SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, 19, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — Governor-elect Spencer Cox’s thumbs must be exhausted.
In what appeared to be an honest attempt to foster a more civil tone in Utah’s political discourse, the incoming governor wove a masterful narrative in a 14-tweet thread Saturday morning, tying his thoughts on sports, politics, fanaticism — and eating broccoli, to the last-minute action of Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, on Wednesday, designed to limit school teacher and staff bonuses to districts that have some form of in-person classes.
The 11th hour move by Wilson and GOP members of the Executive Appropriations Committee came as a surprise to committee Democrats. They claimed withholding the $1,500 and $1,000 bonuses for teachers and staffers in order to force the SLC School District to expedite its return to in-person classes, was both punitive and political — a raw power play that allowed legislators to appease their conservative bases, while simultaneously showing the soon-to-be-governor who really rules the roost on Capitol Hill.
Since the original dust up Wednesday night, Cox remained silent, at least publicly. On Saturday morning, however, Utah’s future governor revealed by way of Twitter that there was more to the equation than meets the eye, including discussions with House Speaker Wilson.
Cox’s Saturday morning tweets are as follows:
I’ve spoken often about how politics has become a religion for far too many people… but I’m equally worried that it is becoming something else: Sport. While many are concerned that sports has become too political, I’m worried that politics has become too sporty.
There are some obvious parallels between religion and sports fanaticism that can (and have) been explored by me and others elsewhere. But politics as sport has a huge entertainment value and significantly different expectations for the players (politicians) and fans (voters).
As ratings for all sports have declined, ratings and engagement in politics is skyrocketing. This new entertainment factor is very different than the way we have viewed politics (boring) in the past. Political twitter is Fire, while sports twitter is increasingly meh.
Don’t get me wrong, as someone that has been pining for more people (especially youth) to get involved, increased engagement can be good. The problem is when we forget that good politics is WORK and bad politics is SHOW. Good politics is broccoli. Bad politics is cotton candy.
Let me share a perfect example from this week. You have likely seen the controversy around a teacher stipend and SLC School District. We worked closely with the legislature on the big announcement, but before release my staff was told that leadership would likely move to withhold the stipend from SLCSD.
I have been outspoken about the need for an in-person option and have been working to get that changed. At the same time, I felt it was a mistake to use the teacher stipend as a means to that end.
Politics as sport is all about scoring easy points. A snarky tweet and a terse statement to reporters would have 1) scored points, 2) been really entertaining and 3) accomplished nothing. That was the fun, dopamine, 1000 retweet, cotton candy option. It’s what we expect now.
But here’s the thing, Speaker Brad Wilson is an incredible public servant. He isn’t a bomb thrower and is always willing to work for best outcomes. I knew he wouldn’t make this decision for sport. And so I waited until passions could die down and we could talk. And we did.
I shared my thoughts and frustrations and he shared his logic and feelings. Ultimately we came to an understanding and commitment to work to get that money to all teachers and find a way to safely open schools. That’s the broccoli. It’s boring and laborious. But there’s more.
I applaud the announcement yesterday of an agreement to open schools safely. And while the stipend was a catalyst for discussion, the biggest driver was that teachers will be vaccinated soon. But you probably don’t know how that decision happened.
Over the past few weeks we worked hard to make a change to move teachers into the first wave of vaccinations. But the catalyst for that came out of a conversation I had with … yep … Speaker Wilson and majority leadership. They care deeply about teachers and deserve credit.
Why do I share all of this? Because I was very close to doing the easy thing, but would have missed an opportunity to build relationships and work to get to the best outcome. Being patient and not assuming the worst is less fun but more productive. And it’s old-fashioned.
The truth is I’m still not good at this. LG-Elect always reminds me, “If it feels good, don’t send it.” But I’m a sports guy at heart. I’m going to make mistakes. And sometimes blasting people is the right thing—but it should always be last, not first.
So please be patient with me. But more importantly, be patient with each other. Maybe judge more on outcomes than the messy process. Let’s be quick to assume the best and slow to assume the worst. Celebrate the boring. And maybe, just maybe, eat a little more broccoli.