|Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT)|
That was thirty-six years ago. And now Senator Hatch is asking Utahns for an unprecedented seventh six-year term, making him 84 years old at the end of it!
His reasons for re-election are not unlike the ones Frank Moss once used: Experience, knowledge, influence, clout, seniority. In fact, the primary reason one keeps hearing from the Hatch camp has now been undermined by the announcement this week that liberal Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) is retiring. Hatch has been saying if we don't re-elect him, Snowe would take the chairmanship of the Senate Finance Committee instead of him. I weary of the hypotheticals, but if we don't send Hatch back to the Senate, the next Republican in line would be Mike Crapo (R-ID), not a bad alternative to Hatch, since Crapo is very conservative. Of course, that all assumes the Republicans will take control of the Senate this year, a task now made arguably more difficult with Snowe's announcement.
So herewith, my top five reasons Senator Orrin Hatch should be retired by the nominating convention, since he refuses to walk away with dignity on his own:
1. He's old. Senator Hatch will be 78 years old on election day. No politician in the history of the state of Utah has EVER been elected at that age in a statewide election. Age itself shouldn't be an automatic disqualifier, but when you've served for thirty-six years as a senator, it's definitely the number one reason for retirement. My Dad's 90 years old, and even he thinks Orrin's too old. It takes one to know one, I guess.
2. Senator Hatch has served long and well. Over the course of his storied political career (after saying there should be no such thing when he ran the first time), there are surely some votes in his record that one could find fault with. I am personally acquainted with Senator Hatch, and he helped me with an issue a few years ago. I remain very grateful to him. Some say he's not a true conservative. Some say he's just too liberal because of his cozy relationship with former Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy. Some say his politics are more closely aligned with Washington D.C. values than Utah values. Well, whichever view you take of his record you are welcome to it. I have voted for him six times. I have no problem with his politics. He just needs to accept the fact he can retire gracefully, wish his competitors well, and step aside to make way for the younger generation. No shame. Be content. Be a statesman. Be happy with all you have achieved. But he won't because of reason number 3.
3. Orrin Hatch in his heart of hearts actually believes he is indispensable and irreplaceable. One could even argue that he paved the way for two Mormon presidential candidates this year by being the first Mormon in the modern era to run for the presidency of the United States (Joseph Smith was running the year he was assassinated in 1844). But we must not forget George Romney before Hatch also was a bold political pioneer for Mormons, to say nothing of Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader (but he's another story). There are 33 seats up for election in the Senate this November. Ten of those seats are being abandoned by Senators who have announced their retirement. Hatch is convinced that his Heavenly Father would be disappointed in him if he were to step aside now and not continue to use his talents, seniority and political skills to be part of the ongoing equation politically in this country. He really wants the longevity record for Senate service. However, he can be replaced, he will be replaced, and life in America's Capitol and the state of Utah will go on without him. There's a reason no one in Utah's congressional delegation or Utah's governor has endorsed him. They all feel in their heart of hearts what's coming for Orrin.
4. I'm already looking past the 3500 statewide caucuses on March 15th at 7:00 p.m. By the way, if you aren't sure where your precinct will be meeting, check out utgop.org. Pre-register on the site, look up your precinct by typing in your address, then plan to attend. At the caucus your neighbors will be nominated and elected to political offices, including precinct chairmen, county nominating delegates and state nominating convention delegates. They will state their position on which candidates they favor, and you will have a chance to voice your opinion with your vote. I will be going to put myself forward as a state delegate again. I will announce my intention to support another candidate this year, rather than Hatch. I'm keeping an open mind this year, but leaning right now toward Dan Liljenquist. If my neighbors agree with me in caucus and elect me as a state delegate, then I expect to attend the state nominating convention next, and there I will join with other like-minded delegates who will most likely do to Senator Hatch what they did to Senator Bennett two years ago. And when that happens, please do not buy into the media spin that it will be whacked out right-wing conservative extremists (Tea Partiers, if you must) who are tossing out Senator Hatch. Rather, it will be thoughtful, careful and seasoned observers like me who just think that 36 years is enough. It's just enough. That's all.
5. It's time to impose term limits. There's an idea that must be enthroned in our thinking as Americans if we are ever to turn our politics around in this country. It is simple. It's called term limits, and they are granted to citizens who can go to the polling places in the general elections and work their will at the ballot box. They can change government peacefully and under the banner of the Constitution of the United States every two years nationally. There is no such thing as a perpetual entitlement to an elected office in this country. Senator Hatch has had a long run, even a good run most would say, and now it must come to an end. His attitude is reminiscent of the arrogance we observed in Senator Bennett (he was 77 years old in 2010). "They've taken away my career," he said through his tears when ousted by the delegates. There is and never has been, indeed never should be any such thing as "a political career." The political class has nearly destroyed America. In each case they could have stepped aside with a proud legacy of accomplishment and service. However, each has sadly chosen to go out with a stinging rebuke by voters instead. It is reminiscent of what happens in the playoffs in professional sports. In the end there are always many losers and only one winner. By retiring and stepping aside gracefully, each could have gone out a winner in everyone's mind and been a true statesman. One can only hope Senator Hatch will accept the judgment of his peers with more grace and humility than did Senator Bennett, who recently characterized his dismissal as being "excommunicated by the GOP."
I really almost hope I'm wrong. I've stated before that I'm not much of a prognosticator when it comes to predicting political outcomes. You can dismiss my five reasons out of hand and not offend me. But this time I have a feeling.
I'm feeling that for the first time in his life Orrin Hatch will be defeated.