Many people in 2016 weren’t happy about their choices for president. “Vote the lesser of two evils” isn’t the best case for voting.
Now the primary election is here and we’re running into in a similar situation with the candidates in Utah’s 3rd Congressional District Republican primary.
As the Democratic challenger, I’ve been traveling throughout the district getting my name out. When I tell people I’m running for Congress, they ask, “Against who?”
“John Curtis,” I reply.
“Who?” they ask.
Don’t worry, John. They don’t know who I am either.
Sometimes the response I get is, “I thought he was going to be different, but then he got behind Trump.” Other times it’s, “He’s not conservative enough.”
That’s probably true. He was the chair of the Utah County Democrats, and he’s nothing like Chris Herrod, who evidently wants you to remember his name as the bad guy from the Bible. (All I can say about that is, did nobody warn Chris Herrod? Was everyone around him like, “Yeah. That’s a good idea. Put that in a robocall.”)?
Watching their debate was interesting-ish. You have Herrod whose brand of conservatism is the only kind that should ever exist, according to him. He’s braggadocious, self-centered and comes off as angry. He also heavily supports Donald Trump. I won’t go into the kind of moral character Trump has, but I’m seeing some similarities.
Herrod is an ideologue. He’s firm in his beliefs, no matter how much evidence is presented to debunk them. He seems like he wouldn’t compromise on anything — which is why we all love Congress.
I wish I could say I respect someone who sticks to their guns like that, but mostly it comes off as that kid who insists that “Two plus two equals Madison, Wisconsin.” Believing that just by working harder, destroying government and looking out for only yourself will bring about freedom and prosperity is one of the most naïve and dangerous belief systems out there.
A fundamental part missing from Herrod’s equation for how society actually works is social responsibility. That’s the principle upon which so many other pro-social behaviors and institutions rest: democracy, empathy, protection, service, cooperation and equality.
What Curtis has going for him is what he doesn’t have. He’s not an ideologue. That allows him to shift his positions depending on where the parties are fighting and find that “sweet spot,” where he may alienate some people, but not too many people. For example, he supports Trump ... when it’s politically expedient to do so. Curtis is smart like that if he wants to grow his power in Congress — and that’s why we all love politicians..
Sure, the former mayor of Provo has some shortcomings. The whole “allowing-his-police-chief-to-sexually-harass-his-subordinates-even-after-being-informed-it-was-happening-multiple-times” thing. And leaving Bears Ears unprotected and falsely claiming he consulted with Native tribes even after tribal leaders said that never occurred. But those happened so long ago. I mean, I don’t even remember what I had for breakfast. And history can be revised, so there you go.
That’s why on June 26, registered Republicans should vote for John Curtis. In fact, I officially endorse him as the person I would rather see in Congress than Chris Herrod if we have to elect a Republican — because we do, because tradition, and because “the lesser of two evils.”
Furthermore, I’d rather debate Curtis — not that I’m afraid to debate Herrod, but I believe Herrod is a greater risk to democracy, equality, fairness and empathy than Curtis is.
I just wish they knew how so many families struggle to make ends meet or deal with the crushing debt of student loans. Or how poverty works in America or the systemic barriers that many minority groups face. I wish they cared about the bottom 1 percent as much as the top 1 percent. I wish they realized that inequality is a political choice. I wish they valued public lands and validated Indigenous people’s voices and their constitutionally recognized sovereign governments.
I really wish there was someone out there like that.
James Courage Singer is running for U.S. Congress as a Democrat in 3rd District, currently occupied by Rep. John Curtis. He teaches sociology at Salt Lake Community College.