The new year looks great for Utah … and dismal for Washington  

Utah Gov.-elect Spencer Cox announces details of his transition plan during a press conference in the Gold Room at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020. | Steve Griffin, Deseret News

Both our state and national governments will welcome new executive leaders in January.

Our country soon enters a post-Trump era with a new president and a closely divided Congress, while still struggling with a worldwide pandemic. Also, Utah has a new executive branch, starting Monday. That’s a lot to discuss.

Utah has supported President Donald Trump, although sometimes reluctantly. For better or worse, he has dominated politics in this country for four years. Will he continue to be a major factor in Utah and nationally, or gracefully fade away?

Pignanelli: “America’s greatness is neither defined nor created by any president. It is the result of actions by the American people” — Alan Fisher

It is revealing that our first column for this year — in an almost entirely digital newspaper — coincides with the commencement of a new political era. (We are more lucky than smart.)

100 years ago, millions of Americans succumbed to the raging and often lethal flu pandemic, while suffering through World War I. Many historians and sociologists believe what followed, “The Roaring 20s,” was a direct result of such challenges. That decade witnessed incredible economic achievement mirrored by advances in culture, education and technology (i.e. automobile, aviation, cinema, radio, etc.). Numerous cultural barriers were smashed in providing opportunities for women and minorities.

History does not repeat, but it does rhyme. So, the 2020s will experience major changes in how we work, live, recreate … and politic. Further, America continues to endure major political realignments. (Utah will play a role in these transformations.) If Trump and his followers understand this dynamic in their messaging and policies, they will remain a relevant force.

Of course, this exciting future will also dare the survival instincts of your columnists (aka “Those Dinosaurs”).

Webb: With vaccines reaching millions of people in the new year’s first quarter, I’m hopeful 2021 will be a terrific bounce-back year. However, if it is a great year, it will be despite the antics in Washington, not because of them.

The last weeks of Trump have been terribly embarrassing for those of us who have defended him over the years. Rather than go gracefully, he has thrown monkey wrenches into the gears of government, made outlandish demands, and acted like a child throwing a tantrum. He is soiling his own legacy.

Even after Joe Biden takes office, Trump isn’t likely to go away. If he would settle for a role as a senior statesman and encourage his loyal base to support next-generation Republican leaders, he could be a big asset for the party. Unfortunately, Trump is just as likely to be a big liability, sabotaging Republican chances to take control of Congress in 2022 and win the presidency in 2024.

Republicans can’t win with Trump dominating the party. But they also can’t win without his base.

With a new governor and a forward-looking Legislature, is Utah well-positioned for economic and social progress in 2021, despite what happens in Washington?

Pignanelli: Utah’s hard-working citizens and leaders deserve enormous credit for phenomenal growth in the last 20 years establishing a strong foundation. However, what worked in the past two decades will be increasingly nominalized in future decades of the 21st century. Gov. Spencer Cox, legislative leaders and the business community must embrace the coming transformations, be willing to make tough decisions and pivot while adapting to challenging but prosperous opportunities.

In other words, if Utahns behave as they normally do, our state is on track to be a global phenomenon.

Webb: Utah can provide a dramatic contrast to the insanity in Washington. We can show the nation the value of limited government, reasonable taxes, sensible regulation and a spirit of collaboration. We can demonstrate how government is supposed to work, with elected officials actually balancing budgets, solving problems and governing in a responsible, bipartisan way. Utah can flourish, even as Washington is mired in turmoil.

Gov. Gary Herbert deserves appreciation and praise for more than 11 years of good governance. He has served the state well through good times and bad. Congratulations to him for a remarkable tenure as governor.

In the new year, will we see progress in dealing with the nation’s major problems, or will Washington be tied up in gridlock and dysfunction?

Pignanelli: The pandemic reaffirmed the unique American fundamental that national solutions work well for massive endeavors such as defense, monetary supply, foreign policy, etc. State and local governments are better at resolving the concerns that require an individualistic sensitivity (health care, environmental disasters, law enforcement, expanding commerce, etc.).

National politicians will frequently veer outside this lane, thereby encountering the current massive political turbulence. Dysfunction results. Some things never change.

Webb: President-elect Biden is promising healing and compromise. Sorry to be cynical, but don’t count on it. Each side will be looking for political advantage, always with an eye on the next election. In Congress and the presidency, reelection is, unfortunately, more important than solving the nation’s problems. Compromise means: “You give in to me.”

Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Email: [email protected] Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser who served as a Democrat in the Utah state Legislature. Email: [email protected]

Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb



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