January 15th, 2011 / 1 Comment » / by Charlie Luke
Civility has been a hot-topic over the past several months. With the rise and success of the Tea Party-supported candidates in the 2010 midterm elections, people on the Left as well as many Centrists complained about the war-like rhetoric used to heighten the emotions of the Right. Largely, those complaints were ignored, not only by the candidates, but by the voters as well. The decision to use emotional rhetoric flipped partisan control from the Democrats to the Republicans in the House of Representatives, and evened the partisan balance of power in the Senate, with the Democrats maintaining slight control. Uncivil, emotional rhetoric won, one exception being Sharron Angle’s race against Harry Reid in Nevada.
The election results were disappointing for those of us who advocate for civil, logical, fact-based discourse in political discussion, not necessarily because of the Republican victory, but mostly because we saw that voters responded to uncivil discourse. So much for our calls for being able to disagree in political discussion while not being disagreeable.
But uncivil discourse isn’t only found in federal elections. We’re even seeing it at the municipal level. In Salt Lake City, news of City Council member J.T. Martin verbally berating citizens who disagree with him has been well publicized. We need to expect more from our elected officials and candidates.
The lack of civility in political discourse was addressed by Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker and Utah Lieutenant Governor Greg Bell on Thursday, January 6 when they unveiled the Civility and Community 2011 Initiative. The Initiative was forgotten two days later when a mentally unstable gunman shot and killed six people and wounded 12 more, including Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords at a constituent event in Tucson, Arizona.
Immediately, the emotional war-like rhetoric used by many candidates on the Right was blamed for the atrocity by the Left. The media focused on campaign materials used against Rep. Giffords. The Right responded by claiming victimization, which culminated with Sarah Palin’s video calling the blame a “Blood Libel” against her. Clearly, she missed the point and further dug herself deeper in the trench of poor word choices.
With the tragedy in Tucson one week behind us, hopefully we can return to the issue of civility in politics and work to remove politics from civility. Civility shouldn’t be politicized. It doesn’t need to be. We should expect civility from our elected officials, whether in the U.S. Senate or City Hall. Civility begins with us, the voters and constituents. We are to blame if we resort to using uncivil rhetoric to define those who disagree with us politically. Whether you’re on the Left or the Right, the fact is that we all love this country equally. We may have different ideas how best to achieve political goals and objectives, but it doesn’t mean those who disagree with us hate the United States and want to ruin the political institution.
I hope we can think about our choice of language in our political discourse. While all speech is protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, we don’t need to push the limits of political speech just because we can.
November 4th, 2010 / 1 Comment » / by Charlie Luke
Let me start off by acknowledging that many of my Utah Democrat friends will not like this post. For the past few years, I have not shied away from opining that a Democrat can not win statewide in Utah. My Democrat friends claimed my belief was flawed, even heretical. I mean no offense to specific candidates. In fact, my hypothesis should take the heat off of many of them. In short, Utah Democrats are not heading for extinction as many pundits have stated since Tuesday night’s results – statewide, they are already essentially dead.
This year Peter Corroon was seen by many as having a great shot at defeating Gary Herbert. Peter is a fiscal conservative, elected countywide in the state’s most populous county. He was able to raise millions for his campaign. Sam Granato, too, was seen as a moderate choice for U.S. Senate against a very conservative Mike Lee. In theory, both were electable. In reality, they were not. They simply became new entries to the statistical proof of my hypothesis.
Evidence of the inability for Democrats to win statewide in Utah began in the late seventies, early eighties. Roe v. Wade and the struggle for the Equal Rights Amendment distanced many LDS from the Democratic party. Scott Matheson was elected in 1976 and reelected in 1980, but since then, Republicans have held the seat. Democrats had not been elected to a U.S. Senate seat since Orrin Hatch defeated Ted Moss in 1976. While Democrats have been successful at being elected to other constitutional offices (Attorney General) the higher profile offices have remained off limits.
Democrats have campaigned every cycle for the chance to hold these offices since then. Some candidates have been recruited who are liberal enough to hold true to Democratic ideals, others have been selected because of they appear to be more electable (aka. White, Mormon, Male). Regardless of the different political and religious leanings of each Democratic candidate, they all have one thing in common – they all lost by large margins, and the percentages were much closer to each other than the candidate’s ideology.
