I recognized George H. W. Bush for the establishment wonk that he was, and I didn't vote for him in 1988. Rotten fruit doesn't fall far from the tree, so I wasn't even tempted to support his dashing son, George W. Bush.
It is surprising, if only in retrospect, that so many Utahns supported this charlatan for president. But, having the presence of hindsight to guide my analysis, I think I know why. There are three reasons.
God. The Book of Mormon, considered by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to be additional scripture, is replete with wars between the usually pagan group called Lamanites and the usually god-fearing group called Nephites. On several occasions the Nephites sought out advice from their prophets on how to fight the Lamanites. One of their most revered leaders, Captain Moroni, was the quintessential prophet/statesman. In large part because of the teachings of the Book of Mormon, Latter-Day Saints today generally believe that God will help the righteous to fight their battles.
George W. Bush, after coming into office with a pledge that America should not be in the business of nation- and empire building, used September 11, 2001 as a pretext to do perform just such "construction". He fooled many Utahns into thinking that it was America's God-ordained mission to stamp out evil wherever it may raise its ugly head--and that we had to strike preemptively in order that we would not ourselves be destroyed.
What Utah Mormons failed to understand from their Books of Mormon, however, is that Nephites were successful only when they fought defensive wars, and that God never fights the battles of the arrogant aggressor. Clearly, Bush's war in Iraq was not a defensive one, as overwhelming evidence indicated from the outset such things as that Saddam Hussein had no air force and no navy. Bush's focus on his "crusade" was not to be thwarted, however, and many Utahns became fellow crusaders. Leading Bush influencer and Neoconservative, Michael Ledeen, explains (approvingly) the essence of Bush and Establishmentarian foreign policy:
in order to achieve the most noble accomplishments, the leader may have to "enter into evil".Which, if they had been paying attention, Utah Mormons would have noticed that George Bush was doing exactly that. Somehow Utahns didn't notice that evil is not God, and God is not evil.
Patriotism. The fraudulent tactic of branding the war opposition was not new to the Bush adminstration--it was very successful during Clinton's flattening of Bosnia--but it reached fever pitch during the Bush administration's prosecution of the war in Iraq.
George W Bush tricked Utah Mormons where they are most vulnerable--God, patriotism, and compassion.
Utah Mormons generally revere the Constitution of the United States, and they like to think themselves the most patriotic of Americans. When they aren't being deceived by political platitudes, they do a fairly good job of actually being patriotic. Many of them weren't, however, about to be branded as unpatriotic for not supporting the war in Iraq against an aggressor that was able to attack us with aluminum tubes and remote-control airplanes! In a manner similar to the effect invoked on the body by oxygen's counterfeit--carbon monoxide, Utah Mormons scarcely noticed the intellectual harm they were suffering as they breathed the delusory air of Bush's imperialistic and unconstitutional foreign policy.
It was not patriotism in the least, but many Utah Mormons were too afraid to discover that truth for themselves in the midst of the fevered war cry.
Compassion. In addition to donating 10% of their income to the Church, Latter-Day Saints are encouraged to donate to other worthy causes, such as help for the locally indigent (fast offerings) and humanitarian aid projects around the world. Mormons are some of the most charitable people in the world. Naturally, then--or so it seemed--when George W. Bush began talking of "compassionate conservatism", Mormons exclaimed "That's my kind of president." In the process of suffering this third strike of a delusional strikeout, Mormons completely ignored the fact that many (if not all) of their prophets had counseled against ceding to government this very ungovernmental responsibility.
George W. Bush and his neo-conservative advisors milked the 9/11 tragedy for all it was worth and then some. Many Utah Mormons, unaware of the flimflammery of it all, got behind their leader in the most godless, unpatriotic, and incompassionate of causes.
I hope that those who succumbed have since recovered.