LOGAN – Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox encouraged students of Utah State University’s political science department to make a difference by becoming involved and staying informed. His 50-minute discussion took place during a USU Institute of Government and Politics event on campus Wednesday afternoon.
Cox said the lack of involvement is making the political divide worse, because candidates running for election cater to those who are more vocal, which is usually the hyperpartisan. With that, compromise becomes rare and damaging and incendiary comments are made.
Like most of those in attendance, Cox was a once USU political science student. He graduated in 1998, and said during that time, politicians on different sides of issues were often kind to each when they weren’t on the floor. He said they would work through issues and come to compromises. He added that oftentimes they would go out to eat or attend other events together. He said it has changed now.
“Now that is absolutely not the case,” he said. “They don’t talk to each other. They don’t spend any time together. They genuinely don’t like each other.
“I’ve often compared Washington D.C. to a dumpster fire, but it’s not fair to dumpster fires. However bad you think it is, I think it is worse.”
But Cox has hope it could change, and he thinks millennials could play a big part in it.
“Millennials could be the most influential voting bloc in the country,” he said. “The problem is we don’t have enough of you getting involved.”
Cox issued a challenge to the students to surround themselves with people different than themselves, instead of just listening to political debate. He said by getting to know those who are different, they will come to realize those people have similar goals and values, but it is just that often the method of reaching those are different.
He cited state legislation that was passed a few years ago as an example of working together across political divides. In the same piece of legislation, additional protections were offered to both the LGBT community as well as different religious groups and faiths.
“This was at a time when states in our country and our country itself were being torn apart by these two factions,” he said. “We had leaders of all religious faiths, the LDS church, the Catholic church, Jewish and Muslim faiths coming together with leaders of the LGBT community and they were hugging and crying together and it was a cool thing. You can do that.”
Cox said the availability of many different media organizations makes it too easy for people to only follow the new source with slant they agree with, which polarizes the country even more.
“I like to read publications on the left and the right, and compare them every day,” he said. “Filter these results. Figure out what is right and what is true, don’t rely on someone else. Then find ways to get involved.”
A good way of getting involved, Cox said, is reaching out and communicating with those in office. He said many of them, especially at the state and local levels, are actually more available than most think.