Here are the results for the past twenty years:
1990: No Elections for Governor or U.S. Senate
1992: Governor – Leavitt (R) 42% Hanson (D) 23% Cook (I) 34%
In the three-way run for Governor, Stewart Hanson fit the mold of the liberal Democrat. He was more of a party insider without a lot of statewide exposure. Cook pulled votes from both Leavitt and Hanson.
U.S. Senate – Bennett (R) 55% Owens (D) 40%
Wayne Owens was the dream Democrat. He was an experienced campaigner, having won and served a few terms in the 2nd Congressional District. He was LDS.
1994: U.S. Senate – Hatch (R) 69% Shea (D) 28%
Pat Shea was a well-known attorney and Democratic party insider.
1996: Governor – Leavitt (R) 75% Bradley (D) 23%
Jim Bradley was a former Salt Lake County Commissioner.
1998: U.S. Senate – Bennett (R) 64% Leckman (D) 33%
Scott Leckman was a political newcomer, Salt Lake City general surgeon, and ran a fantastic campaign. (Disclosure – I was Scott Leckman’s campaign manager.)
2000: Governor – Leavitt (R) 56% Orton (D) 42%
Bill Orton was the ideal candidate. He had served a few terms in the conservative 3rd Congressional District, was fiscally conservative and politically moderate. He was LDS.
U.S. Senate – Hatch (R) 66% Howell (D) 31%
Scott Howell was the former Minority Leader in the Utah State Senate. He was politically moderate. He too was/is LDS.
2002: No Elections for Governor or U.S. Senate
2004: Governor – Huntsman (R) 58% Matheson (D) 41%
Scott Matheson Jr. was seen having a great shot because of the popularity of his father (the last Democrat to hold the Governor’s office) and his brother (who had been elected and reelected to the conservative 2nd Congressional District). He raised and spent over $2,000,000 dollars on his campaign.
U.S. Senate – Bennett (R) 69% Van Dam (D) 28%
Paul Van Dam was a former Attorney General who had proven that he could be elected to statewide office.
2006: U.S. Senate – Hatch (R) 61% Ashdown (D) 31%
Pete Ashdown was a successful business owner and political progressive.
2008: Governor – Huntsman (R) 78% Springmeyer (D) 20%
Bob Springmeyer was a Democratic party insider.
2010: Governor – Herbert (R) 64% Corroon (D) 32% PRELIMINARY RESULTS
Peter Corroon was the Salt Lake County Mayor. His Lt. Candidate was was Republican Utah House member Sheryl Allen.
U.S. Senate – Lee (R) 62% Granato (D) 33% PRELIMINARY RESULTS
Sam Granato was a former Republican turned Democrat business owner. Many Republicans were concerned with Mike Lee’s far right political rhetoric and were supposed to turn to Granato.
Eighteen years of political results show that it doesn’t matter if the seat is open or if the Democrat is running against an incumbent. It doesn’t matter if the Democrat is liberal or conservative. It doesn’t matter if the candidate is LDS or not. It doesn’t even matter if the candidate campaigns hard or not. The evidence supports my belief that a Democrat can not win a major statewide race in Utah. The margins are all similar, and dismal for Democrats. Period.
So what are Democrats to do? I suggest that they quit raising and spending so much money on seats they can not win. Both Matheson Jr. and Corroon raised and spent over $2,000,000. If some of that money had been spent on Utah House and Senate races in Salt Lake County, Tooele and Ogden, chances are that Democrats could have saved the five House seats and one Senate seat they lost. They could have retained control of the Salt Lake County Council. Until Utah Democrats become more pragmatic and less delusional, they will continue to lose the big races and some of the winnable ones too.
What if Democrats don’t field candidates for Governor, U.S. Senate, and unwinnable state House and Senate seats? So what. It is not the responsibility of the party to give voters a choice to vote against them. It is the responsibility of the party to win elections. Democrats can and do win, even this year. State Senator Ben McAdams was elected with 73%. Sim Gill was elected District Attorney. There is hope.
The reports of the death of Utah Democrats are not greatly exaggerated. They are accurate as to Democratic chances for major statewide political office. However, they are inaccurate for local office, unless Democrats continue to squander resources on unwinnable races. Then, even the local offices are in jeopardy.
