I did not vote for Mitt Romney and I am relieved that he will not be our president. Had Romney won the election I would be mourning the loss of a good, albeit imperfect, president, while being left to wonder what might have been if he had been given more time.
I would be alarmed at the prospect of having an unprincipled technocrat leave women, gay people, immigrants, those without health insurance, the poor, and anyone affected by climate change to the mercy of an increasingly radical group of right-wing extremists. The prospect of a President Romney scared me, but as a former presidential candidate, Romney has done much for us Utahns.
The first impression many of us had of Romney was during the 2002 Olympics. This handsome, accomplished administrator assisted Salt Lake City in turning an embarrassing, scandal-ridden Winter Games into something that we are not only proud and fond of, but set us on the course toward becoming a world-class tourist destination.
Since then, our tourism and entertainment industries have significantly improved. Last summer, Romney even brought a large contingent of mega-rich and influential people to Utah, where they saw first-hand the natural beauty and luxurious accommodations we have. Perhaps they will return for non-political reasons (with their black American Express cards).
Mormons, and the state of Utah by extension, have had a reputation as being weird and cultish. The idea that Mormons were racist, backward and polygamist always seemed to creep into conversations with people I met outside Utah. Romney has spurred progress in changing the perception of Mormons and Utah. We are now more associated with Southern Evangelicals than with Warren Jeffs. Not exactly the hip cosmopolitanism I was hoping for, but thanks in part to Romney, Utah is no longer alien.
The Romney presidential campaign has also benefited us. Excited at the prospect of having one of their own in the White House, LDS faithful flooded the Republican caucuses. These mainstream voters ousted the more extreme members of their party. In addition, Romney may have indirectly demonstrated to active LDS voters that political moderation can coexist with religious devotion (even if his own moderation came and went throughout the nominating process). Perhaps the gun bills, message bills, and sex-ed bills will be minimized in the upcoming legislative session. We might even get a few more liquor licenses, although I won't hold my breath.
Thanks to Romney, Utah was introduced to political relevance. For the first time in memory a real presidential candidate actually campaigned here. It was also fun to see Utah in The New York Times so often. The local TV stations however, may have benefited the most. Romney's endorsed candidate in the 4th Congressional District got a prime speaking slot in the Republican national convention and a personal television commercial with Romney in it.
This turned another one of our usual boring elections into a multimillion-dollar nail-biter, where Utah turned some heads by nominating the first black female Republican to Congress. Thanks to Romney, we almost broke the cycle of sending the usual over-the-hill, white males to Washington.
Now we can focus on Thanksgiving. We do have a lot to be thankful for. Personally, I'm thankful to live in Utah and will be the first one to thank Mitt Romney for his contributions to the state.
Alex White is a former intern at the Utah Legislature. He majored in political science at the University of Utah.