By Maurine Jensen Proctor
For the first time ever a major political party has decided to reach out to the LDS community as a demographic group, treating it on a par with Catholics, Evangelicals, Asians, Hispanics and other demographic coalitions.
The Republican National Committee is hoping they can persuade several thousand Latter-day Saints to work on the campaign the last five to seven days before the election. They are even willing to pay the way for several hundred who would like to hop a bus and travel to a neighboring state to get out the vote. And they are looking for volunteers now. Go to this simple site, www.anxiouslyengaged.org for details.
In this election year, you might say, they have embraced something that John Kerry said, “In the end, it’s all about values.”
“Four years ago when Bush narrowly lost to Gore in the popular vote, post-election polling showed that over 4 million evangelical Christians stayed home and didn’t even bother to vote,” said Bart Marcois, a Latter-day Saint who is helping to organize the effort. It also showed that over 65% of church members voted, but 88% of Church members supported him,” said Marcois.
“Bush looked at the 88% support level and said if we had that additional percentage, we would win close elections in close states. It is just straightforward, pure, realistic politics.
“This entire election is going to turn on the outcome in about ten states,” Marcois noted. “Those states are too close to call. They could go for Bush or for Kerry-with more than 100 electoral votes at stake by a margin of 1 or 2 percentage points.
“Many of those states are places where there are large LDS populations. It takes 270 votes to win the Electoral College. Having 100 electoral votes up for grabs is a significant amount. If Church members who felt strongly about the election worked in these states to get out the vote and educate their neighbors, it could turn the election.”
Republicans Claim They Support Our Family Values
The RNC claim they support the values that matter to Latter-day Saints, and to that end they have created a website trying to prove their point. This is the Republican appeal to Latter-day Saints and does not represent the Church’s position. Church leaders have always maintained that they hope members will be actively involved in the political activities of their choice.
It is at www.kerrywrongforMormons.com and cites Kerry’s consistent record against key family issues.
According to the site, he voted against marriage penalty relief 22 times, was one of only 14 senators to vote against the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act defining marriage as between a man and a woman, voted against a child tax credit 18 times, voted at least 6 times against the Partial Birth Abortion ban.
The cavalcade continues. Kerry voted at least three times against requiring a parental notification for a minor’s abortion and told Larry King his first executive order would be to reverse Bush’s Mexico City policy that banned using federal funds for abortions internationally.
Kerry has a litmus test for judicial nominees. He said he wouldn’t vote for anyone who doesn’t support Roe v. Wade.
That’s a grim line up on family issues, and it shouldn’t be a shock that the Kerry Wrong for Mormons site looks very much like the sites called Kerry Wrong for Catholics and Kerry Wrong for Evangelicals.
However, there is one difference. Across the top where volunteer opportunities are listed, the site for Latter-day Saints adds its own appeal. Here is the request for an LDS 72-hour task force of volunteers to come and give time the last five to seven days before the election to participate in a coordinated effort to elect Republicans who will stand for family issues. Again, go to this site www.anxiouslyengaged.org for details.
The site says you don’t have to have political experience. You just have to be willing to participate in grassroots activities such as walking door to door, mailing literature and phone banking for candidates with other Latter-day Saints who feel the same.
Bart Marcois said, “What would a volunteer do? They would go the battleground states near their home state and they would spend the last week of the campaign calling people on the telephone, reminding them that it is Election Day and asking them to vote for Bush. They would do a lot of walking from door to door-sometimes knocking sometimes just laying a pamphlet on the doorstep. They would not be persuading people to vote one way or another. They would just be going to Republican households asking them to show up on Tuesday. The point is getting them to vote and many don’t unless someone knocks on their door and asks them to.
“A team of people can sway an election by more than 1% if you have 20 teams of 20 people-you can move it 4 or 5%. I’ve seen it move as many as 6% points in the last week.”
If you would like to volunteer to help in these campaigns go to www.anxiouslyengaged.org where you can indicate that you would like to help by clicking on the Republican button.
Democrats Outreach to People of Faith
On John Kerry’s Internet site, the Democrats have a section devoted specifically to appealing to people of faith. It can be found here and does not specifically target Latter-day Saints nor list issues. However, it does quote Kerry at the Democratic National Convention saying:
“And let me say it plainly: In that cause, and in this campaign, we welcome people of faith. America is not us and them. I think of what Ron Reagan said of his father a few weeks ago, and I want to say this to you tonight: I don’t wear my own faith on my sleeve. But faith has given me values and hope to live by, from Vietnam to this day, from Sunday to Sunday. I don’t want to claim that God is on our side. As Abraham Lincoln told us, I want to pray humbly that we are on God’s side. And whatever our faith, one belief should bind us all: the measure of our character is our willingness to give ourselves for others and for our country.”
Steve Barringer, a lawyer lobbyist in Washington D.C., said he has always been a member of the Church and always been a Democrat. He said, “The thing that makes me a Democrat more than anything else is the view that education is extremely important and it is a leveler in our society, so that if you weren’t born with money or privileges you can become somebody. The Republicans talk about education but they don’t fund it-especially higher education.
“I think highly of the Democrat’s social agenda in helping people who aren’t as advantaged as others. Those ideas to me are very consistent with the doctrine and teachings of the Church.”
He said that many Church members flew from the Democratic Party after Roe v. Wade when abortion rights became such a key issue on the Democratic platform and the party’s recent opposition in the Senate to the federal marriage amendment has also made religious people wary. Still, Barringer, who opposes abortion, says that is already legal in this country and there is not much a President can do about that.
