Left Wingers Are Evil

And so are right wingers. The centrist compromise over judicial nominees struck by 14 members of the senate got me thinking: Should Mormons be centrists? I tend to answer that question in the affirmative. The oft spoken Mormon maxim of "Moderation in all things," seems to apply to politics as much as anything else. As Mormons we should be moderate in our politics. We should look for common ground, build on common beliefs, and avoid extremist views. However, this proposition leads to several problems.

First, the congress is structured by the two party system. This means that if you do feel strongly about an issue, for example, gun rights (even if your stance is moderate: you favor citizens owning guns but not assault rifles and cop killer bullets), you need your party to control the senate or you will lose on that particular issue. Unless Republicans control the house and or senate, gun-control laws will be passed or at the least maintained, depending on the exact majority of democrats and the party in the White House. Thus, you would need to support any Republican, regardless of his/her views against any Democrat regardless of his/her views. Thus, you could be very moderate in your politics and still be pushed by one issue to support your party right or wrong–to act as an extremist.

Second, what does moderation mean in politics. Is there political moderation in an absolute sense. Our political moderation may be France’s extreme right. Thus, does the admonition to seek moderation in all things, as it applies to politics (if it does apply to politics), translate into American political moderation or absolutist political moderation and if it is absolutist political moderation how should that be measured?

It seems to me that for American members of the Church, American political moderation is the proper route. Moderation among us in America aids the missionary effort (we don’t appear to be a bunch of John Birchers), it helps our political causes because we can keep good relations on both sides of the aisle (much like businesses try to practice political moderation in order to protect corporate interests regardless of who is in power), and it keeps us from running down the extremist cliff into the brambles of apostasy (the kind laden with: if the prophet were truly inspired he would be advocating x just like I am). In the end moderation helps the Church and helps our personal progression.

Comments

  1. When I hear the maxim, “Moderation in all things,” it brings to mind the story about the politician who tried to steer the moderate course between partiality and impartiality.

  2. I tend you agree with you on the political question, HL. But some might say that “moderation” can lead to the kind of luke-warmism that is likely to have us “spewed-out” (according to Revelation). I think they are wrong, but you would have to show this in order to defend “moderation.”

  3. Moderation in all things, is a greek proverb, not a Mormon maxim

  4. Bob Caswell says:

    I tend to agree as well, though I feel that I often get branded as a “fence sitter” unwilling to display this bumper sticker or that sign in the yard… I suppose the truth is that many political issues which are hot and heavy I don’t really care about.

    That’s why I roll my eyes every time someone makes reference to this being a “liberal” blog. Great, just great. Steve has tried to convince me time and time again that even if that word is used, it means that one kind of definition of liberal, you know, the definition not associated with politics that everyone thinks about last when they hear the word “liberal.”

  5. D. Fletcher says:

    Mine was the final comment on that other blog thread, here it is again:

    Seriously, I don’t think the idea of everything in moderation applies to our Church principles at all. We have, pretty much, got an either/or kind of life to live, and this seems to me to be best described as an “extreme” choice.

    Moderation in all things is the central premise (of all things) of Lost Horizon, the Hilton novel.

  6. Bob Caswell says:

    Either/or kind of life? That is how the Church is to be viewed?

    I just don’t agree.

  7. HL Rogers says:

    “Moderation in all things, is a greek proverb, not a Mormon maxim”

    Travis, Travis, Travis. If Mormons use it, it automatically becomes a Mormon maxim. That is as central to our theology as CTR rings.

  8. Bob Caswell says:

    By the way, HL, you do realize that a better title for your post would have been “Left Wingers Are Evil” with the bit about right wingers following in the small print. As it stands currently, it’s sure to be glossed over by many who would easily make assumptions about the title of your post is association with their preconcieved notions of our blog.

    But if “Left Wingers Are Evil” was the title of a By Common Consent post? Now THAT would generate traffic (at least more so).

  9. We must seek to follow the correct choice, not the moderate choice. The moderate view on abortion would probably be far to broad and allow in cases other than rape and incest. Certainly there is a time and place where compromise is necessary. However, that should not mean that we should not start with the ideal. Of course, being far right or far left does have inherent problems as well. What do I know? I grew up in a home with a dad who was a President of his Union at Union Pacific. He taught me that all the media is slanted to the right with the exception of PBS. My dad is so radical that sometimes I wonder if he is not a Communisit. Realizing that children generally do that opposite of parents, you would be right to surmise that I tend to be conservative when I do not try to avoid politics altogether. What am I doing making a political post then? Good question! I really do have to work up the nerve to become aware what is going on politically. However, I do not trust anybody to tell the truth. So where do you go from there? Pardon me if I seem to be rambling, I must be getting a bit manic and will have to stop while I am ahead. Or am I behind?

