Utah could use better fight

By By Tom Nelson and By Tom Nelson

By Tom Nelson

There are some phrases that will never be uttered within Utah’s borders: “John Stockton and Karl Malone defeat Michael Jordan and the Bulls to win the NBA title” or, “In a stunning reversal, Utah adopts the most relaxed liquor laws in the nation” or “It was a real nail biter, but Utah’s (Republicans/Democrats) squeaked it out in a highly contested presidential election.”

While I’m still sore over the MJ push-off of nearly 10 years ago and am still bothered by beer with the potency of pool water, it’s the last phrase that has me thinking the most right now. There’s an elephant in our state and it has taken all the life out of our election process.

We are not a red state. We are the red state. Hothouse rose red. Massive octagonal stop sign red.

In fact, ours was one of the reddest states in the last presidential election, with nearly three votes for George Bush to every one for John Kerry. We are a state that last voted for a Democrat for president in 1964, and gave more votes to Ross Perot in 1992 than Bill Clinton. At the end of a presidential election, most states have political party pie charts that are relatively split down the middle8212;roughly half red, half blue. Ours is a big crimson Pacman character. The presidential election in Utah has become something of a formality.

I strictly adhere to the belief that if you don’t vote, you don’t have a voice, but I’m getting a bit depressed. Utah’s presidential voting cannot be equated to David and Goliath, because in that metaphor, David actually wins (or has an outside shot).

No, our presidential “contest” is more like Muhammad Ali circa 1964 versus Screech from “Saved by the Bell.” No questions on the outcome.

Individual political ideology is irrelevant. Republicans: Wouldn’t it be more fulfilling to have a brutal, hard-fought win, rather than an all-out no-holds-barred beat-down on those poor Utah liberals? And Democrats: Aren’t you tired of feeling like Angola versus the 1992 Dream Team?

I get jealous when I think of states such as Iowa, which last year voted 49.9 percent Republican to 49.23 percent Democrat. Or New Mexico, which in the 2004 election was separated by 6,000 votes! There are extended families of 6,000 in Utah, and you can guess how they might vote.

Think BYU-Utah. It’s a Holy War because there are stakes. It’s fun because your team has the capacity to win or to lose. The thrill of a close victory is exhilarating, but the agony of a heartbreaking defeat strengthens one’s resolve and adds to the drama of the next matchup. Competition is what makes it exciting. Voting for the president in Utah is as exciting as the Bonneville Salt Flats minus the cars. I offer no solution and see no hope at the end of the tunnel.

Like it or not, for better or worse, Utah is what it is. Five set-in-stone electoral votes is the price we pay for our magnificent scenery, clean and safe cities and world-class fry sauce.

I can’t help but dream of a more exciting scenario. Just think of the exhausted, bleary-eyed political pundits, ties undone, screaming frantically on our screens: “In a nail-biter, Utah’s deciding five electoral votes go to…”

[email protected]

Editor’s Note8212;Tom Nelson is a U student reporting from Washington, D.C., through the Hinckley Institute of Politics and Shantou University.

Tom Nelson