In May of 2010, Mike Lee defeated my grandfather, U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett, in the first round of the Republican caucus. (As did Tim Bridgewater, but Bridgewater lost in November).
When my grandpa lost the election, I was 11. I was not yet invested in politics. I spent most of the day stealing candy from other candidates. I could not tell you what policies my grandpa ran on. (I do remember he changed his slogan from the classic “Bennett for Senate.”) I could not tell you what any of Mark Shurtleff’s or Tim Bridgewater’s campaign points were. (I probably couldn’t have told you that Bridgewater was even running).
But I can tell you what one of Lee’s key points was: The Constitution was hanging by a thread, and he was going to save it. Lee had hammered this point into the minds of Utahns everywhere — including 11-year-old me.
When Lee had officially won the day, one of the delegates approached my family as we were leaving and said that Lee deserved to win because, "Lee was going to save the Constitution.” People found hope in that idea: Lee was putting America back on track.
So, 10 years later, when the Constitution is on trial via the impeachment of Donald J. Trump, where is Lee? Is he shouting loudly to protect the Constitution and all it stands for? No. He is making jokes about drinking games, the “Deep State” and Democrat’s “lack of evidence.”
Mike Lee is not saving the Constitution: He is helping to hammer the nails into its coffin.
Lee is failing to see past his party and understand that America is on the line here. He was elected because Utah believed that he would be the Constitution’s saving grace. And yet, Lee has joined the cohort of senators who are allowing the president to trample on all constitutional checks. The Democrats are not “cheapening impeachment.” Republicans are.
Growing up around politics, I started asking questions early about the political process, often centered on the question, “What is a Republican and a Democrat?” My grandpa gave me a definition I refer to to this day: Republicans are the party of markets and limited government, while Democrats are the party of big government. (There are clearly more intricacies, but, c’mon, I was young).
Yet, Lee, an ardent Republican, is allowing a Republican president to expand the power of the executive, play with markets like they’re toys, and, all in all, destroy the foundations of the Republican party.
Now, this is as much a letter to the people of Utah as it is to Lee himself. As a political science student, I understand that much of being an elected official is functioning on the “reelection cycle.” Lee is playing his cards in this way because he believes it will get him reelected. Thus, we (Lee’s constituents) must show him that the path to reelection is not through the sludge that is Donald Trump’s Republican Party.
This time last year, I had the opportunity to intern in the Utah Legislature, around both Democrats and Republicans who remember my grandfather and his legacy. Many people told me how they truly believe that my grandpa was the last good senator from Utah.
While I am extremely proud of that legacy, I do not want that to be true. I want Lee (and Mitt Romney) to prove that good senators continue to come out of Utah.
Eliza Bennett, Sandy, is a junior at Brigham Young University studying political science with an emphasis on global development. Her grandfather Bob Bennett served in the U.S. Senate from 1993 to 2011. He died in 2016.