Spenser Heaps—The Deseret News/Pool/AP

When the Utah legislature passed a bill earlier this year prohibiting trans students from participating in school sports, Governor Spencer Cox vetoed it, even though he knew the GOP-dominated body would override his veto. Cox, a Republican, agreed with the underlying policy but had been trying to craft a compromise to bring LGBTQ advocates to the table. Cox’s gesture, and his expressions of sympathy for trans kids, drew condemnation from the right. But in an age when the easy path to political popularity is to constantly throw out red meat to the base, Cox has taken a pointedly different approach. Elected in 2020, the former telecom executive and farmer has struck an inclusive tone on race and LGBTQ issues while pursuing a conservative policy agenda. He’s trying, he says, to chip away at the polarization and division that have reached such a fever pitch in our politics. “I’m really worried about the future of our country and our ability to keep it all together,” Cox says. “I still believe in the exhausted majority, and I hope they’ll wake up.”

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