If a single picture tells a thousand words, a recent experience I had could fill an entire book.
I took this picture during the Utah Democratic State Convention and posted it to Facebook. The caption said, “House ⅔ full at the Democratic Convention.” It has a timestamp that shows it was taken before the festivities got underway and delegates were filing into the hall (10:39 am).
There was no intent behind the picture other than posting a photo from the scene of a news event I was covering.
The way Democrats reacted to the photo was akin to that guy from the classic 1981 movie Scanners who had his head explode.
Democrats were outraged that I would dare to post anything that showed them in an unflattering light. I was lectured on journalistic ethics. My parentage was questioned. I even had one sitting legislator call me a “jerk.”
This photo by Rob Miller is the face Democrats want to portray to the state. Yes, this picture has more people than my photo, but the crowd was nowhere near “standing room only,” which they want people to believe they had in attendance. It’s the story they tell themselves over and over again…that they are relevant and they matter, when it’s painfully clear that they are basically an afterthought in the Utah political sphere.
The resulting freak out from my picture was telling. Maybe they should focus on the fact that Democrats are at near-historic low numbers in the legislature. Maybe they should get mad that there are no Democrats who hold a major office outside of Salt Lake County. Perhaps they should work on ending their losing streak 26 statewide elections in a row. Maybe they should focus on these things instead of losing their minds because a journalist posted a picture they didn’t like.
With very little context, many Democrats told themselves they were being picked on. It could have been meant as a compliment (it was a big hall and getting it that full before everything started is no small task). But, that’s not the default setting for Dems.
When some people tried to call me out for intentionally trying to make the party look bad, I straight up said the picture came before the opening gavel. But even that admission did not stop them from saying I had an agenda.
It’s a hard reality to face up to. Utahns aren’t buying what the Democrats are selling right now. Maybe that will change now that Peter Corroon is the new chair of the party, but even he admits it’s going to be an uphill climb.
His biggest challenge is to get the party faithful to understand that they need to change in order to win. The easy path is to convince yourself that you actually are right, and the rest of the state is going to eventually come around to your way of thinking.
Here’s where the reaction to the photo proves instructive. Instead of taking a hard look at why they’re not winning, they throw a complete hissy fit about a picture. It reminds me of a constant battle I’ve had with my kids. Often, when something happens they don’t like, they blame someone else. However, they’re teenagers – not grown adults.
There are two types of Utah Democrats – “Echo Chamber Democrats” and “Pragmatic Democrats.”
The “Echo Chamber Democrats” are in a political bubble (mostly centered in the Avenues) where the party is right and the rest of Utah is wrong…they just don’t know it yet, and eventally everybody else will figure it out and we all will live in a world where Democrats win elections again without any effort. They walk around reinforcing this belief to each other every day. That’s why when they encounter something that goes against their worldview (like my photo), they act like they just witnessed a brutal murder.
The “Pragmatic Democrats” realize the “Echo Chamber Democrats” are holding the party back and that the last few years have been an almost complete waste for them. They know they’ve dropped the ball on issues that have been traditionally strong for Democrats in Utah – like Education. They know reversing the trend in Utah is not going to happen overnight.
There’s a real opportunity here for Utah’s minority party. They can continue to put forward their happy face and pretend that what they’ve been doing will start to win elections someday. Or, they can admit that they have real problems and need to start fixing them.
They just need to stop getting so mad about what people post on Facebook.