In the October General Conference, E. Cook cautioned against political extremism that supersedes and erodes testimony and commitment to the church:
Many who are in a spiritual drought and lack commitment . . . have made unwise choices. Some are casual in their observance of sacred covenants. Others spend most of their time giving first-class devotion to lesser causes. Some allow intense cultural or political views to weaken their allegiance to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Whether on the left or right, I could not agree more with this astute observation. I have long said that political views run deeper than religious beliefs. People see their religion through the lens of their political beliefs more often that they see their political beliefs through the lens of their religion, despite what they may have you think or their own limited self-awareness.
Many have been surprised to hear that I grew up in a ward that was full of very vocal Democrats, several of whom were liberal arts college professors. In fact, those voices were so strong that I had concluded as a teenager that the church leaned left, which caused me some angst as I was libertarian at that time. Given the church’s communitarian roots (United Order, polygamy, church welfare), there was evidence to support that idea. When I went to BYU I was shocked that so many people openly expressed conservative political views. Yet they too cited convincing supporting evidence of their claim that the church aligned with the right (traditional gender roles, socially conservative values, provident living, preparedness, the scriptural mandate not to sue each other, focus on works). I have since concluded that the gospel is paradoxical with regard to partisan politics. I won’t quite go so far as to say the gospel transcends politics, but I will say that politics certainly sinks much lower than the gospel.
I recently read one of the most thoughtful articles I have seen about just what has been troublesome and manipulative about President Obama’s approach to women. Ross Douthat from the NYT (no less) points out several clear cut examples of paternalism from the left:
- The protectionist view in “The Life of Julia” that shows a young woman from toddler to old age who is consistently guarded throughout her life by father figure Obama’s benevolence despite threats from Romney’s scary conservative ideas.
- Obama’s suggestion that women use their wedding registries to donate to his campaign. Because that’s not a weird connection – instead of investing in your future marriage, there’s Pres. Obama propping up on a pillow between you and your fiance.
- Holding up Sandra Fluke as a martyr for free conception when Rush Limbaugh insulted her. Scare tactic! The grotesque Rush Limbaugh wants unfettered access to your hoo-hah!
- Lena Dunham’s winky-wink video comparing voting for Obama to losing your virginity to a really cool guy. Because that’s not creepy and weird at all to cast the president in the role of bedroom lothario that we all want to hook up with! I realize Lena’s a woman, but as Alice Walker said: I have seen the axe, and the handle is one of us. Parody here.
- Putting male Democrats in the role of protectors of female sexual empowerment and freedom by pointing to ludicrous statements made by Neanderthals like Todd Akin, pretending those are normal views of the right, and then offering to rescue women from these thugs. Only Obama and other male Democrats can help save us from these monsters! So goes the narrative.
- Manufacturing a War on Women in which the entire Republican party is cast as one composite evildoer (not a few outrageously ignorant dumbasses among many reasonable people who happen to all be in the same party), women’s interests are reduced to reproduction only, and we are super fortunate to have male Democrats there to explain to us women how to feel about it all and just how real this terrible threat is.
For those who want to defend this approach, consider that it has failed parlously to do anything but shore up a narrow tranche of the Democrat base. Instead of increasing the gap from women preferring Obama to Romney +18, in a few short weeks, Obama basically threw away his advantage, and now women are evenly divided between the candidates. I suspect Obama’s campaign is bewildered as to why the approach hasn’t resonated for women beyond the young, single, females who are firmly Democrats; this is what happens in an echo chamber.
As a middle aged (ouch) independent female voter, my own reaction to these tactics may have been typical for those like me, and remember, I’m the one both campaigns want to woo. I’m not some starry-eyed, high-minded idealistic kid, likely to be wowed by a father figure, charm and good looks:
- I’m too old and jaded to be scared about abortion and contraception being taken away. For one thing, I would never personally have an elective abortion. For another, this threat has been floated a million times in my lifetime (usually by the left), and there’s been no change yet. I don’t see it as likely, and I sure don’t think a pragmatist like Romney would go against the popular will. Romney would take the church’s stance on abortion which is in fact, a moderate stance. Only the far right wants women who’ve been raped to be forced to give birth, not the church, not Romney.
- Pundits on both sides are worth ignoring outright. Neither Rush Limbaugh nor Rachel Maddow are worth listening to, IMO.
- Both groups have crazy uncles (and a few crazy aunts – at least in the Tea Party!) who don’t represent the party as a whole. There are extremists and moderates in both parties. Cherry picking the ridiculous ones and pretending they represent anything but an indictment of our public education system is overreaching.
- “Binders full of women” was about the stupidest tempest in a teacup I ever heard, and yet you could hear the high fives around the world as Democrats congratulated each other on the fabulous score they made against Republicans by blowing this innocuous comment out of proportion. Was it well said? No. But it wasn’t some huge gaffe either. My definition of a huge gaffe: it sways opinion. This comment had zero potential for influence on the election outcome.
- As a pragmatist, I’m concerned about the economy far more than anything else, which makes the rest of these things look like deliberate evasions to me, and stupid ones at that. I believe Obama could have made a compelling case for his ability to fix the economy, but the fact that he is spending any time or energy on this stupid crap instead makes me suspicious. If he really thought he was doing a good job on the economy, that’s what he’d be talking about. But instead he keeps changing the topic, and smugly congratulating himself on the perceived foolishness of his adversaries.
The hypocrisy I see is that those on the left are so willing to jump on the bandwagon about Republican sexism without acknowledging the paternalistic approach Obama has taken. As Douthat points out, it’s unfathomable that Hillary Clinton would have taken this same approach (who wants to lose their virginity to Hillary, for example? No offense to Hillary, but c’mon). In fact, if you evaluate Obama’s approach as if Hillary had done it, you can immediately see why it is sexist. Or try this one on for size. What if Pres. Monson took this approach? Anyone see that as acceptable? I hear plenty of criticism of paternalism within the church. Why can we only recognize sexism when some people do it, people we are used to criticizing? Again, I call that political hypocrisy.
I posted a link to the above NYT article in a feminist discussion board, knowing full well that most of the women there are also very liberal. The response? You guessed it: crickets chirping. Nada.
It’s enough to make me want to run for office. I’m Hawkgrrrl, and I approve this message.