Editor’s note: Big Tent Ideas always aims to provide balancing perspectives on the hottest issues of the day. Below is a column arguing that Utah’s Republican Party has a RINO problem. A counterpoint can be found here, where former Utah Republican Party Chairman Derek Brown argues that the state has a robust record of conservative leadership, particularly Gov. Spencer Cox.
In Utah it’s sometimes hard to decide who’s the bigger traitor: Sen. Mitt Romney or Gov. Spencer Cox? Both were booed at last year’s state GOP convention, and this year neither were brave enough to even show up.
RINO doesn’t really describe the depths of their treachery, and at some point the voters here get their revenge on these turncoat Republicans. (RELATED: BROWN: Conservatives Searching For RINOs In Utah Will Come Up Empty Handed. Here’s Why)
The two elected officials – who campaigned as traditional conservatives – quickly betrayed the state’s longstanding track record of successful conservative governance. Whereas our dear, departed Orrin Hatch would reach across the aisle to accomplish a greater goal, Romney and Cox relish stabbing Utahans in the back (and sometimes the face).
Romney’s first act as senator was an attack piece on then-President Donald Trump in the once-readable Washington Post, having earlier accepted the President’s endorsement in order to win his difficult primary race. Earlier this month – on Independence Day! – Romney released a follow-up with The Atlantic where he rebuked Trump supporters under the headline “America Is In Denial.”
Apparently, it is Utah’s sad-sack senator who is in denial – or he has simply spent the last year in a cave with his hands over his ears. Two-thirds of Americans know that if Trump were still in the White House, Russia would not have invaded Ukraine, but not our Romney.
But while Romney is a joke, our Gov. Cox stands to do more damage to Utah in the long run.
Cox snuck into office on the coattails of the previous governor, lying that he’s a common man who puts rural Utah first. But he created an office of “diversity, equity, and inclusion,” fights for transgender males to destroy women’s sports, and hired the former editor of the far-left, anti-Mormon Salt Lake Tribune to be his communications director. His embarrassing “progressive” politics drew national attention a few months ago when he participated in the Marxist ritual of “sharing his pronouns.”
This is what inspired Daily Caller founder Tucker Carlson to ask “How did Utah get such awful, liberal leaders?
While everyone in the party wants Cox gone, his easily manipulated lieutenant governor, Deidre Henderson, might be worse. Henderson got in trouble recently when texts leaked that she was conspiring with an openly Communist reporter from the Tribune against two Utah housewives investigating voter fraud!
The two of them routinely attack the party’s in-state base for plaudits from our biased, in-state media.
While this infuriating, their motivations are at least understandable. They’re like background characters in the movie Mean Girls: insecure teenage girls who never get to sit with the Plastics, even though they always wear pink on Wednesdays.
Romney gets no such cover. He was given everything in life — except likeability, and in his spoiled, childish frustration he’s lashing out at the only group of people who ever liked him. Romney’s like the old Woody Allen quote about never wanting to join a club that would allow him to become a member. Romney hates us because he hates himself.
The fundamental problem with politics in Utah is that it has always, effortlessly been in favor of Republican candidates who reflect the values of the dominant culture, one which prizes niceness to a fault. People who know we’re nice are taking advantage of us to destroy our home.
What’s most aggravating is if there’s any part of the country that demonstrates the strengths of conservative leadership, it’s Utah.
Utah is consistently ranked among the best state for business — which The Economist explicitly credits to Mormon culture — with USA Today giving ultra-conservative Provo the No. 1 economy in the country. Utah is always ranked among the best states for fiscally responsibility, governance , volunteering and charitable giving. Utah is so well run that Gallup just called us “the best US state to live in” while Bloomberg reported that “Utah keeps the American dream alive.”
We should be bragging, not rolling over.
All is not lost for the Beehive State. Sen. Mike Lee, Rep. Burgess Owens and Rep. Chris Stewart are conservative champions, as are state party and Salt Lake County chairs Carson Jorgensen and Chris Null. Treasurer Marlo Oaks has risen from our state’s main bean counter to a one-man wrecking crew against the evil of ESG. Attorney General Sean Reyes fought harder for Trump than anyone else in the state and will (one hopes) be our next governor.
Both Romney and Cox are up for re-election in 2024, a race neither of them will survive, especially given the backbench of leaders who get to move up once they’re gone. Virtually everyone in the party here looks forward to when the pronouns Romney and Cox share are “was and were.”
Jared Whitley is a longtime D.C. and Utah politico and award-winning political writer, having worked in the office of Sen. Orrin Hatch, the Bush White House, and the defense industry. He has an MBA from Hult International Business School in Dubai.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.