SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Gov. Spencer J. Cox addressed Utahns today during his monthly press conference speaking boldly on his concerns about the state of government today.
Amid concerns about affordable housing and media coverage of public figures being investigated for crimes, Gov. Cox gave an overarching thought on the concerning condition of the government as a whole.
After responding to a question about security concerns for political figures one reporter asked the governor, “Do you think we are in a declining democracy?” To which Cox replied bluntly, “I do, yeah, I do and it scares the hell out of me and it should everybody else, and again I think it is a wake-up call to all of us.”
Cox shared strong feelings about everyone’s responsibility to mitigate problems with the government, saying we all have a role to play. “Political leaders are really good at using fear to divide us I’m hoping today to use a little bit of fear to unite us,” he said.
He said there are few people who think the government is functioning very well and he addressed the practice of attacking one another on media platforms, saying it’s a self-reflective process for all Americans. “I don’t expect politicians are going to solve this for us, but politicians are a reflection of all of us and we all need to do better, I include myself in that,” he said.
Cox reiterated his appreciation for Senator Mitt Romney’s decision to not run for office again and said he respected and shared the senator’s reasons for not running for another term. He went on to say he felt a lot of politicians stay in politics too long.
“These jobs were never meant to be lifelong callings or careers. Too many people think the country can’t survive without them,” Gov. Cox related. “We have two candidates running for president that I wish would follow [Sen. Romney’s] example. Hopefully, we’ll get some new choices there as well.”
Cox went on to admit he had no problem endorsing Brad Wilson in a run for Romney’s seat. He said he felt Wilson would make a great senator and, in his opinion, had been the best Speaker of the House Utah had ever had.
Cox did address the impending government shutdown saying the state had made the decision to keep the national parks in Utah open and the legislature felt they could cover the costs with existing funds and not have to hold a special session to seek more funding. He did however express his frustration in the federal government.
“I just want to be clear about this… This is stupid,” he said. “This is the one thing they are supposed to do, like pass a budget, guys. What’s it been ten years, more than that since they’ve actually done the budgeting process the way it was envisioned to be?”
He said it “is deeply troubling” that state government leaders have to feel as though it is their responsibility “to do the one thing that Congress is supposed to do.”
“It should be maddening to Americans everywhere,” Cox said.
He then addressed political extremes, saying while the number of extremist Republicans and Democrats is very low, they receive the most attention.
“What we find out is that actually Republicans and Democrats are not that far apart on most major issues. In fact, the latest data that we got last week from Dartmouth shows that about 8% of Republicans on one extreme, and about 6% of Democrats that are on the other extreme. The problem is, that those are the people that get all of the attention,” he said.
He says this skews the way people perceive members of the other party. “It turns out when you actually ask the question, “What do you believe?” we are not that far apart. But if we think we’re far apart, it’s really, really dangerous.”
Governor Cox said that the processes and rules set in place by our country’s founders can help curve this tendency when closely followed.
He said this was the reason he sent a letter to the State Legislature last year cautioning against behaviors that strayed from the rules and institutions, such as slipping items they want into bills to get them passed and not holding public hearings. He said measures such as these could help depolarize the political environment today.
“I think it’s more important now than ever to stay true to those rules and to stay true to those democratic institutions,” he said.
To watch the full monthly news conference, click here.