August 26th, 2010 / 7 Comments » / by Charlie Luke
For the past couple of weeks I’ve debated whether or not to jump into the NYC mosque fracas. I’ve been amazed at the use of this issue for political gain, and how quickly supposed “Constitutionalists” are willing to throw out the principle of freedom of religion. But, even more than my disappointment in politicians for politicizing this issue, I’m mostly disappointed in the opposition from many Americans on both sides of the political aisle. My reason for writing today is the news about the fervor from the left over Glenn Beck’s rally on the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech.
The arguments over the mosque and rally have but one thing in common – the First Article to the U.S. Constitution. It reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” This amendment supports the construction of the mosque since it protects the rights of individuals to worship, however and wherever they choose. It also supports Glenn Beck’s decision to conduct a rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of King’s speech since the amendment protects both speech and the right to assemble. Unfortunately, many of the supporters of either of these actions, are opposed to the actions of the other. My response – WISE UP!
Perhaps because I am a practicing Mormon, who has spent quite a bit of time outside of Utah, and am a student of history, the hypocrisy of Glenn Beck, Harry Reid, and many conservative LDS Utahns irks me. I don’t support every tenet that Imam Rauf believes in, but I also don’t support every tenet espoused by Southern Baptists, Catholics, etc. I choose to believe the way I do, but also support everyone’s right to do the same. Using the tragedy of 9/11 to thwart the construction of a mosque and cultural center in the vicinity of the attack is immoral in my honest opinion. The principle of freedom of religion is the first to be protected under the Bill of Rights because our founding fathers were wise enough to understand the passion, hate and lack of tolerance that religion often arouses. Public opinion pushed aside this principle over 150 years ago with my ancestors and religion. I hate to see it happening again today with Muslims.
The issue of Glenn Beck’s rally is interesting because of his role in the NYC mosque issue. He is a hypocrite because of his use of the First Amendment to justify his actions with his rally, while denying the the religious principle with the NYC mosque. While I believe Glenn Beck to be an unprincipled huckster, I do fully support his right to have his rally. I just wish that he would also acknowledge the rights of religion, protected by the same amendment he hides behind.
The most frequent point I hear from those who oppose either the NYC mosque and the Glenn Beck rally is that even though they have the right, the mosque should be moved or Glenn Beck should change the date or place of his rally out of respect for others. I don’t buy it. FOX News initially supported the siting and construction of the NYC mosque last year, until politicians and talk radio hosts used it for political gain. Media Matters for America, a group that rails on Beck, FOX, and other conservative blogs, claims that Beck’s speech is politically opportunistic. In our current environment, the issue of respect is fickle because if one side believes a point can be scored under the concept of respect they will use it. So, let’s go back to the Constitution. What’s protected? Religion, speech and assembly. I didn’t see respect.
Respect is left to us. Instead of thinking everyone else should respect us and our beliefs, let’s respect others and their constitutional beliefs. The Constitution is there to protect all of us. Since history is cyclical, chances are pretty good that we will at some point be forced to turn to the Constitution for our protection from public opinion. Wise up, America!
August 4th, 2010 / 1 Comment » / by Charlie Luke
The federal deficit. It’s harped on by members of the minority party and rationalized by members of the party in power. However, this year the deficit is set to hit a level of 10-percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the highest percentage since World War Two. There are a number of things that caused the increased deficit – two wars, bailouts, stimulus, etc. The causes can be justified. Justification or not, the deficit remains and is growing. And it should be a cause for serious concern, regardless of your party affiliation.
There are two things that have to happen if we are ever to reign in deficit spending: 1- we need to pay for the projects we support, create and continue; and 2- we need to have a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Without these two things, the party in power in Congress will continue to deficit spend, and it will only get more and more expensive. The following paragraphs lay out how I think this should be done.
1- We need to pay for the projects we create and continue. It doesn’t matter which party is in power, they will have their programs they want to create and continue. For the Democrats these programs tend to be more social (health care, social security, climate change…) For the Republicans they are more defense-related (missile shields, border walls…) Either way, each party spends big and tells their constituents their projects could be paid for by doing away with the other programs. But this doesn’t work. Parties shift power too frequently to end government programs, so we end up with the continuation of both programs with no new money.
