When an earthquake hits, once the shaking stops, those still standing breathe a sign of relief. The uneducated assume the danger has passed and go on about their business. The wise head for an outdoor clearing or seek appropriate shelter, knowing full well that the first tremor can be a foreshock of a much bigger earthquake to follow.
On Saturday, a political earthquake occurred in Utah. Sen. Robert Bennett, an 18-year veteran and a member of the upper chamber’s Republican ruling elite, lost his bid for another six-year term when he was denied his party’s nomination at the state convention in Salt Lake City.
It’s hard enough to defeat an incumbent congressman in a primary and next to impossible to defeat a sitting senator! Was this the “big one” in 2010, or simply a harbinger of things to come?
Wise lawmakers of all political stripes realize this is likely a foreshock, for the fault lines in both political parties are long and deep.
Average voters, like those delegates to Utah’s state convention, are no longer content to kiss the rings of incumbent politicians in the hope that these officeholders will then throw them a few scraps from the table of the federal government. If fact, today’s independent-minded voters want to scrap a large portion of that table, rather than gather a few crumbs that fall in their direction.
Many have organized, protested or, at the very least, sympathized with the tea-party movement. Yet they cannot be defined by it. These are average citizens: soccer moms, shopkeepers and small-business owners who have never before been politically active. They are parents and grandparents who realize it is wrong to rob from the next generation, or generations to come, to pay for the excesses of today.
Bennett was the perfect political prince. His father was a senator. His grandfather was a president of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints – an important pedigree in Mormon-dominated Utah. Though Bennett voted right on his church’s hot-button issues, he completely lost touch with the voters on fiscal issues. After gaining a seat on the Appropriates Committee, Bennett quickly became part of the spending problem in Washington.
Fortunately, God-fearing Americans in Utah and elsewhere are beginning to realize that robbing taxpayers is a moral issue, too! No longer can we afford to send a dollar to Washington and have our elected representatives take their cut before sending us back 50 cents.
No, Bennett and all the others never take their cuts directly. They hand money out to their friends who benefit from seemingly “worthwhile” projects the voters back home never would have approved. The recipients of the money for these pork-barrel projects are most grateful and give generously to keep these incumbents in power. It’s a vicious circle, and voters in Utah said, “Enough!”
The aftershocks from this one will be felt all the way to the top. Ever wonder how Mitch McConnell, another big spender who is as exciting as warmed-over meatloaf, has remained the GOP leader in the Senate?
Bennett and McConnell are joined at the hip politically. Bennett served as an unelected counsel to the leadership and was often dispatched by McConnell to lean on other GOP senators who were squeamish about voting for bills that were unpopular with the electorate.
The earthquakes that follow Utah could be bigger, much bigger. Next week in Kentucky, voters may reject the GOP establishment’s anointed candidate, Trey Grayson, in favor of the tea-party-backed candidate, Rand Paul.
The tea-party effect is being felt by Democrats as well. Fourteen-term Rep. Alan Mollohan was ousted in the primary in West Virginia. The “Blue Dogs,” who talked like fiscal conservatives but failed to walk the walk, are being called out. Many feel the tea-party movement was responsible for House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey’s decision to retire.
Up to this point, the tea-party movement has been misunderstood and dismissed. Not anymore!
For most tea-party activists, it’s not about forming another completely separate political party. It’s about encouraging average citizens – like the ones in Utah – to rise up and take back control of the two major political parties we have now.