I’ve been watching and participating in politics since Calvin Rampton was governor. After Rampton, our governors have been Scott Matheson, Norm Bangerter, Mike Leavitt, Olene Walker, Jon Huntsman Jr., and now Gary Herbert.
Of all those governors, almost any way you want to measure it, Herbert is the most conservative.
Similarly, Orrin Hatch was the most conservative Utah U.S. senator in many decades until Sen. Mike Lee came along.
Which raises an interesting question. Will Herbert and Hatch get booed by delegates when they speak at the GOP state convention this Saturday?
They probably will. And the booing will be more of a commentary on the convention delegates than it will be on Herbert or Hatch.
Mainstream Republicans routinely get booed at the state convention. Mike Leavitt did. Orrin Hatch did. In fact, if you don’t get booed at the GOP state convention you ought to be ashamed of yourself. It means you’re pandering to the far right.
Top Republicans in Utah ought to make a choice. Are they with mainstream Utahns and business leaders, the people who have made Utah what it is? Or are they with the angry, unreasonable, far-right fringe of the Republican Party. It’s tough to have it both ways.
It’s important to mention that not all delegates fit the angry, right-wing description. I know many mainstream Republican delegates who are not rigid ideologues, who participate in politics to encourage practical solutions to state and national problems. I’ve been a state and county delegate myself many times.
But there is unfortunately a majority of the some 4,000 delegates whose views and priorities don’t comport with the 600,000 Republicans who they are supposed to represent. A much-noted example is that in 2016, convention delegates gave Herbert 44 percent of the vote. Primary election Republican voters gave him 72 percent.
In conservative Utah County, Herbert enjoys a whopping 87 percent approval rating among Republicans. You can’t do better than that.
So if Herbert and Hatch get booed at the convention, it won’t be because they are not conservative enough. It will be more evidence that delegates are out-of-touch with the people they represent.
It is unfortunate that the Republican Party keeps shrinking the size of the tent instead of enlarging it. Instead of encouraging mainstream and moderate Utahns to vote Republican and have a voice in the party, they instead want to consolidate power in the delegates and Central Committee, excluding general Republicans from key decisions – like the selection of party nominees.
The Utah GOP faces serious fundraising challenges. But it would be foolish for mainstream Republicans and business leaders to contribute to the party while it is becoming more exclusionary and less welcoming.