Why Mormons Accept Cruz

The Washington Post Monkey Cage blog has an interesting story up on religious freedom and last night’s caucus vote in Idaho and Utah for Ted Cruz. I think it gets a few things wrong. Effectively it is asking why Mormons voted for Cruz, who isn’t exactly a religious freedom champion when they opposed Trump.

The problem is that this election cycle is a perfect example of having any good choices. Thus any choice you make is bad. A vote for Katich at this stage is really a vote for Trump. There’s no way Kasich can win. Exactly why he’s still in the race is not at all clear. He should have left long ago if he cared about the danger of Trump.

Cruz is a very bad choice too for a slew of reasons. I suspect there’s actually a fair bit of sincere support for Cruz for various reasons in Utah. I think it incorrect, but at this stage I think it doesn’t matter. Trump is a huge threat for both the Republican Party as well as the nation. Most of those supporting Trump are either severely projecting onto him what they want him to be like or just don’t care. That is they think a vote for Trump will shake up politics. (It will, but not likely the way they want) Cruz at this stage, as bad as a candidate as at least many Utahns might think him to be is the best chance of stopping the greater threat of Trump. Beyond that the next best bet is to vote for Clinton. It’s worth noting that Utahns in general are not fans of the Clintons. This was the one state where in the 90’s Bill Clinton actually came in third. But I think many people see Clinton as a lesser threat than Trump.

Ignoring these political calculations of why people might vote for Cruz or even Clinton while disliking them as candidates, there are a few other problems with the story. The following paragraph just strikes me as very odd.

There is a deeper point to these inconsistencies than mere “gotcha” politics. For a minority religious group like the Mormons, religious liberty is both a necessary condition for their ongoing survival and a continuous threat to it. Without it, they could potentially be subject to coercive restrictions at the hands of democratic majorities — as they were when the federal government outlawed both polygamy and the immigration of polygamists in the 19th century. With it, however, Mormons have to deal with continuous and relentless historical examination of their founding theological claims and the ever-present fear that their youths will either leave the faith or radically reshape the way it is practiced and understood.

I think there are very real reasons to be concerned with religious persecution. I’m old enough to remember a fair bit – especially in the south where some very ignorant and naive people actually did think I had horns on my head. (Because their pastor told them we were devils) So that’s not just an urban myth. That said, that was more than 20 years ago and I think Mormons don’t face much religious persecution. Especially nothing compared to how Mormons were treated in the pre-WWII era.

However I confess I just don’t see what religious liberty has to do with “historical examination.” For one I don’t particularly mind historical examination. I and many others know the history quite well and it doesn’t affect our religion. I don’t think that facts are a threat to youthful commitment to Mormonism. I suspect bad teaching, boring services and the attraction of activities we see as wrong are far more of an effect on Mormon membership. That was always true but I think in an era when so many are not religious there are far stronger social norms pushing people away from religions. Especially ones that end up being “costly” in terms of commitment like Mormonism is.

Getting back to the original topic, I’m not sure Mormons are doing a calculus in terms of our religious persecution potentially by Trump and to a lesser extent by Cruz. Rather I think they honestly just think Trump is bad for the country. There’s no need to see every political decision through a lens of what’s good for the person voting. Surely it’s been well established now that people don’t make decisions just out of selfishness. Rather they frequently and arguably usually vote the common good. They may be wrong in what they think that is, but they are looking through that lens.

6 thoughts on “Why Mormons Accept Cruz”

  1. Stances on immigration and dealing with Muslims may enter into voting against Trump, but I suspect his overwhelming rejection by Utah voters is mostly due to his extremely vulgar persona. It’s getting to the point that secular people can’t even understand that as a motive to vote against someone, so they look to all the things that motivate themselves for explanations. Policy-wise there are numerous reasons to reject Trump, but those reasons wouldn’t have some outsized resonance only in Utah. Trump is pulling in 40-50% of the Republican vote because a large portion of the country is as degraded as he is. They would be Trump if they could.

