After looking at Utah’s lack of conservativeness, I’ve often wondered why so many mainstream conservative policies have not been successful in Utah.
Perhaps it’s because Utah does not have a state-wide conservative newspaper. With the exception of the antagonism towards The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and possibly positions on Gay Marriage, little difference is to be found between the editorial opinions of the two state’s two largest papers. Both condemn what they view as “extreme” conservatism in Utah (something I’ve shown over the past few months to simply be untrue). Moreover, while the Deseret News is supposedly the more conservative newspaper, many conservative Utah Legislators actually prefer the Salt Lake Tribune for its fairness and objectivity.
KSL News Radio has the largest radio audience in Utah, and has but one political talk program–the Doug Wright Show. Doug Wright claims to be conservative, but has long advocated against such mainstream conservative positions as partisan elections, school-choice, property rights, standing up to President Obama (e.g. Obamacare, executive Amnesty), the rule-of-law, and fairness to all immigrants and races. Wright’s favorite legislator is one of the most liberal democrats on the Hill and has long been a leading advocate for the destruction of the caucus system, a system based on our Founding Fathers concept of a Republic. He’s always given significantly more time to liberal/moderate advocates than to conservatives on the air. And, unfortunately his voice gets the most airtime.
The constant drum beat of liberalism by the media causes Utah to veer left. More importantly, the misinterpretation of what is and is not conservative (supported by liberal Republicans attacks on conservatives) results in people believing they are acting conservatively; thus, traditional conservatism is viewed as “extreme conservatism” by the general public, and therefore…undesirable.
Joseph Overton describe this phenomenon, which has become known as the Overton Window. Overton’s model explains why certain political/social proposals are successful and others are not. Using the Overton Window may be helpful in understanding why conservative proposal have not been successful in Utah. Because of the relentless bombardment by the media, relatively moderate conservative proposals are immediately labeled as not only “rightwing,” but “extreme rightwing.” Because of these assertions, the Overton Window is moved to the left and conservative proposals are outside the range of realistic possibilities.
Additionally, Utah has a culture that seems to believe being “nice” means not criticizing people at all. Comparing votes or even pointing out differences, is often perceived as negative campaigning or being mean-spirited. This was illustrated in the 2012 election cycle when groups such as FreedomWorks were discredited for merely comparing Senator Hatch’s rhetoric to his actual record. Politicians are never held accountable for inconsistencies between their campaign promises and their voting records. Politicians’ adherence to the GOP platform and voting records are simply…avoided. All politicians have to is profess to be “conservative,” and they’re never challenged. And, those who actually try to hold politicians accountable are simply branded “rightwing,” “extreme rightwing,” or “extremist.” Utahn’s don’t want to be part of a group that is ridiculed.
This tactic is effective–dishonest–but effective!
Conservatives’ great weakness has always been that we believe truths are self-evident; however, we forget such truths are only self-evident if the basic principles have been taught, or, if these self-evident truths are seen within the range of possibilities. In other words: within the Overton Window.
If Utah conservatives want win, or even be in the game here in Utah, they need to step up and “hit back.” Conservatives need to teach what traditional conservatism truly is and combat the liberal media’s stranglehold on the dissemination of information, and the perception that Utah actually acts like a conservative state.
The good news is most Utahns WANT to be conservative–they simply don’t know what conservatism actually means, or, even how to act like conservatives.
Over the next year, we must help Utahns understand that it’s not only okay to compare voting records to the platform, but it’s imperative to hold our elected leaders accountable if we want good government.
It’s not mean spirited … it’s our responsibility.
– CHRIS HERROD