The year of 2010 brought sweeping changes to the House of Representatives. Sixty-Three hard-charging Republican’s campaigned on a message of; balanced budgets, 2nd Amendment rights, curtailing government benefits, and American sovereignty. Sixty-Three right-wing zealots (I say that with love and affection) campaigned in their districts on the topics of pro-life, government over-reach, unconstitutional bailouts, and excessive spending. And sixty-three candidates resoundingly won their races. This campaign messaging known as the Tea Party platform outperformed every other message being sent that year from politicians to the American people. Whether it was actually the messaging or the hatred of Barack Obama and his administration is up for grabs. But the one indisputable truth is, it worked, and it worked very well indeed.
Saturday night in Utah, five serious candidates and a handful of misfits took to the stage to convince delegates to vote for them. One of the candidates is a national nameplate and former Presidential nominee for the Republican Party. His name recognition rivals that of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney initially thought he could waltz into Utah and purchase the United States Senate seat being vacated by Orrin Hatch with little or no competition. So confident was Romney that his campaigning messaging for the most part was; Hi I’m Mitt Romney, remember, I’m the guy who saved your Olympic’s a decade ago.
Meanwhile; two of the leading opposing forces was and is a fellow by the name of Dr. Mike Kennedy and an Attorney from Southern Utah by the name of Larry Meyers. Strangely, Kennedy did not show up as a candidate or even announce until several weeks ago. Where Meyers had announced late last year, Kennedy announced a mere two months or so ago.
While Larry Meyers had spent the better the part of a year campaigning across the state, Kennedy barely spoke at any forums or county GOP meetings. Larry’s message was classic Tea Party. He would talk about the Constitution, returning lands within the state to state control (Utah’s largest landowner is the Federal Government), protection for the 2nd Amendment and other traditional Tea Party values. Kennedy’s message was much more moderate in nature, and he even advocated for some type of government-run health care, strange since he is a physician by trade. Neither candidate were particularly inspiring speakers, and both had traditionally bland Mormon kinds of personalities. So what was the difference?
Why and how did Dr. Mike Kennedy show up late to the ball, have a moderate message, be a bland, uninspiring speaker and walk away with a punched ticket to the primary? Kennedy did not just punch his card, he shockingly defeated Mitt Romney and came in first.
This is supposed to be a Western State with traditionally conservative values. Utah is supposed to be of all our 50-states the most religiously conservative. In fact, Utah is so conservative; you cannot even find a night-club that you just walk into, have a beer and go dancing. You have to “join a private club,” pay your dues, then you can go in and purchase a beer. Utah is a state where they make it difficult to buy sex-toys as there are hardly any adult bookstores to do so at. Nearly every town has a Mormon Temple of some sort, and of course, Salt Lake City is the home of the church headquarters. SLC is kind of like the Vatican for Mormons. Knowing this, then why did the Tea Party message go down in flames?
In all actuality, there are several reasons why the far-right message from the Conservative faction of the GOP sank faster than the Titanic did. Salt Lake City over the past ten years has had its voting dynamics change dramatically from a considerable infusion of Californians to the state. Since the Olympics and Salt Lake was put on the world stage, the city has seen unprecedented growth. The state has far fewer taxes than California, beautiful mountains much like California does, and they are in the backyard of Salt Lake City making for gorgeous views. You can purchase a lovely home in SLC for a modest price versus hyper-inflated prices in the Bay Area of Northern California. Combine all of the above with year-round outdoor activities such as snowmobiling, snow skiing, water skiing, hiking, and a low crime rate, now Salt Lake City and the State of Utah are all of a sudden very attractive places to be. However, the downside to this migration from the left-coast is that they vote left-coast.
Over the past 5-years or so, I have spoken to many, many conservative groups. Quite a few of these Tea Party and conservative groups would tell me they wanted this candidate or that candidate to run for office. My first question has always been, “is the candidate flexible” in their message to the voting public? Often times, the answer has been a resounding “NO.” This is often followed by; I have to preach my fundamental beliefs and core values. My answer has and is, then prepare to lose your race.
Here is the problem Tea Party! When preaching constitution, people assume and believe that since you’re running for the United States Congress or Senate, you will support and defend the Constitution. You’re only given 5-minutes on stage at a Lincoln Dinner, why do you want to spend it talking about something the general public automatically believes anyway? Talk about how you will fix health care or the open borders. Talk about attracting business back to our shores or talk about how you will repair our education system. These topics will win you votes because they are solutions to real problems. Don’t waste your time talking about an automatic given anyway.
If Utah is a prophecy for the voting future of America, then prepare yourselves for a more moderate Republican Party. As I have said a thousand times before, you must first win the seat before any change can happen. When will these young candidates learn?
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