  10. Although I am fairly passionate about my own political centrism, I don’t feel that it is in anyway dictated by my religion. Although membership in the church (and the belief system it implies) may rightly influence your position on specific issues, I don’t think being Mormon should dictate where you sit on the overall political spectrum. Neither does President Hinckley. Put another way, I don’t think that Mit Romney is any more (or less) righteous than Orrin Hatch, Harry Reid, or Ezra Taft Benson.

  11. danithew says:

    Moderation in all things sounds rather immoderate, doesn’t it? Let’s say “moderation in most things” instead.

  12. danithew says:

    LOL. And I just found you had linked to my post anyway. Duh! :)

  13. HL Rogers says:

    Bob,
    That’s what I call service with a smile. See the kind of good acts that come from a moderate temperment!!

  14. I’ve always felt that people (and judges) who respond to every decision by trying to split the difference aren’t very smart.

    “He’s guilty! Shoot him in the head!”

    “He’s innocent! Set him free!”

    Moderate: “Shoot him in the gut, then set him free!”

  15. danithew says:

    I once went to a local political meeting and heard one of the candidates say “I will never compromise on matters of principle.” I’m sure it was just a piece of predictable grandstanding and that he hadn’t thought too much about what he was saying — but I was left pondering whether or not it might be wise in many situations, for the better good, to truly be willing to compromise, even on matters of principle. Abortion strikes me as one potential area where a lot of good could be done if compromise could be reached. I’m not speaking of having the ideal law — but rather of truly bringing down the huge numbers of abortions that take place year after year. People might be “pro-choice” or “pro-life” but it seems hard to me to believe that many people out there want to maintain high numbers of abortions.

  16. I definitely don’t buy that “moderation in all things” is a Mormon maxim. There would be so many exceptions to that “rule” as to render it meaningless (e.g. alcohol consumption, church attendance, prayer frequency). And as a meaningless maxim, it does nothing to illustrate how members of the Church should align themselves politically.

    There are, of course, some situations in which the maxim is valuable advice. However, you would have to prove its relevance in the context of politics rather than to simply state that it “seems to apply to politics as much as anything else.”

  17. lyle stamps says:

    well, ‘nacle MOs certainly don’t seem to be moderate re: their IMOs.

  18. I don’t know how effective it would be if applied in the actual political system, but I am very sympathetic to Heber J. Grant’s take on politics. In politics we should support freedom of thought, civility and a plurality of opinion. Hopefully those things would have a moderating effect on the whole. Moderation in and of itself seems to be an artificial construct that forces us to betray, in many instances, what we might believe.

  19. danithew says:

    I just noticed my last comment with the abortion example came right after a comment by Matt Evans. I promise I wasn’t trying to pick a fight or raise up a stir with my mention of that specific issue. I kind of regret having mentioned it at all.

    Moderation to me seems to signify a healthy level of pragmatism. The extremists on both (because there are only two, of course) sides of the issue are scheduled to fight at 2:00pm and the moderate is the one who comes along and calmly says: “Hey, before the fight starts, why don’t we all meet at noon at Gandalfos for sandwiches?” Of course everyone wants to eat lunch and the Gandalfo’s sandwiches are so huge that everyone goes into a food coma afterwards. Everyone is too happy and satiated to fight and the problem just goes away.

    OK … I’m being a bit goofy … but I feel the moderate sees solutions that aren’t apparent to those who are so invested in the trenches they have been digging. Of course there is the whole “respect the box” approach … but it still seems to me that the moderate is the gentle person who finds that (surprise, surprise) common ground exists between adversaries or that a different approach/perspective can lead to a more positive outcome.

  20. HL Rogers says:

    In 1998 Elder Jensen was asked by the 1st Presidency to give an interview to the Salt Lake Tribune re the Church and politics (http://www.kevinashworth.com/ldr/272/transcript-of-marlin-jensen-interview). In the course of the interview, Elder Jensen made the point that more Utah Mormons should be democrats under the theory that a robust two-party system has been lacking in Utah and has caused problems. Many responding to this thread have interpretted moderation in different ways (as being conflicted, as being luke warm, or defining Mormon beliefs as extreme and thus the practice of such beliefs is itself a form of non-moderation). However, the manner in which moderation was used in this post is a call to centrism. This is a proposition that I think is supported by Elder Jensen’s interview. A two party system more or less evenly balanced leads to a control on political extremism. This is, I believe, the lesson from the compromise formed by the 14 senate centrists. Balance in numbers, in a two party system, also leads to balance of views.

    “I don’t think that Mit Romney is any more (or less) righteous than Orrin Hatch, Harry Reid, or Ezra Taft Benson.”

    I do think Pres. Benson is more righteous than the others. But that view has little to do with politics.

  21. I’m with you, Rick. It seems hard to claim that a religion that claims the greatest commandment to be loving God with all one’s heart, might, mind and strength, is a religion that embraces moderation in all things.

  22. D. Fletcher says:

    I’ve just never heard “moderation in all things” applied to the Church — I’ve never lived in Utah, I guess.

