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Davis Journal

Utah’s four types of Republicans

May 06, 2022 12:19PM ● By Bryan Gray

The national squabble between Fox News analyst Tucker Carlson and Utah Governor Spencer Cox puts a spotlight on the definition of a “Utah Republican.” Are Cox and Sen. Mitt Romney outliers in their own political party or are they bearers of a rational standard that most Utahns align with? 

The definition of the party is much like the oft-cited story of the blind men appraising an elephant.  If you touch the trunk, you think the elephant is a snake; if you touch the tusk, you figure it’s a knife; if you touch the skin, you might think it’s a canvas.

Yes, Utah is a Republican state. Even at BYU-blue LaVell Edwards Stadium, we bleed red.  But Utah Republicans do not come out of a cookie cutter.  They can be classified into political tribes.

CAUCUS REPUBLICANS – These are the firebrands, often older, cranky conservative-to-the-core men and women who crave personal liberty over compromise (except when it comes to gay rights or birth control issues) and oppose anything that smells like it came within 10 feet of a Democrat.  Most caucus Republicans see Mitt Romney as a traitor, Cox is a woke-sympathizer, and Joe Biden is the mark of the beast.  Caucus Republicans are not numerous, but they are the power at county and state conventions.

BUSINESS REPUBLICANS – This group was at one time the prime force of the party. They oppose most government regulation, want low taxes, and feel that entrepreneurs and corporations can best lead the country to prosperity.  They figure the culture war issues – abortion, gay rights, book-banning, critical race theory – are sideshows, too often getting in the way of the main event: the economy.  Business Republicans are not concerned about quibbling over a Dr. Seuss book or a transgender athlete. They are more focused on interest rates.

FAMILY TRADITION REPUBLICANS – These people aren’t actively involved in politics and don’t follow current issues. They typically vote Republican simply because their grandfather and parents voted that way, often due to the Republican opposition to abortion.  Many of them couldn’t tell you who their current congressman is and most don’t know the difference between their congressional representative and their Utah House member.

MODERATE REPUBLICANS – These men and women call themselves “Reasonable Republicans.” They are open to compromise, didn’t feel the pandemic restrictions were an infringement on their rights, and don’t fear public school teachers are destroying young minds.  They want government to “get things done” and they don’t like partisan hollering and name-calling. They often wince at Sen. Mike Lee’s comments and think Sen. Ted Cruz should be shipped to a desert island.

All of these four tribes are members of the Utah Republican Party and, in a June Primary Election, the Business and Moderate Republicans along with a portion of the Family Tradition Republicans cancel out the votes of the zealots of the Caucus Republicans.  

And that’s why Gov. Spencer Cox and Sen. Mitt Romney win elections while the Tucker Carlsons and other right-wing bores call them RINOs (Republican in Name Only).  There is no such thing as a “Utah Republican.” The party is an assembly of different views and different agendas, making the June Primary Election more important in Utah than the November General Election.