A Short Post for Election Day

I wouldn’t have known one of the candidates running in my California congressional district is a Mormon, except that everyone felt inclined to tell me as if it was the dealmaker. “He’s a Mormon,” they said, “Wouldn’t it be great to have a Mormon in office?”  Of course some people aren’t voting for him only because he’s Mormon, they also affiliate with his political party (or parties, in this case). But the underlying factor for many of my friends is not that he’s Mormon, but the assumption that he’s more honest than any other candidate because he is Mormon. That’s hardly fair.

 The second factor to be driving Mormon support for this candidate and other Mormon candidates around the country is the idea that the Mormon candidate will protect the constitution. I’m not sure how to interpret this other than to assume some Mormon voters believe that rather than carry miniature sized copies the constitution around in their front pockets, non-Mormon candidates are nightly building bonfires in their backyards to burn the constitution. The most popular slogan is, “Fight  for Freedom! Vote  _____!”  It is alarming if our freedoms really are under threat as this slogan implies. Yet my friends and relatives who are deeply afraid of their freedoms vanishing before their very eyes have yet to explain exactly what freedoms are under threat, or in what ways they are being threatened. Instead they use catch phrases like ‘anti-constitutional.’

 Dallin H. Oaks said it best:

“Some of the things said by various persons in recent public discourse cause me to urge that we be more careful in the way we throw around the idea that something is unconstitutional. A constitution should not be used as a weapon to end debate. A public policy or a proposed law that is unwise is not necessarily unconstitutional. Even if it is a stupid proposal, it is not necessarily unconstitutional…If we call some action unconstitutional, we should be prepared to explain what provision or principle of a constitution it violates.”

The mature side of me doesn’t like groupthink. The immature side of me wants to rebel and vote for the other guy, the non-Mormon, just to shun groupthink. The mature side of me won out and decided to actually compare platforms, ideas, investigate accusations, and make a reasonable decision. It was still the non-Mormon guy.

Reasonable people can disagree about politics. Good, smart people have different ideas about what is best for the country. Reasonable people could, in the end, vote for someone based on the merits of his/her character. Unreasonable people make assumptions about someone’s character and politics based on his/her religion.

Now go vote, if you haven’t already.


  1. I’m fascinated by the opinion that one should vote for a particular candidate, not taking into account the big R or big D next to the candidate’s name, as if having that there has no bearing on the actual votes that said candidate will make once in Congress. Say you see a candidate and he or she makes sensible positions. Once in Congress, this new representative is beholden to the dictates of his or her party leader and the direction that party wishes to take on votes. This new representative is also beholden to special interest groups who provided lots of money for ads in his or her district to try and convince you to vote for this new representative. As if this new representative won’t be thankful to that special interest group and find a way to repay.

    Personally I think the House of Representatives is too small, and I think it would better serve the American people if we triple its size. The last time the House was enlarged was in 1929, when the population was 120,000,000. We’re now at 310,000,000. As if the same number of representatives to represent 120 million could well represent 310 million…

  2. I suppose, Daniel, that since both parties have planks in their platform that I consider objectionable and since both parties have plenty of corruption in their past, present, and future, then voting for the person whom I think will do the best job (or against the person whom I think will do the worst job) is the best we can reasonably expect to do. Certainly, everyone changes in Washington, but that is no reason to disregard who a person is now (as far as we can reasonably tell). It may give clues to how they will behave once there.

  3. It’s probably very unfair, but I think I hold Mormon candidates to a higher standard, esp. when I’m encouraged to support them because they’re Mormon…

  4. ’m fascinated by the opinion that one should vote for a particular candidate, not taking into account the big R or big D next to the candidate’s name, as if having that there has no bearing on the actual votes that said candidate will make once in Congress. Say you see a candidate and he or she makes sensible positions. Once in Congress, this new representative is beholden to the dictates of his or her party leader and the direction that party wishes to take on votes.

    Not always, but frequently. And part of it comes from who helped fund the candidate. But I’ve always been intrigued by how Matheson goes against his party frequently.

  5. I just love it that Elder Oaks gave implicit permission to call some policy proposals “stupid.” (Not that I’ve been waiting around for permission, but still…)

  6. John C.,

    With all the various marketing for or against an individual candidate, how can you best judge the quality of a candidate? Take for example the demonization of Nancy Pelosi. In the end, is not her party identification what really determines whether or not you vote for her? Or Harry Reid. Has he really been bad at representing Nevada? Looking at the numbers, it sure looks like he’s done everything he could for the state. But in the end, none of the individual matters. He represents a party, and is demonized to such a degree, not on what he himself has done, but the party he belongs to, that judging him solely on his own character or positions is impossible. Same goes for Rand Paul (does he really ‘represent’ the Tea Party, or will he toe the line with Mitch McConnell?), and for any other person out there.