    Maybe moderation in all things political. But tithing? Chastity? Honesty? Word-of-wisdom?

  23. HL Rogers says:

    So we love God with all our heart might mind and strength. Does that mean that there is no time or priority to things that to do not build or evidence that love of God. Can we go bowling on Friday night just for the heck of it? Not if we follow the admonition to love God to the point where any activity that is not centered on showing or strengthening that love is not worthwhile.

    Chastity: ever heard of celibacy.
    Word of wisdom: what about those who REALLY follow the word of wisdom in every word and detail. You know the type.

    I think the issue is one of definition and semantics. If you define Church teachings as the extreme or define moderation as dealing with church teachings in a luke warm manner you will of course come to the conclusion that moderation is bad. However, if moderation is defined in a broader manner: Such as, the Lord commands us in ways that lead to a moderate life style. Thus chastity but not celibacy; a total love of God but that makes room for frivilous yet fun activities; the word of wisdom but not being barred from the temple for eating ho-hos (I love ho-hos).

    Of course, I am not wed to the moderation in all things maxim–it was really just a way of framing the argument that as Mormons it is a good idea to be politcal centrists. Now, Matt, I know you don’t agree with that and would love to hear you argue that one head on.

  24. Ha, D. That’s funny.

    The place where I have heard “moderation in all things” preached the most is with the word of wisdom. Oddly, it usually is not used to advocate better living of the word of wisdom, but to put down people who actually try to be healthier by avoiding meats or sugar altogether.

    People I know and love who are vegetarians are constantly reminded, “moderation in all things…”, while those doing the chiding of “moderation in all things” for the word of wisdom are stuffing themselves full of meat- where’s the moderation? (That’s an aside- not meant to start a debate about the word of wisdom, just answering D’s question about how I have heard it used in the context of the word of wisdom…)

    I think the term “moderation in all things” has been adopted by us as a reprimand for those people (like liberals) who we perceive need to get back into the “mainstream,” whatever that means.

    Perhaps some use “moderation in all things” as a gentle reminder that we need to be tolerant of and kinder towards others.

    Generally, however, when the term is used it seems to be in response to some behavior that the one using the term simply cannot understand. I think that a superior approach to “moderation in all things” would be to actually try to understand different things, rather than dismissing them with a blithe “moderation in all things” which really means “you need to tone down your bizarre and aberrant behavior a notch to conform with the mainstream.”

    I don’t think that the recent legislative compromises constitute an exercise of “moderation in all things.” It is a truce for the present, wherein two parties lose. Now Owens and others will be appointed to the bench (which many democrats still strongly oppose- I mean this is a LIFETIME appointment…), and the republicans may still face another filibuster with other judicial nominees, meaning that the whole “nuclear option” has just been hidden until another day, not eradicated.

    Most people I know would stop considering Mormons to be “moderate” the first time I turn down a drink or mention that I attend church every Sunday. Those behaviors alone take us out of the realm of “moderacy” as far as the world is concerned.

  25. D. Fletcher says:

    I have heard moderate use of alcohol, say, one drink of red wine daily, is very good for you. Someone who drinks too much, or someone who drinks not at all, must be considered an extremist.

    In Lost Horizon, the very maxim of Shangri-La is “moderation in all things.” In one bit of dialogue, the priest declares that if someone wants your wife, you must let him have her. In other words, all moral behavior must be compromised to keep the peace.

    I still don’t believe the Church follows this principle at all. They do have some moderate stances on things like abortion. But homosexuality? No, that would be an extreme political position.

  26. lyle stamps says:

    HL: Re: Elder Jensen’s suggestion to vote Democrat in order to create a more robust two-party system.

    If you look at the #s, the libertarian party is more likely to replace the Democrats as a viable 2nd party in Utah. The Libertarians consistently run more candidates than the Democrats; they are especially good at making sure there is a 2nd candidate to run against incumbent Republicans.

    So, Elder Jensen’s logic actually supports voting Libertarian in Utah, not Democrat. :)

  27. The word used in the scriptures, rather than “moderate,” is “temperate,” and if you look it up, the definition of temperate is moderate.

    Do a search of the scriptures on the church website for temperate.

    I’m a centrist and I feel like I get it from all sides. Liberals think I’m right-wing and right-wingers think I’m liberal. But I’m pretty much right down the middle.

  28. If moderation in all things is an accurate principle of the church, then how do we reconcile this greek proverb now become Mormon maxim with Revelations 3:16, which reads “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”

  29. Travis, do you think that the Lord wouldn’t spew out people that are too hot or too cold, too?

  30. HL Rogers says:

    Lyle,
    That is one reason I find it very significant that Elder Jensen spoke of joingin the democratic party and not the libertarian–you know … moderation. :)

  31. john fowles says:

    A maxim that I think makes more sense is “waste not, want not.” This is more practical and has several levels of meaning. I always come back to an ironic interpretation: if you don’t waste it, you really will want not more of it b/c you’ll be sick of it.

