Tuesday, March 28, 2017
What You Get When You Vote Republican
This past week gave us the results of two polls that, in tandem, don’t shine a very positive light on Mormons. The first was a Gallup poll that showed Donald Trump’s nationwide approval rating at an abysmal (but well-earned) 36 percent. The other was a Salt Lake Tribune-Hinckley Institute of Politics poll showing that 54 percent of Utah voters approve of the job Trump is doing. I find this utterly mind-boggling, but perhaps not all that surprising.
And let’s not kid ourselves. This is a reflection on the Church even more than on the state of Utah. County-by-county voting patterns showed that Trump did worst in counties with large non-LDS populations and best in strong Mormon counties. There is no reason to suppose this has changed since November.
Many Mormons vote Republican because they have felt that the GOP held the moral high ground, particularly regarding issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage. But when the party of “family values” and the so-called Christian right voted overwhelmingly in favor of a man who has bragged about sexual assault, who is not just immoral but completely amoral, and who doesn’t even have a passing acquaintance with the truth, any moral superiority the GOP may have claimed in the past has now vanished. So what can explain these polling results? Perhaps it is just that Mormons are such staunch Republicans that they’ve somehow found a way to normalize the ongoing mess that Trump represents.
But I don’t want this to be about Trump. There are many other reasons why Mormon voters should reconsider their party affiliation. Republican politicians have been very good at paying lip service to helping the poor and the middle class, but when you look at their actual policies and proposals, they are really all about funneling more wealth to the wealthy and reducing benefits for the poor and disadvantaged.
The recent fiasco surrounding the GOP’s attempt to replace the Affordable Care Act is simply additional proof that the Republican Party is all about ideology, comforting the comfortable, and afflicting the afflicted. They are not really concerned with the needs of ordinary Americans. And this pattern holds through a whole host of policy areas.
So let’s look at what you are really voting for if you vote Republican:
1. As mentioned above, you are voting for enriching the already rich and placing additional burdens on the poor and the middle class. This is what supply-side economics is all about, and the GOP has been devoted to this spurious economic theory for 35 years now. But simple arithmetic and long years of experience show that tax cuts do not pay for themselves.
2. You are voting for the senseless philosophy that corporations will self-regulate. The deregulation we are seeing already this year will result in more pollution, more tax evasion, and more reckless behavior on Wall Street.
3. You are voting for science denial, especially in terms of global warming. But this is actually part of a larger GOP movement that promotes mistrust of experts (or “elites,” as Republicans prefer to call them). We are seeing this play out in education, economics, the environment, intelligence, journalism, and politics in general. A look at Trump himself and his cabinet reveals a staggering devotion to incompetence. When reality and ideology clash, you can choose one of two courses. The GOP has chosen to hold to ideology, which leaves them in a world of “alternative facts.”
4. You are voting for lax gun laws, laws that would have been unacceptable during the Reagan administration. This comes from a gross oversimplification and misreading of the Second Amendment.
5. Particularly in Utah, you are voting for an underfunded education system that attracts fewer and fewer qualified teachers and that pays current teachers so little that many of them have to work second and third jobs just to make ends meet.
6. You are voting for a health-care system in which millions of Americans will either lose their insurance or pay much more for worse coverage. And don’t be fooled by the collapse of Rumpcare. It failed largely because a small group of hardline conservatives wanted to provide health care to even fewer Americans than Paul Ryan did.
7. You are voting for the increasing influence of money in politics. If you’re curious about the money behind Trump and the alt-right, I recommend a recent in-depth New Yorker article investigating the influence of hedge-fund manager Robert Mercer, who gave us Breitbart, Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Citizens United, and, in all likelihood, Donald Trump.
8. You are voting for a form of ultranationalism that is tipping toward fascism. What began as the hyperpatriotism of the tea party (American exceptionalism) has now become “America first,” a narcissistic worldview that will sour relations with our allies and hurt us in trade relations. In many ways, as Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell has noted, “America first” puts Americans last.
9. You are voting against any possibility of comprehensive immigration reform.
10. You are voting for a party that has put partisanship above the well-being of the country and its citizens. This includes nearly all Republicans in Congress turning a blind eye to Trump’s numerous immoral acts and ethical breaches.
Is this really what Mormon voters want? Maybe some do, but I would wager that a fairly high percentage vote Republican due to either ignorance, prejudice (those evil Democrats), propaganda (Fox News), or simple habit. Many of my Mormon neighbors are shockingly uninformed on the issues. They do not watch TV news or read a newspaper or news magazine (paper or digital). They have little interest in or understanding of basic economics. And so they end up voting against their own interests, not to mention the well-being of their country.
What will it take to change this pattern? I thought the experience of having Trump as president might shake a few to their senses, but the polls suggest otherwise.