The problem with Matheson

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Marcus Jones/ UVU Review

Marcus Jones/ UVU Review

Despite Representative Jim Matheson’s high approval ratings, there are many who have become increasingly agitated over his frequent conservative stances.

“Matheson is a DINO, a Democrat in name only,” said UVU philosophy and peace and justice studies professor Dr. Michael Minch. “As a Democrat, he votes wrong on almost every issue.”

In response to Matheson’s dithering, Tim DeChristopher (who garnered attention for bidding against oil and gas companies at a BLM auction) helped organize a grass-roots rally at the Salt Lake library last Saturday to nominate a candidate to run against him in the upcoming election.

Minch participated on a panel at the rally, which was composed of civil rights and climate experts, to interview and select a candidate they felt would best represent the progressive interests of Utah Democrats. After the interviewing process, they selected Ken Weis, a scientist who teaches at the University of Utah, to be the new progressive contender for Utah’s 2nd district.

So what’s the big problem these progressives have with Matheson? It comes down to the fact that, on many of the important issues, he votes with the Republican Party.
Matheson has not only opposed all the recent health care reform proposals, but also recently voted against climate change legislation. That he dissents from the Democratic Party on these core issues makes him almost, well, Republican.

Sure he voted for his consent on some issues such as stem cell research, but so have more Republicans in the House now as they realize that stem cell research is yielding a cure to male-pattern baldness.

The truth is that there are Republicans in the house who are more progressive than Matheson.

Aside from alienating Democrats in his district with his voting record, it doesn’t help that Matheson attributes his dissent on these issues to being more ‘level-headed’ or fiscally responsible. His Web site has even posted an article to promote his status as the seventh most conservative Democrat in congress.

This blue dog dogma hides other possible motives behind Matheson’s voting record, such as political expediency. As Minch points out, it is downright false.

“Matheson and the blue dog Democrats like to think of themselves as fiscally responsible,” Minch said. “But they’re not. If you’re fiscally responsible, then passing health care reform is the right thing to do.”

Matheson’s status as a Democrat does little if anything for Utah progressives. If he were replaced with a moderate Republican, we would see little if any difference. That’s why Weis’ slim chances in this election and the fear that he may act as a spoiler against Matheson shouldn’t stop Utah Democrats from voting for him. Indeed, a vote for Weis is more about reaffirming the power of citizenry than about the election outcome.

“For me, it’s about creating alternative models for the political process, ones that are more democratic,” said Minch. “Hopefully, it will bring a breath of fresh air into the political arena.”