  32. Mark B. says:

    I think “moderation in all things” is a doctrine of the devil. It’s directly contrary to the commandments to be perfect, and to be anxiously engaged in doing good.

    The “moderate” person kicks back and accepts mediocrity. I’ll cast my lot with Pres. John Taylor: “The Kingdom of God or nothing.”

  33. The impression we get here in Utah about the moderation quote is that it’s for all the nutsos who try to overdo their personal righteousness and righteous themselves out of the church and into polygamy or other crazy stuff.

    I like it, I tend to be a little nutso, so it reminds me to give it a rest.

  34. Frank McIntyre says:

    As Susan noted, the word used in the scriptures is not moderate but temperate. So we are told to be temperate in all things several times. But it seems to often be in the context of self-control and behavior, not so much temperate belief. Here’s Dallin Oaks from his 1996 BYU address:

    “Moderation in all things is not a virtue, because it would seem to justify moderation in commitment. That is not moderation, but indifference. That kind of moderation runs counter to the divine commands to serve with all of our “heart, might, mind and strength” (D&C 4:2), to “seek … earnestly the riches of eternity” (D&C 68:31), and to be “valiant in the testimony of Jesus” (D&C 76:79). Moderation is not the answer.”

  35. As for “moderation in all things” I often take this to mean balance, to not give one aspect of your life or the church more weight than another, or more weight than is circumspect.

    Politically, I don’t equate “moderate” with “centrist”. A moderate democrat is like democrat lite. Politically, I’m a centrist. I have extreme views on both ends of the scale that put me smack in the center. But I believe those views require moderation, or temperance, in order to compromise with others. All government is a compromise, isn’t it?

  36. lyle stamps says:

    Careful Frank. I think that’s the same Oaks talk that says you can’t be Mormon & pro-choice; hence, the entire talk is likely to be dismissed.

  37. danithew says:

    Moderation or temperance in all things might simply be a unique way to say that we should apply wisdom in all our doings. There might be more than one right way to do a thing and perhaps the encouragement to be temperate means that we choose the smart right way to do things.

    Think of the different ways that an LDS person might find to refuse to drink or refuse to smoke. It can be done in a condescending haughty way that offends others … or it might be done in a graceful humble way that offends no one. I’m not sure this is the best example to provide but perhaps it has less to do with the ultimate decision that is being made but rather the spirit in which the decisions are made.

  38. HL Rogers says:

    Frank,
    Here is a summary of what Elder Oaks said in asnother address, his talk in early May during the CES fireside:

    “In addition, Elder Oaks gave a few principles that some members easily carry to excess including frenzied patriotism, encompassing commitment to only one doctrine, a willingness to sacrifice all we possess, intense goal setting and giving finances to the poor so much that families are neglected. However, while most could believe this balanced perspective implies a moderation in all things, Elder Oaks pointed out that moderation in some things can hurt us spiritually.”(http://newsnet.byu.edu/story.cfm/55366)

    I think this is a great distinction. It all depends on what we mean by moderation. If moderation is by definition to stay away from extremism (one accepted definition) then it seems like a good thing–almost a gospel principle. If moderation is defined as being lacisdaisical in our beliefs or thus being mediocre (another accepted defintion) then it becomes a vice to our faithfulness.

    I voice “moderation in all things” as a reason to stay away from extremes not as a reason to be mediocre in belief. And yes, Jordan, I completely disagree. I think we should be open minded and accepting but certain practices are simply outside the scope of accepted in the gospel–especially when it comes from zeal to live the gospel that turns into harping upon one note at the expense of all else.

  39. Nah, it’s about the nutsos.

  40. HL,

    Our quotes are from what sounds like essentially the same address, though the one I quoted was given in 1992. He urges us to stay away from lots of things, but I don’t think one could take from his address the view that being very (conservative/liberal) is a problem, so much as putting those things ahead of God. The antidote Elder Oaks discusses is not moderation but humility.

  41. Setting aside the philosophical considerations of “moderateness” (admittedly what most people are interested in here), I disagree with one of the premises of the post. “[Y]ou could be very moderate in your politics and still be pushed by one issue to support your party right or wrong–to act as an extremist.” Why? Apparently because the two-party system structures our political system. Well … not really.

    Moderates hold the balance of power on just about every issue: they are the pivotal votes that define acceptable compromises. I could provide a lengthy justification of this proposition. But if you don’t believe it, just talk to Bill Frist. He can fill you in on how party leaders that want to accomplish anything must please the center of the political spectrum … before they can do anything else. He had to back down this week when it became clear that he did not have the votes–moderate votes.

    I don’t know whether or not that means Mormons “should” be moderate. But it is worth noting that the groups in society that get the attention of government are “moderates” who are up for grabs in an election (soccer Moms, etc.). Committed voters are of little help to the major parties that are trying assemble a majority by adding to the electoral coalition. In this limited sense, if Mormons are aiming to influence government they ought to consider the path of “moderation in all things.”

