In March 2018, I had the privilege to interview Rob Anderson for “10 questions.” Anderson is chair of the Utah Republican Party.
Kurt Manwaring: While at the Air Force Academy, you majored in aeronautical engineering with a minor in Mandarin Chinese. Could you tell us how a young man pursuing that eclectic combination ended up a Utah Republican Party chair?
Rob Anderson: My academic interest in high school and college was mathematics.
The Air Force Academy is an engineering school and there were only 6 accredited majors at the time I attended.
I was the top cadet in mathematics my freshman year and as my schooling progressed, my favorite class was computational fluid dynamics. This class combined integral and differential calculus. While most people hated calculus, I loved it. I also was given the chance to became a glider instructor.
Most weekends, I taught other cadets to fly.
Combining these two interests made Aeronautical Engineering a natural selection for me.
I minored in Chinese because the two instructors were engaging and fun, and there wasn’t much “fun” to be had at the Academy. We had a group of 6 cadets that stayed with it for the 6 semesters to minor in the language.
Kurt Manwaring: After attending the Air Force Academy, you flew F-15s in several conflicts. What are one or two lessons you learned during your time with the Air Force that influence decisions you make today?
Rob Anderson: Many people don’t realize the amount of time the Air Force dedicates to briefing and debriefing every mission.
For example, a 1 to 1.5 hour training sortie would commence with a 1.5 to 2 hour briefing beforehand, and an after flight debrief would last anywhere from 2 to 12 hours.
This taught me that preparation by knowledge was paramount.
Nothing goes as planned.
This extensive preparation and review ensured that everyone was knowledgeable and prepared for any scenario.
It is important to gather all information before you make decisions and then review how you can do better the next time. There was always room for improvement, and the goal was that there would always be a next time.
These briefings and debriefings also taught discipline, patience and humility. Nothing went unnoticed, and everything was discussed.
Kurt Manwaring: It seems as though there are almost two different groups within the Republican Party leaning in somewhat opposite directions. What principles do you use in communicating with a diverse Party membership?
Rob Anderson: This has been one of my most challenging aspects thus far.
I have spent copious amounts of time reviewing the UTGOP governing documents in order to fully understand how the organization runs.
I try to lead without emotion. I am not prone to reacting impulsively. I believe it’s important to understand the intended, and even more importantly, to attempt to predict the unintended consequences of every action.
Although I say my door is always open, it’s rare that those who disagree with my direction reach out to me to have a discussion.
I am a proponent of increased conversation and less confrontation. Echo chambers allow for group-think to thrive, and when coupled with emotion, it’s a recipe for division.
I am not an ideologue. I view myself as rational and have tried to become as informed as possible before I make a decision. I consult with others whose expertise exceeds my own.
I surround myself with people I admire and trust.
I’m often the recipient of personal insults; I suppose it goes with the territory. I’m convinced, however, that those who insult are incapable of honest dialogue in the midst of disagreement.
Kurt Manwaring: Millennials are active in politics but feel less inclined than previous generations to become affiliated with a party. What would you say to a millennial who agrees with your platform but is leaning towards remaining unaffiliated?
Rob Anderson: This is a challenge, but rest assured, it is not all millennials.
I have had the great pleasure of working with some amazing young adults the past year. I am impressed by their knowledge, their ambition and their follow through.
Politics isn’t for everyone – age doesn’t seem to be the key factor.
I know we can do better, however, at messaging and communicating, and we need to better communicate on the platforms millennials reference for information.
It’s always a challenge to combat sound bites; which, while catchy, are not generally informative. We need to learn to better communicate in their medium (social media platforms) and about their issues.
They are the leaders of tomorrow and the more engaged they are today, the more prepared they will be.
Kurt Manwaring: As Party Chair, you visit Utahns throughout the state. What is one issue or concern you have come across that does not get the news coverage you think it should?
Rob Anderson: I’ve been most impressed by the number of people who approach me quietly and respectfully.
I’ve been astounded by the number of passionate communications I’ve received that are thoughtful and kind. I suppose these people are what is referred to as “the silent majority,” and too often they’re overlooked in the noise of politics.
We are fortunate to have so many good people among us.
Our state is in good hands, and our future is bright. It is because of this “silent majority” that the UTGOP is the majority Party in this State.
When days are hard, I’m reminded of them, their dedication and words of support, and it strengthens me and my resolve.
Kurt Manwaring: In the spirit of Alan Alda’s “flame challenge,” could you describe what it means to be a member of your party in a way a child could understand?
Rob Anderson: Government is like your family. The head of the government (your parents) make the rules. Sometimes you like the rules, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you lobby (plead, cry, beg, temper tantrum) to change the rules. When that doesn’t work, sometimes you try to negotiate through words and behavior. You learn that working together – rather than constant opposition – works best.
Kurt Manwaring: What is one reason Mitt Romney would make a good representative of Utah?
Rob Anderson: Mitt Romney is a well-known quantity. His past history as a successful businessman coupled with his leadership of the 2002 Winter Olympics, has created a positive image with Utahns. It will be difficult for anyone to run a competitive race against him.
Kurt Manwaring: Mormons make up a significant percentage of voters in Utah. What are one or two issues you feel are important to Mormons right now and how will your party or candidate address them?
Rob Anderson: As a member of the LDS church myself, this question resonates with me personally, too.
Religious freedom is extremely important. Utah’s history is unique among the other States as one that was settled by a people desiring the freedom to worship freely. This sentiment remains unchanged.
Also important is family values and ideals, including the right to life.
These issues, as well as many others, are of paramount importance in our Party platform.
Kurt Manwaring: Politics in America is more vitriolic and partisan than it has been in generations. Could you offer a few thoughts on the role of civility in political campaigns and communications?
Rob Anderson: I think social media (with its anonymity) has led to an increase in confrontational dialogue, and a decrease in overall civility. It’s unfortunate.
While the level of uncivil discourse seems to ebb at times, it never extinguishes. To throw gasoline onto the situation – whether it be by a candidate or a candidate’s campaign – is unfortunate.
In order to progress forward, our nation requires honest dialogue with equal parts talking and listening.
Confrontation is not conversation. We can and should do better.
Kurt Manwaring: Why is the Utah Republican Party the best solution for Utah voters in the 2018 Senate election?
Rob Anderson: I’ve always felt the Republican platform better aligns with the mainstream Utahn who desires less government, more autonomy for our State, lower taxes, religious liberty and fiscal responsibility.
As a Party, it is our goal to produce candidates who reflect and represent these same values.
Utah is the best managed State in the nation; let’s keep it that way.
Utah is Republican by choice.