Whether it’s in the corridors of the Capitol or city hall, on main streets in many cities, in community and religious gatherings or around the kitchen table, many Utahns are discussing the same thing: extremism in politics. Your columnists have been questioned by our fellow citizens regarding this subject, and we share our thoughts.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson recently delivered a blistering missive against Utah’s Gov. Spencer Cox and U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney. The video went viral throughout the state. Some relished the hostility. Others, while concurring with Carlson’s policy analysis, were pained by the personal disparagements. Still others were appalled and offended by the attacks. Zealotry has always oozed from the right and the left, but are we entering even higher levels of extremism in the country and in Utah?

Pignanelli: “American democracy is under threat from the left and the right. Both sides are chipping away at the foundations of the Republic.” — Jonathan Rauch, Peter Wehner

Our country and state were founded on the ideals of citizens engaging in substantive arguments over policy and belief differences. Often, this caused spurious allegations against usual opponents. But the recent controversy with Cox illustrates how right- and left-wing extremists utilize personal attacks within their own ranks.

Cox is enduring harsh critiques for a response to a student’s inquiry regarding personal pronouns. He is mocked for signing the Utah Compact on Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (an important document signed by hundreds of Utahns representing all faiths and political affiliations). There are allegations “neoliberal interest groups control Cox’s brain.” (Thankfully, he is not vilified for baldness.)

Similarly, left-wing progressives are intolerant of liberals and moderates who do not conform to their extreme. These radical organizations use threats — and protests — to prevent public expression and free exchange of ideas in schools and businesses. Traditional defenders of open discourse (i.e. The New York Times and The Washington Post) are complacent to such actions. Studies reveal many Americans are self-censoring at abnormal levels to prevent character assassination.

McCarthyism schemes are purging those not deemed to be ideologically pure. This environment is an opportunity for Utahns to demonstrate how common sense can prevent extremism from debilitating our customs (especially respecting baldness).

Webb: The Carlson tirade illustrates much of what is wrong with politics today. I’m pretty darn conservative. I support traditional values, and I am frequently amused and repelled by the wokeism, identity politics and cancel culture of the far left. But whether someone agrees or disagrees with Cox on the transgender/sports issue, the nasty, personal attacks were not warranted.

Cox is one of the most decent, caring people anyone will ever meet, while holding basic conservative values and common sense.

Carlson hosts one of most popular shows on television because he knows how to enthrall his audience. He exaggerates and takes things out of context. Trouble is, if you’re a conservative and you don’t know Cox, you might believe Carlson.

Utah’s county political party conventions are delivering an unprecedented number of primary challenges, and even ousters, to longtime incumbents. Is this a sign that extremists are taking over the election process and what can be done?

Pignanelli: The delegate/convention process is a breeding ground for strident politics. The precinct caucus model is no longer reflective of 21st century lifestyles and will continue to create mischief until jettisoned.

Webb: Thank goodness for Count My Vote and SB54, which gave candidates the option to gather signatures instead of being entirely at the mercy of delegates at county and state conventions. Without it, the extremists would be in total control of the nomination process.

A number of mainstream and incumbent candidates would have been ousted at conventions, but will be on the ballot because they gathered signatures. Sadly, one long-serving mainstream conservative who will not be on the ballot is Rep. Steve Handy, who (to his regret) did not gather signatures and was defeated at convention.

Every year in the Legislature, efforts are made to weaken or eliminate the provisions of SB54. Commonsense leaders need to fiercely protect the right to gather signatures.

The way to avoid a takeover by extremists is for more people to participate in politics, allowing all party members to select party nominees. Hundreds of thousands of primary election voters choosing the final candidates will produce better results than just a handful of delegates at state and county conventions.

Eternal vigilance on this matter is necessary. Extremists are dedicated, persistent and obsessed. They will outlast normal people who enjoy life beyond politics.

Do individual citizens have an obligation to diminish extreme views in their own thoughts and actions?

Pignanelli: Living in a democracy is a privilege, not an entitlement. More is required than just paying taxes and voting. The internet is an easy and inexpensive means to determine the veracity of any statement. Therefore, every citizen should fulfill his/her responsibility to nominally investigate and develop positions on politics, science and culture. (This is a fantasy but we can always hope.)

Webb: We can all be nicer, recognize other points of view. Disagree, but don’t engage in personal attacks.

Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Email: lwebb@exoro.com. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Email: frankp@xmission.com.