Saturday, March 10, 2012
Why I Support Senator Orrin Hatch (Part One)
The right-wing zealots' long knives have been out for Senator Orrin Hatch since the 2010 convention where Senator Robert Bennett was defeated. I was a Republican delegate then; I helped defeat him. I wasn't anywhere near the anyone-but-Bennett bandwagon; there was simply a better alternative, Mike Lee. 2012 is much different.
I support US Senator Orrin Hatch's reelection. Today I'll begin to tell you why.
Orrin Hatch is old enough to have been my dad's LDS missionary companion, which he was. He won his first election to the US Senate in 1976. When he was running for the Republican nomination that spring, a friend and I were busy polling our fifth-grade classmates in rural Idaho about the Republican presidential primary race. (I was far too young to vote, but I prefered Ronald Reagan to President Gerald Ford, because I listened to Reagan's radio commentary most mornings, and his view of the world and of our politics made sense to me. I still listen to the old broadcasts on my iPod, and he still makes sense to me.)
When I was an intern in another US senator's office for four months in 1987, Senator Hatch was nearing the end of his second term. I had heard of him before I arrived on Capitol Hill, but I hadn't paid much attention. (I was attending Brigham Young University in Utah, but I still focused on Idaho politics.) On the Hill I began to get better acquainted with Hatch, as I listened to him speak and in some cases watched him work. During my time at the Senate I concluded that many senators in both parties were intelligent, a fair (but smaller) number were of good character, and relatively few were wise. The intersection of these three sets -- intelligent, good, and wise -- included Orrin Hatch and very few others.
While there, I witnessed the borking of Judge Robert Bork, President Reagan's excellent conservative nominee to the US Supreme Court. Senator Hatch was relentless in his defense both of a fine nominee and of the confirmation process, against a tsunami of lies and distortions from the left. It was not his last such battle.
After two more years in Utah, I left for graduate school in upstate New York, where I would live for nine years. By then I was well aware that some Utah Republicans despise Orrin Hatch for not being conservative enough. Believe it or not, what seemed to vex some of them most was personal, not political. They were appalled that Senator Hatch would be friendly with Senator Edward Kennedy, a liberal icon -- as if it were necessary to mistreat liberals in order to be a good conservative. Perhaps if Senator Hatch had been seen spitting on his colleague when they shared an elevator, they would have thought him conservative enough.
I've been back in Utah now for more than 14 years, and, if anything, the zealots on the right are now more numerous and less civil. In this context, consider what Peggy Noonan wrote the other day:
It's even sicker when we anathematize and dehumanize our friends and allies. But back to my chronology, such as it is.
I mentioned my long stint in New York so that you'll appreciate that, for much of my adult life, none of my own senators was a conservative. From New York I unofficially adopted Senator Hatch as my own. I thought he represented my conservative views and values well. When he led the counterattack which narrowly saved now-Justice Clarence Thomas from his own borking (or as Thomas called it, a "high-tech lynching"), I was proud and grateful. It was a long, dirty, unpleasant job, but Senator Hatch stepped up.
Here's just one of many reasons why it mattered: Three presidential elections ago, a relatively conservative US Supreme Court reversed the Florida Supreme Court's decision to allow the Democratic Party to steal a presidential election. Part of that decision was by a 5-to-4 majority -- as narrow a victory as it could possibly be.
Since then, Senator Hatch has helped some other fine conservative judges join the US Supreme Court. The names John Roberts and Samuel Alito come to mind. This became especially important in 2009, when President Obama took office with Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress. This left the US Supreme Court as the most conservative force in our national government and the only significant structural restraint on the social democratic excesses enacted by Congress and the Obama administration. (I wonder: If the Court overturns ObamaCare this year, will any of Hatch's opponents suspend their animosity long enough to thank him for his role in our having a conservative Court? If they're the fine sort of people they think they are, they will.)
My vote this year is Orrin Hatch's to lose, and I don't see anyone in this year's rather weak field of challengers to whom he is likely to lose it (of which more later). I like having him as my US senator. He is an able, influential, intelligent conservative -- a conservative by any reasonable definition. I value his experience and his seniority, both of which matter a great deal more in the Senate than most people realize, and more than his opponents are willing to acknowledge.
Since he seems willing to continue for another term, I will happily work and vote to keep him there.
Copyright 2012 by David Rodeback.