Letter: With authoritarian tendencies evident, where is Utah — and our republic — headed?

FILE - In this Aug. 1, 2015, file photo, Confederate flag supporters climb Stone Mountain to protest what they believe is an attack on their Southern heritage during a rally at Stone Mountain Park in Stone Mountain, Ga. (AP Photo/John Amis, File)

In “How Civil Wars Start,” Barbara F. Walter identifies the two biggest risk factors for civil war as: (1) the devolution of institutions into semi-democracy, and (2) the emergence of identity-based factions such as Christian nationalism.

In Utah, we already live in a dominant-party system. For decades, our politics have been controlled by a veto-proof, Republican supermajority. We have no real check against the Legislature within the executive. We have a small handful of Democrat representatives, but they are effectively powerless unless their ideas appeal to the dominant party — a party that, recently, tried to stymie the referendum for an independent redistricting commission. Once the commission was created, what did the ruling class do? Ignore it.

In 2024, our Legislature wrote a law allowing a minority of schools to decide for all schools what books are objectionable. Our Legislature is blocking public access to some officials’ calendars. They set aside money to pay for greater online privacy for themselves while not addressing the information security dangers for all citizens. With a new law, the GOP has taken a step toward state control of the IPP (despite, in the same session, passing a resolution that condemns socialism).

That I agree with some of the Legislature’s moves (for instance, declaring NDAs void in cases of sexual harassment), does not mean that I don’t see an anocratic trend. They tried and failed to propose a constitutional amendment for raising the threshold for some citizen ballot initiatives to 60%. If such an amendment passes one day, expect tax-raising citizen initiatives to never win again. (See ProPublica’s reporting on what has happened to Idaho schools because of a 60% threshold requirement for bonds.)

To engage realistically with Utah politics, one must acknowledge that our republic is sliding into anocracy

Matthew Ivan Bennett, Midvale

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