Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Why Obama?: Preliminaries

I've found that as people get to know Obama, they feel comfortable with him. But not everyone gets to know him. The obstacles include the intense prejudice produced by right-wing talk show hosts and the feeling, shared especially by some of my neighbors, that the Republican party is the only true party.

My response to each of these obstacles: (1) Anti-Obama propaganda (especially as conveyed by certain talk show hosts, Internet sites, and e-mail rumor mills) is poisonous and worse than misleading--it is at core based on falsehood, distortion, and a cynical disregard for truth and civility. (2) The prejudice against anything "Democratic" is likewise based on deep misunderstandings. Especially for my Latter-day Saint neighbors and friends, I've provided a link that indicates what Church leaders have said on this topic, along with some of my interpretation of what they've said. (Click HERE.)

Further down on my blog, you'll find my reasons for choosing to support Barack Obama (see "Why Obama?: Reasons" and "Who I support and why" as well as other postings on specific issues). Meanwhile, feel free to leave your thoughts or to inquire about mine.


David said...

I found your site as a link from the blog of a young BYU student. The student stated that their support of Obama was based on what they had learned from you, so I would like to make a comment relative to your support.

It appears that you support Obama on what he says he will do. I think it might be wiser for you and your students to take a look at what he has done in the past to better predict what he will likely do in the future.

I find that his voting record indicates that he does not support, and it many cases opposes those values that LDS leaders have taught for many years.

The complete voting records of the candidates can be found in various places, but a consolidated source is:

At that site there is also a section that lists the ratings given to the candidates by various special interest groups. These ratings are a good indicator of where the candidate stands on issues that are important to each of us as voters. I find that a number of them are very troubling to me as a member of the LDS church. Perhaps you can find some that would indicate that Obama would the best candidate to represent LDS values.

Here are a few. You and your readers can check out each special interest group to see what they stand for.

* NARAL Pro-Choice America (2007)
Obama 100%
McCain 0%

* Planned Parenthood (2006)
Obama 100%
McCain 0%

* National Right To Life (2005-2006)
Obama 0%
McCain 75%

* Family Research Council (2007)
Obama 0%
McCain 44%

* National Organization for Women (2005-2006)
Obama 91%
McCain 13%

* Secular Coalition (2006)
Obama 90%
McCain 20%

* ACLU (2007)
Obama 80%
McCain 50%

* Americans for Tax Reform (2007)
Obama 5%
McCain 70%

* Citizens Against Government Waste (2007)
Obama 10%
McCain 100%

* Conservative Index - John Birch Society (2007)
Obama 0%
McCain 43%

* Eagle Forum (2007)
Obama 7%
McCain 46%

* AFL-CIO (2007)
Obama 100%
McCain 0%

Bruce Young said...

David, thanks for your comment. I agree that a voting record is important, but the ratings given by special interest groups may not tell the whole story, especially if they don't tell you exactly what was being voted on.

Here's my general response: I've gotten to know Obama and his views quite well over the past year. I'm comfortable with who he is and what he proposes. I don't agree with him on everything. But (comparing him with McCain) I find his views more compatible with mine in general and with my understanding of gospel values. I think you'd see where I'm coming from if you read everything on my blog (including "Religion and politics: especially for Latter-day Saints" and the interview given by Elder Jensen for which I provide a link).

At the end of this comment I'll add a note on the question of a candidate's character.

Given my views, some of the ratings you provide don't concern me at all. I don't see the AFL-CIO as being anti-gospel, and the John Birch Society and Eagle Forum do not represent my view of what the gospel is all about. The ACLU is a mixed bag, but much of what they support is perfectly compatible with gospel values. In fact they have sometimes helped defend the rights of Latter-day Saints. (And notice that Obama's and McCain's ACLU ratings are quite close.)

Tax reform and government waste groups may have valid aims, but I'd have to know exactly what they are counting as acceptable votes. And in any case, they deal with the "how" of running government, something on which the Church emphatically does not take a position. (For instance, the Church has never made a statement about the tax system, as far as I know, EXCEPT TO TELL MEMBERS THAT THEY HAVE AN OBLIGATION TO PAY TAXES--i.e., the Church explicitly opposes the refusal to pay taxes.)

The only ratings that would cause me concern relate to abortion and family. I've studied and pondered those issues and the candidates' positions at length. You'll find my general approach in the BYU editorial for which I've given a link (namely, http:// That editorial also links to the official Church position on abortion.

I'd need to take a lot more space to explain my views in full, but the short answer is that the Church takes a moderate view on the issue in two senses--it allows for abortion in some circumstances, and it explicitly does not support a specific legislative position. For instance, the Church does not specifically endorse a constitutional amendment related to abortion (and neither has McCain or Obama); it has not endorsed turning the matter over to the states (that is McCain's position); and it has not endorsed the specific proposals made by Obama, though these are compatible with the Church's approach in spirit (namely, discouraging abortion by encouraging sexual responsibility and adoption and making the choice of giving birth instead of abortion more economically feasible). The vote for which conservative groups has especially given Obama flak relates to "partial birth" abortions--he opposes "partial birth" abortions, but he has refused to vote for complete bans on the procedure if they make no allowances whatever for the life or health of the mother. The Church's position specifically names those as matters that may be considered when members are seeking to make a prayerful personal decision on the issue.

