Ladd Johnson: Legislature should focus on Utah issues, not the national ‘Agenda’

Lawmakers should not act as if the voters want partisan division.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) House Majority Leader Mike Schultz, right, R-Hooper, and Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, share a laugh on the first day of the Legislative session, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023.

It was a great honor to run for the Utah House of Representatives last fall as the United Utah Party candidate in District 46, which covers Draper and Bluffdale. For me, the most enjoyable part about campaigning was the hundreds of one-on-one conversations I had with people in my community while knocking thousands of doors in my district.

One of the most striking lessons I learned from many of those doorstep conversations was that people from all political viewpoints, from right to center to left, were tired of politicians mindlessly following the “Agenda.”

In our current divisive political environment, both Republicans and Democrats often take more delight in blocking the other’s wishes than in implementing their own, and often criticize and disparage the other side’s policies, positions and politicians without bothering to explain and defend their own.

This tendency leads to national party leaders on both sides trumpeting a party “Agenda” that is full of inflammatory and divisive issues, which they then promote as the most important issues facing the country.

Sadly, both parties frequently ignore the more practical issues that could benefit a large percentage of our population because these practical issues require common sense compromises and don’t “fire up the base.”

With divisive “Agendas” in place, the most pressing local issues often get ignored. Consider this: If a politician runs for office as a Republican (or Democrat) and gets elected, the newly elected politician, surrounded by the echo chamber of his most partisan supporters, seems easily susceptible to making the critical mistake of assuming that, “Because I ran as a Republican (or Democrat), and everyone who voted for me must be aware of the ‘Agenda,’ then my constituents must be electing me with the mandate of going ‘all in’ to follow the ‘Agenda’ and maybe even push the ‘Agenda’ to new extremes.”

In my experience campaigning, I found that most people want exactly the opposite.

I often asked people how they felt about the current political environment. This question frequently elicited eye-rolls and groans. I followed up by asking, “Would you like to see more cooperation and kindness in politics?” The near universal response to this question, regardless of party affiliation, was a resounding “Yes!”

Our Utah Republican legislative supermajority would do well this session to not get caught up in following the divisive issues of the national “Agenda” and to instead focus on more common-sense Utah issues, such as a strong economy, supporting our underfunded public education, managing the drought and Great Salt Lake crisis, helping with exorbitant housing costs and inflation, etc. I believe this is what a vast majority of Utahns (including a vast majority of Utah Republicans) would want our legislators to do.

Ladd Johnson | United Utah Party

Ladd Johnson is the Salt Lake County Chair of the United Utah Party and was that party’s candidate for the Utah House of Representatives District 46 in 2022.