Orrin Hatch’s Insurmountable Obstacle

photo credit: Gage Skidmore

Two years into his bid for re-election (yes, he has already been in obvious campaign mode for two years), in a recent tweet Orrin Hatch invited people to let him know if he was on the right track. My tweet length response was that he could not get on the right track unless he were to publicly admit to the errors in his past voting record. Upon further reflection I have a very non-tweet-length reply as I realized that, at least for me personally, that may not be enough.

Anyone who has been in office for 34 years will have votes in that time which should have been different. Anyone who has been alive for 34 years will have grown and changed within the last 34 years of their life. In other words, I would not expect a pristine record from anyone in Hatch’s position. I don’t consider seniority to be an insurmountable obstacle any more than I consider it sufficient reason to grant him another six years. To mitigate such a long tenure, I will only consider Hatch’s last two terms and pretend that his first 24 years in office were impeccable.

The first part of Hatch’s insurmountable obstacle is based on the consideration of how many of the problems our nation currently faces either originated during his last two terms or have grown substantially in his last two terms. The answer is, virtually all of them. That means that he must be able to account for what he has been able to do to mitigate any of the current issues while he was in office and they were growing. Worse than that, for one of those two terms his party had control of the executive branch and both houses of Congress. He would need to demonstrate how he opposed the choices they made which have contributed to our current predicament. Unfortunately for him, he hasn’t got a leg to stand on here. In all that time he spent his energy trying to convince anyone who was concerned with the direction of the country that what the federal government was doing was the right thing. Hatch’s record showed no signs of improvement when Democrats took control of the House in 2006. It has shown some hint of improvement after Obama became president but how are we to trust that his opposition to ill-advised policies of the new president were based on principle rather than on the fact of the president being in the opposing party?

This first part of his problem would be somewhat mitigated if Hatch were to do as I suggested in my tweeted response and publicly admit to the glaring mistakes in his voting record and say unequivocally that given the opportunity he would vote differently if he could do it over again. The best I would expect to see from candidate Hatch would be for him to duck and cover like Bennett did by claiming that they did the best they could with the information at hand at the time.

The second part of Hatch’s insurmountable problem is even more damning to his chances for re-election than the first part. Even if he were to admit to being part of the problem as our nation’s challenges were increasing over his two most recent terms in office he would then have to convince me (and other voters) that not only had he come to see the light now but that there was some safeguard in place that would give us some assurance that he would not bend to the political winds of the day the next time the Republican party got drastically off course. That’s a very real concern because I don’t believe that the party is on course particularly right now. I think they see how the political winds are blowing against much of what they have been doing and are riding the fact that those winds are also blowing against the actions of Democrats who currently wield the bulk of political power. Once the power is back in their hands as a party I see no assurance that the Republicans as a party would not step right back into their “anyone who disagrees with us is un-American” mindset of the recent past.

Heading into this 2012 election cycle I have no doubt that Hatch’s voting record and rhetoric will be even better than it was throughout the 2010 election cycle when he was not up for re-election but could already see the political tides against him. Regardless of how good his voting record is leading up to November 2012 I see very little chance that he could assuage my concerns relating to his lack of reliability in supporting principles of liberty. That leaves the extremely slim possibility of his not being challenged for the Republican nomination as his best hope for re-election in 2012