A privilege because it’s always nice to be pursued; a misfortune because it further justifies the near-outcast status she has within her own party.
“No one can choose my religion or my party for me,” huffs Allen, a Republican legislator from Bountiful. Allen has long been part of the dwindling Republican moderate caucus and maintains that the state’s near-unique delegate system (Utah is one of two) turns out ultra-conservative candidates who aren’t representative of the state as a whole.
Go tell it to GrassRoots, a conservative watchdog group that’s been around since the early ’90s.
Don Guymon, who coincidentally ran against Allen for her legislative seat, now leads GrassRoots. In 2000, he forced her into a primary but lost pretty miserably. And while Guymon quietly smirks at the thought of Allen turning Democrat, he can point to the GrassRoots report card for some solace.
The report card rates legislators based on their voting records on pet conservative issues. GrassRoots gave Allen a 45 percent score this year and 35 percent for lifetime. But Allen is small fish for GrassRoots. Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. received only a 38 percent rating, not unlike former Gov. Mike Leavitt, who wasn’t one of the group’s favorites, either, and rated a woeful 13 percent in 1999.
Democrats almost always flunk. Republicans win. This year, Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, was out front, followed by Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Lehi, and Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper. They were treated to an awards luncheon. Another winner, Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, couldn’t make the lunch because she was on the Hill looking to eviscerate the state’s International Baccalaureate programs. But you can read about the winners at UtahGrassRoots.org.
“A lot of our focus is on education and gun rights,” Guymon says. “We try to be a group that takes all different constituencies of conservative groups together.”
“GrassRoots is committed to the principles of limited government, the state and U.S. constitutions, representative government, participatory democracy, a free-market economy, separation of powers, and family,” its Website notes.
Uh, “family?” While not exactly a new concept, “family” has taken on a peculiar and politically charged aura among those on the Christian Right.
“What you’re picking up on here is the classic definition of conservative, where they really want things to be the way they are or whatever they were in the good ol’ days—and they are working to try to restore that,” says Matthew Burbank, associate professor of political science at the University of Utah.
While there’s pretty widespread agreement among Americans on the foundational principles, the principle of family is a relatively recent phenomenon. Recent in the American sense. As in the Ozzie & Harriet and Leave It to Beaver sense.
“This is reflecting not so much that this is the proper role of government but a social conservative view, which is a product of 1970s,” Burbank says. And it’s a reaction to America in the ’60s, which mainstreamed rebellion and free love.
Raising the flag to family may have another motivation. “The Japanese version, known as the ‘family-system principle,’ maintained that the nation is like a family: It is strong only when the people obey their leaders in the same way children obey their parents,” says the Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
GrassRoots members don’t trust government, but they do trust in God because that’s what it says on the dollar bill. Or something.
“We believe our nation was founded on the belief in God, although some people want to argue that now,” Guymon says. “But I believe God played a role in the founding of the nation.” After all, he says, John Adams, now of HBO miniseries fame, talked about the Constitution being written by moral people. In Guymon’s world, morality easily equates with godliness.
“If we had people who truly believed in morality, we wouldn’t have a lot of discussion about abortion; if people didn’t steal, we wouldn’t have a lot of theft,” Guymon says. It’s that simple.
At a GrassRoots’ recent and rare get-together, former Utah state Sen. Bill Wright warned of liberal creep—the “education of indoctrination”—in which the media peddle “socialism and programs. We have been so dumbed-down, so indoctrinated with all this information we’re in a haze; we can’t see through it. We must find out for ourselves.”
The truth, apparently, is somewhere between UtahGrassRoots.org and God. But you didn’t read it here.