It’s true that one of the most powerful Democrats in Washington DC, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, is a Mormon. Yet, on the whole, the Church of Latter Day Saints and their flock are more aligned with the right than the left, and that’s reflected in how they’ve voted in American elections. These lines are getting blurred by Donald Trump, however, and the Washington Post has another column on how it’s possible that Utah will cast its Electoral College votes for Hillary Clinton.
Democratic strategists aren’t quite bullish on the idea. They see Georgia and Arizona as more likely targets. But there is something more satisfying about these Utah articles than the (less common) articles about Trump’s difficulty in other red states.
In Georgia, for example, if Trump’s only problem were his naked appeals to white nationalism, we wouldn’t be talking about him potentially losing the state. It’s really only his boorishness towards women that puts a state like Georgia in play. But, in Utah, people are rejecting him for not just some but for all of the right reasons. Mormons are deeply offended by Trump’s characterization of Muslims and his plans to keep them out of the country. They are pro-immigrant and pro-immigration reform. Because of their extensive missionary work in foreign lands, they’re put off by his narrow parochial claims to American exceptionalism and national greatness. And, unlike a good segment of the Southern Baptists, their social conservatism isn’t negotiable and, yes, Trump’s treatment toward and attitude about women is a major problem for them.
Precisely because their social conservatism isn’t negotiable, Hillary Clinton isn’t polling any better than Trump in Utah. They’re both stuck below thirty percent in recent polls. If Clinton is going to win the state it will be because the right is split three ways between Trump, Libertarian Gary Johnson, and independent (and Mormon) Evan McMullin. Surprisingly, considering he’s only on the ballot in eleven states, McMullin is at least as much of a threat to win Utah as Clinton is, and it’s really looking like a three-way race with Johnson poised to act as a spoiler.
Of course, most of the focus has been on the possibility of Clinton winning the Beehive State, but it’s almost as significant that Trump might lose it to McMullin. Either way, he’s denied six Electoral College votes he surely cannot afford to lose.
However it comes out, it’s become clear that the Mormon community isn’t prepared to go along for the ride with Trumpism, and that will create a post-election schism within the GOP. It’s another sign that Humpty Dumpty won’t so easily be put back together again and that the Republican Party will struggle to either share in governing or in forming a coherent opposition party.