Mormons are known to be pretty reliably Republican, at least in Utah. It wasn’t that way in Joseph Smith’s day, because the Republican Party didn’t even exist! Mormons alternated between Whig and Democratic support and were seen as swing voters in Joseph’s Smith’s day. Historian Dr. Derek Sainsbury will tell us more about 19th century presidential politics.
GT: Now, it’s interesting, you said Democrat and Whig because there was no Republican party in 1845.
GT: So, Republicans didn’t exist. Are Whigs, were they pretty similar with Republicans back in the day?
Derek: When the Whig Party falls apart, from the ashes of that, you’re going to get a couple of different parties that coalesce into the Republican Party in the 1860s.
Derek: The Whig Party is in response to what’s happening with this new Democratic Party, and they call themselves the Whigs. So they would make fun of Andrew Jackson. They would call him King Andrew, because he was ruling with this whole spoil system and “What I say goes.”
Derek: The Whigs took on the name Whigs because the Whigs were the the political opposition party in England against the king, against the Tories. So, that’s why they called themselves the Whigs because they were in opposition to King Andrew, Andrew Jackson.
Derek: The Democrats and Whigs are evenly split in Missouri, so much so that this large influx of Latter-day Saints is going to determine politics in Illinois, the whole time they’re there.
GT: So they were the original swing voters.
Derek: Well, yeah, in a major sense. They started to be seen that way, by the time of the election. In 1844, they start to be seen that way by major newspapers back in the east, that not only could they decide the vote in Illinois, but maybe they could decide the vote in a bigger way. There was this perception, too, that we had more people than we actually did have. So there was this perception that something could come out of all of this.
Were you aware of the Mormon vote deciding elections as swing voters? Check out our conversation….