In November 2014, I received a call from Governor Gary Herbert’s staff inviting, and then asking, me to stand with the governor as he announced his Healthy Utah plan – the plan that opponents referred to as “Medicaid expansion.” I knew nothing about the plan at the time, was sent some briefing materials and, ultimately, agreed to stand with him largely out of friendship and respect.
Of course, as a well-known conservative voice in Utah, I was heavily criticized for so-called “endorsing” the Healthy Utah plan. Up to the point of the press conference, I had not endorsed any such thing. I attended, as I said, out of respect and friendship. But a funny thing happened while standing there alongside the governor and so many high-profile community leaders: I agreed with what the governor was proposing. It made sense. In fact, I agreed so much with what he described about the plan that I embraced it and argued for it among our conservative legislators.
Again, I took even more heat, this time evidently losing some respect and trust from colleagues nationwide. But it is what it is. I defended the plan easily and, while it was set aside, ultimately, in favor of another “expansion” plan, endorsed by the very same critics of mine, Healthy Utah set the bar for expectations.
As Governor Herbert ran for his second term, I continued to offer personal assistance. I authored a few communications to Republican delegates arguing that Governor Herbert was the real conservative and that his main opponent was just a libertarian in GOP clothing. I watched primary election night with the governor as he won by 40 points.
So, yes, I am a fan of Gary Herbert. But, even as a fan, I have to admit I have never watched one of his monthly press briefings – until this morning. The briefing seemed unexceptional and rather routine and the press seemed uncharacteristically settled and unexercised – almost as if they were on vacation and mailing it in. The governor prefaced the Q&A with a typically upbeat and magnanimous gesture to Lt. Governor Spencer Cox and then slipped comfortably into taking questions.
About halfway through the press conference, it hit me. Gary Herbert needs to run for a third term. There is nothing stopping him, except maybe the First Lady, and, for me anyway, he personifies what a conservative politician is supposed to be – conservative! I sat back and compared his governance to Russell Kirk’s ten principles of conservatism.
Does Governor Herbert believe in an enduring moral order? Check.
Does he adhere to custom, convention, and continuity? Check.
Does he believe in the principle of prescription – in other words, precedent, precept and the wisdom of the ages? Check.
Is he guided by the principle of prudence? Check times check!
Does he pay close attention to the principle of variety, meaning affection for long-standing social institutions? Check.
Is his confidence in governing restrained by the humility of man’s imperfect nature? Check.
Does he see the close link between private property and freedom? Check.
Is he a champion of volunteerism and local community solutions? Check.
Does he insulate himself from power and passion? Check.
And, does Governor Herbert look to maintain the delicate balance between permanence and change? Check.
Gary Herbert is a real conservative. Combine his beliefs with his personal skill sets and few people are his equal in public office. He is upbeat, affable, gregarious, cautious, kind, inclusive and tempered. He does not move too fast or too slow in his advocacy. His personal judgment is remarkable based on my years of experience.
So why shouldn’t he run for a third term? Yes, he is 71 years old – the same age as when Ronald Reagan was elected president. But you would never guess his age to look at him. He is physically vibrant and mentally alert. So, why not?
If you are a true conservative, you want Gary Herbert in office as long as possible.