He feels especially strongly about the Iraq war and said, “I think George Bush has been a disaster for this country. What he has done is shameful. It is immoral. He has allowed people to die based on some silly passion to go to war in Iraq. It has been an unmitigated disaster. For the rest of my life we’ll have to worry about traveling abroad because of what George Bush’s doing right now.”
With the high percentage of Church members expressing Republican leanings, the Democrats don’t feel that they need to see them as a strong constituency and don’t need to cater to them. Members of the Church are easy for the Democrats to ignore, which is why, says Barringer that more members who are Democrats need to be involved in campaigning. Latter-day Saints with their values can make their influence felt in the Democratic Party to the degree that they are involved in campaigns and elections.
Barringer is offering to connect Latter-day Saints with key Democratic campaigns that need their help. You can volunteer by going to www.anxiouslyengaged.org and click on the button marked Democrat.
Why the Republicans are Hoping for LDS Help
Why is the RNC hoping to recruit Latter-day Saints for the last push before the election?
It’s not just our untiring ability to knock on doors, drive toward a goal, and be committed and self-disciplined, though Latter-day Saints are known for all these traits.
Bart Marcois said, “President Bush has identified people of faith has part of his natural constituency. It is simple political math. They’ve done polling and found that people who go to church vote for the president in large percentages.
“Bush is very strong on family issues,” said Marcois. “He is in favor of supporting the traditional definition of marriage and the institution of marriage. He is in favor of creating a culture of life in America and a culture of morality.
“He has worked to improve the schools and has strongly supported abstinence-based sex education. He has worked hard to push through tax cuts that make it easier for families with children to get by. He just finally passed the bill for an additional five years to extend the $1000 per child tax credit-just recently signed.
“It is very difficult across the United States, but particularly in areas with a high cost of living for families to survive and prosper on a single income. President Bush recognizes that and the value of having children who are well raised and have the time and attention of their parents. He’s trying to make it as easy as he can for parents to be able to afford to spend time with their children.
“Of course,” said Marcois, “the Church does not support any one political party, but we are behind moral issues and any candidate of either party who lends support to those.”
“Recently when the House of Representatives and the Senate both debated the Federal Marriage Amendment, members of Congress and Senators, both Democrats and Republicans alike said they hardly got any calls supporting the amendment.
“Nothing compared to the calls they get when considering assault weapons ban, nothing compared to the calls they get on a pharmaceutical bill. So a smart politician will say there are no votes in protecting traditional marriage. Why should I risk my political career, why should I risk having the New York Times calling me a bigot if my constituents don’t even care?
“The place to really make your voice be heard is not only in a telephone call to your senator when an issue is being considered, but a call to your neighbors saying go vote for this person. An election is especially the time to let your voice be heard. That’s the time when it will make a real difference.
“We are very committed, disciplined people and goal -oriented people. When we decide we want to accomplish something, we do what it takes. A Presidential election this close gives us an opportunity on both sides of the aisle to let our voices be heard. Of all people, politicians are realistic people. They will listen when it comes time to make policy, they will listen to the voices that will help them get elected.
“If we want to have an impact on policy, Democrat or Republican, we need to show that we are willing to back up the politicians that favor policies that we like,” Marcois said.
“There are key non-presidential elections in every state,” that need both Republican and Democratic workers,” he said. “There are bond issues and other ballot measures that people can get involved in, people running for the Congress and the Senate.”
Though he’s organizing Republican volunteers, he thinks that it is even more important that Latter-day Saint Democrats get involved in their party-“otherwise our values have no influence.”
LDS Democrats Alive and Well
Bob King, Democratic Staff Director of the House International Relations Committee and a member of the Church, said that political parties are fairly loose coalitions reflecting broad areas that people agree on. There are the gay Republicans, the gay Democrats. Ethnic Hungarians for the Republicans, Ethnic Hungarians for the Democrats. It is a much bigger issue than saying ideologically Mormons are closer to Republicans and Jews are closer to Democrats.
“It was very interesting in the vice-presidential debate, for instance,” said King, “that Cheney is not where the Republicans are on the gay issue.”
“Everybody reaches out for groups to unite behind issues. Most issues are not value issues,” he notes, believing that Republicans use family issues for political gain.
He said, “I am concerned about individuals-providing assistance for education, helping families at the lower income levels. The Democrats have a far better record. Democrats are more compassionate. The Republican’s idea is do it on your own and if you can’t make it, too bad.
“I don’t think there is any question that Democrats are very much concerned about families,” King said. “At the same time we have to recognize that the traditional family of parents and children living together in a household is not really the majority any more. It’s single people, single parents, and when you look at the demographics of the Church, it is changing as well.
“It seems to me that the Church has been very good at recognizing this; responding to the needs of older singles, the never married, the widows. The Republican focus on family values reflects an earlier generation when that was the case but no longer is. For various demographic reasons the traditional family tends to be more Republican than Democratic and that is why the focus in terms of the rhetoric.”
“There are plenty of Republicans who are pro-choice, plenty of Democrats who are against abortion.”
Steve Barringer said that in a Mormon forum he’s “happy to say why I’m a Democrat and it is consistent with my values.”
For this election, Steve Barringer and Bart Marcois, who are friends, have teamed up to rally LDS volunteers through www.anxiouslyengaged.org
When you walk into a voting booth or volunteer to help, you are doing something fundamentally important-expressing your deepest values.
2004 Meridian Magazine. All Rights Reserved.