McEntee: Putting our faith in Mormon Democrats
Newer Utahns may find it hard to believe, but there were times when Democrats held virtually all major political offices in the state and dominated the Legislature and congressional delegation.
Now that 2,000 members of the LDS Democrats' caucus have stepped forward scores attended a national meeting this week in Charlotte, N.C. that showing could, given time, begin to dent the entrenched and overwhelming majority of Republicans, most of them LDS, in state offices and in our congressional delegation.
It's safe to say: It's OK for a Mormon to be a Democrat again.
By extension, it's OK to be kind and generous to those in need and to possess the self-reliance and work ethic to be able to do so.
"Faith shapes politics," says state Sen. Karen Morgan, D-Cottonwood Heights. "Being LDS, I was taught to serve other people, to look for ways to be of help to others. It's just kind of a natural thing."
At the same time, she says, "I stand by the LDS values of self-reliance, independence, hard work, taking care of our families and not be dependent."
In Mormonism's much-vaunted welfare program, those who receive aid are expected to work for it unless they cannot with the proviso that, down the road, they be on the giving end again.
On Tuesday, a North Carolina Republican Mormon said the faith's emphasis on individuality and consequences would attract conservatives, while its welfare system and ethic of helping neighbors fit a liberal mind-set.
That set off state Rep. Brian King, also Mormon and a Salt Lake City Democrat.
"The idea that we can all look after ourselves might work in a perfect world," he says, "but not in any world I live in.
"We all want to be as self-reliant as we can," King says, but some people lack the physical or mental health to tend to their own needs. Some are simply too young. "I don't know of anyone who changed their own diapers at six months."
Even on so-called social issues ones that Republicans often point to as friendly to Mormon teachings the LDS Church itself has evolved.
The Utah-based faith embraced, and indeed lobbied for, a Salt Lake City ordinance barring job and housing discrimination against members of the LGBT community, opening the doors to similar laws in other cities and counties.
Its stance on abortion allowing it in cases of rape or incest, grave fetal defect or serious danger to the health of the mother is far more moderate than the no-exception plank of the Republican Party.
The LDS Church also endorsed the Utah Compact, styled as a guide for debates on compassionate immigration reform.
The LDS Dems' caucus comes at a time when the GOP has taken a hard right into hard-core conservatism that would gut policies and services on which millions of Americans rely.
Two thousand voices may not make much noise in an election, but they are being heard in Utah. There's hope, then, that in time they can help restore political balance in our cities, counties and across the state.
As Democratic gubernatorial candidate Peter Cooke put it, "I hope there's some sanity that comes."
It's not too much to hope for. Not anymore.
Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook.com/pegmcentee and Twitter: @pegmcentee.