  7. It’s weird, though. I don’t live in Nevada. I don’t live in California. I don’t live in Ron Paul’s district. I shouldn’t really give a crap about those races (and for the most part, I don’t). My congressman is going to get reelected no matter what I may have done a week ago (I early vote).

    This is going to sound pollyanna-ish, but if you want real election reform, how about making it so that only people who live in a district get to contribute money or advertising? (I know, it wouldn’t make it past SCOTUS.)

    I like to think that people belong to a party simply because that’s how we’ve set things up, but I never assume that he represents that party.

  8. queuno,

    he or she would represent the party because only through the strength of the party does one have enough votes to get something across in Congress. Rare are legislative victories that cross party lines (Civil Rights Act being a prominent example) where both parties are essentially split. An individual Congressman not really participating with his or her party does not have a chance at all of doing anything. Take Ron Paul for example. Yes, he has a big R next to his name, but he’s not really a Republican. Take Denis Kucinich as another example. Their legislative strength is nearly zero because they think they can do things on their own without their party. Both stick the big R and big D next to their names because they know they would be voted out in the next election if they did not provide something for their districts; that something being brought to them through the party they represent.

  9. Daniel,
    I should say here I’m a moderate. What I would like to see happen is a blur of party lines. The candidate I chose is also a moderate. The other guy is very much not. Can’t I hope for bi-partisanship?

  10. I like when candidates are interviewed on a more personal level…what is your favorite book, what are you reading right now, what music is on your ipod…that kind of thing. How they answer is interesting to me. Do they try to answer something IMPORTANT? Do they try to appeal to someone? Does their answer contain some detail to indicate they actually mean it…

    That said…my favorite voting experience was calling a candidate. It was a mayoral candidate and this was Utah and there was a rumor that he had been excommunicated. I didnt like that the rumor even existed, but wanted to know for myself and asked him about some specific town situations that I wanted to know how he’d handle (mostly a large part of land that had been donated to the city to be a park…had been a park and the city was then considering selling it to Home depot..) He was all for it…I was not. He thanked me for asking him in person, instead of listening to the rumor mill…I loved hearing from him what he would do.

  11. Daniel – I think I prefer more congressmen in the Ron Paul/Dennis Kucinich mold, who are members of a party in name only. Look, congressional voting is all horse-trading. But the Pauls and Kuciniches of the world actually have ideas, unlike the Michael Burgesses of the world. And even mavericks can get what they need for their districts. Just go threaten to vote with the “opposition” and it’s funny what your “party” will trade to keep your vote.

    Again, the best types of congressmen are part of a party, but don’t represent it…

  12. britt,
    Why was the fact that he may or may not have been excommunicated relevant?

  13. queuno,

    it depends on the influence someone like Kucinich would have. Here is Nate Silver showing that Kucinich is the least valuable Democratic vote


    One could possibly say the same for Paul (who is called Dr. No by his colleagues in the House). Can you name an important piece of legislation that either of these two proposed that passed?

    I won’t say much more. I’ve taken a lot of this first part here. Having studied politics, and paid close attention over the last 10 years, I can’t vote for an individual candidate, but rather at how well he will represent the party that I believe best produces results in Congress. In the end, that’s where I see results.

  14. I received an email from a friend this morning extolling the virtues of one of our gubernatorial candidates (whom also happens to be a relative of this friend). He’s an Independent running on the Democratic ticket. I had already decided, based on issues, platforms, and the goober-headedness of the incumbent that I was voting for this man. I just found out in the last few days that he’s LDS.

    The email went on to explain his Independent/Moderate views on key issues. I thought that was great. Then, as a way to calm the fears of LDS conservatives, the writer not only announced the candidate’s religion, but that he had also served as a bishop. Gag. Something in me wanted to withhold my vote. It felt cheap. As if I was supposed to either trust him more or offer my loyalty as a fellow Mormon. Sadly enough, I know this information will sway many LDS conservatives to vote for this man. I’m not sad they’re voting for him (I truly do think he’s the best candidate for the job), but WHY they’re voting for him. It’s ridiculous.