To further the problem, the tax cuts implemented under George W. Bush wiped out a budget surplus and left the country to charge expenses incurred in Afghanistan and Iraq. This wasn’t much of a problem until the economy crashed, leaving Barack Obama to try to spend out of the recession. While I’m not blaming the tax cuts on the recession, I do believe that by not paying for the projects we have, sets us back in our recovery.
Part of the solution needs to be the expiration of the Bush tax cuts – all of them. Right now, the Obama administration wants to let only some of the cuts expire – those directed to individuals making over $200,000 per year and families making more than $250,000 per year. However, if we are really serious about eliminating deficit spending, all of the cuts need to expire. It’s estimated that for each year the cuts are in place, the loss in revenue amounts to about 2-percent of the GDP. While 2-percent isn’t enough to pay for the deficit, it will make a dent and set us on the right path.
2- We need to have a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. I’m not a supporter of amending the constitution on political whims. That’s why I don’t support flag burning, “anchor baby”, or defense of marriage amendments. I do, however, support an amendment that forces the federal government to play by the same rules most states (including Utah) do – requiring the legislative branch to create a balanced annual budget.
Yes, I know that there are extenuating circumstances that the federal government has to contend with that states do not. That’s why there should be exemptions for national security, emergency management, and economic crises. I also know that by allowing any exemption, it opens the door for Congress to game the system. But whatever loopholes are discovered, it will not be worse than what we currently have, which is no prohibitions to spending.
You can’t rely on comments from either party about the deficit. The party in power will justify their spending and the party out of power will criticize that spending. As soon as the roles switch, which they always and frequently do, the justification and criticism will change with the power. So the real question is, “Do you really care about the federal deficit?” If you do, then you’ll admit that paying for spending and amending the U.S. Constitution to require an annual balanced federal budget are common sense solutions to a bi-partisan problem.
July 30th, 2010 / 1 Comment » / by Charlie Luke
A couple of months ago I wrote about how I believe that UTA has lost its way, seeming to be more interested in acting as a developer of a transit infrastructure than in operating the system. That’s why I was intrigued when I read the Provo Daily Herald’s article http://www.heraldextra.com/news/local/article_150cc458-1e08-509d-81ca-ab5051f23b1e.html about Rep. John Dougall’s push to have UTA outsource its operations. Rep. Dougall’s reasons according to the article were directed largely at the union, but in subsequent conversations with him, his interest is broader – as it should be.
My biggest concern with UTA is their falling-short regarding service. In dealing with budget shortfalls, service has been cut to those who rely on the system – mainly riders of buses and paratransit – while the development of more TRAX and Frontrunner lines continues. Their actions in times of budget crises demonstrate where their priorities lie. The transit-reliant public can’t even find respite in the Mission Statement, which reads: “Utah Transit Authority strengthens and connects communities enabling individuals to pursue a fuller life with greater ease and convenience by leading through partnering, planning, and wise investment of physical, economic, and human resources.” Nothing about running quality and efficient transit system.
Could Rep. Dougall’s idea of outsourcing the services side of UTA work? Absolutely!
I would recommend three separate divisions within UTA, each overseeing the service contracts – one for bus operations, another for para-transit, and the last for TRAX and Frontrunner. Companies, new or existing, would respond to an RFP from UTA with a plan to manage the service staff and operations of the respective division. The union, which holds the existing contract, would be encouraged to bid in an open bidding process. There is nothing anti-union which should exclude them from the process. The most cost-efficient and best plan would win the contract. UTA would continue to own and pay for the equipment, but the contractor would oversee the maintenance, driving and support staff. The contractor could also suggest a change in equipment when the time comes for new purchases.
Change is necessary. Service is suffering. Such changes would save money. Many of us along the Wasatch Front who have voted tax increases on ourselves with the belief that doing so would facilitate a quality and effective public transportation system have become cynical about transit – not in the concept, but in the management of the system. Outsourcing of system operations could help bring back confidence in UTA.
I hope the UTA Board, under the direction of new chair, Greg Hughes, will look at outsourcing as a serious cost-containment option, along with bringing executive salaries in line with comparable systems, and eliminating ridiculous golden parachutes for departing executive staff. Doing so will create a more efficient and effective UTA for everyone along Wasatch Front, but especially for those who actually depend on the system.
