Matheson addresses political issues at BYU

Rep. Jim Matheson addresses topics like healthcare and congressional job approval to BYU students in the Varsity Theater Nov. 6. Photo courtesy Ben Ader
Rep. Jim Matheson addresses topics like healthcare and Congressional job approval to BYU students in the Varsity Theater Nov. 6.
(Photo courtesy Ben Ader)

Jim Matheson, Utah’s 4th District congressional representative, came to BYU and addressed a myriad of political issues such as gun violence, healthcare and Congress’ approval rating on Nov. 7.

The event was hosted by the political science department, BYU College Democrats and College Republicans at the Varsity Theater. Matheson spoke about “extreme polarization” in the U.S. (the flocking of the American public to either the far-left liberalism or far-right conservatism) and its effects on legislators, the media and the public. He then allowed over a dozen people to ask him questions about his stance on these issues and how he would fix problems in Congress.

“The most common thing that I am asked is, ‘Why can’t you guys get something done?'” Matheson said. Congress’ exercise of last-minute politics and constant bickering led to the recent crisis over the government shutdown and an incredibly low approval rating. A YouGov poll revealed a mere 8 percent job approval for Congress on Nov. 6.

Ian Hansen, co-president of the BYU College Democrats, helped organize the event and was excited that Matheson reserved so much time for answering questions from the audience.

“We were really excited about the number of good questions the students had,” Hansen said. Hansen was concerned that Matheson, a Democrat, would take uncivil and inappropriate questions from a “largely conservative campus” but was thrilled at the level of civility from all the students at the event.

Matheson belongs to a special identification of fiscally conservative Democrats known as “blue dogs,” and he voted against the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Darren Hawkins, professor and chair of the political science department, asked Matheson if he could suggest any alternative solutions to fix healthcare in the U.S.

“He basically said that there aren’t any, which I agree with actually,” Hawkins said.

Matheson said political polarization is widening the divide between conservatives and liberals in the House of Representatives at a growing rate, but he also acknowledged that politicians can agree without compromising their beliefs.

“There are ways to talk through these issues so you’re not giving up on your core beliefs at all,” Matheson said. Matheson is used to defending his beliefs and being courteous to others as he is a Democratic representative in one of the most conservative districts in the country.

Jason Chaffetz, Utah’s 3rd District representative, will also be coming to campus on Nov. 23.

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