  42. HL Rogers says:

    JCP,
    I think that your proposition is at best part of the story. After all, most elections begin with a primary. The power in the primary is wielded by the extremists in each party. They are the ones that turn out for primaries and cast the votes there. Additionally, many extreme groups raise vast amounts of money. This is in fact one argument for why the democratic party is so wedded to abortion (pro-abortion groups raise and give lots of money). Additionally, to rise in the power structure within the house and senate by and large you have to tow the party line (always follow the leadership and always vote for your party’s position–just ask Frist). While the moderates gained a victory on the filibuster, the entire debate began because of the extreme elements in each party. Overly permissive gun rights and overly permissive abortion rights are evidences of the power of extremists–both are views not held by the majority of Americans.

  43. HL Rogers says:

    “some members easily carry to excess including frenzied patriotism, encompassing commitment to only one doctrine”–E. Oaks

    Frank,
    While that portion of the quote doesn’t have to apply to political extremism, it certainly fits the bill for a lot of political extremism.

  44. Daylan Darby says:

    Why do so many believe that the only choice is a one dimensional line – take the red pill…

    http://www.lewrockwell.com/shaffer/shaffer104.html

  45. a random John says:

    I suggest that the next post be on the subject of:
    A stich in time saves nine!
    Since Mormons have a tradition of thriftyness this is obviously a gospel principle. Therefore Mormon men should all get vasectomies prior to having nine children! Because this common saying is a gospel principle it is applicable everywhere, right? We should also discuss its application to the subject of preemptive appendectomies.

  46. Tom Manney says:

    Moderation for the sake of moderation is assinine. Most of the defenses of moderation in this discussion seem to boil down to “it’s a good way to get attention.” If you want attention, put on a red clown wig and dance naked in the streets. But have the guts and the conviction to stake out real positions, and stick to them.

    However.

    When you can’t get your way, the mature and responsible course is often compromise. That’s part of politics, although it seems to have lost favor in these strident times. Any candidate who says they’ll never back down on a point probably shouldn’t be voted for, and smart voters should immediately discount the all-too-common campaign attack that just because someone compromised they have no convictions and can’t be trusted. Yet another situation where the Rogers Maxim, “Know when to hold ‘em…,” trumps a sweeping generalization.

  47. HL Rogers says:

    I have to admit I have been surprised by the overwhelming opinion of many on this thread opposed to moderation as a general guide: “moderation is assinine.” Moderation is in most cases a virtue to be sought. You can be moderate and still take strongs stands and stake out real positions. Moderation does not have to mean mediocrity or whishy-washiness. Perhaps moderation in all things is too broad a generalization but moderation in nothing is far worse than broad generalization. Extremists, especially in religion, have been the perpetrators of great crimes throughout all of history and continuing until today. Elder Oaks has decried extremism on several occasions as have many Church leaders. In fact, the history of the Church in the 20th Century is a study in moderation. From abandoning polygamy, to focusing more on Christ in our public pronouncements, to shortening the temple ceremony and general conference and making Church into a block. Moderation, when not an excuse for laziness or mediocrity, is a virtue that leads to charity and better relations among us in politics, religion, and social interactions in general.

  48. I strongly agree with HL Rogers. I think civility and moderation are virtues that are overlooked far too often.

  49. Frank McIntyre says:

    HL,

    ETB was not particularly moderate in his political views. Nor were many other Church leaders. I think the key is exactly what Elder Oaks points out in his talk. One must be humble so that one is not placing other things before God.

    On the other hand, I could believe that a man with extreme views is more likely to leave the Church because of policy disputes than someone without them. Because he is potentially the sort of person that is more committed to his politics than to his religion. But the problem in that case is that they need more commitment to God, not that they need less commitment to politics, if you get my meaning.

    The failure, then, is that the person’s extremism in following the gospel is not sufficient to support their other extremism.

  50. HL Rogers:

    1. Primaries: It is very difficult to demonstrate the effect of primaries. The logic is easy to see, but demonstrating the practical effect is very difficult. Only a handful of Republican House members have suffered a primary defeat in the last 50 years. On average, incumbents win (contested) primaries with better than 80 percent of the vote. That doesn’t prove they are inconsequential, but their overall impact may well be negligible.

    2. Money: similar to primaries the logic sounds good, but demonstrations of the efficacy of money are few and far between. I know of no scholarly work that conclusively shows the impact you’re implying.

    3. Leadership: If the original point about needing to cater to the moderates is right, it’s irrelevant if you toe the party line to achieve leadership. In fact, many people seem to have ignored Frist and are doing just fine. I doubt McCain’s chairmanship or Senate seniority is in danger, despite the fact that he often thumbs his nose at the leadership. If they have so much control, why don’t they discipline him with this party power?

