GOP Convention 2011–Utah

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the 2011 Utah GOP Convention. This was an honor and a privilege.

Utah may be the most conservative state in America. The Governorship and both Senators are Republicans, as are most of their house seats.

This was one of the shorter conventions in the country. Utah has a large share of religious Mormons, so no business will be conducted on Sundays. Do not expect after-parties in the suites because the Mormon religion forbids alcohol.

Yet for those who are either afraid or ignorant of Mormon religion and culture, go to Utah. Meet these people. They are as nice as can be, and among the most tolerant, loving accepting people I have ever met.

Were there people at the convention relentlessly proselytizing their religion and refusing to leave people alone until they either converted or walked away in anger?

Yes, but enough about Ron Paul supporters.

(Actually, to be fair, even the Ron Paul supporters in Utah are more polite than in other states.)

I was brought to the convention by Sarah Nitta, who is affiliated with the Utah State GOP. She is also active with the Republican Women and the Young Republicans. In short, she is Mrs. Utah GOP.

I was brought in for the Friday Red, White and Blue Jeans Convention Kickoff Barbecue.

I wanted to bring the Mormon faith into my routine because whenever I am anywhere I want the local people to feel part of the fun. The respectful way as an outsider to do this is not to make fun of Mormons. It is to make fun of others who misunderstand them. Mormons make fun of themselves and turn inward like any other people, but outsiders should take a lighter approach.

When I met Senator Orrin Hatch, a devout Mormon, I said to him one of my jokes. “Senator, I will not blame the entire Mormon faith for Harry Reid if you don’t blame the Jews for Barbara Boxer.”

Senator Hatch is one of the most decent, kind, thoughtful men a person will ever meet. The Utah GOP saw their other Republican Senator Bob Bennett go down in a primary challenge to Mike Lee. Mr. Lee was at the convention but I did not have the ability to meet him. Senator Hatch may face a primary challenge in a state where the GOP primary usually means a general election victory. Popular Congressman Jason Chaffetz is rumored to be considering a challenge. I met Mr. Chaffetz and like him very much, but I do not get involved in primary fights. I usually tend to side with GOP incumbents rather than roll the dice. So with no disrespect to Mr. Chaffetz, I hope he stays and becomes a great Congressman because Senator Hatch is one of the best human beings in political office I have ever met.

(For those who do not know, the late Ted Kennedy credited Orrin Hatch with saving his life by getting him to quit drinking.)

As for my routine, one joke I practiced before the barbecue was “There is a difference between Utah and California. Utah has a religion and belief system centered around a man named Joseph Smith. California has a belief system and religion centered around a man named Joseph Stalin.”

People who hear the joke like it, but I confess that at the barbecue i messed up the line. I said that in Utah they “worship” Joseph Smith. So to the two or three people who expressed concern, I rehearsed the joke all day and still messed it up. Most of the crowd got what I was saying and laughed. Nevertheless, I am all about personal responsibility. I bollixed it.

One joke I forgot to tell was “In Utah many people belong to LDS, the Latter Day Saints. In California they worship a cult of BDS, Bush Derangement Syndrome (Now PDS, Palin Derangement Syndrome).

One other line I said throughout the weekend was that “The bigotry against Mitt Romney has to stop just because he belongs to a sect that is misunderstood and demonized. It is not fair to attack Romney just because he is tall with perfect hair.”

“This is why people attack the Mormons. Forget that Romney’s hair is perfect. Forget that his jaw is perfect. Forget that his wife is perfect. Any man with five children, the law of averages says that one of them has to be a screwup into drugs or something else. They’re all perfect. If anything was wrong, the media would have found it. Yet what really bothers people about the Mormons…look at Romney’s five sons. Their hair is all perfect. People just want to go up to them and muss up their hair. Can’t you Mormons have bad hair days like the rest of us?”

One interesting note was a different gentleman who happens to be Mormon, also has very good hair (not Romney good but still pretty good), but was not at the convention. Jon Huntsman was about to enter the presidential race, so it seemed strange that the former Utah Governor was not at his own state convention.

As for the people who were there, they were well received.

I had the privilege of meeting the current Governor Gary Herbert. He is nice, likable, conservative, and very well respected in his state. He has a friendly legislature, but he is also very good at working with people. He has a pleasant nature that just instantly comes across as likable. Like most of the people I met at the convention and throughout the state of Utah, he was down to Earth and genuine.

On person who lit up the convention was Grover G. Norquist. Grover has been very nice to me personally. I am Jewish and he is married to an Arab woman. Yet we both care about our other religion with fervor and passion. That other religion is supply-side economics.

Grover knows how to light up a crowd. My nickname for him is “Raid.” Like bugs, he finds taxes and kills them dead.

Unlike other states, there was less diversity among the delegates simply because the population in Utah is fairly homogeneous. This should be a non-issue since liberal lily-white states like Rhode Island and Vermont seem to get a free pass where conservative white states like Utah get attacked. The convention chair was a woman, and a very telegenic Latino Man named Mr. Reyes is running for Attorney General.

The convention lasted until late afternoon on Saturday. I had dinner Saturday evening with the Utah Young Republicans. Given that I do not drink alcohol, I fit in perfectly. They were all incredibly nice. One of them told me how he and his wife had adopted a child who happens to be black. I identified because my close friend had adopted one from Guatemala.

So for those who want to label Utah and its people, again I implore that people go there. Meet these people. They are kind, warm, friendly, loving people who just want to leave America better than they found it.

The number of people who proselytized to me about Mormonism was exactly zero. They were live and let live, the same as I am with my Judaism.

After experiencing the Utah GOP Convention, there is only one label I will stick on the people I met. It crosses all races, creeds, and social strata.

They are proud conservative Republicans.

I look forward to many return trips to Utah.


One Response to “GOP Convention 2011–Utah”

  1. Bachmann is rising to the top of the GOP ticket. I’d love to know what you think about that.


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