During the current legislative session, Utah’s elected officials should consider the political views and perspective of Utah’s three primary political groups: Republicans on the right, Democrats and the left and centrists and moderates in the middle.
Centrists and moderates are arguably one of the largest and fastest growing political groups in Utah, and yet their opinions are often ignored on the most politically divisive issues.
Rather than adopting absolutist views on issues which lead to never-ending stand-offs between the political right and political left, centrists and moderates know that most issues are nuanced, and that good faith efforts to work together can produce outcomes that benefit a vast majority of citizens, not just the citizens holding the most extreme views of either party.
In Utah, there is a danger that the Republican-controlled Legislature will use their veto-proof majority to vanquish imaginary demons on the far-left instead of taking a more common-sense approach that keeps the interests of all Utahns in mind.
Unfortunately, in the first few days of this legislative session, it already appears that many in the Utah Legislature have decided to listen to the national-level, far-right talking points regarding COVID and then imposed their views on the entire state by taking away the ability of local government units to make their own decisions on how to best manage COVID in their communities. This decision will have implications long after COVID is gone.
Centrists and moderates fear that this pattern may continue with other hot-button issues, including everything from control of education curriculum to election security. Middle ground exists on these issues, and, with a little effort, the Legislature could adopt policies in these areas that would have tri-partisan support.
Consider, for example, the issue of election security. One idea for a balanced approach could be to confirm that laws are in place to make sure that only those who legally have the right to vote are voting, but at the same time vastly increase voter participation among legally registered voters by 1.) making it easier for people to quickly and securely verify themselves as registered voters; 2.) expanding secure mail-in voting and increasing the number of in-person voting locations; 3.) creating an Election Dday holiday; and 4.) reaching out to eligible unregistered voters and encouraging them to register.
The political right wants election security. The political left wants increased voter participation. Centrists want both.
I encourage the Legislature this year to remember the centrists and moderates and pass laws with tri-partisan support.
Ladd Johnson, Salt Lake City, is an attorney and Salt Lake County chair of the United Utah Party.