The last time Mike Pence was in Utah it was damage control, trying to firm up squishy support in a normally rock solid conservative state.
“Come home,” he implored Republican voters unnerved by Donald Trump’s antics and unpredictability. And I’ll be gosh-darned if it didn’t work. Trump carried Utah and, well, you know what has happened since.
This time through town, though, rather than imploring Utahns to fall in line, I hope he listens — I hope he hears what a Republican state thinks of what this administration is doing and how it impacts people in Utah and across the rest of the country.
So, Mr. Vice President, on the off chance this shows up outside your hotel room door and doesn’t get tossed in the trash as fake news, here are some suggestions for valuable takeaways from your brief stopover in Utah.
Your boss is losing the Beehive State.
Among the entire Republican base, Utah is the most basic. Yet, as surreal as it may seem, Utahns dislike Trump.
The most recent poll by Y2 Analytics and Utah Policy showed just 42% of Utahns approve of the job this administration is doing. Those are even worse numbers than President George W. Bush posted in the state in the lowest depths of the recession.
Earlier this year, just 41% of Utahns said they would vote to reelect you and the president, while 54% said they would not — 42% said they definitely would not. To put that in context, the last time a Republican nominee got below 42% in an election here was when Thomas Dewey lost to Franklin Roosevelt in 1944.
Your immigration policies are offensive to Utahns.
Good politics and good policy don’t always align. So while inflaming anti-immigrant hysteria serves your administration politically, it’s bad for our state and at odds with Utah values — and, really, American values.
Going back more than a decade, Utah has been more progressive than most red states when it comes to immigration, supporting the Utah Compact which called for humane treatment of migrants, passing a driving privilege program and trying to enact a guest worker program.
While polls have shown Utahns are fairly evenly split on building a border wall, we generally have been welcoming to refugees seeking to escape horrific conditions; we believe migrants benefit our community and want legal immigration to be easier, not harder; we oppose mass deportations like those the president has ordered.
Even Sen. Mitt Romney, who boasted about being more of an immigration hardliner than Trump, said he supports policies that allow Dreamers — undocumented immigrants brought here as young children — to stay in our country and contribute to societ,y and he is shocked to see children separated from their parents at the border. And Utahns agree with him on those points.
Your trade war is hurting Utahns.
An estimated 50 dairy farms have shut down, hay exports have plummeted, apple and cherry markets are in turmoil. Other businesses that trade with China are reeling. And every single Utah family is feeling the pain of this policy.
This week, the Congressional Budget Office estimated the president’s tariffs have cost the average U.S. household $580. An earlier study by the U.S. Federal Reserve put the number at $831. Either way, that is hundreds of dollars that Utah families don’t have to spend on improving their lives, sending their kids to school, saving for a home or putting food on their tables.
Utahns actually care about the debt.
But it appears that nobody in Washington from either party seems to care much. The president ran on a platform of not just balancing the budget but actually paying off the debt within eight years. We all knew that was pure delusion, of course.
On Wednesday, the Congressional Budget Office released a forecast showing the annual deficit this year would reach $960 billion, thanks in large part to the entirely ineffective tax cuts your administration passed. Next year, the deficit is expected to grow to $1.2 trillion and could be even larger if the economy falters thanks to the aforementioned trade war.
The debt will probably be right around $24 trillion before the election next year, $4 trillion higher than when you took the oath of office.
Hide your boss’ phone.
Even for those who agree with some of the administration’s policies, it’s just too much — the self-aggrandizing “King of Israel” stuff, the fight-picking with allies and praising of adversaries, the churlish bullying of critics and political opponents, the conspiracy mongering and the flat-out bizarre rants.
It has torpedoed our nation’s image abroad, undermines the dignity of the office and coarsens the discourse in our communities. More than 70% of Utahns view his use of Twitter unfavorably.
“Some of the rhetoric I’d appreciate toning down just a bit,” everyone’s favorite liberal firebrand, Gov. Gary Herbert, said early in the presidency. “The big joke is: Can we just take away his phone so he doesn’t tweet as much?”
The president doesn’t really have a filter when there’s a microphone in front of him, either. But let’s start with the tweets and see if we can build on that next time you come to town.