Stephanie Thompson Lundeen: Our nation is caught between two parties in perpetual conflict

Voting for Evan McMullin could help to break the congressional deadlock.

(Briana Scroggins | Special to The Tribune) Utah independent Evan McMullin, his wife, Emily and Democratic delegate Richard Whitney talk during the Utah Democratic Convention at Cottonwood High School in Murray, Utah on Saturday, April 23, 2022.

One night in late 1996, I boarded a flight in Miami headed for Buenos Aires. Some kind of delay ensued, and an argument broke out in Spanish between the crew and an Argentine passenger.

Like the American couple next to me, I sank lower in my seat, pretending to be absorbed in reading material. The argument persisted, growing more heated and involving more crew members.

I didn’t know much Spanish, but I heard “una falta de respecto” (a lack of respect) said repeatedly. I finally looked up and saw a clear distinction among passengers.

While many passengers had followed my pretend-to-be-invisible instincts, others — roughly half of us — were standing up, facing the arguing people, arms crossed, at attention.

I don’t know for sure that everyone standing up was Argentine, but it felt that way. The American urge to ignore, born of trusting that everything will just work out like it should, was in stark contrast to the call for watchful solidarity. Whatever happened to this passenger, it would not happen unobserved.

Twenty-six years later, our country is at a similar standstill. We are headed toward a midterm election that could very well determine the fate of the country. Just as the flight couldn’t continue until the altercation had been resolved, so our nation is caught between two parties in perpetual conflict.

Congress is gridlocked, the Senate so log-jammed by party politics that it can’t act. Nothing gets done, and the flight — progress on the issues that matter most to Americans — is indefinitely delayed.

We are all passengers on this flight, and we all want the same thing: to get the flight into the air, so to speak. We can likely even agree that the biggest political problem in this country is that the legislative branch is held hostage by a stalled-out Senate. Where we seem to divide, between those who are standing up and those who are shrinking into their seats, is over the issue of whether this election can actually make a difference.

Those passengers shrinking into their seats are the Americans — a staggering 50% in 2018 — who don’t vote in midterm elections. They have many different backgrounds, ranging from libertarians betrayed by conservatives who legislate “morality” to progressives sidelined by liberals in bed with corporate interests. And they have many reasons for not voting, but key among them is a sense that neither the Republicans nor the Democrats speak for them.

Utah is uniquely positioned in this midterm election to do something profound to address this partisan gridlock. We have a truly independent candidate, Evan McMullin, who can and does speak to the issues that matter most to Utahns.

The way forward is a third way: not the traditional right or left of the political divide, but rather a way that resolves the altercation and gets the flight back on schedule. Evan McMullin has common-sense proposals directed at precisely what matters to Utahns. And as an independent, he listens to people and speaks with knowledge and integrity. The coalition he is forming has the potential to get everyone out of their seats, standing up, paying attention.

We need more voters to turn out in this election, and we need them to support the candidate that will get the country back on track.

Stephanie Thompson Lundeen

Stephanie Thompson Lundeen, Ph.D., Sandy, is a professional writer and editor working on a biography of former Utah governor Simon Bamberger.