A long time ago, in a state legislature that takes twice as long as Utah’s every year to do just about as much damage, members were considering one of those bills put forward by an elementary school class to designate some particular beastie as the Official State Reptile. It happened to coincide with a nasty debate about something else in which a particularly unpopular member of the House was making himself even more unpopular with his colleagues by incessantly whining about slights real and perceived.

At one point during the debate, one legislator moved to amend the bill, removing whatever creature it was the students wanted and instead designating the unpopular lawmaker as the Official State Reptile. The targeted member’s reaction was long and loud and involved threats of lawsuits and other mayhem.

My published comment at the time: Of course Mr. Unpopular should not be the Official State Reptile. Reptiles have thick skin.

In the manner of our sitting chief executive, Love blamed everyone but herself. It was the fault of the media. Or negative political ads. Or the president. Or a party that doesn’t really want minorities or women to represent it.

Clearly, she is right about that last point. Just look at the number of white men who make up an even greater percentage of the Republicans in the House, and the wave of women of color who turned the House to Democratic control. (A fact almost balanced by the fact that the male who defeated Love, Ben McAdams, is about as white as a person can be.)

Love was also quite right to note that her re-election prospects were damaged by the fact that the Current Occupant is now the face of her Republican Party. While it is common for the party that holds the White House to lose seats in the House in mid-term elections, there can be little question that Love’s chances of holding on to her seat would have been boosted were she running in the shadow of, say, a President Jeb Bush. Or Mitt Romney.

And the ousted congressperson was also spot on when she complained that her emphasis, her primary claim to deserve re-election, of working carefully to build relationships and find consensus with members of both parties and all variety of racial, ethnic and ideological counterparts, just isn’t valued in today’s political world.

“This gave me a clear vision of his world as it is," Love said, referring to the president. “No real relationships, just convenient transactions.”

If it took losing this election and being personally mocked by the president for her to see that, then she really did deserve to lose.

Though it is highly unlikely that Love hadn’t figured that out already. Because the president isn’t the inventor of that situation, just a particularly naked example of it.

For a long time now it has seemed as though neither major party cares all that much about ideas or principles or practical policy. It’s all about playing the game, scoring points, getting to be a committee chairman, hiding out in law firms and think tanks and lobbying shops when your party is out, rushing back into staff jobs when your party is in, still emotionally if not financially beholden to whatever special interest it was that paid your health insurance while you were not on the taxpayer’s dime.

If Love is now, as she suggested Monday, free to say what she really thinks, it may be because she will be free of the squad of Republican political hacks who ran her campaigns and flew escort for her wherever she went.

Mia Love has had enough political success to show that the color of her skin didn’t hold her back. If she wants a future in politics, though, that skin will have to get thicker.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tribune staff. George Pyle.


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