Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Utah Legislature Pizza Special: Hold the Pepperoni!

The Utah State Legislature is in special session! Oh, no! Actually, I hate being the eternal optimist, but I just don't think it's as bad as all that. People, especially Congressman Matheson, are pretty upset that they just sliced him out of the Congress with their pizza knife to form a new Congressional District. And that is a shame. Yet he's used to a difficult election every two years. Now he will have his option to go after a state-wide office, maybe Governor, maybe Senator to replace Orrin Hatch. And there's a chance he could even make it.

The gerrymandering charge may be valid. Yet the Republicans seem to have a fool-proof defense in articulating four districts with a mix of rural and urban without having to articulate a Salt Lake/Park City only district that could be a Democratic stronghold. With no extensive racial minority neighborhoods anywhere in the state, except for small, urban pockets of Hispanics and Polynesians in West Valley City, and a real scattering of Indian Tribes throughout the state, there is no clear manipulation that would dilute the vote of suspect classes. For good or ill, mildly progressive, Democratic neighborhoods on the east side of Salt Lake County and up to Park City, don't count as a protected class.

Even the current extremely conservative Republican super-majority in control of state government can't rule forever. The more the abuses, the more the public will wake up. This happened last Spring with HB-477 that sought to shield state government, especially designed by and for legislators, from revealing their communications to the public. Even in Utah, this provoked public outcry and the Governor had to convene a special session back then to have the Legislature repeal it (after he sorta signed it to repeal it, or whatever). The public outcry is good. It likely won't work this time on the pizza, but someday . . . .

Karma isn't instant, but it does come around. It eventually got the most famous gerrymanderer of modern days, Tom DeLay. He did all kinds of scheming to fix congressional districts for the Republicans in Texas on the last census go-around. He eventually had to pay for his political, and some other sins, with his convictions for federal money-laundering crimes. And that doesn't even include his loss on "Dancing with the Stars." It wasn't nearly as pretty as a baby elephant walk.

It may take a while in Utah. And it may be only a slight movement towards moderation within the Republican Party. Even they can't control demographics or people paying attention to things like HB-477 and the pizza-slicing of congressional districts. The real people of Utah - all of them - may eventually wake up and start being the reasonable people they actually are.

Politics are hard to predict. But I can guarantee that even in Utah, a historical swing-state, the illogical extremism of tea-partyism will not last forever. 2012 will be interesting. It seems like Romney will be the plodding, eventual candidate. Who else could it possibly be? I'd prefer Huntsman. But next to him, Romney is the least crazy. In fact, I don't think Romney is crazy at all in the sense of a Bachmann, Perry, Cain, Santorum or Paul. As President, he'll probably go right back to being a moderate flip-flopper. The things that annoy me about him would still allow him to be an "OK" president. I just don't think he'll ever have the win nationwide. A Romney candidacy coming out bruised from the Southern base, will suppress the tea party vote. To they extent they have to "compromise" their standards to vote for him over the "socialist/Muslim" in the White House, that's a good thing. Any break from dogmatic rigidity on the right is good. I'll deal more with Romney as we go along, but remember, Romney, extremely popular in Utah for some obvious reasons, is not a tea-partier. Let's break that craziness first, then we'll deal with the rest in Obama's second term.

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