This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Since moving to Utah two years ago, I've heard a constant refrain that Utah politics is controlled by the Mormon Church and the Republican Party, neither of which listens to the sizable and growing minority of moderate and progressive voters in this state. The gerrymandered districts, which carefully carve up and dilute Salt Lake City's urban ethos with conservative rural voters, don't help.
So we just give up. Many don't vote because they believe it won't matter. When we ask to be heard, our representatives mock us as paid protesters and whiners instead of everyday citizens who want affordable quality health care, a transparent democracy, public lands and clean air. It's no surprise that Utah has the third lowest voter turnout in the country.
But there is hope. Utah Democrats simply need a new strategy.
It is a fact that in 100 percent of Utah congressional races in the past decade, the winner of the Republican primary won the general election. For this reason, it's sensible and indeed imperative for everyone including moderates and progressives to participate in that election. Voting in the Democratic primary, even for the best candidate in the world, is pointless. The best Democratic performance in the last three elections was a 25-point loss.
To illustrate: Jason Chaffetz won his last primary election by 35,000 votes. More than twice that many Democrats voted in his district in 2016. Do you think Chaffetz will be more or less responsive to moderate and progressive voters when we have the power to show up in greater numbers than his total margin of victory in the primary?
Most Utah voters share much common ground. A majority don't want to abolish the EPA, sell off national parks or turn a blind eye to election interference by Russian operatives. I know many Republicans and none of them disagree with me on any of these issues. The only reason our representatives ignore consensus on these issues is because their only risk of being voted out is in the primary, from the extreme right.
If we want our representatives to stop catering to the far right, we need to show up and give reasonable, responsive Republican representatives cover in their primaries.
It is for this reason that I registered as Republican and formed an organization, Primary/Out, to encourage moderate and progressive Utahns to do the same. We will participate fully, find common ground and give cover to reasonable Republican politicians who fear challenges from the extreme right. We will support candidates who agree on basic, moderate, widely cherished positions supported by conservatives and liberals alike. And most importantly, we will vote as a block in Republican primaries for those who listen to us.
Voting in the Republican primary is essential to participating in Utah politics. Let's take the Republican Party at its word that it is a "big tent" where all are viewpoints are welcome. Help moderate the only political party that holds federal office in Utah. Register as a Republican and vote in the election that matters most the Republican primary. It can be done online in 60 seconds, can be changed at any time, and does not prevent you from voting for a Democrat, Libertarian or Independent in the general election.
Republican politicians don't listen to progressives and moderates because we have no power to vote them out in the general election. We have tremendous power to vote them out in the primary. When they see their constituents registering to do so en masse, they will listen. There is hope.