Utah Mormons used to be Democrats. What happened?

Utah is considered one of the “Reddest” of “Red States” (Republicans.) Mitt won 90% of republican votes in the recent primary, and Utah has had a Republican Governor for the last 22 years, and counting. However, it was not always so.

Between 1917 and 1985, 6 of 9 Utah governor’s were Democrats. When the Republican party was founded in 1856, it was mainly opposed to “the twin relics of barbarism— slavery and polygamy,” and pledged themselves to rid the country of these two evils. Mormons were understandably anti-Republican Party, and voted for Democrats in droves.

In the 1840’s there was no Republican party. Abraham Lincoln was in the House of Representatives as a member of the Whig Party, while Stephen Douglas was a Democrat. The Mormons under Joseph Smith weren’t sure which party they were for, and often would vote en masse with Joseph, often switching between the parties, causing heartache to both parties. They would vote for the candidate who promised the most protection. It is interesting to note that Democrat Judge Stephen Douglas (of Lincoln-Douglas Debate fame) acquitted Joseph Smith from some trumped up charges from Missouri during the persecutions. So Democrats were preferred by Mormons at the time…

Anyway, I’m not sure as to what caused the demise of the Whig Party, but it could have been slavery. The Republican Party was established in the 1856. As part of its platform, it said the twin evils of the country were “slavery and polygamy.” So most church members hated republicans. I believe that Abraham Lincoln was the first republican president.

And as a side note, did you know that when the California Compromise was passed by Congress, California was admitted as a free state, while Utah was a slave state? Some of the early apostles held slaves…. So Utah was moderately democratic leaning back then. It’s kind of funny that Joseph Smith was an abolitionist, while Brigham was much more accepting of slavery.

As this blog says, in the 1970’s and 80’s, the democrats became more liberal, pro-choice, pro-gay, etc. Most of the southern states, had been democrat leaning up until this point. About then the Christian Coalition, Moral Majority (Jerry Falwell), and Focus on the Family (James Dobson) became more political than ever heavily influencing the republicans. At the time, many of the southern states, switched to the republican side. Utah felt more at home with these groups and saddled up, although the evangelicals have always been suspicious of Mormons, as this election bears out. Anyway, it’s quite ironic, that now Utah has turned 180 degrees to become republican….

When Joseph Smith ran for President of the US in 1844, he wanted to ban slavery. (Of course Joseph was killed about 6 months later, due to the issues of slavery, polygamy, and too much governmental power in Nauvoo.) A future presidential candidate adopted Joseph’s proposal about 15 years later….

Why does it seem that Mormons now think the Republican Party is “true party” of the church? I’m pretty frustrated with the Evangelicals treatment of Mitt, and I’m becoming much more moderate in my views. I’m very disappointed that the Republicans are spending money like Democrats. Is there a real difference between the two parties any more?

I enjoy some of Mormon Paleo Thoughts, especially in regards to government spending.  Perhaps I’m becoming more Libertarian, but I don’t know that I would go that far yet.  I am certainly sympathetic to some things.

6 comments on “Utah Mormons used to be Democrats. What happened?

  1. Good to hear I’ve made some sort of impression.

    You certainly have a point that the parties are looking ever more similar. Under President Bush and a Republican led Congress, No Child Left Behind (one of the biggest education expenditures in history) and the Medicare Prescription Drug program (one of the biggest entitlements since the Great Society of the 1960s) were passed. Under a Republican administration, we erased a budget deficit and nearly doubled the national debt in under eight years! We’ve also got ourselves into a perpetual war, following a policy which seems to hearken back to the hard interventionism of Democrat Woodrow Wilson. None of these ideas are associated with a traditional conservative mindset.

    Since Democrats have been elected to Congress, the Iraq funding has continued. An assault on personal liberties has continued largely unchallenged. And the debt keeps increasing. Doesn’t look too promising. I’m quite skeptical that anyone, excepting Ron Paul, will do much of anything in the way of substantive change in Washington, except the creeps up in government spending and control that we have unfortunately become accustomed to.

  2. I am greatly disappointed in the Republicans. Newt Gingrich and his “Contract with America” has been forgotten, in favor or pork spending in Republican areas of interest. Maybe the Balanced Budget amendment isn’t perfect, but I think it is a great place to start. Government spending needs to get under control!

    Republicans need to quit worrying about taxes, and start worrying about spending–it is out of control. Cutting taxes only makes the situation worse, not better. Both spending and taxes together need to be examined for the good of the economy.

  3. Both spending and taxes together need to be examined for the good of the economy.

    IN 1994, just before they lost control of the House and Senate, the Democrats raised taxes. The Republicans were able to offset the rest of the deficit but cutting spending. Governments need to tax and spend to make the country function. It’s more important how the government spends tax money rather than if it spends the money.

  4. You’ve completely forgotten the great Democratic LDS General Authorities on this blog. Would you please write about them in a future blog? Stephen Douglass acquitted Joseph because the Democratic Party is about supporting civil liberties and human rights. Heaven knows that Joseph’s human rights and civil liberties were trampled on many occasions by those who had more political power and fame. Oh how the Latter-day Saints forget about what it is like to be the underdog and to need the support of those who support civil liberties and human rights.

    I think that libertarianism is just another form of anarchy and lawlessness when it goes to the extreme. The Koch Brothers are prime examples of this, they being to the far right (LIBERTARIANS) of Ronald Reagan who was a candidate during those years. Now that the Koch Brothers did not get their way through politics they have decided to buy the politicians and influence organizations like the Tea Party through the Tea Party Express. I don’t think Brother Joseph would have been supportive of these men and I believe he would have called them enemies of righteousness and goodness.

  5. Back in 2008 when I wrote this post, I didn’t know some of the democratic GA’s. I think Mormons voted Democrat back then because the Democrats stood up for the oppressed, and Mormons certainly were oppressed back then. After they settled in Utah, they became the party of the oppressors. As the majority religion, they didn’t need the help of the Democrats, they needed the bullying of the Republicans. I also think that when Democrats turned toward abortion and women’s rights (the oppressed), patriarchal Mormons decided that the republicans were the way to go.

  6. If my memory serves correctly, the basic stances of Republicans and Democrats (party wise) has flipped (at least once) in the past 100+ years. Thus at one time, the Democratic party was the conservative party.

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