Why Mormons Are Not Conservatives

Culture Epistemology Evangelicals Fundamentalism Mormon Doctrine Philosophy Politics Religious Right

Andrew Sullivan makes an interesting point:

Most Americans have a healthy respect for religious teaching but in their lives give greater preference to common sense and practical experience. That includes almost all religious groups as well – Catholics, in particular, show conservative tendencies. The exceptions? Evangelicals and Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses – who are trained to forego practical reasoning for abstract truths based on unquestionable authority. Evangelical Christians are much less conservative than American Muslims, for example.

The Republican party is not, at this point in time, a conservative party, as Burke would understand it. It’s a fundamentalist religious party. Until the influence of evangelicals and Mormons is reduced, it will find these tendencies reinforce each other.

16 thoughts on “Why Mormons Are Not Conservatives

  1. I’d much appreciate it if conservatism was closer to what Andrew Sullivan was talking about than what it tends to actually be nowadays, but it seems like he’s harking to an antiquated definition from an antiquated time.

    I think even some Republicans are beginning to realize that the “social conservative” or religious right movement is not all it’s cracked up to be.

  2. I think that you are right. There are a lot of people that would like to see the Republican party change. Sadly, that does not include the Republicans in the House.

    There is certainly a beginning but it will take quite a while before Republicans return to the reality based community.

  3. Mormons are probably among those that would not like to see the Republican Party change. Just look how they revile against Governor Huntsman. I think this affirms Sully’s point.

  4. I strongly disagree that the Republican Party is a fundamentalist religious party. The Religious Right is a significant player in the GOP, sure. But it isn’t the GOP.

  5. It’s been said that politics makes odd bedfellows. Often I’ve wondered in amusement how a political party based on libertarian principles of conservatism and free market (GOP) could possibly align themselves with a group intent on total moral, spiritual and legal control of people’s lives (religionists)? Aren’t the two positions idealogically opposed?

    It seems, at least from the side of religion which promotes social well-being (caring for the poor, ensuring the sick have healthcare, social justice, etc.), this is more the domain of a more Federalist-style party, namely, the Democratic Party. Yet the Democrats shun the Religious Right because of their radical social agenda.

  6. Answer: neither the Republican Party nor the Democratic Party is really ideology-based at all. They are both large, election-oriented coalitions.

    Yes, both sides try to articulate a core philosophy. No, it is never very convincing. Both sides love to BS themselves and their constituents into thinking that the Party actually stands for something. But what they stand for is getting their people elected.

    The Libertarian Party is an ideological party. The Green Party is an ideological party. The Socialist Party is an ideological party. But Democrats and Republicans who think their parties are ideological are fooling themselves, and seriously drinking the kool-aid.

  7. I agree with Kullervo that Sullivan is polemicizing. Of course, there is more to the Republican coalition than religious fundamentalism.

    I agree with Sullivan that orthodox Mormonism and right wing Evangelism amount to religious fundamentalism. Like dialectical materialism, aka Marxism, they are rooted in ideas that are supposed to enjoy ultimate authority.

    Sullivan is also correct that fundamentalism is not any more compatible with conservativism. Philosophically, conservatism is skeptical about the human ability to know anything.

    Therefore, conservatism embraces empiricism, which means that we constantly test our preconceptions against experience and observable evidence.

    Appreciating the limits of human knowledge, conservatives value tradition. They prefer cautious reforms to radical revolution. In light of negative evidence, it is easier to reverse incremental reform than whole cloth revolution.

    Mormons and Evangelicals, on the other hand, believe in the ultimate authority of men or men made texts. They justify their policy proposals in the name of god.

    That approach to politics may have very different goals than Marxism but as a method, it has much more in common with dialectical materialism than with conservatism.

    Potentially, religious fundamentalism Mormon style may be equally abusive as Marxism. In reality, of course, that observation is irrelevant as long as Mormon authorities have to answer to secular authorities.

  8. Sure, the Republican Party is a coalition. But’s let’s not forget the main point … that there are certain ideas that have been marketed as selling-points for Republicans. And there are clear policy positions that have been taken by recent Republican administrations. These both have been what put and kept the party in power. So-called conservatives got behind these points and benefited from them.

    It does bother me when folks benefit from something while convenient but then attempt to distance themselves and claim, for example, that “this isn’t what x is about”.

  9. But’s let’s not forget the main point … that there are certain ideas that have been marketed as selling-points for Republicans.

    Marketed. That is my point exactly.

    And there are clear policy positions that have been taken by recent Republican administrations. These both have been what put and kept the party in power. So-called conservatives got behind these points and benefited from them.

    Again, this is pretty much my point. The GOP found a constituency that would consistently vote for it. So it takes at least the minimum policy steps necessary to ensure that said constituency flocks to the polls in support, and attempts to spin the rest as if it was part of a broader ideology that said constituency can identify with. As much as it possibly can, it uses rhetoric vague enough to be understood by different constituent groups as supporting their ideologies or policy goals. Wherever it can, it tries to draw lines that are big enough to include the largest number of people, but stark enough to terrify its own voters about the evils of the Political Other.

    This is politics. It is also disgusting. And the Democrats do the exact same fucking thing.

    It does bother me when folks benefit from something while convenient but then attempt to distance themselves and claim, for example, that “this isn’t what x is about”.

    Nobody is doing that here. I have voted solid Democrat in every election since 2002.

  10. Elected officials are rarely leaders. The nature of legislatures requires them to constantly shop for a majority of votes.

    Then they have to do the same thing again during the primaries and elections. Instead of appealing to their colleagues, they have to befriend voters.

    In Congress, for example, you need to persuade at least 217 other members to vote with you to pass anything. Since you never know whose vote you need next, you have to get along with everyone.

    That’s why elected officials must compromise.

    In some ways, that may be a bad. In others, the need for compromise is a good thing.

    Regardless, that is how democracy works and that is how elected officials are supposed to work.

    If you want change, you can effect that better as an advocate, activist, and organizer.

  11. Nobody is doing that here. I have voted solid Democrat in every election since 2002.

    .
    Me, too. Although, it’s my fault because I supported George W. Bush in 2000.

    I figured it out late but I did figure it out.

  12. Me, too. Although, it’s my fault because I supported George W. Bush in 2000.

    I figured it out late but I did figure it out.

    Sigh. Me too. But I was young and dumb and had just come home from my mission.

  13. Me too on the Democrats since 2002, but not, thank God, on Bush. In 2000, I was dumb enough to think it didn’t matter who was president and vote for Nader, but at least I can say I didn’t vote for Bush.

  14. Well, I voted in Tennessee in 2000, so it’s not like my vote would have mattered either way. At least I got to cast a vote that mattered in 2004: I lived in Florida then.

  15. agree with all/most of the above.
    I think what needs to be mentioned (at least theoretically/philosophical is that (pure) ‘politics’ is the conduit that citizens have their will reflected in-thru
    the elected officials, Legislative, Executive, of (gasp) Judicial.
    Without politics, we’ll slide backwards toward totalitarianism or facism.

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