In the Feb. 28 Standard-Examiner, an opinion piece by Rev. Neal Humphrey was published under the headline, "The demise of the Democratic Party in Utah".
Is the Utah Democratic Party in danger? Maybe, but before we get into the real reasons, I need to comment on Rev. Humphrey's article.
For beginners, I was so startled by his claim that Democrats want Mitt Romney as the Republican presidential candidate I had to re-read it several times to make sure it wasn't a typo. Only someone living in a cave could make that claim. Anyone paying the slightest attention to current events could tell you the exact opposite is the case: we Democrats are giddy at the thought of President Obama running against either Gingrich or Santorum in November.
The second part of his claim - that Democrats will attack Romney's religion as part of the effort to defeat him -- is equally ridiculous. Democrats are sometimes accused of having no core values, but let me share one with you: We hate bigotry. As an example, many Latter-day Saints wrongly think Utah Democrats fight for gay and lesbian civil rights because we approve of their conduct. That is incorrect. This issue is important to us because we remember how our ancestors were severely persecuted early in Utah's history by Republicans because of their so-called "deviant sexual behavior" (polygamy). Like Thomas Kane, we believe as long as folks are good citizens and don't bother anyone, we and the government should mind our own business.
Sure, you might see the occasional fringe blogger bring up anti-Mormon stuff, and certainly Romney's political views (especially their constantly changing nature thereof) are fair game. But you won't see attacks on Mormonism by mainstream Democrats. Bigotry of any sort is against our core values. It's about as likely as Romney calling for a tax increase on his Wall Street buddies.
So, back to the title of Humphrey's piece: Is the Utah Democratic Party in danger? Yes; because of neglect by our citizens.
You have heard this from me before, but it's the time of year to repeat this truth: Running for office is hard work, it's expensive, and it's stressful. I've done it twice, so I know. Other than service in our military, it's one of the most patriotic things a citizen can do.
Given that, I have to ask: How can we ask our fellow citizens to make such sacrifices when the voters won't even give them a fair chance, just because they've got a "D" by their name?
This problem is especially frustrating as we hear our fellow Utahns justifiably indignant when our Utah Legislature muzzles the press, when they throw out a year's worth of public input and gerrymander the state behind closed doors, and continue to preside over the tragic deterioration of Utah's public schools -- and then get voted back in. It's a macabre joke among Utah Democrats that the political landscape of the state would look much different if elections were held the end of March.
Some people reading this paper will go to the voting booth this November and find many races are unopposed. Is that what we want; a government chosen by less than 1 percent of our citizens at the Republican county and state conventions? Is this the kind of country my Navy son is defending? I continue to hear our fellow citizens repeat the old saying "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely", and hear them quote Joseph Smith on the subject of unrighteous dominion. The most blatant example of those truths exists on Utah's Capitol Hill, and Utahns express their anger at the excesses every legislative session. And then they forget by November. I guess I can't blame Utah's elected leaders for having the attitude: We can do whatever we want; the voters won't care. Facts on the ground seem to bear that out.
Many of you are excited to vote for a Mormon presidential candidate. I'm okay with that. But Mitt Romney's candidacy has precisely nothing to do with how our state is governed.
I'm starting to hear from more and more of my Democratic friends: OK, if Utah doesn't care about a functioning democracy, who am I to argue? I'm sick of banging my head against the wall.
I'm trying to stay optimistic. I believe Utahns deserve a choice. But I have to ask: Do Utahns really want a choice?
Time is running out on that decision.
Olsen, who lives in Plain City, is the chaiman of the Weber County Democrats.