In addition to what I've written on my blog, you may want to look at the views of an important evangelical leader, Frank Schaeffer:

A note on the character issue: I respect Senator McCain (except for what I consider to be sleazy and dangerously inflammatory negative campaigning in the past few weeks). I don't think his marriage and family life are as exemplary and inspiring as Obama's, but I have avoided dragging the misdeeds of his past personal life into my list of reasons for not voting for him. But I can pretty much guarantee that if a Democratic candidate or his wife had a personal history (related to marriage and family) similar to McCain's, many conservative Latter-day Saints would have viewed that history as an absolutely insuperable barrier to voting for him.

David said...

I thought about providing a point-by-point comment on your reasons for supporting Obama, but it's not likely that anything that I could say would change your mind at this point, so let's just hope that if Obama wins we get the president he promises to be, not the politician he has been.

If we get the latter along with an unrestrained liberal congress, I have sincere concerns for the future of this country.

Bruce Young said...

Thanks again for your thoughts. I agree that an unrestrained Congress in which a large majority felt free to push extreme measures (extreme in the sense of unwise, impractical, or excessively liberal) would not be a good thing. Some have suggested--and I see their point--that if Obama gets a strong mandate, he may be able to restrain Congress. Whatever you may think of his record, knowing what I know about him, I think he would want to be wise and practical and would seek a consensus that people beyond the Democratic party could support. I guess we'll see.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your comment on my blog but I really am uncomfortable with you putting my family blog up on your site and would really appreciate it being taken off as I would like to keep it strictly a family site and all other political posts of the past. Thank you E. Brown

Bruce Young said...

Sorry. I stumbled on the site because of its connection with someone who had commented on my site. But I should have resisted the impulse to add a comment. I'll remove my references to the site and make my comments (on my own site) generic.

Bruce Young said...

The following is a comment I left at [a site that I shouldn't have left a comment on--oh well]:

Sorry to intrude on what is mainly a family blog. But someone in your circle . . . commented on one of my blogs, questioning how I could support President Obama. There are plenty of good Latter-day Saints--including stake presidents, former mission presidents, even General Authorities (privately, of course)--who do. That doesn't mean the Church is falling apart. It just means there's room for different viewpoints on some matters.

For those who wonder how that's even possible--and that applies to all of us at times--it takes some effort to gain empathetic understanding of those we disagree with. That means, among other things, listening. If you're interested in doing that, I think my blogs and some related links might be a great place to start (by the way, some of these go beyond politics into the joy of working at BYU and serving at the MTC, along with lots of other things): you could look here, here, here, here, or here.

But the main thing I think we need to remember when it comes to politics is the counsel given by a couple of presidents of the Church. George Albert Smith warned, “Whenever your politics cause you to speak unkindly of your brethren, know this, that you are upon dangerous ground.” President Hinckley reminded us that “political differences never justify hatred or ill will,” adding, “ I hope that the Lord’s people may be at peace one with another during times of trouble, regardless of what loyalties they may have to different governments or parties” (see “Instruments of the Lord’s Peace,” Ensign May 2006). Elder Robert Wood has given great counsel on these matters, too.

Bruce Young said...

And I posted another one (with some overlap) at :

I know Scott Card--have even taught one of his books a couple of times in my classes. My wife Margaret knows him very well. So I get a little extra distressed at the way--the very bad spirit--in which he expresses his views.

I had an interesting experience with the particular piece you posted by him. My sister-in-law sent it to me, but without telling me where it was from or who wrote it. So I thought maybe SHE had written it. I responded that it was very powerfully written but did not have the kind of spirit I feel comfortable with. (I also wasn't sure that the writer's absolute confidence in being right about everything is justified.) When I learned the "open letter" had been posted on Meridian Magazine, I was disappointed. My wife and I have both written pieces for Meridian Magazine, but we don't share the political views the publishers display every four years or so especially.

When I learned WHO had written it, I was relieved (to know my sister-in-law hadn't) and not surprised (knowing Scott's personality). He has a VERY mean streak--and he's displayed it in person, to my wife, for instance.

You can see the whole exchange I had with my sister-in-law here.

Latter-day Saints of all political persuasions need to remember the counsel of two presidents of the Church. George Albert Smith warned, “Whenever your politics cause you to speak unkindly of your brethren, know this, that you are upon dangerous ground.” President Hinckley reminded us that “political differences never justify hatred or ill will,” adding, “ I hope that the Lord’s people may be at peace one with another during times of trouble, regardless of what loyalties they may have to different governments or parties.” A couple of years ago, an entire General Conference talk, by Elder Robert Wood, was devoted to how politics can lead us away from Christlike attitudes (see “Instruments of the Lord’s Peace,” Ensign May 2006). It's well worth reading.

Bruce Young said...

And another one at
2008/11/blog-post.html :

I enjoyed finding someone else who likes to mix religion and politics (even though our political views differ).

In case you're interested I've just published a couple of comments on blogs you're connected with: [addresses deleted]

I'm tempted to post something about Pres. Kimball saying "Don't shoot the little birdies" or Pres. Hinckley talking about gun control. But we tell missionaries to avoid Bible bashes--so I guess we shouldn't use the prophets in that spirit either.

But I will add a link to good old Elder Jensen (and could tell you some personal stories if you'd like):

Bruce Young said...

Some good links: