The assertion is often made by people who are smart enough to know better that modern Mormons won’t vote for a Democrat. The reasons that are usually advanced include party stances on abortion and SSM, and sometimes the sexual adventures of Bill Clinton. If the person making this argument lives in Utah, perhaps the strongest answer is to point out that Jim Matheson, (D., Salt Lake City) is probably his representative in congress.
The six highest electoral offices in Utah are the governor, the two senators, and the three representatives to the house. Going back forty years, at least one, and often two of those offices, has/have been occupied by a Democrat. Those people include outstanding public servants such as Frank Moss, Calvin Rampton, Gunn McKay, Wayne Owens, Scott Matheson, Jim Matheson, and Bill Orton. Each of them was popular enough to serve multiple terms. Orton may be the most interesting one of the bunch, because he represented Provo and Orem for three terms in the house of representatives, from 1991 to 1997. His initial election received an assist when his opponent’s campaign made some spectacular unforced errors, but he won two more times on his merits, and he succeeded as a Democrat in Utah valley during Clinton’s heyday. His success says something about the electorate he represented: They are more fair-minded than they often get credit for being. Sometimes I sense that many Mormons want to shed their image as one party voters, but are not being offered a choice they can live with. I’m not sure I could say the same about a place like Lubbock, TX, for instance, where it is hard to see a Democrat ever winning. For that matter, can you imagine a Republican ever representing California’s East bay (Berkeley and Oakland)? But if you’ve lived in the crossroads of the West anytime in the past forty years, chances are you’ve been represented in congress by a Democrat.
Will the foregoing in mind, I offer the following unsolicited two cents worth of advice to Utah Democrats:
1. Quit whining.
2. Be careful of Mormon sensibilities. You don’t win votes by insulting the people who cast them (I’m looking at you, Rocky), and the best way to get respect is to first give it.
3. Identify and support candidates like Matheson, Owens, and Orton. Sure, it is an uphill battle, and they will need to outhustle and outshine their opponents in order to have a chance, but the facts show that Democrats can win in Utah.
4. Quit whining.