Commentary: Why do so many religious Utahns still vote Republican?

As a native Utahn who is not a member of the predominant religion, I have noticed that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are kind, compassionate, welcoming, caring people who go above and beyond to help their fellow human beings. This, however, is inconsistent with the Utah Republican Party platform, especially as compared to that of Democrats, which makes me wonder why so many Latter-day Saints continue to vote Republican.

For example, the GOP platform’s first issue is the Proper Role of Government, preferring one that is “restrained from intruding into the freedoms of its citizens.”

I agree. I would like the government to stay out of my uterus, my bedroom, my doctor’s office and my choice of beverage. The GOP platform also states that the government’s role is to “protect unalienable, God-given rights to liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness.”

Why, then, do Republicans elect candidates who limit these rights for women and immigrants? Latter-day Saints, especially, know what it is like to be persecuted, thus my continued confusion.

Utah Democrats, like Republicans, want a government that is held accountable and one that is “efficient, fiscally responsible, transparent [and] ethical,” putting “the welfare of Utah residents above the welfare of special interest groups.” But Republicans seemingly abandoned fiscal responsibility when our representatives voted for the tax bill that even the White House has admitted is dramatically increasing our deficit. Imagine how this will affect our children and grandchildren. Again, this seems to be in stark contrast to the values I have seen demonstrated by my Latter-day Saint friends and neighbors.

By contrast, the Utah Democratic Party platform’s first item is Shared Humanity. It includes protecting civil rights, eliminating barriers that make it difficult for people to succeed and break the poverty cycle, as well as working “to protect the most vulnerable among us,” including veterans, people with disabilities, the elderly and many more.

A strong economic environment and workplace safety are things that both parties have in common. But it seems that the Democrats, once again, put an emphasis on working families by supporting unions and a living wage. The Republican platform lists “a business-friendly environment” and, while we all want to attract business, we need to remember that unions historically have played an important role in ending child labor, increasing workplace safety, starting the eight-hour work day and increasing wages and benefits for all workers (not just union members). These policies support and protect families, values that Latter-day Saints hold dear.

The Republican platform continues to offer a pro-life stance, stating that they care about all life. Republican politicians, however, show the opposite. Many support the president’s immigration tactics. Although many spoke up, no one acted to prevent and end child separation at the border. As per their platform, “we oppose granting government benefits to those illegally present in the U.S.,” seemingly calling to withhold health and human services to undocumented immigrants in need. Additionally, a study done before the Affordable Care Act found that 45,000 people died every year because they didn’t have health care. Yet every single one of our Republican representatives in Washington voted time and again to repeal the ACA with no adequate solution to fill the void. How can this be pro-all-life or in any way consistent with the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

The Democratic platform, by contrast, promotes health care for everyone in our state. This includes universal coverage for all people — not simply those who can afford it. This includes mental and reproductive health, and help for those struggling with substance abuse. It is interesting to see that the opioid crisis (which hit Utahns particularly hard) is not addressed by Republicans. Studies have shown that medical marijuana can play a major role in reducing opioid use. Democrats support medical marijuana when prescribed by a physician.

Although they concede that some social service programs are necessary, Utah Republicans stress the importance of personal responsibility. That is something with which most would agree. However, when people are struggling emotionally and financially, fleeing for their lives, facing persecution and literally fighting to survive, they need more than what charitable organizations can offer.

There is no Latter-day Saint I know who would turn away someone in need if they showed up on their doorstep. Similarly, I can’t imagine anyone being turned away if they showed up at the local stake or ward house. Why, then, would any member behave so radically differently at the voting booth? It seems to me that anyone who truly strives to follow the church’s teachings would also strive to help those around them personally and politically.

Charlotte Maloney

Charlotte Maloney holds a bachelor of science in business from the University of Utah and has worked in human resource management and as a librarian.