Ladd Johnson: When it comes to voting, Utahns must reject the ‘either/or’ mindset

(Bob Schutz | AP) Dolly the elephant and Dottie the donkey are placed in a pen at Storytown in Lake George, New York, Aug. 24, 1972, where both are part of a circus act.

I had the honor last fall of running as a candidate of the United Utah Party for the Utah Legislature (House District 46 in Draper/Bluffdale). I enjoyed the hundreds of conversations I had with residents as I knocked doors during my campaign. In one of those conversations about my views on how we could improve government in Utah, a self-identified Republican constituent made this interesting comment to me:

“When I saw your campaign sign that said ‘People Over Party,’ I assumed that you were just a Democrat in disguise, but now that we’ve spoken I see that is not the case.”

I believe this person entered the conversation with the “either/or” mindset that there are only two possible political camps: Republicans and those opposed to Republicans. You are either with us or you must be against us.

I believe that this fear-based “either/or” mentality is a growing byproduct of the divisive language and actions we see coming from the two major political parties. The problem with this “either/or” belief is that it is simply not true. For the past 15 years, the number of voters who consider themselves independents has far exceeded the number of voters who consider themselves either Republican or Democrat. Additionally, a long running Gallup poll shows the percentage of Americans believing the two major existing political parties “do such a poor job that a third major party is needed” has been above 50% since 2012.

I thought about my doorstep conversation again a few weeks ago when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a news release that said:

“Some principles compatible with the gospel may be found in various political parties, and members should seek candidates who best embody those principles. Members should also study candidates carefully and vote for those who have demonstrated integrity, compassion, and service to others, regardless of party affiliation. Merely voting a straight ticket or voting based on ‘tradition’ without careful study of candidates and their positions on important issues is a threat to democracy and inconsistent with revealed standards (see Doctrine and Covenants 98:10).”

If right-leaning, centrist and moderate Utah voters all adopt the “either/or” belief that there are only two possible categories of candidates: Republicans or Democrats/”Democrats in disguise,” it could lead to straight ticket Republican voting.

The problem with that thinking, in my opinion, is that the “Democrat in disguise” is a myth. Disagreeing with parts of the Republican platform doesn’t make someone a Democrat any more than disagreeing with parts of the Democratic platform makes someone a Republican.

We have a large, and growing group of Utah voters who are not satisfied with the platforms of either major political party. They see the damage being done by the two major political parties and want more unity and less partisan bickering — or, in the case of Utah, less Republican steamrolling of any opinion or position that doesn’t perfectly align with their core ideology.

There are strong and principled citizens who love our state and country and who are willing to pitch-in and help but will not support extreme positions by either of the two major political parties.

I recognize, of course, that a significant number of Utah residents are not members of the LDS faith, but regardless of religious affiliation, all of Utah would be better served if Utah voters rejected the false label of “Democrats in disguise” and the “either/or” mentality that is being pushed upon us by the two major political parties. We should follow the advice in the LDS Church’s news release and carefully seek principled candidates of integrity and compassion, regardless of party affiliation.

(Ladd Johnson)

Ladd Johnson graduated from BYU with a Masters Degree in Accounting and a Law Degree. He lives with his family in the Salt Lake Valley and currently serves as the chairman of the United Utah Party.