Half of the Story

In explaining why Utah politics has become totally dominated by the Republicans the Deseret Spectacle only covered one half of the story. He covers the back room machinery of the Religious Right. It would be foolish to argue that this didn’t happen, or even that it was unrelated to our current unfortunate predicament. There is another side to this tale that should be told. Ignoring this half of the story could prevent Democrats from regaining their seat at the political table in Utah.

While the maneuvering on the right has been going on since “roughly 20, 25 years ago,” there was another contributing factor which began even earlier. Fully 75 years ago we had a president, who was a Democrat and who is still highly revered for pulling us through the Great Depression. During his tenure he established many government programs which grew our government to a size and scope that had previously been unimaginable in this country. Ezra Taft Benson published The Proper Role of Government in 1968 advocating smaller government. The positions he espoused are generally highly regarded in Utah, especially after 30 years ago when our economy was doing poorly as a result of our expanded government (after the economic growth of war had run its course). This made the social environment ripe for influence by conservative movements – that’s where the explanation of the Deseret Spectacle picks up the story.

If Democrats are to hope to regain a viable voice in Utah politics they must recognize that the image of moral relativism that has been plastered on them by the Jerry Falwell’s is the most obvious deterrent to becoming relevant in Utah, but possibly not the most damaging. They must find ways to tackle issues such as preserving the environment, improving education, and economic equality among our citizens without always turning to expanded government programs.

So long as Utah Democrats remain blind on this issue they will never talk themselves back into relevancy here. In fact, while they are busy shouting that their goals are not actually immoral, the Republicans are able to maintain power even while they are fiscally so liberal that they are alienating many who can see through the cheap label that the Democrats are fighting to remove. Unfortunately for those few, the Democrats do not appear to offer a more fiscally responsible alternative.

2 comments for “Half of the Story

  1. September 21, 2007 at 7:22 pm

    “If Democrats are to hope to regain a viable voice in Utah politics they must recognize that the image of moral relativism that has been plastered on them by the Jerry Falwell’s is the most obvious deterrent to becoming relevant in Utah, but possibly not the most damaging.”

    “So long as Utah Democrats remain blind on this issue they will never talk themselves back into relevancy here”

    I don’t think they’re under any delusions. So, if we can agree this is the case, and recognize it for what it is, what do you do to combat it?

    As far as fiscally responsible Democrats, are you failing to spot viable alternatives in the local or national plane? Or both? (and really, have ya looked?)

    DS

  2. September 21, 2007 at 8:52 pm

    We agree on the case and you have asked exactly the right question. What do we do to combat it? I certainly don’t have a complete answer, but I would say that one first step is to define what it means to be a Democrat in Utah – based on the unique features of our culture. I think that definition needs to be based more upon where the Utah Republicans have failed and less upon where the national Democrats stand. I think Utah Democrats could be the party that works with their constituents rather than the party that dictates to their constituents. I think they could be the party of pragmatic compromise rather than a party of principled impotence.

    On issues where they get battered by the prevailing local morality – such as abortion – they need to be more vocal in saying “We don’t stand for abortion on demand, we want very much to lower the abortion rate but we honestly don’t believe that legislating against abortion will accomplish that.”

    On economic issues they need to steer very clear of talking about raising taxes because the Republicans here raise taxes without talking about it. Instead they should look for ways to encourage economic growth that will increase tax revenues without raising tax rates – things like smarter planning of our tremendous growth. Instead of talking about raising the minimum wage they need to talk about increasing opportunities for people to prepare themselves to get high paying jobs and they need to talk about ways to draw high paying jobs into the state.

    It’s hard to spot many viable alternatives locally when there are so few people running as Democrats in many races. I admit that I have not been looking too closely. I will say that my own representative, Jim Matheson, is a Democrat and seems to be at least as fiscally responsible as our state legislature, but I have not really compared his fiscal track-record against our other representatives in the house so I don’t have much basis for comparison on that. As for Democrats on the national plane – they’re not even on my radar – I’m focused on the state level as far as party balance is concerned.

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