There has been a lot written lately on the subject: What does the Republican Party stand for these days? More eloquent people than I have written on this subject, from journalists, liberal activists and former Republicans who have become disillusioned. What is it they want to accomplish?
I can speak to my own experience. Back in 1980 after listening to the Carter-Reagan debates and deciding I, too, was a conservative, my impressions were: These are the pro-family, pro-freedom, common-sense problem solvers. They believed in self-reliance, fiscal discipline and the evils of debt. They were patriotic and passionate believers in the Constitution and the evils of totalitarianism. There was a sunny, optimistic attitude toward the future of America.
In 2020, what do we have in the modern GOP? It’s hard to argue any of the above apply. And it’s not all Trump. As Stuart Stevens argues, Trump is the logical result of where they’ve been headed since Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay came to power, which was about the time I left. I don’t see any rational argument of government philosophy except packing the judiciary and ‘owning the libs’. It’s just chaos and seeking power above all else.
So, what about us Democrats? We certainly aren’t perfect. Bill Clinton balanced the budget, but he also ushered in the era of mass incarceration. The ‘triangulation’ philosophy garnered the support of well-educated urban professionals, but with less emphasis on fighting for blue collar union workers. Trump had a point (although he was still a hypocrite) when he talked about the millions Bill and Hillary made giving speeches on Wall Street. The Bernie Revolution provided a needed course correction.
Having said that, the reason I became a Utah Democrat is closer to home. It was in that neighborhood caucus meeting twenty years ago in the home of Doug and Randee Post in Plain City (who were killed in a tragic car accident in 2007). At that meeting, I saw many of my neighbors and some of the most respected folks in that community. People like LaFrey Kelley and her sister Jenny Garrett, daughters of Merrill Jenkins, a long time Democratic leader in the Utah Legislature. Bob Spencer, my son’s YM leader, and his wife Ida Rae, respected long-time teachers. Sam Lower, a member of the Plain City Stake Presidency when we moved there in the early eighties. Alan Yorgason, a well-known and respected member of the community whose son Andrew was the only guy smarter than our son Chris in the Fremont class of 1998. My neighbors Ken and Anelda Owen. And many more.
These good people had differing opinions, but they had a few things in common. Honesty and integrity. A love of people and a desire to help those who didn’t win the life lottery. Empathy (and if there is one characteristic that separates Joe Biden and Donald Trump, that’s the one). A healthy humility and readiness to listen and learn. A willingness to live and let live, respectful of the beliefs of others even if they didn’t agree. Real optimism, and not the Reagan nationalistic hubristic version. Real family values, values that recognized one foundation of successful families was economic opportunity. The importance of equality for everyone regardless of whether they looked or thought like me. A healthy respect for God's creation.
I saw these qualities in the Utah Democratic candidates I met. Many made great sacrifices, financially and otherwise, to run when there was no chance of winning. Why do they do it? I can only speak to my Quixotic run against Rob Bishop in 2006, where Teri and I dumped $30K of our own money and much blood, sweat and tears in a race everyone knew was going to result in a loss.
Why? Because I wanted a megaphone to shout out to Utahns everywhere: This is where your values lie. Come see for yourself.