Tuesday, March 15, 2011

All politics is vocal

Former Speaker of the House of Representatives Tip O'Neill is author of the famous quote, "All politics is local." My brother-in-law had a letter to the editor published in yesterday's local newspaper about a local political matter:

Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed a bill into law (to take effect July 1, 2011), which would close off public access to electronic communications between lawmakers. The media in my area has been all over this. The Salt Lake Tribune had an editorial the other day titled, "Herbert sells out," where they blamed him for signing the bill because of threats from right-wing tea party types to replace him as a candidate for governor in the next election.

Herbert had been lieutenant governor under Governor Jon Huntsman, who left office to become ambassador to China at the request of President Obama. Huntsman, a Republican, accepted the job because of his experiences in China helping to run his father's company, and because he speaks the language. He's resigning his post, and whether he'll return to Utah or not is an issue. He's bought a house in the D.C. area, and speculation is he'll enter the race for president in 2012.

My brother-in-law is following up on the "Herbert sells out" editorial, which stated "people will have to stiffen [Herbert's] spine" with his joke about a bamboo backbone. I'm used to Randy's approach, which is to speak his mind clearly and forcefully, but the Tribune editorial uses much stronger language than I'm used to from that newspaper. It calls Republican Herbert "weak-kneed" and a "political hack." The newspaper accuses him of being fearful that he will be ousted by the tea party fringe of the party, unable to run for governor in 2012 if he capitulates on the bill. The editorial says he "sees no percentage for himself in standing up for the interests of the public, only in cowering before his party's extreme right wing." Tough talk. Unlike years past, even being a Mormon in good standing doesn't help him politically. Nor does it help former governor Huntsman, Utah senator since 1976 Orrin Hatch, or former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, also a Mormon, also looking to be president.

In today's Tribune, a self-righteous tea party flack, David Kirkham, described as "a businessman who helped found one of Utah's first tea party groups," says, "We oppose all three." Being a faithful Mormon once meant you were practically a shoo-in. Brother, if you live in Utah, if you're a Mormon in good standing, if you're a Republican and conservative in the most Republican and conservative state in the U.S., and other faithful Mormons, feeling giddy with power over the powerful, come after you, then you're in big trouble.

But we're not exclusive in Utah. This sort of internecine warfare is going on all over the country. Demonstrations against Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin, another tea party guy, as well as demonstrations all over the country against lawmakers trying to limit the power of the middle class through their unions, is one of the first positive steps I've seen in beating back right wing goons who are attempting to hijack our government for their own narrow-minded ends.

My local politicians worry about not getting elected because of the tea party, I worry about tea party candidates being elected and doing mischief like Governor Scott Walker. For too long we're allowed billionaires* to control our politics in this country, and we're paying a heavy price. The tea party doesn't really realize how they're being manipulated by powerful people and groups. It's not in their own best interest, but, as I've observed, having a high IQ or a highly developed bullshit detector is not the strong point of most tea party people. Like lemmings, they will follow each other off the cliff. I don't want to be in the crowd heading for certain self-destruction.

All politics is local, but all politics is vocal, too. People have got to speak out against bad politicians, bad policies, and bad people who manipulate the public.


*I'm talking specifically about behind-the-scenes billionaires, throwing their money around in conservative causes: the Koch Brothers, T. Boone Pickens, Richard Mellon Scaife, etc.

Both Jon Huntsman Jr. and Mitt Romney have great wealth. Huntsman's father is billionaire industrialist Jon Huntsman Sr., and Mitt Romney is a very successful businessman whose father, George, campaigned for the Republican nomination for president in 1968, after stepping down from a lucrative career as head of American Motors. Orrin Hatch, although I don't have any current figures, is a lawyer/politician who has done all right for himself over the years, also, but is not in the billionaire boys' club, nor is Herbert, who has relatively humble origins compared to the others.

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