Latest data reveal that Utah is the fastest growing state with the fastest job growth. Utah has ranked first place in economic outlook all 13 years for which the Rich States, Poor States economic study has been published. A recent report by 24/7WallSt ranked Utah’s economy as the best of any state before COVID-19 and since. The study reported Utah GDP growth 2nd highest, employment growth the highest, June 2020 unemployment rate 2nd lowest and poverty rate 4th lowest.
Why does Utah do so well?
In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, no one could have predicted that domestic terrorism would capture the headlines 19 years later. While the 9-11 attacks from external forces brought the country together in bi-partisan unity, the current domestic strife is fueled by political polarization. Consequently, the way to resolve the current civil and racial unrest, proliferation of conspiracy theories and subsequent violence, and shootings is unclear. It seems to be getting worse before it will get better and no one knows what will happen in response to the results of the presidential election.
Utah has largely avoided political polarization regardless of party differences because legislators and other elected officials tend to operate in a culture of civility: seeking common ground rather than focusing on discord. Even though Democrats comprise less than a quarter of the Utah House and Senate, the minority party has worked with the Republican super majority to make certain that Democrat legislators, rather than being marginalized, are actually over-represented on the two most powerful legislative committees: Executive Appropriations and Legislative Management. Two-thirds of Senate Democrats are voting members of these committees while only 20% of Senate Republican legislators are given that privilege. Democrats in the House of Representatives are also disproportionately represented on these committees. Magnifying Democrat voices has the effect of reducing one-party rule.
Democrat legislators, although in the minority, have observed that their bills are given equal opportunity for drafting and debate and if they are killed, they are not defeated simply because of the sponsor’s political party. In fact, in a recent General Session of the Utah Legislature, Democrat Senator Karen Mayne passed more bills than any other legislator.
While injustices are a major contributor to the current violence across the nation, Utah policymakers have worked together to find solutions. Utah Democrats and Republicans collaborated in crafting legislation protecting persons from discrimination in employment and housing on the basis of religion, or sexual orientation and gender identity.
We are one of the first and only states to pass the Dream Act to ensure students who play by the rules and graduate from Utah high schools, even though they were brought here as young children by undocumented parents, can attend college by paying in-state tuition. Utah also provides driving privilege cards to ensure undocumented workers have car insurance coverage.
Bi-partisan efforts are responsible for Utah’s significant criminal justice reforms. Solving intergenerational poverty is an ongoing effort that brings advocates from both political parties.
Utah policymakers’ cooperative spirit has produced exemplary economic and social policies which enable families and individuals to prosper. If the United States is ever to overcome social injustice and turmoil it will only happen by coming together, not through continued polarization. Anger, outrage, resentment, and a sense of moral superiority leads to ever worse results. This effort must be approached through good-faith discussion, in a spirit of humility.
The divisiveness so common in Washington and across the country is fomented on the right by outrageous and unfounded conspiracy theories of Q-Anon and others on the extreme right and on the left by extreme factions of Cancel Culture and Wokeness.
Utah Republicans must overwhelmingly reject the far-right radical agenda of Q-Anon and other conspiracy theory hoaxes which have motivated irrational and illegal actions of vigilante justice by agitated persons stirred up by false narratives.
Utah Democrats must overwhelmingly reject the far-left’s radical calls for defunding police, eliminating the nuclear family, taxing the rich, and removing references to God in such things as the Pledge of Allegiance.
In this November’s general election it is imperative that Utah send to Washington persons who represent Utah’s collective values of collaboration and willingness to work for the common good through the hard work of finding common ground.
Do you know if the candidates for both state and federal offices on your ballot subscribe to either of these damaging polar extremes? Utah voters owe it to the future of this Republic, their children, and themselves to know before they vote.
Let’s ensure that the constructive collaboration in Utah continues and let’s be certain that Utah voters elect to Congress persons who will work for common ground and reject the polarization that is pandemic in the U.S.