Actually, that’s exactly what just happened. Sixty-three House seats changed hands in November, governors got voted in and out of office, statewide propositions got passed and defeated—without a single post, let alone an old-fashioned righteous flamewar, on the Mormon blogs I read regularly. You would think that Mormons had nothing to do with this last election, but the opposite is the case. Some of the biggest political actors on either side are church members. This fact is part of the reason that now is such a miserable moment to be writing about politics from a Mormon perspective. On both the left and right, being a Mormon makes it difficult to march in lock-step with our preferred fellow travelers and complicates our relationships with the heroes, villains, and leading issues of the moment.
Not that it’s ever easy for Mormon Democrats, of course. If you want to access the anti-Mormon id of the political left, read through the comment section of any large left-leaning political blog when a Mormon topic comes up. You will inevitably find a few people eager to spread ignorant or conscious untruths, and a general willingness to take them at face value.
But at this moment, life as a Mormon Democrat is particularly tricky. Glenn Beck, the villain of the moment, is not just a Mormon, but someone whose fame rests on mainstreaming the Mormon flavor of right wing paranoia. It’s difficult, for example, to join the throng chortling over Beck’s touting of food storage, however misguided his approach, when you have spent a month living off of your own food storage. The great cause of the left, equality for gays, is also one that saps enthusiasm for political engagement. Even if one supports gay marriage, it is very difficult for a Mormon to adhere to the party line that all opposition to it is based only on hate-filled bigotry. And for all the legislative accomplishments of the last two years, the profound sense of disappointment over opportunities lost is focused primarily on the failures in the Senate, a body led by Mormon Senator Harry Reid.
Reid, of course, represents a special challenge for Mormon Republicans. He is the political right’s villain of the moment, and also a part of the body of the Church, and one for which the church’s public affairs office is quite grateful. (My esteemed fellow bloggers regularly remind us in the side bar that Reid promotes the interests of the biggest industry in his state, which is tea weak enough to satisfy any Word of Wisdom fundamentalist.) Moreover, Reid is a glaring reminder that the Glenn Beck-inspired Tea Party movement managed to nominate a number of candidates who hurt Republican electoral fortunes on the margin in the last election. I don’t have a good read on the pulse of the American right, but the cause of the moment seems to be immigration. On one side of the issue is Mormon State Senator Russell Pearce of Arizona. On the other side, we have the church-endorsed Utah Compact. Immigration will never be an effective rallying cry for Mormon Republicans in any case: there are too many Spanish-speaking congregations in the U.S., too many missionaries who care far more about proselytizing to illegal immigrants than expelling them, and too much experience with good people living in other countries who would like to come here, work hard, and get rich.
Lurking in the wings, we have Mitt Romney waiting for another run at the presidency, faced with the choice between campaigning as the moderate Republican technocrat that everyone believes he is, entirely out of step with the fired-up Tea Party base, whose Massachusetts health care plan served as a model for the national plan that is now the bugaboo of the right, or running as a born-again tea-drinking true believer and thereby solidifying the widely-held image of a politician always chasing popularity over principle.
It is, in other words, a thoroughly lousy moment for 2004-, 2006-, or 2008-era partisan political trench warfare. Let a thousand doctrinal commentaries bloom instead.