July 22nd, 2010 / 2 Comments » / by Charlie Luke
This morning I set off for legislative meetings in Lander, Wyoming. To deal with the four and a half hour drive, I turned on the satellite radio to hear the national news updates before flipping through the music channels. I never made it to the music. Instead I came to two conclusions: 1- Conservative bloggers and right wing media are more powerful now than ever before; and 2- Their increase in power comes from the Obama administration.
The main topic on CNN was Shirley Sherrod. Her firing on Monday was the focus of the White House press conference on the day President Obama signed the most sweeping financial reform bill in decades. Spokesperson Robert Gibbs was grilled about how much they new about Ms. Sherrod’s speech, whether they had listened to the entire speech, and what involvement the White House had in Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s decision to fire her. He also apologized on behalf of the administration to Ms. Sherrod.
A couple of hours later, Secretary Vilsack called Ms. Sherrod prior to a press conference where he took full responsibility for the firing, declared that it was a decision not very well thought out, and that he had reacted based on his reading of the written transcript of Andrew Breitbart’s edited clip. He apologized in private and in public and offered Ms. Sherrod a new position within the Department of Agriculture.
Three days ago, had you heard of Shirley Sherrod? I hadn’t. Her entrance onto the national stage was meteoric in speed and gargantuan in tragedy. The public was introduced to Ms. Sherrod through unprincipled conservative Andrew Breitbart’s blog. In a three minute video clip, Ms. Sherrod, speaking at an NAACP conference a few months ago, told how she didn’t help a white farmer by giving the “full force of what she could do” to help save his farm. The clip was posted on foxnews.com and was the focus of FOX’s prime time shows.
I heard the clip Monday afternoon. Like everyone, including the Obama administration, the NAACP, and Secretary Vilsack, I was disgusted that someone with that kind of attitude would be in that high of position at the Department of Agriculture. Then came the news of Ms. Sherrod’s resignation, followed by Tuesday’s interviews with the white farmer and his wife. They disputed the claims of racism and said she had been very helpful on their case over twenty years ago. Then Ms. Sherrod said her words had been taken out of context and that they should be reviewed. By Wednesday, everyone was backpedaling.
While driving, I listened to Ms. Sherrod’s entire speech. It was moving. It was inspiring. Most importantly, it was far from being racist. She talked about her father being murdered by a neighboring white supremacist farmer in 1965 and her personal realization that the real issue at hand is poverty, not race. After the Breitbart clip, which was of her “a-ha” moment, Sherrod said, “working with [the farmer] made me see that it’s really about those who have versus those who have not. They could be black. They could be white. They could be Hispanic.”
This issue demonstrates perfectly my conclusions that 1- conservative bloggers and right wing media are more powerful now than ever before; and 2- their increase in power comes from the Obama administration.
Andrew Breitbart should have no credibility. He is an ultra-conservative ideologue who uses gimmicks to try to make a point. These points often backfire. Anyone remember him dressed like a pimp at an ACORN office? Using a clip from this speech to try to embarrass the NAACP completely backfired. The assumption is that if one has to resort to faking an example to make a point, chances are pretty good that the point being made is invalid. But did anyone call him on it? Most news organizations chose to wait until they had more info. Not FOX. Their commentators ran with it, expanding the artificial claims of her action being committed while in her current position. What ever happened to the famous Ronald Reagan quote, “Trust, but verify.” You would think that this would hurt the right wing media’s credibility. But no. Why not? Because the Obama administration grabbed the issue and sprinted even faster down the field.
The Obama administration has been faulted by many, including myself, for being too deliberative in times requiring action. The oil gusher in the Gulf is a perfect example. So is their handling of the health care debate. Supporters all defended the administration saying that is just the way President Obama is. Calm and deliberative. Until the issue of race is raised. Then they act like children who finished off bags of sugar. Seriously. Secretary Vilsack called for the Ms. Sherrod’s resignation the same afternoon the Breitbart tape was made public. The administration goes into a hyperactive frenzy, culminating with a press conference, apology, and new job offer less than 48 hours after the resignation. If the same speed had been used with the oil gusher, the oil would be stopped, the Gulf would be clean, Jimmy Buffett could dance barefoot in the sand, and the U.S. would be weaned from its dependence on fossil fuels.
