Derek Kitchen: We are governed by extremists with unchecked power

The only way to save ourselves is to build up a strong opposition party.

As it stands, it’s hard to imagine things getting better. Nationally we have a far-right Supreme Court taking away our freedoms. Here in Utah, the Republican supermajority is emboldened to impose its will on our state. It’s a tough reality but before we can discuss solutions, we need to be clear-eyed about where we are.

The first hard truth is that we are governed by an extreme ideological supermajority with unchecked power.

They use that unchecked power to bully children who are different from them, take autonomy away from women, and are mostly indignant when it comes to our environment. The way the supermajority governs is bad for business, bad for families and bad for our planet.

Utahns deserve a strong opposition party. A political party that fights with the urgency that meets the moment, taking immediate action on housing and water, on women’s health care and gun safety, on education and individual liberty.

So where do we go from here? Well, another hard truth is that we are the only ones who will save ourselves.

We live in the youngest and the fastest-growing state in the country. Utah has some of the most beautiful national parks in the world. We also have a powerhouse tech industry and a diverse LGBTQ+ community. In Salt Lake, we are home to world-class cultural assets and a vibrant restaurant industry. Everywhere you look, Utah is full of opportunity. It’s no wonder why so many people are flocking to our state.

The only way to address the pain and damage caused by the supermajority is to win more elections and flip Republican-held seats. It’s so clear to everyone that we need balance in our Legislature. We have to build Democratic power in Utah.

It is not going to be easy. It is going to take a lot of hard work. This cannot be 48 hours of outrage then we go back to our lives. We must remember that democracy is not a bystander sport. But we have to do it because we respect the dignity of everyone in our state. Because we know we must leave our state better than we found it. Because we know that no one else will. Now is when we dig in and fight with every tool available. We have to do the work.

Of course voting is important, but to be successful we need more than to simply vote. In order to expand the map, we have to get organized and build a Democratic infrastructure. We need to organize in places where we typically don’t go, and commit to the work for a generation.

The reality is that the issues facing rural Utah are the same as along the Wasatch Front, from affordable housing to funding for our schools, our values are the same. Utahns want us to fight for an accountable government that preserves and improves our quality of life. They want us to fight for a government that treats all of our residents with dignity and respect. Utah voters want us to fight for a government that stands up to the bully, instead of being one. Because when we do that, it turns out we believe a lot of the same things.

That brings up my third hard truth. Given the Democrats super-minority status, we know that we need to negotiate hard and make peace with small wins. Even in a supermajority, we can ensure everyone has access to contraception. Even in a supermajority, we can codify marriage equality to protect families if other rights are taken away nationally. Even in a supermajority, we can enact changes that save our Great Salt Lake and protect our resources for future generations.

But that’s just for the time being. Taking small steps and fighting for what is right is not a binary choice. We must do both.

We need to build a legitimate opposition here in Utah. Whether you’re a Democrat, independent, Libertarian or Republican, we can all agree that monopolies are bad and debate is healthy. If this sounds like what you’d like to see in your government, join me, and we can be our own cavalry.

Utah state Sen. Derek Kitchen

State Sen. Derek Kitchen, D-Salt Lake City, represents District 2 in the Utah Senate.