George Pyle: Reyes is supposed to uphold the law, not undermine it

Somebody needs to tell the president of the United States that he lost. That he should pack his bags and go home.

Somebody needs to tell the attorney general of Utah that he won. That he should unpack his bags and stay home.

Sean Reyes was reelected Utah’s attorney general Tuesday, the same day that the president lost his bid for another term. The difference was that Reyes, an incumbent Republican running in an overwhelmingly Republican state, could be declared the winner right away, while the other guy — and all the rest of us — had to wait until Saturday morning for there to be enough data to make the call.

That should be the end of any Venn diagram that includes both the A.G. and the POTUS.

But Reyes announced Friday that he was taking a “personal leave” to join what appears to be a platoon of third-tier lawyers trying to overturn the results of a free and fair election by casting false doubt on the whole of the American electoral system.

Thus is the chief law enforcement officer of the state of Utah going out of his way to participate in an effort to undermine the legitimacy of the government process in other states, an effort that can only handicap the efficiency of government and could lead to violence in the streets.

How would he, or we, feel if the attorney general of, oh, say, California flew to Salt Lake City to question the legitimacy of our election process?

Thus does Reyes throw in his lot with the part of the Republican Party that lost the White House and richly deserves to be tossed onto the ash heap of history. Others, including Utah’s Sen. Mike Lee, can join him there.

Sen. Mitt Romney, meanwhile, has rejected that malarkey, defending the process and congratulating the incoming president and vice president.

So Romney can be among those who pull the burnt carcass of the GOP out of the burning car and return it to what it was, a center-right party that stands for individual responsibility, free markets and just enough public infrastructure to help folks reach their full potential.

That could be the party that — as Reyes correctly noted — held the Senate, gained seats in the House and did well in elections up and down the ticket.

What that revived Republican Party should do now is pretend as best it can that the outgoing president never existed. That the party did not rise to power on a platform of fascism, bigotry and xenophobia. Even though it did.

The hard part — for all of us — will be to welcome back to the process enough of the people who voted for the outgoing chief executive.

Which probably means I should stop calling them fascists, bigots and xenophobes.

It would be nice to go back to a politics where people who think the corporate tax rate should be 20% and those who think it should be 29%, those who think education and highways are state responsibilities and those who think the feds have a large role to play, those who think we need more aircraft carriers and those who think we need a larger Peace Corps, can debate and write letters to the editor and vote and have a drink and come back the next day and do it all some more.

It will certainly be more pleasant to run an editorial page in such an atmosphere, where striking a “balance” doesn’t mean opening the floor to thugs and liars.

The threat we face is that, after we elected the current president once, and came perilously close to electing him again, we will still be dealing with many politically active people who think equal rights for minorities and immigrants and women mean reduced rights for old white men. Which does absolutely nothing to help the rusting Rust Belt industries, the declining small towns, the people who deal with their lack of access to health care by self-medicating with addictive drugs.

If both parties now compete to be the one that really helps all those folks, politics will take a monumental turn for the better.

George Pyle

George Pyle, editorial page editor of The Salt Lake Tribune, remembers (barely) thinking the election of 1960 took a long time.