Friday, February 29, 2008

Utah Politics

By Ray Briscoe Ph.D.

There is only one group of politicians in Utah with a lot of power. They are the ideologues of the Republican Party. This includes the leadership of the Party which has their hands on the controls and determine funding and the direction of nearly all legislation.

In reality, there are three political parties in Utah: the "normal" or sane Republicans, the Party ideologues, and the Democrats. Ideologues in the Republican Party base their decisions on the belief that government is bad, and big government is worse. In their Party caucuses during legislative time, they brow-beat the sane Republicans with threats and intimidation.

The ideologues look to the balcony to get a thumbs up from the self-anointed queen bee of all righteousness to know how to vote, but the normals do not. Occasionally, the "normals" and the Democrats get to have some say about issues that the ideologues have not yet glued their shoes to the floor about and are willing to let a minor issue slide by.

I believe that it is understood by nearly all the members of both political parties in Utah that human freedom is desirable. I also believe that human freedom is best preserved and cherished in an atmosphere of parliamentary democracy. Most all people would agree that even freedom has some limitation and needs some degree of control.

Conflicts in our society are solved by the diversity and multiplicity of interests. Fortunately, no single interest has the power or available force to get everything they want. In a healthy political society, compromise is an essential ingredient of democracy.

In our diversity, no individual has the brains or insight to know what is good for every other person. We need have no concern for the man or woman whose faith is built upon a rock. However, at the same time, we should have significant concern when the faithful person requires the rest of us to all gather on his rock. Essentially, the most dangerous of all political identities are those who know without a doubt they are right. These are the souls who threaten liberty. Every individual is on a quest to find what is true to them, but no one has been endowed to define what is true for everyone.

To live happily, humankind must have dissent. One can kill, force, and wage war to force a point of view. Human history surely tells us that force and compulsion are only temporary possibilities for those who must have command. Unanimity in politics will never occur. Our only solution is to perpetuate a political system which allows ideas to be freely explored. This was exactly the process which gave the American people, and yes the world, our marvelous Constitution. The founders had strong and diverse opinions as to what was correct and what should not be considered. They made this nation a great nation, because they were willing and able to listen to each other and find some compromise.

In Utah, the problem is greater than a two party system. We live in a state where the majority religion is the Mormon Church; however, that does not mean they all agree on anything. Mormons are a diverse group.

I am an active Mormon. I try diligently to follow the precepts of my prophets and local leaders. I also consider myself a liberal. I don’t believe in abortion. Neither do I think a state has the right to tell a woman what she is required to do with her body. I do believe that we need to protect our nation’s borders, but we also need to be compassionate to the families we have allowed into our country. The children who are American citizens should have the right to attend college without having to pay out of state tuition. I believe that children should have the right to medical treatment without having to go to an emergency hospital.

Why are these even issues? I believe I know the reason.

The leadership of the Republican Party in Utah have captured the perception that the GOP and the Mormon Church are pretty much the same organization. It was in the 1970's that this philosophical gobblygoop was thrust upon Utah citizens. The Republican Party is a more cohesive party than Democrats. The Democrat Party is made up of many different elements; middle-class workers, ethnic minorities, intellectuals, and labor unions are some of the amalgamation which make the party what it is. It is more difficult to hold together than a cohesive party. As such, the Democrats only gain power after the opposition party has fostered a major screw-up.

The United States and Utah are now in the throes of a major screw-up! President Bush and Vice-President Cheney have opened all the windows in the house, all the doors, and even left the garage door hanging open so the Democrats can walk in. The inability of the Republican Party to pull off Vouchers against the will of the people of Utah has given the state an opportunity to stir the pot and get a better meal out of our political life than that which the Republicans have tried to stuff down our throats. The only thing left is for them to put up a sign and invite us in. Let’s not wait for the invitation, but go forward with confidence and resolution and hack away the power base of the Republican Party.

The Democrat Party is not without its faults. The leadership of the Democrat Party has by in large made religion an issue within their Party. It’s only natural for them to do that, because the Republicans have convinced many citizens of the state that they are married to the Mormon Church. The Democrats did not do their political job to prevent this. Look up liberalism in the dictionary: "...a political philosophy advocating personal freedom for the individual, democratic forms of government, gradual reform in political and social institutions, etc..." The Democrats have allowed the Republican Party to define who we are. It is not unlike going to the Chevy dealer to find out what a Ford has to offer.

The leadership of the Republican Party in Utah does not represent the majority of Republicans. Their constituency want to pay higher taxes for better schools. The leadership uses a few illogical statements which do not make sense. "Parents pay a higher percentage of their income for education than any state in the union." That is true, but do they also purchase fewer movie tickets, and fewer pairs of shoes, and fewer snowmobiles, and ski tickets than those in other states. I think you know the answer.

The National government will rebate $600,000,000 @ $600 per child in Utah to rescue a failing economy. The Republican leadership in our state say they have to cut educational spending by $49,000,000. They say it is so because our state taxes are based on the amount of taxes we pay to the National government. No one raised a ruckus. All the legislature has to do is pass a law which makes an adjustment and appropriately fund education. The bottom line is the leadership of the Republican Party has demonstrated over time that they do not really want to support public education. They believe that private education should be able to do what it wants to do, and they use the excuse that parents know best. Education is serious business and needs parental support, but not parental control.

When kids are split up and go to different private schools we put a pick in the heart of democracy. It makes for a two class society. Citizens with more wealth will fund education for their own children with ideologue legislative help. It is important that kids of different religions understand each other. They have so much in common and they will not learn that if they are all going to private schools. Please point out the political discrepancies between members and leaders of the mixed-up Republican Party.

Another word about religion. The leadership of the Democrat Party has tended to ignore the reality of the Mormon faith. Our difference in our faith beliefs does not change substantially who we are. In reality, we do not have that many differences. The Methodists love their children every bit as much as do the Mormons. Protestants want good schools just like those of other faiths. Let’s get out of the fear of leadership coming from the Mormons, or those from any other faith. Let us be proud to be Democrats. Isn’t it wonderful that we belong to a party which has a black man and a woman as our potential candidate for the Presidency of the United States? We are the party of the future! Let’s make it so.

Raymond G. Briscoe, Ph.D.
February 29, 2008


Anonymous said...

"When kids are split up and go to different private schools we put a pick in the heart of democracy"

Um, no I don't think so, it's my choice as a parent to send my kids to a private school and they are better of for it in the long wrong.

Anonymous said...

Of course it's your choice to send your child to a private school. However, to completely privatize education is not a good choice for the majority. That is what vouchers was utimately about.

Richard W. said...

I fully agree with your comments on the political mess that Utah is in. Indeed, Republicans have framed who the Democratic Party is. But, for those of us who are working to improve the Party, it has been an uphill battle with some of our own Democrats. If we as a party could realize the importance of neighborhood politics rather focusing so much on national politics, we might have a two-party system in Utah. We often hear the term "Grass Roots" politics and believe it is the core of winning elections.
But, how many of us really believe in "Grass Roots"? Too often we lose races because we are seating in the bleachers instead of being in the game.
President Harry Truman was once asked what the most important job was in the Democratic Party? He answered that Precinct Captains are most vital to the Democratic Party.
Hopefully with the renewed enthusiasm we have seen recently, this will be the year that the Democratic Party will win many of the local races in the Novemeber elections.

D. Sirmize said...

So to sum up, there are no Democrat ideologues in Utah and the blame for any Democrat faults lies squarely on the shoulders of the GOP?

And you wonder why there's so few of you in this state.

WP said...

Much wisdon an fod for thought Ray. Maybe they could retain you through the campaign and election.

Great post!