OPINION – The Tea Party revolt was short-lived in Utah, where, on Tuesday, incumbent Orrin Hatch handily defeated Dan Liljenquist, who challenged him to become the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate race this November.
I was concerned for awhile about Hatch this election season because, well, I saw how Utah Republicans kicked Sen. Bob Bennett to the curb for perceived shortcomings as a conservative.
I’m glad they came to their senses.
Perhaps it is committing heresy in the eyes of my liberal friends, but in all honesty, I think Hatch is the right guy for the job.
Are we on the same page politically? Heavens no, we’re not even members of the same party.
Do we find a lot of common ground? Hardly, but since when is conflict of opinion a bad thing?
Do I respect him? Yes.
I’ve known the man for more than 15 years, dealt with him on a number of occasions on various issues, studied his track record, but more importantly, have come to think of him as a friend.
Now, politically we are pretty much opposites. In fact, hardly a meeting with him went by that we didn’t conclude it with him telling me: “Someday I’m going to convert you into a conservative,” and me responding: “Nah…someday I’ll convert you into a liberal.” It was the kind of friendly ribbing that bridges political differences.
But, there are other factors at work here.
First, Hatch is one of the lions of the Senate. He has been there, done that, knows how to make the machine run. Sure, there are times when he does his share of political posturing, but if you know him, you can tell the difference between being a man of the party and a civil servant. He’s a politician and there are certain things he must say or do at certain times to please his audience, if you will, and there are certain things that are a matter of conviction and fairness.
Second, and most important, I respect the man for his decency quotient. When it really matters, he puts an issue to the humanitarian test. Now, being at heart a conservative, I also understand that his perspective gives him a different starting point than me, which is fine.
But, when I look at how he was able to, when it really mattered, reach across the aisle and work with his politically polar opposites — like the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, who he also considered a friend — I see a different Orrin Hatch than the one portrayed by his opponents.
Hatch may have the prerequisite conservative stripes on his sleeve that have earned him bragging rights as Utah’s longest-standing political servant, but he has also been one of the Senate’s strongest proponents of advancing education, health, and science.
Hatch authored the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act of 1990 to compensate “downwinders,” people who suffered illness or death from the radioactive fallout that occurred during the nuclear explosions detonated at the Nevada Test Site during the Cold War.
He was one of the main proponents of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which ensures the civil rights of the disabled.
We separate, of course, on a number of social issues ranging from women’s rights to gay marriage, but we converge again on his quest for legislation demanding a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Another factor that weighs heavily is the fact that, in all honesty, Hatch has never faced a worthy challenger.
He has fended off challenges from a couple of guys from within the Republican Party who would have embarrassed the Utah voting public had they won a seat on the floor of the U.S. Senate. His opposition from the Democratic Party has been pathetic at best.
Yet, Hatch was under the Tea Party microscope this year. This band of misguided political neophytes seems bent on “throwing the bums out” simply because they are ticked off. While I agree that Congress is, for the most part, a fraternity of rich and powerful men and women whose only intent is to retain their wealth and power without regard for the working men and women of the United States, you have to come up with a workable alternative, otherwise you come across as loud and irrational.
Finally, the charge has been made that Hatch, who in November will become the most senior member of the U.S. Senate, has hung around too long. Opponents like to throw out the line Hatch used in his 1976 campaign against incumbent Frank Moss: “What do you call a Senator who’s served in office for 18 years? You call him home.”
What his detractors forget, however, is that Hatch said that because Moss had lost touch with his constituents.
That is something Utah cannot say about Orrin Hatch.
No bad days!
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Copyright 2012 St. George News.