    4. Extreme policy: abortion policy is actually not that far off of where Americans generally want it: legal abortions, with some restrictions. That doesn’t make the policy right, but it does suggest the policy is responsive to public desires. Much the same could be said about gun control.

    I don’t deny that activists play an important role, but it is largely confined to agenda-setting. Any time the moderates want to put on the brakes they can do so–and almost always do. If the ardor with which the activists contested the nuclear option, and the conclusion of that little affair does not prove that, I don’t know what could.

    JCP

  51. HL Rogers says:

    JCP,
    It seems that you have probably done far more research on this issue and other political issues than I have. However, I think you are slightly off in some of your reasoning.

    With 1. you point to house primaries. Not only have only a handful of incumbents lost house primaries, very few incumbents have lost elections–far fewer then senate, presidential, or gubernatorial elections. I think your reasoning would be more meaningful if you looked at elections that are more volatile. As is, I think the stats would be skewed by the power of house districts and how they are drawn. I think there is more evidence for primaries pushing extremists in senate elections and especially in presdiential elections where moderates (who can’t sell themslves as far right or left and then shift back to the center for the general election) suffer.

    3. As far as leadership. I think McCain has suffered from his moderate stance both in harder campaigns b/c he is targetted by conservatives as a seat they need to win and for chairmanships, where he has not had the pick like you would expect from someone with his national prominence. In fact, the power he wields comes from his ability to be popular with the general population. That brings up two points. 1. he is the exception. Few senators have his charisma and he gets so much press because he is an exception. And 2. the republican party has targetted him and he has had more difficulty raising money, which can be the death knell in politics.

    I also don’t think this was an example of moderates putting on the brakes anytime they want. 1. it made big news b/c when was the last time a group of bipartisan moderates stood up to their leaders. And 2. the actions of the moderates had the tacit approval of Reid and probably Frist as well. Neither could back down but neither were sure their stance would sell to the voting public.

    I think within the senate moderates wield very little power. They are really just actors at the margins. The minority party will try to use them to pass something but this comes with great risks to the moderates and the minority party. In the end, especially in the Senate, the party controls the voting blocks to an incredible extent and party line votes are very common (see the Owens vote today).

  52. Greg Fox says:

    I’m not Mormon, but my friends who are all seem pretty reasonable and moderate. Maybe I’m just living in the wrong place for Mormon fundamentalism, but you guys actually come across as thoughtful and with good intentions to people like me. Do you guys just like arguing among yourselves? Because from the outside I don’t have many complaints (except maybe that John Birch society you’re all talking about)

  53. Greg Fox: Do you guys just like arguing among yourselves?

    I can’t speak for everyone here (for fear of a riot), but I sure do.

  54. Nice to have a Gentile in our midst, Greg. I think that mormons are rarely argumentative, but we do like bouncing around ideas a lot. In an online forum, it seems like things can get more hostile but really we get along with.

  55. Greg Fox says:

    Thanks Steve. Glad to hear you like each other. Ever think about moving the on-line forum to a happy hour?

  56. We can’t, Greg. When we argue in person, it’s called, “the spirit of contention” (that’s why we have to take it out on each other online). We’d feel just awful if we brought the spirit of contention to happy hour. Ever been to a Family Home Evening in a single’s ward?

  57. HL Rogers:

    House members are generally more extreme than Senators (and the overall distribution has more spread), thus you would actually be more likely to find an effect in the House than in the Senate. The fact that it is hard to find such an effect suggests that things are–at a minimum–very complicated. Your theory may be right, but I’ve seen precious little evidence for it. The presidential election process is a totally different ballgame–too complicated to add to the soup at this point.

    McCain always wins by very wide margins. True somebody challenges him, but Arizonans never vote for that person. How concerned can he really be?

    He was up until recently chair of the Senate Commerece Committee, less powerful than Finance, but hardly chopped liver. He seems OK to me.

    Finally, the recent lap over the filibuster was in the news BECAUSE it looked like the moderates weren’t going to derail it. Frist had the votes until the moderates changed their minds at the last minute. This is the pattern on numerous votes in both the House and the Senate (though it is admittedly less true in the House). Examples are available, but logic is a satisfactory teacher here.

    Think about it this way. On any given bill who is most likely to change their minds? The ideologues or the “squishes.” I’m saying it is the “squishes,” which means that they hold the cards. If they drop the vote coalition below 50%, that’s the ballgame. Leaders don’t stay up at night convincing their wings. They worry about the center. Party line votes prove absolutely nothing. That just means that you satisfied the middle. The moderates define what gets done.

  58. Tom Manney says:

    HL, you seem to suggest that the only alternative to moderation is extremism. But frankly it doesn’t really matter to me whether I’m moderate or extremist or somewhere in between. What matters to me is that I try to be right. That’s why this conversation kind of baffles me. Better to be right, regardless of whether that puts one in the middle or on the fringe. Great evils have been done under extremist banners, sure, but great mediocrities have been done in the name of moderation. Maybe that makes moderation the lesser of two evils, but I think the essence of Mormonism is to transcend mediocrity and seek after virtue in its purest forms.

