Facebook Twitter

Why Utah Gov. Spencer Cox says politics has turned into a religion

Cox also mentioned “some disappointment” in how some Utah Latter-day Saints reacted to COVID-19 safety measures

SHARE Why Utah Gov. Spencer Cox says politics has turned into a religion
COVID_Brief_0225_fk_11.jpg

Gov. Spencer Cox speaks a COVID-19 briefing at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. On a recent podcast interview with Daily Beast columnist Matt Lewis, Cox decried the polarization in American politics and the current state of the Republican Party.

Francisco Kjolseth

On a recent podcast interview with Daily Beast columnist Matt Lewis, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox decried the polarization in American politics and the current state of the Republican Party.

“There hasn’t been very much interesting policy work going on, on the right,” Cox said. “It seems we’ve just defined ourselves in opposition to whatever it is the left is doing. We’ve lost whatever moral high ground we had.”

Much of the problem, Cox explained, is Americans’ willingness to allow politics to take the form of religion, sports and entertainment. Increasing tribalism has turned Americans “from a religious people who engaged in politics,” to politics taking the place of religion.

“When it becomes religion to you, then anybody who disagrees is a heretic and evil,” Cox said. “It becomes this life-or-death, eternal struggle, and when our team loses, it’s even worse. It’s not just, ‘We’ll get them next year.‘ It’s, ‘No, this has eternal consequences.’”

When asked about Utah’s religious communities and the state’s response to COVID-19, Cox mentioned “some disappointment” in how Latter-day Saints reacted to safety measures.

“If I’m being candid, there’s probably been some disappointment, even amongst church leaders — and in fact, they’ve told me that specifically — that they’ve been disappointed in some of the response that has come. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints required masks before it was mandated by the state. There was a tremendous amount of pushback for that.

“And look, this is a tough one,” he continued. “I hate to judge anybody or any group or any religion by the way they respond to something that happens once every 100 years. Global pandemics tend to bring out the worst in us, and it’s been a trying time. I don’t hold that against anyone.”

Cox also discussed HR1, the voting rights bill introduced by House Democrats in Washington, and explained Utah’s prowess in utilizing vote by mail. He detailed the safeguards Utah has implemented, like manual signature verification and vigilance in updating voting records, and noted that vote by mail should not be a partisan issue.

“I don’t think vote by mail skews one way or another,” he said. “Although it is skewing now, and the reason it’s skewing now is because Republicans have undermined Republicans’ faith in vote by mail. This is why we lost Georgia. It’s so dumb. We’ve done this to ourselves.”

While Cox does support increased vote by mail, he noted that other parts of HR1 are problematic. “This is a terrible, terrible bill and has all kinds of problems,” he said. “We should never, ever, ever support the federalizing of state elections. By the way, that’s unconstitutional. Every state should be working on this themselves.”

Lewis closed the interview by praising Cox, calling him “a super cool, hip politician.”

“I have to say, I’ve interviewed a lot of politicians for this podcast,” Lewis said. “They tend to not be great guests, in terms of being forthcoming. But that has not been the case here. It’s been a pleasure.”

Cox’s full interview with Matt Lewis can be found here.