I understand that race is a sensitive topic for the first black president. Everyone is hypersensitive, on both sides, to any racial misstep. That is why right wing media talks at length about the racism of the NAACP and the new Black Panther party. It’s like when I was a kid and would tease my sister. I knew she would squawk and end up making a fool of herself. I would sit back, acting innocent, and shake my head in disappointment at her. Right wing media is doing the same thing with President Obama, and just like my sister, the president doesn’t fail to disappoint. After the fallout, right wing media ask why Obama threw Ms. Sherrod under the bus. They act innocent, shaking their head in disappointment at the president.
Hopefully the public will now understand the racial tactic being used by some on the far right. Racism is real, but I hope it is rare. While I don’t believe most Tea Party members are racist, news of this tactic doesn’t help with public perception. Let’s hope that the current push from within the far right to rid itself of racist tactics will continue. Unfortunately, as long as the Obama administration falls for these types of attention diverting tactics, we will continue to see them and will likely see even more. Let’s hope for Shirley Sherrod’s sake along with whomever the next victim is that I am wrong.
July 16th, 2010 / 4 Comments » / by Charlie Luke
While relatively silent for the past couple of weeks, the issue of immigration roared back this week with the news of the anonymous release of the Illegal List – names and information for roughly 1,300 people within Utah purported to be here illegally. As of this writing, Friday morning (7/16), it seems that state data systems were illegally breached to produce the list, which consisted of people with Latin surnames, many of whom are citizens or are here legally. The creation of this list is despicable and has been widely condemned by most parties (but sadly not all) involved in the Utah immigration debate. So, with that news, where are we now?
Most people have already chosen sides – the law and order crowd, who are fist-pumpingly excited about bringing an Arizona-type bill to Utah; or the “immigration-is-really-a-federal-issue-but-we-need-to-come-up-with-something-to-counter-an-Arizona-type-bill” crowd, who are busy crafting something to fit within existing federal law that will help individuals who are already here illegally. Those are the two groups.
In the vast realm of immigration, both groups are right while also being wrong. Laws do need to be followed. The federal government does now oversee immigration laws, though it has not always been that way. People are crossing into the U.S. illegally because they are finding work and filling a role in our economy. While here, legally or illegally, they should be treated with a respect deserved by every human being. The problem with these two groups is that they are largely only dealing with some interests while ignoring the others. At this rate, one group will pass legislation next session and immigration will remain as divisive at it currently is. But there is a solution.
We need to create a third group – one that understands that a true Utah immigration solution can and will work, but that everyone will likely be dissatisfied with one aspect or another of the legislation. Why will some be dissatisfied? Because a real solution has to include aspects of the Arizona-style and the human rights alternative bills. Here’s what I think the real solution should include:
- Utah should develop a guest worker program. Guest workers would be sponsored by a U.S. citizen, business, charity or church. The sponsors would assume financial liability for unpaid debts amassed by the worker during their stay in Utah. Guest workers would receive legal status allowing them to enter, live, work and travel around the state. Children and non-working spouses of Guest Workers would also receive legal status. If they leave the state borders, unless the neighboring state passes legislation recognizing Utah’s guest worker status, the workers would face whatever legal action the neighboring state chooses to enforce according to their laws.
- Immigration laws will be strictly enforced by all law enforcement throughout Utah. If an individual is found to be in Utah illegally, meaning they do not have a valid U.S. visa or Utah Guest Worker status, they will be deported back to their country of origin. This enforcement will not be cheap. The legislature will have to appropriate money to law enforcement agencies to cover the costs associated with stricter immigration enforcement. Utah tax money should be spent only on enforcement within the state of Utah.
- Utah must advocate that immigration solutions should be left up to the states. This will be controversial and will likely lead to a federal lawsuit. So what. If we adopt an Arizona-style bill, we will be sued. If we adopt a voluntary immigration program it will be unenforceable. We sue against the federal health care bill. We are sued because of state legislation that is deemed unconstitutional. If we continue to say that immigration is a solely the responsibility of the federal government, why are we even going through this charade? So let’s lead out and have Utah be the face of real immigration solutions. If the feds choose to sue us, bring it on.
Immigration is a complex issue. Both of the current groups have good intentions. They’re just one-sided intentions. I believe the political will to develop a real solution exists. We need a comprehensive idea that will electrify the political will that is necessary to take the positives from each side and incorporate them in a piece of legislation. We might not all agree with every piece of the bill, but it will demonstrate that Utah is able to do what no other state or federal government would do – create a real solution to the current problems of illegal immigration.