  59. HL Rogers says:

    Tom,
    2 quick responses. 1. I think moderation is more often the position closest to truth. Meaning, I see a lot of moderation in the gospel and a lot of extremism taking people away from the gospel. 2. We don’t always make the right call on what is right or true. Sometimes it is very clear, often it is not clear at all. When left with some confusion over what is the right or true position I think better to default to a moderate position than an extreme position. A LOT of atrocities have been committed exactly because the person thought their extremist position was right and true–in fact that is often the only way to convince yourself of an extremist position–to convince yourself that it is so true it is worth any pain or harm it causes. I think that is a very dangerous position to find yourself in.

  60. Seth Rogers says:

    I don’t usually agree with the far left in American politics. Neither do I agree with the far right.

    But I also have a lot of serious disagreements with the American moderate camp. Republican? Democrat?

    I choose neither, my religious world view is contradicted by both sides of the political spectrum and everywhere in between.

    If you’ve got two sides that are both stupid, misguided, and outright wrong, the solution is not to find the middle ground between them. If you simply settle for compromise, you’ll still be just as wrong as either side. The only difference is you’ll be picking which misguided notions you adopt from each.

    The whole point of our church is to transcend this kind of nonsense and provide the third, correct option. Why allow ourselves to be pidgeon-holed under a political spectrum that has been derived from “Babylonian” paradigms?

    My political affiliation is “Mormon.” My only concern with the Democratic and Republican parties is that they continue to squabble, tear at each other, and remain ineffective for as long as possible. That way, hopefully, they’ll never become strong enough to actually threaten my interests.

  61. HL Rogers says:

    Seth,
    I agree with the point that you are Mormon over any political affiliation. Pres. Packer, I believe, put it well in a talk where he said that we shouldn’t be democrats or republicans or environmentalists that are Mormons but we should be Mormons who are democrats etc. etc. And Pres. Faust was asked after being called to the 1st presidency about his political affiliation and responded something to the direction of, “I’m LDS.” That being said. I think the “Mormon” position is often the moderate position. I know several on this thread have disagreed and it’s probably about time I gave up the fight on this one. But I think if you define moderation in the right way the Mormon view is very often the moderate view. But perhaps I am simply defining any real meaning out of it…

  62. Tom Manney says:

    HL, it sounds like you’re saying “moderation is whatever I define to be virtuous and everything I disagree with shall be considered extremist.” Maybe this is how everyone sees the world, but they can’t all be right.

    For every extremist viewpoint, there is another one more extreme, and such a contiuum cannot, by definition, have a center. And if there is no center then moderation is an illusion. Liberals think they moderate free markets with socialism. Socialists think they moderate liberalism with marxism. Marxists think they moderate socialism with communism. And so on. Keep following that train and eventually you’ll circumnavigate the ideological globe.

    So we could go in circles on this. You could define extremism as too much evil while I say moderation is too little virtue. You see extremism taking people away from the church. I see moderation keeping people from coming unto Christ. You can cite atrocities of extremism, but the feeling is mutual. Some people regard your society as extremist and see a lot of blood on the hands of American self-styled moderates. We don’t like to talk about Dresden, Hiroshima, My Lai, Chile 1973, or the 1991 Iraq uprising. Right or wrong, our mainstream values and practices seem diabolical to many (not necessarily all or even most) Muslims in the world for example.

    I don’t think there’s an objective way to define moderation, and without that this conversation is maybe too slippery to be meaningful.

  63. HL, to answer your question to me back in comment 23, regarding politics, Tom Manney made my point in an excellent way. “Centrism” is a principle-free, free-floating guide that simply averages the positions of others. If one camp is urging people to drink a cup of milk, and another camp urges people to drink a cup of gasoline, centrists will drink a half-cup of each. If you say that of course we shouldn’t average in extreme opinions, then rather than seeking moderation, you’re simply determining the outcome by the choice of which opinions are included in your moderation calculation, but that can only be done by appealing to a *principle* that can guide you to include or exclude the positions of the capitalists, libertarians, monarchists, Maoists or Nazis. But since you need to start with a principle anyway, why not build your position around that principle in the first place? That’s why I’ve always viewed centrism as a mushy-headed and doomed attempt to be all things to all people.

    Many things are plain false or erroneous, and averaging them into a calculation makes your outcome false, too.

    Finally, there are many times when we view political centrists negatively. The revolutionaries, Tories, and undecided/indifferent camps each represented about 1/3 of the American colonists; but nowadays almost no one admires the 1/3 that were indifferent to the outcome. Similarly, Lincoln went to extreme lengths to preserve the Union (waging war that sacrificied hundreds of thousands of lives, increasing presidential authority far beyond his predecessors, suspending habeas corpus, etc.), and few people think he should have instead listened to those who didn’t have strong opinions on saving the Union.

