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What’s The Matter With Utah?

A Utah-loving reader says the people of the state are special. What is it about them?
Laura Orr/Shutterstock
Laura Orr/Shutterstock

A reader writes:

I have always loved Utah. Certainly, it’s a beautiful state, but I have always felt something else there. Utah’s people seem to have a purpose – an extra dimension. Perhaps the way they chose to live is not exactly the same as that of your friends in Italy, and their option is not Benedictine, but it seems to be an option nonetheless. Trump got shredded in Utah. The angry, disillusioned, corroded layer of society instinctively voting Trump does not seem to be there. I wonder why that is.

I don’t know. Readers, what do you think? Must be something about the LDS faith … but what? Except for Park City, for the Sundance Film Festival, I’ve never been to Utah. Help me understand what the reader sees. What’s the matter with Utah? Why are they not messed up like the rest of us are messed up?

Michael Brendan Dougherty has at least a partial answer:

Groups that tend to do better economically in diverse societies have more trouble sympathizing with groups that struggle, and often tend to blame that struggle on innate traits or character faults. This is not the case in Utah. Despite being one of the whitest and most conservative states in the country, Utah implemented a simple and seemingly radical policy that has had great success in solving homelessness. Namely, Utah gave homes to the homeless. And they saved a bundle by doing so, since homelessness drives spending both in social services and the corrections department.

Another commonality of anti-Trump states is their high fertility. Utah leads the way with the highest fertility rate of all states (excluding territories), at 2.33 children per woman. Utah is also a state in the bottom third of divorce statistics.

Utah lags the rest of the nation in its diversity. But it is a low-crime, economically healthy state with stronger-than-average marriages. And Utah’s people have enough confidence in themselves and the future to invest in their society over the long term by having children at a higher rate than any other state in the country. The message is obvious: Voters who are well integrated into the mediating institutions of society don’t buy what Trump is selling.

Shorter MBD: Because Utah is full of Mormons.

UPDATE:  A Catholic reader who once worked in an office full of Mormons writes:

I have never been more impressed with a group of people.  There is so much faith and real joy.  And virtue–the non-alcohol, non-caffeinated (much as that grinds against my own inclinations) mode of life (in addition to the years served as missionaries) really does contribute to the inculcation of virtue (though, as my college experience with some non-practicing LDS from Utah shows, those who do not buy in rebel HARD).

They embody what I wish American Catholics did more consistently: an adherence to traditional values of faith and family with a willingness to explore economic policy that is not just tax cuts (Many of them told me they were so suspicious of government welfare because the Mormon church was so generous a provider of such services).

In short, they are the opposite of Trump’s style.

In addition, I think some of their opposition to Trump stems from unique history.  It is hard to paint with so broad a brush, but it has been my experience that Mormons are very against wholesale condemnation of a religious belief.  Given their history, this is understandable.  All this talk of banning Muslims speaks to them at a very visceral level.  Even though Cruz shares in that to a point, Trump is sui generis.  I think that also plays a huge role.

I am sure there are many dimensions I am not addressing, but these are the dimensions I can speak to from personal experience.  People who want to enact the BenOp have lots to learn from them.  Truly delightful people.



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