointed out that the family had been unsuccessful in finding the lost items using their own wits. Only after praying did the young man find that which he sought

    The facts of the exaple were presented as follows: 1) items were lost; 2) they could not be found prior to prayer; 3) a prayer was offered; 4) items were found. From these facts the conclusion was drawn that prayer is important in our lives. What happens to the conclusion if I reverse fact #4? If you base you conclusion simply on the facts of the example then the conclusion changes to something like: “Because prayer does not produce desired outcomes it is not important in our daily lives.” But as Mormons our belief in prayer is not based on facts or outcomes but rather on truths in which we have an abiding faith. The principle of praye is true regarless of the outcome/result of any particular prayer we may offer.

    That’s why as LDS we have an obligation to act in the area of politics based on princples grounded in truth rather than be tossed to and fro on the whimsy of facts.

  80. Naomi Frandsen on March 9, 2005 at 4:40 pm

    PM: That’s a great explanation. And your examples of the importance of peer-review and juries reviewing and determining the authenticity of facts also rings significant for me. But I also think another component of this facts/principles dynamic is how many facts you gather and what types you include. You could just have well made Fact #4 “He doesn’t find his stuff but he is reconciled with his family and feels peace about the ultimate importance of family over transient worldly goods.” From this we could conclude that prayer would be just as important a principle, and it’s just as valid an outcome of his not having found his stuff as the example you cited. It’s just a different sort of fact or result being given. So who determines the types of facts we get when we’re discussing political issues? Who determines what sorts of facts are relevant? Or perhaps the question of who, we should as simply what facts are relevant to the political process. Politics as a system is much more complex, it seems to me, than the example of a boy losing his wallet, and the types of facts to be gathered about a piece of policy or a situation and the types of principles to be distilled from them are subject to endless revision. It is this complexity which makes political confusion such a ubiquitous state–or at least, such a thorough state, in my case. In the end, perhaps it is experience that proves the most valuable teacher of all–experience, as Julie C-H says, in researching issues, experience in discussing policy, experience in trying to negotiate the facts and principles undergirding each political decision that we are invited to make. This, however, is perhaps just a convenient excuse not to grapple fully with this issue, but instead assume that it will work itself out over time.

  81. Michael on March 9, 2005 at 7:19 pm

    RE: 73 and 74

    I wasn’t talking about political unity, but about social unity.

    Non-discrimination does not mean that now every R would start voting for the policies of a D executive :) It rather referes to social equality in human rights.

    Discrimination meant that at some point in time, people of color were not allowed to vote, that women were not allowed to vote (and the church has a positive experience with this issue) and that for example in Europe for centuries people with Jewish ethnicity were not allowed to own land or ships or any of this kind of wealth.

    Of course the people who live in discriminatory societies have to adjust to the respective temporal conditions. They would start being active in the few directions that are allowed to them. Jewish started dealing with money and other financial enterprises during Middle Age. Ethnic minorities make a high percent of the US army. Gay people were not allowed to be involved with military so tradiotionally they chose to become artists, doctors etc.

    Positive discrimination does not come from a specific interest, but it has its roots in principle. That, when it is about society, everyone has the right to be represented where decisions are made, by the people she/ he wants to elect.

    I think president Bush has given a good example of a team that really represents America, and most of the Americans can feel close to some of his administration’s members.

    But still only 1 congressman has a son enrolled in the U.S. army, and that says much about the gap between decision-making and bearing the effect of those decisions.

  82. Russ Frandsen on March 10, 2005 at 1:58 am

    I hope Latter-day Saints allows their political views to be fully informed by their religious imperatives. Our scriptures certainly have a lot to say about war, poverty, equality, justice, the weak, poverty, the despotic, stewardship of the earth, forms of government, the nature of laws, human nature, agency, work, sexual mores, the tendency to the exercise of unrighteous dominion, and the like. All of these are relevant to political issues today. It takes work, time and thought to understand and apply the scriptures to these points. We need not expect clear or distinct answers to all current political issues from the scriptures, but I believe we may certainly infer principles from our literature to use in making judgments.

    But these sources alone are not enough. I believe we should also consider the best of political philosphy and the best in empirical analysis.

    I believe Saints of goodwill can reach different good faith conclusions. I believe that such opposing views are vital to our society and our politics. Without opposition, any political movement will go far afield if there is no effective opposition. So I hope Latter-day Saints will maintain a diversity of views.

    I think the Utah legislature needs more Democrats. I was embarassed that the Utah legislature so overwhelming voted against the Central American Free Trade Area. I think the California legislature needs more Republicans – the State has become a mess with such long-standing one party dominance.

    Note to Naomi: I very seldom listen to Rush Limbaugh. I listen to NPR a hundred fold more than Rush Limbaugh, even though I do find Rush Limbaugh quite insightful if you can get by his bombast, sarcasm and ridicule. I like Daniel Schore on NPR. I think that The New Republic occasionally has some interesting things to say. In terms of the editorial stance of current publications, I find myself most often in agreement with the stances of the Wall Street Journal editorial page, the Cato Institute, and the Club for Growth. I think the policies advocated in those publications will be most effective in relieving the poor, promoting social justice, protecting the environment, and expanding the scope of freedom for the greatest number. I subscribe to and read Dialogue, Sunstone and Scientific American, as well as BYU Studies and FARMS. So what am I? Red? Blue? Hopefully not easy to caricature.

