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In our opinion: The DNC Convention — A Utah perspective

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton reaches toward the falling balloons at the conclusion of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Thursday, July 28, 2016.
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton reaches toward the falling balloons at the conclusion of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Thursday, July 28, 2016.
Mark J. Terrill, AP

On Tuesday, while many delegates at the Democratic National Convention were celebrating Hillary Clinton’s historic nomination as the first female candidate to head a major party ticket, a cohort of Utahns were storming out of the convention to join Bernie Sanders supporters in protest of the former Secretary of State’s nomination.

This kind of uncharacteristic dissent by Utah delegates at the Democratic National Convention—and by Utah delegates at the Republican National Convention last week—speaks to both the abnormal nature of this election season and to a kind of burgeoning Utah exceptionalism, marked by confidence in the state’s political values and dissonance when national parties move in a dissimilar direction.

So what then defines Utah exceptionalism? During the state’s DNC role call vote, Democratic Party Chairman, Peter Corroon, announced that 29 of Utah’s 37 votes were going to Senator Bernie Sanders. Additionally, in the Chairman’s brief remarks he referred to Utah as the “Beehive State” and characterized it as the “No. 1 state for volunteerism.” Bernie, Beehives, and volunteerism all speak to Utah’s communitarian idealism.

Although Utah has historically voted more conservative than even its neighbor, Arizona, collective burden sharing has long defined the state’s beehive ethos. On the one hand, early Utah pioneers displayed marked independence and self-reliance from government, living in the far reaches of the western wilderness. But, on the other hand, it was only by banding together and helping each other that they survived and thrived in an arid and at times hostile environment.

Of course, we do not feign to divine whether Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, or a third party candidate like Gary Johnson will carry the Beehive State. However, if the state’s convention delegates are any indication, voters in Utah will not feel fully aligned with either major party nominee.

Trump finished last in Utah, picking up only 14 percent of the Republican Presidential caucus vote. Clinton lost to Bernie Sanders by a landslide of nearly 60 percent. Recent internal polling from Utah Congresswoman Mia Love’s campaign has Trump in a three-way statistical tie with Clinton and Johnson. The candidates polled at 29 percent, 27 percent, and 26 percent, respectively.

On Thursday, Hillary Clinton made her case to the American people. The former Secretary of State and Senator unveiled what some might describe as a communitarian vision. Many in Utah will doubtless find her effort to promote being “stronger together” very appealing. But others will point out elements of her vision that are less than desirable.

Clinton, for example, said she would fund additional government services through taxing Wall Street, corporations and wealthy citizens. By creating a collective that’s compulsory in nature, Clinton’s proposals may fail to resonate broadly in a state that is passionate about the voluntary aspects of volunteerism. The state still seems to believe that a beehive built by compulsion usually produces less honey.