  64. HL: I’ve yet to see a single example proposed, that at least stems from ‘a’ Mormon doctrine of belief, that would lead to a moderate/centrist result; let alone many.

  65. danithew says:

    Matt Evan’s half-a-cup of gasoline and half-a-cup of milk analogy is interesting. Of course it shows that centrism could be completely unthinking and unreasonable if boiled down to an automatic mathematical averaging of the right-wing and left-wing perspectives.

    One might recognize just as much that being altogether right-wing Republican or left-wing Democrat could be unreasonable as well — a partisanship that leads to reflexively voting the majority party-line on every issue … the total uncompromising embrace of homely platitudes.

  66. HL Rogers says:

    Matt,
    The idea that one side is offering gasoline and the other side milk in politics is itself an assumption from at least partisan roots. Why would one side of a legitimate two-party system want us to drink gasoline while the other side wants us to do something as reasonable as drink milk–the entire assumption is partisan.

    Here is a better example that might go to Lyle’s objections as well. One side demands no abortions under any circumstances, the other abortions on demand. The moderate position is no abortion except under certain exceptions. Looks a lot like the Church stance to me. How about, one side demands free access to any gun your heart could desire. The other side demands no guns to any private citizens. The moderate position asks for certain restrictions on gun use without completely limiting private citizens’ use. Once again, looks like the Church position (the Church has been pushing against the Utah legislature for years now to keep guns out of Churchs). Now these are only two examples, but from a political viewpoint I think you could come up with a whole lot and not find too many political issues where the Church takes an extreme–where it does take a position. Granted there are some and the Church, where it does have a position, which is not too often, will not ALWAYS hold the moderate position but I think it holds it a lot and this should be instructive.

    Tom, I’m not trying to define moderation as anything I want. Rather I am trying to steer away from the view of moderation as mediocrity for the purposes of this discussion. I think you can propose a wholly satisfactory definition of moderation for this discussion without using mediocrity.

    I also agree that there is a political continuum and I pointed directly to this problem in my original post. How do we know what objective moderation is? Is there such a thing? Are we forced to deal only in relative moderation? If so is that useful? I don’t know, but I think those questions raise serious problems for anyone desiring to take a moderate outlook.

  67. HL Rogers says:

    I thought this summary of the current lDS position in political America was informative. http://ldsfaq.byu.edu/view.asp?q=457

  68. lyle stamps says:

    HL: you said that “I think it holds [LDS political moderation] a lot and this should be instructive.” That’s not much of a ringing endorsement. I appreciate your examples; but at least with abortion; it seems more happenstance than anything else that the LDS position happens to be what you term “moderate.” Certainly NARAL/NOW wouldn’t call it such; nor would Evangelicals.

    Regardless, Kudos for the effort. Trying to divine policy and politics from doctrine isn’t an easy effort.

  69. Seth Rogers says:

    Nice analogy from Matt Evans. I’d alter it a bit though.

    When one side advocates drinking a cup of gasoline and the other side advocates drinking paint thinner instead, the moderates will drink a little of both. But that doesn’t make them any less misguided.

    When Christ began his ministry, he didn’t advocate a “moderate path” between the Sadducees and the Pharisees. He cut through all that and provided a third way. Instead of mediating between two political interpretations of the Law of Moses, he abolished it and instituted a new law.

    I see little difference between the Pharisees and Saducees of New Testament Judaea and modern Democrats and Republicans. They are simply squabbling about trivial interpretations of a fundamentally flawed system.

    Where is Mormon revolutionary thought?

  70. Greg Fox says:

    Funny you should ask, Arturo (about Family Home Evening). I recently moved into a house with 4 Mormon roommates and I went to my first Family Home Evening (FHE?) about 2 weeks ago. I don’t remember anyone talking about a spirit of contention, but we had great root beer floats after. One political comment I’ll make is that when Catholics or Jews have political differences, they separate themselves into identifiable groups and choose leaders that reflect their views. Why don’t Mormons do this?

  71. Greg, we don’t have that luxury — there aren’t enough mormons!

  72. a random John says:

    Our landlords were shocked to learn that we didn’t get to select our own congregation when we arrived in Boston. I do know of members that have moved in order to be in the proper wards for networking.

  73. Daylan Darby says:

    If you want government to intervene domestically,
    you’re a liberal.

    If you want government to intervene overseas,
    you’re a conservative.

    If you want government to intervene everywhere,
    you’re a moderate.

    If you don’t want government to intervene anywhere,
    you’re an extremist.

    ~ Joe Sobran

  74. D. Fletcher says:

    I LOVE your name, Daylan Darby. Sounds like someone out of Jane Austen.

    ;)

  75. Based on what you write, Daylan, I am an extremely liberal moderate conservative.

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