July 3rd, 2010 / 1 Comment » / by Charlie Luke
The Fourth of July is my favorite holiday. My routine stays consistent from year to year: attending the neighborhood breakfast, spending time with Karyn and the kids, and then all heading over to my aunt’s house to meet up with my mother’s family for swimming, a BBQ and fireworks. It’s always fun and always busy. Unfortunately, it doesn’t leave a lot of time for contemplation about what the holiday represents. So this year, I decided to think more about why I’m proud to be an American, before the festivities begin.
The natural tendency when asked by someone else or by yourself as to your reasons for being a proud American is to answer with the tried and true words — freedom, opportunity, the Constitution, security, prosperity or the hope for prosperity, etc. To me, these words tend to be rote, holding no definable meaning when used in a patriotic or political context. I needed to dig deeper into the meaning of these words and discover a definitive example. The following are a couple of the examples I could articulate to back up my patriotism.
Right to Participate in the Political Process. Our government is uniquely accessible to its citizens. Whatever your issue, you have access at every level, be it at city hall, county offices, the state capitol, the U.S. capitol. The process is open to elect our neighbors or ourselves to everything from school boards to the President of the United States. Politics can be both rewarding and heartbreaking, exciting and frustrating. The process is open to everyone. The only barrier is our willingness to get involved.
Freedom of Association. This right, defined by the Supreme Court as being protected under the First Amendment, is unique. We choose who we want to associate with. Some may not like it, but it is our right. Whether the group (large or small) is fraternal, religious, political, racial, or labor related, we can associate with others who have similar beliefs. This can be, and often is, a problematic right, especially if a particular group espouses ideas that are contrary or even offensive to us. If we find ourselves being offended by the ideas of a particular group, instead of complaining to the dog, we ought to use the same right to form or join a group that believes in a counter idea, and work to promote that idea with others.
United States as a Melting Pot. The United States is unique in that we are a country that was organized by individuals who arrived on the continent from different places, at different times, and for different reasons. But each migrated here with the believe of finding better opportunity. Later people were brought here under slavery, against their will. Generations later, their posterity received equal rights to openly participate in society. Upon the founding of the U.S., more people crossed the oceans and borders for varying reasons. Some were embraced while others were not. The influx of individuals migrating in slowed in the 20th Century, but continues today, by both legal and illegal means. Regardless of the time or means, all people who enter this country will either embrace the unique opportunity to better themselves and their lives, or fail to do so. The right to rise or fall is the same for every immigrant, and has been from the first settlements in Virginia and Massachusetts to today.
Those are just three of the many reasons I am proud to be an American. Yours may be similar — they may be completely different. How American is that? This weekend, take the time to reflect on your reasons so that you can declare with understanding and conviction that you, too, are proud to be an American.
June 25th, 2010 / Comments Off / by Charlie Luke
Much has been discussed about Utah’s political party and election system this year. The mass meeting or neighborhood caucus system, along with the party conventions, have been derided as the reason for keeping the masses out of the political process. With all due respect to my many friends who believe this, they’re wrong.
The system is far from perfect, but it works. It gives us candidates selected by our neighbors we trust with doing that job. What’s that? You don’t trust your neighbor to make that decision? Well, did you support your other neighbor at your caucus meeting or run against him/her for the delegate position they were elected to? No? You didn’t want to miss “Dancing with the Stars”? Well, while you stayed home, a few of your neighbors showed up to either the Republican or Democrat neighborhood caucus and were elected as delegates to the respective conventions. There, your delegate neighbors voted for candidates for various positions who were running to receive the party nomination. The candidates were narrowed through rounds of voting until only two remained. If one received 60% of the vote, they received the nomination. If not, the two would face each other in a broader primary election, selected by their party’s members to gain the nomination. The party nominee then joined the nominees from other political parties on the general election ballot in November to be voted on by all registered voters. That’s the political party system we have.
Is that system fair? Yes. It is fair to those who choose to be involved. Some call for the Republican primary to be open to non-party voters. That defeats the purpose of a party nomination. Others call for a broad primary open to all, doing away with the caucus/convention system. This favors candidates who can self-finance or are already popular. And where to parties play in such a system? Does a candidate just decide the label themselves? If so, what’s the point in political parties? Why are those solutions more fair than our current system?
