George Pyle: Why move to a party that’s going down in flames?

President Donald Trump speaks during a Fox News virtual town hall from the Lincoln Memorial, Sunday, May 3, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

It is very much in my nature to dawdle and procrastinate about a dilemma until it is too late to do anything about it. Hey, problem gone.

But it was more than sloth that caused me to not join the flow of Utah voters who have moved from unaffiliated, or even from the ranks of registered Democrats, to become Republicans in time to vote in the June 30 primary election.

The case for doing so has been made by the former state legislator and eternal gadfly Jim Dabakis, philanthropist Kem Gardner and Tribune columnist Robert Gehrke. The rationale is that Utah has, for the first time in a long time, an open seat in the governor’s office, four viable candidates in the Republican primary for that position and a moribund state Democratic Party.

So any voter who wants any say at all in who will be governor for what could be a long time to come will only have a voice if they vote in the GOP primary. If they decide whether former Gov. Jon Huntsman, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, former House Speaker Greg Hughes or former party Chairman Thomas Wright is the best — or maybe just the least-worst — of the only choices on the menu.

A major reason why Utah Republicans are so powerful is because Utah Republicans are so powerful. It is to the point that joining the Republicans in Utah is kind of like joining the Ba’ath Party in Saddam’s Iraq or Assad’s Syria. You might love ‘em, you might hate ‘em, but you gotta play with ‘em if you want to play at all.

Not very bloody democratic. But what are you going to do?

Except I couldn’t do it.

It’s not just a feeling that a journalist of my relative visibility should not identify as a member of any political party. I have affiliated with the GOP, in a similar political environment, in another state, many years ago.

It’s the fact that, right now, there really isn’t a Republican Party to join.

In the larger picture, becoming a card-carrying pachyderm right now would be like beaming aboard the starship Enterprise just in time to hear the computer count down the last eight seconds of its self-destruct sequence.

There just isn’t a Republican Party any more. It’s dead. It’s a stiff. It’s rung up the curtain and joined the choir invisible. It is an ex-party.

What other conclusion can you reach when all four Republican candidates for governor — in varying degrees of verve — support the reelection of the current president of the United States? When various Republican candidates for other offices brag about being 100% behind the current occupant?

The man they all favor keeping in the highest office in the land is indisputably a fascist leading a cult of personality. He sought, gained and looks to hold power on a platform that offers nothing other than racial purity, the undermining of intelligence and institutions, promises of crushing enemies and returning to a mythical paradise stolen by undesirables.

So why join the ranks of a political party, and get on the mailing list for limitless fund-raising junk mail, when you would not be able to bring yourself to vote for any of them? In June or in November?

The Republican Party is likely to hold its occupation of Utah for some time to come. The base is just too strong and too melded in the popular mind with the state’s predominant religion.

There is at least some hope, though, that its presidential incumbent will go down in spectacular flames this year, taking the U.S. Senate majority with him.

One can even dream that the Republican Party itself will go away, like the Whigs and Know Nothings before them. That it will be replaced by a new, less bigoted, center-right, pro-business, free-trade, internationalist party of the sort that Dwight Eisenhower rescued from taking an unfortunate isolationist bent in 1952.

As is the case with moves to rename Brigham Young University and Dixie State University, one stumbling block might be to come up with a new name. For that, we might turn to an organization of media-savvy anti-incumbent Republicans who have formed The Lincoln Project, an independent campaign to deny the sitting president reelection.

Thus a true party of Lincoln might be, officially, the Lincoln Party. One that, with Abe’s visage always looking over their shoulder, might be one in which a great many Utahns could, without shame, find a comfortable home.

George Pyle

George Pyle, editorial page editor of The Salt Lake Tribune, has voted at various times for Reds, Blues and Greens, though his natural predilection probably runs more to the tartan of the Scottish National Party.


Twitter, @debatestate