Hillbilly Elegy, The Utah Republican Party And The Salt Lake Chamber Of Commerce

I wrote about political insiders effectively consolidating their take over of the Utah GOP. The outgoing party Chair then told conservatives and other grassroots folks they are not welcome and to get out and find another party. The GOP entrenched elites headed by Governor Gary Herbert have some fellow travelers, most prominent of which is the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce. These select groups have formed various policy front groups which they control and employ to provide a false veneer of neutral analysis to champion/justify their political goals/policies; a self-licking ice cream cone. The roll up of the GOP will certainly strengthen the local oligarchy they have formed.

They operate under the premise that what is good for business and GDP is good for everyone. They seem to believe in a one-size-fits-all silver bullet that stock values and business profits and growth equate to a healthy society. But that’s a lazy half truth that they (and many conservatives) fall for. To wit, with the power consolidation, we’ll likely see further business costs/risks being pushed onto the backs of of struggling families, onto low and middle income Utahns and onto small businesses — socializing the costs and privatizing profits. This will be done to improve the (big) business environment and to ensure the continued growth of government by broadening the tax base.

Certainly, having jobs is important to society but business success doesn’t always translate into jobs (e.g. automation and outsourcing) nor does it mean jobs are created where they’re needed (such as the rust belt and the vacating of rural Utah and especially where there is a seemingly blind focus on the Wasatch Front for government-assisted economic development measures). Nor can business success serve as a surrogate for the health of the foundational unit of society – the family and it certainly does not ensure a higher quality of life.

At the beginning of this year, Tucker Carlson gave a monologue on this issue which should be considered by everyone. I was going to quote part of his talk to capture his main point but decided against it because it is too important. It really must be considered at in full. Watch the segment or read the transcript here: Mitt Romney supports the status quo. But for everyone else, it’s infuriating.

I also just finished J.D. Vance’s book Hillbilly Elegy. I can’t recommend a better book. Just read it. It is a must for anyone who cares about their neighbors and community (and for those involved in politics/policy) or preparing for a church mission*.

Vance also took note of Carlson’s monologue (The Health Of Nations: Conservatives should heed Tucker Carlson’s advice. We shouldn’t assume that what is good for markets is good for all of us). He notes:

This raises a fundamental question with which so many of Tucker’s critics refuse to even engage: What happens when the companies that drive the market economy — and all of its benefits — don’t care about the American nation’s social fabric? What happens when, as in the case of a few massive narcotics sellers, they profit by destroying that fabric?

Surely our response can’t be: “Well, the market will take care of it.” The market is not a Platonic deity, floating in the sky and imposing goodness and prosperity from on high. It is the creation of our choices, our laws, and our democratic process. We know, for instance, that pornography has radically altered how young boys perceive their relationships with women and sex, and that the pornography industry has acquired a lot of wealth…

Again, please read the entire article (AND his book). It is true that both parties have rejected the social aspect of policy. National Republican economic elites have basically cast out and silenced social conservatives. We’re told the way to win elections is to limit ourselves to economic issues and definitely avoid anything about morality or “traditional family values”.

Meanwhile, in his book, JD Vance refers to family values with strong church and community support as part of the remedy to the situations he was faced as a youth:

…So I wasn’t surprised that Mormon Utah—with its strong church, integrated communities, and intact families—wiped the floor with Rust Belt Ohio.

When I read this, it was a source of pride. But it vanished quickly and I was chilled when I realized that I know kids and families much like JD’s in my own neighborhood and in our classrooms*. Utah is not immune. We all know someone or a family just like JD’s. It’s already here and we’re not talking about it. Nor is it helpful when local churches waver on foundational moral principles that give the stability cited by Vance to Utah and, most importantly, its families.

I hope we’ll wake to this and not continue to be lead by the nose by the Salt Lake Chamber and that we will recognize that gross economic growth does not ensure a thriving society and economy. As individuals, we don’t get absolution by blaming our oligarchs and doing nothing. We need to get ourselves together, inculcate religious values in our children, take political action, and reach out to those like JD.

*If you want to understand those near you and those you teach or will serve. Read Hillbilly Elegy. His was an Appalachian family but the experience, consequences, and ‘enduring monsters’ that JD faces transcend Appalachia and exist next door, sit in an elementary school, and can be found behind the door missionaries knock on as they proclaim Christ’s gospel. There’s plenty of swearing but it isn’t gratuitous – it’s the way they talk. Get passed it and look at the heart and lessons, and act!

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