David Rodeback's Blog

Local Politics and Culture, National Politics,
Life Among the Mormons, and Other Stuff

Normal Version

Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Why I Support Senator Orrin Hatch (Part Two)

Four more reasons why I support Senator Orrin Hatch's reelection in 2012.

Last time, I began to explain why I support US Senator Orrin Hatch's reelection. I mentioned three reasons, one of which is less important than the others.

Reason 1: For as long as I have known him and watched him at the Senate -- about 25 years -- I have thought that he represented my conservative values very well. (This one reason might be enough for me.)

Reason 2: To a large extent we have Orrin Hatch to thank for a relatively conservative US Supreme Court. (If the first reason weren't enough for me, the first two together would be.) He has had a similar influence on lower courts.

Reason 3: He's an old friend of the family. (This might not be enough by itself, but I consider it a legitimate reason to vote for someone.)

Please take a few minutes to read  this excellent John Yoo article from National Review Online. Yoo writes, "No senator has done more to promote conservative values in constitutional law than Hatch, and a failure to return him would only show that conservative activists are more interested in enforcing a false ideological purity than winning and governing."

Today, I'll add four more reasons why I support Senator Hatch.

Reason 4: He's more conservative than Bob Bennett.

Two years ago, as a state delegate, I helped defeat three-term incumbent US Senator Robert Bennett at convention. I had admired Senator Bennett in some respects for years, and I was quite content to vote for him in the 1998 and 2004 general elections, along with most of the rest of Utah. I found him intelligent, thoughtful, articulate, dignified, and almost conservative enough for my tastes. By 2010 I was unhappy with him on a couple of major points -- not the ones usually cited during the campaign -- but I was still not in anybody-but-Bennett mode. When I arrived on the convention floor, he was my third choice among eight or nine candidates. If my first and second choices had been eliminated on an early ballot, but not Bennett, I would have voted for him against any of the other candidates in a heartbeat, because I prefer an often-conservative senator who is up to the job to a radical right-winger who is not.

Orrin Hatch is not Bob Bennett. Hatch is a more consistent conservative. In some ways his record is more conservative even than that of Dick Armey, the former congressman who now chairs FreedomWorks, which is committing millions of dollars to Hatch's defeat. I acknowledge he's not conservative enough to satisfy the far right wing of his constituents, which seems to value ideological purity more than actually winning the legislative battles which can be won and influencing some that can't. But by any reasonable definition, he is one of the most conservative US Senators to serve in my adult lifetime.

Reason 5: There is no Mike Lee in the field this year, no one for whom I'm willing to trade a conservative, very influential senior senator.

In 2010 my first choice was Mike Lee. I became acquainted with him in 2009 and was very impressed, particularly with his approach to the Constitution, in combination with his knowledge of how the US government works. I wrote at the time that I hoped he would run for office, perhaps against my congressman, Democrat Jim Matheson. Eventually, he convinced me that he would be better suited to the Senate, where he now serves, and where I am generally quite satisfied with his work.

I've been studying Senator Hatch's Republican opponents this year, and I attended a debate the other evening. One debate isn't enough basis for final judgment, but it's a good start.

Senator Hatch wasn't there, but his challengers were. His defeat is a real possibility, so I attended hoping to discover that there is an excellent alternative or two -- another Mike Lee, perhaps. I came away thinking the field is weak. Dan Liljenquist was the most promising and bears further attention, but I was less impressed than I expected to be, after weeks and months of his supporters' exultations.

Had the field of challengers been this weak in 2010, I would have voted for Senator Bennett -- almost happily, despite my discontents.

Reason 6: Without Orrin Hatch we'll have two rookie US senators. Experience and seniority are too important in the Senate for that to be a good thing.

Apart from Mike Lee's own merits, one reason I was willing to trade Senator Bennett for him in 2010 was that Utah would still have a senior senator in Orrin Hatch (whom I like better than Bennett, anyway). Seniority and experience are more significant in the US Senate than many voters realize.

When things come to a vote on the Senate floor, all votes are created equal; this is widely understood. There is no such equality in the matters of influencing or deciding which bills advance and when, and what they contain. A Senate committee chair is quite powerful, and the chair of the Senate Finance Committee is more so than most.

Hatch has been part of a Republican majority from time to time over the years, but never yet part of a fiscal conservative majority. Whether there will be a fiscal majority after the coming election, I do not know. But as chair of the Senate Finance Committee (if the Republicans retake the Senate), he will be the most powerful person on Capitol Hill, or nearly so, where the federal budget and its deficits, the national debt, entitlement reform, the repeal of ObamaCare, the promotion of a sensible balanced budget amendment, and other essential matters are concerned.

I know Senator Bennett made a similar argument two years ago, based on seniority and prospective committee roles. It was a valid argument, which I considered before voting for someone else. Please forgive me for repeating: Senator Hatch is more conservative than former Senator Bennett, and there is no Mike Lee in this year's race.

Reason 7: We have some very difficult decisions to make in coming years, related to entitlement programs which affect senior citizens disproportionately. 

On one hand, we can no longer afford all our past promises. On the other hand, wisely or otherwise, but to some degree by necessity, people have planned their lives according to those promises, and for many, especially senior citizens, it's too late to change those plans. As we face these issues, I think it might be good to have one Utah senator who is a senior citizen, instead of having two who are even further from that status than I am.

There are more reasons where these came from. Stay tuned.

Normal Version