OPINION – Word is that Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, is considering yet another run when his term expires in two years.
“I’ve got a lot of people asking me to (run again). A lot of my colleagues are asking me to, a lot of people in Utah are asking me to,” Hatch told the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call. “You know that I had said that … this would be my last term, but circumstances have greatly changed, so I’ll have to look at it.”
It’s not surprising that Hatch, who will be 84 years old when his term ends, is contemplating another campaign. Now in his seventh term, he wields tremendous power. He knows the ropes and he knows where all the bodies are buried. You don’t mess with Orrin. If you do, he’ll hang your skull on a spear.
During his first run in 1976, his campaign was based on the notion that then-senator Frank Moss, a Democrat, had lost touch with voters.
“What do you call a senator who’s served in office for 18 years? You call him home,” Hatch said during that campaign.
Orrin, it’s time for you to come home.
I’ve known the senator for roughly half of his political career and always found him an interesting character with a definite yin and yang duality that is fascinating.
I mean, he could preach hardline party politics out of one side of his mouth while working across the aisle with liberal politicians like the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, who was one of his closest friends.
But, Orrin had many liberal friends over the years, including me. It seemed like every time I spoke with him he would say, “One of these days I’ll turn you into a conservative,” to which I would reply, “Nah…I’m working on turning you into a liberal.” There would be smiles, a warm handshake and kind words, always.
Still, it is time for Orrin to hang it up.
Hatch is a nice guy, but seven terms in the U.S. Senate is at least five terms too many.
Besides, Hatch does not fit in with the politically nouveau riche, either on the state or federal level.
We see, already, signs pointing to an administration totally lacking in style, grace, tact and judgment.
We see, on the state level, Utahns showing a definite preference for similar politicians like Rob Bishop, who represents Utah’s 1st Congressional District, Mia Love, who represents Utah’s 4th Congressional District, Jason Chaffetz, who represents Utah’s 3rd Congressional District, and Sen. Mike Lee, whose political orbit is somewhere between Neptune and Uranus.
These are extremely radical, slash-and-burn, unsophisticated politicians.
Hatch, in contrast, first supported Jeb Bush, then Marco Rubio during the 2016 campaign. When it became clear that the gold-plated road was to be walked by Donald Trump, Hatch swallowed hard, held his nose and endorsed him. It was a tepid endorsement at best, mechanical, in the interests of Republican Party politics rather than a testament to Trump. Knowing Hatch, I was shocked to see him capitulate to falling meekly into place.
Beyond the fact that Hatch has grown out of touch with his constituents and the crunching hard right ideology, he represents the rusty bolt segment – the majority of our lawmakers – who are stuck on redundant, reluctant change; who are an impediment to progress and the inevitability of useful change, instead opting for meager change they think will satisfy voters.
That reluctance to grow, to move forward is just as dangerous as the restrictive, liberty choking tenets of the hard right.
That’s why Hatch should be the poster boy for those seeking term limits.
He’s been there too long, has deep ties to the politically corrupt lobbyists and special interests that have made a mockery of our political process.
It can be argued that the voting public can create term limits at the ballot box. All you’ve got to do is vote somebody out of office.
That, however, is a naïve posture.
Guys like Hatch are rarely challenged – Steve Urquhart tried it and failed miserably; Chaffetz floated the idea, but soon learned the depth and power of the Hatch political machine, backing out quickly before getting quashed in its cogs.
There is also the fact that Hatch has faced truly lackluster competition from the other side, running against, for the most part, limp, unimpressive Democrats.
It has placed him in a place, for many years now, where all he has to do is not screw up too badly to hold onto his seat.
It’s also a good time to make serious changes in the House and Senate terms. Like the president, senators and representatives should serve four-year terms.
A member of the House actually has one decent year of work before preparing for their next race, which means they spend more time listening to the campaign donors and lobbyists than voters. Give them two, four-year terms and let’s be done with it.
Same for the Senate, where the term is an oddball six years.
According to a recent Gallup poll Congress currently has an appalling 11 percent approval rating. That’s abysmal but understandable considering its performance the last eight years. That disappointment, however, was not reflected in the voting booth.
Voters have short memories as they keep electing the same people to do the same things year after year. It reinforces the adage that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
Voters only seem motivated to get involved in the top tier of the ballot – the presidential race – instead of the important down-ticket slots.
Sadly, this year they were more motivated to vote against Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump than for either of them.
But when it came to the important Congressional races, it was a dispassionate vote for the status quo.
That wouldn’t happen with term limits where a turnover is ensured.
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.