  15. “Not that I’ve been waiting around for permission” <grin>

  16. I used to work in the investment industry. It is interesting to note that (as I’ve said before) Utah is in the top three states for investment fraud. The other two are Florida – likely due to the high proportion of elderly/retired folks, and Nevada – likely due to the prevalence of greed and a money-for-nothing attitude.
    Why is Utah? Well according to the Utah Department of Commerce Division of Securities one of the main tools of fraudsters year after year is what is known as Affinity Fraud. “Hey you go to the Mormon church? Me too! You can trust me . . . ”
    I don’t trust people with my money simply because they are Mormon, and I sure don’t trust them with my vote.

  17. Mommie Dearest says:

    Here in AZ a lot of us have learned to set all notions of Mormon groupthink aside and asses every candidate on individual merit.
    No time for long rambling discourse. Gotta go drop off the mail-in ballot.

  18. I will be voting the Democratic ticket. I know I will suffer my disappointments again. But I am always hoping it will regain it’s footing as the party of the working man. (No need to reply).

  19. All you have to do is be a voter in Utah to know the a Mormon candidate isn’t more honest or a better representative than anyone else. In most parts of the state it’s hard to tell the difference between the two Mormon candidates in opposite parties from their literature except this year when one mentions the Founding Fathers and the Constitution more than the other, then you know he’s Republican.

  20. My favorite thing in this whole thread is the way Daniel stridently defends the oft-criticized practice of Utah residents voting for the Republican candidate without even listening to what either candidate says.

  21. Steve Evans says:

    Great post! GO VOTE, people.

  22. Daniel,
    All I can say to you is that I voted for a candidate because of personal distaste for his opponent. Had the personalities been reversed, my vote would have been also.

  23. 1, 4, 9 — Party matters. Not in the sense that it makes someone a better person, or correct all the time, but in the sense of control.

    The most important vote in any legislative body happens on the very first day, right after the new members are sworn in. It’s the vote for leader of the body. That leader determines the makeup and leadership of all of the committees, and the leader of a committee determines which pieces of legislation will be considered, and most of what will happen to them, including their passage or failure to pass. Your “I’m so moderate, and will vote against my party” guy is going to vote for his party’s nominee more than 99% of the time, and his party’s leadership will drive the agenda for that body if he’s in the majority. No matter how moderate he might be, that leader isn’t likely to be nearly as moderate.

    OP — Here’s what I had to say about voting today:

    For those who haven’t voted yet, please don’t.

    Unless you know what you’re doing voting. Please know what the position you’re voting for does (basically) and why the person you’re voting for in that position can do the job adequately. If it’s a ballot measure, please know what its unintended consequences might be, and why it’s wort…h risking those to approve it if you’re going to.

    Don’t give in to the pressure to vote if you’re not up to it. I was a poll worker for 8 years, and saw many, many voters who didn’t know what they were doing. If you can’t do it well, please leave it to those who can this time, and then get up to speed for next time.

  24. Blain,
    How, exactly, did you know that voters didn’t know what they were doing?

  25. mmiles…I didn’t think it did matter. What mattered to me was more how he responded to the question..he thanked me for asking him in person-that’s character. It mattered to me that someone saw fit to spread a rumor…so the followers of the other candidate think it should matter..what kind of people are they to think that? Does that make sense… Putting that aside there were issues i cared about that he didn’t agree with-the park thing.

    I called because I was bemonaing to my husband how the only information I had on this candidate was rumor…and while saying that I realized this is a small enough town, I should jsut call him myself.

  26. Looking at the numbers, it sure looks like he’s done everything he could for the state

    The last thing many people want is for their representative to do something “for” their state. Take money away (or borrow it) with one hand, give it back (and expect credit for doing so) with the other. Classic Ponzi scheme.

  27. Mark,

    The last thing many people want is for their representative to do something “for” their state. Take money away (or borrow it) with one hand, give it back (and expect credit for doing so) with the other. Classic Ponzi scheme.

    I disagree with that description. Take for instance the Yucca Mountain nuclear storage site. Do most Nevadans want nuclear waste stored in their state? If I recall correctly (and I may be wrong on this), they don’t. Senator Reid, through his being Senator, was able to block the progression of the waste site at Yucca Mountain. That’s providing for the state.

  28. The reason why the Democratic Party is moribund in Utah is that they are not free to move to the right enough to command the support of fifty percent of the electorate at the state level, and tend to be tainted by association with unpopular national Democratic policy preferences even when they try.