  2. “Trump is pulling in 40-50% of the Republican vote because a large portion of the country is as degraded as he is. They would be Trump if they could.”

    That is an insight that was lost on me until now, which I appreciate. I’ve thought of a similar idea in other contexts though. Such as “a large portion of the country is as degraded as [the cheering hordes at gladiator contests in ancient Rome] or [the slaveholders of the pre-civil war South]. They would be [them] if they could.”

  3. Personally I like many things about Donald Trump. With Cruz, the USA would have little need of a Secretary of State or even a foreign policy. We could simple have Benjamin Netanyahu conduct our international affairs and make all decisions based on Israeli interests. And while Cruzers have painted Trump as a threat to world peace, it is their polemic perspective in support of Israel antagonizing the Moslem world that would most likely drive us toward global destruction. While Trump will not tolerate militant Moslem terrorists, he would be the one most likely to put into effect a two nation state and implement enforcement of terrorist erradication and elimination, ultimately building more positive relations with all the nations of the middle-east. The Arabs respect toughness and they will better respond to and understand Trump than Cruz.

    Trump’s rhetoric will die down as he collects additional delegates and as Cruz’s vitriolic nonsense plays itself out.

    Cruz also demonstrated a willingness in much more significant ways to compromise his principles during his campaign, deceitfully stealing votes through dissemination of false information about Dr. Ben Carson dropping out of the race and through voter fraud abuse. Shedding principles of honesty and integrity were an all too often used tactic that has demonstrated a willingness if not wantoness to mislead the people. Perhaps this dates back to the culture of his Cuban background where people have learned to lie to survive.

    Trump on the other hand will be absolutely direct. If he’s wrong he’ll make necessary changes. But he will be honest and open in his method of governance. His biggest challenge will be in communicating in such a way that he is acceptable to those he is currently alienating. Whether or not he can meet that test is the big unknown.

  4. Well, the GOP is in a bind. They have bred this eventual scenario for a few decades now with their antigovernment rants and their blind plunge into extreme ideology. So, what do they get? A huge portion of the conservative voters who, according to recent studies, are so frightened and insecure by changes in the world that their authoritarian streak is surfacing in a major way. And another fairly large portion of the conservative voting bloc that thinks supply-side economics, tax cuts for the wealthy, global-warming denial, lax gun laws, allowing the market to dictate who gets health care, and so on constitute a bright future for America. How any Mormon can in good conscience support what the GOP has been selling lately is a major mystery. I guess Fox News and Rush and Glen and Sean have preempted any sort of rational thinking on the Right. Oh well, you finally got what you’ve been paying for. Enjoy your ride on the Titanic of political parties.

  5. Lew,
    Replace the 5 words after ‘tax cuts for’ with ‘everyone’ and I think you have accurately described core conservative issues. Most conservatives campaign on freedom, low gov’t regulation and constitutional rights. The GOP candidate from this wing is far more consistent in governing this way than most GOP legislators. His appeal is evident.
    Do these positions work? They did in the 80s. Most older conservatives wish we could turn the clock back to the governing philosophy of Reagan for this reason.

  6. Why do Mormons support Cruz? He is religious and they are religious. He is always talking about defending the Constitution and they are always talking about defending the Constitution. He is a social conservative and they are mostly social conservative. All other little policy and personality details come from those. To say he doesn’t really have Mormon support is stupid rhetoric based on wishful thinking by those who don’t support him.

    Why do they hate Trump? Cruz said it best when pointing out “New York values,” and he could have easily said “Hollywood values” with the same understanding. They seem him as a pompous, immoral, vulgar, godless wanna-be dictator. On the other hand, I am far less worried about him than others and see him as my second choice. Republicans have tried nice and lost twice. Perhaps vicious and without remorse is the only way to win. It might be worth a shot. Of course I do see him as conservative on issues that are the most important to me, where many Mormons see him as a liberal mole.

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