First, a little empathy.
I know what it is like to have a great many people looking over my shoulder, critiquing my every move, telling me they know how to do my job better than I do. It can rankle sometimes.
After all, I’ve been writing for one newspaper or another, for pay, for all but about three weeks of the past 40 years. I have a college degree in journalism and have won a lot of prizes and more than a few fans. I can get a little testy when someone who can’t tell an editorial from a commentary from a straight news article from an ad for rare uncirculated silver dollars sends me an email in which they explain to me the proper way to run a newspaper and how it is different from the way my newspaper gets done every hour of every day.
But journalism is not a secret vice. The whole point of it — news and opinion — is the give and take and discovery and confirmation and rise and fall of both the facts as we are given the light to see them and the conclusions we draw from those facts.
Politics is the same. Only more so.
People get elected to office. They are thus empowered to do things, gain experience and may genuinely build up a better feel for the facts and a greater understanding of their duty to the common good. It would only be human of them to resent, at least a little bit, a mob of untrained, unelected outsiders second-guessing their decisions.
But, hokey smoke, Bullwinkle, Republican politicians in Utah and Washington, D.C., could at least pretend to value democracy and to respect the people they serve.
The most obvious, and painful, example is the way members of the Utah Legislature are treating the voter initiatives that were approved in November.
Proposition 2 set up a regimen for allowing some people suffering from a specific list of maladies to legally acquire and use specific forms of cannabis products to ease their symptoms. Even before the vote, opponents and some backers cooked up an alternative ecosystem for something sorta similar, mostly, it would appear, so that members of the Legislature could get their fingerprints all over it.
Now lawmakers are on a runaway locomotive aimed at repealing Proposition 3. That’s the one that directs Utah, four years and $1 billion late, to join with the states that have fully expanded Medicaid. In this state, that would serve an estimated 150,000 people too rich for old-style Medicaid and too poor for just about anything else.
What is maddening, beyond the sheer and deliberate cruelty of the move, is that the lawmakers with the don’t-worry-your-pretty-little-heads-about-it attitude don’t even pretend to have come up with a wiser and more fiscally responsible way of accomplishing the same goal — something that the alternative to Prop 2 could at least pose as.
No, they are just destroying Prop 3, and the hopes of Utah becoming that much more like a First World society, because they can. They don’t even claim that it is better for the people, rich or poor or in between. Politicians just seem to think it is better for them, for their preference to cut taxes for the sake of cutting taxes, for their visceral distaste for helping out the undeserving poor, for their eternal desire to dis the last president.
These politicians are doing a fiscally and morally reprehensible thing. They are out to provide health care access to fewer people at more taxpayer cost. They are out to put the lie to all their supposed wishes to help the homeless or to approach addiction as a public health rather than a law enforcement issue. Just as a way of letting the voters know who’s boss.
Meanwhile, back in Washington, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made a long speech denigrating a Democratic effort to make the whole nation more democratic by making it easier for more people to vote and more difficult for special interests to buy elections.
It is one thing for McConnell to know that such new rules would favor Democrats over his own Republicans. It is another thing to flat out admit that more small-d democracy favors big-D Democrats. And that it is all thus, in his words, a “power grab.”
Imagine that. People in a democracy exercising power.
A “power grab” sounds like an ugly thing. And I think that it is just about time that we had one.
George Pyle, editorial page editor of The Salt Lake Tribune, has found it easy to resist grabbing power. Doughnuts, though, are another matter altogether. firstname.lastname@example.org