I live in Kane County, which is rural and politically conservative. It wasn’t easy chairing the county Democratic party for a decade, trying to keep up morale and excitement, but there are more than a few of us here and we do hang together.
The last Democrat who represented us was Jim Matheson, way back when he was still in Congressional District 2, before he moved to District 4. A Blue Dog Democrat, he didn’t even vote for the Affordable Care Act, a Democratic cornerstone. Matheson really wasn’t much of a Democrat in any sense.
And that’s my point. Even now, the Utah Democratic Party continues to hide from itself by not fighting for its seminal values. The UDC website says almost nothing about the gerrymandered district maps the legislature adopted in November — maps that blocked Democrats’ chances of getting elected almost anywhere in the state. The party should fan the flames of the outrage over this, still smoldering in its voters, to get out the vote and let Utah know what Democrats believe in.
Instead, some party leaders appear OK with former Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams co-opting the party to endorse the very conservative Evan McMullin, who is running as a self-declared independent against Sen. Mike Lee. A quick look at McMullin’s Wikipedia page, one of the few places you can go to get any details regarding his political stands, tells us that he wants to overturn Roe v. Wade and his favorite Supreme Court justices are “originalists” like Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. He supports a reduction in corporate taxes, even though many large corporations already pay zero. Maybe that comes from his time spent as a director at Goldman Sachs, the global investment banking company.
McMullin favors cuts to Social Security and wants to lower your payments through means testing and raise the retirement age to qualify for payments. He’s not big on Medicare and Medicaid, because, as with Social Security, he’s against “entitlements.” Unbelievably, he also holds the same position as extreme Republicans when it comes to our nation’s health care. Like Lee and Mitch McConnell, McMullin wants to repeal Obamacare, legislation that has saved many lives. He prefers to let the free market manage such things, even though it never has and never will.
McMullin supports vouchers and charter schools over public education. He wants to get rid of public lands, tweeting in 2016: “There is no good reason for the federal government to hold so much western land.” Them’s fightin’ words for many in rural Kane County where the parks are tourism magnets that support our local economy. None of these positions is supported by serious Democrats anywhere.
It’s notable that Mike Lee voted for Evan McMullin in 2016 when McMullin ran against Trump. I guess McMullin is conservative enough for Lee and McAdams both. But isn’t he a bit right-wing for the Democratic Party?
Why some Democratic leaders stand by and let our most important values be minimized without a fight is a mystery. In my experience, running Republican Lite candidates has rarely gotten the Democrats any significant wins, and it doesn’t because it’s a weak position. Voters can smell insipid from miles away.
Utah Democrats should not allow ourselves to stop trying because others say we can’t win. In the end, politics is about getting out a strong message that shows who fights for Utah’s families. You never know, it might just work.
And now there’s a chance to do that. Kael Weston, a top-notch Democrat with impressive credentials has joined the U.S. Senate race. In his 2020 Congressional race, Weston spent more time in rural Utah listening to voters of both parties, including a lot of Trump supporters, than anyone else. He understands rural issues and rural voters and received a respectable 37% of the total vote in a very gerrymandered district, and without running TV ads.
What now, Democrats? Will you rally around Weston and make sure voters know what the Democratic message is? Or will you let the opportunity pass, stare at your feet, and assume nothing good can come to you in Utah?
This is an important time in our history. Utah’s hardest working families suffer when Democrats are not fighting for them. More Democrats are moving into Utah every day, and they deserve a real Democrat taking it to Mike Lee on the campaign trail.
Caralee Woods lives outside Kanab and served as chair of the Kane County Democratic Party from 2008 to 2018, and as chair of the Utah Democratic Rural Caucus from 2019 to 2021.