Entitled Republican Senator Orrin Hatch vs. Tea Party

April 22, 2012

For those from Back East who are a bit shaky on Western geography, Utah is right next door to Nevada – the states share a barren desert border that is several hundred miles long (and remarkably unpopulated, even by far West standards).  However, they do share two factors – strong grass roots (aka Tea Party) cadres and Senators who feel entitled to their positions by virtue of long tenure.  In Nevada, that long-termer is far-left Democrat and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid – Nevada’s cross to bear and a pimple on the backside of the body politic if there ever was one; in Utah, that long-termer is Republican Orrin Hatch.  Hatch often tries to paint himself as a conservative, but a look at his voting record, his chummy occasional alliances with Ted Kennedy and some of the things he says about real conservatives paints him as a self-satisfied Country Club RINO.

Who am I to say anything about him?  Well, I’ve had active “professional” relations with him on two occasions.  The first was back in the ’90s, on the issue of reining in the FDA’s heavy-handed over-control of herbs, vitamins and dietary supplements.  There was and is a major natural supplement products manufacturer based in Utah, and their strong presence gave Hatch all the incentive he needed to take the lead on that bill – which, as the Communications Director of Citizens for Health, I very vigorously grass-roots-lobbied for.  In addition, I lived in Southern Utah in 2007 and had many dealings with him and his staff over the Bush/McCain/Kennedy amnesty bill, which he supported  – I called and wrote him and his staff daily for months (an action echoed across the country by the predecessors of the Tea Party.  At that time, I was actually  in the process of selling my Las Vegas home – I had already bought a beautiful home in bucolic Ivins, near St. George, and was planning to live and work there – when my late wife took her life in our Utah home, and I couldn’t get out of there fast enough …*

It was my time living in Utah, and actively opposing the sell-out Amnesty bill, that shaped my view of Hatch as a smug, self-satisfied RINO who seemed to believe that he’s Senator by divine right, and a pox on any who dare to oppose him, or even criticize him.  So it’s not a big surprise to me to learn that earlier this month, Hatch opined that he “hated” the Tea Party, which was and is opposing him in his latest re-election bid.  However, because of his roots in Utah – he’s been Senator there since 1976, and obviously plans to become another Strom Thurmond (the South Carolina Republican Senator who remained in office – toothless and senile – until he was just past 100 years old).

Though he’s well-entrenched in the Senate, earlier this weekend, he lost his bid to win the Republican nomination outright – that would have taken 60 percent of the convention votes, and he only scraped together 59.1 percent of those votes.  The risk – despite his tenure – is real.  Two years ago, the Tea Party denied his colleague, three-term Senator Bob Bennett, the nomination, and a Tea Party Republican is now a first-term Junior Senator from Utah.  Leading up to this convention battle, Hatch – demonstrating his belief in his “right” to the nomination, said that he was “doggone offended” by the conservative activists who’d like to see him replaced with someone who’s far more reliably conservative.  He allowed that he “hated” them and even denied that they were Republicans, “damning” them as “radical libertarians.”  Ouch.  That hurts!

This year, early in the candidate selection process, major conservative groups announced their intention of defeating Hatch — who they (correctly, in my opinion) deemed too moderate. FreedomWorks has reportedly spent at least $670,000 attacking Hatch this cycle, and other groups have joined in.  However, the Tea Party movement has nowhere near the political power this year as it had in 2010 – in part, I believe, because there is no pending legislative power-grab issue akin to Obamacare to unite and motivate true conservatives.  Absent a motivating cause, they have to fight on principle, and it’s always harder to motivate the grass roots on principle alone.

Still, there were enough – barely more than 40 percent at the convention this weekend – to deny Hatch the nomination outright, and forcing the Utah Republican Party to stage a primary election, with Hatch up against a conservative state senator.  Realizing this, Hatch said, in an interview with liberalNPR’s Howard Berkes, “These people are not conservatives. They’re not Republicans.  “They’re radical libertarians and I’m doggone offended by it.

“I despise these people,” Hatch added, “and I’m not the guy you come in and dump on without getting punched in the mouth.”  All of which is, in my opinion, a strong indication of his “entitlement attitude.”  Like so many Congressmen and Senators who’ve been in Washington for decades, they seem to think they’re entitled to their office, and anyone who challenges them can’t be “real Republicans.”  To my mind, that attitude alone is sufficient to disqualify him from continuing to serve, and to represent “real Republicans,” who, in my opinion, are a lot more conservative than is Senator Hatch.

The big question is this.  Especially in light of how strongly Hatch has attacked Tea Party members and truly conservative Republicans – who two years ago through a far less “entitled” Utah Republican Senator Bob Bennett out on his (r)ear – can the conservative marshal sufficient votes to take 40.9 percent and turn it into 50.1 percent.  Hatch’s most prominent Republican challenger is a conservative former state Senator named Dan Liljenquist.  However, compared to the groundswell of conservatism which rocked the state in 2010 and propelled conservative Republican Mike Lee into the Senate, local conservatives and Tea Party members appear to be delivering below expectations.  For instance, despite his leading position as the sole conservative Republican contender facing Hatch in the state’s June primary, Liljenquist lost his home caucus last month.  But he (and other conservatives) did block Hatch from winning the nomination outright, which gives them momentum for June.

That, along with Hatch’s ugly, demeaning and “entitled” comments about Tea Partiers and truly conservative Republicans, may yet give conservative Republicans and Tea Partiers the  trending momentum which will allow them to rally and boot that crusty, entrenched old RINO out to pasture, where he can join Bob Bennett in wondering what the hell happened to him.

This one-time conservative Republican Utahan can only hope …

Ned Barnett – Nevada Conservative


*  Just for clarity’s sake – my late wife, Karol, and I lost our son, John David Barnett, to a one-car traffic accident in 1999, a loss she never recovered from – in part because, long before I’d met her, she’d lost another son, J.R., to  massive and unsurvivable birth defects.  We moved to rural Utah to get away from the constant reminders of John David’s death, but that move was too little, too late.  After living through yet another anniversary of J.R.’s death, she just couldn’t bear to deal with one more anniversary of John David’s death.  A skilled marksman, she took her target pistol (which I’d disassembled and hidden as what I thought was a prudent precaution, but she found it, put it back together – it was, after all, her pistol), sent me to the store, then took her own life … an act that shocked both me and her counselor – neither of us suspected she was suicidal, though the state Medical Examiner found evidence of other, unknown attempts.  I mention this last point so to those who like to blame guns, I say this – if it wasn’t her target pistol, she would have found some other way to end her pain, a conclusion that the ME made official in his report.  I mention all of this for those who might want to understand why I moved back to Las Vegas from beautiful (and remarkably conservative) Southern Utah, after putting down deep roots there.



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