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A Place For Centrists In The Trump Era? Modern Whigs Think So

Matt Jacobson is an EMT and coordinator of the Utah chapter of the Modern Whig Party. Jacobsen says the party is interested in centrist candidates who don't gravitate toward extremes.

As the Democratic and Republican parties drift further toward opposite ends of the political spectrum, some disaffected voters are looking for middle ground.

Matt Jacobsen is an EMT, national guardsman and coordinator for the Utah chapter of the Modern Whig Party, which is seeking official party status in the state.


He says this isn’t the same Whig party you might remember from U.S. history class that fizzled out around the mid-19th century.


“It’s a new organization, and it was first started in 2009, by a group of veterans in Afghanistan, who saw how partisan our politics are becoming in the United States today,” he says.


Third parties barely made a dent in the 2016 election cycle. But in Utah, where Independent candidate Evan McMullin gained 21 percent of the vote, Jacobsen says there’s room for more choices on the ballot.


“They [Modern Whig founders] saw it was going further and further from the center, and they wanted to create a new political party that was more inclusive, more for the common man, people who aren't these extremists," he says.


So far their effort is pretty small. About three people showed up to their monthly meeting at the Salt Lake public library this month, and they’re still looking for candidates to recruit for local elections.


Jacobsen says people who are fed-up with partisan gridlock might like a more centrist party for a change.


“It’s not that we’re actually bound to the middle, it’s more we look for pragmatic solutions to solve whatever problem we face, whether it be coming from the left or the right,” he says.


In Utah, a party needs to gain 2,000 signatures to get officials status. To stay a party, they also have to participate in the general election and gain a certain percentage of total votes cast. The last party that qualified was the ultra-conservative Independent American Party back in 2014.


Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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