Why Utah Could Really Matter Now

This a view looking southeast of the Salt Lake City skyline just after the first snowfall of the fall season. The new Promontory Buiilding, a major addition to the skyline, is finshed on the outside and the cranes and scaffolding are gone. The snow-covered Wasatch Mountains are the backdrop.

For at least 40 years, the Republican Party has honored the state of Iowa as the standard of Americana. The longtime first-in-the-nation primary state represents deep progressive ideals, in the midst of a conservative bent, especially in the social policy realm. Iowa’s demographics are fairly homogeneous, as well, and have played a role in directing Republican Party priorities and candidacies, far beyond any other single state. For many years, this was the American voter. From the ethanol lobby, to the annual farm bill, to its quadrennial caucuses, the state has always held great sway. But over the years, it also resulted in a conflict of interests with states that grew more conservative in constitutional governance and less conservative in social policy, but lacked the political gravitas.

But Utah could challenge that title, and perhaps transcend it.

In a year where nativism and protectionism took hold of the Republican Party like never before, the country has become divided in a way no one could have imagined. Rather than unite the party, the GOP nominee has driven a stake of progressive boorishness into it’s heart, and demanded allegiance, or you’ll suffer an angry tweet storm at a bewitching hour.

While some have stood up, at great expense, to this monstrous infection of the Party, many have relented for the sake of their careers, and in a belief that a corrupt Hillary Clinton is worth the moral contradiction.

After bragging about lusting for his daughter (multiple times, over many years, on air), rating women’s bodies on a scale, making sexual jokes on national TV, calling women “fat pigs” when they gain weight, and “10’s” when they look like a supermodel, and after dismissing disturbing allegations regarding his exploits with his and Bill Clinton’s mutual friend, Jeffrey Epstein, the GOP leadership by and large coalesced behind the nominee this July. “Better than Hillary,” was the refrain, as though his sexism, nativism, racism and Godlessness was worth the cost of winning. They talked like Clinton was some kind of supernova villain, a Doomsday evil that could single-handedly destroy the country and all the faithful within it, believing instead that backing a sexual predator who alienated 75% of nearly every ethnic and racial minority was an acceptable path.

This last Friday, with the latest revelation of the nominee’s depravity, party leadership suddenly had enough. (Finally?)

But no community galvanized against the leftist monster like the elected leadership of Utah. Reps. Mia Love, Jason Chaffetz, Governor Gary Herbert and Lt. Governor Spencer Cox rescinded their endorsements, while Sen. Mike Lee and Rep. Christ Stewart have called for his dismissal. Former Governor Jon Huntsman also called for the nominee to step down. Of course, dozens of other Congress members followed, as well as high profile conservative leaders. Now, according to sources for Buzzfeed, Republican leadership has been meeting with independent conservative candidate, Evan McMullin about a possible coalescing around him to stave off any victory by the GOP nominee, while also avoiding one by Hillary Clinton.

As noted, Evan McMullin’s game plan, known as the 12th amendment strategy, is to stop both major party candidates from getting to 270 electoral votes. Under such a scenario, the election would be thrown to the House of Representatives, where each state delegation gets one vote for the three top names with electoral votes. After the taped admissions of sexual assault and extra-marital maneuvers, this seems more likely now than before, for third party candidates like McMullin and Johnson. It’s not implausible in a cycle where the same was said about trump becoming the nominee. And without this strategy, we’d have never had a President John Quincy Adams (ironically used to halt the ascension of another divisive populist).

Already, the nativist nominee has cut the traditional GOP base in half in deep red Utah, averaging in the mid 30’s for most polls. But until recently, few saw another alternative. Now, both McMullin and Johnson are statistically tied with 12-13% each, together enough to secure second place if the election were held today.

Rarely before has a state shown an ability to manage its votes based on conscience, in a general election. And while state residents are deeply conservative, they are also ecologically conscious and more socially libertarian than the Midwest straw. Some see this as the future of the Republican Party as it reaches out to the millennial generation. With this show of rebellion, could the Utah delegation of the Republican Party be setting itself up as the new firewall of conservative conscience? It’s a risk, but one worth taking, in my opinion.

“When you see a bumper sticker that says ‘freedom isn’t free,’ this is what that means: standing up for our highest ideals, even when it requires accepting a certain amount of risk.”

  • A liberal, smarter than some GOP leaders

This election may wash over and begin to fade for some, but its very possible that Utah and other states like it have the chance to step into the frustrating void felt by many Republicans dismayed by good candidates being run out early by a system designed to make their candidates more progressive and offensive to a wide swath of the American electorate.

If Utah is the state that throws a close election to the House this year, it will cement it’s importance in the minds of future presidential aspirants, and Party leadership. And I think we’d all be better for it.