The question is, how do we determine which political party is more moral? If you are a Mormon trying to decide which party best fits your moral code, or any other person who considers himself of high moral caliber, how do you choose? Let's look at a few studies and statistics as a starting point.
A new nationwide study by Harvard showed that Utah, by a large margin, leads the nation in online pornography subscriptions and that eight out of the top ten states in this study voted for John McCain in the 2008 presidential election. The other top ten in order are: Alaska, Mississippi, Hawaii, Oklahoma, Arkansas, North Dakota, Louisiana, Florida, West Virginia. The ten lowest are: Montana, Idaho, Tennessee, Ohio, Oregon, New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut, Wyoming, Michigan.
There is a similar trend in divorce rates by state, with eight of the top ten being states that voted for McCain and are typically conservative: Nevada, Arkansas, Alabama, Wyoming, Idaho, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, Mississippi. Utah is about right in the middle at number 23. The ten lowest divorce rates are: Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Illinois, Massachusetts, Georgia, Washington D.C. (obviously not a state, but I included it).
Top ten states for marijuana: Alaska, Colorado, D.C., Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, making eight of ten that went for Obama. Bottom ten: Alabama, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, Tennessee, Texas, Utah.
Top ten states for illicit drug use: Alaska, Colorado, D.C., Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, making eight of ten that went for Obama. Bottom ten: Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin.
Top ten states for alcohol consumption: Colorado, Connecticut, D.C., Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Wisconsin, making eight of ten that went for Obama. Bottom ten: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia.
Top ten states for teen pregnancies: Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Mississippi, Texas, Florida, California, North Carolina, Georgia, Hawaii, about half considered conservative states and half liberal. Bottom ten: North Dakota, Vermont, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Maine, Utah, South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska.
So what can we learn from these facts that bears on which political ideology is more moral? Absolutely nothing. We can learn nothing at all about whether liberals or conservatives are more or less moral than the other. There is no correlation between political party or ideology and moral integrity.
This is why it makes me so upset when people imply that conservatives are more moral than liberals and why I try to point out inconsistencies, by way of examples of immorality in conservatives and liberals alike, in this way of thinking. You will find morally upstanding and morally degrading people along the entire political spectrum. But I absolutely believe that conservatives are much more derogatory towards liberal morality than the other way around.
The heart of the problem, of course, is gays and abortion. Liberals are more likely to support gay rights and even gay marriage. I do not believe that this reflects on the morality of the person. If you have two couples who are married and one set of couples supports civil unions for their gay neighbors and the other does not, does that make the first couple less moral? What if the husband of the latter couple is addicted to drugs or pornography? What if the latter couple gets a divorce because the wife committed adultery? How exactly does the support of gay rights bear on the morality of the couples? Not to mention that the percentage of gays in the nation is small, less than one in ten, making this issue so far down on the list of things that affect our morality as a nation, behind such undiscussed issues such as divorce, infidelity, pornography, drug and alcohol addiction, etc., that it is merely a wedge issue and nothing more.
As for abortion, yes I agree that it is completely immoral. I will state again that I follow the Church doctrine on this issue. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that liberals do not like abortions. You will never hear a Democratic leader state that we need more abortions, they always say that we need fewer. So this is not the case of pro-abortion v. anti-abortion, it is the case of safe and legal and rare abortions v. illegal abortions in most cases.
But if you chalk up abortion in the "immoral" category for liberals, you have to chalk up the Iraq War, torture, lack of available health care to the poor, and other issues in the "immoral" category for conservatives. Those are issues that are specifically supported by conservative leaders in America and reflect poorly on the moral standards of conservatives. But just as I am free to be a liberal and not completely support the Democratic party line on abortion, conservatives are free to not support torture and unprovoked war and the like. And this gets back to the main issue again, namely that political ideology is not a gauge for moral rectitude. There is virtue and vice in each.
Another issue that seems to define the argument that liberals are inherently less moral than conservatives is that liberalism, by definition, challenges existing institutions and emphasizes individual freedom of choice. See SO's excellent take on that here. This is used by conservatives to attack liberals as wanting to destroy traditional institutions such as marriage, religion, and the free market. While I admit that those types of people exist in the extreme minority, this is another classic example of the straw-man argument.
Instead, most use liberalism to challenge institutions which positively create harm to society. Examples of this might be the abolition of slavery, racist policies and attitudes including "Separate but Equal," the complex and broken health care system, the tyranny of monarchs and despots, and the exclusive right to vote for land-owning white males. Is there something inherently immoral about breaking those bonds?
Without opining on Joseph Smith's potential political affiliation in today's world, could there have been a more liberal religious figure than him? He challenged the very foundation of the oppressive contemporary Christian establishment by stating that God was knowable, communicated with man (as in mankind) on earth, and that man could become like him through obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel. He wanted nothing less than to turn the Christian institutions on their ear and reform the very way man considered his relationship with God.
So I never again want to hear the phrase "Good Mormon Republican." I don't want Mormons to be stereotyped as voting for whoever has the "R" next to their name. I don't want to overhear people in Church imply that the Republican party is the Mormon party or the moral party. I also don't want the opposite to be true. There is no predominantly moral ideology in America today. There are only political parties that contain both moral and immoral. It is time for Mormon conservatives and liberals to identify the good and bad in their ideologies and embrace the good, and I believe if they do they will find that there is still plenty to disagree and argue about.