“My Husband is a Socialist”

Here is another post that does not fit in with the normal FPR post:

I am taking an independent reading on political economy with a member of the economics department at the institution where I am working on a doctorate in political science. The readings focus on theories of capitalism and socialism with a particular focus on socialist critiques of capitalism. While I am very much on the socialist side of the capitalist-socialist divide, I officially label myself as a liberal because of my joint commitment to individual liberty and economic justice. Yet, my belief that a redistribution of wealth is vital to ensuring liberty to all makes me in many ways fit within what many might call socialism.

I often refer to myself as a socialist when talking politics with my wife. I also refer to myself as a socialist around others both for shock value and to emphasize that I really am on the left and not just another “Democrat” (though I am one of those too).

I mention all this because a few years back my wife and I went to stake center for the stake portion of our temple recommend interviews. I was interviewed by a counselor in the stake presidency and my wife met at the same time with the stake president. The stake president is an active conservative Republican in Utah and a former speaker of the House of Representatives in the Utah State Legislature. He knew that I was Democrat and that I was in graduate school at the Univ. of Utah studying political science. He often stopped to exchange political small-talk when we ran into each other.

As we walked to the car, I asked how her interview went (we both passed). She said that politics had come up while discussing my schooling and then she said “I told him you are a socialist, just like my dad.” I was a bit stunned. While she was more or less right, about both her dad and I, neither of us would have presented it that way to the stake president (my father-in-law was a bishop in the stake at the time). This left me with an appreciation of my wife’s candor. I feel ashamed that my reaction to my wife’s comment was one of embarrassment and not pride.

The Canadian political philosopher Wil Kymlicka, states in his textbook on contemporary political philosophy, that most Marxists and Socialist today are in many ways more liberal egalitarians than they are Marxists. I tend to agree with him. Yet I feel that the socialist voice is an important one. Is it a label that I should try to revive and wear with pride? I will let you know what I discover over the next semester.

My Ideological Journey

I grew up a very right wing conservative in the Maryland Suburbs of Washington, DC. I was actually known as “Mr. Republican.” It helped that I wore a tie as a conservative statement. I also wore a Bush/Quayle button for much of 1992 and carried around Rush Limbaugh’s books. After President Clinton took office, I attached an “Impeach Hillary” button to my backpack. I also had pro-life stickers on my binders and was kicked out of a high school sociology class for wearing a shirt with a fetus on it.

After entering college, I began to feel uncomfortable with my own extremism. I no longer found talk radio very satisfying. However, I was still very much a Republican. I ran successfully to be a vice-president in the College Republicans and I was very excited about the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress.

I spent the eight months between my freshman year and leaving on my mission working for a very conservative organization that claimed to monitor the activities of the “liberal media” and “liberal academia.” They were defending the truth against “liberal bias.” I soon realized that the “conservative truth” did not seem so true to me. I started to think of myself as a moderate. I was hopeful when Colin Powell was touted as a presidential possibility. Then I witness first-hand the conservative backlash against him. Their racism no longer could be contained. Conservatism was not for me. Could I still find a place in the GOP? I was not sure when I went on my mission to California in Dec. of 1995.

In the California Anaheim Mission, I worked with Vietnamese immigrants. I was humbled by my struggle to learn Vietnamese. I was also introduced to real poverty. The assumptions I had made about the poor, no longer made sense.

Having rejected social conservatism and having warmed up the idea of social welfare, I returned to Ricks College in early 1998 unsure of my political future. I did serve as a vice-president in the College Republicans that semester. Yet, I had lost all enthusiasm for the right. Conservatism had become the opposition. In August 1998, shortly after marrying in the Salt Lake Temple, I became a Democrat.

As my prior posts testify, I am now an avid and committed liberal. I practice and advocate liberal political philosophy with a passion. I am also now back in Rexburg, as a political science instructor.

My freshman students are still in shock. Sure, Mormons can be Democrats, the brethren have said as much. But a liberal, that is too much for them. My student assistant was warned by a friend that she was working for a liberal. She laughed because she is also a liberal.

I feel lonely sometimes as an unapologetic liberal in a place like Rexburg, Idaho. However, I would not want to be anywhere else. And I am proud to be a Mormon Liberal Democrat who thinks that Hillary Clinton should be the next U.S. President (you should see the fire in the eyes of my conservative students when they hear me say so).

Political Economy and the BOM

On July 13, over at By Common Consent Taryn Nelson-Seawright posted about the nature of economic and political liberalism and leftism amongst Mormons. The post and the related 127 comments can be found here.

I am not going to comment directly on the post, though I agree with much of its sentiment and the author’s frustrations. The comment stream seemed to focus on whether the Book of Mormon supports socialism or not. This is my concern.

The Book of Mormon does not support socialism. It also does not support capitalism. I say this because the civilizations discussed in the Book of Mormon are primitive societies where the modern/contemporary theories of socialism and/or capitalism would be completely foreign.

Continue reading “Political Economy and the BOM”