Why I’m No Longer a Republican

The “what” is in my title. Here’s the “why.”

It may help if I explain why I was a Republican in the first place — officially for one-third of a century, and unofficially for several years before that.

Reagan and Me

I conducted my first political poll before the 1976 Republican presidential primary in Idaho. I was in fifth grade. As went my poll of voters’ children, so went the actual vote in my adopted home state: former California Governor Ronald Reagan won by a huge margin over incumbent President Gerald Ford. Ford went on to win the nomination, then lost to Democrat and former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter. Reagan was elected president in 1980 and reelected in 1984.

Even in 1976 I was aware that the GOP didn’t really want Ronald Reagan. He was too conservative for the party establishment. As we saw then and more strikingly in 1980, much of the rank and file felt differently.

Ronald Reagan
Photo courtesy of Ronald Reagan Library.

SB 296, SB 297, Religious Freedom, and Nondiscrimination

My readers may know two things about me, based on statements in public meetings, private conversations, or what I wrote at this blog’s predecessor, LocalCommentary.com.

First, for a long time I have supported local and state legislation to prohibit discrimination in housing and employment based on actual or perceived gender identity or sexual orientation.

Second, the level of my confidence in the Utah legislature is perennially low.

These two themes came together last year at about this time, as the Utah legislature sat on its hands and refused even to debate last year’s version of a non-discrimination law (SB 100). I wrote:

It’s an extraordinarily discerning litmus test, where Mormon Utah Republicans are concerned. It tells us where people land on the freedom-versus-using-my-power-to-compel-universal-righteousness spectrum, which sometimes seems to be the primary axis of Utah politics.

Beyond the moral principles on which society generally agrees, and finds suitable for regulation by law, I believe that sinners as I define them and sinners as you define them deserve political, economic, and religious freedom. I believe that a person’s violation of someone else’s sectarian principles (or his own) should not jeopardize the roof over his head or his means of earning his daily bread, assuming he doesn’t work for an organization with a primary mission to promote those principles. . . .

I . . . believe that the greatest and most constant threat to free and healthy society and good government in Utah is the subset of Mormons who think the law is a suitable tool for imposing their principles on all people — and who think that this is somehow a proper exercise of their religious freedom. (“I Am Unfit for the Utah Legislature,” February 5, 2014. See also “Rights and Rites and Right and the Rights” and “Tonight in American Fork.”)

When the Utah Legislature took up the topics of nondiscrimination and religious freedom this year, I was skeptical of their competence to produce wise legislation on such a topic, and skeptical of their good will, too.

Consider Character, not Religion

Yesterday’s e-mail brought its share of supposedly urgent political fund-raising notices. All but one went straight to the virtual dustbin.

The message which caught my eye was from Utah right-wing activist Cherilyn Eagar and her American Leadership Fund. It went out again this morning: “Deadline TODAY!”

Judge Not, Unless You’re Fund-Raising

Both messages said, in their subject lines and titles, “Why Harry Reid is an embarrassment to his Mormon faith.” A third message this afternoon added: “Here’s the blunt truth. Senator Harry Reid is an embarrassment to his Mormon faith. I know. I’m a Mormon.”

What Is a Democracy?

Author's Note

An American Thing?

In its simplest definition, democracy is rule by the people — in Greek, the demos. On the face of it, you’d think that this would be not only a very good thing, but also a very American thing. The famous first three words of the Preamble to the United States Constitution are a statement of the people’s authority to establish a government and its Constitution. “We the People” sounds very democratic.

Then there’s that short, most celebrated speech by President Abraham Lincoln. In the last sentence of the Gettysburg Address, delivered at the famous battlefield on November 19, 1863, he speaks of “a new birth of freedom,” and the desire “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” That sounds pretty democratic too, doesn’t it, especially the words “by the people”?

So democracy must be a good thing. Or maybe not . . .

Our Use of Words Matters

Author's Note

Words mean things, and many of the most important words mean a range of things. Consider, for example, that love can mean anything from a selfless, divine love to something only barely on the happy side of animal lust. A five year old who declares his love for his mother means something much different from what his mother means when she says she loves him.

A man and woman who discover that they love each other would do well to explore what they mean by love long before they order the wedding invitations. Likewise, we must be careful to define our terms anytime we engage in serious discussion, legislation, or decision-making which turns on the precise meaning of words.

New Hymns from the Sutherland Institute

In the spirit of Edward Snowden, though I do not particularly admire him, I recently hacked into the servers at the Sutherland Institute. There I found drafts of what appears to be a new hymnal. I can’t tell from the files I found whether publication is imminent; nor can I discern the intended distribution. The new hymnal could be just for in-house pep rallies — devotionals, they probably call them. Or perhaps it’s for public sale, aimed at the limited but well-financed subset of Mormons who think actual Mormonism is too concerned with things like freedom and kindness, and not nearly righteous enough.

To make a long story short, I discovered that they have rewritten all or part of some familiar Mormon and other Christian hymns to suit their higher principles. I grabbed some samples to share with you. You’ll see some evidence of their preoccupation with quivers full of children, and also their odd idea of religious freedom, which includes incorporating their religious principles into civil law, and being spared the presence in the workplace or neighborhood of anyone who makes moral choices of which they disapprove.