Paul Gibbs: The ‘crazy liberal agenda’ made my family possible

Making health care available to all Americans makes it possible to have, and raise, children.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Trevor Lee speaks with a delegate, at the Davis County Republican nominating convention at Farmington High School, on Saturday, March 26, 2022.

Nine years ago, when I first started getting seriously involved with local politics, I probably would have thought comments like the ones made by Utah legislative candidate Trevor Lee on the “Modern Conservative Podcast” (and reported by The Tribune) to be unworthy of notice.

Because back then I was under the impression that this type of crackpot extremism was still on the fringe of Utah’s Republican Party, where it had always lurked in the background like the creepy cousin nobody wants to talk to at a family reunion. You know, back when most of us thought the idea of a Donald Trump presidential campaign was an easily dismissed joke. But the fringe has become the mainstream, and as such it demands response.

Lee’s loathsome rant took aim at the usual far-right targets, especially transgender people. But one suggestion in particular caught my attention. It was that “crazy white liberals” who do not have another purpose in life” need to stop pushing a radical agenda and find something else to do, like “start families and make babies.”

This took me back to the memory of holding my now 6-year old son for the first time, two days after he was born. Timmy was still in the NICU, where he’d been placed after a harrowing birth where we briefly thought we’d lost him before ever getting to meet him.

But as we struggled through that time, I knew that Timmy would be able to keep getting the care he needed. And he would have that right his whole life, for the same reason that I’d been able to get married and start a family in the first place.

It was that the “crazy liberal agenda” had given us a health care law that guaranteed the right to coverage for pre-existing conditions like my transplanted kidney. That law, which had been so reviled by those like Lee who use the word “liberal” pejoratively, gave me the chance to have a family. And it gave Timmy and his younger brother Peter a chance to be born.

What a crazy agenda, huh?

But my wife and I have never believed starting a family ended with “making babies.” We believe it involves raising our children to be the best people they can be, and doing our part as civically engaged citizens to make the state, nation and world in which they’ll grow up the best it can be. For us that means pursuing a “crazy liberal agenda” where everyone has the right to affordable health care, to be free to live as they are without being punished by bigoted laws, and to engage in the pastimes they love.

To put it another way: Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

That’s the agenda Lee and his fearmongering cohorts call crazy, but which so many liberal individuals and families like mine pursue because we love the ideals of America, and because we care for our fellow human beings. (Or, for religious liberals like me, our fellow children of God.)

Despite the disturbing rise of extremists like Trevor Lee (who seem louder and more hateful every day), there are still a lot of good people in Utah’s Republican Party. It’s my hope that they will speak up and reject the bigotry and divisiveness of comments like those Lee made, and that they will reject candidates like him in the future. That they will recognize that liberals have families and love their children, too. And that if they’ll turn off the propaganda, they’ll find that our “crazy agenda” isn’t what they’ve been told it is.

(Photo courtesy of Paul Gibbs) | Paul Gibbs and his then-3-year-old son, Timothy, at the Rally Against Repeal on the first day of the 2019 legislative session at the Utah State Capitol

Paul Gibbs, West Valley City, is an independent filmmaker and health care activist who, despite those purposes in life, finds time for all sorts of crazy agendas. His favorite is raising his two wonderful sons, which he does along with with his wife, Becky.