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Michelle Quist: Convention delegates gave Utah GOP a black eye

Booing Mitt Romney and refusing to wear masks on private property weren’t good looks for Republicans.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) New Utah Republican Party Chairman Carson Jorgensen speaks with the media following his win following the Utah Republican Party’s 2021 Organizing Convention at the Maverik Center in West Valley City on Saturday, May 1, 2021.

Civility is once again front and center in Utah politics. This time, Utah Republican Party delegates gave Utah a national black eye by booing Sen. Mitt Romney during his convention speech at their recent organizing convention. A national black eye because it was covered by the New York Times, CNN and many others in national media.

I read one comment that called the GOP the party that eats its own. And isn’t that the truth.

Why did they boo Romney? Because they’re unhappy with his votes for impeachment. Trump, again. And the Big Lie.

Get. Over. It.

Romney stated during his convention speech, “Now you know me as a person who says what he thinks, and I don’t hide the fact that I wasn’t a fan of our last president’s character issues.”

He followed that up with, “You can boo all you like … [but] I’ve been a Republican all of my life.” Something Trump certainly can’t say.

Yet for some Utah GOP state delegates, Romney isn’t Republican enough.

The irony, of course, is that the delegates’ poor behavior likely tanked a later vote on whether to “censure” Romney for his votes in favor of impeachment. Delegates who were on the fence probably didn’t appreciate the stench coming from those booing.

So how should adults express their disagreement with Romney’s policies? They could email his office, or call his office, or write his office. Or, most importantly, a disaffected and disapproving constituent can express her frustration at the ballot box and attempt to vote him out.

That would be the mature thing to do. That would be the civil thing to do. But apparently that is not the Utah way. (This is not the first time delegates have booed elected officials at convention.)

Perhaps the anonymity of a large convention hall encourages some to behave so poorly — because they won’t be accountable for their behavior. But is this really how we want to behave?

If our children don’t agree with their teachers, and the teacher isn’t calling on them so they can express their disapproval, do we really want our children to just start booing in the middle of class? While the teacher is speaking?

Of course, these are the same delegates who refused to respect private property and a company’s right to control its own premises, as most refused to wear face masks, which the venue required.

I mean, it’s one thing to protest against a government mandate, but when a private property owner requires that entrants wear masks and the delegates refuse — do they really care about private property rights?

I guess I should be happy these maskless delegates didn’t boo the children’s choir that performed at the beginning of the convention. Hopefully those children had all left before they could witness adults acting so poorly.

These are probably some of the same people who recently overthrew a school board meeting in the Granite School District with protests over mask policies. The 30 to 40 protestors drowned out speakers with chanting, and several even physically confronted board members. Board members had to be escorted by police to their cars.

Criminal charges may be filed, and these “adults” deserve them. I honestly couldn’t better typecast their comical claim to thereafter vote in new board members under Robert’s Rules.

But these examples of Republican Party members are not doing the GOP any favors.

And yet, I’m still hopeful (eternally hopeful). The delegates voted in new leadership at the convention, and outgoing chair Derek Brown left them a party in great shape, at least financially. The new leadership are young and eager to make a difference.

Sure, some of them may have expressed extreme views in the past, and one even attended the Jan. 6 attempted coup in Washington, D.C., but I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and see what they can do.

Besides, as Republican Party officers, they have limited authority to push specific policies that party members disagree on. And, as officers, they have to remain neutral during Republican Party primaries — including next year’s Senate race. This is true even if the new chair believes the government is beholden to the party, and not the other way around. (Hahahahaha. We tried once running a party without donors – it didn’t work well.)

In other words, they have little power to do much other than ensure the party functions administratively, raise funds, plan events and other such activities. They certainly don’t have the authority to censure Republican elected officials on their own, or even express disappointment with votes.

As party leaders, their job is to support elected officials, help elect good candidates, and stake the big tent.

So sure, everyone loves an upset, and these new leaders were certainly not expected to win. But they did, and I’m going to remain hopeful.

In fact, I remain hopeful that all moderate Republicans keep engaging, keep showing up, keep voicing their concerns that the Republican party stands for things worth standing for.

Hopefully they won’t prove me wrong.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Michelle Quist.

Michelle Quist is a Salt Lake City attorney and a columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune.

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