Wednesday, October 22, 2008
The buzz from the hive
When I was growing up the word Red meant communist. Now it means a state that votes Republican. Who thought that up? Utah is overwhelmingly Republican because the good people of the State of Utah, god bless 'em, really like to be told what to think and how to vote. They are deep red, scarlet. I read a statistic once--and again, who thinks this stuff up?--that about one-quarter to one-third of people like to be told what to do, what to think. It makes life so much easier, doesn't it?
Faithful red Latter-day Saints usually vote as a bloc, and are very conservative. It wasn't always so. During the 1930s Utah, like most states, was overwhelmingly in favor of Roosevelt's policies. Church leaders who hated Roosevelt were usually ignored or criticized. But nowadays if a church leader expresses an opinion he automatically has credibility. It's Mormon-think: When church leaders have spoken, all thinking is done.
In the 1960s Utah people elected Cal Rampton, a Democrat, as governor, and he was one of the most popular governors ever. He was followed by an equally popular Democrat, Scott Matheson. They were truly bipartisan and had to be, because the legislature was overwhelmingly then, as now, Republican. All of those days of bipartisanship are gone. Republicans hold every major office in the state except for one congressman, Scott Matheson's son, who could well be a Republican based on his voting record. Only local offices, some mayors and city and county council people, are Democrats, and they are from areas that usually vote for any Dem.
And why is this? Well, it goes back to that Mormon-think, back to the mentality that church leaders know what's right for their flock.
“In February 1974 Apostle Ezra Taft Benson was asked during an interview if a good Mormon could also be a liberal Democrat. Benson pessimistically replied: ‘I think it would be very hard if he was living the gospel and understood it.’”
- John Heinerman and Anson Shule, The Mormon Corporate Empire
“There is a joke in Salt Lake City expressing a feeling that Mormon Democrats say they know well. It goes:
I thought I saw Brother Williams in the Temple last week.
Why that’s impossible. He’s a Democrat, you know.”
Ezra Taft Benson, who served as LDS Church president for a time before his death, was Secretary of Agriculture during the Eisenhower administration, and had a narrow view of Democrats, or at least the liberal types, as expressed in his statement from '74. I remember when that came out, and what a bombshell it was. I'm sure a lot of faithful LDS who considered themselves Democrats had second thoughts, maybe even changed party affiliation.
What Benson didn't foresee is that when there is one-party rule, as there is in Utah, it just proves the adage about absolute power corrupting absolutely. Some of our legislators seem almost drunk with power to get their own agendas passed into law, helping a narrow group of people, or even just their families. It reminds me of the stories of Sarah Palin's abuses as a mayor and governor, bending laws to get her own way and settle her own scores. That happens a lot in Utah because when everyone is on the same wavelength, when everyone is part of that big beehive, they tend to go along for the good of the hive. Sometimes I realize how apt the state nickname as The Beehive State is; it was intended to mean we're industrious, but it also means that everyone is thinking exactly alike.
There are a few of us, though, who don't follow that buzz, and we'll find out after the upcoming election how many in Utah are there to protect the hive, and how many are attackers from outside.