    Abortion rights are a killer, for example. There are a number of people who would flat out refuse to vote for any Democrat on that basis alone. Ever.

  29. Do most Nevadans want nuclear waste stored in their state?

    Scare mongering aside, most probably don’t, the same way that many Utah voters get upset about lower grade material coming to their state. But what I am referring to is the general practice of expecting credit for allocating federal largess back to the state from whence it came. Earmarks in other words, complete with a full employment program for federal bureaucrats to administer them.

  30. If the Mormons always voted for the Mormon candidate, we’d have more people like Mitt Romney, Orrin Hatch, and Harry Reid. It doesn’t matter their religious affiliation so long as they, you know, uphold their oaths and adhere to the Constitution.

  31. 24 — It wasn’t hard. The number of people who were voting from a list, and who didn’t know what to do without the list. The number of people who needed Special Ballots because they’d been issued absentee ballots and lost them, only to be hauled to the polling place with “helpers” to tell them how to vote. Every presidential election I’d see people who didn’t know how to operate the ballots, and have to take the voting machines apart to fix the problems they caused. These are the same folks who found the Butterfly Ballot confusing, and led to you losing the right to know that the person voting a ballot is the person the ballot was issued to (in lots of places, thanks to HAVA).

  32. Blain,
    I ususally write down my list and go in and vote. It just makes it faster for me. And what does not knowing how to operate voting machines have to do with making well thought out decisions about candidates?

  33. These weren’t lists they wrote down at home — they were lists given to them. They even (quite rarely) passed the lists around in the polling place (had a lengthy call with the County Auditor and a candidate about that, to clarify that this was because the recipients of the list requested it, and were not solicited to take it). I also had to help people vote, beyond helping them with their Special Ballots (which I specialized in — I did most of them at my first election (a presidential election at a college, where we did hundreds of them) and all of them at every election after that for seven years). I had a lot of interaction with them, beyond just having them tell me their names and giving them a ballot to vote, especially the folks who were less prepared. The help they asked for, and the help they needed but didn’t ask for, was apparent.

    And there were clear non-verbal signs that I can’t reduce to words that, in the context, were very clear that the people I’m speaking of did not know what they were doing. If you doubt me, spend a day in a polling place (if you still get to have them) in two years. Or you can talk to election workers around — it’s hardly a secret.

    But my interest is less in my assessing who should and shouldn’t vote. It’s to suggest to people that voting when you’re prepared is better than voting when you aren’t. Is this controversial, or do you not like me pointing out that some people vote when they aren’t prepared?

  34. Mitt Romney is a nice guy and all, but I thought the percentage he achieved in the GOP presidential primary in Utah (89%) last time around was a bit unseemly. It is counterproductive to heavily favor a candidate just because he shares the same religious denomination.

  35. StillConfused says:

    I guess the big issue in Provo Utah is whether to have a new Rec Center. Not that anyone uses the one that they have now. But some small town nearby has a better rec center and that just simply won’t do. Of the people who have told me that they are voting for it, none have any intentions of ever actually using it.

    I am not registered to vote in Provo. It is bad enough that I moved here but I still can’t bring myself to vote on stuff here. Guess that means I can’t complain about the politics here. But I can still complain about the drivers!

  36. “A public policy or a proposed law that is unwise is not necessarily unconstitutional.”

    Conversely, a constitutional law is not necessarily wise (or will remain perpetually constitutional).

  37. “Mitt Romney is a nice guy and all, but I thought the percentage he achieved in the GOP presidential primary in Utah (89%) last time around was a bit unseemly.”

    It’s only fair. How many people from southern states absolutely refused to vote for him because he’s LDS?

  38. Blain,
    I wasn’t sure what you meant by unprepared. It took you several comments to clarify. It makes me really uncomfortable when someone is saying certain people shouldn’t vote. That is all.

  39. Peter LLC says:

    I’m would be surprised if those who are too stupid to vote have the inclination to follow BCC, but maybe Blain knows his audience better than I do.

  40. 38 — Okay. But I’m not counting anybody out based on how they would vote or who they are. I’m just asking people to self-assess with a simple enough standard that makes sense. And it’s not a difficult one to satisfy.

    39 — You never know where you’re going to run into someone who’s unprepared to vote. It’s not like they wear special hats or anything. And you never know who’s reading a blog but not posting — lurkers are very invisible.

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