An Opposition in All Things

Post by Joseph M -

Romney has fought hard to keep the campaign about the issues (or issue in his case: the economy,) and he's fighting again; he quickly slammed attempts by a Super PAC to produce an anti-Obama ad that focused on racially charged comments made by Rev. Jeremiah Wright - see Yahoo News story.

Romney stated, "I want to make it very clear, I repudiate that effort. I think it's the wrong course for a PAC or a campaign. I hope that our campaigns can respectively be about the futures and about issues and about a vision for America."

Good for Romney, and good for all of us.  The last thing we need is for the Mormon Republican nominee to call for open season on the shooting range of religious affiliation.  Obama is also trying to stick to the issue(s) by making coordinated attacks against Romney's record as a "job creator" at Bain Capital.  But regardless, social issues have been creeping around the edges of this campaign - like President Obama's admission of support for marriage equality last week (more on that in a later post,) or during the divisive campaign to choose a Republican nominee.  However, even though Romney and Obama are attempting to steer the campaign away from these so-called social issues, enquiring minds still want to know that their Presidential candidate is just like them in every way possible (which is why we only have two viable political parties in the USA?) They want to know that their president supports/doesn't support abortion, is against/for marriage equality, loves/hates poor people, embodies righteousness/evil.

The two-party system has always had its drawbacks.  How can you fit 350 million Americans under two umbrellas of political belief when their cultural, spiritual, and religious perspectives literally fill the whole world?   (And also when half of them don't even vote?)  This must be where the so-called "independents" come into play.  Who are these people anyway?  (I have yet to meet one... although I do have faith that they exist.)

But where does all of this leave us Mormons?   With our belief in the reality of righteousness and sin, the existence of God and Satan, and polarity of good and evil, it might make sense to some Latter-day Saints that the Democratic and Republican parties would fit into the same dichotomous structure.  And this leaves very little room in the middle for fence-sitting (or even for those of us that still insist on sitting on the back row of Elder's Quorum  so we can play Draw Something on our smart phones.)

2 Nephi 2:15 explains that this dichotomy has existed since the beginning:  After (the Lord) created our first must needs be that there is an opposition: even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter.  But while we believe that there is opposition in all things, at what point does this leave the realm of individual practice and personal decision and leap into the world of political affiliation as well?

This might be confusing for some LDS when it comes to choosing a political party or candidate, (i.e., Republicans are pro-life, anti-gay marriage, and advocate self-reliance, so they must be righteous.  Democrats promote abortions, don't let children pray in school, and like to elect Muslims for president, so they must be Satan.)  But forcing the two political parties into a good vs. evil scenario seems to presuppose that God Himself is at the helm of one of these (Republican?) political parties.  It ignores the fact that when we vote, we are participating in an imperfect, earth-bound, and very American political system.

We received a comment on the website that basically asked the question, how could a Mormon support Democrats or Obama when their platform supports abortion?  This question speaks to the simplistic reasoning that some people struggle with and that is encouraged by the two-party system.   Robert Fantina wrote a well-nuanced response on to explain that all is not so simple:

The Democratic platform does support abortion, but the Republicans do nothing to prevent abortions. They will not countenance sex education, and are now making it more difficult for women to obtain contraceptives. And they appear not to care at all about babies once they are born: they will do everything possible to deprive them of health care, Head Start programs, etc...When (George W.) Bush was president, he stopped funding for Marie Slopes International (I think that’s the name of the organization), because they provided family planning, although not abortion, services. MSI estimated that, due to this funding cut, approximately 200,000 women in their serving area who didn’t want to get pregnant, would, and of those, approximately 60,000 would have abortions. So how was he a pro-life president?

Thanks to Robert for the comment and also for the link to his article on Pacific Free Press: What Makes a Romney Win Scary? (Hint: It Ain't Religion)

In short, the issues in this 2012 election are much more complex and nuanced than the few minutes of time it will take to fill out a mail-in ballot would leave one to believe.  However, I recognize that most people understand this.  I have conversations with my Mormon friends and family who are Republican, Libertarian (you know who you are,) and Nader-ists, and the dialogue is almost always engaging, stimulating, and respectful.  By their very nature, political parties are imperfect and fallible, and they don't easily lend themselves to black and white categorization... more like 50 shades of grey.  So I would in turn ask the Mormons who question my faith and allegiance to the gospel because of my support for Obama: how can you so readily assume that because I'm an active and faithful Mormon that I would by necessity vote Republican?

So let's put this simplistic thinking to rest. Choosing Obama over Romney is not the same as choosing the great and spacious building over the tree of life.  But don't get me wrong; I do believe that there are extremely compelling reasons to vote for Obama in 2012, and so I don't mean to trivialize the decision with the following analogy; but maybe it's more like choosing a spinach salad with feta, cranberries, and raspberry vinaigrette over an iceberg lettuce concoction from Jack in the Box.  The iceberg lettuce salad has a form of healthiness, but in the end it is empty, wilted, and undeniably overpriced.

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