Zach Thomas: There are ways to fight for what you believe

(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) Votes are cast as members of the Salt Lake County Democratic Party's central committee gather to choose a new county mayor from a field of four candidates at Corner Canyon High School in Draper on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019.

I was originally elected chair of the Weber County Democrats at 17 years old. Earlier this year, I was elected to a second term. I stepped in because I wanted to stand up for health care affordability, honest government and basic human rights for all.

Many young people like myself have been stepping up for big hitting issues, including gun violence prevention and climate change. Most are also standing up for a stranger in politics today — decency. A belief that we can accomplish big things in this country without the screaming, hatred and bickering that we all know too well. I try to lead this party with those core values of decency, listening and compassion. When we have the option, why choose hate?

It’s quite apparent that voting is not enough. We need to speak up about what we care about. Several people are already doing that and, luckily, some of that effort is paying off.

With the recent passing of HB411 (which encourages cities to move towards cleaner energy) since adopted by several cities across Utah, community activists have again proved where the power of our government belongs.

However, there are still several groups who aren’t voting in as high a number as they should be. But that is not necessarily their fault. Voter suppression tactics like voter-ID laws and overall disengagement have silenced the voices of people of color. Big lobbyist groups have muted the voices of young people by funneling money towards anti-gun reform legislation. This creates a culture of cruelty, hatred and often leads to the inability to act for these groups.

Not voting is a surrender. A surrender of your rights, a surrender of your pride and a surrender of your voice as an American citizen. The less you pay attention, the easier it is for politicians to work against you, strip your rights and make their donors happy.

The cookie-cutter cries of, “My vote doesn’t matter!” and, “They’re just going to do what they want,” are just an excuse. We can change the makeup of this state. We can elect people who won’t repeal the will of the voters and who won’t pass tax bills that the citizens overwhelmingly disapprove of.

Many voters have become desensitized to the fact that legislators don’t often represent the people, and it’s hurting our democracy and our “work for the people” structure. There is currently a citizen’s referendum against the recent tax reform bill, because citizens in the state of Utah don’t like what the Legislature has done to us.

There are several grassroots organizations who are fighting locally against these very things. If you want to see this change, get involved. You can find most of these groups on Facebook or online.

If you don’t want to see change, that is an incredible way to say, “I’m OK with what they do to my rights, my family’s rights and my city’s rights.”

When you’re thinking of your 2020 resolution, consider getting involved. Consider taking an extra five minutes to research the candidates who are running to represent you. It’s as good a time as ever to stand up for ourselves, as we may not always have the chance to do so.

For the sake of those you love, fight.

Zach Thomas, Eden, is a lifelong resident of Utah. He has been chairman of the Weber County Democrats for two years and has served as the chair of county chairs for the Utah Democratic Party for six months.