The Better UTAH Beat airs Tuesday afternoons on KVNU’s For the People. Podcasts of previous episodes are available here.
Senator Ted Cruz and his sidekick Mike Lee have done it: they’ve shut down the government. But Utahns, despite our state’s conservative leanings, aren’t having anything to do with it.
A poll in yesterday’s Deseret News showed that 56% of Utahns oppose using the government shutdown as a tactic for repealing the Affordable Care Act. As the shutdown gets rolled into the much more serious–and potentially much more devastating–fight over raising the debt limit, one could expect Utahns to get even antsier.
Kirk Jowers, head of the University of Utah’s Hinckley Center for Politics, described this attitude best when speaking to a Deseret News reporter: “Utahns are conservative but pragmatic. Utahns expect effectiveness and efficiency and results out of their government, not ideological tantrums.”
That pragmatism–coupled with an unwillingness to point fingers–might explain why Utahns are more likely to blame congress as a whole, than either political party. But even normally cagey Utahns are putting more of the blame on Republicans than Democrats. According to the Deseret News Poll, some 6% of Utahns blame Democrats in congress, while 21 percent blame Republicans.
It is clear that our elected officials–and, unfortunately for Utah, that’s ALL of our elected leaders–don’t care about the people directly affected by their actions. That arrogance is starting to affect how voters perceive them. Mike Lee’s approval rating has dropped below 50 percent–a significant drop for a state that loves its leaders. But Lee likely thinks he’s invincible–a sure sign of the disconnect that occurs between Washington DC and Main Street.
In fact, when our elected leaders talk about those affected by the shutdown, they talk abstractly. They don’t tell the personal stories of people who are seriously affected by this shutdown, like the 66,000 statewide participants in the Women, Infant, and Children program who depend on the government for basic food and health needs.
Yes, the sun came up the day after the shutdown, most of us still had jobs to go to, schools were open, life goes on. But for those who work for the government, those that provide support around government facilities, or services like restaurants, gas stations, dry cleaners, fruit stands, and motels, and even more importantly, those that rely on the programs of the government for help through hard times, the partisan platitudes of our leaders are insulting and dangerous.
We’re not just talking about someone’s livelihood—we’re talking about their lives.
How will all this shake out when midterm elections roll around next year? Will voters even remember?
When elected officials act like children, it’s up to their constituents to act like the parent. Frankly, these guys need a time-out. And I’m not talking about a government shutdown timeout where they collect their paychecks while others suffer, they deserve a pink slip, a box for their personal items, and an escort from the building.
They say voters don’t have good memories. Well, next year when most of you are up for reelection—I promise you this—we will remember.