Who Do We Vote For In This Election? A Mormon Running and Two Candidates From Polygamous Families

It is often overlooked that Obama is closer to polygamy than Mitt Romney. For President Obama’s father, it could be argued he was a polygamist.  Certainly his grandfather was and even his great-grandfather had married sisters, something that many people find sensational about our family. This is not publicized much of course, though the stereotype that Mormons are still a polygamous church run so strong that people are quick to make the link to Mitt Romney.

The fact of the matter is that neither of them are quick to talk about their family roots which is too bad. One thing that we have encouraged our children to do is embrace who they are and where they have come from, even if they don’t always agree with it. We are tied to our past generations in ways many of us don’t even understand. Our genetics, cultural leanings and values literally are rooted there.

Who do we support then for president. Many assume because Mitt Romney is Mormon we are solidly behind him, others because Obama has embraced gay rights that we should somehow be behind him. It is this and many other topics that I sat down with a reporter from BuzzFeed recently to discuss. McKay told me he comes from a Mormon family, and though his name is so uniquely associated with a old Mormon leader I assumed it to be his namesake, he said that was not where his name came from.

He normally covered Romney on the campaign trail, but since Mitt was on the road in Europe for the Olympics and doing a very bad job of making himself look good (One headlined dubbed him, “Mitt the Twit”) McKay decided to go back to his Utah roots and we discussed polygamy. I think he was a little surprised at some of my answers. In the end he wrote a good article. I have included a link here for the entire article and recommend you read it. He quotes me more at the end.  The article talks about the “polygamous moment” though, which I found humorous.

ROCKY RIDGE, Utah — About 60 miles south of Salt Lake City, at the end of a long, winding, dirt road off the highway, a small cluster of houses sits at the foot of a desert mountain. The neighborhood landscape is littered with children’s things — plastic playground equipment, abandoned toys — and the backyards are covered in clotheslines, with denim shorts and Sunday dresses of all sizes hanging off them like ornaments.

But the houses themselves command the most attention. They look as if someone took a bunch of starter homes and glued them together with communal kitchens and shared garages. The structures’ aesthetics vary, from utilitarian ranches with unpainted decks to well-kept A-frames with manicured lawns. And virtually every structure is in a state of renovation, expanding and shape-shifting to make room for more beds, more groceries, more children — and more wives.

This is Rocky Ridge, Utah, one of the fastest-growing polygamist communes in the country, and an unlikely symbol of a genealogical subplot that links America’s two main presidential candidates. While neither Mitt Romney nor Barack Obama is keen to talk about it publicly, the family trees of both are rooted in polygamy, a practice that, for each candidate, has defined generations of family history.

It’s a connection that’s been largely ignored by the campaign chroniclers this year, without any objection from the candidates, both of whom have had to grapple with far less exotic biographical eccentricities. But while reporters may relegate the men’s polygamist roots to a footnote in the broad story of the election, the candidates’ common background is being celebrated across the diverse spectrum of American polygamy.

From reality TV stars to reclusive religious zealots, polygamists throughout the country are watching this presidential election with a mix of pride and frustration — acutely aware that that Romney and Obama come from “polygamist stock,” and yet resigned to the fact that neither candidate is likely to defend their lifestyle. Meanwhile, a growing number of polygamists are going public with their stories, pop culture continues to obsess over the taboos of plural marriage, and the family from TLC’s Sister Wives is waging a high-profile legal battle to decriminalize polygamy in Utah.

More than ever before in U.S. history, polygamists view this year as an opportunity to convince the American public that they have something to offer the world — and they’re pointing to the presidential election as Exhibit A.

Call it the polygamist moment.


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4 Responses to Who Do We Vote For In This Election? A Mormon Running and Two Candidates From Polygamous Families

  1. Eli says:

    Hello my name is Eli and ever since I’ve read Carolyn Jessop’s book ;Escape; I’ve become deeply interested in the different types of Polygamy. That is to say the different lifestyles of it. I understand so far that there is different beliefs with different families, and I merely stumbled across your site. I will try to get the book when I can, but I’d like to ask a few things. Even with a low likelihood of getting a response I’m excited to ask!

    Have people ever ‘terrorized ‘ you?
    How do you keep from being attacked by our laws? ((Just skimmed the site, if it’s already there sorry!)
    Do you think that it’s wrong to be persecuted by people with just as many faults as yourself?
    Do you feel closer then you think a monogamous family might?
    Are you all legally married to Joe? ((Like the marriage contract or whatever. I personally don’t believe in ‘legal’ marriage))

    • Joe says:

      Thanks Eli, terrorized is a strong word, and in our book we chronicle the most terrifying experiences, but since we have let go of our fear and opened up we find that the majority of people have been accepting. I think we are a very close family but it is because of the principles that govern our family, and those same principles can be applied to a monogamous family. Only Alina is the legal wife, however the issue is not legal marriages it is that we call each other married and the State does not like us to do that.

      • Eli says:

        I tend to be somewhat awkward with wording online. Apologies. I am looking forward to getting your book at sometime. And I think that what you have as a family is really sweet!

  2. John Nomads says:

    Hi Joe,
    Your right, while we still get our fair share of weird looks,when we matter of factly state that we are polygamous, when asked, we find that the debate over marriage and it’s many forms, has opened many peoples understanding and acceptance. While we are not as public as your family, we’ve told our friends and families when they had guessed, and asked us.
    As to who to vote for, it’s interesting to note the backgrounds of the candidates, but as you surmise, both are unlikely to publicly endorse poly marriage.

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