In explaining why Utah politics has become totally dominated by the Republicans the Deseret Spectacle only covered one half of the story. He covers the back room machinery of the Religious Right. It would be foolish to argue that this didn’t happen, or even that it was unrelated to our current unfortunate predicament. There is another side to this tale that should be told. Ignoring this half of the story could prevent Democrats from regaining their seat at the political table in Utah.
While the maneuvering on the right has been going on since “roughly 20, 25 years ago,” there was another contributing factor which began even earlier. Fully 75 years ago we had a president, who was a Democrat and who is still highly revered for pulling us through the Great Depression. During his tenure he established many government programs which grew our government to a size and scope that had previously been unimaginable in this country. Ezra Taft Benson published The Proper Role of Government in 1968 advocating smaller government. The positions he espoused are generally highly regarded in Utah, especially after 30 years ago when our economy was doing poorly as a result of our expanded government (after the economic growth of war had run its course). This made the social environment ripe for influence by conservative movements – that’s where the explanation of the Deseret Spectacle picks up the story.
If Democrats are to hope to regain a viable voice in Utah politics they must recognize that the image of moral relativism that has been plastered on them by the Jerry Falwell’s is the most obvious deterrent to becoming relevant in Utah, but possibly not the most damaging. They must find ways to tackle issues such as preserving the environment, improving education, and economic equality among our citizens without always turning to expanded government programs.
So long as Utah Democrats remain blind on this issue they will never talk themselves back into relevancy here. In fact, while they are busy shouting that their goals are not actually immoral, the Republicans are able to maintain power even while they are fiscally so liberal that they are alienating many who can see through the cheap label that the Democrats are fighting to remove. Unfortunately for those few, the Democrats do not appear to offer a more fiscally responsible alternative.