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Matheson: Both Parties Should Welcome Moderates

Matheson's appearance at USU is a part of a series of forums hosted by the university's Institute of Government and Politics.

Former Utah Rep. Jim Matheson was in Logan on the campus of Utah State University Thursday speaking to students on government gridlock and political polarization. Matheson, the son of former Gov. Scott Matheson, was the sole Democratic member of the state’s congressional delegation from 2001 to 2015.

In 2013, an impasse within Congress led to a 16-day government shutdown. Matheson said that he hopes that Congress will not allow another shutdown to occur.

“Well, it’s hard to guess. I cannot believe that folks in Congress would allow that to happen again because it was a complete disaster,” Matheson said. “All it accomplished was [that] it hurt a lot of people. There was no upside it just hurt people and I’d like to think Congress—Democrat, Republican, wherever they are on various issues—would recognize that a shutdown has no upside and only has downsides in terms of hurting people.”

Matheson was the co-chair of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of moderate and conservative Democrats in the House of Representatives. While moderates have been increasingly voted out of office in recent elections, he said that pragmatists could hold the key to future electoral success.

“If you go back, starting with the 2006 election, you’ve seen a significant number of moderates in both parties leave the House of Representatives. Both Republican and Democratic moderates have diminished greatly in terms of their numbers,” he said. “Knowing that most of America is looking for something more pragmatic and reasonable tells me that there ought to be room in both parties to accommodate a more moderate and pragmatic point of view. Quite frankly, whichever party figures that out first I think is going to have great majorities in the future by doing that.”

At one time, Matheson’s district was the nation’s most Republican-leaning congressional district with a Democratic representative.