On Tuesday, about 12% of registered voters voted for Mike Lee and Tim Bridgewater. That sounds bad when you consider all registered voters. But, it was a closed primary, only open to registered Republicans. What is even worse is the fact that only 44% of them voted, and that percentage includes those who declared at the polls. Pretty weak. Even the majority of Republicans didn’t vote in their party’s primary.
The current political process is open to everyone who chooses to participate. The only part that is closed is the Republican primary. The mass meetings/neighborhood caucuses are open. Anyone can run as a delegate. It is possible to work for change within the existing system. One only needs to be willing to do so.
A perfect example of working within the existing system is the Tea Party movement. Following the 2008 elections, many conservatives were disappointed in the Republican Party, believing that its move towards the center with John McCain as a candidate was a mistake. They complained, organized and rallied. They were passionate and committed to working for change. Tea Partiers not only attended the mass meetings/neighborhood caucuses, but took them over, electing delegates who were “true” to conservative principles. They took out a well-funded, three-term incumbent U.S. Senator at the Republican convention, and ended up electing Mike Lee on Tuesday night.
While I don’t agree with most of what the Tea Party and its followers believe, I have great respect for their passion, work, and change of the Republican Party into a party they believe in. They were left out when the party moved to the center, now they’re leaving out out the moderates who abandoned them. They worked the system to their advantage, not by complaining, but by working.
Instead of changing our political party/candidate selection system to involve more voters, we all need to understand that it won’t matter. If registered voters are so apathetic about the current political process, why create something else that they will largely ignore. Those of us who are passionate and believe that we can better our state and country through the political process need to quit worrying about those who choose not to participate. Let’s move on and work towards solutions we believe in. We will be the politically active minority regardless of the make up of the system.
June 21st, 2010 / 3 Comments » / by Charlie Luke
If you’re a political moderate, like me, you’re probably not too thrilled with the options in tomorrow’s primary election. The bickering and feuding between the Lee and Bridgewater camps are turning off anyone who is not invested in either candidate, and the tantrums thrown by the Wright campaign are making it difficult to support her, even though one may not want to vote for Matheson. So what are we to do? The difficult, but only patriotic option, is to go to the polls and vote.
So who do we moderates vote for? I’ve been struggling with that question since the conventions ended. The answer for me is, I don’t yet know. What I do know is I will be voting. But the elation I usually feel after casting my vote, I’m expecting not to be there.
So why vote? I’ve heard this a lot. “Voting for ‘the best of the worst’ can’t be good”, or “Voting in this primary will only endorse a process that has left out the silent majority.” I don’t disagree with either point. However, the reality is the vote tomorrow will likely decide the next U.S. Senator for the next 18-36 years, as well as Utah’s only Democrat voice in Washington. Now’s not the time to make a principled stand.
Lee and Bridgewater are both very similar, but also very different. If you are a moderate Republican who has not followed the campaigns, you have the responsibility tonight to research as much as possible and vote for who best fits with your ideas of a U.S. Senator. You will likely disagree with more than you will find to agree with, but compromise in politics is critical, and at this point compromise is what you will have to do.
Matheson and Wright are very different. If you are a moderate Democrat or have no party affiliation (you non-affiliated voters only have the option of voting in the Democrat primary because the Republican primary is closed to non-registered Republicans) you will have to decide whether to stick with an incumbent who regularly votes against Democrat leadership, yet has managed to get their support during the primary, or to support a political newcomer, who will likely vote in Washington with the Democrats, but who came to the political scene in a very unconventional way by answering an ad for a challenger to Matheson on Craigslist? Again, not an easy decision, but one that you should still make instead of staying home.
There has been a lot of talk about the Utah political party system ignoring moderate voters. I disagree with that notion. I believe that moderate voters have ignored the system. The reason the Tea Party movement has been so successful so fast is that they saw that to buck the system, they needed to control the system. They attended the neighborhood caucuses and got their candidates elected. The system doesn’t keep out moderates, rather the problem is that moderates don’t get involved and work the system.
Tomorrow is a chance for moderates to work the system. Yes, the chosen candidates likely do not reflect your desires for a U.S. Senator or Representative in the U.S. House, but it’s too late to complain about that. The only option now for moderates is to vote for the candidate who best reflects those desires, even if it’s by a very small percentage. So, moderates, tomorrow, get out and vote for the best of the __________.