On the EDge: It is time to revive the voice of the people in Utah

Stock image, St. George News

OPINION – You can turn in your voter registration card.

You can forget about getting involved in the political process.

It just does not matter any longer.

Democracy is dead in Utah.

It was killed by special interests, which range from the insurance lobby to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Last November, 53 percent of the voters approved Proposition 2, a ballot initiative to legalize medicinal cannabis in Utah.

Last December, the Legislature knelt to church pressure to override a ballot initiative that voters passed to allow medicinal cannabis in the state.

Last November, 53 percent of the voters approved Proposition 3, a ballot initiative to adopt the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion.

The Legislature continues its repeal and replace ideology with Senate Bill 96, which would have deleterious effect on Utah’s poor, many of whom would go uncovered if the bill passes.

Lehi Republican Sen. Jacob Anderegg discredited the vote because, as he told The Salt Lake Tribune, not everybody in Utah voted.

“It wasn’t 53 percent of the state,” he said. “It wasn’t even close to 53 percent.”

Unfortunately, Mr. Anderegg, that’s not how it works. But, that doesn’t matter, apparently, because the ACA, of course, bears President Obama’s fingerprints and in sparkling red Utah, that is a bad thing, even if it means removing those in the most need from health coverage. That, and the Legislature being in the pocket of the health insurance industry, is why this bill has been fast-tracked. It’s ugly payback for a compassionate measure that seemed acceptable when then-Gov. Mitt Romney signed the same legislation in Massachusetts but suddenly turned sour when the watered-down Obama-backed bill passed Congress.

Go figure.

Now, the Legislature is pushing two bills that would tweak the way voter initiatives are handled to change or repeal what the voters have passed.

The politics, however, don’t seem to matter here as much as the special interest influences. In a state dominated by the Republican Party, the Legislature is insulting its own base, claiming it is not intelligent enough to make a decision on its own by knocking down two ballot measures the voters passed cleanly.

So what’s the use in even showing up to the polls?

We’ve all been a bit nervous about Russian interference in our last general election, but what about this bit of nonsense from our own representatives in the Legislature?

The fact is they’ve been bought and sold, abandoning the very people who put them in office.

It is arrogant, self-serving and insulting to the people of Utah, a state, by the way, that likes to pose as a stalwart in individual freedoms and state’s rights.

But, this is neither in support of individual freedom nor a foundation upon which to fight the battle for state’s rights because the Legislature is not the state, the voters are.

The health and health insurance industries are not the state, the voters are.

The LDS Church is not the state, the voters are.

But those self-absorbed hypocrites in the Legislature fail to grasp that reality.

It’s cowardly, really, and not representative of how the system is supposed to work.

There is a bit of truth, however, in the argument some in the Legislature use claiming that voters are not intelligent enough to make an informed decision. I have to agree with that to a certain extent when I review the Legislative roster. The voters put them there and continue to keep them in office, no matter how much they may grumble and grouse about ineffective representation, so maybe there is a kernel of truth there.

Still, if we must accept the voters’ lack of intelligence and sophistication in who they elect to office, we must also accept the initiatives they approve. To do otherwise would be hypocritical, an adjective that certainly is well used when discussing Utah politics, from the governor’s office to the smallest town council.

These people were elected to serve you and you and you and the rest of us.

They were charged with defending a noble system that, most assuredly, is not flawless, but still the most successful on the planet.

They have failed by usurping the system that put them into office.

They have insulted each and every voter in the state by repealing the will of the people.

They have rejected the electoral system, which is based on majority rule, not proportional assent.

So, why vote?

Why bother?

As voters, we are supposed to have the last word, but when the Legislature repeals the will of the people the voice of the voters is silenced.

What we decide at the ballot box is supposed to determine how we live.

But, it doesn’t because the Legislature, as we have seen, can always kick those issues to the curb to satisfy the special interest groups that hold their reins.

So, it’s not only Utah Democrats who can say that their vote is meaningless, they are now joined by Republicans and Independents and all the others whose votes were rejected by the Legislature.

So, you can turn in your voter registration card.

You can forget about getting involved in the political process.

It just does not matter any longer.

Democracy is dead in Utah.

Unless, of course, you take the necessary steps to revive it.

No bad days!

Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist for St. George News. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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