bltdonahue wrote:It seems obvious to me that would-be politicians who are LDS automatically have a leg up, through social networking via the church. I saw this plain as day during the local caucus.
There is likely an advantage in very local races, such as those elected at caucus meetings: delegates and precinct officers. In such cases, the social networking of being a member of the LDS congregation can be significant. Of course, that can cut both ways. Your neighbors are likely to know you...both good and bad as your example points out.
However even the smallest of public elected offices have geographic boundaries that are much larger than any LDS congregation in Utah (except perhaps one UoU student ward I once attended). Having a hundred fellow church members who all know and support you and who get to elect one or two delegates may not be nearly as advantageous as having a hundred friends spread throughout a legislative or congressional district. Say it is 2 friends per precinct and half of them are successful at getting themselves elected a delegate. Those same 100 friends now constitute 25 more delegates in your favor, compared to the one or two delegates you would have had if all your friends were bunched up in one neighborhood.
As this example shows, one might suggest that having a social network other than (or at least in addition to) the LDS Church may be a greater electoral advantage than given by the kind of social network most LDS members are likely to have. So far as I know, most churches other than the LDS Church do not do strict geographic boundaries. So a member of a local Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, or other church may well have a similar sized social network from church as does the typical LDS member. But rather than having that network geographically confined to one or two precincts, it might be spread over an entire city or county. Social networks gained through professional organizations (chamber of commerce, bar association), fraternal/service organizations (elks, masons, etc), and even hobbies (RKBA, motorcycles, dancing) would be similar.
I also note that depending on how precinct boundaries and LDS congregation boundaries mesh, it is entirely possible that LDS membership is of no advantage at all even in caucus elections. I have friends who are active LDS living in Utah county. But they have a hard time getting elected to anything at caucus because only a very small part of their LDS congregation is in their precinct. The bulk of their precinct comprises a different LDS congregation. It is not a matter of LDS vs non-LDS, but a matter of candidates who are well known to most caucus attendees (due to being in the same LDS congregation) and candidates who are well known to only a minority of caucus attendees (due to being a member of a different LDS congregation).
I've told my friends that if they want to get elected in caucus meetings, they need to get to know more of their neighbors who are in the precinct, but happen to not be in my friends' LDS congregation. At the end of the day, getting votes for office (whether party position chosen at caucus), local, State, or federal office, is often about trust. Who I do trust to represent me? And trust, often comes down to knowing a person.