Guest Opinion: On Unity

Last Friday, LaVarr Webb published a piece that struck me as rather curious. While I disagree with many of his conclusions, he does raise a few worthwhile points, one of which is the question of how unity is found in such a fractured nation. 

The United Utah Party works to bring together people who might have policy disagreements but who want to move forward as a state and nation. To be clear, however, the people who even can be brought together are those who are law-abiding. What happened on Wednesday was not a policy disagreement; it was a violent insurrection, and there must be accountability for it. Those who stormed the US Capitol arguably committed sedition and all appropriate charges should be brought against them. A degree of blame also belongs on the shoulders of those who aided them, who whipped them up with falsehoods about a stolen election, and who directed them to go to the Capitol. They, too, should be held accountable for their role. Likewise, those who benefited financially by fundraising with those falsehoods about the election should be held to account, even if only through political consequences. We are willing to work with those who disagree with us and to find common ground, but violence cannot be tolerated, especially when it’s being used to undermine the nation itself.

In his article, Mr. Webb painted both the United Utah Party and Senator Mitt Romney with the same brush – as “divisive.” No doubt he meant it as an insult, but I take it as a compliment to be placed alongside Mr. Romney, a Senator who has courageously taken a stand on multiple occasions, even if it meant differing with his fellow partisans. He has put country before party, and that is the foundation we need if we are to move forward as a nation. While some like Mr. Webb might feel this is impossible, any task can look impossible when we don’t know where to start, so I propose a couple of starting points.

Several political parties and some Utah municipalities have embraced ranked choice voting or RCV. While ranked choice voting has many advantages, the one most pertinent here is that it tends to make races less acrimonious. Why not make ranked choice voting the norm in all our Utah elections? As Former Governor Herbert said, “Tone matters,” and if we want to improve the tone, we need to improve the instrument.

Along those same lines, it’s not enough to “tone down the rhetoric.” We must find new voices and new perspectives that are not heavily invested in partisanship. On that fateful Wednesday, I saw many friends and family members asking, “How could this happen in America?” These are people who don’t live in a hyper-partisan bubble and who still believe in the Great American Experiment – and they are a significant portion of Utahns. Perhaps our new Governor Cox and other state leaders could step out of the inherently partisan bubble of the state Capitol by forming a commission that actively seeks more policy input from “non-political” Utahns.  

Mr. Webb is correct that going back to “normal” isn’t a viable solution because what we have accepted as normal for far too long is what led to the violence of January 6th. I hope the shocking events of that day will serve as a clarion call for the need to reach out – not “across the aisle” or to “those on the other side,” but to our fellow Utahns and Americans. What unites us is far greater and worthy of our efforts than that which divides us.

Hillary Stirling is the chair of the United Utah Party