Why I am a Democrat in Utah

Utah Democratic Party

Shon HarrisPeople have asked me many times why I align with the Democratic Party in Utah. Anywhere else and I would be considered a moderate republican most likely. I was raised in a household where conservatism ruled. My parents were big fans of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, the usual suspects. But I ended up different. I ended up as a semi left wing adult.

Usually I make jokes. “It’s easier to get my name out there in a less crowded field” or “Everyone’s a republican! I want to be different!”

Now before I start I have many conservative and republican friends, some I count as my political mentors and counselors. So this isn’t putting the GOP and individual members on blast. This is more about why I lean the way I do.

I think that my biggest problem has always been the rigidity, and un-flexible interpretations of the Constitution of the United States. There are some things that have made sense, I can see how certain provisions are timeless, but there are others that have to apply to modern situations. Example: How do you apply the fourth amendment in the age of the internet? How do you apply article IV of The Constitution, to same sex marriage and equality? There are some of those who can’t see how these issues must apply to these modern situations.

Utah Democrat logo

I tried to do the conservative thing. I really gave it the old college try. I remember being active and informed about politics as a young child when I asked my mom why she wouldn’t vote for Michael Dukakis in 1988. My mom said “Because he doesn’t hold the same views as we should as members of the church.” My parents, who voted for Ross Perot in 1992, and would have in 1996 (When my dad predicted a land slide win for Bob Dole because people were tired of then President Bill Clinton.) But as i learned more i leaned away.

One big reason was the myth of “The Liberal Media”. Fox News, Breitbart News, Twitchy, and Glenn Beck have made their fortunes by convincing listeners that they are “Under Attack” by the this great overarching giant named  “The liberal media“. It is easier to convince someone to a call to action when they believe they are being attacked. It is easier to hit people up for money when they think you are helping them, to defeat the unknown.

Here is why:

equality same sex marriageEquality

Equality is important to me, and my family. Everyone should be treated equally. Everyone should be able to enter into a mutually acceptable contract that benefits both parties. Straight/same-sex marriages should also have the same government benefits across the board. If you want to have a religious marriage that is your right under the first amendment and the establishment clause. As someone who believes in the constitution, I would support your right to do so. But more importantly than the right/wrong debate of traditional/same-sex marriage, I see equality is about ensuring fairness for everyone. The conservatives I know have been against “legislating intent” we have legislated “intent” since the beginning of this country. If we couldn’t, we wouldn’t have laws prohibiting specific acts, or words. We wouldn’t have civil rights, we wouldn’t have prosecuted people we feared who would be “advancing” communism (Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919), Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357 (1927)) During and after the World War I and after World War II (Dennis v. United States, 341 U.S. 494 (1951)). To me ensuring that Men, Women, Children, are treated equally regardless of color, gender, sexual identity, age, religion seems to be a common sense solution. I can’t contemplate treating someone different for innate traits that someone has no control over. You may disagree, but the fact is that we are all members of the communities that we live in. So why would we want to purposely exclude someone by making it easier to discriminate against them? Federal law prohibits me from refusing housing to anyone because of these traits, why shouldn’t we see that SB 100 does the same in Utah?

smoke stacksThe Environment

The environment is important to me. I realize the importance of maximizing the use of Natural Resources. I understand that the Federal Government has a role in protecting the resources. I can understand how some people are upset with the amount of Federal Property and Lands in the west, compared to the rest of the Nation. But I think personally that is important we protect the wilderness areas of this country. I have been lucky enough to live in some of the most beautiful, isolated, desolate areas of the west. I have seen the wilderness and I enjoy it. Is there lots of scrub land that could be sold off for development? Yes. But at the same time it is important we protect these lands. That we leave some areas un-developed, and accessible by the least intruding vehicles possible. There is nothing better than spending time in the Frank Church Wilderness in Idaho, just you and Nature. Why would anyone want to ruin that?

Ronald_Reagan_televised_address_from_the_Oval_Office,_outlining_plan_for_Tax_Reduction_Legislation_July_1981Economic Development

The Republican party seems to have a “If you build it, they will come” mentality. If we can just figure out a way to make it easier for a company to do business, then all of our problems will be magically resolved. I have watched as they have made it easier for companies to off-shore their employees. I have watched as they change the tax code to the point where companies like General Electric pay in $0.00 in to the system and get millions in return, all while insulting the working class employees. Calling them welfare queens, accusing them of gaming the system all while doing everything possible to ensure there is no economic mobility between those trying to better themselves. Instead they insist that corporations be treated like people, and get the same rights, and unlimited political access. They use tax cuts for business, and industry, while requiring the workers and citizens to pay more. (More about that later). But why would I want to support those who think Corporations > People.

minimum wageFair Pay

People should be compensated fairly. Conservatives seem to think that if you pay the lowest common denominator, someone will eventually come to work because they want the money. This is true, but shouldn’t we be paying people fairly? (See my Previous Article about Minimum Wage) Yet we allow lobbyists to argue that certain groups should be paid as low as possible. Not only do we allow these special interest groups that right, but government employees are constantly berated as useless and nothing but money grubbers who don’t know how to work. Forget the fact that many government employees are usually working for less than they could make in the public sector. My other issue is that in our modern society, money = access.  In the time I have been writing my public officials asking for meetings, or contacting them regarding a peice of legislation I have always only been able to get templated form letters back. Usually they say Thanks for writing but “Sorry the Congressman doesn’t have time to meet with you” responses. But I see others who donate money who are able to get right in for a grip and grin and a 30-60 minute meeting for the issues that are important to them. Shouldn’t we as a society want to ensure people are paid fairly for services rendered? Should money = access to those who supposedly represent me?

scholar hatEducation

It has always been hard for me to understand why the Conservatives have such a problem with education. Especially higher education. I have watched as members of the conservative movement try their hardest to cut funding, and change educational traditions like professor tenure all in the name of politics. Then it occurred to me; they don’t like to be questioned. For me college has been to question the answers. Question what I have learned through out my time in different communities. Expand my understanding. But then I hear my school referred to as “liberal” and complaints about specific instructors who go against the mores of the community because they teach controversial subjects. They teach things like understanding Islam, seeing why terrorism from members of Islam is something we should understand, why creationism is an impossible theory, when science backs up the idea of evolutionary development, and why certain political systems have failed previously and will fail again. When they don’t teach what they want to believe, or think students believe, they attack it. They use money and power to cause submission to their views.

I could go on for hours about my views. But this is my response or stump speech if you will. It’s easy to see how some people might think I am just another bleeding heart liberal. But I love this country as much as the next person. I just think we can do better. So these views are my corner stones as to why I am a member of the Democratic Party of Utah.


This post, written by Shon Harris and appeared on his website http://www.shonwharris.com. It is reposted here with permission. 

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