    Russ Frandsen

  83. Paul Mortensen on March 10, 2005 at 8:38 am

    RE #80

    Naomi,

    Your point regarding which facts one chooses and how many is exactly the point I was trying to make. Facts are discreet events meaning that they occur in a three dimensional plane at a specific time and if one could freeze time facts would be truth. However, as time progresses it changes the meaning of facts. Look at the issue of “global warming”. Forty years ago meteorologists looked at existing facts/data and determined that we were headed for a new ice age. Twenty years later the cry was about global warming. Today, the most respected scientists in the field aren’t sure what exactly is going to happen. Did the facts change fundamentally (though I will concede that time allowed for collection of more and better data)? No. Only meaning some have attached to the facts have changed. Do those facts provide a legitimate basis for staking out policy positions much less implementing policy? Absolutely not.

    As finite beings we do not have the ability to collect enough facts for use in making decisions relating to such complex issues as politics– especially, as Arturo pointed out, since the polical composition in our society shifts during that same time continuum I referenced above.

    True principles should drive political action. An earlier post lampooned me asserting that distilling so called “complex issues” into rather simple principles to be naive and disingenous. My response to that (and somewhat to your post) is that that is the noise the Adversary stirs up to make our decisions harder. He throws up all sorts of competing facts to try and shift our attention away from the principles at work. Refusing to work through that noise and find the princples at the heart of the issues is just lazy and allowing oneself to get caught up in the confusion is irresponsible.

    I’d like to bring up something of a new issue. Throughout this thread there seems to be the impression that as Mormons we do not have an obligation to ally ourselves with any particular political party. I’d like to assert otherwise and get peoples’ comments on that.

  84. Jed on March 10, 2005 at 8:56 am

    Christie Frandsen: “Remember when the Saints were forced to create a two party system in Utah in order to qualify for statehood? As the story goes, Brigham stood up in conference, and with an arbitrary wave of his hand, divided them up into Republicans and Democrats.”

    The only problem with this story is that the Saints didn’t allign themselves with national political parties until long after BY died. The Saints dissolved their own party, the Peoples’ Party, in 1891, fourteeen years after BY’s funeral.

  85. Naomi Frandsen on March 11, 2005 at 1:00 pm

    PM: Thanks for your comment. I apologize it’s taken me so long to respond. You may not actually read my response, having given up this thread for dead. I think that I am coming to understand your position on principles vs. facts, and I can certainly understand what you’ve described as the noise the Adversary occasionally creates to make decisions more difficult. Perhaps getting one’s political ear atuned to issues that are personally significant and discussions that can be very subtle and nuanced is a skill that one develops over time, not just like, but perhaps similar to how one is able to learn to listen to the Spirit more. I think a partial response to your question about our obligation to ally ourselves with a particular political party is provided in Russ’s response, just before yours. Russ is actually my father (to whom I apologize for caracaturing his listening habits. I learned to listen to NPR and take interest in political discussion from my parents), and he suggested that Latter-day Saints of good faith can in fact end up arriving at different conclusions. I don’t think these different conclusions will be “abortion is bad” vs. “abortion is good”–certainly there is a body of principles and values that we agree upon by virtue of our shared belief in the existence of God, the sanctity of life, the vital importance of covenants, and the importance of being law-abiding, responsible citizens–but I think that as we realize that no political party will embody wholly what we believe and feel is important from our faith in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, we will realize that making a decision about a candidate or a party is a matter of weighing priorities and accepting compromise. I do not agree with all of President Bush’s policies, but I voted for him because more of what he was campaigning for rang true than what Senator Kerry was campaigning for (I apologize for the run-on sentence, dangling prepositions, and general inelegance of composition). However, I think there will probably be a time in my life when I will find myself aligning more with another candidate–not that I disagree with many of the things that the Republican party stands for, but because of the candidate’s stance on an an issue that is more important to me. I find great comfort in the apocryphal story that even members of the 12 have different political convictions, and I think it’s significant that, as you have pointed out, our leaders emphasize principles that are important but encourage specific voting behavior only in infrequent and specific cases.

    And a note for my dad: your post reminds me of why I was so comfortable letting you vote for me all those years :).

  86. Mark Martin on March 11, 2005 at 2:16 pm

    “Some Wore Red, Some Wore Blue.”

    From the title, I thought this might have been about the University of Utah and BYU! (Thankfully it isn’t, since my alma mater has not fared well in major sporting events of late…)

  87. John Muir on March 12, 2005 at 3:19 pm

    Democrats and Republicans; same sh*t, different piles! Vote Green.

  88. ESO on March 14, 2005 at 6:48 pm

    I think many American Mormons have confussed the western Rugged Individualism tradition with their religion. For people in their 20-30s, the Republican party basically stands for guns and money and the Democratic party stands for spending your money, funnelled through the government, on the poor. Which party would Jesus join? Obviously, he would have nothing to do with guns, used for hunting or otherwise, and I certainly cannot imagine Him cancelling Meals on Wheels because he would rather choose how to spend His hard-earned money. The basic message of the Gospel is to serve and love others, why do we forget that when we vote?

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